Kolmas korva duo went to the first Fuzz Club Eindhoven festival in August and was impressed by the modern digital style of live visuals there. The man behind them, Sam Wiehl, thinks it’s important to show that psych scene is contemporary and forward-looking.
Hey, what’s up? Where do you live and make your art nowadays?
Sam Wiehl: Hey hows it going. I’m based in Liverpool operating from a studio in the city centre. I studied here and it’s a great place to be based and i do tour quite a lot with various projects, so I get a nice balance of visiting other cities too.
How did you end up being the live visual artist for Fuzz Club Eindhoven 2018?
Sam: I’m one of the Directors of Liverpool Psych Fest. One of my roles is to look after the visual narrative of the festival and the audio visuals across the site.
I’ve been involved in Eindhoven Psych Lab too—again, looking at the aesthetics and designing and performing audio visuals at the festival. I know Effenaar well and have a close relationship with the team who run it there. I’ve known Casper [Dee, the founder of Fuzz Club] for a long time and always been a big fan of Fuzz Club, so I was very happy to get asked to design this year’s live show.
3D scan of Sam Wiehl by Sam Wiehl
I understood you were the only person in charge of live visuals, am I right? How much time did it take before the festival to design all the visuals and how did you choose what kind of visuals each band will have? Did you co-operate with bands before or during the festival?
Sam: Yeah, I had a lot of fun building all the content and I genuinely have no idea how many hours it took. Plenty of times I was working in to the early hours of the morning as I find it very consuming (and fun) once I’m in the zone and tend to lose track of time.
I think I made around 14 hours of material. I broke the build into long passages of captured live work and then patches or methods that would generate in real time—such as live video synthesisers setups, 3D models controlled live, ISF shaders and processing patches.
I kind of storyboarded the festival days. I knew a lot of the bands work so it was me really attributing a feel to each set and looking at how the day would flow. The sets would change and keep feeling fresh utilising different techniques for different shows.
There was no real consultation with the artists beforehand but during the day there was enough content and flexibility to get feedback from the bands if they had a specific idea of how their set should work before they played.
What is important for you when making live visuals? How much does it matter that visuals respond to music, like change in time with the rhythm?
Sam: I think this is becoming much more key with really successful live AV sets. Something I have taken on board much more over the last few years. I used to build a lot of individual loops for shows—in fact I still do—but now utilising the ways they can be delivered and bringing in other ways of producing real time media the show can feel much more organic.
For me emotion is key in the work. (I think) I don’t have a set style or one way of working, so the musical performance is key and the driving force of what I will do. When I play, I often find myself really getting into the show too—just as the musicians are—so hopefully that energy also translates in to the visual side and it all feels like it is part of a unique and individual experience for the audience.
What software or techniques do you use to create graphics, and what kind of setup do you have for making live visuals on set?
Sam: I build content in many ways, steered by who the artist is. For example, for my work with Forest Swords we have an idea of creating something very cinematic and spacious for the shows, so I do lot of filming and work with a dancer and performer and use physical landscape in the performance. For Hookworms I’ve been using a lot of 3D scans I’ve taken of audiences at shows as well as the band. For Jane Weaver I created lots of particle fields animations, 3D modelling in Cinema4D, and filming of Jane.
Hardware-wise I usually run two laptops and VDMX. I created a lot of Fuzz Club Eindhoven festival’s running animations and films through video synths and manipulating them live. I then brought in 3D models using Coge to control them and live processing patches were used with everything linked together using Syphon. Then I used midi controllers to perform live.
Creating worlds that don’t look cliched or instantly recognisable as the psych scene seem important in capturing the spirit of the new bands.
I’ve also enjoyed setting up live labs where we conduct live experiments and this work features in the sets. That’s something we have repeated at Effenaar a number of times especially for the Psych Labs.
My latest project is work with Szun Waves. I am creating animations in Cinema4D, and I filmed lots of macro experiments with inks and various chemicals (air freshness being one). I then bring in live 3D models using again Coge to create a really mixed media approach to the show.
My setup is quite streamlined as it has just been easier flying when touring without huge amounts of kit.
The other element I’m really keen on is to move away from straight looking one screen shows and instead create immersive, large scale shows using multiple screens or sculptural design—such as we have done at Liverpool Psych Fest, Eindhoven Psych Lab and my touring band projects.
Many psychedelic rock bands and events lean on 1960s hippie patterns, but your style is more digital. To me, it looks fresh to see psych bands playing with 3D animations and glitchy graphics. How would you describe your style as a live visual artist and where do you get inspiration?
Sam: I think this is an important thing for me operating in this world that embracing new technology and ways of working which are exciting but also in pushing ideas of what a psych festival can look like. It’s something we have discussed at length as being a very definite aesthetic of Liverpool Psych Fest that we wanted to position ourselves and honour the artists playing at the festival that this is a very contemporary scene. We wanted to create a forward-looking festival with artists pushing and experimenting with new sounds and ways of working.
The psych scene is so broad with many artists fitting in this tag but also existing in many genres at the same time. I feel creating worlds that don’t look cliched or instantly recognisable as the psych scene seem really important in capturing the spirit of the new artists, bands, musicians, and also the openness of audiences to have new experiences.
Fuzz Club and Effenaar both share these ideas too, so it worked well having that approach for the festival and the experience for the audience.
There is a lot of wannabe-VJs out there and bands without proper live visuals. What tips could you give for beginners who would like to get started with making live visuals?
Sam: Firstly, bands without visual sets who want them—Hire me!
I’m pretty much self-taught having studied graphic design and illustration. I’ve found learning new ways of working really gratifying and being bold in picking something new up and giving it a go was the best advice I received. I also think being individual and finding your voice is key, not relying too much on the aesthetics of the tools.
Pretty much all ways of producing content can be valid so lots of experimenting can be great if you have time. The only way I know of making anything good is to work really hard though.