The Sad Song Co. the new album.

Worth - the new album

Add your email to the list to keep up to date with everything!


The Sad Song Co: Blog

Nigel Powell: Attack the Blog!


It's time to play the music, it's time to light the lights

Thursday 11th July, 2013

As many of you here may know apart from being a drummer I was once a lighting designer, the guy who makes the lights do their thing at a rock show (there's many other kinds of LD of course, but rock was what I did). So with that in my background I have a keen interest in the 'putting on a show' aspect of doing gigs.

Some musicians seem pathologically averse to making any effort that way, which I find extremely odd. It's like they imagine that as soon as you employ someone to do your lights you become Pink Floyd.



But putting on a good show is as wide a remit as what makes a good band. Pink Floyd are a good live act; as are Fugazi, and Idlewild, and Adele, and Ben Folds Five, and Level 42, and Slipknot, and This Ain't Vegas, and PJ Harvey, and Emily Barker And The Red Clay Halo, and Larry's Flask, and on and on. And as diverse as those artists are, so is a show that will complement and amplify what they do onstage.

Which, to me, is the point. I see a strong linkage between drumming and lighting. Both are non-essential to songs existing, but they help if they're there. And if you do them really well and properly, 90% of the time people don't notice them in any specific manner. But they are aware of having been to a better gig. Of course there's the showy-offy 10% where you can try and do things that make people go 'ooooh!' or 'wheeee!', but that's not the meat and potatoes of the job. The middle bit (just after the keyboard solo) of made me giddy when I was 13, which is exactly when I started loving lights.



When I was lighting I was looking for a visual representation of what was happening musically at that moment. Sometimes it's simple, and sometimes it's complicated, but when it seemed to be becoming 'part of' the music then I was happy. And as long as you follow that rule then the lighting for all those bands I mentioned before will be completely different to every other.

I've seen loads of shows I've really enjoyed, from Green Day's cartoony exploits with T-shirt guns and big brash looks, to aggressive asymmetry for Faith No More and oddball twitchy artistry for R.E.M. My two favourite shows ever are very different; The Invisible Touch Tour by Genesis (LD - Alan Owen)



was an incredible bombastic treat, with Los Endos being a masterclass in knowing what to do and when, including the expected and the unexpected (tension and release being just as important to lighting as other artforms); and the In Rainbows Tour by Radiohead (LD - Andi Watson)



was mindblowing, utterly original and technically off the chart - designed as an 'eco-friendly' low power consumption rig that could be run off (large) batteries every other night.

And it's VERY noticeable to me when people don't bother, which sadly two of my favourite bands didn't on a couple of occasions. The Ben Folds Five reunion tour last year was definitely understaffed, which really was taking the piss considering they were selling out Brixton Academy twice over. They're not a band that needs any kind of 'big' light show. Something friendly and theatre-y that emphasises their performance is all that's necessary, adding a little visual flair for the people at the back, with knowledge of the songs and their dynamics being paramount. Same for PJ Harvey who I saw ages ago at Brixton Academy at the end of a very long world tour. Either the touring LD was sleepy and with the slowest reactions in the world, or they didn't bring anyone who knew the songs well enough to change lighting scenes at appropriate musical moments. Again, the Peej is not needing a supercharged Lady Gaga style show, but something simple that can track and complement (that word again) her shifts from swampy blues indie to torch song and back again. Someone to make it looks like the lights give a flying shit what the music is doing.

Sadly there's too many lighting people out there who were lighting technicians who got asked to design because they know how the gear works. Wrong way around, as far as I am concerned - it's much easier to teach how to strip and fix and rig lights than it is to teach sensitivity to music and dynamic and emotion and song structure. And the latter stuff is MUCH more vital to good lighting design.


