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Widely known in electronic music circles by his alter ego Playgroup, graphic designer/musician/DJ Trevor Jackson can now add audiovisual auteur to his growing list of titles. In 2006, after shuttering his much beloved record label Output —which introduced many a listening audience to acts like Four Tet, Colder, The Rapture and LCD Soundsystem, Jackson has undertaken another labor of love in the installation space with a scattered series of live performances dubbed RGBPM. With the goal being to explore melody and form, rhythm and color, along with synchronicity and composition, the multitalented artist aims to create a movie-like experience where visual and audio are one in the same. While he hesitates to reveal the complete specifications regarding his behind-the-scenes setup, Jackson nevertheless offers both a candid and succinct view into his latest pet project, the influences that shaped it and how he's plotting to take the show on the road.

What was the creative process behind the RGBPM project? Was the beat created around the visual or vice versa?
They're pretty much uniform. It was commissioned especially for "Optronica," which is a festival of visual music. The majority of my career has been involved in both [graphic design and music] as separate things, but I wanted to try and combine them. The tracks and the visuals pretty much developed together and were created with basically a visual synthesizer. It was completely modular. Every element of the visual is generated by a certain element of the sound, be that through sound reactivity or MIDI.

Electronic music in a live setting almost always seems to rely on a visual element. Since you seem to work alone with things like RGBPM, what is the live experience like?
Bear in mind, the whole [RGBPM event] developed not as just a live music show with accompanying visuals. I was trying to create and present a fresh form of entertainment, which is a cross between cinema experience, a gig experience and an installation experience. Personally, I don't like gigs and I'm not a huge fan of live music. Unless the band is incredible, I would not go out of my way to see anyone. I don't want to stand there and watch a boring band for an hour. This was specifically meant for a proper sit-down and taking in of the whole experience. I did it originally in club environments, but the thing is when people are dancing, they don't want to look at anything.

What is the ideal venue for this type of show?
That was show in the IMAX. I couldn't think of a better venue, really. The whole thing is in HD. Ideally, it will be created for IMAX or digital cinemas, which is fundamentally where I'd like to show it.
Everything is being generated totally in real-time. It's not like accompanying visuals with little JPEGs being triggered. I don't really see myself as part of the whole VJ culture and there are very few people in that field that I really find exciting. Here, nothing is pre-rendered and everything is completely live. I can manipulate the sound and the visuals synchronous to each other in real-time.
Ideally, the music that you hear at the show will never be [presented] without the visuals. It's not something I'll be releasing on a CD. They're totally running parallel with each other. It's something that's completely one in the same.

Is there a certain technical or spatial requirement in presenting this live?
All it needs is a very good high-quality projector. RGBPM was formatted for IMAX, but the format of it is adaptable. Ideally, what I really want to be doing is creating custom-built spaces and build a 360-degree experience. It would be completely surround-sound and I'm discussing with architects about the possibility of creating some kind of mobile unit that could be moved around and shown to 50 people at a time.

Do you custom-build your own equipment?
With RGBPM, there was nothing existing that could do this, so myself and some hired programmers built the setup pretty much from scratch.

In the past, you've said your A/V work is directly inspired by hip-hop culture. Is that still the case?
The RGBPM work [showcased] online is just a starting point. But musically, most of that stuff is actually not samples. Most of that music is being generated as well from soft synths and such. I though that if the visuals are going to be HD, I'd like to try and do music which isn't analog as well at the same time.
The main influence lately was with the early pioneers who did moving visual music, people like Oscar Fischinger and Norman McLaren. They were the early innovative animators and were using the technology at the time—paint and film—to create moving paintings and they were incredibly inspiring for me when I first saw their work 25 years ago. But it's only been recently that the technology that's been available and affordable for me to achieve what I'm trying to achieve here.

Are there certain challenges in terms of bringing this hi-def cinema experience to an audience?
Ultimately, I'm not quite happy with the show yet so I'm trying to develop it to the point where I am. It's not easy. I've spent a lot of my own money doing this and at the moment, it's not a financially viable project to do. It's not easy to do an IMAX tour of the world and the projectors we use are incredibly inexpensive.
At the same time, I need to earn a living so I'm doing other work. On a day-by-day basis, it's a side project, but in my head, it's the most important thing I'm doing.

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