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Unique brand of remixing reinvents club scene
By Aiden Rasmussun


Outside a Ponsonby cafe and shaded from the mid-morning sun sit two seemingly innocuous Englishmen, quietly eating their breakfasts.

After listening to and watching Hexstatic's audio-visual album Rewind, I'm not surprised by Stuart Warren Hill's and Robin Brunson's appearance (and later demeanour) - a couple of casually attired, average looking, unassuming geezers. It's not surprising when you consider the lack of image required to promote their music. They literally let their sounds and their images do the talking.

Hill and Brunson are VJs or Visual Jockeys, working in an area where clubland meets cutting-edge art which is slowly gaining a following in Britain with dance audiences that want more than a mirrorball, laser lights or invisible DJs hiding behind dry ice when they go out to see a show. Hill and Brunson are here as a part of the Big Chill behemoth.

So, VJs, eh? "It's somebody who is mixing videotapes or digital video rather than mixing records. Doing the same as a DJ but with images. We've got mixes similar to a DJ. We can cross-fade between different sources and put effects on stuff."

Having mastered the art of VJ-ing and becoming bored with it, out of a desire to keep creating something new, Hill and Brunson have now moved on to making images for their own music rather than for others.

"We're like audio-visualists now. AVJs," says Hill drolly.

Brunson elaborates: "When we were doing just the visual thing we would synchronise visuals with the DJ's set. But now we control the sounds and the visuals and everything. It's all completely synchronised."

Because of the similarity in software, this move by the two 31-year-olds wasn't as hard as you might expect. Many of the visual programmes are the same as the audio ones.

"An audio-sequencer works similarly to video editing software," says Hill.

The pair released an album last year - the "first truly audio-visual album," according to their press release - that was meant to be played on your computer rather than your hi-fi. In the process they created their own niche which record companies have only just begun to get their heads round.

"Essentially record labels want to sell an audio CD. It's hard to get across to people that they should be putting the CD-Rom in their computer first before they listen to the music. But in Britain an audio/visual scene is starting to develop and it's becoming a bit more recognised."

If you're a child of the 80s you'll be pleased to discover when you play the CD-Rom an array of images that include the splicing together of some of the first arcade games - Asteroids, Battle Zone and Tempest - into videos, complete with samples of their original sounds. Simon Says and Speak & Spell, accompanied by their appropriate sounds, also make an appearance.

Nothing is sacred when it comes to sampling for songs. Everything from phones, faxes, modems, car engines and bonnets, kung fu and porno movies find their way into the mix. Even Australian pedestrian crossing buzzes.

"In Australia they have these crossings and you press a button and it goes 'doool do, do, do do.' So we sampled it and I was there like pushing the button over and over again."

It's hard to switch off sometimes when you see the world as one big sample.

Not only do Hill and Brunson, who hail from the North and south of London respectively, seem to have a touch of nostalgia for those more recreational aspects of their childhood, a la Asteroids; apparently so do many others.

"It was a real conscious decision to put those old toys and video games on the album. Not only because we were into it but also because when I've been to other countries I've been amazed to find that they have those toys, too. People seem to really connect with that."

Apart from appealing to our collective sense of nostalgia, what kind of experiences are the audio-visualists trying to create for their listeners/viewers?

Hill gazes into his bowl of muesli and bananas for a moment then looks me square in the eyes and says: "It's like a multi-sensory experience isn't it, maybe an experience without the drugs, give them something so that they don't have to take drugs."

*The Big Chill, with Hexstatic, Pitch Black, Jedi Knight, Tom Middleton, Tim Lee, Kinobe, Treva Whateva, DJ Pete Lawrence and more - St James, 10 pm.


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