Eyellusion’s CEO talks with Billboard about redefining the live music experience
Ronnie James Dio, the diminutive and legendary frontman of Black Sabbath and Dio, took the stage at Germany’s Wacken Festival. It’s been six years since Dio died, on May 16, 2010 at the age of 67.
The digital age means we no longer have to say good-bye — whether to friends from high school who haunt our various social feeds, to pictures that (hard drive willing) shuffle from one folder to another over the years, or to legends of art like that revivified Dio, or Tupac Shakur from Coachella four years ago, or Michael Jackson from the Billboard Music Awards in 2014, or the many, many other stars said to be receiving the same, ethically byzantine treatment. However, the rise of the live hologram gig has been slow, given the excitement that Shakur’s”appearance” at Coachella four years ago generated. Hologram USA, the company behind that performance, claims to have locked up a practical Walk of Fame of clients and says a Whitney Houston hologram tour is imminent, though no new projects have debuted since Shakur. (Billie Holiday was announced last year as a regular performer at New York’s Apollo, but that project has yet to materialize.) Pulse, the team behind Michael Jackson’s hologram, still touts his “appearance” on its website.
Holograms share some DNA with both virtual and augmented reality tech — all are digital cr
eations that take up space in the real world, or trick us into acting like they do. Virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift have received some criticism over the computing power needed to make them sing, limiting their audience. Augmented reality, such as the uber-secretive Magic Leap (which promises something akin to this scene from Her), will bring an entirely different participatory experience to semi-dynamic holograms (and may help hasten the obsolescence of these pre-fab performers).
But holograms are here now, and offer a communal experience that, depending on how “real” you generally regard the people performing on-stage, can be just as affecting as corporeality.
Jeff Pezzuti and Eyellusion, the team behind that Dio hologram, are hoping to make this a real business — and quickly. There are plans for Dio to hit the road, alongside members of his original band, over the next year. (The emotional toll on those band members should perhaps be monitored.) As well, Pezzuti, a proof-of-concept now neatly tucked under his arm, is expanding his company’s client list rapidly, he says.
Billboard spoke to the executive about how he formed his company, and the business of bringing back the dead… or just the alive and busy.