The first time I saw Chris’ work was at Ultra Music Festival, Miami in 2007. The sun had just set and Tiesto was closing out the main stage. The visuals projected onto 7 massive screens were absolutely awe-inspiring. I remember thinking, these are the best damn visuals I have ever seen, I got to find out who the VJ is. I quick call to Paul Morris, Tiesto’s agent, put me in touch with Chris and we soon started working together. He contributed 2 clips to Club Visuals 2 and more projects are in the works. I recently had a chance to catch up with Chris during his world tour with, arguably, the world’s biggest DJ.

DVJ Vision: For how long have you been VJing and how did you get started?
CHRIS: I started VJing in High School. I was really interested in classic cinema and had a teacher who was hooking me up with all these old films every week… I borrowed a Hi-8 camera on the weekends, and I started shooting my own little art films. After that I took film studies courses at Oberlin College, focusing on European cinema. And worked over the summers at a documentary film house, learning some of the ropes. I continued to make really abstract short films – mostly to music, and mostly stuff I shot myself.
I was also playing in this free jazz / space rock band, “The Divine Weapons.” When I graduated from college, one of my best friends gave me a huge old 50 pound video projector and I started to do live VJ’ing with my band, at this great club in Portland, ME – called “The Skinny.” We did these live multi-media free form jams and film screenings every week for a while… I made zero money, but had a blast… Then I moved to Chicago and I started VJing for Charles Little, of Pure Promote Group. I did all the big DJ shows in Chicago, and doing all the underground parties I could get my hands on. I was VJ’ing with the likes of PVD, Oakenfold, Jeff Mills, Timo Maas, the works. Then I teamed up with House of Blues and Sony Playstation to produce the visuals and perform live on the “Dual Play” tours. I toured nationally, VJ’ing for DJ Dan, Christopher Lawrence, Timo Maas, Bad Boy Bill, Dieselboy, DJ Rap, Ferry Corsten, and of course Tiesto.
When Tiesto and I met, we really got along. He liked the VJ work and the live camera work I was doing, and the next year, he hired me directly for the Just Be Tour in the US. After the success we had in the USA – I was invited out to South and Central America. The following year I toured again with Tiesto in the Americas, and produced all new visuals for his “In Search of Sunrise 4” album. Off of the success of the new visuals, his team invited me to Europe, where I replaced the team doing his visuals there, and that started a two year period where I toured globally with Tiesto – leaving little time for my local art house gigs, but allowing for my company to really grow.

DVJ Vision: What does your typical set-up look like when you perform live with Tiesto?
CHRIS: 2 Pioneer DVJ’s for me, 1 in the booth for him. 2 additional DVD decks, 1 laptop
and then 3-4 cameras… usually 2 stationary, 1-2 handheld, the cameras run into 1 Edirol V4 – the source content into a second V4 – that then outputs to the camera V4…
Now, we can rock the new Pioneer mixer or the Edirol V8 and step it up even further…

DVJ Vision: What do you think of the SVM-1000 and do you think it will change the way you and Tiesto perform?

CHRIS: If it’s that Pioneer mixer I got to play on last month in Spain, I think it is amazing.
So intuitive, so easy to use for audio and visuals at the same time. I love the touch screen functions. The video effects and filters are great and really fun to play with.
The faders and knobs – everything is badass. It’s a bit big to fit in my carry-on – but if all the clubs start buying these, we are in good shape.

DVJ Vision: Did you use it for audio as well or was Tiesto still using his DJM-800?

CHRIS: He was mixing with his regular mixer, the 800.

DVJ Vision: So, what does Tiesto use the single DVJ for?

CHRIS: Cueing custom visual content usually at the start of the show in the booth. Also we used to have a bunch of DVDs with lyrics on them – that were synced to certain tracks… but he has moved away from doing this as much in the live shows.

DVJ Vision: How do you prepare for a gig with Tiesto? How much of the visual content do you do live and how much is pre-produced?

CHRIS: At this point I am creating content for Tiesto’s new show… Custom content to fit the new tour, but I am no longer VJ’ing live with him. I actually am focusing more on live show documentation and I do switch live cameras and shoot live feed at the big shows. But most of the content is being played now off of media servers and controlled in conjunction with the lights. The lighting designer LJ – is also cuing the visuals, and it all works together in one package. It’s great this way. Frees me up to work more on content development, and I have been focusing on VJ’ing more customized art shows…
This past year in 2007 – 2008, I did a series of four show at the “Art Institute of Chicago,” entitled “After Dark,” and these were a big success. Also, I was the featured VJ at the Motion Graphics Festival in Chicago…and last month I was headlining and organizing the Opulent Temple visuals at Burning Man.

DVJ Vision: Tell me more about that.

I went into my first Burning Man experience with a healthy skepticism. But this place is a visual artists wildest dream and beyond. Once we finally had our stage up and running, and I was playing the 4+ hrs of custom content I had made on the American Dream Theme, I knew this was one VJ gig I would never forget. The content really worked, the crowd response, and response from my fellow Opulent Temple crew members, was amazing. We had 2 huge circular screens on either side of this space pod looking DJ booth, and right over the booth the DJ could shoot huge flames out over the crowd. I made a lot of content spherical and using circular patterns to try and fit the circular screens, and I was so glad I had taken the time to do so. Also the ambient light of the dessert and the light from the flames made it so I had to jack the brightness levels all the way on these 4k projectors. As always in live environments, certain things work, and others don’t, but I found myself leaning on really high contrast sharp visuals, and we rocked out a lot of live cam in the booth on Thursday and Friday. Each night we had a different theme, and I saved some of the most special content for Friday… A shoot I did with these girls, body painted with American Flag theme, and one girl painted with peace symbols, Woodstock style — having a squirt gun fight with red white and blue squirt guns… It was a huge hit. The whole week was not without it’s struggles though, many problems with the desert and the heat… But all and all it was an amazing experience.

DVJ Vision: Very cool. On a different note, how has the introduction of DVD-turntables changed VJing for you?

CHRIS: I like to create whole pieces – whole stories and burn to DVD… I like playing with hardware – I like the feel of putting DVD’s in the decks and cuing up tracks.
And the DVJ’s with the pitch control up to +70 and down to 0 – really allow me to explore my edits, are recreate them live. I also love using the forward/reverse switch and creating cue’s… I find that with 2 DVJ’s, I can rock out for hours – just because I am so able to look further into the content.

DVJ Vision: Is there one thing that stands out as the highlight of your career?

A few actually:
1. Ultra Mar Festival 2005 in Cartagena, Columbia.
~10,000 people, this four day festival featured a huge selection of the worlds top DJ’s, such as; Ferry Corsten, Richie Hawtin, Marco Carola, Misstress Barbara, Antoine Clamaran, and Christian Smith. Not to mention it was on the beach, sunny with a nice breeze every day, warm every night, and the party just kept going and going. A huge video presentation on the main stage with three 9×12’s and two ~24×30 screens.
2. Tiesto live @ Ipanema Beach, in Rio… we played for a record 200,000 people live on the beach. It was such a fun night, and such a huge sensation to have that many people listening and watching. The you-tube clip which I edited days later has been watched by over 350,000 people… just the official post we put up.

DVJ Vision: What’s next for you?

CHRIS: Well… I really want to get into creating custom environments. I want to work with established stage designers, lighting designers, and musical acts… to create really dynamic and unique visual landscapes. I will be working with Tiesto again on the next World Tour visual content and concept, and also doing another series with Art Institute After Dark… So, I have my plate full, but I am always hungry for new challenges

For more info go to http://stoptime341.com/

This interview was conducted in September 2008.

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