The
Founders
Nils Thorjussen at the Wholehog's first gig - Feile Festival, Ireland, 1992.
Founders Q&A

Nils Thorjussen

Could an operation like Flying Pig start up and succeed today?

Sure. Why not?

How do you feel you and the Flying Pig team changed the industry?

I’m not sure we did. But we certainly enabled and accelerated existing trends.

What would you have done differently?

Not sell the company to High End Systems. Or: Bought Vari Lite stock when it fell below $1/share! We thought about it and had enough money sitting around to acquire a reasonable piece of the company. But they had a poison pill in place, and would likely not have been very receptive to us! 😉

What are your fondest / proudest memories of that time?

Establishing Hog 2 as the leader in its field. It was ubiquitous at its peak.

What are your worst memories of that time?

Poverty!

What do you consider your greatest successes?

Establishing Hog 2 as the leader in its field.

What were your worst failures?

An aborted product concept called the Show Box.

Did you ever want to give up?

Sure. After launching Hog 1 at PLASA, we had no money and no sales.

What kept you going?

We just persevered….

What do you put the success of the WholeHog1 down to?

Good design. Meeting the needs of users.

Who were your biggest supporters and who would you like to thank? 

There were so many and I thank them all, starting with the original PLASA awards judging panel. (Which I seem to recall included Durham Marenghi, Simon Taylor?, and others).

Who were your biggest detractors?

Some competitors.

What was the main thing that you learned from the Wholehog experience?

There were so many….

If you could go back and say anything to anyone from that time what
would it be and to whom?

The Internet is going to be really big! 🙂

What would be your main piece of advice to your 20-something self?

Don’t work so hard!

What Happened Next?

After leaving Flying Pig Systems, Nils moved on to LED video with Element Labs. He is now working with drones.

Founders Q&A

Nick Archdale

Could an operation like Flying Pig start up and succeed today?

With so little funding (£90K in today’s money) up against the IP arsenals of enormous, litigious corporations I very much doubt it. Where are they?

How do you feel you and the Flying Pig team changed the industry?

By adopting open standards (DMX, MIDI) and bringing the cost within reach (Hog II, Jands Hogs) we created the console-owner/operator model that enriched an entire generation of lighting folk.

What would you have done differently?

I would/should have employed, trusted and delegated so that, for example, Wholehog production continued while Hog II & Jands Hog was developed. My control-freakery caused us needless pain on many occasions.

What are your fondest / proudest memories of that time?

1993, getting to meet and work with my hero Peter Gabriel to find that he was indeed lovely; imaginative and thoughtful. I recall him coming to console me (groan, but it’s the right word!) after I’d had a shit-fit in front of him for messing up some programming. That I was also able to contribute design ideas (fractals &
“snorkel-wagglers”) to his magical Secret World tour, is a treat to treasure for life.

1994, Pink Floyd – sitting front-of-house at Earls Court with Marc Brickman, sharing some of California’s finest, surrounded by VL2s shining up at an enormous mirror ball that was transforming into a huge flower while the band played Comfortably Numb. By now we’d had some sales and so this was my “f*** me, we’ve made it!” moment.

What are your worst memories of that time?

Nils and I getting kicked out of the Dire Straits rehearsals because of my arrogance and lack of courtesy is a specific thing I’d change. The general lack of money and sometimes claustrophobic relationship with Nils and Tom – we lived and worked together – was tough.
What do you consider your greatest successes?

The Wholehog II and our joint ventures with CAST Lighting and Jands, which turned us from interesting to revolutionary (see first question).

What were your worst failures?

Personally speaking, being so difficult to work with; a failure of character that made things more difficult than they already were (see final question).

Did you ever want to give up?

Yup, late 1992 – no sales, no money, just one shonky PLASA award! Bacon literally saved by Ronan Willson at Meteorlites who bought two consoles, ex-demo, just in the the nick of time – gawd bless him!

What kept you going?

Necessity and the support of our industry friends, there was a lot of good will.

What do you put the success of the Wholehog down to?

The console was our (Tom and I) third attempt; it was informed by our previous failures and the successes of others, pulling together various disparate ideas of ours, Apple’s, Vari*Lite’s et al to produce the console the market needed at just the right time within the right community.

Who were your biggest supporters and who would you like to thank?

