Tony Perez





















 

Armed And Ready
He’s got the history; they’ve got the products. Sales manager Tony Perez helps lead independent manufacturer Robe into the thick of the club lighting wars.




Eastern Sales Manager Tony Perez hobnobs with the lighting world’s best.

By John Landers

At the ripe old age of 35, Tony Perez has pretty much been there and done that (whatever it is) in this business. As the Eastern Sales Manager of Robe America (robeamerica.com), Perez is now using his considerable clubland experience to expand the Czech manufacturer’s market share. “I’ve been working in nightclubs ever since I was 17 years old,” he explains. “I’m a young guy, but I’ve had a long history in this industry.”

Having worked his way up doing installations with some of the biggest names in lighting, Perez knows everyone who’s anyone in the field, and they all seem to know his cell number. During the course of a recent one-hour interview, he happily fielded a number of phone calls, quoting dealer pricing, making appointments, and even talking a frustrated technician through a DMX fixture menu - without missing a beat. His enthusiasm for all things Robe is obvious.

Despite the pace and pressure of this business, Perez makes time for personal connections. He is a friend - not just friendly - to some of the biggest names in nightclub lighting. “What I really love about this industry is having that one-on-one relationship with somebody who can really trust you,” he declares. “You’re the go-to guy, but at the same time you’ve got these customers who are out there supporting your product, advertising your product.”

What attracted you to intelligent lighting? I grew up in Long Island. When I moved to Manhattan in 2000, I actually went to a rave in New York City and saw a guy carrying an Intellabeam 700. I walked over to him and said, what is that? Is that one of those lights that was wiggling around in the air? And he said, “Absolutely.” He introduced himself, and we went over to his house after raving all night. It was about nine o’clock in the morning, and that was my first encounter with moving lights.

How did you get started in this business? I got a job with a company in New York City that primarily did club installs and designs and special events for companies like Saint At Large. I jumped straight into the deep end. I went from doing basic install stuff at Sound Factory with Phil Smith, who was one of my first friends in the lighting industry, to the Peter Gatien clubs – Limelight, the Tunnel, and everything else he did in New York City back in those days. Those are my roots in the nightclub industry, when it was really, really big in New York. You couldn’t have been at a better place in the country at that time to start in the lighting industry. I was being taught by veterans who, to this day, I still have a lot of respect for.

The Who’s Who of club lighting. I feel very, very lucky. When you’re that age, you don’t know what you want to do with your life. I probably wouldn’t change much that I’ve done. I look at some of these kids that think that by going to [show production and touring schools], they’re going to have these fabulous lighting careers. If you’re lucky, yes. If you’re really good and you meet the right people. I’m one of the fortunate ones.

Where did you go from there? When I left New York City, I went off and did a lot of club designs and programming. That was my forte. I did dabble a little in the theater market, in the corporate market – you take the odd jobs here and there – but the club stuff was my foundation.

I knew the music, which was very important. I worked with some of the best DJs in the world, everyone from Carl Cox to Little Louie Vega. Frankie Knuckles is a good friend of me. Some of the best old-school DJs as well, like David Morales – some of these guys that I saw growing up in New York City. They helped me learn how to move lights and create moods with lighting. Lighting is such a powerful tool. You can make it flash, you can make it strobe and everything else, but making a crowd feel a certain way with a color, and then going to a blackout, and then to a pure white light, that takes a little bit of talent.

And confidence. And you have to know when you need to have the lights at 50 percent for three hours straight. You’ve got to follow the DJ. You can’t just go off, thinking you know what you’re doing with lighting. You’ve got to have a lot of respect for the DJ. You’ve got to have a lot of respect for each room as well, and you’ve got to work with each room’s lighting system. I’ve had the privilege to work with many systems out there, not just systems that I’ve put together. You’ve got to know the music, and you’ve got to know the tools you’re working with.


Robe lights in Future, part of Kenny’s Alley in Atlanta nightlife complex The Underground.

After you left New York, didn’t you do some work in South Beach? I worked with Kenny Smith and Cal Fortis on crobar Miami (crobar.com). They brought me in to oversee the project. It was one of the last nightclubs that I really enjoyed building both on a professional level, and on a friendship level with the club owners. It was a unique time for Miami; we’re talking about six years ago. Miami was in desperate need of a superclub, and they brought something to the beach that hadn’t been there before. And they did it with a family vibe. Super DJs were just blowing up at that time, and I worked with some great DJs, everybody from Erick Morillo to Sasha and John Digweed, you name it. Everybody rolled through that place when I was there.

