RACHAEL Johnston and Ken Weston, better known as Strictly & Lowdown, will return to Mix-Up at Splendour in the Grass 2010 for their tenth consecutive year.

The VJs will re-contextualise and remix Splendour’s unique artwork themes as well as generate original video pieces and work alongside international artists such as LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip.

Former Sunshine Coast resident Rachael took time out of her busy warm-up schedule to give the low down on Splendour, the D'aguilar Range and why VJs are much more than glorified AV technicians.

What is VJing?

Basically it's painting with music or music visualisation.

VJing is a broad term for real time visual performance.

A VJ will take sources of visual images, whether it's original material, stock footage, samples from a 1950s movie, or live camera feeds and manipulate the imagery in synchronisation to music for an audience.

How did you become Strictly & Lowdown?

Ken (Weston) and I met at a film school. We were both completely obsessed with films and music and hit it off straight away.

We started DJing together, but quickly realised we could combine both loves with VJing. At the time, we didn't know anyone that was doing it and it was before the internet days so all our information came from music magazines and TV shows.

We bought a Fairlight CVI, which is a rare 80's video synthesiser, and started playing around with it. Then we started putting parties on in warehouses with bands and DJs.

What happened after that?

Following that, we started working with small local bands and toured with the Resin Dogs.

We also ventured into directing and producing music clips. That little foray ended in us winning some Queensland New Filmmakers Awards.

We also won a VJ competition that Triple J was running. The prize was VJ sets at Big Day Out festival and the next year I was offered a job touring nationally with the festival.

One of the most exciting for me was mixing live camera for Beastie Boys and Snoop Dogg at Good Vibrations festival.

Running the Franz Ferdinand visual show recently and the live visuals for Lily Allen at Splendour 2007 was pretty special too, but I think the best experience has been working with Powderfinger. We are in pre production now for the big Sunsets tour coming up.

Strictly & Lowdown has been VJing at Splendour in the Grass since the festival began in 2001. How has the festival - and your performance - changed since then?

Well the first year was almost a disaster!

We were VJing for a band and unfortunately one of our borrowed 16mm film projectors wasn't earthed properly, and, as a result we were unwittingly pulling down the power of half the site! Luckily the cause was discovered before doors opened that weekend.

To me, Splendour hasn't changed a great deal - of course it has grown in size, production, and incorporates far more entertainment - but it still has a similar community ethos and feeling that Splendour organisers set out to create from the beginning. It's definitely one of our favourite weekends of the year. 

Our performance will always be changing and improving, depending on technology, inspirations, collaborations.

Strictly & Lowdown has just returned from performing VJ club sets in New York City. What was it like? How does the scene in the United States compare to Australia’s?

It felt like the idea of VJing and being a VJ was a valid performance genre.

I was billed on the club promotions and flyers, people from record companies actually came to see me perform, people asked questions and the feedback was very overwhelming.

I was set up next to the DJ on stage and really part of the performance. Often in Australia a VJ is treated as a glorified AV technician - someone who knows how to plug in a DVD player. And I don't really like plugging in DVD players...

Is that where the real scene is?

The real scene is in Europe and although Ken and I have worked in the Dance area at Glastonbury festival in the UK we haven't explored much of Europe.

I am aiming to get over to Vienna and Berlin for some VJ club shows at the end of the year. 

Rachael, you’re originally from the Sunshine Coast. What’s it like having Splendour in the Grass in your backyard? Any tips for non-locals?

I spent most of my childhood overseas with my parents and we moved to the Sunshine Coast on the D'aguilar Range when I was 15.

It is a beautiful native bushland area and our family house has an amazing view of the Glasshouse Mountains.

As a 15-year-old I never thought that the Pixies would actually drive up the D'aguilar range! 

Tips for non locals would be to drive really carefully on the highway and to look up at the sky at night time because the stars are amazing!

What big acts do you foresee having the best visuals at Splendour?

Actually I have to say that Empire of The Sun have a fantastic visual show. They have created an audio/video synced show which includes theatre and costumes, and in terms of visuals, that's definitely one to see.

We are really looking forward to working with LCD SoundSystem,  Hot Chip, Yacht Club DJs, Yolanda be Cool. Some acts bring their own visuals, and sometimes we use just creative live camera, you'll just have to come in and see what we are doing!

For those unlucky people who can’t make it to Splendour, where can they see Strictly & Lowdown perform?

When we are not touring, most weekends we have a VJ residency at Family Nightclub in Brisbane.

I will be doing a Late Night Addiction party at Monastery on 20 August - you can catch Baby Gee, Danny T and Habebe from Late Night Addiction at Splendour in the Grass- and then we go straight into Powderfinger Sunsets Tour, Parklife and Stereosonic National Tour.

It's going to be a busy end of year!

Check out Strictly & Lowdown at the Mix-Up stage and during LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip sets at Splendour in the Grass 2010.

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