STS9: More Than Meets the Ear

It would be really easy to just be that other techno-jamband with the Phish light show and call it a day but I think we can do better than that.

-David Phipps

Photo of STS9 by: Eric Rejman

With the electronic focus fading in one area, it only makes sense that they'll move that focus into the light shows that have arguably done as much to attract and keep fans as the music itself. To that end, this summer's tour will feature a heightened role for the three huge LED displays that the band first experimented with last year. Phipps gets especially excited when he talks about the lighting changes.

STS9 by Casey Flanigan
"The LED thing is going to be awesome this whole summer!" he exclaims. "We brought in two really premiere video artists. We sent 10 or 15 tracks to both guys to create original video content based on the borderline conspiracy, Big Brother vibe that was underlying in Peaceblaster. Our lighting designer, Saxton, is very much of the [Chris] Kuroda school and was moving towards more and more and more and more moving lights. We wanted to do a video element for a while and just kind of pushed him over the edge. [We don't want] to succumb to what people think we should be. It would be really easy to just be that other techno-jamband with the Phish light show and call it a day but I think we can do better than that."

The band's not just experimenting with video on stage, it's even putting the finishing touches on a new documentary called ReGeneration. What started as a series of interviews with everyone from Howard Zinn to Noam Chomsky to Talib Kweli has morphed, like all the band's projects, into something more.

"We wanted to put out to the 11-year-old kid who's wondering, 'What am I going to do with my life,' as an example that, 'Hey, we're artists that have made it living our dream. You don't have to live under the thumb of any institution.' It grew as we added more and more commentators and participants and interviews. It really turned into a motion picture on the role of media, advertising, parenting and environment [and] how that shapes the apathy of an individual. It really came to be a call to action against apathy. You can make a difference and you're making a difference regardless, so what kind of difference can you make? This is a great follow up statement to Peaceblaster and Make it Right and the vibe that was set by those projects. It's a good hour and 20 minutes of visual assault," he says energetically.

Phipps gets equally excited about some new instruments he's been collecting. "I got into modular synthesizers. [It relates to] the buy local, sustainable vibe, as well as just the quality [of the gear]. I would rather buy something handmade in Northern California than another plastic piece of shit Chinese keyboard. So, all of my gear efforts have gone away from plastic shit into this boutique stuff."

And just like that, he's talking about sustainability again. Asked about the sustainability of this weekend's uber-green Rothbury Music Festival, where the band will be one of the main late night attractions on both Friday and Saturday, Phipps says, "Rothbury was a huge inspiration [last year]. [It was] a relief to see that a festival could take that direction and really take it at its core. So much more can be done [but] we're off to a good start. If you can have 100,000 people going home from a festival and they can know that an effort is being made and they can take that home and be inspired by it, it's at least a start."

Pressed about whether the band will start asking other venues and festivals it performs at to follow Rothbury's lead, Phipps admits that he hasn't thought of that, if only because until recently the band wasn't in a position to make that kind of demand. "I haven't gotten used to our newfound fame," he says. "We've been doing this for 11 years and all of a sudden we're headlining a bunch of festivals. Usually we're playing at 2 [in the afternoon]."

Their new popularity is taking the band by surprise in other ways, too. Many fans know that the band is headlining a mini-festival of its own in Atlanta in August, joined by Bassnectar, Lotus, Ghostland Observatory and labelmates Dubconscious for a day-long audiovisual treat. What fans might not know is that this festival is something of an apology to fans.

"We got rained out of our last concert in Atlanta and had quite an angry audience on our hands," he recalls. "We were sitting in our tour bus and they announced that the show was cancelled and the bus was being rocked by people leaving the venue. We were kind of cracking up to ourselves, like, 'This is some Guns N' Roses shit right here.'"

STS9 tour dates available here.

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[Published on: 6/30/09]

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