If we sometimes have difficulty (read: we always have difficulty) expressing through our words the radical, spiritual effects that music can have on us, we’ll have to concede defeat early in our fight to find the proper words to describe the visual wow-and-wallop of Drippy Eye Projections.
So we’ll employ the words used by Dan Nedal in his essay on The Joshua Light Show, direct ancestors of the Drippy Eyes:
“Psychedelia began manifesting across the globe around 1965, peaked around 1967-69 and slid into a coked-out robotic sheen … in the 1970s. But for a few years there were records, posters, tapestries, gee gaws and, yes, light shows. Light shows were unusual for being simultaneously performative, scientific and graphically engaging… Light shows were (and still are) a difficult, endurance-testing discipline that popped up wherever there was a rock club. Like deafening amps, the swirls and fades of a light show was part of the youth culture thing.”
We encountered the stunning visual work of the Drippy Eye crew during Austin Psych Fest earlier this year and soon arranged a poolside rap session that lasted about two-minutes. We knew that further investigation was in order – the appeal of the art that Drippy Eye provides doesn’t happen on accident, we suspected, no matter how stream-of-consciousness inducing its impressive, iridescent illuminations are.
Our suspicions were confirmed – and our bright view of Drippy Eye Projections grew in wattage – after this interview with team member Curtis Godino. Enjoy.
Where does the connection between music and visuals originate from for you personally? Can you recall the first combination of an aural experience and a visual experience that truly made a dramatic impact on you? What was it in particular about that experience that made it so memorable?
I think the connection between music and visuals originated around 10th grade, when I started getting into stoner metal and psych rock. At that time I started really diving deep into Pink Floyd and Sleep. I would say my first combination of an aural and visual experience that made a huge impact on my life was my 17th birthday. Me and a couple friends went and saw a Saucerful of Secrets, Wish You Were Here, and Dark Side laser light show at the Miami Planetarium. It was one of the first times the visual representation was just as important as the sound. It was a trip. But the lasers didn’t have the same feel as the old videos with Syd Barrett which were full of organic oil projections.
What was your first experience that saw you becoming a “hands-on” contributor to live visuals, as opposed to just a spectator? What in your background gave you the confidence that you could contribute something special to a live musical performance?
I used to watch a lot of old Pink Floyd videos. Their light shows (before lasers) were unbelievable and when I found out it was all just liquids and slide projectors, it blew my mind. I had a psych band at the time called Celestial Sound and we wanted psychedelic visuals to accompany our spaced out sound, so we got an LCD projector from a friend and started making videos from oil projections found on YouTube, our favorites being Joshua White and Mark Boyle. But after a week or so, we realized we needed the real thing, so I told my high school music teacher what I was trying to do and she hooked me up with five overheads, two slide projectors, and four clocks, all for free. She thought it was awesome that we were trying to do this stuff and that we were putting it to better use than the school was. So in the beginning, we had our bassist’s brother Hayden Toski sitting on the over head with two plastic take-out trays with some vegetable oil and colored water in them and he would just swish them around. That’s where we got the motivation to step it up. If it could look as cool as it did with some trays and vegetable oil, then it couldn’t be hard to start perfecting the techniques.
In the 1960’s, groups like The Joshua Light Show and The Brotherhood of Light expanded the context of how an audience perceived a light show – bringing creativity and ingenuity to the forefront by using overlapping light sources of various sources, etc. What is it about these early pioneers that you find most compelling? In what ways are you able to study the techniques used by the forefathers/mothers of the live light show?
Joshua White, I think, is one of the strongest driving forces behind what we do because he successfully did it. People really respect his art, not just for some trippy light show, but for the tons and tons of work and effort he put into it. I have yet to see him do it live, but in the beginning, when I was first learning how to work oil projections, we exchanged many emails explaining different ways to do it and how to get the right liquids. We still keep in touch – it’s cool that he got to see us start and now what we have been able to accomplish. Besides emails, I watched a ridiculous amount of oil projection videos on YouTube, with Mark Boyle being my second favorite projection artist due to his incredibly experimental methods. He was working in ways that Americans had never done. I’m not even sure how he did a lot of what he did but he was using some dangerous liquids and vertical slides.
How important is it to you to have the entire Drippy Eye Projections experience be presented using analogue equipment? What flexibility – or constraints – does this offer you that would not be there if you incorporated digital elements as well?
It is incredibly important that everything is analog, but we are not opposed to using digital elements. What I love about the 1960s light shows is that it was all analog because that’s what they had to work with, but as time goes on, technology gets better and therefore you have the ability to do even more. I really love video feedback and when there are video clips weaved in with all the analog light. We use document cameras run through an LCD projector – it’s still analog but it’s getting to be a little more digital looking. With analog there are no pixels, and no one’s body looks good with pixels on it. But I must confess my love for analog light – it’s the best. There’s no way to press a button to make it look good – you have to do it yourself.
What does an “ordinary” Drippy Eye performance consist of, from an equipment standpoint – projectors, inks, slides, etc.? What would your dream set-up consist of, if time and money were not an issue? What would you like to accomplish during a live performance that you have not been able to do up to this point?
Our performances vary since we work out of New York City and South Florida. But it can go from one overheard projector, one document camera plus LCD projector and one slide projector, to three overhead projectors, two document cameras plus LCD projectors, and two slide projectors. It’s always different. We usually try new combinations at every performance. When it comes to supplies we use clock faces, transparencies, color wheels, handmade slides, air pumps, bowls, and anything we can find that will look rad. We try to keep experimenting to get new psychedelic madness. People are always so curious about the liquids we use. We just use water with water based dyes, oil with oil based dies, alcohol, and the rest we like to keep secret. It’s like a mad scientist set up. We actually just started working with oil slides which seems to be only popular in Europe. It’s where u put a liquid concoction in between glass and let a high wattage slide projector boil it. The results are insane – brings you back to The UFO Club.
