Behind the Scenes at Electric Island

Photo by Ded Agency
Photo by Ded Agency

Ever wonder why thousands of people flock to the island to attend the Electric Island picnic series, time after time? Yes, the carefully curated lineup is amazing, but there’s a lot more to it than just the music. An unmistakable, magical atmosphere sweeps over crowds, transforming the grassy fields at Hanlan’s Point into a hidden oasis for Toronto’s most devout music lovers. Heavy bass resounds throughout the large, luminous trees, while vibrant lighting dances off the smiling faces of patrons below. As the sun begins to set over the city skyline; the island reveals its dark and wild energy. The stage reflects flashes of light from its mirrored corners. You can’t help but stare.

This is all work done behind the scenes, carefully planned by talented individuals with a collective vision. Godzilla Disco had the chance to talk to 3 people who are crucial in making Electric Island the wonderful experience it is for those who attend: Scott Mallette, Matt Eckensweiler and Dino De Simone. Let them tell you a little more about what they do…

[Scotty Mallette]
Scotty Mallette @ Senseless Toronto

Scotty Mallette @ Senseless Toronto

First, please state the official title of your role at Electric Island.

Backline Technician/Stage Management Assistant

How did you you become involved with Electric Island?

I’ve been attending since the first series on Centre Island before we moved to Hanlan’s point. The last party of the first series I got to go backstage and meet some of the key people who began to help get the ball rolling (Partners Stephan Philion, Joel Smye, Jeremy Kesten and Alex Mastro). Early in 2014 I began working at Coda nightclub. One night Alex asked me if I could help him take care of all the equipment changeovers for the 2014 season. I obviously drooled at the opportunity and said yes immediately.

What is the set-up process like for each event? What are the essentials for “getting the sound right”?

A good PA (Big Stereo) and sound crew. These wonderful people will come in a few days before the event to set up all the big stuff. For the “right sound” it’s a combination of a clean signal from the equipment on stage to the techniques used on the front of house (FOH) engineer’s sound desk. These components must be in harmony and are the key to the sonic success of these parties. The sound is only as good as its weakest link, so we do our best to make sure everything from the DJs equipment to the PA is of the highest quality to allow us to achieve the cleanest sound possible.

Scotty getting it right for Sasha @ Electric Island

Scotty getting it right for Sasha @ Electric Island

What is a major challenge when directing the sound for large events like Electric Island? 

For me, it’s maintaining a clean signal to the FOH console. At the end of the day he has all the power when it comes to how loud it can get. A lot of DJ’s redline the mixers. It’s not the end of the world, it’s just that is not ideal for amplification. It’s a distorted signal. In audio, distortion is generally bad, unless you are in the recording studio and looking for harmonic distortion, but this is a different beast. My main job is to maintain the signal going to the FOH console and make sure it stays at a nominal level so the FOH engineer can output the most optimum sound possible. The sun can be a bit of a bugger too, so weird how heat can cause equipment to stop working… haha.

What qualities in directing the sound for Electric Island, are the most special for you?

Working with my best friends to be apart of something special. Knowing that I have a voice in the overall quality of the sound.
Meeting all different walks of producers, DJ’s, Tour managers etc. and knowing there will always be something new to learn every show!

[Matt Eckensweiler]
Matt Eckensweiler being a boss with Creative Director, Pao Lopez @Electric Island

Matt Eckensweiler being a boss with Creative Director, Pao Lopez @Electric Island

What is your official job title at Electric Island?

Production Designer/Lighting Designer

How did you come to find yourself involved with the Island?

Artefact Creative was founded in 2013 when my partner Thomas Masmejean and I began designing productions as part of the Mansion events and Foundry music series. Fast forward to just over a year ago; I was fiddling around with the lights at Coda Nightclub and Electric Island Partner Stephan Fils asked if I wanted a job at the club. He was familiar with the productions from Foundry and we started collaborating on Electric Island shortly after.

Describe the working process from initial conception to actualization of the lighting production.

At the start of each season there is a production meeting to outline the basic infrastructure of the production and themes for decor. Shoutout to Brad Hicks, this year’s production manager. The rest of the process through the season is fairly organic; the design evolves based on what worked well from the previous event. This year, we had a large cache of mirror elements created by Pao Lopez. As the season progressed, the mirrors were adopted to create a reflective surface that extends the video elements and reflects beams of light.

Electric Island’s lighting and visuals are very intricate & impressive, and change with each event. How do you decide on the visuals for each one?

The design is a multi-dimensional puzzle. You’re dealing with physical space, weight restrictions, different types of light fixtures, video, and decor. Each production is modeled up in great detail to make sure every piece of the puzzle fits.

