A journey inside one of 2019's most revealing and remarkable records
Live depends on us “It’s the most reliable and easy to use console on the market. And it sounds great!” Horst Hartmann - Monitor Engineer, P!NK
Perfecting The Art of Live Sound #43032 - PM Horst Hartmann strip ad.indd 1
P3 SEPTEMBER 2019 www.psneurope.com • Twitter.com/PSNEurope • Facebook.com/ProSoundNewsEurope • Instagram.com/PSNEurope EDITORIAL Editor: Daniel Gumble firstname.lastname@example.org • +44 (0)203 871 7371 Staff Writer: Fiona Hope McDowall email@example.com • +44 (0)798 3168221
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ith the festival season effectively over and as the live events calendar settles back into something approaching normality, PSNEurope is shifting its gaze from the field to the classroom in our September issue. Over the coming weeks, new terms and semesters will begin across the continent’s various schools, colleges and universities and a new generation of potential sound professionals will embark on their audio education journey. So, as is customary at this time of year, we’ve taken an extensive look at the options that are available for those looking to pursue a career in pro audio. Speaking with some of the industry’s foremost education providers (p23), Phil Ward hears from those in the know about how education in our sector has evolved over the years and why formal training can still be pivotal in setting budding audio professionals on the path to greatness. In keeping with the education theme, our Benelux correspondent Marc Maes delivers a report on the work of one of the region’s top training centres (p17), while this year’s MPG LIPA Award winner Will Mason
reveals his ambitions for the future and discusses his experiences in pro sound training (p21). Elsewhere in this issue, this month’s cover star, the mighty Marika Hackman, let’s us in on the recording and production of her incredible new album Any Human Friend, which she co-produced with award winning producer David Wrench. It’s quite unlike anything else you’ll hear this year so I strongly urge anyone reading this to check it out forthwith. You can read our conversation over at p31. We also take an exclusive behind the scenes look at The 1975’s tour (p14), which saw d&b audiotechnik’s KSL system play a starring role, while London Night Czar Amy Lame welcomes us into City Hall for a chat about the capital’s live music scene and what’s being done to stem the towering tide of grassroots music venue closures that have been blighting the sector for the past 10 years. Find out what she has to say on p48. Plus, PLASA managing director Peter Heath tells us how he’s upping the ante once again for this year’s show (p28), as its resurgence continues with yet more audio exhibits and content. Enjoy. n
Chief executive Zillah Byng-Thorne Non-executive chairman Richard Huntingford Chief financial officer Penny Ladkin-Brand Tel +44 (0)1225 442 244
the dialogue noise suppressor that anyone can use CINEMA AUDIO SOCIETY
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P4 SEPTEMBER 2019
In this issue... People P6
EM Acoustics An in-depth look at Blitz Communications’ recent investment with EM Acoustics from those most closely involved in the deal
P21 Will Mason We hear from the winner of this year’s MPG LIPA Prize about his experiences of audio training and his ambitions for the future
P14 ON THE ROAD WITH D&B AND THE 1975 AN EXCLUSIVE LOOK AT THE KSL SYSTEM’S STAR PERFORMANCE
Education Phil Ward takes an in-depth look at how professional audio training has evolved in recent years and discusses the many benefits it can offer budding sound pros
P26 Funktion-One’s French connection A behind the scenes look at the UK pioneer’s recent activities in France, where it has been stealing the show at an array of festivals
P28 PETER HEATH THE PLASA MD DISCUSSES THE SHOW’S RESURGENCE
Yoni Zlotkin The Waves product manager discusses the development of the firm’s new Abbey Road Studio 3 plugin and its partnership with the legendary studio
P50 Mystery Jets The UK band discuss the co-production of their highly anicipated new album A Billion Heartbeats
P48 AMY LAMÉ THE LONDON NIGHT CZAR ON SAVING THE CITY’S MUSIC VENUES
P00 P6 SEPTEMBER MONTH 2019
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Blitz goes big with EM Acoustics Blitz Communications has placed one of its largest ever orders with EM Acoustics, marking a number of firsts for both parties. Daniel Gumble spoke to EM Acoustics founders Mike Wheeler and Ed Kinsella and Blitz sound and theatre director Aron Ross to find out more…
vent production company Blitz Communications recently placed two major orders with UK loudspeaker systems manufacturer EM Acoustics, with the firm’s rental stock investment being its largest order to date. Blitz’s first order was for the new system in the ICC at London's ExCel centre – the gear is owned by Blitz but lives permanently in the ICC - representing the very first HALO-A and HALO-B install in the UK. The install is comprised of 16 HALO-A, 12 HALO-B, 6 ST-215 subs, six EMS-61 and six EMS-121X. The speakers are powered by eight DQ20D amps. Blitz has also made its largest rental inventory investment to date, including EM Acoustics' large format HALO-A system and the mid-sized HALO-B. So what inspired Blitz to invest so heavily in the UK manufacturer’s new lines? We spoke to EM Acoustics founders Mike Wheeler and Ed Kinsella and Blitz sound and theatre director Aron Ross to find out... How did this deal come about? Mike Wheeler: Blitz Communications has been a customer of EM Acoustics for many years, and already stock a range of our equipment. This particular deal came about as a result of our ability to provide the right product, at the right time, suiting an exact and rather large-scale need that they had. Rob Handyside (Blitz’s chief sound engineer) came along to the launch of HALO-A at LH2 Studios last June, and that was really what set this particular ball rolling. Blitz then took a number of systems out on test for a variety of events, proving our kit in real-word situations. This process was backed with full support from us as the manufacturer.
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Left-right: Mike Wheeler, Rob Handyside Aron Ross, Ed Kinsella
Our philosophy as a company meant that Aron and Rob had the personalised support they needed – both technical and commercial – which we are sure aided their decision-making process. Aron Ross: I have been looking for a large format line array for a while, as we do a lot of shows in bigger rooms that demand a bit of volume and power. I missed the demo at LH2 but the rest of the sound team came back raving about the system. I heard the HALO-B at the EM factory and was immediately impressed – even one cell a side sounded great. At this time I was attempting to replace the aging PA in the ICC auditorium. The system there was old and, in my opinion, too small for the room, so I knew HALO would be a contender. We heard several different systems that were excellent and would have suited the space, but I just kept coming back to the openness and clarity of the HALO. We do a lot of speech and simple stuff, but occasionally need the power for playback, or live music, often in the same show, and the EM system delivers both delicacy at low volume and effortless power without sounding strained or changing in tonal character. What can you tell us about the significance of these two orders? Ed Kinsella: The combined orders for the ICC install and Blitz’s rental stock represent not only a significant sale, but an excellent early endorsement of the new flagship HALO-A and HALO-B systems. The purchase is comprehensive, including subwoofers, a generous selection of our signature passive point-source
loudspeakers, stage monitors and a lot of amplifiers – both as individual units and our flagship DQRack touring solution. It represents a big statement for EM Acoustics in the UK rental market to have a company making an investment of this size in these systems. AR: Both are huge for Blitz. We now have a seriously powerful line array that can cover any room or outdoor show with ease. We also have in the HALO-B, a medium format line array that gives us another option for our clients in any size venue. For our rental stock, I wanted to be able to do pretty much any of our large shows entirely with EM, but also have the ability to split it into a bunch of smaller systems as needed. If we just had a small amount of the system we would not be able to utilise it effectively. Although saying that, I already need more. Mike and Ed may have to work some overtime… The ICC contract represents a couple of firsts for EM Acoustics. How significant is this contract in establishing the brand as a force in the UK? MW: Yes, this is the first install of both HALO-A and HALO-B in the UK – and it’s a significant vote of confidence for EM in the corporate market in the UK. EM Acoustics has always had a very strong reputation within theatre; the ICC install and Blitz’s rental purchase puts us front-and-centre in the corporate market sector. Does EM Acoustics’ relationship with Blitz represent the first step in a sustained bid to compete with the dominant PA brands? MW: Yes. EM Acoustics has been competing with the
other players in the theatre industry for many years with great success, but we recognise there is a much wider industry out there and we are, with an expanded product line, naturally spreading into different market sectors. This is the first step on a path that looks to be very interesting for us. Can you tell us about any rental projects you have in the pipeline? MW: We are in conversation with a number of rental companies, though of course we can’t go into detail at this stage. The fact Blitz has moved forward with such a significant step forward with EM Acoustics further solidifies the brand and confidence in the exceptional new products – and that’s a great foundation to build on. Watch this space over the coming months. AR: We do a huge range of projects, from AGMs and conferences to bands and theatre. We are also seeing more and more live acts and performances as part of all types of shows. I am looking forward to seeing how our clients, visiting engineers and productions enjoy using our new systems. What next for EM Acoustics? EK: We have now completed an intensive product review and update period – the PLASA London show in September will see the unveiling of the updated product range, and there are further significant, groundbreaking elements that will be added over the latter part of this year. Everything is gearing up for a very exciting 2020, with a complete and coherent product line to offer to the widest possible market. n
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Movers and shakers Stay in the loop with the latest job appointments and movements in the professional audio industry...
Lawo makes changes to executive management board Lawo has announced the expansion of its executive management board. Jamie Dunn now serves as Lawo’s chief commercial officer while Phil Myers has been appointed chief technology officer. “This development reflects the continuous execution of our growth strategy and is a natural step in the evolution of our company’s structure. Building strong partnerships based on staying close and accessible has been a core value of the company
since its foundation. My new role recognises the importance to maintain our customer focus as we continue to grow,” said Dunn. “Lawo has continually developed pioneering solutions that create competitive advantages for our customers world-wide. I look forward to driving the company’s technology strategy at board level, and ensuring that our heritage of engineering and manufacturing excellence continues,” added Myers.
Ken Kimura to lead
Synthax Audio UK appoints
Audiologic appoints Iain
Genelec’s Asia Pacific team
Simon Roome as new
Cameron as Scotland and
Ireland business manager
Genelec has appointed Ken Kimura to the newly created role of business development director for the Asia Pacific region. With over 20 years of experience (15 years at DPA), Kimura will bolster Genelec’s international business strategy. Speaking of how he will start off in his new role, Kimura said: "My immediate plan is to listen. Listen to colleagues, business partners, audio professionals and enthusiasts that have been instrumental in establishing Genelec in its leading position today. From there and by mutual efforts, I am convinced that we will further strengthen Genelec’s core business, while making the brand more accessible and widespread throughout the region. Understanding and responding to user needs and market trends by taking proper measures and allocating the required resources are key if we and our distribution partners are to succeed."
Pro audio distributor Synthax Audio UK has appointed Simon Roome as its new sales manager. With over 25 years of experience, Roome will be responsible for sales across the broadcast and pro parts of the Synthax UK portfolio, including the Calrec Brio and Type-R broadcast consoles, and audio solutions from RME, Ferrofish, DirectOut and Appsys. He spent 10 years working for Studer by Harman as UK sales manager and product manager. For Synthax, Roome will leverage his many relationships with important customers in broadcast and live and professional audio. Roome said: “Joining Synthax has given me the opportunity to reconnect with many old friends in the broadcast business, moving back into a direct sales position with a more varied product portfolio. Synthax has a wide market appeal, so I’m looking forward to working with a greater variety of clients."
Audiologic has appointed Iain Cameron to the role of business manager with specific responsibility for Scotland and Ireland. Based in Glasgow, Cameron will work to expand the company’s reach in what is a rapidly growing marketplace for the distributor. Cameron said: “I’m delighted to be representing Audiologic’s range of products and expertise. I’ve picked up a lot from my work in different sectors of the industry, covering all aspects of audio, video and control, so when the position came to my attention, it felt like a great fit. I’ve forged some strong industry relationships over a number of years and I look forward to developing many more as I take the Audiologic message forward into the region. I’m passionate about helping customers deliver the best possible solutions for their clients – something that I know lines up perfectly with the Audiologic way of doing business.” n
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‘THE LIFE BLOOD OF TRAINING’
Shure recently extended its partnership with RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art), providing an extensive array of equipment for students and highlighting its continued support for the pro audio education sector as a whole. Tara Lepore finds out how its commitment to training is benefitting the next generation of audio professionals...
