I first got into lighting through my obsession with Psychedelic music. As a young child I was impressed with the Magic Lantern shows I saw on TV and my father was a Biology Teacher who at one point brought home a Rank Aldis slide projector and a box of film rolls.
In the late 80s while still at School, I bought The Psychedelic Sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators and reading the information on the back cover written by an uncredited Tommy Hall, I was invited into the world of Psychedelic culture.
Through this I learned about Light Shows, seeing the film of The Golden Road to (Unlimited Devotion) by The Grateful Dead with Oil Shows and motorised colour wheels on OHPs, Pink Floyd with their bubbling slides and then getting into Space Rock with Hawkwind and then seeing Fruit Salad Lights for early 90s Ozric Tentacles and Hawkwind shows, the ones with a gauze in front of the band for It is the Business of the Future to be Dangerous tour.
Around 1993 a record dealer friend of mine bought off his friend an OptiKinetics Solar 250 (MKII) with Oil Wheel and Panoramic Rotator and going round to his house and seeing this projector was an inspiration.
I never thought I would have enough money to buy one, I did have a Hanimex carousel slide projector I got from a car boot sale but this was more for projecting single slides of my paintings, as I was studying Fine Art. My friend had an OHP which he used to free draw on acetate a design which he would project on his bedroom wall and then be able to draw out the design and then paint it in.
I think it was a comic character from 2000AD.
Meanwhile Neo Psychedelic culture seemed to drop off and go underground, in the late 90’s.
It was not till 2003 when I went to see Hawkwind being supported by Ozric Tentacles at Rock City in Nottingham that I had my first conscious experience of OptiKinetics, as a means to do a professional light show, not really since the Fruit Salad Lights days.
I believe it was Chaos Illuminations who were responsible, there was large K2 or 575 projectors at the back and Club Strobeflowers and Solar 250s around the stage.
At one point I turned to my friend Scott and said I thought that we could do that. These were famous last words, it was probably within the same week that I started researching what kind of prices things were online and what was available and that significant Hawkwind gig was the catalyst, I still have the flyer.
So Metempsychosis Lights was formed through myself and my friend Scott Sandham.
Scott already had an interest in 8 and 16mm film and collected weird films from online sellers, he had bought a Mathmos Space Projector for home use and I was looking for something similar.
I still could not afford to purchase a Solar 250 new. I managed to find this 150W Halogen projector called a Source Magma. It came with an Oil Wheel but would take OptiKinetics 6” Wheels, so could buy some of the designs I had seen at the Hawkwind gig, namely the Inner Space Wheel.
So I bought one of those and ordered another Oil Wheel and the Inner Space Wheel, as other options from an online seller.
This was toward the end of 2003 maybe November. I was in the process of finishing a Masters in Fine Art, but it was not until 2004 when I got a better job where I had been working and had more money than I had ever seen, so at last it was realistic for me to check out prices on ebay of second hand OptiKinetics kit.
It was surprisingly more affordable than I thought it was, so within the space of year, Scott and myself owned one Solar 250 MKI each and I owned a MKII, we bought some spare parts from Optikinetics and Scott refurbished the projectors.
So we had four projectors, I bought some strobes, had a smoke machine left over from being an alternative DJ in Leeds in the 90s and had some friends who had a band in Nottingham called The Henry Road. We offered to do their lights.
We could illustrate their music. I started buying second hand wheels, rotators, prisms, lenses and attachments from ebay. Before we knew It I had a diverse collection.
Scott had the 16mm and would spend ages splicing the film, so it would run to the set, he had abstract stuff, weird experimental film and even some footage of Indian Classical music and Ravi Shankar in Black and White.
We would layer up and perform live, usually on stools at the back, swapping over the wheels on these projectors, fitting prisms and become as animated as the music of the band. We did quite a few gigs round different venues in Nottingham and got to know what kind of things we needed, big bags, or cases for transport as neither of us could drive.
