I have a confession to make. I have somehow managed to get through life never having experienced "Laser Floyd," or any other tripped-out planetarium show.
I know. This could mean that I might not even qualify as Canadian anymore. I don't know how this happened, but it did and it's something I live with every day. Worse, I'll have to go on living with it, because distance will conspire to keep me from experiencing the premiere of DJ Food's North American presentation of his most recent album, The Search Engine, presented by Osheaga Arts at Montreal's Satosphère.
The Search Engine stems from a project DJ Food originally created for the London Planetarium last fall, with the help of astronomers from the Royal Observatory of Greenwich. The album is an immersive visual and musical experience that could give 2001's "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite" scene a run for its money, and leave a theatre full of David Bowman-esque star babies floating helplessly about until guided gently out the door and into the summer night by SAT staff.
DJ Food, a.k.a. Strictly Kev, sat down with CBC Music to answer a few questions about his upcoming show.
Q: A rite of passage for North American youth for nearly 40 years has been the planetarium laser show, most notable were those that featured the music of Pink Floyd. Is there a connection here? Was your decision to perform The Search Engine in a planetarium influenced by these early laser shows?
A: I've heard this yes, it's not quite the same in the U.K., we tend to go to planetariums as kids with parents to learn about the stars and planets, etc., and then that's it. The idea for me to do shows in a dome was because of several space themes running through the album, and also because I just looked upon it as a giant screen for visuals. Little did I know what I was getting myself into.
Q: How did the original Search Engine show at the London Planetarium come about?
A: We (I and the label Ninja Tune) were looking for somewhere to do a launch for the album, I didn't want to do a regular club appearance as I didn't think it would suit the music in quite the right way. We contacted the London Planetarium in Greenwich and surprisingly they were really into the idea. I went to meet them and we worked out a plan of action, we had to hire it and play three shows in one night but it was worth it, I've never been so proud in my life.
Q: I understand that many of the images come from your personal collection. Can you tell us a bit about that? Are visuals a side project for you?
A: Well, some do, some don't, some of the visuals are from NASA sites, there are elements of artwork from the album animated, plus I've managed to pull in animation sequences from various other people doing work with dome visuals around the world. It's still a relatively small scene but it's growing slowly, but it has that community vibe to it where most people know each other.
I'm a graphic designer by day as well, I've designed logos and sleeves for Ninja for nearly 20 years now in tandem with my DJing and music making, so I have a big visual collection of material and some of my past designs will make an appearance in the show too, in one sequence.
Q: It sounds like original production of The Search Engine had to be modified to work in Montreal's SAT Labodome. Is this something you could perform in planetariums anywhere? I guess what I'm asking is, when are you taking this on the road and coming to Vancouver?
A: The SAT is one of the best domes in the world in as far as their setup, their surround sound system and the funding they have available, I'm being very spoilt playing there already. The thing with domes is that there is no standard yet, they are all different, they run different software, projectors, they are different sizes and have different seating setups. As a result, each time a gig is performed a version of the show has to be rendered out to fit that particular dome, it's not as simple as turning up and plugging in a computer or playing a disc, you literally have to bring a hard drive or server with you.
When I'm happy with this show I plan to try to take it elsewhere, so anyone interested please get in touch as it's well outside my regular agent's remit. I'm hoping these shows will generate some good publicity for it as most cities have planetariums. I want to be the first DJ to mix a set for a dome, basically.
Catch The Search Engine at Montreal's Satosphère Thursday, July 19, or Friday, July 20, with two shows per evening at 7 and 9 p.m.
DJ Food's website
Read DJ Food's post mortem writen shortly after his performance at London's Royal Observatory
Q&A with MEME Festival director Nathan Zhan
on Jul 05, 2012