How did you get involved with Robe? The thing that got my attention with Robe was the Lighting Dimensions Road Test [2003] that they did with 575-watt moving heads from all the major manufacturers. What really blew my mind was that Robe wasn’t even Robe at the time. They were an OEM manufacturer for numerous years.

They had been building lights for other companies . . . Under those companies’ names. After I read about the road test, I was intrigued. This company had the wash light that got the best results. That’s when I discovered Robe Show Lighting in the Czech Republic. I found their website, and from there I learned everything I could about the product, because I knew it was going to be something really special.

What other products impressed you? At that time, they had just come out with the ColorSpot 1200 AT. That was something that really interested me. They went from building a 575-watt unit to building a 1200-watt unit that was spot-on.

That’s a big step. I did a lot of research on the fixture. It had every feature that you could use in the club market, and it had the output for stadium concert tours and theatrical productions. It’s a very versatile fixture. That was the trigger. I really wanted to, if not work for Robe, at least be more involved with this company on a professional level. Then Michael Carattini [the President of Robe America] contacted me, and he said, “Tony, with your experience over the years, I think you’d be a valuable asset to us, and I’d like for you to be the Eastern Regional Sales Manager for Robe America.” I happily accepted the offer.

I imagine it didn’t take you long to say yes. I had done a lot of my homework already, and I knew that it was a good career move for me because I see the future with this company.

How so? One thing that Robe brings to the table is a sense of security. Robe America’s philosophy emphasizes a focus on customers, not on corporate structure or politics.

Why is that important? It’s very important, because when you pick up the phone and ask for the Eastern Regional Sales Manager, you get me. You don’t have to go through three other sales guys. You’re dealing with one guy, one company, one philosophy. This is our life. This is what we do. It’s our passion. There’s no investment company pulling our strings. Our main goal is to make everybody happy – everybody who’s involved with Robe products – the end-users, the dealers, the designers…

Customers, not shareholders. That’s a refreshing corporate philosophy. These guys have been building lights for a long time, and they know how to build a quality product. They do some serious testing. We have an outstanding service director, Mike Andrews. He’s been in this industry for years. He’s one of the best technical guys I know in the United States, and he finds it amazing how little service he has to do. Look, it’s a light. If you don’t take care of it, it’s going to break, but anybody who’s worked with Robe products knows that if you take care of them, they’ll keep on working for you as long as you love them.

Let’s face it, the lighting industry is very competitive. I can offer my dealers products that club owners can afford, and that have a solid two-year warranty. You know it’s going to work, you know that you can afford it, you know that the manufacturer is going to support it, and you know the dealer base is going to support it as well. Anybody that comes onboard with us becomes part of the family.

Tell me about some of the nightclub installations that have featured Robe products. The first one we did after I got there was Elysium (elysium-lounge.com), up in Michigan [see page 42 for more about Elysium]. I know the club is still going strong. They were able to put the gear into it and just forget about it, because it’s still working. We did one on the West Coast called The Vault (vaultultralounge.com), which is another massive club with a lot of gear in it.

Didn’t Space Miami enjoy a sizeable Robe installation around the same time? Space (clubspace.com) is probably one of the bigger name nightclubs that we did business with. It was designed and installed by a company called Infinite (goinfinite.com). Lord Toussaint, Infinite’s president, is one of our best dealers and a veteran in this industry. That was a club that had all XT products, everything from scanners to 575-watt moving head fixtures. To this day, Louis Puig, the owner of Space, has only good things to say about Robe.

High-profile installations like that must be great for business. These guys could pick any lighting manufacturer that they want. When you have a sophisticated nightclub owner like Louis going with your products, it’s an eye-opener. That was a major boost for Robe America and Robe products.
We also just did a club, Kenny’s Alley, at the Underground complex in Atlanta. It’s a very nice install.


Perez with his wares.

