Collaborations and commissions
- Baba Ali
- Blanck Mass
- Border Community
- City Slang
- Domino Records
- East India Youth
- Factory Floor
- Fred again..
- Girls Names
- Gold Panda
- Haji K
- Hot 8 Brass Band
- I Break Horses
- Indian Wells
- James Holden & The Animal Spirits
- Jon Hopkins
- Kelly Lee Owens
- Kieran Hebden (Four Tet)
- Lauren Doss
- Live Footage
- Lobster Theremin
- Luke Abbott
- Martin Duffy
- Nathan Fake
- Pictish Trail
- Richard Pike
- Salmon Universe
- Sam Willis
- Sister Bliss (Faithless)
- Sky Larkin
- Steve Mackey
- The Charlatans
- Tim Burgess
- Times New Viking
- Trunk Records
- Will Dutta
- XL Recordings
I’m a music-industry artist, with a strong focus on creating live visuals, installations, and videos that bring music to life for audiences all around the world
As a creator of live visuals for gigs, festivals and global tours, I’ve worked with Jon Hopkins, Fred again.., Gold Panda, and Midland. From initial concepting to live VJ performances, AV coordination to lighting design, I can see a show through from start to finish – whatever the scale. Along every step, I work closely with performers to ensure that we extend the scope of their performance, and accentuate their work in all-new ways.
I’ve installed and performed at venues including the Sydney Opera House, Brixton Academy, the Royal Festival Hall, Berlin Funkhaus, Utrecht TivoliVredenburg and Brooklyn Steel. Festival work includes Coachella, Melt, Glastonbury (West Holts, Park and Glade stages), Fuji Rocks, Montreux Jazz, Primavera and Sonar.
As a music video director and producer, I’ve worked with Nathan Fake, Four Tet and Tim Burgess. I’m very comfortable working with musicians, artists, and brands to develop ideas and concepts that match their identity and vision – I know how musicians think, and bring that deep understanding to every project.
As a photographer and designer, my work has been used on record sleeves and for press shots by artists and labels including City Slang, XL Recordings, Border Community and Notown. I’m also an educator, teaching BA courses in Film and Fine Art.
My tech & techniques
I’m most happy creating experimental works that blend effects from vintage analogue equipment, cutting-edge digital tools, and recorded physical phenomenon such as water, oils and glass. I work in a process-intensive manner, iterating many generations of images through analogue video mixers and effects units, as well as contemporary modular video synthesisers. These signals are mixed and manipulated through software like VDMX, then recorded and edited and layered in Final Cut Pro. I also make use of After Effects, Photoshop, VUO, Lumen and Touch Designer to complete each piece.
When it comes to performance, I use audio software such as Ableton to create MIDI notes and synchronisation tools that mean musicians can feel free to improvise and modify a live performance, knowing that the visuals will be dynamically matched. VDMX has been my go to tool for live shows for over 15 years. For several years I’ve been invited by the VIDVOX team to Beta test new features for them. I also make use of Livid and Novation MIDI controllers, and rely on using a Roland HD video mixer for performance work too.
A few career highlights
Jon Hopkins, Sydney Opera House (2020) For the Singularity tour, I collaborated with Jon to create and perform visuals for the entire show. I created bespoke work myself, directed other artists and animators, and designed the lighting system. The show evolved over a hectic schedule across Europe, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and the USA, and we constantly took it to another level, such as when I added a laser show into the mix (I love lasers). We then returned to Australia to share the show once last time, and performing at the Opera House, to a totally joyous crowd, was absolutely humbling.
FILA: 110-year anniversary (2021) I worked with art director and musician Steve Mackey (Pulp) to create a campaign for sports brand FILA. The concept was to show their latest sportswear collection against a backdrop of classic 8-bit sports video games, creating a themed fashion event. The brief allowed me to explore one of my favourite aesthetics and give it a hyper-contemporary feel. We also had to build a 30x7 meter LED corridor on a catwalk for the models to walk down. The public response to the finished promo video was extraordinary.
Hello Moon, Can you Hear Me? (2016) Through working with Tim Burgess and The Charlatans, I got to meet Professor Tim O’Brien, a big fan of Manchester music and a radio astronomer at Jodrell Bank. He invited me to make a video using recordings from the radio telescope. It was a huge privilege to be given the audio files, and to spend some weeks visualising all these sounds from around our solar system. The project was presented live at Jodrell Bank, under the radio telescope, during their Blue Dot festival.
Interview with Ralph Moore (2018)
Visual artist, creator and curator, Dan Tombs has a knack of being in the right place at the right time.
As well as creating single and album sleeve artwork for the likes of Gold Panda, XL Recordings, Border Community and NOTOWN, he’s spent the past decade working as a solo artist and also a key collaborator for the likes of The Charlatans, James Holden, Gold Panda, Blanck Mass (“the work we did is an absolute horror show!“) and arguably his most fruitful collaboration alongside Jon Hopkins, now one of the biggest artists in the contemporary electronic space.
