Mind Alchemists



David Neale
Bob Rigg (Dec'd)
Dave Bailey (Dec'd)

Hi there. Don't know if the site is still living, but I used to run the Mind Achemists back in the day, along with my friends Bob Rigg and Dave Bailey (unfortunately now deceased).

The name came from a show on BBC about LSD and Timothy Leary, called the Mind Alchemists.

I had read about Light Shows and thought it would be very cool to do one locally.

The art teacher at our school had an "event" in May 1968 and was projecting simple dye/bicarbonate/acid slides on the wall outside the squash courts.

I figured out my father's Aldis projector would do the job, and we started experimenting.

Before long we discovered ether/dye slides, and that really started the whole thing. It was the Summer of 1969 when we left school, and we had too much time at home with the ether...

We operated from late 1968 to 1971 in the Manchester area. We did a couple of shows at school, and then got involved with Grass Eye, the Manchester underground magazine, who took us under their wing and gave us most of our gigs.

We were not directly influenced by anyone else as we hadn't seen any Light Shows at gigs at that stage (we were 16) but had heard all about them.

The photographs on the front of Country Joe and The Fish "Electric Music for the Mind and Body" were our only visual clues at that stage, and some photographs in a magazine.

We just experimented with stuff at home until we could make some very trippy coloured lights.

Over the time we did shows for Free, Curved Air, The Groundhogs, Quintessance, Black Widow, Graham Bond, Pete Brown, Stack Waddy, and all of the Manchester bands.

One time we did a show for Quintessance and they thought we were so good we should come down to London and do shows for them. (We didn't, of course.)

We conspired with Mike and Wendy at Heavy Electric on a few projects. We staged a big show at Stockport College as a Light Artists' Guild fund raiser, but it was a financial bust...

The show we did at Manchester College of Commerce for Free was amusing...when my mate Bob had a strobe going on Simon Kirke during his drum solo, unfortunately not even vaguely in synch with the beat. This resulted in Simon chasing Bob around the upper levels of the college straight after the show, threatening to kill him.

Most amusing for everyone else, however.

Equipment I suspect we started the same way as many, which required "borrowing" the family slide projector. My father had a 500 watt Aldis projector which was nice and spacious and could accommodate 4 2"X2" glass blanks, giving 3 layers of colour. We took the heat filter out, and were most pleased with the acceleration of the effects. Then we bought a couple of Aldis 1000 watt projectors, and then added an overhead.

We also started using acid/bicarb slides, and food dyes. The disappointment was the relatively slow reaction speed - pretty but slow, and messy - black lumps of bicarb on the screen.

I tried various immiscible mixtures of water dye and organic solvent, and the best of all was diethyl ether - it would start moving nicely even with the heat filter in, and boil like crazy when the filter was taken out.

That became our trademark. A violent wall of bubbling surging colour.

We were careful to use attractive colour combinations, same set in each projector, to get a very even, intensely coloured effect.

We started using an Aldis on its back and an angled mirror, in a Meccano frame, as a proxy overhead - its was awesome. So Bob built an overhead with the same size light stage as the Aldis, and we got this astonishingly hot, bright overhead that would boil oil and water mixtures. Imagine a spiral of tiny bubbles rushing out of the centre spot where the watch glass touched the effects slide, all pulsing and surging. Excellent stuff.

It began with a single projector and we finished up with 5, I think... 4 for sure, but I recall buying a Tutor II as well at the end.

Our favourite aspect was the analog liquid shows, when done carefully and thoughtfully, still have the most intense energy to best complement music.

I found it always made good music better. It was critical to be thoughtful in effect and colour, though.

Many shows seemed to be essentially monochrome plus colour filter, and were always thin and disappointing visually. Which was why we took such care sourcing dyes and propellants.

There are few things better than a room full of swirling coloured bubbles and shapes. The tour de force was a gauze screen in front of a white screen.

The 3D effect was just astounding, especially with Procyon Red and Marker Ink Blue on the overhead.

After the Light Show ended I was a chemist for years and then I got into Telecoms and never looked back at the Lab again.

Dave Neale - October 11th 2022

Mind Alchemists Light Show
Mind Alchemists Light Show
Mind Alchemists Light Show
Mind Alchemists Light Show