Sam Potter may be best known for being part of punk/electronic band, Late Of The Pier, but aside from his extra curricular DJ activities as DJ Potter, the Castle Donnington lad has a new project, Black Out, which takes place entirely in the dark. Ellie Hewitt talks to him about sensory perceptions, performing in the dark and getting out of 'tribe culture'.
Black Out takes place in the dark, how did you come up with concept? How do you intend for this 'sensory experience' to add to the audience's perception of your music? The whole idea is about perception, how we consume live music and how we react to sound as humans. So in one way it's how we behave when we are restricted to having just one base sense and the other is how different music can be when an artist is anonymous and free to be who they want to be. The results of each show are so different I still don't have any intention on making people feel a particular way, there's obviously stimulus like the type of music played. the shape of the room acoustically and even any press released prior to a show that influences peoples experiences but it's such a personal experience I can change what people will feel too much. I collected anecdotes from my last show and they ranged from people reliving childhood memories to people remembering they needed to call their mum.
With live music there's often the attitude that stage presence is key, how do you manage to commandeer the show in the dark? I feel by eliminating this element there's more space for the musician to concentrate on their primary goal, to make good music. By being in such a different reality and experiencing something so in contrast to everyday life the need of getting that feeling from seeing a band perform is gone.
Do you think the crowd still feel your physical presence or is it just about the audio? I think they feel more the physical presence of their own bodies, noticing things about themselves physically they might not have felt ever before. Bands have influenced the space physically before by introducing woodwind sections that walk between the crowd and singing in peoples ears but it is mostly about the audio and the affects it has physically on each individual.
What kind of music and soundscapes are there in the show? Is the music for every show the same? There's a very considered response in choosing artists that are curious and can surprise so this goes through to the programming as well, it's important to keep each line-up eclectic and to keep the audience in a space where they think anything can happen.
There was a huge queue for the Barbican Blackout event, how important is the venue to your performances? The venue is important on an acoustic level but also like theme park rides there's a level of suspense that can be used. It'd be perfect to use somewhere like the pyramids where people's expectations are shaped by the long walk down the ancient steps into the darkness. Until then budgets will keep them in more conventional venues but if anyone reading has a nice zeppelin factory get in touch.
So you are now working with Swimming 'binaural pioneers', can you tell us what it's like working with them and for those that don't know what the definition of a 'binaural pioneer' is? It's nice to be working with such intelligent and imaginative guys. The binaural thing has the potential to be mind blowing, in essence your lending your ears to someone else and experiencing the world (a world of Swimming in another room) through someone elses viewpoint. It's a tricky concept to describe without experiencing it yourself...
How difficult would you say it is to be experimental in the music industry without being called pretentious? Would that label bother you? There's a very fine line and I think the only way you can get out of having big ideas without being pretentious is by being bloody good at them. It's labels like that that stunt growth of some bands, and it'd be dangerous to think about it too much as a musician. I think most good musicians work outside of a world where the music industry encroaches too much, to be thinking about figures and forecasts and stuff is not for our kind of heads, else we'd be shit accountants some other place.
Is performing in the dark a statement about music or the 'scene'? Not really, I guess part of it is to get out of that tribe culture where you go to a warehouse party knowing it's gonna be one particular thing with one particular crowd. Things are pretty disparate now anyway so we should celebrate that fact when we can.
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