The creators project sat down with The Faint to talk about their new tour and they name dropped Adafruit!
Can you talk about the new show, and the programming you’ve done for it?
We’re certainly still in the middle of it. I’m using a few programs to create the content. We have lights that are programmed, many via MIDI, and that’s the way we’ve done it for ten years or so.
We’ve got a strand of video panels straight back and scattered around the stage, and thats what I’m just starting to create content for: the videos, that will show up on the screens. They’re triggered via MIDI at this point, and we’re using a variety of programs to make that all happen.
There’s this program called Isadora: we’ve been using it since the very first time we did projections back in 2000. The program was recommended to us by a friend, and it worked great, but didn’t have one thing we needed. We got ahold Mark, who writes the program, and he wrote a new section of the actor that we could use so the videos preloaded and would start instantly when they were hit with any note. It’s user-friendly like that; he’s helped us out every time we’ve run into an obstacle. There’s just so much you can do with video, lighting, and MIDI with that program, it’s amazing. Any time I have an idea, I seem to be able to write a program in Isadora that will do it.
Do you have a programming background?
Other than The Faint, no (laughs). This is all stuff that I’ve figured it out. The first time we got a Groovebox, I’d never touched anything like it. I started figuring it out, then we started running our show on an MPC. I guess I’m the kind of guy who decides to learn something he doesn’t know anything about. I always enjoy that stressful process—in the end it’s rewarding; I’ve figured something out. Once you start to understand the aspects of one programming language, the others start making more sense. I randomly dove into Isadora, bit by bit.
One other element of the show is this clear drum set I had made by C&C, and I installed LED lights in them that are all custom programmable through this Arduino board I built. It’s a little micro-controller, so I built a little Arduino controller.
This is my first Arduino project, using the first board I’ve bought. Basically, Adafruit sells these strips of NeoPixels with sixty LEDs per meter. They’re each individually programmable, and you have to write software in Arduino to get them up and running. I built a little box that powers them, and I can send the data and power through quarter-inch cables. I have quarter-inch jacks built into each of the drums, and so I can trigger the MIDI with drumsticks, or a sensor. As far as what the patterns do, it’s however many looks I program in the software. I’ve got some software writing to fix for sure, because I’m just guessing, and when it doesn’t work, guessing again.
Do you find any intersections between writing code and writing music?
They’re very different, but if I’m in the same process of writing a song or jamming out on things, I end up with parts in my head when I go out to eat. You hear little melodies and you think, ‘Oh, I should try that.’ Oddly enough, the same thing happens with writing code. If I’m in that mode, I’ll be out driving around, and my brain starts running functions to turn the turn signal on. You get sucked into both, and in that way it’s similar. But as far as actual thought processes go, it’s pretty different. I wouldn’t relate it other than that your mind gets locked into whatever creative mode when you’re doing it a lot.
Since 1998, your growth as a band has run parallel to the dawn of all this contemporary technology. The world has changed very drastically since. I’m wondering how you guys have responded to this brave new world, and where you see it going.
Technology has changed a bunch, which is good for us. Originally, we always had ideas for things that didn’t exist yet. Or, we’d find crappy versions of those ideas, implement them into our set, and by the end of the tour, find out about new programs that would have made things way easier. We’d been running the set on MPCs for years, and at some point I was like okay, if we switch over to a laptop it’s going to be a lot safer to go out and back it up. In a day, you could have your show ready for that night, and try out your software. An MPC is a solid machine, but if something does go wrong, it’s hard to find one that has the right amount of RAM, and all the outputs, plus they’re getting rarer and rarer…
We had to shift, like, ‘Let’s update into the modern world for our live show so we don’t get stuck too far behind.’ I think in general, we keep up on most things. I don’t feel like I’ve really embraced the social media part of technology, but everything else I feel like I’m in tune with, as far as computers and knowing what’s up are concerned.
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