f you’ve been through higher education in the UK - or bankrolled your children through it - you might think reducing tuition fees would be a good thing (UK fees are among the highest in the world). But a report looking at the decline of music teaching published earlier this year shows that particularly in the case of vocational degrees - of which professional sound training often falls under - reducing fees will mean arts-based degrees will be hit the hardest. This is simply because the technology needed to train sound professionals doesn’t come cheap. Luckily for audio students, key businesses in the professional sound industry are stepping in to help provide the studio-based education the next generation of technicians needs to succeed. Without this help, you can’t help but wonder if audio training providers would even be able to survive? Steve Mayo, head of sound at the world-renowned Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), tells PSNEurope these partnerships are “the lifeblood of training.” He says: “Without them, top-class training is difficult in an industry that can move quickly. Professional audio is not cheap and given the vast range of equipment that students can be exposed to very early on in their career, it means that you need to implement a high standard in the training environment.” Shure is one such company partnering up with the UK’s top sound training facilities. What Shure offers to its educational partners is threefold: loaning equipment, giving masterclasses, and providing links to the industry. In fact, you could technically extend it to four elements: Shure’s market development specialist Jack Drury tells PSNEurope that the manufacturer has also helped RADA students compile research for their thesis at the end of their degree... Shure x RADA Shure’s partnership with RADA began in 2011, offering the aforementioned industrystandard training across the academy’s many programmes. The drama school also receives help from Autograph Sound Recording, who, Mayo says, “we have a great relationship with. They help us out with equipment for productions and multiple students have been on secondment with them.” Shure has also offered work experience and secondment opportunities to students at RADA. Mayo continues: “A RADA student who recently did a placement at Shure really came to fruition during a production of the musical Into the Woods in the school’s Jerwood Vanbrugh Theatre this year. Shure loaned us 16 channels of Axient Digital ADX for the production along with Twin Plex lavaliers, and the student - Henry Parritt - was really comfortable with frequency management and the implementation of the wireless technology for the production.” While being able to loan out Shure’s top equipment is crucial, given the rising cost of providing world-class education, relationship-building is also key. After all, these students will be the next roster of audio professionals. Shure’s Drury, who is vocal about his passion for education, will go in and meet the students in their first year, “creating a positive relationship from an early point.” He tells PSNEurope: “[Meeting the students] is important because it teaches students how to communicate with manufacturers, as well as the type of vernacular we use and things that are important to us. It gives them an insight into the industry from a fairly early point. As the students go through second and third year, they’ll specialise in certain things. So, I will start to build a more in-depth relationship with students who want to specialise in sound design, for instance. You could say there’s elements of mentoring in that as well.” Mayo says that, along with Drury, there have been “multiple visits” to RADA from Shure’s senior marketing specialist Marc Henshall and senior director and wireless specialist Tuomo George-Tolonen throughout the six years of the partnership to date. This focus on building professional relationships means students can become more familiar with the equipment while not being afraid to make mistakes. The partnership also means there are indispensable networking opportunities for the students, which will provide that crucial foot in the door for the many graduates who will likely go on to freelance in the theatre industry. Drury says: “RADA students are happy to call Shure if there is a problem or need anything for a production that isn’t covered by the loan equipment, and the people at Shure are open to helping where they can. We want to allow students to make
mistakes in a controlled environment, so when they go out there they’re confident using it. That’s only going to reflect well on the perception of the equipment in the marketplace, too.” So what’s in it for Shure? Clearly, allowing students to train using its high-end equipment will do exactly as Drury says, reflect better on Shure in the industry as a whole: the kit will sound better if using it is second nature for the people working behind it. So, while the cost of loaning top-end equipment and subsidised rates might not make sense financially, it’s all about developing brand loyalty and product familiarity for professionals at the very beginning of their career. “It’s a long-term thing,” says Drury. “We wouldn’t expect to see monetary value come back to us on any of our education partnerships in a measurable way, because realistically these students are going to go out to the world as freelancers. But then, in five to 10 years time, they might be in a position to buy or specify some of this equipment. So I think the most important thing for us as a brand is having users out in the marketplace actively using gear who are comfortable using our equipment.” ‘Second to none’ expertise Being able to work with Shure’s equipment as a student is essential training for a young sound technician, but Shure’s offering goes further to help break down technically difficult elements of the job - one being wireless technology. At RADA, wireless masterclasses have been led by Shure’s senior director George-Tolenen, “whose knowledge of wireless frequency management is second to none,” according to Mayo. “The Wireless Workbench masterclasses have been hugely beneficial to students’ training, especially with the changes to the digital spectrum,” he adds. Top-end tech Equipment loaned throughout the Shure-RADA sponsorship so far has facilitated training across all aspects of the academy’s programme, from theatre productions to voiceover training for acting students. Equipment such as the KSM141 instrument microphone and KSM44A condenser microphone are key components in RADA's recording studio and the QLX-D digital wireless system and PSM300 IEM systems are “constantly being used”, Mayo notes. “As RADA puts on a total of 50 productions every year, the sound students have become very proficient at hiding IEMs in a variety of props, including in record players.” As part of Shure’s equipment loan package, and in the case of RADA specifically, Shure loans kit of a higher tier than the academy would be able to purchase themselves. “Obviously education budgets are under quite a lot of pressure at the moment, so for the likes of RADA, students have the ability to train and gets hands-on with RF equipment, such as Axient Digital, and get used to it, which is important, because this high-budget stuff is common in the industry. For our students, being able to use and appreciate the consistent results of Shure equipment, especially their recent experience of using the Axient ADX range, gives them a solid foundation in professional level equipment that will be with them throughout their careers.” Partnership growth Outside of London, Shure’s two other main sound education partners are Backstage Academy in Wakefield and West Herts College in Watford. Stephen Carter, music and curriculum developer at West Herts College, says: “Without Shure’s educational programme, doing things like giving cheaper microphones and long-term stock to places and coming in to do masterclasses on building microphone and wireless technology, we’re not able to prepare our students for what comes next.” Miles Marsden, industry partnerships director at Backstage Academy, adds: “Our students are equipment-hungry, and the nature of our industry is very expensive. I think students are acutely aware of this so they’re more than appreciative of what our partners, such as Shure, do.” Mayo adds: “RADA graduates are going to be key players in the industry within the next 10 years and it’s the support from companies like Shure they’ll remember." Drury concludes: “This isn’t something we just pay lip service to, it’s very important. While it’s difficult to measure the return on investment with these partnerships, we’ve proven that it’s worth our while.” n
Bringing 'detail and clarity like never ebfore': d&b's KSL system
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Brief encounters Currently in the midst of a two-year tour in support of their highly acclaimed album A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, The 1975 have been utilising d&b audiotechnikâ€™s KSL system as part of their show, as PSNEurope discovers...
P15 SEPTEMBER 2019
The 1975 and d&b's KSL take centre stage
ritish pop-rock band The 1975 have embarked on a two-year world tour off the back of their critically and commercially revered record, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, with a firm focus on the fan experience. As such, the production team required a flexible, powerful and clear sound solution to tackle the vast array of venues awaiting the band on the road. “Musically, this band is very eclectic, so you really need a sound system that covers all of those genres and styles,” says Jay Rigby, FOH engineer for The 1975. “[Lead singer] Matty Healy and drummer George Daniel produce their own albums - they know exactly how they should sound live and they have the technical expertise to communicate that effectively.” Rental house Eighth Day Sound has worked with The 1975 for their past two album cycles. As early adopters of new d&b technology, they collaborated with Rigby to specify d&b audiotechnik’s KSL system for this tour. “One really interesting thing with the KSL,” Rigby elaborates, “is that the vocal range is just incredible that crossover point between the mid and the high is so smooth; you don’t really hear any horn distortion and the voice is just so smooth all the way through. The fans want to hear every word that Matty is saying and KSL has made it so much easier for every seat in the house to hear just that.” Whether playing smaller venues such as The Brighton Centre (4,500 capacity) or large arenas such as London’s O2 (20,000 capacity), the striking, art-installation-like set design by conceptual designer Tobias Rylander scales accordingly, and sound follows suit. “We bounce into different sized venues on an almost daily basis and KSL
sounds great in all of them,” says Rigby. Eighth Day Sound’s system engineer Dan Bluhm says of KSL: “It has been a fantastic addition to Eighth Day’s inventory and has fit our needs for The 1975. KSL provides us with a tonal consistency as well as even level distribution from the top, back-of-the-arena seat down to the floor. It has allowed us to provide a similar audio experience to every seat. “Being able to use the KSL in many different sized venues has benefited this band and tour. They love to play venues from arenas one day, to a theatre the next day, and then a club the day after, so we really need a system that’s able to scale. For us, d&b KSL has been a wonderful product where you can hang six, twelve, or whatever is necessary for the venue you are in.” Faced with such variety, Bluhm utilises d&b ArrayCalc and R1 control software to plan, implement and optimise the sound for each venue. “The d&b eco-system drives my day,” Bluhm explains. “From starting with ArrayCalc prediction software for room measurement and determining speaker angles. Then transitioning into the R1 control system. This allows me to perform system checks and array verification while the system is still at a working height. We’re able to check all the components in the boxes, make sure that everything is functioning, and cabled correctly before sending it up. "We have found the KSL to be very easy and fast to hang. Our two fly guys are hanging the arrays within a matter of hours from shooting the room.” Rigby adds: “There are three things we really noticed with the KSL. The first was the rear rejection. When you stand behind the PA, it’s almost as if it isn’t on. The
first time we heard it standing behind the array, I didn’t believe the PA was on - I had to go out front just to confirm that it was. d&b has done a great job making it a true cardioid box, all the way down to the low end. “The second thing is related to that cardioid performance. Traditionally, with other boxes, you get down to the low mid-range and the cardioid pattern goes away, so you end up with a lot of low mid lobing off to the sides. "By solving that, you get the appearance that the box is actually wider than it is, so as you walk around from the main, to where your side hang coverage would normally start, you feel like the coverage continues over further, because the relationship between the low end and the high end stays consistent. “The third thing is the low mid content in the box. You get a lot more, punchier low end, which in certain situations means you’d be able to use either less subs, or none at all. The KSL has a 10-degree vertical dispersion, so you get more vertical coverage which means in certain situations you could fly a couple less boxes. On previous tours we carried 22 boxes of J on the main hang, where on this run we are carrying only 20 KSL.” “The overall clarity we’re getting with KSL, I kind of relate to television, when you’re used to watching standard definition and the first time you watch in HD, there’s this wow factor, where you never knew it could look or sound so clear,” Rigby concludes. “I’m now hearing parts in certain instruments that I never heard before, almost to the point where I’m going to the backline guys to ask if it was there last time. There’s detail and clarity that we didn’t have before.” n
P17 PXX SEPTEMBER MONTH 2019 2017
Photo © stijn segers
10 years of
PXL Music To highlight the 10th anniversary of Belgium’s PXL Music university college, a special edition of Vuurdoop (Baptism of Fire) was performed at the annual graduation live concert, which welcomed over 20 bands in 10 hours, making it a true challenge for all students involved. Marc Maes takes a look back on the education provider’s first decade, and ahead to the future…
XL Music was launched in 2008 as part of PHL Limburg (Provincial University College Limburg). In 2013 the name changed into PXL Music. In its first year, the professional bachelor course registered some 65 students, with 15 lecturers teaching. Today, over 200 students participate in the three-year courses in the curricula of Music Performance, Music Management, and Music Engineering (studio and live). “We’re incredibly proud to have achieved this result in the first decade,” enthused Gert Stinckens, head of the PXL Music department. “We’re the country’s only three year bachelor course combining the three curricula and today we have elaborated, together with the music sector, a dynamic education programme. A story of fall and rise and learning a lot. And the fact that all lecturers must have a professional career in their respective field remains essential.” In 2013, PXL Music was officially approved by the NVAO (Dutch-Flemish Accreditation organisation), which judged the quality of the training: “This goes beyond
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a pat on the back,” continued Stinckens. “Alongside some issues for the future, like continuing the internationalisation of the courses, this recognition underlines the credibility and value of the diploma.” PXL Music’s Live Engineering curriculum continuously attracts more candidates than there are spaces on the course. “We usually start with 14 to 16 students, depending how many of the 30 applicants opt for the ‘live’ or ‘studio’ course, and in the final year, four to six students reach the finish line,” explained live audio engineer and sound-designer Erik Loots, the college’s first lecturer in live engineering. “And whereas the live sound sector initially was quite sceptical about the course, we have proven that it really works – our alumni are in high demand. Their craftsmanship, attitude, communication and teamwork abilities make them top notch audio staffers. They have gathered this experience in three years – in the past you had to work as a live tech for 12 years to achieve the same expertise.” PXL Music’s name and fame also spread amongst live audio equipment manufacturers and distributors who regularly offer new equipment for demos and practice classes. “Students learn to mix on our Soundcraft MH3 analogue live desks – but when a manufacturer like Yamaha allows our students to work a full week with the brand’s consoles, they can apply their knowledge on the digital desks and get to know them,” adds Loots, citing other examples such as (SSL distributor) Face’s workshops and AudioXL’s digital Soundcraft classes. This year’s PXL International Week saw distributor Amptec providing a d&b immersive set. For Stef De Pooter, sales engineer Yamaha Belux, PXL Music stands out because of its high level of education. “These students are the future live and studio engineers, who will be mixing top bands in Belgium and abroad. It’s our job to teach them to appreciate our products and to work hands on with them,” De Pooter said. “As a manufacturer, providing training in new technology like Dante networks or immersive sound is key.” Yamaha started giving PXL Music workshops and classes in 2018 and this year set up multiple days of training both in studio and live environments with support from Steinberg’s Yadi Hinz on their Wavelab mastering software and Yamaha’s Christoph Haertwig on the Nuage platform. Yamaha’s live consoles product specialist Ruben Van Der Goor, gave an overview and training on the full range of live consoles, TF, QL and CL series, PM7 and PM 10 mixing desks for second year students. After a day of Yamaha treatment the students had another week to work on the full range of Yamaha desks to prepare for their department’s concerts. Tom Janssen is a lecturer in the live engineering course's second year and highly values PXL Music training as a vital resource. “Theoretical knowledge is important and in the end it saves time,” he said. “Like setting up a live audio system with Smaart software or installing a line-array set-up - our students have thorough knowhow of the platform and essential formulas.” Janssen, together with his colleague Jelle Coremans, supervised the Vuurdoop music festival. “This event actually gathers all our students,” said Janssen. “The ‘Music Management’ students take on administration, communication and promotion, and set up backstage hospitality. For the “Music Performance” students, Vuurdoop is part of their bachelor graduation exam, and most of the performances are recorded in our SSL and NEVE Studio’s by the Studio Engineer students. The six second-grade Live Engineer trainees take on the technical live part, building and controlling FOH and monitor gear and lighting for the festival; one as ‘head of production’, and one student for each of the five stages.” Vuurdoop initially served as the music bachelor’s graduation exam, but rapidly evolved into the current event, involving as many students as possible from PXL Music’s curricula. “This is an incredibly strong project – it would be easier for us to just spend a budget on booking bands. This is much more interesting: new bands, backed by live engineer students, gathering experience mileage,” underlined Gert Stinckens. “In addition to mandatory internships with audio rental companies like PRG or Phlippo and in venues like Ancienne Belgique, the Vuurdoop festival is a practice-based
graduation test.” Student Willem Gerits took on the technical production of the Vuurdoop ‘discovery’ festival. All together, 26 bands (current students and ‘alumni’ bands) celebrated PXL Music’s 10th anniversary. With PXL Music being located in the same building like concert venue Muziek-o-Droom, the festival was organised in five venues, with a total capacity of 1,500 people, between 16:00 and 02:00 hrs. “Quite interesting as a class assignment,” said Gerits. “Drawing up an equipment list, placement of the FOH console, speakers, monitors…and things we haven’t seen yet in the course, like bands playing with in-ears, very exciting!,” adding that the true challenge lies in the fact of working together in a team of over 70 students, with lots of individual responsibilities in a very tight schedule. “We were given ‘carte blanche’ by our lecturers – if things should go wrong, we’re the ones to feel it.” Vuurdoop’s FOH configuration consisted of the education’s two analogue Soundcraft MH3 consoles with Meyer Sound UPA and USW speakers and the Muziek-o-Droom’s fixed installation (MH3 for FOH and d&b Q7-series speakers). Gerits hired in extra kit from rental company SSL, like a Midas M32 with DL251 interface, with 6 x d&b Q1, 2 x Q7, 8 x Qsub and d&bMax-15 monitor wedges, all powered by d&b D12 amps, plus microphones, stands and cables. “The fact that our classrooms are actually right under the main venues, is a logistic bonus – with respect for the budget we just move part of the kit upstairs.” PXL Music’s future is looking bright. In addition to planned investment in new speakers and the relocation of the live engineer practice class to a new pavilion, the Studio and Live engineer courses are preparing a paper on immersive audio. “Immersive Audio has been nominated as a spear tip research project,” explained Stinckens. “We set up an immersive lab, and the college management provided extra budget and staff for research on the subject. It was launched within the Studio education but rapidly also became a Focus project for the Live engineer curriculum, spanning several years.” Erik Loots and Tom Janssen are leading this project, with students participating as a potential basis for their graduation paper. “We had Amptec coming over to present the d&b Soundscape immersive audio system as a start, with Kraftwerk’s FOH engineer Serge Gräfe giving a one hour master class,” said Loots. “We do research on the experience of immersive audio, it’s future and technical possibilities, logistics and budgetary implementations. Today there are many standalone applications like d&b, L-Acoustics, that are integrated in mixing consoles… My goal is to develop an in-house immersive audio mixing environment, involving experts from the industry.” n
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Sound of Success LIPA graduate and 2019 MPG LIPA Award winner Will Mason lets PSNEurope's Fiona Hope in on his experience at the prestigious performing arts university and his plans for the future...
