How to Blow Things Up for Fun & Profit

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When I was in my teens, I joined the army and I went for engineering working with explosives and I really enjoyed that part of it.

For more than six years, Rory Jones has been around the world igniting the skies over concerts.

“Explosives are just fun,” says Jones, 29, who got into working in pyrotechnics by a stroke of luck. “I might as well find a job I enjoy.”

“When I was in my teens, I joined the army and I went for engineering working with explosives and I really enjoyed that part of it. I used that to get my foot in the door and I applied to every special effects company in North America, then one called me back,” says Jones.

When Jones was taking culinary arts in college, pyrotechnics was always on his mind. After finishing culinary training, he eventually realized that it was just a fallback and not a passion for him. He then decided to get into the field of special effects.

“I knew special effects actually existed, I just didn’t know anything about it and I decided to look into it and see what steps I had to take in order to actually becoming a special effects technician,” says Jones.

With a hands-on approach, he spent a year in the shop learning about the equipment and safety rules that go with his job.

“Everything has to be 100 per cent ready before it leaves the shop and goes out to the gig,” says Jones. “The next step is to wait and keep turning wrenches until they say, ‘Hey, you’re going out (on the road)’ and once you go out, most people never really come back. I just go out on the road trying to get as many gigs as possible throughout the year.”

At the Eastern Ontario Fire Academy, he spent six hours in a course so he could receive his license for pyrotechnics safety.

“They started me off with a pyrotechnical assistant license and then it gradually moves up every two years when you get a senior pyro license and a special effects pyro license after that,” says Jones. “I’m still a senior so I have to wait another year until I get my special effects (license).”

Jones however, doesn’t have to wait a year to set off gas and explosive pyrotechnics. He’s been involved with that process for quite sometime.

“Gas is a flame and pyro, which is a product that’s basically glorified roman candles that go 300 feet up in the air,” says Jones. “Those are a lot more time-consuming because you have to take each individual piece, put it in it’s bracket, tie it down and then tie it into a circuit and then test it.”

When it comes to gas effects, many technicians aren’t required according to Jones.

“Gas and propane powered effects is basically putting in a tank, making sure that the system works with no leaks and that’s all you need to do. As long as you have a confident shooter and a good spotter, everybody is safe.”

Since Jones started working with pyrotechnics six years ago, his passport has seen a lot of mileage, gaining stamps from the United States to Japan. He thinks fondly of Japan.

“The efficiency, the craziness. Everything about the place is just so streamlined,” says Jones. “The respect level is just incredible since they take kindly to tourists. They’ll give me a chance to tell them my story where I don’t really experience that in most parts of the states where people just want you out of the way.”
Jones found traveling to some counties, like Brazil, Argentina and Colombia, is like traveling to a whole different world.

“They’re really soulful places,” he says. “Seeing a crowd over there, 20,000 Brazilians, are the same decibel level as 80,000 Americans. It’s just incredible how much spirit that they have and it’s really impressive to see because they’re all in sync with each other. Everybody becomes one entity at a show which is really cool to see.”

Jones looks forward to engulfing the concert skies for many years to come.

“Who needs a normal job. Right?”

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