Coming from the small central New York town of Oneonta, Greg Ellis rose to the top as one of the most well-known and forward-thinking lighting designers in the music industry. You probably know him best from his work with Pretty Lights, but what you might not know is what Greg Ellis does when he’s not busy lighting up the amazing Derek Vincent Smith. Greg began his career in the music industry as the house lighting designer for the historic Toad’s Place in New Haven, Connecticut back in the early 2000’s. After doing that for several years, he received a call from his life-long friend (and current Production Manager and Front of House audio engineer of Pretty Lights) Phil Salvaggio to come out to Colorado in 2008 and work with Pretty Lights who was on the verge of taking off in his career. Greg packed up his car, headed west, and the rest is history.

Having worked with Pretty Lights for nearly 10 years now, Greg has lit up some of the most historic venues in the U.S., including their nine annual trips to the renowned Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, CO. Now, he’s taking his production game to the ultimate next level with The Phoebus Cartel, a Visual Design group focusing on concert design, content creation, and live performance.

This week, Greg Ellis will bring his production talents to Colorado for a blowout show at the legendary Fillmore Auditorium in Denver, CO on Friday, January 26th. Euphonic Conceptions and Live Nation have teamed up to present Re:Creation, featuring Michal Menert and the Pretty Fantastics, Breaking Biscuits (Break Science w/ Marc Brownstein & Aron Magner of the Disco Biscuits), Late Night Radio (Live), Eliot Lipp, Dynohunter, and Unlimited Gravity (tix available here). Following this, he will be on the road with Break Science for their entire five-day Winter Tour. Some of these shows will take place in venues as small as a 300-person capacity, allowing for some of the most intimate shows the “Lazer Shark” has performed in nearly a decade. Here is what Greg Ellis had to say about his upcoming performances.

L4LM: How did you come about with getting involved with the Re:creation show?

Ellis: There were some other projects that weren’t able to come to fruition and this kinda popped up in the last couple weeks and the timing just happened to work out. The whole thing fell into place sort of magically. I’ve got a good rapport with those guys…Menert and I have worked together a couple of times, same with Break Science and the Disco Biscuit guys, Elliot Lipp, etc.. It’s going to be just like a family reunion.

L4LM: Will you be doing production for all the artists on the bill? What can the attendees of these shows expect from you as far as production goes?

Ellis: I’m gonna do it for everybody. I plan on lighting the whole night up!

L4LM: Having worked with Pretty Lights for nearly a decade, what is it like from going from working with one artist for a such an extended amount of time to doing a show with multiple artists whom you haven’t had as much experience in working with?

Ellis: Having been the house lighting designer for Toad’s Place for four years, I come from a background of doing lights for a different band and different styles of music every night. It’s easy for me to come into a situation like this, but at the same time this is a pretty high-profile gig with a bunch of different acts and I haven’t been in Denver in years. I put a lot of pressure on myself to rise to the occasion.

L4LM: What can fans expect at this show? Will you be doing any video production or sticking to more of a traditional lasers and lights set up?

Ellis: This show will be just lasers and lights. The video production would take up a lot of real estate and with so many acts performing, it would be a logistical nightmare. Using just lasers and lights, I can create a different aesthetic from set to set and really try to match moods a little bit more.

L4LM: In regards to the Break Science tour, you did production for two shows with them in November, but how will that compare to doing five days straight with them all around Colorado?

Ellis: That run is going to be crazy, I can’t tell you the last time I’ve done lights in these smaller rooms. That shit is going to be wild. It’s going to be a lot of fun! I’ve put together a pretty different set up from what people are used to seeing from me. I’m taking a very different approach to these shows. I’m putting a good amount of time programming and developing some new ideas so I can at the very least have some conceptual overtones throughout the run.

Perhaps one of the biggest changes in the life of Greg Ellis comes from the inception of his new design firm, The Phoebus Cartel. Around a year and a half ago, Derek Vincent Smith sat down with Ellis in New Orleans and the pair began working on the possibilities of integrating analog-based visuals to match the often-times analog-based music.

L4LM: You’ve said before that some of your early inspirations as a lighting designer came from Chris Kuroda (Phish) & Andy Walton (Radiohead), is there anyone that inspires you now that you’re heading into uncharted territories in dealing with analog-based visuals?

Ellis: Because it’s such uncharted territory, some of the inspiration comes from the unknown. For me it’s been an interesting process because I’ve kind of just gone into it with a clean and unaffected mind between what is and isn’t possible. I’m taking things from the 80’s and 90’s and merging them with cutting edge technology and it’s creating opportunities that a lot of people maybe are afraid to venture down.

L4LM: What sort of projects does the Phoebus Cartel have coming up that the people can check out?

Ellis: Well I recently performed a show mostly to get the name out there in Atlanta at Aisle 5. I just wrapped up with creating a music video for the guys in Kung Fu, working on one for Break Science, and another video for a collab track with Marvel Years and Maddy O’Neal.

L4LM: Are there any new technologies coming out now that you think will revolutionize the concert experience?

Ellis: From a technology standpoint, virtual reality is a big thing. It’s starting to take off from a performance standpoint. I’ll be curious to see where that goes. I personally don’t know if there’s a place in it for my artistry or not yet. I feel like one of the most important things to me is the interconnectedness between everything–whether it be the people the venue, the band, myself, the crew. The communal aspect of live music is what makes it so special. Let’s be honest here, a virtual reality is kind of the polar opposite of that.

L4LM: What about your work with Pretty Lights?

Ellis: The stuff that he’s (Derek Vincent Smith) working on for his next album, which don’t even ask me when it’s coming out because I don’t have an answer…One of the highlights of one of the songs that’s been released is this line, “Human energy is a form of light”, which I took that concept and ran with it this past year. In essence, all the analog synthesis stuff gave me the ability to affect the live camera feed. It was a physical representation of that concept, taking their bodies and their energy on stage and literally turning it into an abstract light show. Had Derek not handed me that piece of equipment a year and a half ago, that never would have been possible. It was one of those things where the stars aligned, it just kind of naturally happened.

L4LM: What would be your ideal show to do production?

Ellis: I won’t rest until I do a headlining show at MSG, that’s the dream. Being a kid from New York, seeing several shows there, that’s the mecca. Madison Square Garden, that’s the dream venue.

Greg Ellis is a self-proclaimed workaholic, and with all that he has going on the title is well deserved. 2018 is shaping up to be a huge year for the Lazer Shark and his new design firm The Phoebus Cartel. Be sure to check out his work as he makes his return to Colorado next week for the upcoming RE:CREATION show at the Fillmore Auditorium with Michal Menert & The Pretty Fantastics, Breaking Biscuits, Late Night Radio Live Band, Eliot Lipp, Dynohunter, and Unlimited Gravity on Friday, January 26 (tix available here).

[article photos: Cait Falc Photography from PL NYE)
[cover photo: Taylor Wallace (Alive Coverage) from the Phoebus Cartel Aisle 5 show]