This year we’ve commissioned Fezz Stenton and Occupied VR to handle custom video content. We used a variety of methods including analog video effects, 3D Rendering, and filming with a variety of lighting sources, special effects and camera. The feel of the video and lighting is derived from the music. The colors, motion, and intensity are adjusted spontaneously during the event between Fezz and myself. Both of us come from musical backgrounds, so in a lot of ways we’re jamming along with the music using the production as an ‘instrument’.

Lighting, Visuals & mirror stage used at Electric Island Canada Day: Ben Klock vs. Marcel Dettmann

Lighting, Visuals & mirror stage used at Electric Island Canada Day: Ben Klock vs. Marcel Dettmann

What type of events allow you the most creative independence?

Generally speaking, entertainment has greater creative freedom than corporate. Artefact has manufactured a package of LED fixtures that I’ve been able to apply to both the corporate and entertainment realms. I’ve found creative fulfillment in the design of the lighting system on both sides of the industry. In the future, I’d love to design more lighting systems for artists’ concert tours.

Which Island do you feel most proud of to date (from lighting/visual stand point)?

I’m partial to the most recent event during the Civic Holiday, which had the most impactful implementation of the mirrors. Sherry Mahdavi and I spent a lot of time prepping the install, which allowed us to set up quite a few elements in a short span of time.

What is your dream venue/event to work in?

Timewarp is host to some pretty incredible production; I’m impressed every year with the scale and ingenuity. Dekmantel is the number one festival on my list to attend so working with them would also be an honor. Outdoor venues are always inspiring; I’d also love to get out to the west coast of Canada for Shambala and Bass Coast.

[Dino De Simone]
Brian Johnson (left) & Dino De Simone (right) @Electric Island

Brian Johnson (left) & Dino De Simone (right) @Electric Island

What is your official job title at Electric Island?

So I don’t really have an official job title. Me and the owners of Platform Entertainment were actually laughing about it the other day and came up with all kinds of wacky names. In reality, when you get down to the nitty-gritty I’m like the workhorse that they set loose during the setup stages of Electric Island.

How did you come to find yourself involved with the Island?

I like to believe that I have been involved with the island since the very beginning, but that wouldn’t be the truth.  In reality I am a very long time friend of the owners of Platform Entertainment and have been quietly supporting their endeavours since the first onset of their business. My work background is in the commercial construction industry, and being that I regularly use the heavy equipment used during the set-up for Electric Island, I naturally offered my help. I have devoted much of my free time to see my best friends’ visions come alive.

What is the set-up process like for each event? What are the essentials for successfully achieving your role at the island?

The set up process of Electric Island is actually very impressive to behold.  All the people involved with the production are such seasoned pros that it all just somehow comes together before your eyes without effort. On my end, during set up I mainly stay focused on the decorative end of things. I happily elevate any decorations into the sky with my boom lift provided by the production crew. Basically, anything that exists in the sky at Electric Island that can’t be reached from the ground– I had some hand in putting there. I believe that if I were to try and sum up what is essential for achieving what I do at the island, it would have to be a lot of patience, time, and good spirits.  Not everyone plays nice in the sandbox, pardon the pun, but I have been blessed to work with some of the friendliest and accommodating people I have ever had the pleasure of working with.

Electric Island in its very early stages of set-up

Electric Island in its very early stages of set-up

What are the biggest challenges you face when producing each event?

The biggest challenge I face with Electric Island would have to be THE FERRY LINE (joking). I don’t really feel like I have experienced any challenges to speak of during the production of the event. The people involved are so on point with every little detail that needs to be taken care of, that it becomes more like a weekend hanging out with friends than work. It just appears before our eyes in-between laughs and hugs and barbecues.

What would you like to see for future island events?

I don’t believe you could ever ask the people involved to try harder because I don’t believe it would be possible. If it would be possible to ask the fans to show more love I would say that, but again; impossible. I believe we have some of the best fans in the world coming to our incredible events over the course of the summer.  All in all, I would just love to see Electric Island continue on as long as the fans crave it and support all of us that are lucky enough to tag along for the ride! I would also like to say thank you to my beloved friends (Alex and Jeremy) for allowing me to be part of this amazing event. Without them, I don’t believe I would be here today to speak to you about this.


Godzilla Disco would like to extend a very special thank-you to Scotty, Matt & Dino for taking the time to chat with us! Your efforts do not go overlooked!

Tickets to the Season Finale of Electric Island on September 4 & 5 may still be purchased here.

EI 106 finale cover art