Rocker Tommy Lee is taking out a High End Systems Catalyst™ system on his Never a Dull Moment tour of US theatres and the House of Blues venues June 19-July 31. He was so excited about the technology; he had to speak with us about how this product was making his concert vision a reality.
"Catalyst is awesome," Lee says, about the product that combines the power of digital media with the creativity of automated effects lighting. "My production manager turned me on to a link on the web. She said, 'Dude, you have to see this new light.' I went to the High End site and saw the QuickTime video of Catalyst and thought, 'No way, this is insane!'"
He continues, "I'm such a computer freak. I'm a mad scientist in my own little world. So I love stuff like this. We've all seen a million moving lights before, but this is something else. I was blown away. Then I saw a demo at the LA office. I was even more blown away. This is insane! I've been dreaming of this kind of show and technology. I almost had a tear in my eye when I saw the demo in person. I've wanted to do this my entire life -- to make all the light cues and the video on the beat. So I'm so excited."
PSL USA of Los Angeles is supplying the Catalyst for the tour, while Backstage Productions, Inc. of Minneapolis fulfills LD Ernesto Corti's specs of 6 Studio Spot® 575 automated luminaires and a Wholehog® II lighting console.
HES' Brad Schiller and Mike Hanson helped program during a week of pre-production, which was held at High End's Los Angeles demo facility. Lee himself was on hand to input his creative vision and to get hands on with the equipment -- as well as contribute actual video footage he has taken on his own camera.
HES' Brad Schiller, LD Ernesto Corti, Tommy Lee, and HES' Mike Hanson during pre-production for Tommy Lee's tour.
Says Lee, "Brad is amazing. He's showing me features in the Catalyst that High End was originally going to cut out. One feature is where he shakes the video violently [called the wobble feature]. There's so much energy there. I said, 'Please leave that feature in there. For a band like myself that has so much energy, this feature takes stock video and gives it a high-energy look. It looks like us. It's the best!'"
Lee says the elements of the show all complement each other. "The lights, the music, the video -- it's like, wow, what you're hearing, you're seeing, and what you're seeing, you're feeling. There's one song, called "Metamorphosis," with amazing images of plants and bugs and when you hear the music, it's synonymous with the video. There's a time lapse photography when the plants are blooming and bugs are moving and it's right on the beat with the music."
What will the fans see on this tour? Lee explains, "I should use the word 'Sensurround,' because it's from all levels: musically, sonically and visually. All your senses come into play."
Schiller says, "Catalyst is used to project video behind the band. Tommy hired some guys to create custom content, much of which was created as a single movie to run in time with the music. We were able to lock the start of the movie to the timecode and have Catalyst play back the videos in sync with the music. In fact, there is one song where they shot video of an oscilloscope displaying the audio for the song. The image of the scope plays perfectly during the entire song. Then Catalyst effects are added at specific moments to enhance the synchronized content. It is truly an amazing sight to see a complete multi-media show run via timecode and a Wholehog. It just goes to prove the power of Catalyst. Tommy Lee loved all the possibilities, especially the wobble feature."
Lee says he's enjoying the extra time allotted to pre-production for this tour. "In the past, you've usually got three days of pre-production and boom, you're programming the show during sound check. That's such a drag. This time I wanted it to go out and be right. So we had seven days in pre-production and then three days' rehearsal with the band, so 10 days is more like it. High End's John Wiseman has been a godsend. He brought Brad to us and let us use the High End demo facility here in L.A. I owe a great big thanks to all who've come to the table on this tour."
The tour will also be featured as part of an upcoming VH-1 special about Tommy Lee with behind-the-scenes footage of the programming sessions at HES Los Angeles.