Interview: Factories and Fields
It’s only February, and already 2015 is shaping up to be a stellar year for live music in Cambridge. We’ve got the likes of Marika Hackman, Courtney Barnett and Funeral For A Friend coming through later this year, and January saw a stunning show headlined by These Ghosts – a full-on audiovisual event with poetry & projections throughout.
Following on from January’s all-sensory spectacular, Slate decided it was only appropriate we caught up with the man behind the projector for a debrief. Liam Roberts is a video artist operating under the alias Factories And Fields. In addition to his impressive catalogue of music videos, Liam excels in live performance – mixing and manipulating film in response to whatever else is happening.
Visual accompaniment can form such a central but often overlooked aspect of live performance. Here’s a little conversation we had with Liam that may go some way to addressing that…
Hi Liam, cheers for chatting with us today! How’s your week ahead looking?
Hey Wes! My week ahead is looking quite busy, but I’ll probably be at the end of it when I get this over to you. I’ll be working on some filmmaking with a group of young people, preparing some VJ workshops that I’m running next week, and also working on some performances I have coming up in the next couple of weeks. Plus sitting around eating lunchables and maybe some swimming to make up for it.
For the benefit of our readers, would you like to give a quick summary of what it is you do as a live video artist?
Well… As a live video artist, I’m interested in how moving image can be manipulated, on a screen, in real time. Whether it’s something generative that responds directly to an audio source, or something more interpretive and tangible. The audio/visual relationship, and the different ways that you can represent that.
The last that we saw you live was the SHINDIG show in January. Seemed like a positive start to the year. How do you feel your work was received, and how was the experience of working with new people?
Yes, that was a really great show. I ended 2014 feeling a bit flat creatively, and that was just what I needed to get me going again.
I’ve previously worked with These Ghosts back in 2013, and have always been a fan of their music. But I enjoyed collaborating with Fast Infamy and Lucidalabrador. I was able to experiment with some new ways of performing, and felt it was received really well.
It was a really great environment to perform in. A lot of people spoke to me afterwords, it’s nice to have complete strangers come up you after a show and say some genuinely nice things about your work.
When working with artists in a live capacity, how much is the process about collaborating to create content?
Well it depends really, a real collaboration needs to feel like a mutual thing, I don’t like being bossed around too much haha. If a band approached me about working on a show together, and they already have all their visual ideas set in stone, then that’s not going to work. There needs to be room for interpretation. Someone like These Ghosts for example, they’ve given me some great footage to work with. Which they’re happy for me to chop up how ever I want, and it works really well. But most of the time I’m able to represent the music with visuals however I want.
You’ve recently had a bit of a revamp and rebranding – now going under the name Factories And Fields. What inspired the change, and can you say a bit about the direction you’re taking now?
Yes it was a long over due change really. Last year I made some pretty bad decisions about the direction of my career, I had completely lost sight of the kind of artist I wanted to be and why I was even doing it. I was creating work purely for others to gain from it, and felt nothing towards the work I was producing.
But now thankfully I’m on the other side of it all, and I’m glad it happened. I feel completely regenerated, ready to create the work I want to create, for no one but myself. I want to be recognised as an individual artist, combing all of my influences from cinema to illustration. Not being constrained to working as a VJ, and pigeonholed as the guy who turns up and does the visuals, then forgotten about.
I’ve never felt more inspired about the work I’m doing, and I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by amazingly supportive and creative people.
In a genre often seen as existing in accompaniment to music, have you found any other ways of performing that perhaps put the visuals as more of a central focus?
I’ve done a handful of shows where I’ve been performing both audio and visual elements myself. It’s a lot more work, but definitely makes the visual element feel more integral to the the piece. I hope to do more of this in the future.
How easy or hard has it been to integrate yourself into the arts and music scene where you’re based?
I was living in Norwich when I started out, but I’m now living in my hometown of Sudbury Suffolk. But yeah It was a really great place to be, it took me about a year to integrate myself fully into the scene. I pretty much went in to it with out knowing anybody and was like, “Hey, who wants visuals?” Eventually people were like, yeah sure. Norwich has a really great scene, in that it doesn’t take long before you know everyone. It has great community feel to it, with loads of amazing artists. I was able to form good relationships with people like Magic Panda, The Boy With Two Heads, Olympians, Miles Otto, Sam Hill, Duke Slammer and of course These Ghosts just to name a few.
We’ve spoken about potentially arranged some workshops in the future. What would a live visuals workshop entail?
It would initially be a 2 day workshop, which would cover creating and generating content and then performing live. Which could then lead on to further sessions, working as a team to produce visuals for a live performance.
If people are interested in learning more, how can they keep abreast of your movements?
Initially I’ll be running workshops at Firstsite in Colchester, as part of the Circuit programme for 15-25 year olds. The sessions are free and are taking place on 12th March and 26th March, with more dates to follow. Email me at email@example.com if you would like to know more.
And finally, what future projects (or potential projects) are most exciting you about the year ahead?
This year I’m really excited about making the work I’ve always wanted to make. I want to make more film based work, with narrative, which I can then turn into a live performance. And I’m looking forward to some collaborations with artists who I’ve never worked with before.
Originally published by Slate The Disco.
Words from Wesley Freeman-Smith.