Born in North Germany in 1983, Robert Grunwald aka Tiefton is one of the industry’s most trusted lighting technicians, having performed at Panorama Bar, Fabric, Oval Space, DC10, Space, and ADE to list but a few. Given free reign of Panorama Bar’s lighting since 2008, he honed his craft and built a unique visual interpretation of dance music. After doing the lights for Dixon in 2009, he developed a close friendship with the Innervisions crew, and has toured with them since.
You are in a unique profession, could you explain what you do?
I finished my three years training as an event technician in 2008. In this education you learn the basics, you need to set up stages, and you learn a lot about security instructions.
But you also learn a lot about the theory of sound and light. From the beginning of this education, I was interested in lights. So I start specializing into that direction.
How did you get started as a lighting technician?
During the education, I started working as a lighting technician in some clubs in Berlin. I still do every week an After Work Party that starts at 7 pm.
I was building up a lot of stages and lights on different venues but not operating them.
What kind of machines/instruments/tools you use?
When I started at Berghain in 2008, I got the chance to work every week with a GrandMa Console from MA Lighting. Over the years you get to know what you can do with it and for me, it´s still the best console to work with. Especially since the 2nd Generation of the GrandMA desks came out. When it comes to lighting fixtures, I prefer Moving Lights from the Czech company Robe Lighting or the Italian company Clay Paky.
What’s your creative process? What sort of preparation do you need to do before the show?
If I work in the clubs I´m in every week, I don´t need much preparation, cause everything is already set up. But for the jobs I do outside you need to check if you get all the material you need. And then it takes some preparation to program the show. Sometimes I do that at home, but most of the time I do to when I arrive at the venue. You need at least 2 or 3 hours to get everything done what you need for the show.
Who and what do you draw influence from?
I get my influence by watching other light guys doing their job…That can be on parties I go to or just by watching television and checking the big shows. The best light show in Television is still the European Song Contest. Jerry Appelt (famous German Light designer) really has amazing ideas. But it´s a little different to do a big stage instead of party lighting.
How do you balance light and darkness in your shows? (since darkness is more preferred in clubs)
I learned to deal with that especially at Panorama Bar. There you have to do the lights during daylight, and the sun comes in. I like to play with it. When the sun comes down, I´ll keep it light in the club as long as possible till I wait for the right moment to shut everything down. People on the dance floor really react to this pretty emotionally. And even me I still get goosebumps when you do big changes from one second to another. At night I try to do the same. Keep some party of the evening bright to get it dark in the right moment. That works the best if the DJ plays a set with ups and downs.
What are the creative challenges of your job?
I don´t see challenges. You have to get the mood of the situations. And I trust my experience and feelings to translate the music into lights.
Who are the artists you would most like to work with and why?
From the beginning, I liked the way how Dixon and Âme created their sets. I really like their way of telling a story. But there are so many other good artists i like to work with. To work with the residents of Panorama Bar always feels home and like family.
What advice would you give to anyone interested in getting into light/visuals as a career or even just as a hobby?
You need an understanding for technical stuff. The rest is just how you feel the music and your way of Interpretation. And speak to the light guys, they always like to talk about their job and feel happy if someone’s interested in what they are doing.
And, finally, what’s next for you? Any collaboration/exhibitions?
Next will be some Innervisions Parties all over Europe and for sure the parties at Panorama Bar.
Tiefton’s next light show can be seen at The Hydra: Mano Le Tough (All Night Long) at The Colombian in London on Friday 26th August. Full details are here: http://the-hydra.net/