IPA graduate Will Mason was recently awarded the much-coveted 2019 MPG LIPA (Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts) Prize. The annual award is granted to the most promising LIPA Sound Technology course graduate of the year. The accolade provides the winner with an abundance of opportunities in the industry, setting them up for their future career with plenty of networking, shadowing of industry professionals, financial support and highquality studio equipment. Specifically, Mason will get the chance to work with the industry's finest, including MPG Recording Engineer of the Year 2019, Matt Wiggins, who has worked with Adele and London Grammar, and the opportunity to attend recording sessions at London’s Strongroom Studios (MPG Studio of the Year 2019). Other benefits include being gifted an AMS Neve 1073 Mic Pre, a visit to Avid’s UK Headquarters, one year’s associate membership with the MPG, and tickets to the exclusive MPG Awards ceremony. MPG executive director, Olga FitzRoy, said of the award: "We're proud to sponsor this award, as it will give the winner the opportunity to learn from the best talent in the industry. We hope that this, combined with PPL's generous support will give talented students from all backgrounds a real boost in this competitive field." Originally from Leek in Staffordshire, Mason first got into music when his dad taught him to play the drums and his music production skills blossomed while part of the band, Delamere. Mason then quit his job as an IT technician to join LIPA. Here, Fiona Hope found out from Mason himself about his win and how he'll make the most out of his newfound opportunity... What is your background? What made you pursue an education and career in audio? I was taught how to play the drums by my dad at a very young age and played non-stop as I grew up. I began to take music more seriously as a teenager when I joined a band which would later become Delamere; this is where I quickly found a passion for music production. As the band went from strength to strength, so did my music production skills. In 2016 we released our debut album which I co-produced alongside recording engineer and LIPA grad Rich Turvey. Songs from the album received plays on national radio and appeared on high profile TV shows such as Made in Chelsea and Soccer AM. The
PIctured above (L-R): Tony Platt, Steve Levine, Will Mason and Jon Thornton, head of LIPA’s BA Sound Technology programme
experience I gained from this gave me the confidence to pursue a career in music production professionally, studying Sound Technology at LIPA. How was your experience studying at LIPA? My three years at LIPA not only sharpened my technical abilities but also allowed me the time and focus to produce a portfolio of work which showcases my abilities as a songwriter, engineer and music producer. It was this time, along with the targets and deadlines that LIPA gave me, that was most valuable to me. What advice would you give to those about to embark on an audio education? To make the most out of the three or so years you have and to work hard on improving your skills in your chosen field. I focused on improving myself in all aspects of music creation. For me, it was important to have an end goal to reach a level of hyper-focus. On the other hand, if you’re not sure what your end goal is, it’s a great way to find out where your skills lie and what you enjoy. What experiences have you had so far in the pro audio world? Any current projects? I’ve done a few stints at various studios as an assistant
engineer but my main focus right now is to set up a small production space to create and record music. Who inspires you? There’s three people from the school and small town I grew up in that are all doing well in the music industry as producers; Rich Turvey, James Ford and Paul Yarrow. I find people who I know, or people who have had similar paths in life to me to be the most inspiring, as it makes your ‘pipe dream’ feel achievable. Other than that, I’m a big fan of mix engineers David Wrench and Spike Stent. How do you think the win will impact your career? It’s a really great opportunity for me to kickstart my career. For an introvert like myself, making connections in the industry doesn’t come naturally. Although I’m not shy, I think the award and opportunities I’ve been given will help me make some solid contacts and mentors. What are your aspirations for the future? To just keep making music. I don’t aspire to become a millionaire through my work, I’d be foolish if I did. I just want to do what I enjoy for a living while constantly improving myself as a producer, musician and person. n
OUT SCHOOLâ€™S Phil Ward packs his pencil case and investigates live sound training...
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ever mind Alice Cooper: training in this sector is in rude health. Several businesses, institutions and individuals are redefining its parameters, as rapidly changing technology conspires with economic turmoil to urge new thinking and fresh initiatives in a uniquely challenging – and exciting – field. There’s no shortage of candidates, but all of the facilities available for this education are going through changes. Tech that Mike Lowe has steered training at Britannia Row since the untimely death of Barry Bartlett, whose protégé Luca Stefani is now course director. The outline of the course remains Bartlett’s original vision from when Britannia Row Productions Training was launched in 2013, but there is one particular curve gathering momentum. “We give our students a holistic grounding in audio,” Lowe says, “but the growing demand for system techs means a fair amount of networking and IT these days. It can take up to three years for a budding system tech to fly on his own after the training, going out with our crews under the wing of a senior system tech and working up from, say, theatre runs to large arenas. But compared with mixing, which takes just as long to build up the contacts and get established, system tech’ing is the fastest way to earn reasonably good money, as well as getting right into the centre of production activity. Everybody needs to interact with the system tech.” Not to say that other routes – mixing, stagecraft, radio tech’ing – don’t receive the same amount of support and encouragement. “But there is a new generation of computer-savvy students coming through,” adds Lowe, “not least because they’ve been ‘screenagers’ since they were three years old. They still need a passion for music and/or audio and to not mind some heavy lifting, and through that filtering process come the people who actually want to do the job.” Soulsound was formed when Alchemea College closed and live sound tutors Justin Grealy and Darryn de la Soul reinvented its course in response to demand. Now operating as an online membership agency, Soulsound acts as a virtual resource for sound engineers offering video tutorials, discussion forums, one-to-one sessions over Skype and even public liability insurance, among other benefits. Grealy, erstwhile Prodigy mixer Jon Burton and Tori Amos’s engineer Marcel van Limbeek share the bulk of the material, as well as drawing upon individual experts in specific fields. “We now cover system set-up,” he says, “as well as cabling – an area rife with misunderstanding. We have to keep putting up new content, of course, and my target is to teach as many different ways of doing a given thing as we can. This means more and varied short videos, including interviews with different sound engineers to find out individual tricks. All are welcome, and in general you can find your way from beginner to some pretty serious stuff. “We’ve been looking for a venue to do some teaching, as we did at Alchemea using what used to be The Fridge in Brixton, as well as The Village Underground or The Coronet later on. Usually the modules in a college degree course do not have the resources to cover live sound adequately, and where there are bespoke sound engineering courses, they tend to be driven by profit rather than education. Again, they’re theory-heavy and there’s almost no practical experience involved. If you really want to be a live sound engineer, there comes a time when you’ve got to stand in front of a pair of wedges with an SM58 in your hand and start listening. We wouldn’t sign our students off unless they had 100 hours of work experience – which we could offer with me or Jon, or by sending them off to other venues. I’ve taken students with me to The Palladium, Hammersmith Apollo, or a little place in Hoxton… all over London. It’s absolutely essential.”
Some of the previous courses at Alchemea have resurfaced at The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance (ICMP) as Alchemea@ICMP. Research and development FOH engineer Jon Burton is a contributor for Soulsound and regularly talks at colleges and universities around the UK. This very month Burton begins a new role as a lecturer in live sound at The University of Derby. “I was drawn to the Soulsound model because of its accessibility to people around the world, in places where there just isn’t the formal education and tuition you can get here,” he comments. “In many countries I’ve visited on tour I’ve met young engineers who are desperate to learn and gain experience. For a great many, travelling abroad to study is simply not possible. I’ve been lucky enough to get the chance to visit countries like Serbia and Armenia and teach short courses.” At Derby, Burton feels his main asset is his own experiential learning. “I’m hoping to contribute on a practical basis, sharing some of what I have learned over the years,” he says. “Derby is a place that seems to have many graduates actually working in the industry, and I know this because I’ve worked with many of them. It’s a similar story with LIPA and Central, where you see students moving into full-time jobs. I was drawn to the practical side of the course but also the opportunity to be involved in research – to try and make a difference that way, too.” Research? “I’m interested in the science, but I’m also interested in the way the universities relate to the industry and vice versa. I’ve recently been looking at the manufacturers’ involvement in education. Many are interested but haven’t considered it in enough detail. It definitely should be encouraged. I’ll hopefully be having discussions with some of my contacts about how
Yamaha delegates training at Brit Row
we can improve things. Rental companies have been getting involved but their needs don’t always match the students’ expectations and that needs addressing. Large companies ultimately need warehouse staff: maintenance engineers rather than sound engineers. You don’t want to spend your internship just stripping PVC tape off cables and painting boxes.” Manufacturers, Burton believes, need bright, motivated students with a passion for sound. “Not all students who attend university necessarily want to mix bands,” he adds. “I’m sure there’ll be someone who wants to be a Dante technician, for example. They’ll be interested in networking, not mixing. We need to encourage them with the same passion.” In Liverpool, Al Mouat coordinates Adlib’s ‘Manufacturer Training Days’ as part of a commitment to refreshing the market. Adlib’s website enables registration for training updates, as well as an email address – firstname.lastname@example.org – at which to fire specific requests. This gives Adlib insight into what the market is most curious about. “We know we can fill any course, every time,” Mouat says. “We’ll do something with the main console manufacturers two or three times a year, and we host a three-day L-Acoustics course every year using our gear. Mostly, it’s professional freelancers or venues retraining their staff in new kit, especially if we’ve supplied it.” Adlib founder Andy Dockerty devotes time to arranging work experience for young hopefuls, as well as liaising with LIPA for student involvement. One annual target is Production Futures, the one-day milk round now hosted at Fly By Nite’s HQ in Redditch. “That’s always a good place to meet youngsters looking to get into the business. Last year I did a panel there,” adds Mouat.
Instituting changes LIPA graduate Andy Davies, now part of Meyer Sound’s worldwide technical support team, regards his education as more than vocational, appreciating its aim of delving into different learning opportunities across multiple disciplines. “That allows students to grow and change as they progress through the course,” he says, “and produces graduates with an understanding of how the wider industry works.” In a changing live audio rental industry, some traditional entry points are vanishing, Davies believes. “Consolidation of rental companies means there are fewer opportunities to sweep the floor, coil cables and make tea. More and more venues have installed PA systems, so small tours regularly don’t travel with PA, therefore opportunities to rig systems in multiple small rooms, experiment and learn on the job are disappearing. Health and safety, insurance and employment laws are now much tougher – and better for it – but one effect is to prevent the addition of an extra crew person to shadow.” Some of this slack is being taken up by new partnerships, however. “Cooperation is key,” adds Davies. “I love what LIPA’s doing with the SSE Audio Group, taking on students for experience and internships. Clair, too, has developed the Roadie In Training programme to try and overcome the lack of small tour experience. The biggest single source of intake is from Full Sail – so people who’ve already had higher education. I would love to see more courses that work with the industry to place people on events and shows. It’s such a shame that dBS Music’s ‘The Hub’ in Plymouth is closing, as they had their own venue to work in, as well as teaching the formal stuff.” At Central School of Speech & Drama, Peter Rice has just taken over as course leader for Theatre Sound. He describes it as a highly practical course, with several on-going productions that the students work on for the majority of their learning. That – combined with formal workshops, seminars and lectures in the opening weeks of each term – makes up their training. “My main observation of formal education as a means of training, versus my previous experience of somewhat ‘on the job’ learning, is the extent to which you ask students to formally reflect on their experience,” says Rice. “This is needed as a way of measuring how much they understand about what they’re learning, but importantly it’s also a solid way to compound that learning. At Central we recognise that not everyone is academically equal so we offer the opportunity to present this reflection in a number of ways, either as a formal written submission; a visual essay; a live presentation; or a video or audio presentation. Essentially, some form of recorded reflection is required at the end of each term in order to make sure there is parity right across student learning – and as a way to ratify the degree qualification. “The main thing that sets Theatre Sound apart, I think, is the dramaturgical understanding – which is interpolated into the sonic delivery. That, and the extensive planning and collaborative skills required to deliver the work, are key. You’re part of a team delivering a text, and that involves an artistic interpretation equally combined with the engineering challenge.” Pop music Some things, however, never change. It falls to Al Mouat at Adlib to voice a value that everybody shares across the live sound industry, with Alice Cooper’s gruff vocal ringing in our ears… “With audio equipment becoming more and more compact,” he says, “you’ll get a lot of people setting themselves up as a business with a small console and various plugins. But the best way to learn is on a 24-channel analogue desk that only has 16 working channels – two of which pop and crackle; a rack with four gates, four compressors and one multi-effects unit; and an XLR loom that’s a bit ropey. If you can work with that and still make it sound good, you’ll probably do all right.” n
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fter making its Electrobeach debut in 2018, Funktion-One’s Vero was back on the Main Stage at France’s largest electronic music festival for three sun-drenched days in Port-Barcarès, but before that there were a couple of other events in and around Marseille to take care of – Delta Festival and Night of the DJs at Stade Parsemain in Fos-sur-Mer. Concept Group, which was the primary audio supplier for all three events, joined forces with Solution One and Think! AV to deliver Funktion-One sound across the board. The Vero system, which was split to service Delta and the Night of the DJs before being deployed in full at Electrobeach, was supplied by Think! AV, while Evo and bass systems from Solution One and Project Sound were deployed elsewhere. Funktion-One founder, John Newsham, who has played a vital role in the design and development of these systems, joined the audio team for the two-week tour of southern France. After being trucked from Think! AV’s HQ in the Netherlands, the Vero system was split and ready for load-in at both Marseille locations on Wednesday, July 3. The Delta system was tipped, hung and configured in just over three hours, leaving the afternoon for load-in at Stade Parsemain. While there was some juggling of personnel for sound checks, the audio crew were together for both events’ live days – Friday at Stade Parsemain and Saturday/Sunday at Delta. Load-out at Delta commenced on Sunday evening and was completed on Monday. A day off for some was n wwwww
followed by load-in at Electrobeach on Wednesday, July 10, followed by sound checks on Thursday ahead of the festival starting on Friday. Such a smooth logistical operation was only possible thanks to careful planning. Concept Group’s Paul Meskel, Solution One’s Chris Hawkes, Funktion-One’s Newsham, and Think! AV’s Yannick Hoogerwerf, Lartsen van Diest and Neils de Feij worked hard in the weeks prior to ensure the system designs and associated infrastructure were as accurate and effective as possible. Night of the DJs at Stade Parsemain was organised by the local council and required a simple to implement solution that would provide the 15,000-strong audience with an impactful listening experience. There were a few challenges to consider, as Hawkes explained: “The system had to be suitable to work with the weight restrictions determined by the available staging equipment. Also, flying points were relatively low at eight metres, but by using Projection Software’s load calculator, a practical working solution was found and implemented onsite.” The flown 10-enclosures per side system featured three V60 60-degree mid/highs, three V90 90-degree mid/highs, and four V315 mid/bass, together with 12 V221 bass enclosures and two F132A sub-bass speakers – ground-stacked. The system was panned out by 10-degrees to cover all of the stands – 120m wide and 35m downfield at zero elevation, with a gradual rise to 10m at 65m downfield. Hoogerwerf, Think! AV’s project manager, explained: “We actually got to 100m width with a standard left right system, without any outfills. Vero waltzed right through my expectations and delivered something quite
spectacular. Having only two major sources meant that the stadium reflections were kept to a minimum, which resulted in a very clear sounding system throughout the stadium.” The slightly smaller system on Delta Festival’s main stage comprised left and right hangs of three V60s, three V90s and three V315s, with 12 V221s and two F132As for ground-stacked bass reinforcement. There were also Funktion-One systems on both the beach area and Colosseum stage. Production manager, Greg Lopez, explained: “For the past 15 years, I've been enjoying Funktion-One's support on numerous projects - particularly from Chris Hawkes. For the fifth anniversary of Delta festival, we wanted to bring festivalgoers a 100 per cent FunktionOne experience on all the stages. This was my ideal choice, but it was also the choice of our clientele who have expressed their preference over other systems previously used. “My biggest challenge on this project is, in the first place, its geographical location. Being a seaside area, I cannot close much of the site to the public. I am obliged to build my site in phases to leave the beaches accessible to bathers for as long as possible. This involves massive coordination with local authorities while trying to keep our focus on providing the best possible entertainment for the festival goers. The choice of suppliers is therefore vital.” This placed an even greater emphasis on a speedy setup. Hoogerwerf commented: “The load in at Delta was quite amazing. We got that system in from truck to soundcheck-ready in under 3.5 hours, with a bare minimum of crew. That's when you can appreciate all factors of a production like this paying off. It also shows that Vero can be very easily toured around with a minimum of crew.” Discussing the result at Delta, Lopez said: “The
Funktion-One’s Vero system has been impressing at a variety of French events over the summer, taking centre stage at Electrobeach, Delta Festival and Night of the DJs. PSNEurope caught up with some of those most heavily involved in the trio of events to find out how it performed…
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system designs of all the stages were perfectly precalculated, which made it possible to have perfect sound pressure with an exceptional quality of sound. In addition, I had no problems with noise complaints, despite there being residences located just 400 metres behind the main stage. I'd say we were right to choose this system.” The core members of this audio team first worked together last summer on Electrobeach 2018, when the festival – under the technical direction of Jean Denis Rolland – chose Vero for the Main Stage. This made Electrobeach the first festival in France to use Vero – making it a calculated risk, but one that paid off. Electrobeach 2019 welcomed some of the world’s biggest DJs and producers – including Above & Beyond, David Guetta, Eric Prydz, REZZ and Steve Aoki – and around 130,000 people over three days, across three stages. The largest, by far, was the Main Stage (with an audience area of approx. 65m x 120m) but the Techno Stage and Hardstyle Stage were consistently busy throughout the weekend. The Vero system on the Main Stage featured 15 speakers per side – five V60s, five V90s and five V315s. A total of 32 V221s were deployed eight wide and four high, together with eight F132As in a single stack for a highly efficient infrabass setup.
