Artist Spotlight: bitrituals

In our latest Artist Spotlight, J3WEL chatted with Manchester’s own bitrituals ahead of SuperByte 2015.


Tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from and how long have you been performing visual arts for?

Hi, hello, hi! I’m bitrituals, my mum calls me Dan, and I’m a sort of crossover between creative computer programmer, videogame developer and visual artist/VJ. I’m from just down the road in Manchester, which is awesome as I can stagger back to my house easily once Superbyte is finished. I’ve been doing live visuals in some form for a couple of years now – I started at small nights and parties mostly as favours for friends, then did the Manchester Algorave followed by a few chiptune nights in quick succession, including last year’s Superbyte warm-up party. Nowadays I’m still doing tons of chiptune nights, but I’ve also started working with the likes of Analogue Trash (I did their ATF-2015 party recently) and NOIZ promotions, who’ve invited me to do live visuals at their metal all-dayer in October. I’ve also branched out into using my live techniques to create music videos and graphics, and I’m currently putting together my first music video project for a local psychadelic rock outfit The Jungfraus. Fingers in many pies, this guy.

How do you make your visuals, what software/hardware do you use to make your signature visuals and why?

I’m a creative programmer by trade, and because of this my route into creating visuals has been through live-coding. This is essentially writing code on the fly to create visuals, rather than preparing things in advance, and the idea is that it’s very quick to do and lets you be quite experimental and free-flowing with the visual output, and most importantly lets you route audio signals into all the shapes and colours and things, so everything stays really nicely synced to the music I’m making visuals for. It’s mega unpredictable and weird sometimes but that’s totally part of the fun. (Pro tip: put the logo of the event you’re working at as your desktop background, so when your environment inevitably shits the bed and crashes, the projector will still have something correct showing!). I use a fairly heavily modified version of the excellent Cyril environment, my version has tons of glitch modifiers and visual effects built in too. Basically it’s a window that you write code into that also acts as a display for the live visuals – a big part of the appeal of livecoding for me is that the code creating the visuals is often overlaid with the visuals themselves, which is pretty cool.

In addition to the live-coded aspect I’ve also started mixing in more traditional VJ techniques, so at the moment I route my live-coded visuals through VDMX (via syphon, for any interested nerds). This then allows me to add further effects to the live-coded work, and mix in video loops and GIFs and live cameras and all sorts of other stuff.

I keep my actual setup very portable, so everything can fit into a rucksack. At the moment I’m working off the world’s most beaten-up battle-hardened Macbook Pro, controlled with a Korg NanoKontrol 2 and occasionally an iPad with a custom TouchOSC panel if I’m working with a lot of video. This gives me a bunch of flexibility, but doesn’t take up much space! Us lowly VJ’s sometimes end up working on the ends of tables or in cupboards (true story) so I’ve found it’s best to travel light so I can rock out from anywhere.

Who are your main influences (if any) and what/who sparked your passion for creating visuals?

I think the livecoding scene has been my biggest direct influence, without finding this outlet I don’t think I’d have ended up working in this way at all. I’ve been coding for years, but had never considered I could take a little bit of what I know and use it to do creative things on such a large scale.

Creatively, the people I’m most inspired by at the ones that create amazing stuff regardless of technology, who flit from software to hardware and beyond and make big exciting stuff whatever the medium. Specifically the likes of Kimchi & Chips, Seb Lee-Delisle and Hellicar & Lewis are the kinds of practitioners I find endlessly inspiring.

The in the live chip visuals scene there are so many people I admire – I’ve had the chance to work alongside Lazersausage recently and he does amazing things, check him out. I’m also a super fan of what 2xAA is up to with his ModV project, he’s absolutely killing it right now – he’s also throwing down visuals at the festival this year.

How are you feeling about performing at SuperByte this year?

I’m off-the-charts hyped! SuperByte is one of the most vibrant colourful and exciting things that hits Manchester every year, so being able to get stuck in and help make it go off with a bang is a real pleasure. This year should be a crazy one: as well as doing visuals on the main stage I’m going to be running a free live-coding workshop too, and then I turn 30 at midnight on the night I’m playing too, so that’ll be a pretty good excuse to party on down. Don’t drink and code, kids.