Bas Scheij & Angelo Isenia are popularly known as the A-Team.
Main men at the Front of House for Afrojack, they are widely considered amongst the best lighting & video team in the electronic music space.
After closely following them live multiple times we have reached the conclusion that they have one mind.
We, here at Resolume, like to call them the Human Timecode.
This blogpost we will try to delve into the workings of this destructive duo & let’s see if we can squeeze some secrets outta them. *wink
Thanks for doing this guys!
Give us a small background of yourselves.
How did you guys get into this & at what point did you realize- “this is it”?
Bas: It all started for me 21 years ago. I worked as a stagehand for several Dutch bands.
From day one I was inspired by lights and soon I realized this was it for me. I have worked for rental companies as a light technician, project manager and operator. In 2009 I became a freelance operator and continued touring with bands, operating festivals, joined The Art of Light for a while.
This January 2017, I started my new venture BASZ design & live operating
Angelo: For me it started when I was studying at HKU school of Arts around 10 years ago. My good friend and classmate at the time, Cheverno Leiwakabessy, introduced me to VJ’ing. We were geeking out a lot back in the days trying new stuff and learning new software.
I had that ‘it’ moment when we started VJ’ing for Eyesupply. We kept doing bigger and bigger shows. That feeling of standing in the front of house running a show is an adrenaline rush for me! From then on things developed pretty quickly. We were hired by Kevin, Carlo and Sander (Eyesupply/250K) to do what we love for a living.
I had my second ‘it’ moment last year when I decided to start freelancing and started my own company, Dvizion. I did this as a means of challenging myself to get better and cooperate with more people around me.
For how long have you both been working together? Was it love at first gig?
Bas: We are working as a duo since the summer of 2013, when André Beekmans (The Art of Light) and Sander Reneman (250K) introduced me to the team doing programming in advance for André, who was Afrojack’s main LD those days.Later on, he asked me to succeed him as LD for Afrojack.
We soon found out that there was a great vibe and a synergy between Angelo, Afrojack and I, as a team.
Angelo: We recently talked about this. The years fly by so fast. It has been almost 4 years since we were brought together for the Afrojack shows. We had a really good vibe from the beginning. What is important is that we could always tell each other if we didn’t like something which only kept pushing us these years.
While on lighting & video duty, it is important to strike a balance. Not let one overpower the other. Do you agree? How do you keep that balance?
Bas: I totally agree. One of the main rules for us as a team is to keep the right balance between video and lights and let one not overpower the other. LED walls are very bright nowadays which makes it hard to keep the right balance in output between lights and video, live and for television. We mostly achieve the balance by controlling the brightness for video, a useful tool in Resolume.
Angelo: I totally agree, this is something we talk about constantly. We call it the 100%-limit theory, as in my video can go up to 100% and lights too. But, you never want to go over 100% together. During the show we tell each other “Hey, not 200%” so we instantly know we are pushing it too much. There is still much to learn but at least this way we try to balance it out. Also, what is really important is communication during the show.
What process do you follow during lighting design & content creation? And then for operation?
Bas: For festival shows we use the design which is made by the festival designer, and for solo shows, we use our rider design. For the operational part, we work very closely with Afrojack as he really knows what he wants for video and lights.
When we, Angelo and I, receive the songs he’s about to play, we start with analyzing each song, decide which colors we’re going to use and create solo moments for video and lights. Once this is done, Angelo and I practice a little & tell each other very specifically what to do and when. After this it’s show time! At the end of each show we try to find improvements we can implement in the next show.
Angelo: The visuals are made not only by me but also by Eyesupply. We worked on a moodboard consisting of mech robots, manga designs and technical overlays. During the course of 5 years I remixed and edited a lot, adding more abstract content. It all comes down to running shows, sit down to talk about it and go back to the drawing board to adjust where necessary.
Picture: MTV Crashes Plymouth
I remember a great conversation we had about “Music sensibility” and about how understanding rhythm & time is key. Can you tell us about this?
Bas: I think this is one of the characteristics you need to have as an LD to become a real professional. Afrojack decides on the flow, which songs he’s about to play and sometimes plays new tracks without telling us beforehand! “To keep them focused”, as he always says.
