BRIGHT LIGHTS NO CITY: George Gorton on the death trap of creativity


It's our 10th anniversary this year and we're feeling a little weepy‒that’s why we’ve dusted off the archives to bring you highlights from our back issues over the last 10 years. Join us as we take a look back at 10 years of SAD Magazine, revisiting the memories and the people that made SAD what it is today. We're not crying, you’re crying.

Illustration by Mettlelurgy

Illustration by Mettlelurgy

 Farah Tozy: Tell me a bit about yourself.

George Gorton: My name is George Gorton and I’m a production designer from Richmond, BC. Right now I live here in Richmond half the time, and the rest of the time I’m in Toronto. I design for concert tours, television and luxury brands. My company Loud specializes in doing integration between video and lighting for live performances as well as activations for advertising. We blend reality and people’s interactions into a live performance. We build a lot of the systems ourselves and we only use control systems, which means we don’t run the lighting specifically, but we have the computers to run them. That’s why what we’re doing is so unique; a lot of the time companies use tools, whereas we’re building the tools ourselves. People want to go to a concert and have an immersive environment.

 FT: How did you start Loud Productions?

 GG: I started by doing lights for concerts in high school and somehow charging the school for it! It’s progressed a lot since then of course. I decided to create Loud right after I graduated high school. It was after the sad realization that not everyone can be the next super rock star. I just wanted to be involved in music. It was sort of a natural blend since I love technology and music. The whole production company in the sense of promoting, isn’t something I really like—you’ll notice I have no contact info on my website. I think people are really attracted to that mystery though. My clients vary from the highest-grossing country artist in Canada to a gritty electronic artist playing at raves and in forests. For me to go out and brand myself as the guy who does country or rock-and-roll is such a set back. I can’t go to the Fairmont and say, “Hey I was just at a rave last week.” I think being a bit mysterious allows a lot of creativity.

FT: That makes a lot of sense; it gives you a lot of room to test out new ideas. When did you realize this was your passion?

GG: At first, I was trying to get involved in theatre shows since there’s a sense of camaraderie that happens when you pump yourselves up and get things done. But before I realized lighting was something I wanted to design, I knew I wanted to be involved in that camaraderie. When you’re touring, there’s a real feeling for a collective push; everyone kind of pushes towards the same goal. That’s what got me geared up on it. It’s definitely unique. Plus I love technology and now there’s this amazing opportunity where people in music and entertainment are crossing over to this interactive world. Then there are companies like Microsoft who are interested in robotics and interactions. Both groups are meeting in the middle, and that’s where I come in. Life is like a cocktail; you just have to mix all these different elements you love to make it what it is.

 FT: Now you’ve toured with Johnny Reid, Dan Mangan, Mother Mother, Hannah Georgas, and many more artists, what would you say is your favourite experience?

GG: I’ve never really had a bad tour. I really liked the Mother Mother tour because I was touring with two of my friends, so hanging out with two of your best buds all the time is just the greatest thing ever. Another favourite moment was when I went to Ibiza with a lighting company. It was crazy to be dropped into this madness of drum and bass at the age of 19. In general, travelling to places related to work is the best!

 FT: What would you say is your favourite genre at the moment? 

GG: I really like music that’s weird. I think being weird is awesome. Everyone should just let the freak flag fly all the time. People who make weird music are making music that’s unaltered by people; it’s just this puke of their feelings. I can definitely respect it. On the flip side, I do see a lot of music come and go that’s manufactured. What’s interesting is that electronic music is having a huge influence on the way we perceive concerts. Since DJs don’t have to travel with a band or have many expenses because of it, there’s this huge room to do lights and visuals that previously wasn’t a thing. Now, electronic music has this opportunity to make the experience cooler and make it more interesting. 

FT: Your most recent project was TED Talks. How was that experience for you?

GG: Oh my god, it was so awesome…we collaborated with Michael Green architects, a Vancouver company that’s currently pushing the boundaries of sustainable buildings for the All Star Stage. What a lot of people don’t know is that Procreation Design Works, which is the company that produces TED, is actually in Vancouver. For me, it felt like I was a sponge being thrown into the ocean. There’s just so much stuff that amazed me. There is a cool challenge working with TED, going back to what we were talking about earlier with brands: it’s a cool challenge to take yourself out of your usual setting, and be surrounded by extreme intellectuals, like I ran into Bill Gates in the hallway. I was like, “Hey! I loved Windows XP!” Just kidding, I said it under my breath.

FT: Why did you choose to have your studio in suburban Richmond?

GG: The city’s so brutal, it’s like a creative black hole of death. Its loud, annoying, and I find it to be the worst place. The building my studio is in is amazing. It was built in 1884, and MacGyver and X-Files have been filmed in it! It’s totally beautiful, quiet, and my neighbours are nice. I can get fish and chips down the road. Plus, I can afford to be in Toronto and here. If I was in the city I’d be a slave to the death trap of creativity and I would also be constantly poor. There are some places that are exceptions to that, like Mount Pleasant. I grew up in Steveston so it seemed so normal [to live here]; it’s just so close to everything. There’s something to be said to the benefits of the suburbs though. People are quick to be in “hip” areas, competing for who has the coolest dog or who’s wearing the best scarf or who’s the biggest loser. Sure, commuting home on Friday night sucks, but I just really need trees around. I wanna go out with my sweatpants, my sister’s sunglasses, and a bandana around my head and not care. If I’m on Main Street, I’ve gotta put my skinny jeans and vintage tee on, plus I gotta make sure my pants are hangin’ my ass out the appropriate amount. I really don’t want any of that in my life… Obviously there are loads of people who live by their own rules or world, I don’t think its fair to generalize everyone into one. I just think our generation is disillusioned to live in an urban centre. I sound like a bitter Betty! I do think people should be confident in their own ideas and plans to live where they want; it’s just that for me, I love the quiet and peace.

FT: Any upcoming plans for Loud?

GG: I do Shambhala every year, which is always such an honour since there are such super creative people and great vibes. That’s the next big thing. One thing that I’m really excited about is a restaurant design, which is a new frontier for me: using the technology we use at concerts and incorporating that to a restaurant, so you could have dinner and have blue skies above. There are a lot of interesting opportunities with that. I think with future projects it’s just how far and how weird you can take what we’re doing now. If what we’re doing is just a tool in the toolbox, what could we do next? I feel like every time we make a new thing, there’s something better being created around the corner. Ten years from now, we’ll be flying around and have laser beams coming out of our tits.

This piece was first published in 2014 for Issue No. 16/17: Suburbia.
Visit our shop to purchase this and other past issues of SAD!