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System of a Down Supports the Homeland

Mike Wharton • FeaturesFebruary 2021 • February 5, 2021

Claypaky Sharpy Plus fixtures beam upwards. Photo by Jon Eddy

Producing a Music Video to Raise Funds for Armenia

System of A Down (SOAD) had not released any new music in 15 years when they regrouped in November of 2020 to record two new songs, “Protect the Land” and “Genocidal Humanoidz.” Fueled by the war created by Azerbaijan that was devastating their ancestral homeland, Armenia, they sought to bring attention to the Armenia Fund, which provides humanitarian relief to the region known as Artsakh. Profits from the songs would go directly to the fund and the hope was that their fans would further donate as well.

Following the release of the songs, the band wanted to enhance awareness and donations by making a video and offering peripheral merchandise items to their fans to raise more money. The band lives in the Los Angeles area and their LD, Jon Eddy, lives in nearby Ventura. Eddy also is the LD for Deftones (see PLSN, Aug. 2020) who are under the same management, Velvet Hammer.

Through Velvet Hammer, a conference call was set up with Shavarsh “Shavo” Odadjian, the bass player for SOAD, and video director Adam Mason. Both collaborated to direct the video. Shavo, typically, is the conduit through which all the input for touring productions flow through.

The LD uses his Avolites Arena console to program. Photo by Jon Eddy

“A Total Void,” with No Backdrop

“They wanted the video to look like a total void in the space they were playing with no backdrop,” recalls Eddy. “They also wanted it to be able to have a 360-degree perspective for the audience. In my mind’s eye, I saw a circular performance stage. The empty warehouse we were able to secure for the band to perform and to shoot the video provided exactly the environment to achieve our vision.” Upon hearing the music for the first time, Eddy immediately grasped how all the vision in his head perfectly fit the song.

The last 10 months of the Covid-19 pandemic have found him “messing around with new fixtures from Claypaky and GLP at home,” demoing them on the Avolites Arena console he owns, while trying to find a new angle in life, new hustles to get through all this and “turn lemons into lemonade.”

He called up Ray Whitton, North American head sales rep for Claypaky, and Mark Ravenhill, president of GLP, who were more than willing to donate demo fixtures for the project. “I got all the new firepower an LD could possibly want from what I saw on the showroom floor at LDI 2019. In fact, I really wish I could take this system out right now and tour it.”

The shoot took place in a 12,000 square-foot warehouse in L.A. that had previously been used for the shootout scene in the film, The Departed. Eddy determined the lighting design would be entirely floor-based, with one critical exception, and began by chalking a 36-foot-diameter circle on the warehouse floor.

Asked if he had a signature look in his designs, Eddy says, “I love beam looks, and that is what I layer my designs with. The Claypaky Sharpy has been my workhorse over the past decade.” He placed 20 of the new Sharpy Plus units on the warehouse floor, alternating between 10 eight-foot-high truss towers. Attached dead center, 34 feet above the performance area, he hung the new Claypaky ReflectXion.

“I’d been experimenting with getting beam placement at right angles, and the ReflectXion was the perfect answer,” he says. A next-generation moving mirror, the fixture features a two sided 99% reflective surface with 540° pan and a continuous tilt that is speed adjustable. Some 200 feet behind the band, at the far end of the warehouse, he placed a lone Claypaky Xtylos. This RGB fixture is the first moving head on the market with a laser light source, which Eddy used masterfully. The prism of beams spread like a peacock’s tail, shattering any depth of perception possible in several scenes throughout the video.

Light beams bounce off the Claypaky ReflectXion unit

Staggered Sharpys

Truss towers played an important part in the design, adding staggered elevation for the Sharpys surrounding the perimeter of the performance space. Each had a GLO JDC1. Martin MAC Auras provided side wash. These helped facilitate a split vision of shadowing one side of each members face with the other half burnished in light. Deep red tones were a predominant brush of Eddy’s palette.

On the floor in front of the kit, Eddy set five Claypaky KNV line Behind the drum kit were six GLP Impression FR10 bars. The 8000-lumen output unit also is capable of pixel mapping and individual control. Drums and the backline were uplit with ColorBlasts.

Eddy reached out to Jason Alt, CEO with Delicate Productions, which is based a mere 20 minutes from Eddy’s home in Ventura, for assistance with all the peripherals needed to assemble the system. Alt was happy to donate all this gear. “It was crucial to bring in the A team for this shoot. I was fortunate to have Jason Henry as my crew chief, and TLC, ‘The Lighting Consultant.’ He has been my consigliore on many shows over the years, and Angelo Viacava, the tech from Delicate, absolutely killed it,” says Eddy.

Hoping to keep expenditures to a minimum and maximize funding for the cause, there were “zero rehearsals and zero stagehands the day load in took place,” recalls Eddy. His day started at 8 a.m., with shooting commencing at 6 p.m. and a wrap at 10 p.m. “I was so happy to be back at a board, working with live music again,” says Eddy. “And it felt great to be throwing around 4/0 with my techs.

“I can’t thank everybody enough,” Eddy adds. “Everyone involved with this rolled with so many punches all with smiles on their faces. It made for a really successful and fantastically feel good shoot. Everything was great. All the folks at Claypaky, GLP, and Delicate were there 100 percent from the start. It was always, ‘We got your back no matter what.’ The teamwork made the dream work.”

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