Interview with Binocle at Igloofest 2019

Marc: Thank you for joining us, on behalf of WNUR we really appreciate it. Do you mind introducing yourself for our listeners?

Binocle: My name is Marc-Olivier Comeau… aka Binocle. I am a VJ [Video Jockey], and I also do VJ booking for Igloofest and all the coordination for everything visual.


Marc: Can you explain a little bit just about what VJ’ing is?

Binocle: Absolutely. VJ’ing is all about putting visual help or support to the music. So we try to support, as well as to put an image to the sound that comes out of the DJ. One thing that is maybe different for VJs is that VJs have to adapt to different environment, or sculptures, or whatever stage setup there is. And there’s a specificity to Igloofest which is that VJ’s are promoted as artists. So any festival you go in the world, the VJ’s are really more in the shadows. Here at Igloofest we promote them as artists, we add program information, and in all the commercials we try to put them forward and we give them also [creative freedom], so they can do whatever they want, total freedom. This is one of our things that is different for VJ’s at Igloofest than at other festivals.


Marc: So what brought you into that world, to VJ’ing?

Binocle: It was an accident. I studied in film in school, I just started doing clubs, a long time ago. So you just start doing it. I think everybody has the same… every VJ I’ve met around the world has the same story. So I did visuals for a couple of beers, because you like music, you like techno, you just want to get involved or whatnot to be there for free and a couple drinks, you know, and it grows and grows and grows.

I started getting better at it, then working with bigger and bigger shows. I think everything that you need to be VJ is a love of imagery and a love scenery. There’s a lot of putting in imagery, so [your work] grows to the size of small clubs, you know bigger festivals to work on two different types of music artists.


Marc: When you’re creating as a VJ, what do you use and what is your process?

Binocle: It’s maybe a bit technical but I use a software called After Effects, Cinema 4D, and I’m one of the VJ’s who still shoots a lot of visuals. I like to shoot, but I think it’s pretty rare. But most of them, most of us come from the background of animation or stop motion, whatever. I like having shot footage and mix it and have visual or anything…but the process I think is like any other. I think it’s just about getting inspired, and then to follow that.


Marc: Usually, when you’re VJ’ing live are you reacting in the moment to make things change, or is it kind of like a set that you plan in advance? How does that work?

Binocle: It’s a bit of both. So the term VJ comes from the same term is like DJ was just Disk Jockey and VJ is Video Jockey. So you prepare your visuals in advance, and that’s the idea.

For me, for example, every time there’s a DJ coming in, I’m going to listen to what they do live. Some DJ’s might change what they do live versus what they do in an album. Bonobo is a good example of a DJ who does a certain type of music, but live he goes a bit to the right.

So you listen to what they do, and I prepare according to this. I have kind of an idea, and then I mix live. And I do the same thing for the bookings, and listen to every DJ. And I know which visual style my VJ’s have, I booked them accordingly. So if a DJ has more of like an Ambient organic feel, it has this type of imagery over it. If it’s more cartoonish or whatever, fun music, this type of VJ, like this, always.


Marc: So it’s like a puzzle piece you’re kind of matching, it’s big picture but then when you’re there it’s in the moment still.

Binocle: You mix it up because you never know what the DJ is going to do. You have to be there to follow. It’s why also I don’t know if you know this, but we’re not on stage. We’re like really like far back, to have this big picture. To go with the music, we listen and we see everything with the lights. And try to follow. Our role, I think, is not to be the guide, but the follower. We listen to where DJ wants to take us, and we support that and bring the audience, as much as we can in that direction.


Marc: Are you usually in the sound booth in the back, seeing everything, or where do you usually oversee everything?

Binocle: Usually with the sound and the lights. Exactly. I always like being with the light guy. So we can coordinate some parts of the show, like some colors, or some drops. We can talk in and be like, okay, I think I’m gonna take this part, you take this part, so it doesn’t become like a rainbow too much, with everything mixed together, crazy.


Marc: So you guys have to work in tandem with one another?

Binocle: Exactly.


Marc: Very cool. Is there is there anything else that you would like to explain a little bit about VJ’ing to typical music listeners or to keep them on the lookout?

Binocle: I think it’s to pay a bit of extra attention. Because there’s somebody, there’s always, somebody thinking about what they’re going to present you, and that scenery, and how we can support the music journey you’re on. You can have the same journey and you can amplify, with the visuals and everything you see. Just to take some time and then just open your eyes look around and get taken away, because there’s somebody thinking, and has spent a lot of time thinking about what they’re going to do. Spend time listening to what the DJ does. Sometimes also, it’s a touring party, you know. There’s some DJ’s, especially in the techno world, who have their own vision, have their own show, their own production, there’s a lot of thought process, so just take time to go into the full journey.


Marc: It’s like a multi-disciplinary experience. It’s not just the sound, but it’s everything else attached.

Binocle: Yeah, definitely. It’s going to make your experience better.


Marc: I’m curious, how are you inspired in order to pick out when you film? When you choose these different pieces, like this is more ambient animation, this is more hard-hitting or whatnot, where do you usually glean your inspiration when you pick these visuals?

Binocle: That’s a very good question. Every year, for example, I tried to renew whatever I have in the bank. If I implement, I think it’s just a matter of how I feel, what I want to do. I always start with the bigger story. So what’s the kind of feeling? And I try to transcend that feeling and that story, into visuals. It depends on year to year, but it’s hard to pinpoint what it is. I think what music I am into at that moment also plays a lot. If you go darker visuals, more cerebral or more just bright, funny, more fun.

I had a joke, like three years ago, I had some very dark visuals of like, dark forests coming to life, and one of the VJ’s came to me and she’s a good friend, she’s like, “Are you okay? Are you feeling good? Okay, you are good?” And then the next year afterwards, I had pineapples with sunglasses on dancing. It’s just the feeling of whatever’s going on your life. So transcend it, put it into images, a little bit like, you see the music and try to put it in images, and how you would feel. Put it in images.


Marc: So it’s a little bit of your own mood and emotion but also matching?

Binocle: Exactly and what’s funny… [speaking about another VJ] his visuals were completely crazy, they’re like super animation. He has like an Arnold Schwarzenegger lifting cats. But he’s a super shy guy, really introverted, doesn’t speak and very calm. You see the visuals come up, and it’s just like neon cats, dinosaurs, everywhere. So it’s like where your personality shines. Not like, how you speak or everything, but you can see the person through the work…There are a lot of VJs that are very calm, but you see their stuff and it’s super graphic and super crazy. Neon cats and lasers!


Marc: It’s amazing and its a very important and pivotal part of the art form. But it’s just overlooked sometimes, hopefully not so much now?

Binocle: Yes, but it’s ok. I understand it’s always music first. That’s always going to be and I think that’s the way it should be, especially for the techno scene. It’s like underground raves, all dark and everything, but sometimes you want to take it to the next level. So you bring this in. It makes something nice, you know. You can put the same DJ in a cave and it will still work to sing and dance, but you can then take them on another journey, or better journey, from time to time.


Marc: It’s like a little more sculpting.

Binocle: Yeah.


Marc: No doubt. Thank you so much. That was really interesting. I love visual design as well so it’s exciting to hear how this has come to be and how you’ve found this.

Maxime, chiming in: The pineapples with sunglasses, I remember… [laughter]

Binocle: Good ol’ pineapples, you can never go wrong…