They also just happen to be the Hastings based creative force behind The Who’s spectacular 2012 stadium tour visuals.
The Zeroh Designs team of Dan and Neil’s career has taken them from a fine art background- via a bit of DJing in London’s club scene- over a varied sphere of work, making music videos for some big (Fatboy Slim) and little (Brighton based The Pangs) names along the way. It seems working with music is something they keep being drawn back to.
So what were the ideas behind The Stinger’s ‘Dark Art of Mastering’ cover?
Neil: “We just wanted to represent the kind of technology that’s used in the production of music- we’re pretty fascinated with the old analogue style interfaces, and the different ways that equipment can communicate with humans. It’s a bit of a nod to the people who have got those amazing skills and know how to use those pieces of equipment well. We wanted to create something that’s chaotic but ordered at the same time, which is basically what a producer is good at- organising chaos. We wanted to represent that creative process.”
And those moth’s about town?
Neil: “We struggled with that a bit. We had the technique, we got the permission from the council, but we weren’t sure what we were going to do. We wanted to make a comment that wasn’t too obvious. We’d only been in Hastings for 18 months, we’d come because people were saying its on the up, its changing, and we’d seen changes. One day there was a kind of eureka moment- the moths look great with the technique, and then you’ve got the idea of metamorphosis, and changing stages of development- that ticked all the boxes.”
A world away from this is their date with The Who. Working with Roger Daltrey on his Tommy tour in 2011, led onto designing the visuals for The Who’s ‘Quadrophenia + more’ tour.
Giving visual life to the iconic rock opera, Dan and Neil were faced with a tight turn around window, and the feat of taking visuals from a computer monitor to 15 metre screens.
Travelling with the band, Dan jokes they were “living the rock’n’roll lifestyle-without the perks”. Constantly re-tweaking the show, there were a lot of late nights and “working right up to the button. It wasn’t uncommon for us to be running through the venue with our hard drive, while everyone’s sitting down waiting for the gig to start.”
The show’s visuals were met with rolling praise, hailed as the first true representation of the music on stage, but the two are modest about their collaborative roles in the creative process of realising Roger’s ideas for the show.
Certainly throughout their music related work, a distinct talent for melding visual worlds with the physicality of the music and interconnecting the two, is apparent- something they concede “probably comes from DJ-ing.”
Indicative of this is the method they used for The Who’s show: tapping into the drummer’s time code to perfectly lock the running of the footage on screen, with the beat and breaks of the music. “Roger was so into that idea of the music being locked with the visuals that he had us edit in people drumming, and clips of soldiers marching to the beat. It was really interesting to work that way.
Some of the older musicians and technical people didn’t quite get what we were doing, but once they saw the synergy between the music and the visuals and the fact that we were all relying on a common time code, then they kind of got it, at that point it became easier.”
In stadiums across America and Europe, for 7 minutes of the show, audiences also witnessed a burning vision of Hastings Pier aflame, with footage Dan and Neil had captured at 2am, providing the backdrop to the track Dr Jimmy. “It seemed quite a solid metaphor for the story itself,” explains Neil. “Dr Jimmy- a big chaotic track- is about self destruction, which kind of referenced in the self destruction of Keith, and of John as well, who essentially died because of their lifestyles. So there’s a level of sadness in the chaos and the anger.”
Of the same Sussex coastline to which Mod groups made their pilgrimages, the pier seemed remnant of a bygone era, “gone in a blaze of glory.”
Having been commissioned to do some work on Hastings pier at the time it burnt down, “it just seemed natural to use this chaos as part of the show, which is about chaos as well.”
At times both intense and surreal, working with The Who was “an amazing experience, and probably one that we won’t repeat either. Its just one of those things we get asked to do, then the next job we’re on is a million miles away from that, which is how our whole career has kind of worked out. No two jobs are the same, it makes it more exciting. We’re very lucky- constantly touching wood.”
Currents plans include street art, and more music visuals.
Their hopes for the future of Zeroh? “More of the same please.”