Light and Sound: An Interview with Phil Salvaggio and Greg Ellis of Pretty Lights
Yesterday, Sue Rice recapped the Pretty Lights show at the Times Union Center. Today features an interview with Pretty Lights Lightining Director Greg Ellis and Production Manager/Audio Engineer Phil Salvaggio. After the show was over, Chris McMullen sat down with the Oneonta natives to get a look at the behind the scenes of producing a Pretty Lights show.
Chris McMullen: When did the lighting rig really reach its peak?
Greg Ellis: Well the funny thing is we debuted the pillar style video rig last year at Bonnaroo but we used the festival light rig and it was very sub-par. After that was when it all kind of came together. We followed that with a string of festivals and then during our fall tour was the first time it was a complete package. Its been a couple years in the making. We’ve been taking care to make sure the equipment does what we want it to do. The visuals are particularly a challange because I can improvise with lights but Video is so delicate.
Chris: Who does the visuals?
Greg: Its a company called Radio Edit AV out of Chicago. Led by this kid that we know Dave Najarian.
Chris: Have you had a memorable show on this tour?
Greg: The last two nights have been my favorite shows I’ve ever done. We grew up in Oneonta and our whole crew was here tonight. And last night my friends from Connecticut, from when I lived there attended., so its been one huge family reunion the last two days. THere was a moment last night when Something just kind of happened. From then on out its been full steam ahead.
Chris: How did you get involved with PL?
Greg: When I moved to Connecticut, he moved to Colorado and bounced around and started to find his groove. He started working with PL and convinced me to come out there.
Phil: I had to work with all these dudes, and all had this gear and they all sucked…and I was like, I know this kid…give him the right tools and he’ll slay these kids. And thats what happened. haha
(As Chris and Phil were talking, they were interrupted by alcohol and women, a few follow up questions ensued)
Chris: What is your favorite NY venue?
Phil: Follow your dreams and don’t be a rockstar until you are ready, no one has time for that jazz.
Chris: Any thoughts on Pretty Lights live? (ALA shpongle, Bonobo etc)?
Phil: The new record was recorded with a live band. Basically there were a bunch of players, locked in a studio for about 2 weeks in New York. We had various different instrumentation per session. I was super stoked to play with some of my favorite musicians, Adam Deitch, Eric Krasno Nigel Hall…. The sessions went from me and Derek making noises on guitars and basses, to full on 12 piece band locking into grooves. The sessions were all “live,” and recorded to 2 inch tape. Then all the tapes were dubbed to vinyl plates. Then Derek took the records, and chopped them up in his usual style. He basically created a library or samples that were his own. The grooves and breaks that we locked into were absolutely amazing, and the engineer, Joel Hamilton of Studio G in Brooklyn, is a genius. They have so many old pre amps, compressors and processors from the 60s and 70s. Which is what Derek wanted for his record, to really have the sound of that age. He ended up going back and doing it again in New York and New Orleans with singers and more musicians. It was really an awesome process, we literally took the tapes, hopped in a cab, and dropped them off at Salt Mastering. I got to see the whole process go down. It was pretty amazing. The record should be out sometime early this year.
As for a live band, There have been talks of this as well. However I think there would have to be some serious time off and a lot of planning and rehearsing for something like this. Derek is a perfectionist…. It is not something that would happen over night. I am pretty sure it is a dream of his. He drew a picture of himself when he was a kid, standing at Red Rocks with his bass guitar. I think this dream is still alive in him. I could see it happening. But are there plans now… im not really sure to be honest. But again, we’ve been talking about it for years.