Rammstein 2017 Tour

by Steve Jennings (Photos & Text)
in Designer Insights
Roy Bennett's pods flew in fixtures from the Motherland. Photos and text by Steve Jennings.
Roy Bennett's pods flew in fixtures from the Motherland. Photos and text by Steve Jennings.

For those fans lucky enough to see Rammstein’s tour on their limited 2017 U.S. run, one might ask — was it hotter that day in Las Vegas at temperatures of 110 degrees F. outside, or hotter on stage inside the T-Mobile Arena where the band’s pyro is the biggest of any band in the world? We spoke with the tour’s production and lighting designer Roy Bennett, associate lighting designer and programmer Jason Baeri, production manager and ffp managing director Nicolai Sabottka, pyro/SFX crew chief Nick Thompsett and the tour’s two lighting directors, Faren Matern and Bertil Mark.

FX from ffp Special Effects were everywhere

Roy Bennett
Production & Lighting Designer

Roy Bennett has been designing for Rammstein since the 2001-02 Mutter tour.

“Whenever I work with Rammstein, it always has to be bold, but also not overly complicated. Strong but with multiple personalities. The band has some basic concepts that they come to me with before every tour. Not all the tours are associated with a new album, though. There may be two or three tours between album releases. So, we create different concepts for each one. Paul Landers, the guitar player, is the key person in the band that I deal with the most. He comes up with the basic concept, and then I take it into the real world through my interpretation.

“Almost all the lighting fixture choices were based on what I wanted originally, with the exception of the GLP Impression GT-1. They were originally spec’d as Mythos, but Black Box (the vendor) were suggesting the GT-1. Despite some initial issues with the software, they were very impressive as a light source, and I was extremely happy with the substitution.”

Almost 300 GLP X4 Bars were used

Bennett has been working with production manager Nicolai Sabottka now for 16 years.

“He’s always been amazing. One of the best production managers I have worked with. He totally understands the entire production aesthetically and functionally. He always integrates his pyro into the show based on the initial production design. It’s quite a feat not only to move the tour and show around the world, but also to ensure the safety of all with the pyro in the show. Nicolai is always experimenting and pushing the envelope.”

Light beams focused by the automated pods

Ampco Flashlight is the automation company and Perry Scenic is the set company for the tour.

“Working with Ampco was great as far as automation. The crew and programmers are some of the best that I have worked with as far as credibility and understanding my needs and visions in terms of what fits within the parameters of the show for the band. I’ve been working with Perry Scenic since the 1980’s and have great relationship with them. They are always up for a challenge, particularly in the soft goods department. Both companies are enthusiastic about working with the band, and their work shows that dedication and excitement.

“Jason Baeri is always great and has worked with me for many years now. He has a good vision of how I do things, see things and hear things. He’s the best person to talk to about technical details of programming a show.

“Rammstein is one of my favorite artists to work with — an incredible band, and also amazing people. They’re one of the most entertaining acts I’ve ever worked with. If you’re not a fan of the music, I highly suggest attending a live show, and you will instantly become a fan.”

GLP fixtures played a big role

Jason Baeri
Associate Lighting Designer/Programmer

Working with Rammstein and Black Box is one of Jason’s favorite experiences, every time he gets to do it.

“We spent about a month in Berlin putting the show together with the full rig. No previz, no
guessing what the levels or colors will really look like in real life. The automation team here is brilliant. Martin Hoop, the automations programmer, had the physical pod looks written inside of a few days, and then we spent about two weeks writing the looks for songs themselves.

“The set list was roughly 20 songs plus another 10 that were ether alternates or songs for specific cities, like ‘Moscow,’ for when they played Russia. I think only one song got cut completely. I programmed on an MA2, and the songs are mostly time coded, I’d say roughly 90 percent with a few manual ends and one or two manual songs that are played with an open arrangement. Typically, a song will only have 20-30 cues on the main stack, but we have additional hits and chases on the pages, so each song can have around 300-400 events, some up to 1,500.”

Flames shoot out from guitars

Baeri lauds the Rammstein crew as “one of the tightest knit, amazing crews I have ever had the pleasure of working with.”

