I recently caught up with my friend Chris Dale who was the Bass Player for Bruce Dickinson (lead singer for Iron Maiden) in the mid 1990s. During that time, Bruce was asked to do a concert with his band Skunkworks for the people of Sarajevo while the city was under siege during the Bosnian war.
Chris recounted the whole experience to me when we were on tour together in 2009. Since then, a documentary has been made about the whole event- Bruce and his band making this impossible journey to Sarajevo, the concert, and what it meant to the people living in the city during the siege. You'll find our conversation in the video above.
Scream for me Sarajevo is an intense and eye-opening film. I encourage you to see it if you haven't already.
In my next blog, I'll be talking with Jed Parle who was the soundman for Skunkworks at the time. We'll get his version of events.
See you there!
A few years back I was on tour mixing the Goo Goo Dolls and encountered this peculiar problem. When we arrive at our gig in Birmingham England, we find that it’s on the third floor of a large building. I take a preliminary walk around the venue to scope out the FOH mix position and find a small booth in the middle of the room. With just enough room for the house lighting desk and their digidesign console, I quickly realize that there is no way my Midas H3000 analog beast is ever going to fit in this booth. The house audio tech tries to convince me otherwise and begins preparing to remove his desk.
At the same time, load in is beginning at the back of the building and it is a brutal carry straight up a long staircase. Did I mention this was on the third floor and there is no elevator? Goo Goo Dolls do not travel light. There is an entire semi-truck packed full of gear that the stage hands are hefting up the stairs to the...
I want to talk about setting up your workflow on the console.
Once you start mixing more than a few shows, you’ll start to find that you have some preferences in how your console is laid out. Everyone has their own particular way of doing things and it’s all a matter of what works for you.
For instance: How you do your input patch will determine where things show up on the surface. It doesn’t have to be 1-1, you can patch inputs to come up in whatever channels you like.
If you are mixing on a digital console with a limited number of faders available on the surface, you’ll have to think about how you want your inputs to populate them. If you have 42 inputs and only 16 input faders/layer, how do you want to build your layers?
It’s a good idea to have all of your drums on the same layer or page so you can easily make adjustments to the overall drum mix.
Likewise, if you have numerous inputs for keyboards and tracks.
“What made you want to get into live sound?”
I’ve been getting that question a lot lately.
It all started with music, an unrelenting passion for music.
I’m writing this in a coffee shop across from Amoeba in Hollywood on Cahuenga and Sunset, where having just walked the endless rows of CDs and vinyl, I’m reminded of my teenage years when my friends and I would frequent the record store at our local mall (now I’m dating myself) anxiously waiting for the next release of our favorite band. (If you don’t know- Amoeba is one of the largest independent music stores in America with possibly the most diverse collection of music under one roof.)
This is an entire experience that many born in the 90s or later have missed. While the internet has given us instant access to an incredible variety of music, there was something about saving up your hard earned cash for your favorite band’s new album and racing home to...
So you think you want to make a career out of doing live sound. Are you sure?
I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, I think it’s fantastic as long as you are doing it for the right reasons.
I have been working in live sound for 30 years and even though it can be grueling at times, I’ve never felt like I was ‘working’. My passion for music is what drives me. The camaraderie of my fellow touring crew and the opportunity to travel to and experience different places and cultures are all perks of the job. When I first discovered my desire to get into this crazy business, it was so strong that nothing was going to convince me to do anything else.
That passion and desire have helped me through the struggle of the early years. Years of building my skills and experience, hustling to get enough work, the jobs that weren’t my dream job but essential to learning what I needed to know for my next job.
We are in the midst of summer, the height of touring season here in the US, throw some festivals on top of that and there is plenty of work to go around.
In previous blogs, I talked about how to prepare for a tour from the technical side of things. For this blog, I am going to talk about preparing for your first tour from the practical side of things.
Before leaving home
Get yourself a passport and if you have one make sure you have enough blank pages in it and it’s not about to expire. The last thing you want is to be in the middle of a tour and find out you can’t get into Canada for example, because your passport is expired, or spend a day off at the consulate in a foreign country getting blank pages added to your passport.
If you live in one of the states whose Driver's Licenses are not valid with TSA, you'll need a Real ID if you don't have a valid passport and plan on doing any air travel.
If you are not already a member of the major airline's frequent...
Festival season is here and many of us will be working for artists playing at least a few. Some of us will be working for the audio provider for the festival and mixing any number of bands, many of which we probably know nothing about before they walk on stage.
As with so many festivals, there never seems to be enough time. There are too many acts scheduled so time gets stolen from changeover to be able to accommodate everyone’s set time.
Bands show up with an incredible amount of gear and inputs to do a 30-minute set, others show up with nothing and spend the day sorting out rental backline, and some times things just run smoothly without any problems.
But what about when it doesn’t?
What do you do when the festival is a fly date or a one-off for your artist and you are using local everything? You’re not getting a soundcheck, you’ve got a 20-minute changeover to get your band on stage and run through a quick line check over...
In my previous two blogs, I talked about how I prepare for a new tour. All of the things I mentioned are things I do prior to starting the tour or doing the show if it’s just a one-off.
This blog will focus on what happens once I start the tour.
Good communication is key!
When I first meet the band or artist, my goal is to find out what they are looking for in their live mix. How close to the record do they want it to sound? Is there anything, in particular, I need to know? Are there any cues or special effects, featured instruments on certain songs? Is there more than one singer and who sings on what song?
I like to speak to each member individually and go over the set list so I know exactly what is happening on each song. Who is doing leads or solos, etc.?
If I’m mixing a 4 piece punk band with only drums, guitar, bass, and vocal, it’s all pretty straight forward. If I’ve got a pop act with a full band (drums, bass, guitar, keys, percussion, theremin,) 3...
In my last blog, I talked about how I start preparing for a new tour by learning the artist's music and really familiarizing myself with their songs.
While I am learning the music, I am also building an input list and stage plot.
When I’m hired for the tour, one of the first questions I ask is who are the Tour Manager and Production Managers? I then reach out to them for information. Do an input list and stage plot exist? Is there an audio rider or technical spec? If so I’ll get them and review them with any existing crew (monitor engineer, backline technicians).
If they don’t exist, I’ll start with the band and ask each musician what their rig consists of. How big is the drum kit? Are there any loops or samples? How many keyboard lines? Is the guitar rig mono or stereo, a wet and a dry, how many cabinets? etc., until I've talked to everyone. Next, I review all of this with the...
I’m in the midst of preparing for my next tour with an artist I’ve never worked with before, so I thought I’d fill you in on how I prepare for a new gig.
The first thing I do is get the artists catalog. In this case, it’s quite extensive- nearly 500 songs! That’s a lot to learn.
I create a playlist that contains all of their songs. I've also requested a list of songs from their most recent tour's set list, so I can focus on where to start. Then I start doing some critical listening. I’ll listen to the sonic structure of the song, what instruments are the driving force, what if any are featured, where do they all fall in the mix? What are the tones of the individual instruments? What kinds of effects are there? Are their instrument solos and where? All the while making notes, lots of notes. I’ll break it down by Intro, Verse, Chorus, Verse, Bridge, Chorus, Verse, etc.
This is what I...