That’s a big venue, isn’t it? Yes, it’s pretty big, and it was done by a company called Active Productions (activelighting.com). Active had never used our gear before, and they’re just totally happy with it. There’s another massive venue in Atlanta called Club Vision (visonatlanta.com). Scott Waterbury of Atlanta Sound and Lighting (atlantasoundandlight.com) went with the DJ Scan 250 XT because it has the output, the rotating gobos, the color wheel, and the super-fast motors, all in a very compact fixture. And it’s so affordable, they got 110 of them in.

You’ve mentioned the XT series and the DJ series. How many different product lines does Robe make for club and lounge applications? We have the XT line and the AT line, which is our Advanced Technology line. We also have two lines that are specifically made for the nightclub world: the CT Line, which is the Club Technology line, and the DJ line. It’s very easy to go to our website and learn all about the different lines.

And what about the fixtures within each of those series? We make everything, from 150-watt scanners, to 575-watt color changers, to 1,200-watt moving heads. We make a full line of smoke machines. We just introduced a whole LED line, called Anolis (anolis.cz). This is a line that we think is going to be very popular in nightclubs. It’s going to be very useful for creating moods.

LED technology is becoming quite popular, especially in lounge-y environments. Lounges don’t necessarily need a lot of automated lighting. You have lounges that are serving food, and the last thing you need is a bunch of flashing lights swinging around. If you use it in the right way, it can be tasteful, but you’ve got to understand how to use moving lights in a lounge application. LED lighting is just going to set a mood, from the time people sit down until they leave. It has to be gradual, and that’s what LEDs can do for you. You can make LEDs strobe and everything else, but the way I see it, they give you a special look that you can’t get with traditional lighting.

Even if you add, say, red gels to incandescent lighting? You can have lights with red in them, but that’s it. They’re red all night.

Or all week . . . Or all month . . .

Depending on how motivated the light tech is to keep everything looking fresh. So, what advice do you have for venue owners? Nightclubs are doing corporate shows more and more. For them to make money, to advertise through their lights, they need the right products. It’s really important that owners understand that they can use automated lighting to advertise inside the nightclub. We have lights to fit all of those applications.

Any other suggestions for people trying to make a profit in this increasingly competitive business? You’ve got to provide not only the best sound, but the best lighting as well. If you want repeat business, you’ve got to give customers more than just black paint on the walls and candles all over the place. It’s fine, because it works, but this is 2005. Take advantage of what great manufacturers like Robe are putting out there for you.


The Goods
Robe’s latest products offer clubs new possibilities.
Robe America unveiled almost a dozen new products at this year’s PLASA show in London, including a surprisingly affordable moving head video projector, a digital media server and an entire line of architectural LED products. Here’s your sneak peek at some of Robe’s fresh fixtures:

DigitalSpot 5000 DT - This 5000 ANSI Lumen moving head video projector offers two digital gobo layers with a selection of up to 255 video clips or images per layer, plus an impressive image resolution of 1024 x 768 x 3 pixels. Each gobo layer features individual X and Y positioning, zooming, indexing and rotation for maximum visual impact. Supported video formats include MPEG1, MPEG2, PNG, and BMP. The fixture also boasts full CYM color mixing and a separate iris.
MediaHub 2X4 DT - This is a media server located inside the base of Robe’s ColorSpot 575AT, making it easy to rig onto a truss or anywhere else. The unit offers four parallel outputs to send chosen video content to plasma screens, LCD displays and/or video projectors. The MediaHub combines two digital layers with a selection of up to 255 video clips or images per layer. Like the DigitalSpot 5000DT, the media server supports MPEG1, MPEG2, PNG, and BMP files.

StageBanner 10 AT - Ideal for “advertainment” and corporate events, the StageBanner serves as rotating electronic signage. With more and more venues hosting special events, this unique product is ideal for operators who want to wow business people and club kids alike. In addition to being DMX-controllable, the StageBanner can also be run in stand-alone mode, easily programmed via the onboard four-digit LED display on the base. Up to three different programs can be stored, each containing up to 99 steps. Master/slave operation is also possible, so several StageBanners can be connected together and controlled from one unit for a very dramatic effect.

 

Anolis - This is Robe’s architectural LED line. Consisting of ArcLine LED strips and ArcSource LED fixtures, the Anolis series is clearly intended for the club market. In addition to the usual benefits associated with LED illumination, each piece is designed for easy installation, which should make this line particularly popular with busy lighting specialists. –JL

 





 


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Copyright 2005 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2005 TESTA Communications