Spotlight On The Man That Shines Lights On Concert Stages For 30 Years Now. Meet RONNY SNELS…

3 March 2023

As a lifelong music junkie and gig addict, I lost track, a long time ago, of the number
of concerts I ever saw, mostly in my home country of Belgium, but also in France, The Netherlands, the UK, Germany, and Danmark (Roskilde festival). When I fell in love with a band, like, just to name two, Oasis or Echo and The Bunnymen I drove or flew lots of miles to see them several times during one of their tours.

Live music was/is and will be always part of my life. It’s my dope.

And when the sound at a gig is perfect and simultaneously the stage’s lighting emphasizes that perfect sound with a matching, choreographic light display magic happens.

But when the sound is horrible and/or the lighting is poorly directed or just not fitting with what’s happening on stage, even when one of your beloved artists/bands is on the podium playing your favorite songs, the experience can really suck (I know, I’ve been there).

So, sound mixers with trained ears and light men/engineers with sharp eyes are essential to create along with the artists that magical feel. So why not have a chat, for a change with one of those wizards who work in the dark every night.

Belgian engineer Ronny Snels turns up the lights at concerts for 30 years now.

I met him at a gig in Antwerp (Belgium) a couple of months ago and he’s definitely one of those passionate, caring, and expertised technicians several bands and concert/festival organizers want to work with just because of his professionalism, vision, and commitment.

Hello Ronny,

How and when did you start in the music world as a lighting man, Ronny?

“That actually happened quite by chance. I had been active for three years as a roadie
with a Belgian cover band, named La Cuenta, when suddenly the light man stepped up
and it was suggested to me to do the light. I wanted to try this and when I came backstage after the show, the whole band was very enthusiastic about what I did, so I kept doing this.

At that time I still had a normal job as a worker in a metal factory and I did this as a hobby on the weekends. A few years later I stopped as a laborer and then I started working for ASP as a stagehand for big shows and I was occasionally allowed to do the lighting in a venue called Biebob. Afterward, I started doing jobs as a lighting man for Trend and PFL.”

Did you learn along the way or did you follow a specific training for this job?

“I learned most of it by doing and by seeing a lot of concerts and by observing
how other lightmen worked. And of course also by checking the manual of the
lighting control at home.

I am lucky that I have a good feeling for the rhythm of music
and the music itself and can convert it into the right colors.”

The early days

Do you work as a self-employed person or for a company?

“I work as a freelancer but I am not self-employed. My invoices
go through an interim office. But I can be hired directly by anyone.”

What exactly does the profession entail, Ronny?

“My job mainly consists of being responsible for the stage’s lighting during
a band’s concert. Firstly I program all the lights on my light table during the day.
When I’m on tour with a band, this has to be done every day because every
club/hall has a different lighting plan and different devices to operate with.

If the band itself has a light man of its own, then I have to assist him during
the day so that he can run the show in the evening, with the available program.

In addition, I also design the lighting plan for shows and festivals, such as Graspop Metal Meeting in Belgium (note: one of the biggest metal fest in the world) where I have been responsible for the Marquee tent for years.

And then there are the technicians who set up and connect
the light and break everything down again after the show.”

How do you generally experience the environment
and the business you work for?

“I experience it as a pleasant environment to work in,
where there is usually not too much pressure.

We do work with very irregular hours and often at weekends, but the fact that I am working in the evenings between all kinds of people who come to enjoy themselves, always makes it fun for me.”

How long are you away from home on average per year

“It varies, but I think I’m away for an average of 4 months a year.

I’m 52 and still single and that makes it easier to be away from home often.
Fortunately, I am not only working on tours. I also have my jobs and shows
in different clubs, halls and festivals when I am in Belgium.”

Are you only active in Europe or do you also work outside of it, Ronny?

“Most of my tours are in Europe and I’m glad about that, because here in Europe
the light material is usually of good quality. But I already worked in Russia when it
was still possible and in Japan, Indonesia and South America. Unfortunately, I have never been on tour in America because a work visa is required and that costs a lot of money.”

Do you tour and work for the same artists more than once?

“I’ve been doing lighting for the Portuguese metal band Moonspell for
10 years now. I have a very good relationship with them and I really like
their music.

Celebrating 10 years of working with Moonspell with Ronny’s mother also invited to the party

And since 2019, I also regularly do the lighting for metal band Rotting Christ.

I also shone lights on Insomnium, Borknagar, Levellers, Arlo Parks, TesseracT,
Evergrey, Bizarra Locomotiva, Der Weg Einer Freiheit, Abbath, Lacuna Coil,
Anathema, After Forever
and others.

Your 3 favorite tours/festivals ever?

1. Vltima Ratio Fest in Belgium, last year
with Moonspell, Insomnium and Borknagar

2. The 2019 tour of Swedish metalheads Evergrey
Lots of parties on the tour bus.

3. My first tour. It happened in 2007 with Dutch band Alter Forever

What sort of music do you personally prefer, Ronny?

“My taste in music is very diverse, but my preference is mainly for 80’s pop
and rock and disco. In the car, I often listen to Radio Nostalgia and at the after
parties I mainly let myself go on 80’s pop and rock.

Which assignments/tour(s) are you looking forward to this year?

I’m especially looking forward to the South American Tour with Moonspell
in March and April. And then it’s gearing up for a summer full of festivals
at home and abroad.

The best and worst memory ever?

“One of the best is the 2017 DVD recording of Lisboa Under The Spell with Moonspell in Lisbon‘s fantastic Campo Pequeno. It was a long busy day but from the start of the show everything went smoothly and I felt like I was in paradise. When I see the result I am very satisfied and proud that I was able to do this show.

The worst was in 2019 with Moonspell and Rotting Christ. Halfway through the tour, at the border crossing between Greece and Turkey, we lost a lot of time at customs, so we only arrived in Istanbul in the evening and therefore later than we should.

The bus driver needed to respect the required timetable for driving and resting. beacuse of that we had a very disrupted schedule for half a week, with short times to do my work. Moonspell even played a show at 1am. This was of course not optimal for the atmosphere on the bus, but we survived the tour.

Is this the job of your life or would you do something else if you had the chance?

For me this is definitely the job of my life. My first show as a lighting man was on February 10, 1993 so I’ve been in the business for 30 years now and I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I have been able to turn my hobby into my “work”.

I am still grateful to Belgian cover band La Cuenta. It all started with them.

And I am also grateful to my dearest mom for always supporting me.”

Thank you very much for this chat, Ronny.
May the road rise with you (and your mum)!

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