“The band and Roy’s vision for this is pure rock ‘n” roll looks. There’s no compromising necessary for a single moment of the show. Working with Rammstein is what taught me how to do the big strong looks. It’s the most fun you can have on a lighting rig.

“LDs Faren and Bertil are two of the sweetest, hardest-working people, and there’s no one better to keep a show in check. Faren’s been with the band before they were even Rammstein. And everyone else on the crew makes it feel more like a vacation. Nicolai and the whole ffp Spezialeffekte crew do things with fire I never thought possible. My eyebrows also haven’t grown back yet, but it’s well worth it. Martin Hoop and Michael Jahns (motion control) are always looking to push the envelope and create dynamic looks. They’ll try anything as long as it’s safe.

“Roy has created a playground of really dynamic lighting positions that just beg to hit you in the face with harder punches at every turn. This was a big jump for the band too, as they’ve always had mostly conventional rigs, so it was a challenge for Roy and myself to keep that hard rock look without making it seem too modern and pop-y because of the moving heads. But he’s been with them for nearly 20 years, and he has their unwavering trust that he’ll do a show that’s commensurate with the Rammstein experience their fans have always flocked to. You won’t find any symmetrical tilt chases or popping irises. It’s all still about big looks and powerful shafts of light over ACL-type spreads.”

The singer flies while on fire

Faren Matern
Lighting Director

Matern has been working for Rammstein since 1993, working six tours with Roy and the band.

“We spent three weeks programming songs with Roy and Jason. During the tour, minor changes were made by Bertil [Mark] and myself, as sometimes parts in the songs are changed by the band.

“All songs are programmed by timecode (SMPTE). It’s very important for Rammstein that the light show is absolutely exact and in time, as all the accents and changing light moods must come to the point. Since we also want to be active as an operator during the show, some cues from the timecode programming were later removed and pressed by hand, especially by Bertil, who was also responsible for focusing the moving lights, etc. We work with different profiles on consoles. I mainly use the personalized lighting for the musicians, floor spots, etc., control of the fog machines and public accents (blinders, etc.) Furthermore, I coordinate the six followspots during the show.

“Most of the fixtures I used before in other projects, with the exception of the GLP GT1 moving lights. These lamps initially made us a bit worried because they were brand new on the market. But GLP was very involved to solve the little problems during the programming session.

“The equipment selected by Roy was once again perfectly fitted and optimal to illuminate the songs. And big thanks go to our fantastic lighting crew, who made a great contribution to the success of the shows.”

Black Box Music out of Germany was the lighting vendor

Bertil Mark
Lighting Director

“Not having worked with Roy Bennett before, it was a fantastic experience to do so and with his entire team. After a certain amount of shows you have more of an overall feel, and so you always do some tweaks and bits to make this already great show a bit more emotional for yourself while taking care of the groove of our lighting system, the most musical way possible, such as improvisations that need to be done on specific nights and venues.

“In our kind of show and with our work ethic and approach to aesthetic, you can spend a long time focusing with arrays of beam light fixtures. My thanks to everybody who was involved making this fantastic looking show.

Ampco Provides the automation to move the pods

Nicolai Sabottka
Tour/Production Manager

Tour and production manager, Nicolai Sabottka is also managing director of ffp Spezialeffekte in Europe, which has been around since 1999. In 2014, the company opened up offices in Los Angeles as well. Along with their main client Rammstein, they grew while supporting clients that include Robbie Williams, Björk, the Brit Awards and Mötley Crüe.

“We were more or less exclusively working for Rammstein the first couple of years but we had to reach out to other potential customers when Rammstein went on a longer break and we found ourselves with a lot of state-of-the-art gear, crew, offices and bills that had to be paid. I reached out to many of my colleagues I had from being a production manager and promoter rep for quite some time and the circle of clients quickly grew.”

A&O Technology Falcon Beam 7000 Xenons shine from the floor

Nick Thompsett
Pyro/SFX Crew Chief

Thompsett and Sabottka first met back in 1999.

