Interview : The Light Surgeons


light surgeons
A girl walks up wearing an ‘I love NY’ t-shirt. Native hip-hop fiend, anti-globalisation anarchist or both? Peacemaker it turns out – her believing ‘the world would be a better place if everybody listened to Autechre’. Fans of that warp label kinda emotional glitch therapy, would also no doubt be chuffed to catch a performance by The Light Surgeons, a UK based crew melting and bending what is possible with an AV show. Co-founder Chris Allen tells like it is.
((Interview previously posted on the now defunct, in May 2002 )) the Light Surgeons & your background?
We are a collective of creative artists operating in a range of different media. I founded the Light Surgeons in England along with Andy Flywheel back in 1995. My back ground is in graphic design and cross media art. I now work with several other designers and artists, Jude Greenaway who also records as Scanone and provides lots of audio material as well as editing and animation work. James Price cuts video and runs productions and Rob Rainbow comes from a more 2D print based background. TLS are best known for our projected work or visuals for record labels, bands and clubs. We pioneered this sort of thing in the early nineties at places like the Blue Note in London and labels like Ninja Tune, Mo’Wax, Wall of Sound, Metal heads. We’ve since gone on to display and perform our own audio visual material all over the world with digital film festival onedotzero.

What concepts / ideas inspired your evolution?
The idea of DIY and creativity under restrictions was what made us start as a group and that is still a central idea behind our process. The relatively recent arrival of deck top video, non-linear digital editing, lo-budget independent film making now allows us to apply the years of experimenting with a load of analogue equipment to a whole new level. We are exploring the production of music and video along with a narrative story, our own form of documentary dance music, AV with a message. Something that entertains and makes people think.

What are you aiming for with ‘live-documentary’?
A live performance that fuses documentary footage, audio and photography with music and theatre. A sort of Hip-Doc born from a creative live collaboration or AV-OP. Putting the funk and the jazz back into film and theatre.

What tools do you use for pre-production and performance?
We shoot all are Video stuff on DVCAM and edit with Final Cut on the Mac. Stuff is captured from projections, from 16mm film and 35mm slide and super8. We use after effects in our post production, but try to keep things simple and refrain from “effects” driven packages. Our shows vary, but mainly consist of 16mm film loops, 35mm Slide sequences and video mixing on DVCAM and SVHS. When we play live we also triggered AV stuff from a laptop, and supply extra Audio sound tracks from record decks, mini disk and a drum machine. We try to mix it up and keep it reel – maintain a cross over with analogue material as well as using the latest tools too, often to our own folly – when we de-rig its a nightmare. But we love it really.

What inspires with current hard/soft tech, and what tech are you waiting 4?
DV is a revolution and has been a great liberation, we are currently exploring the possibilities of Mpeg servers and the creation of exploded film making through installation and live performance. We recently did a project with disabled musicians which introduced us to some interesting technology that could come into play soon like ‘sound beams’. But the one bit of kit that would be great to have is a fully pitch controllable DVD or mpeg player and mixer. This’d allow a whole new level of performing + make it easy to slip all your material into one small bag!

How did the Thumbnail Express idea come about?
We shot all this material in the states for a design exhibition installation only up for a few days. We really wanted to use this one interview we got with Robert Alan Wieser, and make his stories into a set of short films. onedotzero gave us some money to finish it for their festival in 2000.

Who currently inspires you with combined audio-visual performance?
Well, I must say that technically Eboman is rocking the AV frontiers, as well as our friends in Hexstatic, also Funky Porcini is doing some crazy shit. The Prince Tonga Crew from Japan are meant to be doing some nice things too. But nobodies doing what we are.. Yet.

Your dream footage?
My dreams on DVCAM, cerible Fire wire out/in please.

The 3 worst VJ sins?
Calling yourself a VJ. Dirty CG Trance tunnels. Dodge Peel’s or wipes on a mixer.

Future plans?
More film projects and collaborations, DVD and book project – publishing my photography and graphic design work. Continue to perform Fuck off live AV shows, carry on filming, traveling and getting paid to express myself.

Light Surgeons Fave Links:, Ebay, Apple.

Banksy :Another Uk visual artist making his mark with a wikkid array of sidewalk stencils and graf pieces.

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