Paul Meskel, Concept Group’s project leader, said: “From my point of view, the main challenge was to make it as good as last year, if not better and in less time. We had one day less to set up sound on the Main Stage but thanks to last year’s experience, we optimised the time we had. We improved the coverage of the PA by flying the out-fills, which worked very well. The quality of the shows were even better than last year - especially in terms of the synchronisation with the lighting and video.” The efficiency of the Vero system, both in terms of set up time/resource and power usage, was demonstrated clearly on the Main Stage system at Electrobeach, with power supplied by only 22 Lab. gruppen PLM20K44 amps. The whole system used 80A peak per phase. In comparison, the Main Stage system in 2017 used around 300A. Electrobeach technical director, Jean Denis Rolland, commented: “It’s the second time that we have used Vero on the Main Stage. This system is very musical - it breathes. Since the beginning of the festival, we have heard different sound systems. They are good systems but personally I love the sound colour of Vero. With this choice, I have cut the power needs, hanging weight and number of motor points in half, while also having the best quality. It is, for me, the best system I’ve heard. “All the festival team - Maxime the director, Charlotte the artistic booker, and me - we are very happy and proud to be the first festival in France with the Vero
system. The result certainly confirmed our choice as the right one.” Since last year’s festival, Vero has been further improved by new crossover filter discoveries made during the development of Vero VX. Hoogerwerf added: “We had plenty of headroom left in the system, while using a relatively low number of boxes. It sounds very friendly and comfortable right across the spectrum but it also packs a giant punch where needed.” Concept Group’s Steeve Thimpont, who took charge of FOH, commented: “This system has a very nice tonal balance and the ability to spread the full spectrum at a very good distance.” David Guetta closed the festival with a three-hour performance on the main stage. His show was mixed by long-term engineer, Hassane Essiahi, who stated: “I am very pleased I had a chance to listen to Vero at Electrobeach. It was an honour for me to have John Newsham as my system tech. “Funktion-One has built up a strong link to dance music, which is well deserved. However, in recent years the electro scene has gotten bigger and festivals, following requests from engineers, have opted for conventional line arrays. Previously there wasn’t a line-array option available from Funktion-One but now there is Vero – a vertically arrayable point source system, which can be configured so that different sources combine to provide sound that is powerful yet not aggressive, allowing you to feel and enjoy the music for hours. “It has incredible pressure with the additional subs. The tone and the smoothness of the highs are a distinctive relief for the ears. Try it, you won’t disappoint anyone who loves music.” n
Life's a beach: Delta Festival in full swing
Fresh perspective Fiona Hope finds out from PLASA managing director Peter Heath about what’s new for this year’s show line-up with its increased emphasis on pro audio…
he annual PLASA show returns to London’s Olympia from September 15-17, building once again on its renewed pro audio focus. New exhibitors this year include Coda Audio and Void Acoustics, while the return of iconic brands such as L-Acoustics, d&b audiotechnik, Bose, Adamson, Adam Hall, Audio-Technica and Yamaha, is set to provide visitors with a strong pro audio offering. The show has also added new exciting features to attract and engage attendees, with seminars covering a range of relevant audio topics – with cameos from PSNEurope contributor Phil Ward, d&b’s Steve Jones, Chris Hill from Wigwam, and Jim Griffiths from Vanguardia – and live lessons in mixing from sound engineer Simon Todkill. PSNEurope's Fiona Hope spoke to PLASA managing director Peter Heath about this year’s exciting schedule, the increased focus on pro audio and the potential challenges of hosting a trade show… What’s new for PLASA Show 2019? This year is one of our most exciting shows for the audio industry for many years. Whether you’re new to PLASA Show or you’ve been attending since the old days, we’re confident that you’ll find what you’re looking for – and a little bit of what you’re not expecting too. Live audio demonstrations have always been a popular element to the show, so we are delighted to welcome more brands and immersive spaces this year – double the amount in fact. This includes three dedicated ‘Audio Lounges’ featuring L-Acoustics, RCF and Sound Technology respectively, where visitors can hear the latest products in a relaxed atmosphere while chatting with knowledgeable brand representatives. We are also launching a brand new feature called Stage to Studio in association with Sound On Sound and Headliner magazines. This will see emerging artists perform live with their bands whilst being recorded and mixed by a renowned engineer. These sessions will offer something unique: education from a seasoned professional and entertainment in the form of homegrown talent. How will the ‘Stage to Studio’ feature work?
Two artists with industry acclaim – VC Pines and Effie – will perform live with their bands whilst being recorded and mixed, helping attendees learn more about making better live recordings. We are delighted that recording engineer Simon Todkill is joining us, who has worked with Kanye West, Charli XCX and Matt Corby to name a few. His DAW will be displayed on a big screen above the stage and there will be running commentary describing the mix process. The whole process, from set-up to the finished product, will be unpacked step by step, providing insights from the very top tier of pro engineering. After the show, we will launch a competition to reward the best audio mix of the Stage to Studio sessions with a professional audio prize. What can pro audio exhibitors and visitors expect this year? The show has seen a continuous growth in audio exhibitors over the last few years, and there’s no signs of this trend slowing down. We’re delighted to welcome many brands making their PLASA Show debut this year, including Coda Audio and Void Acoustics. Exhibiting alongside them on the show floor are long term show supporters such as Bose, Adamson, Adam Hall, Audio-Technica, OutBoard and Yamaha. The stage is set for a whole host of new products, suitable for a range of applications, from stadium-ready line arrays to barely-there amplification systems. How have you been able to consistently increase the show's pro audio content over the past few years? PLASA has worked hard over the past few years to make the show an essential destination for all things audio. We’ve done this by speaking with our audio community – and taking onboard their goals and challenges. Feedback has been extremely encouraging and has provided us with the confidence to grow our audio output. Getting the support of brands such as L-Acoustics, d&b audiotechnik and Coda Audio really does show that all the ground work has been worth it, confirming PLASA Show as an unmissable event for audio
professionals from all walks of the industry. Tell us more about this year’s seminar programme. What are the key subjects under the microscope? Audio journalist and consultant Phil Ward will be joined by Chris Hill from Wigwam, Jim Griffiths from Vanguardia and Steve Jones from d&b audiotechnik to campaign for ‘Equal rights for audio!’ They will assess how live performances, including the recent Spice Girls reunion tour, can neglect audio in the rush for spectacular video, lighting and set design. This topic that has been hitting the headlines a lot recently. Moving from concerts to theatre, Shure will present the future of audio for theatre productions. This panel will explore how the advancement of technology, such as wireless and lavalier mics, continues to influence performance and push the industry forward. We are delighted to be working with Women in Live Music, who will host a session on how to survive and thrive in the live music industry. They will share tips on how to gain recognition, create an impressive CV, keep busy during the slow season, and prevent burn out when on the road. What have the biggest challenges been this year? As an association, challenge is our middle name. In fact, we work with our members to identify challenges and face them head on. However, it then becomes imperative that we reflect these hot button issues where we can, including through our seminar programme at the show. This pledge goes far beyond the four walls of our trade shows. As part of our association activities we support and develop industry professionals in a variety of ways. This includes a year-round training programme, including the National Event Lifting Training (NELT) which actually launches at PLASA Show this year. This year we also launched our Lighting Guidance for Outdoor Events, which has already proved to be a valuable resource this festival season for industry professionals. The challenges never stop – both for PLASA and the wider industry. But thankfully we work in an industry full of vitality and dedication. n
PLASA in full swing (left, below and bottom left)
Above: PLASA managing director Peter Heath
Combining pure pop melodies and shimmering sonics with explicit themes and X-rated lyrical content, Marika Hackmanâ€™s new album Any Human Friend is among the most ambitious of 2019 so far. Daniel Gumble sat down with her to discuss the creative process and what inspired her to produce her most personal collection of songs yetâ€Ś
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here’s a wonderful moment around three minutes into Any Human Friend, the third album from indie rock icon Marika Hackman, when a brief but dizzying blast of synths and theremin transform opening track ‘Wanderlust’ from a delicately plucked ditty - a nod to her folk-tinged beginnings - into the sparkling guitar driven pop of single ‘The One’. It’s the sound of transcendence; of an artist shedding her skin and emerging renewed. The same, but different. Which is something that can be said about virtually every facet of this remarkable record. Hackman has kindly invited PSNEurope to her east London home for a chat about the making of the album, which took initial shape in her bedroom studio - a minimal set up based around a laptop, a mini synthesizer and couple of Fender guitars. “My setup is very unintimidating, it’s as easy as it comes,” she laughs
production is formidable. Each of her three albums to date have explored different sonic and musical styles, but Any Human Friend represents by far her biggest creative leap. Her 2015 debut We Slept At Last was a largely folk-orientated affair, while 2017 follow up I’m Not Your Man saw her recruit Mercury Prize nominated indie-rock four-piece The Big Moon to serve as her band on the road and in the studio, bringing a harder, grungier sound to the record. Now, as co-producer alongside the award-winning David Wrench (Frank Turner, The xx), she has created what she describes as her “poppiest” album yet. For the first time, synths play a dominant role, while the rough and ragged edges of I’m Not Your Man’s overdriven guitars have been sanded down to reveal something altogether smoother and shinier. The riffs are still there, but they feel lighter than before, throwing a
process was the most fractured of her career so far: it was the first time she had worked with a new producer [her previous two records were produced by Charlie Andrew], while significant changes in her personal life had a considerable impact upon the recording process. “I started writing a long time ago - songs like ‘The One’ and ‘Hand Solo’ were written around Christmas 2017," she recalls. "That got the ball rolling, but then I moved out of my house, broke up with my girlfriend (Amber Bain of The Japanese House) and moved in here. I spent the next year writing until I had enough to take into the studio with David. It was around May 2018 we went in with three songs - he was in a studio in Old Street - and we got them done very quickly. Then I’d come back here, write a few more songs, and we worked like that until January. We recorded the second half of it in a studio in London Fields, and recorded some
as we take a seat at the foot of her bed, the room well stocked with an impressive collection of records and books, which we’ll discuss later. “When I’m writing and want to get parts down I don’t want to be fucking around. I can get intimidated by gear a lot of the time, and for anyone who reads this and is thinking of starting something like this, it’s good to know that someone like me - who’s been doing it for eight years - still hasn’t got her shit together!” Though funny and self-deprecating throughout our conversation, Hackman’s songwriting prowess and understanding of the craft of record
mirror ball shimmer rather than a fistful of grit over the record’s 11 tracks. She has also spoken at length about the record’s exploration of sex and sexuality, with several songs featuring lyrics that could cause temperatures to rise beneath even the very coolest of collars. Explicit tales of sexual encounters and references to venereal disease are peppered throughout; a song entitled ‘Hand Solo’ requires little explanation. But while the album’s sonic and lyrical blueprints were more sharply focused than ever before, Hackman says the production
drums at Konk Studios. We were recording in these different locations in a really bitty way. It wasn’t like before, where I’d have 10 or 11 tracks pretty much ready to go and then finish them over a six week period. The way we did it this time felt fresh and exciting.” By writing and recording small batches of songs at a time, Hackman says she was able to form a clearer picture of how she wanted the record to turn out than had been previously possible. “If I can hear the full realisation of a song before I’ve written 75 per cent of the record, I can start to visualise things even more,” she explains. “You start to think
Photos and cover shot by: Joost Vandebrug
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Any Human Friend? Marika Hackman
about what the record needs, where it’s falling flat. I was learning and working things out as I went along instead of driving myself into the ground writing a whole body of work and going nuts. That said, I found it the hardest to make. I don’t know if that’s because I’m getting older and more tired, but that constant dipping in and not actually feeling like I’d stopped the writing process was really draining. You never feel like you’re having a break; you feel that you should constantly be working.” The hard work has clearly paid off, with Any Human Friend finding Hackman in brilliantly direct form, the clarity of her vision evident in each and every detail. “I wanted it to be poppier,” she continues. “I started off making more stripped back, darker, moody electro music, then moved into grunge, and this time I wanted to take the energy of I’m Not Your Man but without the garage rock band sound. I wanted to bring that liveliness and excitement but make it sound slick. I wanted to hear every part; for them to sit together, play off each other and for everything to have a purpose. I didn’t want anything to just be colour. It was a really fun way to write - it was quite mathematical. I wanted everything to sound clear and fun with a poppy edge. That was my aim from the beginning.” The decision to break with long-term producer Charlie Andrew and bring Wrench onboard as co-producer was pivotal, forcing Hackman to explore new ways of working in the studio. “Charlie was such a comfort zone for me because
we’ve worked together for so long,” she says. “We work like a well oiled machine. He’s great to work with and it's just very easy. This time I didn’t want an easy ride, I wanted to push myself and see, if I effectively flew that nest, what I might be capable of and what it might bring out in my songwriting. That’s not to say I won’t work with Charlie again, it had just become my safe zone." She continues: “Working with David was great. There was no beating around the bush. There’s an immediacy about the way he works; the way he captures sound has a raw energy to it, but he has the ears and the skills to make it sound crystal clear. I’d do a couple of vocal takes and say, ‘Shall we do another 50 of these?’ and he’d say, ‘No, we’ve got it’. I’d be like, ‘Hmm, I really don’t think we have’, but he’d do his thing and play it back and I’d realise he was right. He was really good at stopping me getting locked into that self doubt, obsessing about everything being absolutely perfect. So much of what gives a record its character and soul is NOT doing 100 takes of something to make it sound like a robot. We bounced off each other in that way for the whole thing.” If musically Any Human Friend is Hackman’s most accessible record yet, then its themes and subject matter certainly make it her most unflinching. Though she has previously spoken about her sexuality in her lyrics, she has never done so with such candour. Via language that ranges from the evocative to the explicit, her exploration of sex from the perspective of a gay woman is at times courageous and empowering, at others wracked with