“Jon, James and Gold Panda I’ve worked with the most,” smiles Dan, as he looks back on his career midway through November. “I didn’t officially collaborate with James until 2015 but I was doing visuals for Border Community nights at The End and at Corsica Studios ten years ago.”
“Nathan Fake introduced me to Jon at a Border Community party in 2010, and shortly after he invited me to collaborate on his live show. And I met Gold Panda replying to his jokes on Twitter!”.
Initially, Dan was known for his glitch and 8-bit inspired set pieces, having begun his path as a young Jedi who learned how to hack his way into a Sega Master System console, but his work has been adapting and morphing via musical synergy ever since.
And while he’s come a long way since his early forays with Luke Abbott from Border Community, he’s now a true master of his environment, although he admits that when you’re working with a musician as big as Jon Hopkins, it's hard not to feel the pressure.
“There’s a huge amount of expectation,” nods Dan. “Jon’s performance is tightly choreographed, once the show starts, there’s little room to recover from an error so everything has to be perfect every night. Whereas for a club night, you can experiment a bit and you can afford to take some risks.”
“The last couple of years I did visuals for a stage at The Liverpool Psych Fest, which meant 13-14 hour sets per night. That’s demanding in a different way, constantly innovating and giving the audience something new and evolving, whilst dealing with temperamental analogue gear, wonky projection mapping and sleep deprivation.”
Dan’s creative path started in a similar place to so many others in music: with a love of Lego and a supportive family. “My father is an architect and my mother always worked in children’s education,” says Dan. “And yes, I loved Lego as a child – who doesn’t? – but bringing that play into a professional zone lead to art classes at school and photography and whatever I could bully my parents into letting me do!”
Dan decided to go to Norwich and study for a Fine Art Degree (“technically a painting degree!”) and from there, learned about working with 8mm film. “I wanted to explore the creative limitations and to be decisive about the edits, make work without the safety net of an undo key.”
But the direct line into music came via his fellow co-creative Luke Abbott, a musician best known for his work on Border Community with Nathan Fake and of course James Holden.
“It’s all to do with my friend Luke really,” he explains.
“We met at art school, he grew up in Norfolk and had a bunch of mates playing in underground bars and saw me making Super 8 and said I should come down and make projections. I got restless watching the films play through, and started to manipulate the reels and physically used my hands to cover the lenses to do a box rave for 4 hours! In addition to my own short films, I would pick up Hollywood movies from boot fairs like Superman and The Sting on Super 8 and later started adding circuit-bent eighties games consoles.”
“There is a vibrant community of people who take low-grade electronic kit and make them do stuff that they wouldn’t normally do, most of these people (like Autechre) were hacking audio kit to make otherworldly noises, I loved the concept and wanted to see how I could apply the process to the visual realm, hence chancing upon obsolete games consoles to make erratic fields of vibrant colours.”
This, in essence, is what makes Dan tick. He’s not a musician but he thinks like one and so was in touch with experimental musicians who needed his visual eye: and this is where the magic started to happen.
When someone showed Dan an Apple Power Book with VIDVOX VJ software in 2004, he started combining computer technology with what he was doing, combining all of this with sound, he was up and running.
“Then Luke Abbott got signed to Trevor Jackson’s label Output and did the last vinyl release on Output and the video we made went onto MTV2 which was incredibly exciting! It felt like the last gasp of MTV playing Music Videos in 2006.”
And while Dan loves electronic music, he’s also spent a lot of time with The Charlatans, who still command an audience of up to 5,000 across the country today.
“I loved the work we did at Brixton: it was a total touring highlight, The LX operator and I learned the show so well that we were able to nail blackouts on individual drum hits, plunging the whole venue into total darkness, and then in a breath take the room back to maximum illumination. And what a rush it was to feel the excitement from so many people.”
Unlike many musicians, Dan’s buzz is from a safer off stage vantage point: and he’s more than happy to be operating from that space.
“You’re a bit hidden, you’re the magician behind the curtain. The more curious audience members will find me though, particularly touring with Hopkins as his audience will often make an effort to thank me. ‘It’s midweek, I haven’t taken a thing and yet you’ve given me the most intense trip of any my life.’ That’s a great reward for the hard work involved in bringing a long consistent run of shows to large audiences, from 8000 people in an old quarry at MELT festival to the Saturday night slot on the Park Stage at Glastonbury.”
The next steps for Dan are understandably to continue what he’s doing and explore the edges of his creativity not just on the road, but also on sleeve art: he cites legendary UK artist Peter Saville as a key inspiration (“I will gladly buy any of his sleeves”) as well as Trevor Jackson, Alexander Peverett and French experimentalist Sabrina Ratté.
He dreams of working with New Order as well as Gareth Edwards, who directed Monsters and of course Rogue One. But he also wants to do more physical work for single and album artwork.
“The satisfaction is undeniable,” he says of his design work, which will soon end up as limited edition screen prints. Live video work is temporary, ephemeral, “So it has been really rewarding making record sleeves and seeing my work in racks all around the world. I’ve done fine art and gallery projects that feel worthy and intellectual but record sleeves are an unlimited edition object that enters peoples lives, the ability to make images that people have a long-standing relationship with is an area that interests me greatly.”