I’m glad you ask about our dream set up because it’s something we tend to discuss a lot. It would consist of five slide projectors doing their own thing. Then a couple optikinetic projectors with color cassettes, oil wheels, and distortion wheels, to set an ambient mood. Then about five or six overhead projectors with two people per overhead dimming in and out with clocks, bubble-boxes, transparencies, and color wheels. And last, two document cameras with a video mixer. Every wall would be covered with multiple layers or liquid … we will do it someday… Psychedelic Fun House. That too will happen once we can get funds.
Apart from the technical side of things, what do you feel you are trying to project with your visuals, from a social/cultural/spiritual perspective? How much are you able to lose yourself in the performance, versus having to be constantly aware of operating your equipment and being on the same wavelength as your partner? Do you feel that you have developed a sixth sense for performing under the Drippy Eye moniker?
Were trying to bring back that freak out culture, a part of time I wasn’t lucky enough to enjoy. With our light we try to transport you back to the 1960’s and make you truly experience a psychedelic concert. This also is another reason analog is so important. Right now we’re living in a time of instant gratification. Everyone and their sisters can go out and buy an expensive program and rip someone’s song off. I feel there is less appreciation of hard work. We’re trying to make you shut off your phone and live in the now. We do lose ourselves in the performances sometimes, so much so that we have a hard time remembering the bands. There’s a lot of focus and since we only have a few things that run automatically. we have to constantly be changing, tweaking, dimming, and drooling over the projectors. It gets to be a lot of work. A for having developed a sixth sense, I guess you could say that. At some points you notice that you know exactly where the song is going to go and what type of an effect would best represent the sounds being made. Then you may find yourself hypnotized by the rhythms of the music and liquid bouncing off each other.
How much does your own personal translation of the music being performed live factor in to Drippy Eye? What are you hoping to hear from bands and artists to inspire your visuals, or vice versa? Which bands have presented the best – or perhaps most abstract? – aural canvas for Drippy Eye to add its visuals to?
Personal translation of the bands is most important because the light show is based mostly off of feeling. We love doing it for music we dig. When we really get into the band we go all out and start squirting things where they’ve never been squirted before. I feel like the true experimentation really comes out when you can feel the energy of the show. Some shows are dead and when that happens we do our best to liven it up. When you do it for a band you like, it’s euphoric – you really get lost in all the sound and light. It’s like legal drugs. It’s really mind-blowing when bands start to jam and you can feel the creative energy bouncing off the visual projections and the auditory performance. I talked to a few bands after the shows and they would tell us how they were riffing off of what we were doing. A real beauty, I would say. Some bands I personally dove into at Austin Psych Fest were Moon Duo, Quest for Fire, and the little segments of Brian Jonestown Massacre that we were lucky enough to take part in. I’m not sure if it had to do with how stoned we got in Austin, (Thanks, Eeyore, for having your birthday the same weekend) or if it was that we were getting to do it for all our favorite bands. BJM was really awesome because we got to work with other artists; there were about six of us making the craziest projections I have ever seen. Bob Mustachio was amazing; he was controlling all the video feedback and mixing between the oil and live feed of the bands. After seeing Thee Oh Sees, I was pretty positive I had just watched Dawn of The Dead due to the tremendous amount of layering being done.
Speaking of music … what music have you been listening to lately? If push comes to shove, what is your favorite Black Sabbath song of all time and why?
I’ve been listening to a lot of The Brian Jonestown Massacre recently; their new album is pretty amazing in my opinion. Also the new Spiritualized album has been on the turntable for a while. What is my favorite Sabbath song? Man, that’s tough. I mean, I’m not sure if I can even answer this question, but I would have to say “Cornucopia.” It has that real stoner metal feel. On the topic of Black Sabbath, you got to check out Sleep’s re-release of “Dopesmoker” – the way they originally wanted it.
Camille Paglia is quoted as saying the following:
“The visual is sorely undervalued in modern scholarship. Art history has attained only a fraction of the conceptual sophistication of literary criticism. Drunk with self-love, criticism has hugely overestimated the centrality of language to western culture. It has failed to see the electrifying sign language of images.”
I agree. I tend to think about that a lot. Language is just a way of trying to make sense but sometimes, and most times, language cannot do it. Experience goes deeper than words. It takes away the essence, the purity of everything. I mean, you couldn’t get too far in this day and age without language, but when dealing with topics like art, music, love, etc., words don’t cut it. I feel, in a way, to truly experience something you must experience its essence, not try to figure it out, but to just be aware. She’s saying the visual component is undervalued – I totally agree. Alduous Huxley said ,“For in spite of language, in spite of intelligence and intuition and sympathy, one can never really communicate anything to anybody.” I find it kind of funny because I agree. I know we can communicate to others but never will we truly be able to pinpoint the feelings we have through language. That’s why visual representation is so important.
What’s next for Drippy Eye?
Well, for summer we’re working out of Florida so were going to be making new videos soon with some really sweet bands. We’re currently saving up for some new projectors and are really perfecting the art of oil slides. We have been non-stop experimenting with new material, so get ready for some eye candy in the near future. There’s talk of us doing some work for one of our favorite bands/friends at SXSW next year but it’s a bit far in the future. Check us out on our Facebook to see when our next show is. We’re planning to do as many shows as we possibly can this summer in Sunny Side Florida and then back to the City. We can get a lot into our videos but nothing will compare to the energy of the live experience. Shoot us an email at Drippyeyeprojections@gmail.com if you would like to work with our color.