Sooner Routhier has been involved in some of the biggest touring acts in the world. With credits such as Rihanna, Rage Against the Machine, Motley Crue, and Bon Jovi to her name, Routhier knows her way around the production industry. We sat down with Sooner for an email chat about how she works and who she works with.
From the lighting designer’s perspective, how do you approach putting together a lighting display for a band?
Every band and tour is different. Artists have their own creative processes and visions. I always start by having a general discussion of how they vision the show. What mood do they want to set? Do they want certain elements such as video and scenic? Or just stick to lighting. Often times, a simple phone conversation or email chain does the job. Sometimes I ask them to send me images that strike or interest them. It could be as simple as putting together a collage from google images and having a quick phone discussion. The final questions I ask regard what products they want to see on stage. Do they want any scenic elements? Video? Just lighting? All these things should integrate with one another in order to create a cohesive design.
What are some common techniques used in lighting design? For instance, if a band has a really well known chorus, how would you usually use the lights to accent it?
It all goes back to the music. After all, that’s what we’re supporting – the music and the musicians. If the band is prompting the audience to sing along, I’ll sometimes highlight the audience. There are some musicians that allow you to be literal with their music. For example, I recently programmed a show for country artist Justin Moore. He has a song called “Small town USA.” The entire song is done in patriotic red, white, and blue.
For a high profile bands, such as the bands that Daddy Van works with, how many pieces of lighting equipment are involved and how much does that kind of a set up usually cost?
It really depends on the size of the design. Some artists are high profile but don’t need a ton of production support to create an amazing show. Perfect example – Rage Against the Machine. They’re entire visual production consists of a backdrop and four straight trusses of lighting. BUT, they often sell out to crowds of 50,000 plus. On the other hand, there are artists like Motley Crue. They are an extremely theatrical and require a high amount of lighting and visuals. I’ve worked with shows that have 350 lighting instruments in stadiums and arenas to shows that have 24 lights in clubs and theaters.
When working with Daddy Van, how does the video element play into the lighting design? Do you work with the video feed in any particular way?
Colors. Colors. Colors. I find that if there is too much going on in the video with colors, the stage begins to look muddy. I always try to match the colors in the lighting with colors in video. Video projects a HUGE amount of light on a stage. It can dominate if there isn’t enough negative space. SO, you have to be aware of how all those colors are going to blend.
Which Daddy Van clients have you worked with?
Motley Crue and Disturbed.
Which has been the most challenging?
They both come with their different challenges. Both of those artists are very engaged with the creative processes of their shows. They work with us through most of the edits and different versions that we create.
Which has been the most fun to work with?
They’re all fun! All different!
Any remarkable stories that you can think of when working with Daddy Van Clients?
David Draiman asked Charlie to create a video based on the Holocaust. David is the grandchild of Holocaust survivors so it was a pretty intense moment for him. I remember going through the creative process with Charlie. I had nightmares for weeks! The visual elements for the song “Never Again” were haunting and horrific but did exactly what they were supposed to do. MAKE PEOPLE REALIZE THE TRUTH. That’s where Charlie strikes the right chords. He prompts reactions and provokes thoughts through intense visuals.
Sooner Routhier co-operates her own company SRae Productions alongside Robert Long.