Although not a name well known outside music nerd circles, Amon Tobin has lit the interwebs aflame with his recent Coachella performance. We were among those that were there, and were properly dazzled. The Brazilian born, London-raised, Redwood Forest-dwelling electronic music maverick has always been two steps ahead of his sonic contemporaries. But with his latest album, ISAM, and its accompanying live show, Tobin looks to elevate the art of production — and live concert presentation — to the Next Level. This is the third and final installment in our feature with Amon Tobin — to start at the beginning, go HERE.
All photograph by Steven Taylor.
“It was quite a challenge making this record trying to figure out a way to perform it, because when you have an electronic record you have this problem: there isn’t a band involved, so how do we present it to people without turning it into something it isn’t? Without having MCs running around on stage, or people playing instruments trying to re-create the record?” Instead of embracing the elements of their own music, electronic artists for decades have been dressing up their live shows in the tropes of rock n’ roll: low slung guitars, bombastic histrionics, massive drumkits and stacks of unplugged Marshall amplifiers. Mindlessly jamming a guitar cord into an MIDI interface. And that emulation was the impetus for Tobin to conceive the massive ISAM stage show. “This false representation [of electronic music] is apologetic in a way that I feel is really unacceptable, because I don’t think we should apologize as electronic musicians for making the music we make,” argues Tobin. “I like bands, but I’m not a band so I’m not going to pretend to be a fucking band. So the idea was to integrate me into something much more visually engaging so I’m not the visual focus of the stage, but was still relevant to the music. Because what’s really important to me is not diluting what I’m doing to make it palatable to an audience.”
The ISAM Live spectacle centers around a stunning 25′ x 14′ x 8′ multi-dimensional/ shape-shifting art installation which envelopes Tobin and acts like an enormous Tetris-like projection screen. A film is then projected onto the white blocks, meticulously digitally mapped onto the various shapes and protrusions of the installation. The result is a 3D-like experience for the audience who are sonically immersed in Tobin’s soundscape world while being simultaneously absorbed into the visual spectacle’s storyline — one which sees Tobin acting as the musical conductor of a large spacecraft navigating through a surreal visual narrative. The project was a massive undertaking, requiring four studios and production houses to collaborate. Vello Virkhaus worked closely with Tobin to storyboard and animate the visual journey the audience will see. Vitamotus designed the actual structure, working closely with builders Glasshouse in order to ensure the huge stage could be broken down and transported by plane. Lastly Leviathan digitally mapped the animation onto the obtuse, angular structure, a time consuming ordeal that required the creation of new software. As nothing of the sort has ever been built for touring, everything was the result of much trial and error, sifting through many a lightweight material before settling on the very hefty — yet sturdy — combination of steel and wood.
Hit the Jump to continue reading the 3rd & final installment of “The Next Level: LIAS Interview with Amon Tobin?…
“I’d be lying if I said I make music for the audience… I feel like artists should be artists and do what they believe in, and people should be into it if they’re into it…”
“I really appreciate people getting into whatever I do, but I’d be lying if I said I make music for [the audience]’s benefit,” Tobin confesses dryly. “I feel like saying I do is kind of a little bit disingenuous — I just hate the way I hear all the time interviews and bands are always like, ‘Oh man, it’s all about the fans!’ It just sounds fucking pathetic. I feel like artists should be artists and they should do what they believe in, and people should be into it if they’re into it.” Suddenly he grows palpably excited, re-arranges the hat on his head and fires off one final salvo. “And I love that about this tour — it’s such a spectacle, but the music is so bizarre. Because it’s not Lady Gaga or Beyoncé, with this super awesome stage set and tons of money behind it. I feel like I’m bringing people in with this visual spectacle, and then forcing them to listen to stuff they probably would never hear… because I like the idea of captivating an audience willingly to hear something outside of what they’re used to, and maybe wouldn’t have invested the time to really listen to it.”