F Lea Be (aka Steve Molloy) runs the lighting department at Johnston Audio Services. He also works with various acts around Melbourne that include Electric Mary, Palace of The King, The Doors Show and The Angels.
What are the three best things about your job?
I get to meet and work with some amazing people in the industry both crew, musicians and promoters. I get to run around the country (some time overseas) with my mates and have a bit of fun while working. I have made some friends in this industry that will be there in my life till the very last day.
And the three worst things?
Probably a hard question to answer although sometimes the hours are pretty long with a lot of hurry up and wait time. You miss out on a lot of important family moments. Unless you have the right person in your life, it’s quite hard to keep a relationship on track.
What do you never leave home without when working?
I am a little bit old school but I always have a gel file as there are always a few par cans floating around at a gig (ha ha). And if on a tour, I never go away without my drawer case as it holds the coffee machine in the bottom draw as well as lollies in the third draw (crew sugar). Oh and all my tools.
What was the worst nightmare you encountered on the road?
Back when I started in the industry I was on tour as a lighting assistant (learning my job) and was asked to fill in for the LD for a while. We did a show in Nth QLD and after setting up the show, getting it all focused and did sound check, I had a power surge go through the dimmer system which took out 65% of the lighting rig. Probably the most expressive night I have ever had on the road.
What has been the strangest request from an artist?
I did a show for Mos Def at the Espy in Melbourne a few years back and after gelling up, focusing and programming the rig, Mos came in for sound check and his manger came up to me and said Mos wants you to make all the lights RED, then turn them on and leave them on. So I asked what do you want me to do during the show and he said have a few drinks and enjoy the show. Easy $$!
Who was hell to work with (probably best not to actually mention name but elude to it)?
I don’t have anyone to tell a story about. I haven’t really found anyone hell to work with as its part of the job to try and accommodate the artist and crew that you’re working with to the best of your ability. There are always going to be some changes asked for from time to time by people so you need to adapt and try to overcome.
What is the most stupid request you’ve had from a member of the public, artist or promoter?
We have all had some pretty dumb requests. As the lighting tech I have been asked to turn the volume down. Working with a KISS concept band (in full make-up) I was asked to get them to play some Chisel songs. But my favourite one was by a support act LD back in the 80s. He asked my LD for 12 black gels in certain lights and my LD came to me and said ‘we need to do this’ (with a smile as big as Luna Park) so we agreed to do it. Off we went out the back of the pub and cut up some beer cases into 12 gel size pieces and put them in the 12 lamps he requested. I don’t think that we have ever laughed so hard!
In your opinion, what’s the best show you’ve worked on and why?
Wow that’s a tough question.
After some careful thought there are two that come to mind. The first would be touring with Mother Goose back when I started out. The reason is that the band and crew were like a big family unit. We toured a lot back then and were living in each others space so much. But we all seemed to get on with each other even in tough situations. The other is Icehouse. The show is as good now as it was back then. The attention to detail in all aspects of the show is important as well as the way we all interact with each other. There is respect for everyone involved from loaders to the management and that’s hard to find these days.
Who do you admire in the industry and why?
I have admiration for quite a few people in the industry, too many to name and too many not to name. I guess if pushed for an answer I would have to say Alan (Midnight) Eno. Midnight took me out on my first national tour of Australia and taught me the ropes. I learned a great deal from him as far as lighting goes. Colour choice was a big thing back then as we didn’t have the luxury of moving lights with the ability of changing the colours during the show so it was very important to get it right as well as getting the focus perfect. He taught me that you are only limited by your imagination (and budget). There is always some thing you can do with a lighting rig if you think about what you’re trying to achieve.
Which venue is your favourite and why?
I guess I love the Espy in Melb. I have done shows there my whole career. It has always been a great venue to work in, from the staff to the crowds, it has always been an amazing gig for me personally.
Which recent piece of production gear do you view as a game-changer?
There has been so many pieces of gear come out over the years since I first started doing this and each one has changed the way we do things for the better. From DMX, moving lights and LED’s. But I do still love the look and feel of the Par can and ray light, there is just something about the old toys that the new light can’t match.
What is the most outrageous thing you have ever done on tour?
Hahaha …. well !! In the mid 90’s I did a few tours with The Drifters around Australia and on one particular tour in country Victoria I decided to have a little fun so I went down to the local op shop and bought an old 60’s type PINK dress. So we went and set the gig up, got it all ready to go, did the support and ventured back stage in the break. We were in the band room having a chat and a beer, and Billy Washington (the singer) said OK we need to get ready for the show (their costumes) and I said ‘oh yeah, me too’ and they all looked at me puzzled. So off I went to the bathroom to put on the dress and returned to the band room where everyone just broke into laughter that I am sure you could hear in the auditorium! Billy said there is no way that you will do the show in that!!! To that I said ‘have a great show’ and walked out to the lighting desk in the middle of the room in my pink dress, GI Joe boots and shaved head to do the show. While walking to FOH the crowd (the grey haired set) was in shock to say the least …
What was the worst weather event you’ve encountered at an outdoors gig?
Probably the worst was at Denni Ute Muster a few years back. We were up there with Icehouse and Suzi Quatro and it poured rain the whole weekend (except when Icehouse went on stage). A few years later, we were there doing the gig and after setting up and staying back all night to focus in the dark, I went and crashed out. Unfortunately there were 100km winds that went through later that night. The front truss on the main stage was moving about a meter in the wind and the side fills blew over. My rig had a lot of pars in it but I only lost two gels.
What would your ideal rig contain?
Probably as you have guessed by now I love my Pars. So it would have 40 Pars (a mix of MFL’s and NSP’s), Martin MAC700’s, Clay Paky Sharpys, Robè Robin 600 washes, some Robe BMFL’s and Pointe’s, Ayrton MagicPanels plus a bunch of Duets and 4 liters. I am easily pleased and don’t need much to make me happy.
Which band would you most like to work for and why?
Too hard to answer this question. There are many and many different reasons to do so. I have had a pretty blessed career up to this point. I have worked with some pretty amazing bands and crews over the years and have no regrets.
Do you have a favourite mantra to get you through the day?
I try to go to work with an open mind most of the time. So I guess that is my mantra! Plus always do the very best job that you can do.
What do you think of the Australian live music industry at the moment?
I think that the industry is getting it wrong as far as band go. There are so many great acts out there that don’t get a go or recognition in this country. A lot need to go overseas to get a break. For some of them it is cheaper to do an overseas tour than it is to tour here. There are only half as many venues around the country as what there was years back. I think it needs to get back to basics, get pubs and clubs back on side and make it worth their time and money to put acts back in their rooms and punters back at their bars.
If you could invent anything to do with lighting, what would it be?
Mmmmm, I might be working on something right now …….. nothing major but worthwhile!
What did you really want to be when you grew up?
I always thought I would become a chef when I was younger. But the music industry chose me and I have no regrets for it doing so.