Boy, where do I start!? My electronics mentor George McDuff (Chameleon, then Chamsys), the 53 Northfield Road community, those brave early adopters, most notably Paul Selwood, and AC Lighting – Glyn O’Donoghue and Bob Gordon were fabulous. But before FPS I would thank some inspirational school teachers, those that supported earlier console attempts, in particular Ralph Wezorke at LightPower, and my business partner in DLD Productions, Andy Neal, together with a brilliant bunch of crew and Vari*Lite ops, for teaching me so much about lighting during our tenure in the late ‘80s rave scene.

Who were your biggest detractors?

I don’t recall anyone in particular, but the people at one competitor were always very rude, which is unusual in entertainment for we are generally a friendly industry, competitors or otherwise. Rusty Brutsché at Vari*Lite warned us off during our pre-FPS US road trip, but he later had the good grace to admit that he got it wrong.

What was the main thing that you learned from the Wholehog experience?

That PCs, hard disc drives in particular are not up to touring, at least not back then! Hog II is proof that the lesson was learned, also that you need a range to succeed 🙂

If you could go back and say anything to anyone from that time what would it be and to whom?

“Peter! Stop moving – the lift has gone down!” – shouted at Peter Gabriel as I realise in horror that he’s about to walk backwards into the lowered scissor lift on the square stage during rehearsal. But I was too far away and not quick-witted enough; have always regretted that. Thankfully he was ok, despite a seriously nasty fall (he has form in this regard, apparently).

What would be your main piece of advice to your 20-something self?

Get some help with your mental health, lad.

‘What Happened Next?’ . . .

Did my increasingly uncomfortable 3-year stint at HES/FPS before leaving with six others to form Carallon which has since spawned Pharos and Brompton while taking on a few more ex-Pigs. That there are folk there that I’ve been working with now for 20+ years says something – seems that I at least know how to surround
myself with good people.

Nick Archdale (1994/5).
Tom Thorne (1992)
Founders Q&A

Tom Thorne

Could an operation like Flying Pig start up and succeed today?

After 16 years out of the industry, it’s hard for me to judge.  Starting a tech company is cheaper than ever, but you have to do so much more to be competitive and build a brand.

How do you feel you and the Flying Pig team changed the industry?

Powerful trends were shaping the industry – moving lights using DMX were becoming increasingly common; microprocessors and PCs were getting powerful enough to control the large number of channels; moving lights were getting cheaper as players such as ClayPaky and Martin competed vigorously.
We happened to be in the right place at the right time!

What would you have done differently?

We focused on the technology so much, we somewhat forgot about building a business.  AC Lighting and AC Lighting Inc (USA) did a fantastic job of marketing and sales, but in the end, I wish we had invested more in building a more diverse product line, marketing and sales channels.

What are your fondest / proudest memories of that time?

Nils becoming lighting operator on the grateful dead tour, with lighting experience amounting to about 2 weeks

What are your worst memories of that time?

Winning PLASA 1992 Product of the Year, and then nearly going bust when we made no sales.

What do you consider your greatest successes?

Developing and building the Wholehog 1 in 9 months with £45000 in seed capital was certainly the most bonkers achievement.

What were your worst failures?

Not reading and crafting legal agreements carefully enough.

Did you ever want to give up?

After a decade, even the most fun venture can become stale . . .

What do you put the success of the Wholehog 1 down to?

I think the Wholehog 1 was successful because it was the mother of the Wholehog 2.

Who were your biggest supporters and who would you like to thank?

Nick Sholem who took a punt on us for his Sting tour; Meteorlites who bought the first two Wholehogs; Ralph Wezorke for encouraging us early on; All the folks at AC Lighting and AC Lighting Inc USA (Glyn O’Donoghue, Dave Leggett, Bob Gordon, and any others I’ve missed – for really getting behind us with the Wholehog 2.

What was the main thing that you learned from the Wholehog experience?

I’m not sure I learnt anything – other than just when you think you’ve learnt from one mistake, you will then go on and make a new, completely different mistake.

What would be your main piece of advice to your 20-something self?

Be confident in yourself, in what you can do, and what you have built. Don’t undervalue it.

What Happened Next?

After FPS was sold to HES, Tom left the industry to co-found a Fintech company called Tradar. Over the next decade, he acted as CTO as the company grew in size and opened offices worldwide. Tradar was sold a few years ago, and Tom is locked in his current role with the buyer until December. “After that,” he says, “who knows? Perhaps a return to an industry that is a lot more . . . fun!”