Video: Armin Werx and Mads Meskalin
I admire positive persistence in whatever form it may take, and Mads Meskalin has been active in this endeavor for a significant amount of time that it merited a proper interview. Mads enthusiasm for VJing expresses itself through his persistence and it is inspiring to see how hard he works to share this with anyone eager to learn. He has done this through countless (I lost count) workshops in Norway and is now starting to reach out to other countries in that region starting with Denmark.
Before we get down to the question and answer phase, I must point you to his ongoing workshops at Studio 2 in Oslo, and commend the headmaster Andy Cross (whom I have met during one of my trips to that fair city) for including live video in their curriculum.
m8.us – Can you explain your name? It’s meaning and origin, and what it means to you?
Mads – Well, my name is actually derived from the psychoactive ingredient in some south-american cactuses. The shamans used to eat it to communicate with the gods. I, however, ate it before long forest walks and thus was named Mads Meskalin by my friends. I didn’t think too much of it in the start, but after awhile it slowly became my identity. Most people think it’s my real name, and it works because I always strive to add a little surrealistic edge to my works, to add some deeper substance and meaning to it.
m8.us – Where you from originally? If not Oslo, then somewhere else in Norway?
Mads – I’m from a suburban, fairly rich community called Bærum outside of Oslo, but I used to live a few years in Denmark and Hungary. In Denmark I mainly did martial arts and electronic music, and in Budapest I started out
VJ’ing when I realised my music was not for the masses. I moved back to Oslo in 2010, and discovered that there was not a big scene for live video performance in Oslo. This was pretty good for me, as it was easier to establish myself. Norway is generally a good country for artists, as there are many grants and applications to fund audio/visual projects.
m8.us – What kind of music do you usually like to perform with? What kind of parties?
Mads – Well, that is a tough question. I remember one time we were doing this Pay It Forward party at The Villa in Oslo. I remember this guy, Jostein Skaret, mostly known for bass music, performed a deep ambient set with some dark soundscapes, and it was so easy to add imagery to it. Everybody was lying on the floor, looking at a light installation I mapped out into the ceiling.
Another production I really enjoyed, was an audio/visual theatre piece called DropOut. We had two months and enough funding to dedicate ourselves 100% to produce a play written for projections by Kate Pendry. We were two video artists, me and Jan Hajdelak from Czech, and we got very involved in both directing and producing the play. It was set in a 40sqm blackout ten that we then went on tour with. Keywords for a good event for me would be artistical freedom, a professional and friendly crew, as well as enough funding to do a good job.
Link for highlights from the theatre production is here: http://vimeo.com/62442048. We used Qlab, Syphon Virtual Screen, Ministage Console and MadMapper to play back the show from one laptop.
m8.us – After doing quite a few workshops, what have you learned about VJing since you started doing workshops?
Mads – Well, I am used to being a pedagog by profession, so teaching is my second nature. On one part(?), I learned a lot of details about Modul8 and MadMapper.
When you have to explain step-by-step, the bells and whistles of a software, you become aware of all the functions you might not normally use. An example is the record layer function in Modul8. I didn’t really use it, until I had to explain all the creative possibilities to my class. Now its one of functions I use the most.
When you talk out loud to another person about a certain topic, you sometimes get ideas you might not have been that aware of otherwise. On the other hand, the result of my teaching is not so much about the teaching itself, but from the people I meet. I’ve met so many interesting people in my VJ workshops, and everybody has their own approach, motivation, workflow and challenges that I learn a lot from.
Right now we have a small group with one student working as a designer for professional interfaces in oil-companies, another is working at a major projector rental company, and a third person has a more traditional club-VJ approach. I actually landed a few jobs out of it as well, for example I got the A/V theatre job from a former student who is a director that became a student after he saw one of my other students performances. Small world.
The courses have been pretty successful, but it always helps to have a good crew behind you when you get into frustrating situations. The owner of our DJ/VJ school, Andy Cross, has been invaluable in promoting, advertising and getting this course up and running. It always helps to have someone you can spar professionally with, as well as have a shoulder to cry on.
m8.us – Do you experience competitiveness within the live video community?
Mads – That depends entirely on how to define competitiveness. When I started my VJ workshops, some people warned me that I’m creating my own competition. However, competition has only benefited me. If one of my students takes one of my gigs, it means that he/she is better for the job, and that I didn’t perform an adequate service. That has happened a few times, and made me rethink my work, something I see as a good thing.
The only challenge is if a student undercuts the established prices. We all try to keep a minimum standard wage for video services, as we are few and far between, and that is often higher than what promoters try to get VJ’s to play for. But promoters are beginning to understand how much we work, and how many hours are involved in providing our service.
Here in Oslo I don’t experience that much competitiveness, more collaboration and combined efforts. Most of us know each other, and we try not to steal jobs from each other. If we are on each others “territory”, we try to negotiate collaboration as everybody has something to contribute. It does help that many of the most active VJ’s have been students of mine, or otherwise have some relation to our studio. If the VJ’ing was as big as DJ’ing is today, this answer might have been entirely different. But for now we are all colleagues. At least that’s how I view it.
m8.us – What advice would you give to anyone starting with live video production and performance?
Mads – I can give three advices off the of my head.
1. Be serious and organised. If you want to be a professional, you need to act like a professional. Show up on time, use gear that you know works, buy legal software, always be on the lookout to improve your workflow, offer your services, create a niche, do things are not necessary but might not be fun, have quality gear, and generally have professional work ethic.
2. Get to know other VJ’s. The best way of learning is through experience, and the best way to benefit from somebody’s experience is through working with them. As mentioned above, I learn as much from my students as they do from me. Don’t be afraid of outsourcing what you can’t do yourself. For the last party I did, one of the organisers is a professional carpenter. Through rigging up 150m of white chains together, I learned a lot about the use of power tools, materials and rigging.
3. Just do it. The biggest achilles heel of my students is performance anxiety. They might be scared, might not feel properly prepared etc. But if you got somebody to watch your back, there is not that much that can go wrong. Once my students do a show, they feel so relived and it is a big stepping stone for them. Kinda like sex, scary the first time, but unless you do it horribly wrong, you will be relived after.
Of course the best advice is to move to Norway and sign up at my workshops, however that might not be feasible for everybody (hehe).
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