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.
audio-visualists now. AVJs," says Hill drolly.
"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.
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.
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.