The best gems are the ones that are hidden. Brandon Thompson aka S∆UCEmonster exemplifies long-life artistry in true fashion and continues to flourish his artistic grooves through audio-visual presentations. With over a decade experience in mediums of innovative MIDI sets ups, Thompson dove into the world of video creation by mixing original content with found imagery to form impressive high quality psychedelic journeys synced with audio illuminations. Having previously created content for VDMX, Mr. Bill, KJ Sawka, Beats Antique (VJ for Thousand Faces Tour), Coachella, and having aligned with Sonic Bloom, Up North, & more, Thompson has opened a gateway of extended collaborative possibilities.
S∆UCEmonster is also part of the creative audiovisual collective Black Market Armoire which recently announced a nationwide tour with Mr. Bill/Circuit Bent for this coming fall. I reached out to Brandon to further discover his history as an artist, Cinema 4D, more tools, inspirations, current projects, Black Market Armoire, 3D animation of ill-esha‘s “Sideways View“, goals, focuses, VR, and more!
Along with his featured publication, S∆UCEmonster is giving away a massive archive of high res VJ content! free visuals pack! Many of the files have Alpha channels so be sure to read the ReadMe.pdf. Alpha channels are a dope function where it’s possible to layer things in a clean fashion and allow for edge blending fun.
AN INTERVIEW WITH S∆UCEMONSTER
You’re a vivid audio/visual designer and have a long history as a musician/instrumentalist, congratulations on your creative journey! Share with us your history as an artist.
I grew up in a family of musicians. I played in bands growing up but drummers suck so i started using a loop pedal to build songs. Then I found Ableton. With Ableton I learned about midi. I realized one day that if midi can tell a note to play, I bet it could tell a video to play. I did a google search and found this video.
It was by this dude Momo the Monster who ran a site called VJ KungFu. I followed his site for the next two years. I was in Vermont at the time and was surrounded by banjo players so I headed west to find like minded computer nerd folk. I ended up in Portland and went onto the VDMX forum (the software I still use for visuals) and asked if anybody lived in Portland and messed with VJing. I met my new neighbor Momo the Monster who made the video that taught me everything. We became besties and started doing video stuffs. It was Momo that recommended me for running the Beats Antique 1000 Faces show which was built by Obscura Digital using Touch Designer by Bryant CPU Place who was one of the sounds in that video by Momo. That was the first tutorial that changed my life. Since then I have watched so many other tuts and read so many manuals and searched forums basically non-stop. The internet is crazy and you can learn anything. When I tour, people ask me where I went to school and how they can do this stuff. I never went to school and these days you can learn anything from the internet, it’s rad AF. I’m now learning brainsurgery from youtube and practicing more and more everyday.
You designed content using Cinema4D for the Mr. Bill & KJ Sawka’s tour, rad! How did this align?
Haha, this aligned because Bill is a funny cunt. Which is okay to say in an Australian accent. If that read a bit harsh go back and read it in an Australian accent. It’s heaps fun. Anyways… Bill is a friend and has done some collabs with my wife, ill-esha. He came and stayed with us a few years ago and I think he is a hilarious human. He asked me to go on the road with him. I had some prior plans so I introduced him to Pickles. Fun Fact: Pickles Visuals’ dad is literally Madonna. In the months leading up to the tour I made a bunch of custom animations and put them into VDMX and made some cool glitchy timing effects. These effects and Pickles VJ work combine to make a rad show.
Outside of sound and visual design, have you tapped into other types of design? In which mediums would you like to see your visions expand into?
Cinema 4D has opened up some cool avenues. Lately I’ve been designing stages and I even designed a cool lil’ plant stake holder thing for a buddy with a grow. Haha, it’s cool to be able to model things and work with teams to bring large projects to fruition. Right now Pickles and I have been working with a CNC genius, Corey Summers, to bring some large stages to life which is super fun. We build stages as Black Market Armoire. We are an audio-visual collective with the goal of making next level shows.