Analisa, Tue 20th August 2013, 05:39:01 AM
Just beginning to catch up on blogs missed due to travel and my attempts to squeeze as much recreation as possible out of my summer holidays before returning to work... not surprised to see they're all still compelling reads! Thanks for shedding... nah, I'll skip the lame pun and just say that I appreciate the chance to learn more about something I've rarely given much thought to before (but will surely pay more attention to after reading this piece.)
 
Bea, Thu 11th July 2013, 08:50:33 PM
Really interesting insight on how important the light is to a show.. I go to a lot of shows and from some of my favorite bands whom I've known many years now, I also know the crew members.. and the drummer of one of these bands once asked me after the show if I had noticed something different about the show. because they had a different lighting tech.. but I hadn't and so they were relieved, cause for them that meant, that the lighting was as good as always :)

at another show the "usual" lighting tech of said band let me do the lights for one song.. that was so much fun, but so much harder than I had expected it to be.. I knew the song by heart but still it was difficult to keep up with the tempo and the changes.. but it was a really fun experience for me :) (and of course the band noticed, that something was a bit odd, but they laughed when they noticed it was me)
 
Victoria, Thu 11th July 2013, 04:56:44 PM
"Both are non-essential to songs existing..." Interesting thought. I've heard it argued the other way about, previously. Drums would be the backbone to a songs existence.

I can't really bring myself to fathom a number of songs existing, without their percussion attributes, drumming in particular. While I was reading about your thoughts on the combination of both drumming and lighting, and then imagined a show without, I couldn't help imagining it from the perspective of someone without the ability to hear... They can certainly still enjoy and appreciate music, but with an emphasis on different sensations- In such a case, I'd find drumming and lighting especially significant.
 

More Blogs


Recording The Bigger Picture

Saturday 23rd January, 2016


It's been a long time since my last blog. Yeah, sure, I know. Sorry. Just leave it. OK? Something came up yesterday though that seemed worthy of talking about. Apparently it's 10 years since Milow's album The Bigger Picture was released, and album that I produced and played on. I thought it be...   read


Some Drumming Videos

Saturday 20th September, 2014


Been concentrating on updating the site to include contact links for hiring me as a session drummer. But over the summer I did a couple of shows with my old pals in the Genesis tribute band Los Endos. Here's a couple of drum views of songs from those with...   read


Puritan Chapter 4

Wednesday 18th June, 2014


1989 - 1992: Once Around The Park My dad, still with his eye on solid academic achievement, insisted that I at least consider university. Out of respect I applied for places on a number of courses, but the interview process was somewhat unusual, since the hardening of my ambition to be somehow with...   read


Feed The Tree

Monday 12th May, 2014


Sorry it's been so long since the last time I blogged here. I have been busy, that much is true, but it would be a lie to pretend that was entirely the reason. Many days I wonder the worth of adding to the ever-growing mountain of unsolicited writing out there, of my...   read


It's been a long long time

Friday 25th April, 2014


Hello everyone. Sorry, this blog has been long neglected. My next thing to post was the next chapter of Puritan, but I was waiting until I could get some relevant audio tracks into the computer world, which involved borrowing a DAT machine and finding time between tours to record it and blah...   read


Massively long pseudo intellectual discourse

Tuesday 29th October, 2013


I was intending my next blog to be another "Bloggin' The Shuffle", but something happened that took me elsewhere. A friend who is studying screenwriting asked me about musical structure. Most screenplays follow a three act format, roughly akin to sonata form in music, and her thought was to compare other forms...   read


Know thyself

Thursday 10th October, 2013


Been a while since the last blog. I guess I've been putting this one off because... well it's odd. For starters I'm aware that I would suggest to others not doing this - you let people take what they want from music you make, and your opinion doesn't matter so much it's...   read


You've changed, man

Friday 6th September, 2013


I said over there on the albums page that my next blog would be my own self-assessment of my solo work, but I think I'm going to postpone that. It's something I struggle with in a way - I want to talk about it, but I would encourage anyone else away that...   read


