Have you ever wanted to be transported to another place, time, or world? Imaginarium can and will do just that. From the minds of Ego and Ribongia, Imaginarium will merge visuals and audio to transport spectators to worlds familiar and unfamiliar, as part of Vivd Live in Sydney during June. We had a chat with Ego about the development of Imaginarium, and how the concept came about.
Can you explain why and how you became a visual and audio artist?
“I came at it through being a DJ. I used to DJ in clubs and bars, and I was also working for a record label at the time, doing a bit of video production. I had a friend who was doing audiovisual DJing using Serato video software. I showed him what I was doing and he showed me his work, [and he said], ‘Why don’t you start doing audio visual DJing?’ So we started with a four turntable audiovisual thing that we started touring and playing. So, I jumped in the deep end with fortnightly shows, and then I realised that I really liked the visual side of things and the potential for more in-depth visual work. These days, I consider myself a visual artist as opposed to an audio artist. So I kind of crossed over somewhere back there through making content for my own shows, and then I started making stuff for other people and building their shows with them. Making music videos and TV ads and whatever else.”
Who was your pal that you were working with at the beginning?
“His performance name was Mr. Nice. He’s now moved to New York and he is running part of a multi-media theatre troupe at House Of Yes in New York. They are doing some crazy stuff with immersive cinema, and he’s kind of been a real driver behind that and basically remixes movies and turns that into this audio visual, theatrical multimedia trapeze circus mega show, which I’m still yet to see. We went off in crazy different directions.”
So, you got to the point where the visuals were more important or more interesting, and you felt like you had more creative freedom with the visuals?
“All my ideas used to be audio – I used to have my visions and inspiration as audio. But now I’ve started thinking in terms of visuals and I couldn’t control that. It was just that my ideas would come as a visual thing. I kind of stopped dabbling in production and stopped doing audio visual DJ shows to just focus on the visual and team up with other audio artists. For me to do the visual side and for them to do the audio side and bridge it that way, rather than trying to be this one man band which spreads you very thin.”
Would you say the process of creating audio and creating visuals is the same, or is it different? Do you approach it in the same way?
“Yeah it can be pretty similar, but I guess with both mediums you’re working to a time line and you’re trying to make the audience feel something. So, it was easier during that period where I was doing solo audio visual stuff to work between the two because they kind of do the same thing, just in a different way.”
Do you think the genre of music dictates the visuals?
“Yeah it can, but you can kind of twist that too. My visual style that I’ve always liked is quite glitchy, bright, ever changing, and fast paced. So I’ve always found that paired well with music similarly bright and tweaked, with non-conventional sorts of rhythms. It doesn’t really work to a 4/4 house beat, so I’ve always kind of moved around into glitchier terrain. It’s not that I don’t like and love house music, it’s just I’ve not really known visually what to do with it because it progresses a lot slower. The visuals dictate the music, and the music dictates the visuals a bit. But I’m sure if I were less pedantic about it, I could make it look and sound however I like – but that’s just how my head works.”
Is that how you came to work with Paces, because you like his style of music? You also worked with him during his tour?
“That’s right, I do the visual design and execution for his shows. I’ve known Paces for many years, and we’ve got a mutual appreciation for each other’s crafts. So when it came time to building his show and he reached out for help I was like, ‘yes, cool, easy.’ It is one of those really easy relationships. It also helps that I love his music and I love that sound. I love that bright tropical backdrop that he writes to, it makes it really easy because I just love bright visuals that are sourced from the exotic and kind of tropical world.”
Your set at Fomo and your A Trip With Ego Mixtape were both quite pop culture heavy. Are you always on the look out for interesting scenes and visuals from all the media you consume?
“Yeah I used to a lot more, but I’ve kind of moved away from that a bit, just because you’re always on the look out, and you’re never at ease when you’re watching something. I found that my life was just going down these rabbit holes of samples where someone in a movie will say exactly what I want them to say and faces the camera in exactly the right angle, and it sounds perfect, and you realise it doesn’t really work like that. Also, I’ve got all these tools to make things anyway so why am I relying on sampling when I’m actually nowadays well equipped enough to not rely on sampling. Audio producers go through the same thing at some point, when they realise they don’t have to do these bootlegs and remixes and they can actually be the architect of their own set without relying on hooks that people know. So that’s where I’m at now, using and reusing a bunch of my own things that people know from other works that are very Ego, without relying on samples, and without having to spend days looking for samples, which kind of exhausted me and had me throwing my hands up in the air, saying ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.”
Was that a massive weight off your shoulders when you realised that you could do it yourself?
