He is standing in for Ed Simons, one-half of the electronic outfit. Smith, alongside Marcus Lyall, also created all the visuals – lighting, projections and set design – for the shows.
How did you get involved with The Chemical Brothers? About 20 years ago, we were doing visuals in clubs, and Tom [Rowlands] and Ed were DJing at similar clubs. They were looking for a light show to go out live so they asked us to do it. In those days, it was a couple of slide projectors and a 16mm projector, and the set was 20 minutes long.
Talk us through the process of designing the visuals. We get the music from Ed and Tom, and sometimes an idea springs up on the first listen and sometimes an old idea fits with one of the songs. It always starts with the music – what it makes you feel and how you express that. So on Go, for example, we gave a nod to the early hip-hop aesthetic because Q-Tip features on the track. We were talking about art installations in New York in the early 80s and got on to the idea of roller discos. You know instinctively if an idea is right; then we’ll take it to Tom and Ed to see which ones they like.
Are the visuals about expressing the music or entertaining the crowd? It’s a balancing trick. With visuals, you have to be bold. It needs to be something that can be seen from way back at a festival. We try not to overanalyse these things. If you come up with an idea and it feels right, just do it.
What do you do during the live shows? Setting off samples, distorting melodies, playing melodies on old analogue synths and mixing between images live. And I’ve got control of some of the lighting.
What’s it like performing with The Chemical Brothers? It’s an amazing experience. The only frustrating part is not being able to see the show. It’s a brilliant feeling playing special gigs like Glastonbury. You get a sense of connection with everyone and that’s a beautiful thing. I can understand why people never want to stop going on stage because it’s intoxicating.
What’s your favourite Chemical Brothers track? There’s a new track called I’ll See You There that I really love. It’s quite psychedelic.
What inspires you? The music first, then everything and anything. My two-year-old daughter is an inspiration in terms of finding the wonder in life, which is everywhere but half the time we’re too busy to notice it.