Puritan Chapter 3

Sunday 11th August, 2013


1985 - 1989: Sentimental Mercenary In A Free Fire Zone After a summer of unpacking boxes and trying to make the new house a home I started at Abingdon School in September 1985. With the determination for morbidity that only a teenager can muster, I hated it and was depressed in a I...   read


The Crew's Ship

Thursday 25th July, 2013


Just got a little while in the middle of the night before we leave for Heathrow to start another tour. Although they never stop. It's one continuous tour. But I was having some thoughts about work and working and who does what. I've been both sides of the touring fence multiple times being...   read


Puritan Chapter Two

Tuesday 4th June, 2013


1982 - 1985: Above The Riverbed The World's Run Dry More gigs, better gigs. After the party we started to get a bit more serious with the school band, or as serious as you can be when you're 12 years old. We called ourselves Nightshade and had a stable lineup of Adrian guitar,...   read


I've been so far from here, far from your loving arms

Sunday 26th May, 2013


Some things are curious to me. Things which appear to be a lack of analysis, opinions not properly thought through. Then again that sometimes is just me and my Spock-ness, not appreciating the random foible of desire. I read about the band that I play in on the internet. There, I've admitted In...   read


Bloggin' The Shuffle #2

Monday 29th April, 2013


Hello from Hamburg! Ich Bein Eine Hamburger. Or something. Got an hour after breakfast on the bus before we have to travel to record a German TV show called Ina's Nacht, so what better way to make GOOD USE of my time than another quick session of bloggin' the shuffle. This off...   read


Puritan Chapter One

Monday 22nd April, 2013


1971 - 1982: It's Cold Outside, But It Gets So Hot In Here Oh shit. That's mum and dad. Keep your head, don't giggle, just keep tidying up the bottles and cans into the bin bag in the garage. I think they're angry, but I'm finding it curiously hard to read these who...   read


It hardly seems to matter now

Monday 8th April, 2013


So here's another in what I anticipate to be a series. Jeez, what a lot of series we have running - Puritan (to be continues when I get access to my old photos and a scanner, so I can make it a bit more visually interesting), Blogging The Shuffle (which will when...   read


Left, right, left, right, present arms

Sunday 24th March, 2013


I'm writing this from Shanghai in China, my first visit to this country. I'm not going to give you my impressions. I'm not Michael Palin, nor indeed Bill Bryson (although I can recommend all of Mr. Bryson's travel books as some of the most amusing writing I've ever had the pleasure embarrassingly...   read


Bloggin' the Shuffle! #1

Thursday 14th March, 2013


This is the original reason that it occurred to me to start blogging. I'd find myself on the tourbus with my iPod on having memories and thoughts triggered as shuffle offered up various tidbits that I wouldn't have put on of my own accord. So I'm going to give that a at...   read


Puritan - Introduction

Sunday 10th March, 2013


Introduction October 12th 2010, Albuquerque, NM, USA I'm 39 and 11 days old, which is clearly much too old to be any kind of musician on the road with a rock band. I'm playing with English musician Frank Turner as a member of his backing band. The distinction is necessary, since things are to...   read


Literary Pretensions

Saturday 9th March, 2013


So, the thing is, when I was on tour a couple of years back I wrote a 'book'. It's definitely a 'book' and not a book though. It's an autobiography with the initial intention of a certain angle on the subject, although as it went along the focus drifted a bit. I...   read


Hey Self Defeater

Monday 4th March, 2013


We started a tour in Northampton, MA on 2nd March and, being as it was not far from his hometown of Springfield, I had the pleasure of hanging out with my friend Mark Mulcahy. His name is not familiar to many, but anyone out there who knows him or his work probably...   read


Talking about myself

Saturday 2nd March, 2013


I don't really talk about myself much. Not just on the internet, but in life. I have an English paranoia about being seen to complain, or about troubling anyone else ("a friend troubled is a problem doubled", as someone once said to me). But I don't think that it's healthy. Don't me...   read