Leading the powerful pyro charge of Nickelback’s stage show is Crew Chief Steve Joseph. Steve is looking after the ever-expanding pyrotechnic package provided by JEM/FX Stage and Effect Engineering (www.jemfx.com). JEM has been a player in the movie industry for a number of years, and is roughly halfway into their first decade in touring. On this show with Steve is Casey Lake and Jason Jones.
Steve was working for Pantera in 2001, while in Canada finishing a leg with Slayer, Nickelback came to a show, saw the pyro, and subsequently hired Steve and JEM/FX. "It’s a close-knit group. I actually got my job with JEM/FX because Pantera wanted me to shoot their pyro. And then Nickelback sees Pantera, and they said, ‘if we can ever afford pyro – that’s what we want’."
According to Steve, "I’m not bragging, but JEM/FX has the best flame gear going." He’s had ample opportunity to test this theory with Nickelback, as the band embrace the full gamut of flame and fire
effects, and the inventory is on the rise. "Nickelback started out with a basic package – a few concussion heads, and mostly flame gear. And since January of 2002, they’ve let me consistently grow the system and get more creative with each leg of every tour.
"We load in right behind the lighting crew, and we don’t have that long of a day compared to those guys – maybe a three-hour setup. My time is spent with the fire marshals during the afternoon. They’ll show up at 3PM, and we’ll have anywhere from a ten-minute to a two-hour inspection.
Each day is different – a different set of rules, laws and regulations. Then we kick back until show time, and when the curtain falls, we’re ready for that first pyro."
Steve says their challenge was to utilize pyro that you’ve seen a hundred times, but with a different twist on it – "colors that complement the lighting, use of effects that go with particular lyrics – and of course, propane flames – these are the ‘balls out’ effects, because when I hit the five of them, the band wants it to be very aggressive and hard-hitting."
The pyro master adds the band is definitely feeling the heat up there – "especially our drummer – but he’s a warrior! If you ever get an opportunity to sit in the drum seat and let me hit all the flames – you
would think it’s the closest to being burned alive as you’d want to get!
"For these guys, we try to be tasteful and not overbearing. We use the propane flame effects selectively – and for 3.5 second bursts, it’s just enough to wind the crowd up, but not scare the fire marshals. We do five seconds max.
"The pre-loaded devices taken individually are not all that menacing – it’s a Class B indoor product, and that’s why we shoot six to ten of them at a time – to make it look big and full. And each time we shoot a
device, we also shoot a one-ounce concussion on a truss up in the air, so if you’re playing a big hockey arena and you hit that – it just went from being a pretty little poof to this big boom demonic hellfire coming at you!"
"While we try to do these effects tastefully, we also try to catch the audience off guard – you don’t want to make it so predictable that it always starts or closes the song. On Nickelback, a good description of
our pyro devices is that we use about 220 individual pieces of pre-loaded pyro – the one-shot gunpowder effect. During the first ten songs, we shoot 60 pieces. Now, the last song of the night is getting 160 pieces by itself! So it’s quite the finale, and I think we’re second only to KISS – as the master of all pyro!"
For firing the pre-load, he uses a Pyro Digital System – for years the kitchen sink firing system. He says Sigma Systems is now making a system that may have surpassed it with a few features – but the Pyro Digital’s capabilities, safety features and easy operation still render it state-of-the-art.
In closing, Steve says that pyro has proven to be instrumental in taking this show to the next production level. "If you’ve already got great sound and lighting companies, a fantastic LD – where do you go from
here?" he muses. "The thing is – everybody loves fireworks, so you can say what you want about gimmicks – it’s the heart of a true rock show. Everybody loves that element. They spend a lot of money on this – they don’t need pyro to make their show. The band wants to make this happen
for the fans. That says a lot.
Create a Free Website