“Yeah totally, it was huge weight off, but at the same time you’re kind of going out on a limb and saying, ‘wow I’m no longer going to rely on things that people know to carry my show and my work, I’m going to put myself out there alone, bare and naked to the world, that’s all I’ve got and that’s all I’m offering.’ That brings a little bit of fear and anxiety into the mix. I think balanced against the weight of trying perfect the sampling world, which I was feeling, it is a lot lighter load to carry.”
How did you come to work with Ribongia?
“We played some shows together and we got talking, and I realised he had a deep understanding of how visuals connect with a show. He’d also developed a lot of work incorporating visuals into his solo shows. So on top of having a high regard for his music and his performance, I realised there was a good working relationship we could form. I think just having people that understand the visual side of it is really important, to not try and push something up a hill that another artist doesn’t understand or fully buy into. So we kind of fell into each others craft’s really quickly. Then I got approached to this show down at Mona earlier in the year. They just wanted a solo Ego audio visual show, which I had kind of moved away from, and I was thinking about bigger things. So I just used it as an opportunity to call Ribongia up and just say ‘hey, do you want to do this kind of crazy show where we bring in five projectors and create this world of vision and sounds? And he’s like, ‘yeah, easy.’ That’s how that came about. We had a few months of intensive work, trying to throw this show together and trying to make something that worked and we went crazy. We played every night at Mona and had the room writhing. It looked and sounded great, and yeah, it was awesome.”
It looked incredible; I especially liked the little cut from Where The Wild Things Are.
“There is that element of sampling still in there, but it is a bit less intensive than I used to do, and also that was a piece I was doing in my solo shows that worked well with this concept of the Imaganirium, which is all about transporting people. So taking people into this room which acts as this tardis, and it changes around them, and the music changes with it, and it’s all about what’s real and what isn’t real and all the far off places, and places that only exist only in your head or only in your childhood. Where The Wild Things Are, for me, is one of the ultimate stories that you carry with you for life. You go away in the middle of the night to this imaginary place – which just fit the theme of Imaginarium so perfectly.”
What would you like the audience to take away from Imaginarium?
“The idea is that the world is awesome. That’s a real driver for mine and Antonio’s art – to pick at different elements. So, for humans, it’s finding samples of music and finding genres and styles of music and bringing them to life in a new way for a new audience, and for me it’s the same with visuals – to find these little things that maybe we had forgotten. Like Where The Wild Things Are, and say ok, this is a great story that so many of us share and identify with, let’s celebrate it in this room for a few minutes, and then let’s move on to the next thing. So I sample a lot of nature and the natural world as well as culture and scene setting from around the world. Basically it’s like this tourism of the real and the imaginary and so the message is just love everything and love everyone.”
It’s so easy to forget that we live in a beautiful place, and that we have these beautiful stories that we forget about because everyday life just consumes us. It’s nice to be able to give people the opportunity to live in the moment.
“Yeah and like you say, the stories and storytelling is so important and we forget it because our stories are our Instagram stories and they are so quick and they are all about the minutiae. It’s almost like a genre of story telling, particular Instagram stories, but there are stories within that and around that and outside of that, that we can tell and they are actually big stories that are stories of ourselves and also our parents and our friends. Just paying attention to what’s going on and being excited about our differences, about our experiences that exist outside our phones and whatever, that’s kind of a big part of it.”
It’s really interesting that, even though it is technology we’ve become so consumed by, it’s nice to see technology used in a way to help us break free of that. I think too much emphasis gets put on technology, consuming a lot of our time, but then it has this other really positive light, like in the shows that you’re performing.
“I don’t think that technology is the problem. I think the problem is the homogenization of culture that we just have this one technology, we have one thing that we log in to – it’s called Facebook, it relies on this one algorithm, and if we had 100 different Facebook’s, maybe we would still have that depth and diversity of language and experience as opposed to all speaking this one language now that’s dictated by someone in San Francisco – that’s crazy. That’s where technology is a problem – that’s why I don’t shy away from other technology, let’s get five projectors lets get some lasers, or whatever, if we can use it to tell a story in a new way. This is our world now – it is technology. It’s not all bad, but it can kind of dumb us down to this homogenized thinking.”
With Instagram stories, we’ve been conditioned to have these quick, easily digestible chunks of information.
“Yeah, that’s right, that’s what I mean about the stories, let’s pay a bit more attention and join some bigger dots here. Like ‘oh wow that’s a cool sunset, but what happens before sunset what happens after it?’ Let’s tell the bigger stories, and let’s tell it in a way that’s interesting. Technology can help us do that but I don’t know if Instagram stories can.”