[INTERVIEW] Grietfest 2013: Sassquatch

SassquatchSassquatch is playing at Grietfest 2013 in Johannesburg. He’s a Joburg based DJ who combines his love for design and DJing. I don’t know much about him so it was a pleasure to learn more about how he views art in two different mediums as well as merging those art forms.

BCTC: You’re passionate about combining visuals with music. How do you begin to create images for sounds? (What inspires you and what’s the process?)

SQ: With making visuals, my process changes a lot from project to project. Playing with bands, it’s always heavily influenced by the people in the band themselves. I try hard to make sure each project has it’s own visual style. Kidofdoom was really cinematic with a large sci fi influence and in contrast Johnny Foreigner is more cartoony and DIY. To really help create a unique visual identity, I also try collaborate with other people as much as possible, sometimes it’s with band members directly and sometimes it’s with illustrator friends.

Sassquatch DJAnd then on the flip side I’ve got visuals for Sassquatch DJ sets and this is a whole other story. For those sets, I’m just working on my own. This means I get to do whatever I like which is usually animations of animals yawning and clips from my favourite cartoons. This is obviously a lot of fun for me too.

So I guess it’s mostly just a case of seeing how different music makes me feel and trying to transform that into moving pictures.

BCTC: How did you select the keytar to be your visual instrument whilst DJing?
SQ: Back in 2005, I’d been thinking for a while about using a keyboard to trigger visuals. Then one fateful day a friend and I dropped by a music store to get some percussion for a project we were doing called Critical Hits. They had a keytar on display. At that point my mind combined what I was seeing with this visual triggering idea and a couple seconds later just exploded with excitement.

Being pretty rare instruments, it took me a while to finally get my hands on one. Once I did, I got hold of a wireless transmitter for it and it basically became the ultimate instrument for the kind of visual performance I do. The controls on the neck give me a lot of control of the intensity of the image and how effects are applied to it which is great. But my main reason for using a keytar is the mobility it gives me. My approach with visual performance is very different from most VJs who are usually quite static and controlled. I really (REALLY) get the biggest kick out of creating live visuals in a much more physical way, rocking out as much as I can. In the world of midi instruments, the keytar is the perfect companion for this!

BCTC: You combine your love for art making with DJing. Do you ever include your DJing in your art exhibitions?

Sassquatch ProfileI have a little!┬áBack in 2009 I was part of a group show in London called The Sense Summer Art Fair. For the exhibition, I made this pretty ambitious piece called “From Sass Africa with Love”. The starting point of the porject was basically creating 4 DJs mixes, one was all bands that had got me interested in DJing to begin with, the second was a collection of songs I’d regularly played at Sovereign Academy, the third was all songs by bands from our Pretoria/ Joburg community at that time and the 4th was a bunch of (then) new songs that had me excited for the future.

After making the 4 mixes, I draw a bunch of cards African wildlife. Then I scanned the cards and used them to design artwork for mixes. Following that, I animated the illustrations into little loops and worked those into my DJ sets. Then at a couple shows, I got someone to shoot me playing songs from the mix and performing the visuals. This footage was edited into a montage that was projected at the exhibition in London alongside the original animal cards, with the original mixes looping along in the background.

It was a bunch of work, but it was a very rewarding way to draw together my love of DJing, illustration, animation and VJing and be able to present it to someone in an exhibition space.

Here’s the link to the trailer I made for the event:


BCTC: What can the audience expect from your set at Grietfest? Will you be combining your visual element or just straight DJing this time?
Nope no visuals this time, but there will be heaps of nice stuff for people’s eyes!

For the last while I’ve been teaming up with my friends Cam and Ri to throw a series of nights called Hi5! As a big part of the shows, Cam (as “Turn Your Lights Up High”) has been building a bunch of really cool hand made lighting systems. For this years Grietfest we’ve been invited to take over their Caravan stage. We’re planning some really fun decor and lighting ideas to create The Cosmic Caravan and (starting in the day) we’ll be brining this to life right in front of people. So at this year’s Grietfest people will be able to see me both DJing and drawing kittens, I just won’t be doing both at the same time!

Catch Sassquatch at Grietfest Johannesburg this Saturday night or check out Sassquatch’s blog.

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