Whilst getting deeper and deeper into C4D, I started to think… what’s next? My aforementioned muse, Surya Buchwald aka Momo the Monster came through Denver recently and gave me some Unity tutorials. Unity is a gaming engine and is my next avenue to explore. By this time next year we’ll be rolling out interactive Unity based visuals. My fixation has always been to make the music and visuals interact on a one to one, real time basis and I think Unity is the next step. Also unity is always good, not just the gaming engine but also that shit that Queen Latifah was into as well.
We can see profound landscapes of geometric psychedelia, intricate patterns, vivid layers, multi-dimensional displays, synesthesia, and on point reflection in your visual approach. What’s the creative process like? Everything from inspiration to visual production.
There is so much inspiring visual art going on atm. My Tumblr feed is so tight it could burn my eyes out and I’d go back for more. I love lowpoly art, vaporwave and all of that weird internet art.
In the past, you’ve run visuals and created content for Beats Antique’s ‘Thousand Faces Tour’. Would you say every sound takes on a similar theme or with it comes a whole new, custom, visual perspective resonating to a particular frequency/style?
Well… I ran the Thousand Faces Tour. I had a part in syncing the audio and video content and making the physical show work but the content was put together by a bunch of really great studios and artists, curated by Ivan Landau and made into reality by Obscura Digital.
I created content for Beats but it was for festivals and separate from 1000 Faces. 1000 Faces btw, although I’m biased, is an amazing AV achievement. Obscura and Beats made a full 1 hour 45 minute cinematic music video like they were Beyonce or some shit. There was also inflatables.
I wish that there was some sort of harder set rules where audio and visual art really linked up. When i started down this path, I figured there was. I guess maybe I pictured like 300 mhz equals blue but alas there is no magic link up. There are no hard fast rules so basically I try to figure out what a sound looks like and make it happen.
Are you currently working on any new projects?
I’m currently focused on building our Black Market Armoire collective. After working on computer art for years, mainly solo, it’s nice to collab and build bigger productions. I’m also learning more and more about lighting so that we can add a nice lighting rig to Mr.Bill’s show. The super talented lighting designer Tucker Wilde of Wilde Stage Dynamics has been showing me the ropes a bit.
‘Black Market Armoire’ will be further launching with the approaching Mr. Bill Live tour. Can you elaborate on this a bit? Who is part of the collective? What are you most excited about?
Black Market Armoire is a ragtag group of rad individuals who want to make art for art’s sake. We got Pickles, CNC builder mastermind Corey Summers, and myself. We work with ThirdEyeProjections who specializes in that trippy drippy sacred ish and we have Tyler Mammoser who uses Magic (a node based live visuals program) to make some of the raddest real time interactive visuals that we’ve ever seen. We are a couple of homies doing really cool stuff with awesome toys. Tyler and I are about to do some crazy stuff at UpNorth in Michigan. Next Pickles and I head out to do the tour with Mr. Bill Live and Circuit Bent.
We are doing some fun stuff with the Mr. Bill live show. The show deserves it. Bill just crushes it all the time and he has been deconstructing his set to be playable live. He is playing with a drummer and if they stopped playing… the music stops. I love that live shit. I always miss that live element and love it when artist embrace it.
We are using rear projection mapping for the background on a forced perspective 2D surface and front projection mapping a 3D surface in front of it. It’s gonna be the jam, as they say.
When did you dive into the visual world? Share the moment that inspired that creative growth.
This sounds so dumb but the thing that made me really want to combine music and visuals is that they seemed to want to be combined. I was at this bar in Burlington Vermont and they were playing hiphop and the news was on. It looked like the news anchors were rapping and when they would cut to commercial everything would seem more or less like it was meant to be. That was clearly just my stupid brain trying, desperately, to make sense of the world. I thought that was pretty cool and started trying to make that happen intentionally. It is way more difficult than I first expected but it’s totally led me to unexpected places
What tools do you use to create visuals?
My main tool is C4D these days. I use After Effects to bring it all together. I use Illustrator a bit for editing vectors. My VJ program of choice is VDMX. VDMX is amazing, you can use it to connect anything to anything in the AV world. I also use syphon and cool programs like Bazik to bring in live audio-driven visual fun.