vulnerabilty, and often not without a splash of tounge in cheek humour. “I was reading a lot of Kathy Acker and the directness of her writing not only helped me lyrically, but it’s really potent and straight to the point, which is how I wanted the sound to be as well,” Hackman explains, grabbing a copy of Acker’s Blood And Guts In High School from her bookshelf. “It’s so explicit and abstract,” she says, leafing through its pages to reveal graphic and detailed diagrams of various parts of the human anatomy. “She basically decided she didn’t want to write in any conventional form, in terms of whether it reads like a play, a comic, a novel, fact or fiction. It just jumps around but kind of makes sense. It’s all about sex and it feels like there is an element of shame to it, but at the same time is totally empowered. That’s how I feel with this album. Reading that was a big factor in my writing. She really pushed through to the surface.” With a short run of UK dates set for September and a lengthy tour of the US with Girl Friday serving as both her support and backing band, Hackman already has an eye on album number four - a prospect that currently fills her with dread and excitement in equal measures. “Next year it’ll be festivals galore, and what’s really terrifying is after that I’ll probably be sitting down to do it all again,” she laughs as we say our goodbyes. “The thought of doing it all again is like, No way! But in a year’s time I know I’ll be screaming, Let me make a record, I need to express myself!” n
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Mastering engineer and PSNEurope columnist Katie Tavini sits down with producer and engineer Elliot Vaughan to talk studio techniques and his work on the upcoming Stone Jets recordâ€Ś
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ey PSNEurope friends! This month I thought I’d give you all a break from my rants so I’m going to chat to my good friend Elliot Vaughan instead. A bit of background; Elliot is a fantastic producer, mix engineer and drummer who I’ve had the pleasure of working with on a regular basis. We also share a love of fuzzy friends (follow his Insta – @elliotmvaughan – if you love doggos), and over the years have developed a super cool working relationship where I know he’ll tell me if I can do better in mastering, and I’m always happy to feedback on his mixes. We’ve worked on a wide variety of projects together (our first was a two piece punk band called Gag Reflex, and the most recent being the absolutey gorgeous folky sounds of Lucy May Walker). But one thing that we’ve worked on together has really stood out to me, and that’s the upcoming album from South African/London duo, Stone Jets. Obviously, the music, writing, performances are all incredible, but there’s something in the production that just sounds so effortless. And this is why I thought I’d chat to Elliot to find out just how that magic happened… Hey Elliot! Can you tell me about your involvement with this project and how it got started? Given (bass/vocals) and Manfred (guitars) from Stone Jets were setting up to leave their native South Africa and move to the UK. They felt they’d reached as far as they could at home and wanted to change things up. They were looking round for producers in this country and I popped up, so they got in touch with me and we discussed the project. After checking them out I was really excited to be involved so I did all I could to make it happen. I told them they needed to up their game and make the new stuff work for the UK scene and that’s exactly what they wanted. It was all about getting their live energy across without compromising production values. They agreed. I heard rough demos for all the new songs and I was 100 per cent in. The recording was all done in South Africa – did you have any input? Yes. We did pretty extensive pre-production before getting into the studio. Even though it was all done remotely I was pretty hands-on. The guys are really good at recording so they were able to deliver great demos. I would listen to them, make notes and then we would chat on Skype and they'd go back and make changes. Some songs changed dramatically and some ended up almost exactly how the first demos were. It is so nice to be able to spend that time beforehand. It's a luxury that doesn’t happen too often now. Once it got to the tracking stage, the guys had a couple of weeks in a really gorgeous studio in Cape Town (Digital Forest Studios). Sadly, I couldn’t attend. During pre-prod we had discussed my mic preferences, the sonic options I would want for mixing, and how best to use the gear available. I was confident as we had planned so well and Manfred has a background in engineering. With the help of the in-house guys I knew the tracks would be recorded super well. I ended up recording a few bits at my studio over here (trumpet, pads, extra percussion, etc.) but 99 per cent was recorded in South Africa and produced remotely. At the start of each tracking day I’d give some advice and encouragement and then let them get on with it. When it came to vocals, Given and I would talk about the lyrics and how best to deliver them. The emotion, the way they made me feel as a listener and the things that he wanted to say. He is really passionate about his lyrics and it was one of the things that made me fall in love with the songs, so we really wanted to get it right. Then the guys would
upload ‘board mixes’ to me at the end of each day and I would give feedback. When I was mastering this record it was basically a dream because the mixes made it so easy. Did you work closely with Stone Jets to get everything to where it should be? 100 per cent. The band were definitely co-producers. Because we were basically on opposite sides of the world for most of the production we had to trust each other. I think that meant that everyone felt involved and heard. The guys in the band are super organised and know exactly what they want. They work hard and really efficiently so it was pretty easy on my end to be honest. This job is always a team effort and this project is a great example of that. It can be super easy to over process recordings when plugins and gear are so readily available. Did you find yourself having to approach mixing this record differently than others? This over-processing/over-thinking actually happened on the first pass of mixes. I went a bit too ‘radio’ and none of us were really feeling it. Everyone felt it had gone a little too far from the original brief. I think my basic modus operandi is big, polished, shiny, radio rock, so I had to step outside my comfort zone and think about it differently. The guys ended up coming over and spending a few days with me so we could all get involved with the mixes. It really helped. We were able to rein each other in and they could convey exactly what they were thinking and feeling. It was also really great to finally be in the same room together. Can you talk about any particular mixing and production techniques you used to get this record sounding the way it does? The main point was to get everything sounding right on the way in. We were pretty obsessive about instrument and mic choice, preamps, placement, etc. There was a lot of time spent auditioning things during tracking. If you could hear the original drum tracks you’d be amazed at just how incredible they sound (and how little they changed in the final mixes). The rooms, gear and engineers at Digital Forest are brilliant. This meant that mixing was all about balances (automation, too) and keeping things simple. It was all mixed in the box because the analogue loveliness had been captured on the way in. The one big thing we did was put everything through Waves’ Kramer Tape plugin for a touch more warmth. I don’t even think we changed any settings at all. It added some glue that really helped focus the mixes. Also, Manfred is a huge fan of the Waves GTR Stomp box plugin. I’d never really used it so I was dubious but I can say that probably 75 per cent of the effects on the record are from that plugin suite. The delays have a certain something that just worked. It was an eye-opener. Also, most of the reverbs are real. We had a mic in the bathroom and kitchen of the studio for all vocals and drum recordings, as well as the normal room mics so I had amazing, real reverb on its own fader for every song. I used it generously. It’s honestly all pretty simple otherwise. Clean EQs (McDSP/Fabfilter) and clean compression (more McDSP). I don’t think there’s more than two or three plugins on any channel on the entire record. Do you have a favourite track on this album? There are actually two that stand out for me. I love ‘The Lonely’ because I’m a sucker for sad songs and the lyrics really speak to me. Then ‘I Gotta Learn’ stands out as a real favourite. It’s the hit for me. It has an incredible chorus and this really great lead guitar hook that will have anyone singing it for weeks after one listen. n
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is the magic number Yoni Zlotkin, product manager for plugin pioneer Waves, tells PSNEurope about the development of the company’s new Abbey Road Studio 3 plugin...
ack in July, Waves Audio announced the launch of its new Abbey Road Studio 3 plugin, created in collaboration with Abbey Road Studios and powered by Waves Nx immersive audio technology. The Waves Abbey Road Studio 3 plugin is designed to bring the acoustics of the Abbey Road Studio 3 ControlRoom to any set of headphones. The Studio 3 control room is Abbey Road’s flagship mix room, designed by the world’s finest acousticians to provide the best possible music production and mixing environment. The control room has been used to mix work from some of the world’s most acclaimed artists such as Radiohead, Amy Winehouse and Kanye West, to contemporary mixes of the Beatles and Pink Floyd, to number-one chart toppers by Frank Ocean, Brockhampton and Florence + the Machine. In addition, the new plugin also delivers full 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound, modelled on the studio’s original surround setup. Users can mix professionally for surround – on any set of stereo headphones. Here, Waves product manager Yoni Zlotkin tells us how the company was able to capture the sonic DNA of such an iconic studio… Tell us about the development of the new Studio 3 plugin. We wanted to 'model' the sound and experience of listening while situated at Abbey Road’s Studio 3 sweet spot on headphones, in the same sense that we 'model' the sound of analogue equipment into a software plugin. The main reason we did this in Studio 3 was to capture and recreate the superb sonic and acoustic qualities of this studio to be used as a mix monitoring reference on headphones. For the obvious physical differences between headphones and speakers, this cannot be 100 per cent achieved, but we wanted to take it as far as we could and see how much we can improve mixing and monitoring on headphones with this tool, compared to just using regular headphones. This plugin is based on Waves Binaural audio technology, Nx. Under the hood, it uses Nx and Ambisonics algorithms combined with convolution of impulse responses captured in Studio 3. Starting the development, we relied on all our existing technology and experience in these fields and started prototyping and experimenting with how this idea can be achieved. Success was not immediate. We went back to the drawing board more than once, went back to the studio several times and went through countless iterations of testing, listening sessions and experiments with the Abbey Road team, external and internal testers, as well as revisiting and improving the basic methods and algorithms we were using. How close was the collaboration between Waves and Abbey Road?
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Waves and Abbey Road have a long-lasting and close relationship. We have created many products together in the past and continue to do so today. Mirek Stiles, head of audio products at Abbey Road, is our main point of contact. He is the one who signs off the product, giving Abbey Road’s stamp of approval after reviewing it with the studio's house engineers. I was in close contact with him during the entire course of development from the first initiation stages up to the final release. Constantly exchanging ideas, discussing the problems and solutions in detail, getting feedback on plugin revisions and working together with him towards our goal. He is in the details of this plugin as much as any of the Waves development team members. How did you capture the essence of Studio 3? Put simply, the essence of the studio was captured through the magic of impulse response recordings. But more specifically, Ambisonics impulse responses, which unlike standard impulse responses that represent a single direction or a stereo sound field, the Ambisonics impulse responses represent the full 360 sphere around the microphone. This enabled us to recreate the sensation of listening to a speaker in a room, where the speaker is positioned at one specific direction, but the reflections envelop you from all the other directions at the same time. So, as you hear the left speaker to your left, you hear its reflections all around you. The same principle is applied to each speaker from its position in the room. This creates the realistic sense of depth, positioning, and enveloping room ambience, as well as recreating the time response of the studio control room, which is how certain frequencies decay over time. This is a very important factor of a good sounding control room and in Studio 3 it is very well defined together with a controlled time response.
mix would react in an acoustic space. Just EQing the headphones does not fix the main difference vs speakers, which is complete lack of direction and space. Introducing just the cross talk is the first step in creating the sense of direction, and it still doesn’t address the lack of acoustic space. This plugin addresses all these issues and more. Tell us about the features offered by the Waves Nx immersive audio technology? Waves Nx is the name for our binaural processing technology. Its main feature is creating an immersive 3D audio listening experience on headphones from any existing content, whether stereo or surround and for gaming applications. This means you can play stereo music though Nx and it will process it in a way that, on headphones, will sound in front of you like it would on stereo speakers. Surround content will be processed similarly so the surround speakers would be virtually positioned in front, as well as behind you when listened to through headphones. One unique feature of Waves’ Nx technology is its ability to receive head tracking data from a motion sensor or a camera and apply them over the simulated audio direction in real time. This feature accurately simulates how you hear audio directions in the real world. Nx technology was developed with the needs and standards of audio professionals in mind, meaning it needs to sound realistic and flawless. But then the same algorithms and sounds were imported to consumer audio applications for everyone to enjoy. Today you can
What features set this plugin apart from others? Plugins that are meant to help monitor and mix on headphones are gaining popularity, as more and more home producers and mixers revert to mixing on headphones for practical reasons. Different plugins tackle different problems associated with mixing on headphones. Some try to fix the frequency response of specific headphone models; some plugins try to fix the ear separation problem by introducing cross talk. This plugin aims to provide the complete solution to bridge the gap between headphones and speakers in a room. The main features that set it apart from the others are: 3D head tracked binaural audio, and the precise and realistic 360 control room acoustic response. We see these two features as the basis for bridging the gap to mixing on headphones. These two features give the headphone-sound a precise direction in a neutral and nondestructive way, and then envelop it with a true control room acoustic response which reveals how the
find Nx technology built-in on headphones, in mobile phones, in laptops. The list goes on. The latest development for Nx is now with the Abbey Road Studio 3 plugin, where for the first time we achieved the goal of combining the Nx algorithms with the captured sound of a real acoustic space, recreating it virtually on headphones, meeting Abbey Road’s quality standard in doing so, with one of the most prized control rooms in the world. What we learned and developed in the process will in the future find a way into additional Nx applications, further enhancing the virtual sound headphone experience. Just how big a launch is this for Waves? This was definitely an exciting and significant release for Waves. Firstly, the technological achievement is a source of satisfaction, as we successfully managed to reach the goal that we set out to accomplish. But the most vital aspect, is that it is a milestone in Waves’ ongoing commitment to better our users’ workflow and creative capabilities. With the release of the Abbey Road Studio 3 plugin, we have climbed yet another notch in catering to the new breed of music producers, by enabling them to mix their tracks in an environment that was until now, accessible to only a few: one of the best sounding control rooms in the world, Abbey Road’s Studio 3 - and they can do so anywhere, any time and at an affordable price. This alone, opens a whole new way of mixing, offering a trusted and reliable environment within their headphones, regardless of location or budget. n
The Abbey Road Studio 3 plugin
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Taking creative control xxxxxx
Paula Wolfe is a researcher in the fields of music production, independent music and the role gender plays in the studio. She is also a critically acclaimed artist-producer who, in addition to her research, self-produces and self-releases her music on her own label, Sib Records In June of this year, she released a new book entitled Women In The Studio: creativity, control and gender in popular music sound production. Here, in her own words, she takes us inside her research for the project and reveals some of its most fascinating findings...
