Written by Charles “Bones” Frank

Lighting, production and visualization have become far more than auxiliary tools at show and events.  They can solely transform experience, and create the current on which a band, crowd, or patron floats.  I got a chance to chat with Dustin Klein, one of the most talented wizards of lighting and effects about his thoughts on his field, his projects, and his passion.  Dustin is at the forefront of creativity in his realm.  He runs lights and visuals with The Mantras and the People’s Blues of Richmond, does independent stage and lighting work with Videometry Visuals, and works with a collaborative art installation company, Activated Art. Dustin is a busy man in high demand.  Lets see what he’s up to.

Dustin- Good to heap with you- firstly, can you tell me a where you are right now with all of your projects, The Mantras, People’s Blues of Richmond and your stage lighting and video work? 

Absolutely!  As you mentioned, The Mantras and PBR are the bands that I work with, and they each have some exciting dates this summer.  Videometry Visuals is looking forward to providing lots of festival site lighting this summer.  I kind of randomly acquired a pile of old school projectors off of Craigslist and have been recycling some older technology into mechanisms to make trees breathe nicely for your eyeballs.  I had done this on a smaller scale at Mantrabash a few years ago, so its exciting to spreading it out over larger areas.  Keep an eye out for my stuff all over Roosterwalk, FloydFest, Mad Tea Party Jam and The BIG What?.  As far as my installations, Activated Art just finished two Mellow Mushroom art installations in the greater Richmond area, including a holographic window display and a projection mapped topographical paint can sculpture.


Whew, I’m both excited and tired for you just thinking about all that.  I imagine working in so much capacity that it must be hard to stay passionate and creative, is this accurate for you at all?

Well, I love creating the visual experience for sound.  I am always passionate about it.  Sometimes when I filter a sound through my brain it will evoke some specific visual to me immediately.  Other times I’ll consciously decide if I think the music sounds warm or cold, and try to choose a palette and texture that matches.  Two of my favorite feelings in the world are noticing someone in the crowd laughing to a particular clip I’m running, and getting people to put their hands in the air.  I swear when you put the lights in people’s eyes at the end of a song they all raise their hands in the air.  I think your limitations, as an artist can be both a blessing and a curse in the creative quest.

Very cool, and prophetic.  I want to touch for a second on your live murals and image mapping.  These two things have always stood out to me about you because they’re always incredibly psychedelic and unique.  Can you comment on some of your favorite pieces, ones where you may have even impressed yourself?

I collaborated with several artists on a mural at the BIG What? last summer- Ania Amador, Ashton Hill, Annie Bennett, Dillon Endico, Leslie Caneda and Bryan Stacy.  They painted a beautiful depiction of a deer drinking water from a river, which I mapped and tweaked out with color and texture.  The result was both very psychedelic as you mentioned, but also calming and serene.  It was a cool balance I don’t think I had struck before with projection-mapped paintings.  The painters in this scene are some of the most amazingly talented and weird people I’ve ever met.  I love to both project their work and animate it for projection mapping.  Go buy their artwork!

Mural painted by: Jessica Camilli, Jenee Harrison, Leslie Caneda, Bradzilla, Lacey Vilandry, Jerry Cahill, Josh Zarambo, Julia Catherine


I am familiar with a lot of those guys; they’re all great like you said.  Speaking of collaborating- I know you like to do it but I imagine it can get difficult.  How hard is it for you to work with others, take someone’s idea and make it a reality? 

Obviously, any collaboration has it’s own set of challenges.  Some are easier than others.  I have a few designers I work with on regular basis that I’ve been able to really dial in with.  Maurice Legendre of Sacred Element Designs has designed several stages I have operated that look way better than anything I could have designed by myself.  We laugh that he builds a giant toy, and I get to play with it, and really this is not too far off from reality.   Sometimes people request that I animate a stage a certain way when I have no idea what they’re talking about.  It’s kind of like seeing shapes in the clouds.  I’ll print coloring book pages of the stage and let people draw their ideas on the design in, and then I use those to incorporate them into the mapping.

I had always wondered how in the world get from start to finish on some of those bigger projects.   You have mentioned a lot of your talented peers, who is one of your heroes, someone that got you interested in lighting and design?

Saxton Waller was melting my face as STS9’s light designer before I even knew you needed a haze machine for light beams to appear.  The projects that V Squared Labs did in 2011 on Amon Tobin’s ISAM were all hugely influential to me in seeing how powerful video can be.

Dustin, thank you for taking a second to jaw with me.  Your work is one of the things that keep guys like me hooked on our scene.  One last one before we part ways- riding around with a bunch of smelly musicians in a van, is it the best of times or the worst of times?

Never a dull moment.

Thanks buddy, see you soon!