Which tools do you use to create sound?
I use Ableton. I love any and all tools by Steve Duda.
In words, describe how the balance of sound and visual experiences makes you feel.
I refuse to use words to answer this question, oops, damnit. Ummmm… People used to give me shit when i would go to shows. Why aren’t you dancing? I am usually at shows just cataloging equipment being used and looking for cool ideas. I don’t let loose and dance and get into the show unless i’m performing. I guess at this point that is what it takes to get me out of my head. So yeah, when I focus on making sound and visuals work together i get so involved that i actually enjoy myself and get lost in the moment, it’s the best!
What would you like to accomplish this year?
I want to start working with Unity and make more and more interactive visuals to blow mind skulls.
Would you say you create content or VJ more? Or a combination of both? When you VJ do you always use your own content?
I def spend more time creating content because it is so time intensive. When I VJ I use a combination of my content plus rad stuff I steal off the internet, lol. People don’t like to talk about that but it’s how most VJing works. Sampling… it’s a thing! I take videos apart and try to recontextualize them. I look for black and white parts to use as masking layers. I look for centered pieces surrounded by black to cut up and use as foreground layers. I snag video less and less as I’ve progressed and been able to make more but it’s an integral part of the arc and VJ’s shouldn’t hide from it but embrace it and do it better and better.
You’re half of Polar Vortex w/ ill-esha. Are you guys currently working on any new projects? Do you find yourself tapping into sound or visual more?
These days I’m way more focused on the visual world. That said, we made this vaporwave track with a lil’ music video and my stepdad, Tommy “mutherfuckin” Steele on the sax. We’ve made an appearance in a video game hack run, where we are a clue. Polar Vortex gets weird emails from gamers all of the time, despite their attempts to make the clue very obvious. The clue is the word love.
Tell us about the vision and approach behind ‘Sideways View’ 3D animation. Can we continue to expect more music video collabs like these in the future?
At this point I look at each project as a chance to learn something new. With this video I wanted to learn to animate full bodies. The video is A E S T H E T I C AF. Elle’s music is so rad. She is connected to the glitch hop scene, because she started glitch hop forum back in the day, but her music is next level and has continued to grow well beyond her glitch hop roots. I tried to make something more future for her. One day I hope to be as good at something as she is with songwriting and production because unattainable dreams keep you going.
Are you a synesthete?
Haha, no. I wish I was. I have always kinda seen sound, but I imagine that is pretty common. I feel like true synesthesia is pretty uncommon. I have an ex that claimed to be a synesthete and I don’t wanna say she was lying… I just think sometimes people adopt things that they want. I feel like there are some people that learn about that rare condition and then they get it. Maybe conditions like this, sometimes, are like they say color is… You know, like, we only learn color as we acquire a way to record it. Red came first blue last… anyway… What if conditions like synesthesia are like that? If we only acquire them as we learn of them. Like sandwichesforhandsonsins disorder? I won’t define it… because I wouldn’t do that to us.
VR is here. Do you envision in tapping into this world?
Uh, yeah. The now thrice mentioned Momo the Monster, love that dude, has been going down that rabbit hole for quite some time. He is a fast one and is head of interactive awesomeness at Helios Interactive.
That dude always blows me away. I see what he does. I dismiss it as the work of a wizard and go back to what I was working on. Eventually though, I always come to my senses and realize that wizards aren’t real anymore and I start working towards his direction.
So yeah… I’m gonna get into VR. We have to. It’s the way of the world. Computers are rad. I grew up with music and musicians and I love that piece of it all but we aren’t woodworkers anymore. We don’t like, get a skill and spend our lives honing it in, and then die, like we used to. These days, we learn and keep learning on whatever path into our infinite machines. We can keep diving in but we all challenge each other along the way. The future seems cool when you can get lost in creativity and forget briefly that we are all doomed and killing our species and everything in our path!!!
Anything else you’d like to share?
Podcasts are the jam. Get your stitcher game on point.
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