Romain Pissenem lives by the aphorism that every show should tell a story, with a bold determination and the implementation of new technology — High Scream was born an audacious idea: by empowering the audience to become storytellers, challenging old techniques – it encourages us to not just sit back as spectators, but to participate in the unfolding events around us. Transforming event production from Ibiza, Dubai to Korea, the French-born visionary certainly knows how to create the most immersive experience imaginable.
A New Golden Age
Entrepreneurial achievements aside – Romain Pissenem’s influence lies in his imposing ability to lead and motivate a team to create work that exceeds expectations by adapting the latest technology and implementing bold ideas and propelling the rise of a new golden age in event production.
We caught up with the creative visionary behind High Scream to discuss his passions, shooting for the moon and the next frontier in event production.
How does it feel to have not just witnessed, but been a key catalyst, to the complexity, and caliber of music event production?
RP: It’s been quite a journey. Not just because I’ve had the privilege of witnessing change in the industry, but I have always believed, for the last 25 years, that show production is going to play such a huge part in electronic music. I’ve spent a lot of the latter part of my career pursuing that belief and designing, creating and directing shows to push our industry to the place and level I knew it could be.
What’s a standout production (proudest achievement) and what made it so?
RP: I’m proud of every production. All have their challenges and it would be very hard to focus on one but at the moment we are working on the new David Guetta world tour which is beautiful and I’m very proud to have put it together and work with such a talented team.
What’s been one of the most challenging shows to put on? How did you conquer it?
RP: For sure Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel and Hï Ibiza has to be one of our biggest challenges each year as we design and produce a minimum of 14 individual shows for 14 different resident artists plus special events such as Swedish House Mafia and Cocoon’s 20th Anniversary and we have to take into consideration the constraints of the venue. Ushuaïa is a working hotel which only gives us 5 hours each night to unset and set up each production with minimal noise and no disturbance. Then we get to operating these 14 different shows each week for 5 months without any days off so without a doubt we “conquer” it with the amazing team that we have in both venues,without each and every one of them there is no way the scale of the production we do would be possible. Their knowledge, dedication and passion is what drives us all to do bigger and better things each year!
How do you balance creative control, collaborating with talent and catering to a location’s constraints?
RP: I think it is very important to listen and work very closely with the talent as in the end it’s them that are giving a large part of themselves and their energy to the crowd. The story we tell with a show needs to support the artist, essentially creating a visual representation of their music. Once we have the show design, taking it on tour tends to be the biggest logistical challenge as it can mean having double sets going to multiple locations simultaneously to fit in with the artists complex tour schedule. But we make it happen!
High Scream was founded in the early 2000s in Paris.
What’s your dream location to put on a show that you haven’t yet? Dream talent to bring together?
RP: I think a lot of people would say the same thing – the moon or space, can I produce a show on the moon? Talent – I could think of one million different shows I could do on the moon which would allow for talent from around the world.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in music event production?
RP: Be prepared to work hard (really hard!), watch and listen to what’s going on in the industry and know no limits.
How has live-streaming impacted the type of risks you take on? (catering to an audience watching from afar, potentially unable to afford experiencing it firsthand)
RP: To be honest I don’t think about how big or small a risk is as I think that would be quite limiting. I always try to create a show that is as exciting for the people in the audience as it is for someone watching online at home. With or without a camera it’s our job to make the show perfect.
Which aspect(s) would you like to see change/evolve?
RP: I’m very happy to see more young people developing an interest in the industry and coming with a fresh way to look at production.
What’s the next frontier? (Tech advancement / way to make more magic happen?)
RP: I have a very good idea for that but I’m not going to tell it to you just yet!
What do you wish event attendees would start/stop doing?
RP: I have 2 which are actually very contradicting, last year we did an event where the energy was just phenomenal and it was only after 30 good minutes that I realized it was because no one was using their phone. The organizer had banned the use of mobile phones and it made me realize that we don’t take enough time to look at the show anymore, we are fixated on our phones – capturing it rather than experiencing it. We design stages and production with the mind that you need to see everything and take it all in, so I suppose I wish people would take a moment to breathe and take in the music, the show and the other people around them. Let’s be realistic though; mobile phones aren’t going anywhere so we have got to incorporate them into shows and use that as a tool for the audience to participate. We already have some applications where we are able to change the colour of phone screens to sync with the music, but this is very basic. I think that very soon we will build on this, like what my friend Willie Williams did for U2 for example. He created an augmented reality app for fans to use in concert venues by pointing it at the LED screen. Giving the audience more ability to interact with a show is definitely something to look at.
What’s kept the field exciting for you?
RP: I’ve been putting shows together since I was 17 and honestly I am excited every day I go to work wherever that may be. I want to always push to use new technologies, work with new people who want to make the experience better for the audience or who just want to create something different, the day I’m not passionate about my work is the day I will stop but I cant imagine that coming anyway soon there’s still so much to achieve and discover!
Fortunate to catch ANTS 2014’s Miami Music Week at SLS and this July at Ushuaïa, how do you see ANTS evolving?
RP: We are actually working now on the new tour production which is really coming together as we speak. So just wait and see if it’s where you want it to evolve too!
Though the Parisian influence remains. It’s quite apparent, High Scream’s defiant streak runs through Romain Pissenem’s imaginations. Thrusting Ibiza on to the world stage, and pushing the event industry to new heights.
We All Scream for High Scream
High Scream by numbers: 408 SHOWS THIS YEAR | 4.1M LIVE SPECTATORS
What kind of people can put on 14 different shows a week for an entire summer? These people can! Via a three-pronged attack of original design ideas, production experience and operations expertise, High Scream manages to pull off a seemingly impossible roster of events without compromising quality. Being able to triumph despite an intense schedule leaves me with some suspicion that they’re not entirely human, but they’re also really fun to be around, so I’m willing to take a chance. ~ Willie Williams (Set Designer)