Firas Abou Fakher is part of popular Lebanese rock outfit Mashrou' Leila. The band has released four studio albums and is currently gearing up for another sold-out European tour later this month.
We caught up with Fakher ahead of his upcoming talk on stage design at Dubai's ING creative festival and he shared some wonderful tips on design thinking for stage designers and musicians alike.
How did you get into stage designing? Are you the primary stage/set designer for Mashrou Leila?
Coming from a background of Architecture and Design, one of the earliest passions was getting into the visual space of performance. Whether it was the locations used, stage design, stage visuals and projections, costume design etc.
I am by no means the only designer in Mashrou Leila. We all come from similar backgrounds and share an enormous love for art, architecture and design. During the early years of Mashrou Leila we all really enjoyed doing DIY stage design, costumes and basic stage design, and especially an affinity for using unexpected spaces for recording and performing. The first real opportunity for a full stage design came during our headlining performance at Byblos International Festival in 2010. We were headlining alongside giant names in the industry and we wanted to prove that the opportunity we were presented was worthy, we ended up gathering hundreds of old TV sets from around the country, and designing a multiplex system to sync and control them.
If you had to give three tips to musicians regarding designing their stage. What would they be?
The first would be to properly assess limits and logistics, a simple design that is well done is far more effective than an overly ambitious but badly executed one. There are some tips and tricks to learn along the way, for instance, one element multiplied enough times can create harmony and textural depth and can produce a high visual value.
Second, never forget the power of lighting, some of the most impressive performances I've seen have relied entirely on lighting, the contrasts and dynamics of good lighting add incredible emotional value to stages.
Third, always look for the proper references, the obvious ones are other artists but the scale of those designs are usually unattainable and far above the technical expertise of emerging artists, I've found a lot more inspiration in fashion runway shows, Storefront designs, as well as artist's 'sessions' in unexpected and unlikely spaces. And always keep an archive, a simple folder for ideas.
How has your design thinking and skills evolved over the years?
The blessing of being able to tour and visit many cities and watch many performances has had an enormous impact on my approach to design. The moments I spent watching global acts set up and build their stages in festivals, and working with different lighting engineers across the world has given me tremendous insight into the field.
Do you consider the live performance aspect while writing a song?
Definitely, especially if I really enjoy playing the song while recording and I feel it could be a great live track. A lot of the work actually goes into arranging the song for a live performance after it is done, giving it a particular arrangement specifically for when it is to be performed.
Any tips for young musicians seeking to deliver an awesome live performance?
Focus on the music first, and the physicality of your performance, that's what it comes down to. Spend time watching video recordings of yourself and really work on it. Being able to focus people's attention when on stage is an incredible feeling and can be transformative for artist and audience. Also, always keep it simple, find workarounds and ways to get the most from every element that is placed on stage.
For more info on the Firas Abou Fakher's upcoming talk on stage design visit https://www.ingcreatives.com/
Image Courtesy: Supplied