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y book Women In The Studio: creativity, control and gender in popular music sound production (Routledge) has been the culmination of three selfproduced albums, doctoral, post-doctoral research, many conference papers, a published article and two published chapters. What all of this work has told me is that the journey that brought me to my own studio door was not unique. In the book, I interrogate the impact of the construction of music production as a gendered arena of creativity, technical expertise and control. The research was conducted within a 16-year time frame from 2002 to 2018 - a period of time in which self-production by artists has moved from marginal to standard practice and a period in which women’s under-representation as music producers has attracted increasing attention. For me, it has been very clear that self-production is the next chapter in the story of how female artists have responded to both historic and contemporaneous marginalisation
in the industry. I also see it as forming part of a wider narrative about how creativity per se has been gendered, notwithstanding the gendering that has taken place within music technology. A number of key things have emerged throughout the research. Firstly, it is important to draw a clear distinction between the growth trend in self-production practices as a result of technological developments and subsequent industry shifts, and the particular significance gender holds when assessing a woman’s practice. I would add that in examining that distinction, it is also important not to conflate the work of the music producer and that of the artist-producer, not least because of the nuanced manifestations of gendered marginalisation particular to each practice – which in conjunction with the impact of the gendering that has taken place within the broader field – packs a powerful gendered punch. I pay considerable attention to these distinctions in the book by examining how selfproduction – a practice often enacted within a domestic environment – manifested itself as a powerful challenge to the gendering that has taken place within music production in a particular period of time, when digital recording technology first became widely available. The second key point is that gender plays no part in the actual creative or technical process. None of the female music producers or artist-producers or engineers included in the book make any reference to their gender when discussing their work or in their subsequent interpretations of the production process. It is very clear that gender only becomes an ‘issue’ when positioned within the cultural and social contexts that underpin and frame our understanding of music production within the music industry. Sonically speaking, the individual circumstances that brought each of the participants in the study to self-produce as solo artists varied greatly, but what underscores each of their creative journeys of literal and figurative isolation was their arrival at a ‘sound’ – the very starting point from which to create and/or sustain a career. I do not suggest, however, that self-production is a new phenomenon for female artists. What is evident, however, is that questions continue to arise from the practice, in conjunction with its gathering momentum, as a direct result of the steady growth that I have been long observing. I suggest that they continue to arise because the impact of the gendering that has taken place in the broader field of music production, of which self-production forms an increasingly significant part, cannot be underestimated. Conducting the research for the book has been a long journey and it has been fueled by my own practice – the process of creating and then producing my own songs is one I continue to find utterly thrilling and compelling. My examination of the situation of women who work in music production, particularly in self-production, over the course of nearly 20 years has coincided with
a period of seismic change within the industry and has witnessed different spikes of interest in the topic. The core argument I have presented is that the development of music production skills by female artists is significant because of their minority status in the broader field and because of the historic gendering of the creativity, technical skills and control associated with the practice. This argument has held amidst the various developments that I have observed throughout the time frame, not least the shift in both the practice and perception of self-production from a marginal activity to an industry standard. The argument has also held when I have situated it in a wider music industry culture and compared the career-building experiences of female music producers and artist-producers with those of female industry professionals in the business sector, and also when I have suggested connections with women establishing careers in other creative and non-creative fields, most notably in literature and politics. Moreover, the argument has held when I have sought out the roots of the gendering that has taken place in music production and located them in constructions surrounding social class, race and gender, the three divisive pillars in contemporary society which continue to underpin the cultural frameworks that either validate or discredit acts of creativity and their products. Furthermore, the argument has gained momentum as I have monitored the subsequent ramifications of these roots in the journey of a piece of self-produced music from a woman’s studio to the marketplace and its problematic representation within various different types of media. Drawing on the generous contributions of numerous professionals and practitioners within the industry, as well as on the opinions of some scholars and commentators looking in from its sidelines, has helped me to tease out the different strands of the argument as it has played out in the different sectors I have studied. All of these individuals have contributed, wittingly or not, to what has been a long-running conversation about what it means to be a woman in the popular music industry, whether it be as an industry professional, music producer, artist-producer or artist-label. The conclusion I have drawn from that conversation is that creative control lies at the start, and indeed the heart, of any career that might be constructed within it. The key question that has been raised throughout my research for this study has been, ‘Why aren’t there more female producers’? I have tried to reframe this question to firstly examine why there have not been more female artists in control of their own voices and secondly to assess the response to those who have. In doing so I have been heartened to see increasing numbers of women working on both sides of the industry fence who have come to understand and value both the liberty and the protection creative control offers. n
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A balancing act Fiona Hope caught up with multi-talented sound designer and audio engineer Andy Gbormittah to talk about his career to date and the expertise he can pass on to others…
ondon born and raised, Andy Gbormittah is an accomplished freelance audio engineer, sound designer and composer that has dipped his toes in a variety of projects. He is the co-founder of Silence & Air, a production company specialising in music for TV, film and digital content. They have worked with several major clients, such as Love Island Australia, HBO, car powerhouses Toyota and Lexus, and brands Max Factor, Versace and McDonalds. Exciting projects Gbormittah is currently working on single-handedly include building a studio for Disturbing London Records, dub mixing at BT Sport Studios, and managing Shoreditch Grind Studios, which is upstairs from the popular coffee shop, Shoreditch Grind. Here, we chat to Gbormittah about growing up in a musical home, all things sound design, and what advice and knowledge he can offer to those just starting out… How did you get into this industry? I grew up in a household that loved music. My dad had a huge collection of records, cassettes and eventually CDs that he’d be listening to pretty much everyday. The older I got, the more intrigued I was about the music making process. How did it go from an artist's head - as an initial concept - to my living room, in a format that I could play again and again as a form of entertainment? I eventually took this curiosity to SAE London, where I studied a BSc in Audio Engineering. I was lucky enough to be doing some freelance work at that point. Looking back, although it was tough at times, it was great for building up real world experience on the side whilst studying. After finishing my degree, I focused on the freelance side of things - working with artists, bands, videographers and directors. I had a pretty functional home setup at the time, and would head into various
studios with my clients if their budget allowed. Shortly after this, I started managing a studio in East London (Shoreditch Grind Studios) and have been lucky enough to work with a growing list of clients since then. Can you name some of your influences within the industry? I’m influenced by any engineer, musician or artist that has taken the huge leap and turned their passion into a career. You don’t have to be a big name. If you’re waking up everyday and working solely on audio in some shape or form, I have huge respect for you. More power to everyone who has made or is making this transition. What’s the worst advice you’ve heard? For the youngsters getting into the industry, it’s hard not to be demoralised by the fact you read and hear about all of this amazing and expensive equipment that we ‘pros’ supposedly use all of the time. You have young engineers pulling their hair out because they think what they make can never sound as good. The bad advice comes from peers that perpetuate this myth and encourage you to constantly chase new gear instead of experimenting with what you already have. If you only have access to, can afford or know how to use certain gear, that’s fine. Get to know your gear and its limitations, and then you’ll grow to appreciate what the more expensive equipment or sample libraries are doing when you’re in a position to purchase or use them. You get to a point where you come full circle and are happy to use almost any tool that you have at your disposal to get the job done. Of course, it’s nice to have the expensive stuff, but it certainly isn’t the be all and end all.
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And the best tips you’ve been given? If it sounds good, it is good. This is something that I’ve always believed in. Don’t spend too much time getting caught up in the process. If you have a clear idea of your destination, and you can get there quickly, don’t make things more convoluted than they need to be. After all, a lot of the finer details are esoteric, and your clients won’t necessarily care about how you got there. The only thing they care about is how on-brief you are and if you’re hitting deadlines. What’s your favourite thing about this industry? I love the freedom of audio engineering. Everyday is different. I can be working on a mix, I can be with artists running a session or I can be working on something completely different. The fact that it’s so varied keeps me on my toes. It’s a huge industry, and there’s always something to do – if you have a solid client base. What are the biggest challenges of the job? When you’re starting out, one of the most difficult aspects of the job is building a client base. Don’t forget, you are a business and a brand. You need to market yourself as such. Don’t be afraid to get out, meet people and sell yourself. Once you make those connections, there’ll be a snowball effect of people contacting you because they’ve heard what you’ve done. When you’re a bit deeper into the professional side of things, it becomes a challenge to switch off. There’s a fine balance between being mindful of your work and downright worrying about it at all times. Did we need to get this to client X? Is client Y happy with this? Are we going to hit the deadline on job Z? And so on. It’s something that’s a constant struggle for me and I haven’t really found a solution. What has helped me though, is being mindful of exactly where I am. If I’m at work, that’s where my focus is and I do my best to block out any outside interference. What interests do you have outside of the audio world? I’m quite an avid sports fan and try to keep healthy by playing as much as possible. Mainly football, basketball, badminton and a gym session or two thrown in for good measure. I find that I’m so much more effective in the studio if I’m generally feeling fitter. What advice would give to someone else – your best tip or trick? If I could go back in time and visit a younger me, I would say not to take myself too seriously. We all do this job because of our love and passion for it, so don’t lose that love. There will be times when things get really tough, when clients will hound you, or worse yet, you have a barren period where you wish your phone would ring. Find ways of resparking that inspiration and creativity when the calls do come. Sometimes that even means stepping away and having a break for a couple of weeks. Where would you like to be in 10 years? I see myself opening up my own studio in the not too distant future. A suite dedicated to scoring sound for picture, a suite that caters to more commercial artists and a suite equipped to record, mix and master live material, all in the same building. I would also love to share what I’ve learned with people who are looking to break into the industry and make an impact by giving back to people who are seeking a helping hand. n
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HEAR, HEAR DJ and tinnitus campaigner Anne Savage speaks to Tara Lepore about fighting to change the industry’s approach to protecting the hearing of audio professionals...
ould you consider taking your employer to court for hearing loss? In 2012, viola player Chris Goldscheider won a landmark case against the Royal Opera House after his hearing was irreversibly damaged during a rehearsal for a Wagner opera. He was sat directly in front of the brass section, which - at its most thunderous - exceeded 130 decibels, roughly the equivalent level of a jet engine taking off. Despite the ROH claiming that longterm hearing damage can’t be caused by exposure to an isolated live music incident, Goldscheider won the case against the venue and shook up the music industry’s long-held belief that it is exempt from regulating noise levels, like other industries - such as construction - are required to do by law. The musician suffered ‘acoustic shock’, a condition that includes tinnitus (a ringing in the ears), hyperacusis (sensitivity to everyday noises) and dizziness. It was a case that DJ and tinnitus campaigner Anne Savage hopes will change the industry’s perception of sound exposure leading to hearing loss. “I believe most workers in this industry have a fatalistic view of hearing damage and see it as just “part of the job” which simply should not be the case,” she tells PSNEurope. “It will be interesting to see if this continues to change after the viola case, I’m sure it will impact how seriously venue operators take the regulations.” Savage is an ambassador for the British Tinnitus Association’s Plug ‘Em campaign, which was developed to help inform people about protecting their hearing when they attend music events. For the live music
professional, hearing protection is crucial, but as a guest lecturer on noise safety in the dance music industry, Savage notes that “most students and workers genuinely think it won’t happen to them”. “A surprising amount of workers in the industry do not understand how the ear works or how hearing damage happens,” she says. According to the BTA, approximately one in 10 people experience persistent tinnitus, and 30% of people will experience it at least once in their lives. But knowing more about the condition can help you deal with it better, as Savage knows from personal experience. She says: “I became an ambassador because I’m passionate about raising awareness of the dangers of exposure to loud noise at gigs and festivals. I have had tinnitus for over 10 years now and I got it through DJing which I have been doing for 25 years. I now have to limit the amount of time I spend in a live venue before and after my DJ set and I always wear earplugs.” In February this year, Help Musicians UK (HMUK) teamed up with the BTA to announce plans for new research into the condition’s effect on musicians and those working in the industry. The partnership extends HMUK’s commitment to hearing protection, with the charity already offering subsided audiological assessments, custom-made earplugs, expert advice and wax removal to members of its Musicians' Hearing Health Scheme, which is open to all working in sound, too. Savage says: “Sound engineers need to hear the music at the same level as the audience and that is where the problem lies, it is mainly up to the individual
to take up hearing protection in our industry.” “Everyone should protect themselves from exposure to loud sound, as we need our hearing to do our work,” she said. “Tinnitus can cause depression and seriously impact quality of life. I get isolated in social situations such as at restaurants because I can’t single out a person’s voice from the background noise. I have to accept that I will never hear silence again, and I could have prevented it by wearing earplugs and taking steps such as turning the monitors down between mixes when I DJ.” While there’s no fix-all cure, things such as regular exercise or listening to ambient sounds to help you sleep can help take the pressure off not being able to hear silence. The BTA holds local support groups and has a dedicated telephone helpline listed on its website - the only one available worldwide - where you can also read extensive information on everything you need to know, including advice on how to prevent the condition and tips for coping if you have it. Savage says: “I listen to relaxing playlists of nature sounds to zone out the ringing. I also always wear attenuating earplugs and keep some spares in my bag. Take breaks from sound as often as you can whilst working - especially in the studio - as your ears get used the volume and you end up turning it up and up throughout the session otherwise. Plus, remember to add up rehearsal time and soundchecks into your calculations on how much sound you’ve been exposed to in a day.” www.plugem.co.uk. n
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Proms Summer Edition 9 PHOTO: Freya Goossens
nights of the Proms August saw Belgium’s Night of the Proms celebrate its 1,000th outing. Marc Maes took a look behind the scenes of this historic event…
o one could have predicted that an event which was first organised by two young students/entrepreneurs in 1985 would end up attracting over 10 million visitors from across 11 European countries and the US. But on August 1, the Night of the Proms celebrated its 1,000th edition with an open air show held in the beachside town of Koksijde, Belgium. “We never thought that the event would last this long,” remembers Jan Vereecke, co-founder and director of Night of the Proms. “34 years ago we were quoted ‘if we can make it in Belgium, we can cross the border to the Netherlands and Germany’ – we were quite euphoric after the first successful edition of the event.” The formula stood the test of time, combining classic pop artists bringing their greatest hits, with a large choir and orchestra. “We started off when record sales were still booming and artists were happy to tour to promote a new release,” explains Vereecke. “As music sales dropped, budgets for live concerts went up – we mined for ‘gold’ artists in the ‘80s and ’90s. The good thing about it is that the public has a long memory when it comes to music.” For the millennial ‘summer’ show of the Night of the Proms, the event moved to the Flemish coast for an open air edition. The festive concert was staged on a huge parking lot in front of the Our Lady-of-the-Dune church in Koksijde, and was organised by the city of Koksijde, with artists like Gérard Lenorman, Milow, Lady Linn, Regi, and Gers Pardoel performing. It was headed by long time Proms musical director and honoree guest John Miles, and backed by the Antwerp Philharmonic Orchestra with conductor Alexandra Arrieche.
