Interview: Joe Stathers-Tracey

Joe Stathers-Tracey

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m head of Theatre & Performance Design & Technology at LIPA (The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts).  I was a technical manager of a theatre for ten years after leaving Uni, and then moved to LIPA to teach lighting.  I gradually became more interested in moving from lighting to multimedia after seeing a performance by Hannah Peel’s early band Kinetic Fallacy.  They mixed innovative music with live manipulated visuals (by Sam Meech), and I thought that was such an exciting way to collaborate with live music that I’d love to be able to do the same.

A few years later I had the opportunity to do a Live-I Isadora workshop at FACT in Liverpool with Mark and Dawn and I kind of felt I’d developed superpowers overnight!  Here was a tool that would allow me to manipulate sound lighting and video at my fingertips with so many possibilities, and I could build it any way I wanted for any task.

LIPA supports its staff working professionally whilst teaching, so I now design three or four shows a year in theatres and with different musicians and visual artists, and also sing with Sense Of Sound Singers in my spare time.  I think that music is probably my next adventure, and I’d like to write something new of my own, but there’s time for that yet.  I’m busy enough with everything else.

Would you class yourself as a performer, technician, director or other?

Like a lot of AV artists I find myself constantly redefining my title for every project I get involved in, and sometimes mid-show.  I can start as “AV programmer” if I’m just manipulating someone else’s content and providing an interface for venue technicians to use in a show, but then be an “AV Designer” if I’m creating new material and having more of an artistic voice.  I’m probably a “creative technician” if the truth be known – more used to finding an elegant (but quick) solution to various challenges, rather than finessing a design to its perfect conclusion.  I think I need to work on this aspect of my approach to work, but I also need a bit less to do, and more time to do it.

What projects have you been working on lately?

I’m currently designing AV for two shows for the Octagon, Bolton.  “The Demolition Man” is about Fred Dibnah, and is bringing back lots of memories of my childhood, and “Secret Thoughts” follows that with an elegant architectural set that’s going to be a challenge to map onto.

What has been the highlight of career?

Several of the Liverpool 08 projects were really rewarding, especially getting the opportunity to design for a live string Quartet.  I used Isadora particle generators to create vivid coloured shapes that were manipulated live with a Wiimote, and the whole concept had a directness to it that was very satisfying.  (see link below)

How would you describe your artistic style?

I’m still finding that, and most projects are different because of the nature of the brief –  sometimes I’ve just done sound and lighting with Isadora and no projection at all.  Quite a few of the theatre pieces have tended towards high contrast B&W imagery, and that’s quite an attractive convention for me because it provides a consistency of content, and also gets the most impact when you’re working with stage lighting.

What technology do you use most often?

Isadora.  Macbooks.

GIMP and Quicktime Pro 7 for image tweaking and video editing.

Matrox Dual or Triple Heads To Go.

Sometimes a handy Numark AVM01 video mixer and a Korg Kaoss Pad Entrancer for on the spot noodling.

We have a Catalyst Media Server system at LIPA, and that’s a powerful tool for live music situations, and occasionally I’ve ran it in parallel with Isadora, or had students who want to learn it as well, so they can pick it up later if asked by a client.

Finally a great big bag of cables and adaptors for all emergencies.

How has the Troika Tronix Isadora software helped you with your work?

I don’t think I would be doing what I’m doing without such a powerful, portable system.  Suddenly this whole big toolbox was opened up for me and realizing my imagination became achievable.  Other software like Quartz Composer, Max or Processing just aren’t as welcoming at first glance, and I think I’d have stumbled and given up if they were my first exposure.

Describe your work/style in three words:

“Weaver of Light” – a good artist friend referred to me that way once and it’s better than anything else I can come up with.

Do you have a website:

Do you have any links to YouTube/Vimeo or a blog, if so you can put them here: – An interview held with SKY Arts about one of the Liverpool capital of Culture events I was involved in, also showing some of the performance I did with the Smith Quartet.

If you want people to contact you you can also provide an email address here:



3 thoughts on “Interview: Joe Stathers-Tracey

  1. Pingback: The Demolition Man (Fred Dibnah) « VJ Skulpture's Blog

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