Entec is proud to support Canadian prog-metal icons in London.

Every so often, a live act comes along and insists on doing things a little differently. Such an occasion raised its head when Entec was brought in to assist with a show at Hammersmith’s Eventim Apollo by progressive metal icons, the Devin Townsend Project.

Since the early nineties as the founder of Strapping Young Lad, Canadian musician and songwriter Townsend has constantly redefined his own brand of extreme rock and, in doing so, has become one of the most influential – and passionately eccentric – figures on the scene today. This was evident by the die-hard following that packed into the Apollo, the penultimate stop on the UK leg of a European tour that followed the Project’s critically acclaimed seventh album, Transcendence.

Dave Hale, production manager for promoter Kilimanjaro Live, explained that the Hammersmith performance was treated a little differently to the other UK dates. “While the remainder of the shows we promoted were at venues that could offer full production, we needed additional lighting at the Apollo and that’s why we approached Entec,” he said. “Previously, the band have hired fire-eaters and dwarves, and included multiple special effects, for London shows that have been filmed for commercial DVDs. For this tour, however, the Devin Townsend Project [DTP] are tightening their focus on the music whilst retaining their high production values.”

What distinguishes the DTP from many of their contemporaries is the sheer amount of active control they maintain over presentation. In addition to touring with their own LED-heavy floor lighting package, they possess a ‘secret weapon’ in the shape of Mike St. Jean who, as well as playing keyboards for the band since 2010, occupies the role of resident audio-visual guru.

Responsible for the lighting design and video content production, St. Jean runs the lights from a small ChamSys MagicQ MiniWing in line with his MacBook, both of which are set up as part of his keyboard rig. Entec’s Will Wright explained: “The idea is that while all the lighting is tied into the Avolites Tiger Touch II console we’ve provided at front of house, he is actually controlling the entire light show remotely on stage, triggering all the moves via MIDI.”

Highlighting the DTP’s self-contained mantra, the show is governed by the time code that links the partial backing track (containing vocal parts from the absent Anneke van Giersbergen), video and lighting, with St. Jean operating the universal playback automation and relying on a general show file. “I’ve seen him walking around in front of the stage this afternoon, focusing the lights with a mobile app,” observed Will. “So all he has to do for each show is update fixture positions but, overall, it adds up to a big responsibility for one person and he handles it very well.”

Entec’s main brief was to provide all the flown lighting which included 18 Clay Paky Alpha Spot QWO800s, 16 Robe Robin 600LED wash fixtures, 24 PAR 64 ACLs, eight PAR 36 2-lites and four SGM X-5 white LED strobes, all of which were trucked to Hammersmith by the west London company’s regular transport provider R. Jameson.

Working alongside Will Wright were fellow Entec lighting crew Dave Bunn and Anna Mac. Coming hard on the heels of a show by Belgian-Canadian chanteuse Lara Fabian, this was Anna’s second gig with Entec. Originally from the theatre world, having worked on ‘Miss Saigon’ and other top productions, for the last seven years she has been gaining experience as a freelancer for the likes of PRG, Siyan, HSL and Neg Earth.

I’d heard so many great things about Entec, so it was wonderful to finally have the chance of working with them,” she said. “I love the family vibe of the company. Sometimes, if you’re new to a company, you immediately feel pressure but that’s not the way with Entec, whose laid-back, friendly atmosphere is right there as soon as you walk into their offices. Naturally, I’m really looking forward to doing more with them.”

Supported by Tesseract and Norway’s Leprous, the DTP’s main set at the Apollo on March 17th consisted of an entire, mesmerising performance of their leader’s 1997 album Ocean Machine: Biomech. Entec’s sound department also assisted with the Apollo show, supplying a dry hire package of microphones and stands.

The Devin Townsend Project’s Transcendence tour returns to Europe in June.

Photography by Mark Cunningham

Devin Townsend Project