Shades of Gray

One of the hottest new artists on the music scene is UK import David Gray. Concert editor Sharon Stancavage caught up with his lighting designer/director Cormac Jackson just after the opening of the US tour in Detroit.

Sharon Stancavage: How did you get involved in the David Gray tour?

Cormac Jackson: I've been with the band for about three years. I worked with them at their first headlining festival in Ireland, then did a couple of other shows for them, then a little tour, and I'm still here.

SS: Is this the largest tour they've done to date?

CJ: Overall, it will be. It started in October of '02, and it will go on until November of this year.

SS: When did you start production?

CJ: We had only a week's production time in the UK. Before the tour, we started talking about it in April or May of '02. Everyone was putting in ideas — the set people, the video people — not meeting, but mainly by e-mail. I don't think any of us met until September of last year.

SS: When you started on the current tour, what were your first thoughts?

CJ: To begin with, we really didn't know what we were going to do, as you never do when you start a tour. So we came up with a few ideas. The original concept was an old theatre — giving an old cinema-style look to the show. That was the original idea and I think that's what we accomplished.

SS: What did you do specifically to achieve the old cinema look?

CJ: By using a staggered trim height with the truss layout, as well as by lighting each of the shaped velvet borders individually thus giving the depth needed. In addition, the horseshoe tab track, which closed off the stage for the acoustic section — it also gave the stage an older feel to it.

SS: Tell me about your truss setup.

CJ: It's pretty straightforward. I have four upstage trusses with a horseshoe that has a tab track reveal on it which circles the whole stage, and a downstage lighting truss as well for key lighting.

SS: What kind of automated lighting package do you have?

CJ: At the moment, we're touring Martin MAC 2000 Profiles, High End Systems Studio Colors®, and Coemar Super Cycs, which are a very bright wash light.

SS: Who's your supplier?

CJ: The instrument vendor is Upstaging in the US and Neg-Earth in Europe.

SS: Why did you choose the MAC 2000 as your hard-edge fixture?

CJ: At the moment, the MAC 2000s are doing it for me because they're CMY. I know you can get a CMY version of the High End products, but I just like the light you get out of the MAC 2000 — they're bright and the color-mixing is good for me. They're not really quick, but they don't need to be for this show. And they're reliable. They work every day.

SS: Why the Studio Colors?

CJ: I can get Studio Colors everywhere and I know what they do. They're reliable and I try to get them on all the shows that I do.

SS: The Super Cycs are a unique choice.

CJ: The Super Cycs are new; they're bright and they're a wash light but they look sort of old. That suited the show. They're a big, flat field wash light and I just like the light out of them.

SS: Do you have any conventional lights in the rig?

CJ: We're using some PAR cans, some ETC Source Fours, a couple of DWEs, 2-lights, and 4-lights, and some Lowel-Light Omni floods.

SS: Do you have a significant quantity of floor lights?

CJ: There are quite a lot, mainly because there's not that much in the way of a set. There are a few risers, but there's not really anything to light as such.

SS: It sounds like a very traditional concert set.

CJ: It is. It's just some risers, there's no pyrotechnics, there's no moving scenery, nothing like that. So the only thing that gives it a push is the projection.

SS: How is your projection configured?

CJ: We've got video reinforcement which projects in black and white onto two side screens, and onstage we have projection that comes in about halfway through the show. We're using Barco projectors for colors and shapes, nothing very specific, but for mood. Sean Ash is responsible for all the video footage that we use on the tour.

SS: Why black and white?

CJ: I don't know, it just seemed to be more in keeping with the whole show. It's not strictly my call, but it was a very early call we made — the black and white seems to come out better and it gives a better look to the show in general.

SS: How many spotlights are you using?

CJ: We have two onstage truss spots and two front-of-house spots — it's a very straightforward show.

SS: Is the show cue-intensive for the spotlights?

CJ: In general, I try not to use the front-of-house spots too much; I think it kills the show. I only use them on a low level. You also have to take into consideration the cameras; you can't blow them out. I try to use a delicate touch with the spots.

SS: How about your gobo usage?

CJ: There's no projection of gobos onto drapes or cycs or anything like that. If I do use gobos, it's to break up the beams or to break up the intensity of the light more than for an effect. There are one or two songs that I put gobos into the audience, but for the most part, I'm using the MACs without gobos.

SS: What's your trim height?

CJ: It varies from about 32' for the first onstage truss coming down to about 26' for the video truss.

SS: What about your use of color?

CJ: There are never more than two or three colors in one look. I try to stay with natural colors, colors that people can recognize. I use a lot of greens, blues, and cyans. It's quite a down-tempo show, so I don't really think it needs to be overlit or particularly bright.

SS: Are there any colors you avoided?

CJ: Not really. There's a lot of saturated colors, deep reds, purples, and blues, but there's not really anything I stayed away from.

SS: What is your favorite lighting moment in the show?

CJ: The song “Night Blindness” has a lot of things I like and is one of the most simple songs. It's just a very big static look with a couple of Omni floods that silhouette the band. That's the look I like best and it works for the song.

SS: What console are you using?

CJ: I'm using a Hog II.

SS: Do you like it?

CJ: I wouldn't use anything else.

SS: How did you start in the business?

CJ: I started with a friend's band in Dublin, Ireland. I couldn't play any instrument so the manager of the band got me a job with a small local lighting and trucking company. I started maintaining a small lighting system and rigging small-to-medium shows in the local area.

SS: Who else have you worked with?

CJ: I just designed a tour for UK-based classical/pop act Bond for a Japan/Asia tour. Mansun is another UK indie rock band I toured with last year and hope to continue with later this year. I also toured as designer/operator for Lisa Stansfield in 2001.

SS: Where is the tour headed next?

CJ: We're going to Europe after this, then we're going to Asia and Australia. Hopefully we'll hit most of the major points in the world.

SS: Have you been enjoying the tour?

CJ: It's been great. It's always good to go places. The weather has been a bit of a bummer but, hey, we can live with that.

Contact the author at [email protected].


Lighting Designer/Director
Cormac Jackson

Lighting Technicians
Travis Robinson, Jorge “Soline” Velasquez

Lighting Crew Chief
Eric “Sluggo” Burns

Drape Tech
Tyler Elich

Lighting Supplier
Upstaging, US leg
Neg-Earth, European leg

Lighting Equipment

26 High End Systems Studio Colors
23 Martin Professional MAC 2000s
18 PAR-64s
18 Wybron PAR-64 color changers
11 ETC Source Four 19°
9 2-light duet DWEs
6 4-light DWEs
6 6-lamp PAR-64 bars
5 Coemar Super Cycs
5 Lowel-Light Omni floods
2 Lycian Starklite short-throw followspots
2 Reel EFX DF-50 hazers
1 Flying Pig Systems Wholehog II console with expansion wing
1 Avolites 72-way dimmer rack