“Nick has been the spine of our touring core crew for many tours, with different and difficult clients. He is always calm in those critical situations that occur on a daily basis. He’s a brilliant programmer and designer, and blessed with a unique sense of humor. I would not want to tour without him.

“Since we know each other for so many years, working with Roy Bennett and his team is always a joy and has certain routines. It starts off with exchanging some renderings and collecting the band’s input as well. Then those get drawn into more complex plots and fabrication plans and then translated into budgets. That usually causes several nervous breakdowns and typically a bit of a scale down, which in Rammstein world still means a lot of stuff. Roy is very experienced in taking the bands ideas on and incorporating those into what he has in mind for the design. A very fruitful relationship.

X4 Impressions appear as crosses in the pods

“The 2017 tour came as a bit of a surprise as the band had announced after their last shows in South America last year that they would be back in the studio working on the new album and had no touring plans whatsoever. A month later, I got a call from management to have a look at some festival options and put our core crew on hold. Next I hear... the tour would start in Iceland... and before I could work out all the details of how in the world we would transform an outdoor festival show, into an indoor soccer arena on a very remote island in the Atlantic... the show already got confirmed. Originally designed for festival stages only, we now found ourselves in sheds and arenas as well, aside of large festival stage environments. Thanks to my great crew we have made it work.

“We finish the tour, our final destination in Nimes, South of France to play three shows in an ancient Roman theater in which we had shot a live video in 2005. The band has announced that they will be back in the studio for some time... not having plans to tour... sounds familiar?”

Big bold rock looks were constantly on display

Rammstein Tour 2017

Crew

  • Production and Lighting Designer: Roy Bennett
  • Associate Lighting Designer and Programmer: Jason Baeri
  • Lighting Director: Faren Matern
  • Lighting Director: Bertil Mark
  • Lighting Co: Black Box Music Veranstaltungstechnik GmbH (Berlin)
  • Lighting Crew Chief: Rouven Diedrich
  • Lights/Dimmer: Use Kissmann
  • Light Networks/Focus: Conrad Neuman
  • Lighting Techs: Fabian Grafe, John Paul Behrendt, Hendrik Stark, Florian Bees, Marvin Flote, Steffen Meyer (lights/falcon)
  • Tour/Production Manager: Nicolai Sabottka
  • Band Tour Manager: Heike Kraemer
  • Production Coordinator: Dea Porter
  • Stage Manager: Bjorn Harder
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Tim Luer
  • Set: Fabian Melchert (Head), Andreas Hahn
  • Pyrotechnics and SFX: ffp Spezialeffekte and Veranstaltungslogistik GmbH
  • Pyro/SFX/Crew Chief: Nick Thompsett
  • Pyro/SFX Techs: Oliver Jost, Emanuel Schmieding, Thomas Winkel, Marcin Okupnik, Daniel Hoffmann
  • Softgoods: Thomas Kohler (Head), Lukas Fischer, Florian Weidemuller, Sebastian Fritz
  • Video Director: Sven Offen
  • Video Techs: Florian Partzsch (Editor), Alexander Jager, Tino Muller
  • Automation: Ampco Flashlight
  • Head Riggers: Martin Gehring, Niko Haussmann
  • Cyberhoists: Martin Hoop, Michael Jahns, Fredrik “Frits” Ton

Low Smoke Generators in use

Gear

  • 3               grandMA2 full size consoles
  • 216         Par 64s
  • 211         GLP impression X4 Bar 20’s
  • 82            GLP impression X4 Bar 10’s
  • 70            GLP impression GT-1’s
  • 46            SGM Q-7s
  • 8               SGM P-5 LEDs
  • 12            Robe BMFL WashBeams
  • 12            Martin MAC 2000 Wash XBs
  • 4               Martin MAC 101’s
  • 2               Vari-Lite VL3000 Spots
  • 20            ETC Source Four Par CE’s
  • 19            8-Lite Blinders
  • 12            A&O Falcon Beams (7kW)
  • 13            A&O Falcon Beams (3kW)
  • 4               Orka power fog generators
  • 2               MDG hazers

 Pods full of Gt 1's make an Impression

More 2017 Rammstein tour photos by Steve Jennings: