Top photo by Theo Jemison.
It used to be that a concert was just a band performing on a stage somewhere. People
would show up and enjoy the tunes, but things stayed pretty static when it came to the visuals. Then somewhere along the line concerts evolved to include visual
art that could energetically complement the on-stage performances. Hoping to learn
more about this intriguing world of “VJing,” I caught up with the one of the preeminent names in
live visuals. David Wexler, aka Strangeloop, has provided
visual art for Skrillex, Daedelus, The Gaslamp Killer, Daddy Kev, and Samiyam, among many
others. He also just completed the You’re Dead Tour with legendary performer Flying
Lotus, fellow visual artist Timeboy, and the sex panther of funk bass icons, ThunderCat. Below is a clip of Wexler’s
recent footage from the tour.
I asked Wexler about his ongoing contributions to Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label crew in hopes of learning more about the
history that led him to a career in psychedelic cinematics. He traced his involvement
back to a bond with college friend, Steve Ellison, at the San Francisco Academy of Arts,
where they both studied film. Ellison would later become the Flying Lotus.
“We both had an affinity for avant-garde films [and] sci-fi anime. We
became good friends, working on various projects together and introducing each other to
different art, movies, and music that were inspiring us. When we both came back to LA, we
lost touch for a while, and I was trying to get into film, but found my work consistently
too bizarre and psychedelic to have any cultural context that made sense.”
Finding a niche for his unique skills proved to be a challenge, and Wexler wasn’t sure of how to
make home in the industry for himself.
“I felt like a failure. Most of my family was in cinema, and I couldn’t find a context to really do the sort of out-there cinema I wanted to do. I had a few films in festivals, but I couldn’t see how I could make a living from any of it.”
Light finally chased away the shadows one
fateful night when he ran into Steve again at Los Angeles’ own Low End Theory.
Seeing the fiery devotion of the fans and the early magic of a budding Flying Lotus
sparked something in Wexler. “I immediately felt like there was something really incredible going on, even if it was just in the process of being formed,” he stated.
The two reconnected, and over the next few years grew
roots alongside three of the most experimental powerhouses in the contemporary LA
music scene: Daedelus, the Gaslamp Killer, and Samiyam. “They were all blowing my
mind,” said Wexler. “They had two key things in common: they were all playing at
Low End Theory, and they were all being signed to Lotus’ new label Brainfeeder.”
Photo by Sifr.
Before long, Ellison asked Wexler to join the Brainfeeder crew. After an experimental run doing live visuals at the first Brainfeeder event in Los Angeles, Wexler received an unprecedented response.
“The community around seemed baffled by the whole thing and really supported me. People
like Daddy Kev, Sam Xl, gave me creative space to go wild and supported the idea of visuals being a big part of the show. Suddenly, I had a job, doing visuals for shows, primarily in Los Angeles. I was hooked. It was everything I wanted to do with cinema; it was spontaneous, there were no rules, and nothing was off limits. It was a way of turning people onto my favorite films and animations.”
With space to experiment and grow, Wexler’s visual projects blossomed as an integral part of the live Flying Lotus experience and a signature of quality for many on the Brainfeeder roster.
Last fall, Low End Theory (LET) celebrated the seven-year anniversary of weekly concerts
hosted by the artists on the Brainfeeder label. Wexler spoke on fierce loyalty of the Low
End community, the residents, and setting the stage for LA artists to grow.
“Low End Theory is an incredible incubator for so many talents; it always has been.
Daddy Kev is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever known. He creates an environment where people can experiment and try things out with the sort of freedom that is enhanced by what you see all the residents doing with it [onstage]. They take that freedom and run with it. No genre is off limits. Someone like Gaslamp is an inspiration, because he’s there to inspire, not just to make money
from the next generation; he’s like a flailing mad lightning rod for cosmic energy. The
whole residency creates, and has created, an environment where the next thing can
bloom, where it’s not just about what’s trending–I love that.”
As an integral part of the Brainfeeder story, Wexler’s work has been key to the mind-
bending nostalgia that’s become a staple in the LET community. When I asked what it
all meant to him, he took a deep breath, sat back, and stared off as if to contemplate
where the time had gone.
“It’s a great honor that we get to
bring in some projectors every week, push pixels around, and create an illuminated
space for musicians to perform.”
For Wexler, it’s not about getting rich or famous. It’s about building and sustaining the community by creating a place for its champions to grow.