P45 SEPTEMBER 2019 FOH engineer Tom Vuerstaek at Proms Summer Edition 1 PHOTO: mmpress
“There were two major challenges,” said Tom Vuerstaek, sound designer/FOH engineer for the concert. “So close to the sea, the wind could have become an unpredictable element, disturbing the fragile classical repertoire. And there’s the lack of acoustics, requiring careful calculation of the FOH system.” The production team decided to use a transparent Arch stage construction in the round, offering a great view on the magistral church at the back of the stage, with the conductor in the centre. “To safeguard the audience’s line of sight, the organisers decided not to use any delay speakers,” Vuersteak continues. “The stage’s array flying height, with every metre being crucial, ensures full coverage of the stands.” The main FOH system consisted of an Adamson set-up supplied by PRG, comprising 12 E15 and four E12 speakers, plus three flown E219 subs placed front-backfront with eight E12 cabinets as outfill speakers on either side of the stage. Eight S10 cabinets per side were used as front fills. “Eight clusters of two E-119 subs are stacked in front of the stage. Personally, I wanted to have more flown low end instead of stacked subs to increase the audience’s listening comfort. After some complaints in the past from people sitting in the front rows (too much low end because of the stacked subs), I realised that flown subs would be the next step. In this specific case, it was a matter of calculating the specific distances between flown and stacked subs and adjusting the delay times to achieve maximal coverage.” The stacked E-119 cabinets were in a cardioid (front and back) set-up with extra processing on the back subs,
resulting in a relaxed atmosphere on stage where every musician plays a crucial role and has to be properly placed in the space. All of the speakers were powered by Lab Gruppen PLM (20K44) amplifiers and connected over a Dante network, with the PLM’s integrated Lake Processing allowing equalising and speaker delay control. Essential in setting up the audio system was Adamson’s Blueprint simulation and modelling software – Vuerstaek started to work with the software from scratch some eight months ago and rapidly assimilated the essential elements and started training in December last year. “The input of the site’s dimensions is crucial in preparing the audio system’s load. Blueprint was instrumental in finetuning the FOH without the use of delays, and calculating the respective distance between the subs,” he said. “With the main speakers, outfills and subs hanging close to each other, we managed to avoid speaker phase issues – the long flown speaker array also results in better low control. Blueprint’s predictions were extremely accurate for the job.” Whereas, the ‘traditional’ arena indoor Nights of the Proms in the fall use five DiGiCo consoles, the Koksijde open air production opted for three desks. “We were facing a tight schedule in this production. As we already had the DiGiCo files on hand, we could just check the hardware and go ahead with the soundcheck,” Vuerstaek explains, adding that using other brands for the job was not an option as starting from scratch would be too time consuming. One DiGiCo SD7 was used as the main FOH console, featuring Waves plugins and a Universal Audio Server.
“Waves’ Sidechain controllable dynamic EQs offer a wealth of opportunities. We wanted to remain in the digital domain, without any analogue inserts on vocals or pre-mixes,” says Vuerstaek. “I have been using a Manley VOXBOX for many years. The difference between the Manley channel strip and UAD’s plugin, especially in the 96kHz sampling rate, is minimal – the tube version is quite fragile and the A/D conversion results in more latency on the system.” Vuerstaek used the Manley VOXBOX plugin on the lead vocals and other UAD plugins, like the Teletronix LA-2A on the bass guitar, an API Vision Channel strip compressor on the kick and snare plus an AMS rmx16 reverb on the snare for the '80s and '90s pop and rock songs. A Manley Massive Passive EQ completed the mix. For the premix and monitoring of the more than 30 classical musicians plus conductor, and the fully wireless 24-strong ‘Fine Fleur’ choir, the production used a second SD7, operated by Alexander Schmidt. The electric band’s and artists’ vocals were monitored by a DiGiCo SD10 console. Some 20 Glensound Symphony units served the classical musicians, offering individual microphone amplification and headphone monitoring in three different stereo mixes for two musicians. The system was developed two years ago by the Nights of the Proms production team, FOH engineer Patrick Demoustier and Benelux audio distributor Amptec, in collaboration with UK-based Glensound and is Dante-compatible. The orchestra’s signal entered the SD7 using two DiGiCo Orange Box converters with a Dante and Madi card to convert Glensound’s Dante signal to Madi for the DiGiCo’s input. With the choir using 24 wireless Sony DWT-B01 BeltPack Transmitter channels, with dedicated IEM frequencies and mixes for each of the four choir sections, some 20 Sennheiser 2000 series in-ear beltpacks for the band and artists plus 13 Sony DWM-B02/42 handheld transmitters and four DWT-B01 belt-packs, the Night of the Proms proved to be a huge wireless set-up, managed by engineer Pieter Tanghe. Some 8,000 people attended the Night of The Proms 1000th edition, setting a marker for the future of the concept. Looking back on the 1,000 editions so far, Proms co-founder Jan Vereecke is proud that the events have brought together so many incredibly talented people: musicians, orchestra, choir, the artists and crew. "And I was very happy to work with some of my all times musical heroes like Toto, Rodger Hodgson or Chic’s Nile Rodgers,” he concludes. “And I’’m so happy that they appreciated what we do.” n
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Painting the right picture This month, FOH mixer and PSNEurope columnist Ben Hammond looks at how engineers can strike the right balance between staying true to the artist’s vision and bringing their own creative flourishes to the fore…
he last piece I wrote for PSNEurope was about the varying differences between mixing in small and large venues, and I found myself going back to one word repeatedly, and that word was consistency. This got me thinking… We are all aspiring to create ‘our’ perfect mix. This comes from our own perception of how the show should sound. For weeks before a tour, I study the band’s recorded music, live multi-tracks, YouTube videos, and even interviews to get an idea of the band’s personality before I get to rehearsals. By this point I have a strong idea of how the show is going to sound, and have built a show file to reflect this. While we shouldn’t go into day one with a strict concrete plan, I think this pre-work research is such an important part of what we as audio engineers do. We are given a bunch of jigsaw pieces, but unlike a conventional jigsaw, these pieces fit together in multiple different ways, which can create many different pictures. Music, the same as art, is subjective, and when we make a picture from those pieces, even though it's made of the same building blocks, it may be completely different to what the band had in mind. Listening to each section of each song and taking note of how the band have put things together in the studio, concentrating on how certain parts compliment and play off each other, and recreating that live, is in my opinion, the key to success. After all, they did spend months, possibly even years, in a studio doing this. It would be arrogant to deviate from it. How then can you still add your own individual stamp to make it unique to you? After all, we all trade on word of mouth, and our mix style is our reputation. I have been told by a few acts that have hired me that they did so for my drum sound. I work predominantly in rock and have always mixed quite drum-heavy. I’m a big believer in the audience being involved in the show by making it an immersive experience, and bottom end helps to achieve this. Low end, sub you can physically feel, makes you feel attached to the music, and therefore involved or surrounded by what you’re listening to. A kick drum produces that bottom end but in a rhythmic manner, so not only are you involving the audience, you're also (hopefully) invoking movement and almost forcing them to dance. On top of this, bottom end is your friend in the
all too common low limit festival sites, as it gives the illusion of loudness. I have always thought of this immersive aspect as ‘my thing’ that I bring to a gig, adding an element that the band themselves can’t, so I really feel like I'm earning my money. Aside from that, I’m really into the use of big effects. I start with the drums, and my usual couple of drum reverbs (which when soloed would remind you of the most over the top Phil Collins moments) but in the mix work to sit the drums and in turn create a space to put everything in. I mainly use the snare reverb to essentially build my live room and create such space, and this puts me back into a familiar place no matter where I am. Going back to my earlier point of being loyal to the record, I'm 100 per cent about that, but using spot effects and big moves to embellish moments and highlight key things that might be the connection to the audience at that particular point in a song is imperative. Be it a vocal making the hair on the back of your neck stand up, a drum beat that makes your whole body move, or a bass line that makes you pull your best funk face, every moment in every song has the one thing that
triggers the audience reaction, and tailoring your mix to bring these to the surface at the right times will hold the audience on the edge of their seat for the whole show. I believe all of this can be achieved while still musically staying loyal to the original feel and picture that the band painted in the studio. I remember many years ago supporting Muse and Marc Carolan – who I very much regard as one of the best there is – and he told me that he loved my effects and delays, etc. However, he also said that he was the only person who would have actually heard them, and to not be afraid to really go over the top with them to get the point across. He couldn’t be more correct. The audience isn’t listening for tiny detail, it needs to be in your face. I took that onboard with me ever since, and it's not done me wrong so far, so thanks Marc! To finish up, I don’t think there is a single person in the audience who can pick out an Avalon preamp, a 480 reverb, or a distressor, but all these tiny elements that we as engineers CAN hear, help us as artists to paint our picture and get our artistic message across. We have a huge responsibility to create the right picture, but in our own way. Find the balance, and have fun with it. n
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NIGHT VISION For the past two and a half years, London’s first ever Night Czar, Amy Lamé, has been busy working with music venues, local authorities and London Mayor Sadiq Khan to bolster the capital’s night time economy and support and sustain its live music scene. Daniel Gumble paid her a visit to find out what she’s accomplished so far and what the future holds for the live sector…
small meeting room located somewhere in the middle of London’s hive-like City Hall is where PSNEurope finds a beaming Amy Lamé on an overcast morning in the capital. We’re here to discuss her first two and a half years in the role of London Night Czar, a newly created position into which she was installed by London Mayor Sadiq Khan in 2017. Her mission is to improve all facets of London nightlife - to make it safer, more profitable and to protect and nurture venues and locations of cultural significance. Among these are London’s vital yet rapidly declining LGBT clubs and grassroots music venues - 61 per cent and 35 per cent of which have been lost in the past 10 years, respectively. It’s a task as vast as it is complicated. Some of the biggest obstacles facing the night time economy in London will require local authorities, the government and venue owners to work together and review their approach to business in ways that have never been done before. It’s a challenge, however, that Lamé is relishing, and will require every bit of guile, grit and enthusiasm she can muster. All of which, as anyone who has met Lamé can testify, she possesses in abundance. What’s more, she has plenty of experience running live events in the capital to draw on. She still hosts a night every Saturday at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, and has been closely engaged with politics as a vocal activist and campaigner for the Labour party. She was Mayor of Camden in 2010-11 and has been a constant presence in the media as a broadcaster, journalist, comedian and performer.
