Behind the WAS. scenes #2: Introducing our technicians
Most people find WAS. a special venue because of its appearance. But a lot of them aren’t aware of the fact that WAS. is a pop-up club in the most literal sense of the word. The entire technical aspect - for example the sound system and the lights - has to be build up before and broken down after every single edition. In comparison to other venues WAS. has to invest a lot of extra time and effort into this aspect to guard the best quality for the visitors and artists. If you would like to know more about some of the people that make this possible then read on to find out.
We sat down with Eric Witlox (audio technician) and Jaco Schilp (light technician). Eric has been working for WAS. since the very beginning. He always had a great interest in audio and lights at music events. He studied at the ROC and started his own company via his internship at Funktion One. Jaco inherited the love for technique from his parents and – being the self-taught man that he is – educated himself about everything he needed to know. Jaco has been working for WAS. since the first New Year’s Eve edition.
You have to start from scratch for every club edition. Could you tell us a bit more about this process?
E: The preproduction takes a lot of time. We try to start with the build-up 3 days prior to the show. But there have been times where we couldn’t build-up until the day itself. This also will be the case for the season opening with Dax J and stranger this Saturday. I think the entire build-up for audio and light takes 8 hours in total with a crew of 3 people. We have one set up; this was created with the help of an acoustic consultant. Even though we only have this one set-up, it’s still a very laborious set. For example, we need to hang every lamp with the assistance of a scaffold. This means we’re riding around with that thing all day long. Luckily, the break-down after the show only takes us 4 hours.
J: I create a specific lightning plan for every edition. In this plan, I decide how everything will look. If we use parts that were used during previous editions, I arrive at the venue 1,5 hours before the show starts. During these 1,5 hours I program the lights for the entire night. But I do attend the build-up when it’s a special edition where we use a lot of variety for example.
Can you explain how the venue itself influences the audio and lights?
J: Your working space is very important and has a big impact. WAS. can be seen as a tunnel, it’s a relatively empty space with some striking shapes. Like the big sinks in the front, the ventilation system on the ceiling and the pattern of the tiles. I try to include all of that in my programming and try to keep everything as static as possible. During one of the latest editions, we used moving lights for the first time. But instead of dynamically move them, we just switched them from one position to another, in a more static way. This distinguishes us from other clubs where there usually is a wall of light. At WAS. we need to think in-depth and in long rows - because of its tunnel likeness. It’s a real challenge but this is exactly what creates great opportunities as well.
E: Before the opening we’ve discussed the acoustics of the club with an acoustic consultant. They told us what we had to change to achieve the best audio quality in the space itself. For example, we’ve isolated the ceiling and we hung some absorption panels on the walls to help reduce the amount of reflections. But because WAS. is such a unique location we didn’t want to change too much. In my opinion you can see WAS. as a bathroom with speakers in it. I’m actually shooting the sound against bathroom tiles, haha. It’s not the easiest location to work in but I love a challenge, for me it’s like a playground.
How do you determine what the lights should look like?
J: Obviously we align the light design with the type of music that will be played that night. I try to capture a specific atmosphere and reinforce the feeling that the music gives you. Happy and colorful lights are the best option for a House edition. When the sound comes closer to the Techno area, the lights become more abstract and dark. Every edition I create something different and try to take it to a higher level – my goal is to exceed myself every time.
E: With audio and light we try to create a certain energy. We take the vision of the club into account as well, ‘does this suit WAS.?’. We are very selective and Jaco and I have the same vision about how it all should look and feel.
Do you like the music the artists at WAS. play?
E: Definitely. I think that 90 percent of my customers are dance organizations. That also has to do with the fact I’m using Funktion One as a brand. One that is really known and loved in the Techno/House/Disco scene. But loving the music I’m working with really makes my work a lot more fun as well. I’m not sitting behind the sound desk as a cranky rocker, mumbling ‘this isn’t real music’ haha. If you don’t like the music, it makes your work a whole lot more difficult because you can’t feel the energy. And if this is the case it’s hard to decide what you want to make the music sound like.
J: I like it a lot, I listen to a lot of electronic music but my musical taste is very broad. I like experimental music and bands as well for example.
Do you ever get a special request of artists?
J: Yes, sometimes about color usage. For Is Burning they like the basic color to be defined by red tones, for example. They like warm colors with a dark vibe in an abstract way
E: Sometimes we get a request for a special mixer like an E&S DJR400 rotary mixer or a Funktion One FF6.2. We once got the request for older turntables, because the condition of the ones we had was too good for the style the DJ played. The pitch fader was too sturdy for to the type of pitch bends and fader skating she was used to. Unfortunately, this request came during the sound check and it was something we had not anticipated because turntables are often in a very poor condition. So an artist saying the turntables were too new definitely was a first for us. She played a great set in the end though!
Have you ever experienced any difficulties during a night?
E: The edition with Hunee and Floating Points was the most difficult night at WAS. ever. I bought very expensive and special needles for Floating Point’s set, the ones that make your music sound extra well if you have some good records. The thing was Floating Points bought some really worn out records at the record fair that was happening at the Jaarbeurs that weekend. He decided to play these records that particular night. This kind of “1 euro crate” records cause a really low quality output and this made it quite hard for me to get the system to sound right.
J: I once knocked a beer over into my light desk - it totally broke down. Thank God a friend of mine picked up a light desk at the ACU and brought it to WAS. so we could still finish the night.
Which was the best or most memorable night for you two?
E: When it comes to ambiance, Job Jobse. Music-wise, though, it was the edition with Karenn. Audio-wise their music is really awesome. I could really translate the energy I’m searching for with the system I work with.
J: There were some editions we worked with beamers. It was really cool to VJ and doing lights at the same time during those. This one time I even got to 3D-scan Ben’s (Cosmic Force) head and used this for the visuals during the Boiler Room edition in March this year. I think it’s great WAS. always gives me the opportunity to be creative.
02.09.2019 - Words by Merel de Heus | Pictures by Tim Buiting