Today I am really excited to share with you an interview with Steve Mashburn – a reader of this website.
Steve actually wrote in, and as we were conversing he shared with me this interview which he had on file. After I read it, I knew I had to share it with you as he dives in and shares some really great tips for beginners to build a killer lighting show for little money!
Like you, Steve is on the ground, providing lighting for the punk band that he manages, and he’s got a lot of knowledge to drop on beginners! Let’s dive in!
Controlling the Mood of the Room – Interview With Steve Mashburn
What type of music does your band play and how do lights enhance your show?
We are a four-piece pop-punk band called Picture Perfect Skylines from Atlanta, Georgia, that does all original material.
We use a wireless system for our guitars and bass so the guys move and jump around a lot.
We needed a light show because the standard static lights in most of the venues we play do not complement our energetic style.
With lights we are able to control the mood of the room and that allows our music to become even more effective.
What equipment did you invest in and how much did you spend?
We used the Internet to find the best prices for LED lighting and got a ton of lights for around $3000.00. Our system consist of:
- 4 –American DJ Slim-Par to wash the front stage. That is enough for us because we really do not want the guys to be lighted as if they were in a drama production.
- 2 sets of a Chauvet 4-Play and a Chauvet 4-Bar for back lighting and movement. We set these up on each side of the drummer.
- 2 sets (one on each side of the stage) of a Chauvet Swarm and a Chauvet Circus for effects. The beams are set at 45 degrees down and 45 degrees across the stage. These horizontal beams crisscrossing the back lighting really give depth and layers to the show.
- 1 Chauvet Geyser placed in front of the drums to haze the stage. The flame effect on the Geyser is awesome – we have to be careful not to over use it — we try to only use the flame effect a couple of times before the finale where we go wild with it.
- 1 Chauvet Obey 70 Controller with everything connected via DMX cables.
How much experience did you have in lighting before this?
Absolutely none! I am still a neophyte. I am trained as a musician and there is still much about lights that I do not know. I just dove in and learned by watching Internet tutorials and through hands-on experience.
What has given you the most difficulty?
It took a while for me to understand that the Obey 70 controller is not so much a mixing board (like a sound board) as it is a recorder of scenes and chases.
You use the sliders to set scenes and chases and then save them. Then you use the scene and chase buttons to run the live show. It is a good idea to program basic scenes and chases that you can use on the fly and to not mess with the sliders during a show.
How do you design your lights to fit the music?
I have degrees in music theory and composition so I am sensitive to the musical form.
I try to find a scene that compliments a section of music and then use that same scene when that section is played again.
For example, in the Picture Perfect Skylines song, Green Jacket, I use a green wash for the first section, add white special effects in the next section to generate interest, on the break section I use a red wash with red effects to make a sharp contrast. On the last section which is a repeat of the 2nd section I return to the green wash and white effects. My lighting actually frames the musical structure of the song.
Do you use the auto-sound feature on your fixtures?
Yes, but in a deliberate way. I hate bands that play a whole show with all their lights on auto mode. After a while it all just looks the same. A better way, to me anyway, is to allow the randomness of auto-sound to be a component in a scene.
For instance, in one scene I will alternate between white and blue in all the par lights, front and back. I will set the side effect lights to auto-sound. Then in the next scene, I switch the colors on the par lights and change the sensitivity on the side effects.
Then I will alternate between those two scenes. That gives a much more custom look (and does not tire the eye as much) as using auto-sound on all the lights constantly.
How important is haze?
For a rock band, it is very important. On a scale from 1 to 10, I would say 7-9. It’s that important.
What upgrades are you looking at?
While I would like to have moving lights, the reality is that good moving lights are out of my budget and cheap moving lights are just money wasted — they will not last.
Some laser effects like the Chauvet 6-Spot would be a good substitution.
However, I would also like to have another Geyser or two.
Although we, as a punk band, do not play many ballads, a spotlight for the lead singer on slow tunes would be nice.
What advice do you have for someone adding lights to their band show?
Make sure you mark all your connections with colored plastic tape so that you can see on a dim stage what cable or cord goes with each. I use Velcro to mount the fixtures to their bars so all I have to do is put the bar on the stand and make the connection.
Using this system, I can set up our whole show (24 fixtures) in less than 15 minutes by myself, only needing assistance to raise the stands into the air.