Everyone knows the DJ's name and rightfully so; but only insiders can tell you who the lighting guy is - the unsung heroes of nightlife.
Lighting can sometimes carry a mediocre DJ but great lighting people can enhance any DJ set. And one of those individuals is Derek Vazquez.
Vazquez started at the bottom working his way up from a skate guard at the Roxy Roller Skating parties. Every once in a while he filled in at the lighting board learning the craft the old-fashioned way…from experience.
Now, with more than 26 years of experience in lighting and production, Vazquez is known as an innovator and industry leader. His track record includes The Paradise Garage, Sound Factory, Splash, 1018, Room Service, Provocateur in NYC, Bar Room and Room Service in Miami, as well Broadway productions and special events in Las Vegas.
“Custom lighting is a full production,” says Vazquez. “Lighting, sound, video, rental, installation and maintenance” are included in the projects they tackle at Custom Lighting.
Vazquez and his team constantly need to keep up with moving technology to continue to shock and awe patrons. “LEDs are here to stay and are a big part of each lighting project,” states Vazquez. LEDs can now do the job of three times as many old school Lekos and Pars and LED walls give a variety of options.
“However, I still think old school fixtures like ETC Source 4 Lekos and Pars give a room a warming feeling.” His favorites right now are color Kinetic LEDs, which are well made and provide brilliant colors.
Every year new products come out and the club with the most creative video content will be the one with the best show. “Perfect examples are the mega-clubs and EDM events,” continues Vazquez. “They have hundreds of feet of LED panels and 3D videos with amazingly creative content.”
In addition to LED and 3D video there are other ‘gizmos’ and equipment that are integrated into lighting systems for effect. “I use CO2, smoke and confetti along with LED walls; creating custom content through Arkaos VJ software, Media Server, LED mapping software and Madrix software.” Anyone can put moving lights and strobes in a room but “I want the room to transform over the night,” reveals Vazquez.
A lot of planning goes into making a room transform and installations are different in every city, says Vazquez. All have strict guidelines but Vegas club have a little more leeway. “Rain Nightclub (once at the Palms in Vegas) has fire shooting from its truss. That would never be allowed in NYC or Miami.”
“NYC is probably the strictest, Vazquez continues. “Most new venues can’t use smoke because fire alarms are smoke sensitive as opposed to years ago when they were heat sensitive. NYC also is very strict with how cables are run.”
In addition to club installations, Vazquez is hired for high profile parties. “I always try to create the mood and drama of a nightclub whether the events in a hotel ballroom or a giant tent in the Hamptons. I always use deep saturated colors – purples, red, fire orange and cobalt blue.”
“One of my favorite clients is Matinee Group. Matinee started in Ibiza and now has a North American Group.” Vazquez is their lighting and tech director and has done large dance parties for them in NYC at Governor’s Island, Miami, LA and Las Vegas. “Jake Resnicow, the managing partner, is great to work with,” explains Vazqeuz. “He lets me create the mood I want with the use of moving lights, CO2 effects and many LEDs. We also have big stage presentations with dancers, acrobats and lasers by Laseronics.”
The energy Vazquez learned to create in nightclubs in the 80s and 90s is what he brings to the big concert style events today; as well as new clubs.