Around 2004 I started going to a Psychedelic Trance night in Nottingham called Psycle and was disappointed by the lighting they had so though I could improve on that. I spoke to the organisers and told them I had some strobes and would they mind if I brought them down to the next monthly event.
Before I knew it I was their lighting engineer. Scott and I organised the lighting and projection for the early shows.
We had this Chillout room at the back of the venue and it had all these floor cushions and was really rather messy, we projected layers of Psychedelic shapes and colour on the walls. I started to realise I needed to get more into club lighting and again realised the expense.
This was not really an area Scott was interested in so we unfortunately collaboratively parted ways and Scott went on to concentrate on band lighting with projection, strobe lights and atmospherics.
I picked the name Metempsychosis Lights as we could not decide on a name. It was a track by early Steve Hillage Arzachel and means the transmigration of the soul so I thought it would fit. I even introduced myself to Steve Hillage in ID Spiral at Glade Festival and told him I named my Psychedelic Lighting company after one of his tracks and he said in a very dry manner, well done.
So in 2020 16 years on and I have worked and illuminated many live acts and producers, from Chrome Hoof, Jowe Head (Swell Maps), Astral Projection, Tristan, Astralasia, Space Tribe, Zetan Spore, Eat Static, The Orb, Total Eclipse, 1200 Micrograms, Youth, The OOOD, DJ Bonobo, Flutatious, The Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Richard II, C.W Stoneking, Nick Harper, Tunng, Damo Suzuki, Vōdūn, Henge, Avalanche Party Jaya the Cat, Church of the Cosmic Skull and numerous other local bands, unsigned acts DJs and anywhere where someone wanted an interesting light show.
My work has taken me out of Nottingham to Leeds, Peterborough, Leicester, Derby, Lincolnshire, Liverpool, Wales, Cambridgeshire, London, Herefordshire, Glastonbury and Bristol.
I have been involved with several festivals including Secret Garden Party and have worked alongside Roderic Wilson (BubbleVision) Simon Bramich (Striking Lighting) and the Northern Psychedelic Collective, Adam Norton Subsonic Systems (Frikkin Lasers) and even when providing a basic set up for The Crystal Method I got to work alongside a guy who was the lighting engineer for Slipknot.
More recently with working in video for a Nottingham based Space Rock band Lord Ha Ha I got to meet and work with Dave Lighthouse Johnson Lighthouse Projections who was there to do a brain melting psychedelic show for The Hawklords who Lord Ha Ha were supporting. A true artist.
I have never owned 10 Solar 250s, which was the original goal. I used to take at least four out with me at anytime but moved up to Gobo Pros, K2+ for larger work, outdoor stuff and use other discharge projectors like the Evl Spirit which I own four. I have four Club Strobeflowers and numerous LED stage lighting and some other unique projection effects.
In the last 7 years or so I have been working with video and have a few LCD projectors and currently run Resolume Arena 5 which has been an interesting learning curve. I have a background in non linear video editing, so when I was putting together work for Lord Ha Ha I would make them films to illustrate their songs.
In the days of working for Psycle I picked up bits and pieces from their VJ who had an Edriol video mixer which has punch in buttons so you can play your light show as musical instrument. This is essential for putting energy into a show, however conversion from S Video to VGA is a real pain and is probably the weakest link in the chain, analogue projection does not have these digital challenges.
I have not got round to making my own effects for the Solar 250s and Optikinetics projectors but have had a few bespoke items, including handmade cassettes, and professionally printed wheels currently courtesy of my good friend Daniel Joyce (Bubblewrap).
One of the best and most simply unique effects I owned was a home made Kaleidoscope wheel, two sheets of glass with a load of coloured Dichroic filters, it put through a Kaleidoscope lens and a 5rpm rotator looks just like a child’s Kaleidoscope.
Sadly I broke the glass putting it in my pocket, on a ladder changing another wheel at a gig. I should really replace it.
Brendan O’Melia (Metempsychosis Lights) - December 2020