WILM award winner for Best Lighting Designer Anne Weckström talks background and working with Sunn.
Anne Weckström is a light and fog designer holding a WILM award in the year 2019 for the Best Lighting Designer, how did this passion grow on you since childhood although you have later on studied something a bit way different; sound production?
I grew up in the countryside so I never really thought about lights when I was a kid. As a teenager, I got more and more interested in music which became my passion. I was listening to music all the time, went to the library to read music magazines and we started a band with my friends where I played the drums. I went to see shows to towns close by, but usually, I was in the front row enjoying the energy of the bands so I didn’t pay attention to lights.
After high school, music was still my main interest, but I didn’t know how to make a living out of it. I didn’t see myself as a professional musician so I thought I could apply to a school studying sound production. It sounded like something which would able me to work closely with music. At this point, I had still not even thought about lights. Music was the thing for me.
What music have you been brought up listening to, and what any influence did that have on you and your work later on?
My background is in black metal and I think the influence from that is the atmospheric and a bit darker touch I might sometimes have.
How did studying Sound Production influence your future work, and did it help to shape the skills you are using nowadays?
Studying Sound Production affected my future work in a very surprising way. Due to my studies, I got a chance to do a practice in a small Sound and Light company. Point was to work for free and learn by doing. I enjoyed a lot of live concerts so I wanted to learn how to do sound for bands.
Instead what happened was that I was handed few lamps and a little controller and was told to set them up and do lights. I was confused, but I learned fast. Pretty soon I realized I enjoyed a lot to play along with the songs and I also had a vision on how to make the music look and feel bigger. That’s when I found my calling.
What is sound to Anne Weckström, especially that you work with light design that is possibly based on sound?
I think Sound is a lot of things, but one of them is to touch people. When I do lights based on music, my focus is to support visually the sound and the message behind it.
Light design is a very niche field, where it is possibly easy to be like everyone else doing it, how does Anne Weckström stand out from many others?
I see my style as a reflection of my inner world and how I interact with the world around me. That’s what makes me different from other people. To be me and true to myself.
My lights are often calm, atmospheric and have a lot of contrast. Probably most of the designers could use these same words to describe their work, so I think standing out and having own style comes from somewhere deeper.
How long does it usually take for you to design light, and how is the design brief communicated between you and bands before an event?
It depends a lot on the project. Some bands are very specific about what they want. Often the bands I have worked with give me free hands to do what I want and feel fits best.
The designing process varies a lot too. If I have more time I first get the big picture of the project and let it sink. I leave it for a while and then ideas come to me when my mind is quieter, for example when I’m walking in nature or doing yoga. Other times when the schedule is tight I just sit down and start to write or draw and get the work done.
For any designer, colour is an important factor in representing emotions; in this case here, this takes place alongside sound. How does Anne Weckström use colour to achieve sound/visual contrast on stages?
Colours have strong meanings to us which are related to the culture we live in. Colours can also represent different things or emotions. That’s why it’s very natural to use colours to strengthen different emotions and spaces.
Either I aim to represent the feeling I get about the song and sound or to create a bigger picture I vision about the context. Sometimes I just combine colours to make a beautiful look.
What are the tough challenges you normally face during the light design process? What has been the toughest so far?
I would say the toughest challenges are usually budget and reality. For example, I would like to use some specific fixtures, light desk or low fog machines but they are too expensive for the production.
Sunn is not anyone’s normal daily music whatsoever, especially with the band’s open strings gigantic drone sound structure, how did your collaboration with Sunn take place? (How did you get to work with each other, and how long have you been working together; what’s the story)?
I was working for Mayhem and their vocalist Attila toured at the time with SUNN O))). He recommended me to do lights for SUNN O))).
Now it’s more than five years. SUNN O))) collaborates with many different artists and also with different lighting designers, so I’m very happy they have chosen me to do almost all their shows last years.
Unlike lots of other bands, you have done light and fog design for, such as Enslaved, Mayhem, Electric Wizard among many; how different is it to work with Sunn?
Working with SUNN O))) is a unique and extraordinary experience. With all the other bands it feels like I’m “playing along” with their music. With SUNN O))) it feels like I’m painting a picture.
With the huge amount of fog sometimes the whole audience is sucked into a special space and there are just slow colour changes happening around one. It’s not only like painting a picture, it’s like painting a 3D space.
How did your first brief with Sunn sound like? And how do you succeed in giving the band and the audience those visually sensational effects that embody Sunn’s broad sound visually?
I don’t remember anymore how my first brief with SUNN O))) was, but I’m pretty sure it was something like “Use a lot of fog.”.
Fog and no blinking have been parts of SUNN O))) live shows since beginning. During the last years, I have been creating bigger and different looks and moods, like graphical shapes or colour layers. And working on how they blend or transform into something else.
For me, it’s all about how I feel the music and making it look that way.
During the time you have worked with Sunn and in your opinion, how did your light/fog design mutually evolve, knowing that Sunn’s sound has as well changed throughout the years?
I’m very grateful for how our collaboration has evolved during the years. Seems that the direction SUNN O))) has taken with their music, and my visual aspect of it work very well together.
I love the freedom the whole concept gives. I find it thrilling to expand the massive sound even more with the lights and fog, but also with a very delicate touch on more serene parts.
Another inspiring thing with the change over the past years is the change in people. What everyone in SUNN O))) band and crew bring to the performance with their personalities and experiences is inspiring and reminds about the overall change and also keeps my mind awake for new ideas.
Sunn’s Life Metal album cover featured a plethora of vivid colours, how did you deliver the visual sensation to the stage experience with Sunn when touring for this album?
I’m a big fan of Samantha Keely Smith’s art. Artwork used on Life Metal and Pyroclasts had a big impact on me so I was very excited about the tours after them.
On Life Metal tours there were parts of the show where I was aiming to create the same kind of world which was in artwork with the mixed and layered colours. I wanted to make it more three dimensional and bring people inside of the colour fields. With lots of fog, it worked well.
If Anne Weckström would put together a small list of bands you wish to work with, who would that list feature?
I don’t really have a list of bands I would specifically want to work with. It’s more about the music or project being interesting and people involved being nice.
I’m sure there are tons of bands which would be great to work with. At the moment I’m open to new work and collaboration.
Out of your vast experience, what would you advise anyone who might be interested in diving into the light design world?
Learn as much as you can, work on your ideas and be respectful for the people who give you the chance to show your skills.
What future collaborations await Anne Weckström’s talent?
During these strange times, the future looks a bit different than I had hoped for, but I’m looking forward to being able to do shows again and create some cool lights.