Do you travel with the tour the entire time, or are you working with other clients as the tour is happening?
I’m working with the clients as it happens. There are several different kinds of lighting designers within the business. There’s a fairly clear definition between the lighting designer role and the lighting director role, though very often you’re the same person. For the Drake tour, for instance, I am the lightning designer, and there’s a gentlemen by the name of Guy Pavelo, he’s the lighting director. Guy is the one who’s on the tour, handling how the show gets set up each day and making sure all the robotic lighting is focused, that things are pointing in the right spot, that kind of stuff. As a lighting designer, I am working with Drake himself, with our creative director Willo Perron, making sure that the overall concept is executed. We all then spend a week, two weeks actually creating what the show is going to look like. And then it goes out on the road, and Guy is in charge of maintaining the integrity of that design throughout the course of the tour. With Jay-Z, he’s actually one of the few clients where I design it and take it out on the road and become a lighting director on a day-to-day basis.
Are there concepts that you’re particularly proud of?
It’s always the last one that was your coolest and biggest one, and in this case, Drake’s Club Paradise tour was a particular achievement because we created a touring set that had multiple genres of technical gear. There were video elements, lighting elements, all created into a structure that could be expanded and contracted within various venue sizes. It became this sort of living space.
Could you name some of the other musical clients you’ve worked with?
Over the years, I’ve been very fortunate to have worked not just as a lighting designer and director, but also as a lighting programmer, which means I would run the lighting console during a lot of these rehearsals to help designers put the show together. From that standpoint, I’ve worked with Shakira, the Rolling Stones, R. Kelly, Jay-Z, U2, Bon Jovi, Kanye West, and all sorts of various television performances, like the MTV Video Music Awards and the Grammys.
Are there artists in the lighting industry that people like to work for more than others?
Yeah, definitely. There are legendary stories of different crews getting into arguments and sometimes fights over who was going to get to go on tour with somebody because they know the tour’s going to be particularly fun. Especially country acts. There are some country acts out there that people just go nuts over to work for. The guys are so down to earth that they treat the crew really well. It’s a lot of hard work, and these guys, the quote-unquote “roadies,” it’s a very tough life physically. You’re up at 7 a.m., push big heavy pieces of metal around a room into an arena, you work all day long, you get everything set up. At some point during the afternoon, they open the doors to the arena to let people in, you get ready to do the show, you continue to do the show for three, four hours, and then you start breaking it all down and somewhere around 1-2 a.m., you think about possibly putting your head down in this submarine bunk of a tour bus to nap for a couple of hours before you do it all over again in a city 200 miles away. You repeat that, over and over and over again. And when you have an artist who appreciates you doing all that, it’s a really special thing. There’s also the flipside, where some artists you have people just shake their head over and go, “Oh my God, there is no way I’m going on tour with them because that is going to be an absolutely miserable experience.”
How many people tend to be on the crew for a massive tour?
It varies. On a large-scale crew, you’ve got an average of 30-50 people that are on the day-to-day operations. Sometimes for a massive worldwide stadium tour, you can have upwards of 200 people. It can be pretty intense.