While nightclubs in the early 1990s could get by with featuring strobe lights pulsating with the beat, organizers of today's nightclub events have to offer more to attract clubgoers.
Alongside the disc jockeys — DJs — are so-called visual jockeys — VJs — and together they shape the image of the club. Like their sound colleagues, VJs fashion the mood, atmosphere and tact of the lights from track to track. In major cities across the world they have formed their own small scene.
Organizations representing VJs, such as those in Hamburg and Berlin, agree that an evening of electronic music in a club can’t be pulled off without a VJ.
“It was simply the next step. Pictures were modified to sound and over time it became more compositional,” said Olaf Kretschmar of the Club Commission Berlin.
Club visuals were brought to a new level of sophistication at a wild techno festival in Berlin after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Previously, light shows were commonly integrated into rock concerts, but in the electronic music genre, the light effects have a special meaning. Andrea Rothaug, who is with a Hamburg club, said the visuals are largely tied in with dancing.
In Germany there are a handful of VJs active in Cologne, Frankfurt and Munich and an international association has been formed. As in the past, however, the biggest location for Germany’s wild techno night life is Berlin.
VJ Tobias Last started there about five years ago. The 28-year-old, who calls himself Kiritan Flux, studied digital media. He has learned the ropes of the software used to create the visual effects and also has made films. Like other VJs, he has put together his own VJ programs. It’s important to him that the images do not look like a story told in a movie.
“People should be dancing, not standing still,” said Last. Aside from that he said it’s not about producing as much as possible ahead of time and simply pulling it off the laptop. Since it is technically possible by using two DVD players, the images can be scratchy, just like the music.
Tasso Treis of Cologne last year helped create the visuals for the closing event of the Love Parade in Essen, Germany. Treis explained that geometric forms such as circles are used in minimal techno, while pictures that help create a mood go with abstract music. If the track contains meditation or relaxation sounds, Treis tries to reproduce that visually.
He said only VJs and DJs who are well coordinated are able to create such moments of synchronicity. Bastian Fritz, who works as an events organizer for the Tape Club, emphasized the point.
“The DJ and the VJ must fit together. Then something new can develop and you can give a good event even better emphasis,” he said.