It’s important to feel the groove of the music to find out when the new track comes into the mix etc. To react on a break or accent in the music, timing is key to make the difference. I think this is something you can’t learn. It's something you have or not.It is important to hit the button or fader on the right moment to give the extra dimension to the show.
Angelo: Having a sense of rhythm is key to operating, in my opinion. People know me for being too caught up trying to catch every beat and drop, it’s like a blessing and a curse For me it’s really important to mix the video according to the music because everything we do is live.
Here is a great video of Bas & Angelo slaying programming @ the Main Stage, Ultra Miami 2016:
And, here is a video of the outcome:
Everything you do is freestyle. No SMPTE. No MIDI. No Timecode. Any tips for achieving such levels of tightness in transitions & color changes?
Bas: Timing is key. When both understand rhythm and timing, you’ll have the base for tight transitions and color changes as a team. We always use intercoms during show. This is very helpful to call breaks and accents. Also, we spend a lot of time listening to the songs.
Angelo: Communication. We communicate constantly during the show. Although we’ve been doing it for years so we can also sense what the other one will transition to. We also like to nerd-talk about it after the shows. We ask each other “what if we do this or that”. Then, it’s back to the hotel (or home), hook up my gear and try to incorporate those ideas into the show.
Picture:PHOTORIK @ Amsterdam MusicFestival 2015
A metal-head and a Salsa lover, what are your thoughts on the direction electronic music is heading - visually?
Bas: Most of the time a DJ is performing on his own on very big stages in front of thousands of people, which means that you have to reinforce the show visually. Stages are getting bigger nowadays and technique innovates constantly; so visually electronic shows will grow without limits.
Angelo: Haha it’s been a long time I danced! I must admit I never listen to EDM outside of work. I think visually there is much more to explore and improve upon. There are many more artists out there doing bigger and better shows than us so for me it’s always a drive to get better and better. I really look up to those trying new stuff and pushing the limits, take the Eric Prydz’ show, for example. Since I started VJ’ing I have always wondered how we can make the show more interactive - between the Artist and the Audience. This is something I would like to explore in the future.
What are your go to weapons for destruction?
Bas: For Afrojack shows I prefer to work on GrandMA 2, because of its endless possibilities and ease of operation. Nowadays it’s easy to connect Resolume to the GrandMA, which helps us push boundaries to innovate the show.
Angelo: I almost read “mass destruction” For me it’s Resolume Arena hands down. I have been using it since version 2 and really like the simplicity, while having really powerful features like the Advanced Output. We are really close with the Resolume team and it’s a pleasure working out new ideas with them. For crazy new ideas is Joris my go-to guy at Resolume HQ. My MIDI controller of choice is the Akai APC40 mkII. This is the closest controller having all the bells and whistles I want. I still would like to have a better controller, maybe someday I can design my own
Picture: Amsterdam Music Festival 2016
Any advice you would like to give budding “FOH artists” out there?
Bas: Stay motivated learning new techniques and stimulate creativity by fueling passion.
Angelo: My advice is relax and enjoy it. It’s ok to make mistakes. I made a lot of mistakes in the past but in the end it all comes down to learning from that. Heck, I still make some mistakes haha. Also, always be friendly to your FOH buddies. In my opinion everyone in the FOH is equal so try to work together to make the best show possible.
Any last words before we let you continue being awesome?
Bas: I want to thank you guys, Shipra and Joris, for the interview. And, of course, Resolume for their support and collaboration, keep it up! Special thanks to Afrojack, 250K and The Art of Light.
Angelo: I really want to thank you guys for this fun interview, it made me think and reminisce about the past. Also, I would like to thank the Resolume guys for always being so cool with us and having a listening ear to our crazy ideas. I must also say that I wouldn't be standing here if it wasn't for Eyesupply and Afrojack. This only pushed me to perform better each show.
Ah. What a great interview this was. Straight from the heart and so much to learn.
Love your FOH buddies. Aw.
Show us some love now, guys. Come on.
Picture: Angelo's I-Phone, Times Square, NYC
Thanks. V much.