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Five Minutes with...Ian Stephenson

Posted on 7 February 2019

We caught up with Ian Stephenson, known for his stunning guitar and melodeon playing in innovative folk bands such as Kan and Baltic Crossing, ahead of his innovative solo show here at Sage Gateshead on Friday 1 March.

Can you explain in basic terms what the technology in the show is and what it allows you to do?

The show ‘Modulate’ uses pedal-free looping technology: basically a laptop, a microphone and some software. From the audience’s point of view it’s like seeing and hearing a well produced album being pieced together in front of their eyes. The software records bits of the performance, playing them back and layering them at various points and sometimes in new unexpected contexts. It’s like having a band made up of many Ian Stephensons! – everything the audiences hears will have been captured live during the performance in front of them and combined into immersive musical arrangements.

What can people expect from the music and visuals at the show?
Alongside the music are visual elements which synchronise with the musical ideas, produced by mapping images from a powerful projector onto the stage area. Instruments glow as they prepare to be picked up, the floor might pulse with a rhythm, and there will be dramatic moments of light and dark to accentuate poignant moments.

What will the show experience be like for those attending?

I hope that the experience will be like a voyage of discovery. I love the idea that the audience is listening in an active way, trying to figure out how things are done and recognising musical themes as they return. The wonderful folk singer Kitty MacFarlane will open the evening with her own solo set, and will join me as a guest singer in the modulate performance too.

How did you come up with the concept of the show and what does it allow you to do that you otherwise couldn’t?

Until this inspiring new looping software (ALK2) came along, I found some looping performances to be lacking in subtlety or very repetitive. I was spurred on to try it for myself and chose the opportunity to dive into the world of looping, and subsequently thanks to my creative residency at English Folk Dance and Song Society and as an Associate Artist at Sage Gateshead, I have had the space and time to innovate and create a show that I hope the public will find engaging, entertaining and moving.

See Ian Stephenson: Modulate in Sage Two on Friday 1 March.

Ian Stephenson : Modulate from Ian Stephenson on Vimeo.