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We sat down with Nicolas ‘’Nico’’ Labbé, Senior Technical Specialist, who joined Solotech in the fall of 2021.
Summary of an enriching interview with the stage lighting expert who traveled the world for over 35 years alongside the most prominent French-speaking music artists.
Q: Nico, first, thank you for accepting our invitation. Here’s an easy start: Who is Nico Labbé?
NL: Nico Labbé is always thrilled. I have memories of when I was 13 or 14 years old. I would go to bed at night, listening to Genesis and doing light shows on my bedroom ceiling with flashlights.
At 16 or 17 years old, I studied for a year the technical side of theatre at CEGEP Lionel-Groulx in Montreal. After, I immediately went to Toronto and did my first major tour with Platinum Blonde.
From there, I went back to Montreal and I started as Yves Aucoin’s assistant. Yves is a recognized lighting designer in our community. Since Yves was always in high demand, he moved from one project to another, so I took over some of his tours. This is how I came to work as a lighting designer with amazing Quebec music artists, such as Richard Séguin, Roch Voisine, Garou, and many others. After working with Garou, Yves worked with Céline Dion. I’ve worked with Garou for quite some time, but I won’t take over with Céline (laughter)! That’s my journey. I must have been born under a lucky star!
Q: What are the most significant projects you’ve worked on?
NL: I worked with legends. I spent no less than 15 years working worldwide with the late great Charles Aznavour. I’ve also worked with Mister Gilles Vigneault (Editor’s note: Gilles Vigneault is a poet, singer-songwriter, and integral part of Quebec’s musical landscape). It’s been huge.
I had the chance to work with Lara Fabian for several years. I will never forget the show we did for 22 guests in President Vladimir Putin’s private salon in Moscow, Russia. That was quite special!
Q: What have you been doing since you joined Solotech?
NL: Many things (laughter)! My boss Jerome Dussault tells me that I’m an ambassador for Solotech. After 38 years in the business, I’ve got quite a lot of connections all over the place. I can work on new products that we want to test or buy. I’m looking at the artistic and creative side of the latest gear. I also take care of many smaller projects involving sales representatives and clients/lighting designers. I try to facilitate their work.
Q: What brought you to Solotech after so many years on the road?
I’m almost 55 years old. I did my share of touring, and I wanted a little change. We won’t sugarcoat it: going on tour is not what it used to be. Back in the days, we were on the road two, three weeks in a row, in Gaspésie, or Côte-Nord. Now, you make round trips Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Now, you can consider yourself lucky when you’re working on a Tuesday. It’s not how it used to be.
Working at Solotech allows me to stay up to date in the business, and the tools that I have here are incredible. I have resources for everything!
It’s an excellent way to complete the picture.
Q: What do you see in the future for the business, and what are its biggest challenges?
NL: I think that we will continue to evolve, technology-wise. When you look at the market’s latest products, it seems they become outdated after only six months.
As far as challenges, we need to listen to each other more. We’ve seen it with the pandemic; we are working in a fragile industry, a privileged job, meaning that it’s the first thing people can cut. We need to find a balance. Everybody needs live entertainment, to laugh, dance, etc. We need to stabilize everything.
Q: How can Solotech adapt and help its clients through this new reality?
NL: It started already: we need to implement a personalized, customer-centric approach. We must not create a working structure, but provide a structure that is adapted to each client. Each client is different. There is a wish to humanize a big company like Solotech. We need that, after all that we’ve been through. It’s the foundation of our business. We can do business with numbers, but with our hearts as well. We can take this human approach. Each client is equally important; it’s as simple as that.