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Shooting Czar: Amy Lamé
So, how would she sum up her first two and a half years as Night Czar? “It’s been full of opportunity and lots of challenges,” she says. “Among the standout things I’ve been able to introduce are the Women’s Night Safety Charter and the Women’s Night Safety Summit. We’ve produced a world leading report, Think Night, which is the most comprehensive data study into any city at night. It’s given us so much information that will set the foundation for decisions going forward. In the past, some people have had particular views of what a city at night is, so we’ve been trying to bust those myths. We’ve been drilling down into just how much the music industry is worth to our city and how many people there are working at night. We know the music industry is worth £4.4 billion to our city; we know there are 1.6 million people regularly working in the evening - that’s a third of London’s workforce. We’re taking an overall strategic view of London at night, and that’s been a big piece of work.” Given the extent of her research into London night life, Lamé has been encouraged and surprised by some of the data that has been mined - particularly when it comes to debunking negative and unfounded stereotypes about city life after the sun goes down. “Some of the things that were surprising to me and a lot of people was the amount of alcohol related crime - it’s very low,” she tells us. “Only 4.3 per cent of all crimes reported at night are alcohol related. And I’ve had people look at me and say, ‘Well that can’t be true’. But I work in a fake news free zone! And that is based on ONS (Office for National Statistics) data on top of Metropolitan Police data on top of NHS data. These figures go towards busting the myth that the city at night is just full of drunk people on the streets, when in reality we’ve found that you are more likely to be admitted to A&E for a sports injury at night than you are for an alcohol related injury.” However, it’s not all about research and surveys. As Lamé is well aware, one of the biggest and most pressing challenges she faces is in stemming the flow of venue closures - especially LGBT clubs, nightclubs and grassroots music venues - across the capital. “These are essential cultural spaces that are not only the cultural backbone of nights out in London, but are huge sources of employment,” she says. “People often think about things from a user perspective, but my background is in running events and club nights, and I know from a worker perspective just how important these venues are for people’s livelihoods as well. When I came into the role we’d lost 35 per cent of our grassroots live music venues in the last 10 years. We’d lost 61 per cent of our LGBT spaces. We’d lost 25 per cent of our pubs. This is serious. And I’m proud to say that we’ve been able to work with and help save 220 venues [over the past two and a half years].” She continues: “We’ve been able to steady the ship, so no net gain or loss over the past 12 months. We needed to press pause and say, ‘What are these issues and what can we do?' Now we’re starting to see venues open - we had Printworks open and they are opening a new venue in West London, so we’re seeing some positive steps.” A major factor affecting London’s live music scene is the recent hike in business rates and the ever-present threat of property developers. According to Lamé, while this threat is unlikely to diminish any time soon, City Hall has been doing its utmost to help remedy the situation and give venues a fighting chance of survival. “There are a number of factors that pose a big threat to so many
cultural spaces,” she explains. “And we see a pattern that LGBT and grassroots music venues share. Business rates for a lot of these spaces have gone through the roof and that is a difficult challenge, especially when a lot of these places are operating on small profit margins. Also, commercial rents and rent reviews have contributed to the problem. And we saw rapid expansion in development under the previous Mayor [Boris Johnson] and no care was taken around the closure of venues or their repurposing. We’ve been able to put policies into place over the past two and a half years to help mitigate that. We’ve got the Agent Of Change principle, which will make sure that any new developments are built to be soundproofed. We’re making sure that if we lose a venue due to development that we have the possibility to replace the space with something similar.” As Lamé elaborates, the path to successfully turning the city’s fortunes around is a long one. And anyone expecting a quick fix is likely to be disappointed. During her two and a half years in the role the first half of which was only part-time - she has had her fair share of critics, some of whom were expecting bigger, more immediate changes. But how does she view her performance so far? “It’s been interesting,” she ponders. “The title can set up a lot of expectation. When I was appointed we had some really serious challenges. It was around the time Fabric closed and a lot of people were really upset and worried about what could be done to save these spaces. My background is in grassroots activism in the LGBT community, running clubs and community events, so I understand the importance of having your feet very firmly planted in the grassroots scene and not being afraid to say boo to a goose if needs be. I cut my teeth running a campaign for over 20 years to save the Royal Vauxhall Tavern and standing up to some quite challenging behaviour from international property developers who wanted to knock down a much loved LGBT space and build a three star hotel. "I’ve brought all of that passion and knowledge from campaigning, learning licensing and understanding how the system works. But I depend on relationships with the community. I can’t do it all myself. I really encourage people to get in touch with me if they have any information because we might have another piece of the puzzle that we can then fit together. Those relationships are essential. I don’t have a magic wand.” And her message for those who have cast doubt on her performance over the past two and a half years? “Firstly, I share the same passions for London at night as those people do,” she concludes. “I don’t see it as us coming at it from opposite sides. We all want to see the same results, which is London at night being safe, diverse, buoyant for good employment and for us to be the envy of the world. Sometimes the criticism gets a bit personal and I find that a little unfair, but it’s part of the job. We carry on and we do the best we can with the powers we have. It’s a really new role. When I took it on there had been so much anger and there was so much that hadn’t been done for so long that people were impatient. I understand that. But I’d rather work with than against people that I see as having the same outlook as me. I’m still running my club every Saturday. I’m still on the frontline in Vauxhall on a Saturday night and that’s a really important part of what I do to keep my feet on the ground and to meet people and hear what they need and want. But I’m not superwoman.” n
The band:: L-R: Blaine Harrison, Jack Flanagan, Kapli Trivedi, and William Rees
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Anticipating the release of their sixth studio album and second to be co-produced by the band themselves, Fiona Hope catches up with the Jetsâ€™ bassist Jack Flanagan and co-producer Matthew Twaites on what went on behind the scenes...
ystery Jets’ latest album A Billion Heartbeats is set to be released on September 27, 2019, and will be the second that the band has coproduced alongside longtime collaborator and close friend Matthew Twaites. After taking the time to get to grips with self-producing on their previous album, Curve of the Earth (2016), the Mystery Jets have further honed their sonic capabilities with the yet-to-be-released guitar-heavy record, bridging the gap between their signature indie-pop and the heavier rock style they sought to project this time around. The development in sound and vision is evident, a lot of which came down to the decision to make their sixth studio album a guitar-driven affair. Also heavy on vintage synthesisers and recorded primarily in the Brain Yard, a bunker-like warehouse, the final piece is permeated by atmospheric and detailed audio excellence that represents the band's "cinematic" approach. Here, Fiona Hope chats to bassist Jack Flanagan and producer Matthew Twaites about the sonic realisation of the new record, the “Mystery Jets process” of music making and why they decided to co-produce...
cinematic, orchestrated influence. It's becoming a lot more textural. One week we'll be listening to pop records, and then drawing from heavier influences. We all secretly love to rock out, and I don't think it's something anyone's quite had the confidence to do as a band. We started doing a little bit on the last record, and the heaviness of guitar music is definitely coming through on this album. The general rule for this album was to have guitars directly injected (DI) straight into the desk, or through pedal boards. It sounds really direct and in your face. I think people should DI guitars more, straight into the mixing desk, and always put a FabFilter Saturn Multiband distortion on their Masterbus.
What was the album's recording process like this time around? Jack Flanagan: On Curve of the Earth we were more out of our depth. None of us – apart from Matt – had ever made a complete record on our own. We were learning a lot, feeling our way through it and trying to find a process. When it came to making this album, A Billion Heartbeats, it felt a lot more confident. We spent weeks in a room doing pre-production with the band, finding sounds and working out drum and bass parts, with Matt sometimes lending his ears. We make a point of actually getting in a room together and hammering it out as opposed to building it all in the box. Blaine and Will (the two main songwriters in the band), often do quite sophisticated demos, which is a good and a bad thing, as it often seems set in stone. For example, when I heard the intro of 'Screwdriver' in the practice room I was like 'This sounds brilliant, why would we change it?' That actually happened a lot on this album. Everyone makes songs on laptops now, so everyone's quite a good bedroom producer. And then when we put our minds together in the studio we realise we've actually done quite a lot of the work in the demo.
Tell us about your studio set up... Now we're in a live-in property in Clerkenwell called the Brain Yard. It's this big, old warehouse that we've taken over the bottom floor of. We have a live room, a couple of writing rooms and a control room. It's windowless, like being in a bunker, but one of the things I always feel is really important when making music is that nobody from the outside world can really hear you. If you're underground in a bunker and it's just you and your mates, it's a lot easier to do so without thinking someone else might be listening on the other side of the door. It's a lot easier to lose yourself.
How does co-producing compare to before? JF: Curve of the Earth took so long. This time, we were a lot more methodical. To come together in a room and have some kind of cohesive element to it is quite hard to do. In our band, one of the main problems is that everyone is a songwriter, including Matt. You put four cooks in a room, they can all cook a meal completely different from one another. A lot of the time there's butting of heads, and I think that's actually a key part to a Mystery Jets creative process because every idea, be it a string line or a kick drum pattern, gets put under a magnifying glass. But, in this album there was a level of spontaneity that came through more so than on previous records. What are your particular roles in the music production side? JF: Blaine and I worked a lot together for this album on his lead vocals. It was very meticulous and precise. Matt is the king of drum sounds; we actually recorded the drums in a different studio called Buff Studios in Canning Town, with a guy called Dan White. Blaine and Will are the songwriters while Kapil (drums) and I (bass) are the rhythm section. But it's all very varied. I do a lot of synth bass on this record. I used the Sequential Circuits Pro One. I can't really tell you how much I love that synthesiser, it sounds like riding a motorbike. The best thing about being in a Mystery Jets studio is the volume of keyboards and vintage synthesisers. A new one that turned up on this album was the Oberheim OB-6. It's a really versatile, user-friendly synthesiser that can do whatever you want it to do. And we ended up just using one patch on it throughout the whole record within one element of the keyboard. It's a very big part of the record, that one sound. We decided to use a lot of stock features – I used the Boss Metal Zone, which can be considered sacrilege. Right at the end, we bought a Digitech Space Station. What was your general inspiration for the album? JF: We all listen to such different stuff. I think as the band develops there's more of a
Do you have any particular sonic influences? JF: Right at the beginning, we all really liked Perfume Genius, particularly the song 'Slip Away', and the new The War On Drugs record, which were both produced by Shawn Everett. We're all huge Nigel Godrich fans and we found out that Everett was as well so we became obsessed with working out what was on his Masterbus.
How have you developed over the years to be able to self-produce? JF: I still think I'm developing as a producer. The more I produce other people, or myself, the more I try and put them in a positive headspace. If you can harness that adrenaline in a really controlled and loving way with the people you're working with, they can surprise themselves. To me that's the duty of production, and a really great producer can make people do things they couldn't normally do – it’s about encouraging people. Why do you like to work with Matthew? JF: He's our mate, he's a part of the band. He's got such an encyclopaedic and technical knowledge of music. To have that person who personally is a lot less intertwined to guide you through is really cool. He's our George Martin, you know. Hey Matt! What exactly is your role when working with Mystery Jets? How important do you think a producer-type person is? Matthew Twaites: When I work with Mystery Jets, it's very much a co-production thing. I'm there to facilitate and advise, allowing ideas to be realised as opposed to direct and be the boss. It is a collaboration. This record was quite spearheaded by Blaine's vision. These days the lines between engineering and production are blurred, a lot of production happens in the box. I've been an engineer and producer for a long time, it's just someone who knows their stuff. With other things I do, I am the "producer". But I think people are ready to call themselves producers too early. I was a sound engineer for a long time before becoming a producer. A producer is really important, but some people don't need them, some people think they don't need them and could do with them, and for some the producer is the extra member in the band. A lot of it is looking after people, people skills, and mediating disagreements. It's very much about mood, keeping everyone inspired and conducive to creativity. Overseeing and being the ears in the control room. You need to be as visible or invisible as a band needs you to be. Studio set up /favourite gear? MT: I'm a plugins guy – a big fan of Fabfilter and Soundtoys plugins. I like ribbon mics a lot, I use them as much as I can get away with. I like the Benson spring reverb, API 5-12 pres, and we used an SSL-esque desk modelled on the G series. n
THIS MONTH: Here, we chat with Andy Egerton from Sennheiser about his life in the industry, and take a look at some supportive charities within the music and audio worlds. We’ve also curated a run down of the most exciting industry events to look out for over the coming weeks and months...
60 SECONDS WITH…
ANDY EGERTON Sennheiser UK Artist relations associate, professional audio division
What first sparked your interest in the industry? Going to gigs as a teenager. I enjoyed the shows, but never really thought about how it all came together. I remember going to watch Oasis one summer and bought the live DVD Familiar to Millions. The bonus DVD had a behind the scenes interview with the tour manager, monitor engineer and other crew members and I began to look into becoming a sound engineer, which lead me to Glyndwr University in North Wales studying Sound/Studio engineering. What was your first job? I worked as a forklift truck driver in a warehouse in Leeds. I was straight out of sixth form and wanted to earn some money to travel. It was a great experience at the time. What was your last job? I was a monitor engineer. The last 10 years I worked mainly with The Maccabees, Mumford and Sons and The Wombats. With a young family now, I was looking to stop touring so coming to Sennheiser and still being able to use the skills and knowledge I’ve gained over that time, as well as still working with artists, management and sound engineers is the perfect fit for me. What is an average day at work for you? I check the inbox and deal with the most pressing emails as soon as possible. My role is all about relationships, so the emails are either new or existing relationships. I spend a good amount of time on the phone as I like to speak to people. You never know how an email is going to be received or interpreted, so I always like to speak to the person, especially if it’s a new relationship. Some days I will be at a festival, show or visiting clients. These are the best days. Meeting people and talking about Sennheiser equipment and other technologies really helps me have a better understanding of the end users’ needs. What has been your favourite project? This summer, it was helping Raph Williams, who mixes FOH for Stormzy, with his Glastonbury show. I was there to witness it and it was a historical Glastonbury headline set. I also offer some support for Ed Sheeran’s tours, which is always nice to be involved with.
How do you balance work and life? I’m very lucky to be able to work from home so I’m surrounded by my family, although I have an outside office for work mode and I’m still out on the road visiting clients sometimes. It makes a happy balance. What’s the biggest challenge you face in the industry? In my role, which is on the pro audio side of Sennheiser, it’s staying on top of our game in product development. Since joining the company this year, what I have noticed most is the ethos of putting audio first and in my role I see the benefits of that when interacting with the end user. We then listen to feedback and take action and it’s clear everyone is focused towards delivering the best products to support live music. Although this is a challenge, it’s what we do and it is very enjoyable to be part of that process, so it’s a good challenge. What do you like most about the industry? During my touring days, we were in our tour bubble and some of the characters you meet on tour make for some really fun experiences. Moving into this role, it’s nice to meet other touring parties and see them interacting with each other. I love the live music industry, from the talent on the stage to the crews who make it all happen. Productions are becoming more advanced, I find the technologies and the skills of the crew who put it together incredible and it’s nice to have a window into that world. Who/what is your inspiration? My wife and kids. My girls are eight and five, so the questions and comments they come out with at the moment are hilarious. Just seeing them grow and their characters develop is fascinating and a real joy. My wife’s a very talented singer, so watching her shows where she’s doing what she loves and being a great wife and mother inspires me. What do you like to do outside of work? I attempt to go to the gym with varying degrees of success. I also enjoy golf and cycling. I love watching sport in general, currently cricket and always football. I’m in a fantasy football league with a few musicians and crew members from various bands I’ve met over the years and we have a WhatsApp group which is very entertaining. n
P53 SEPTEMBER 2019
Find out what pro audio and tech events are happening in the coming months…
IBC 2019 RAI Amsterdam September 12-17, 2019 Occupying the same venue as ISE, yet later on in the year, IBC is a media, entertainment, and technology show. As well as exhibitions and conferences, IBC has developed a series of events and free-toattend features to enhance the show's experience: theatres hosting demonstrations, presentations and briefings; the future of technology and research from leading R&D labs; and blockbusters on show at the custom-built Big Screen. The show also includes the IBC Awards, for which entries are now open, recognising notable contributions from organisations and individuals to the industry. In fact, the 2019 show is adding two new Awards to the bill, including the Young Pioneer Award that acknowledges young and emerging talent in the creative, commercial or technical spheres, and the Social Impact Award, which represents achievements in inclusivity, diversity, and the environment. Other Award categories include the Innovation Awards, Outstanding Achievement Awards, and Exhibition Stand Design Awards. Not to mention our very own Best of Show Award, for which we are awarding for the Broadcast Audio category. The deadline to enter is September 9 and you can do so here: https://www.futureevents.uk/bestofshow
PLASA 2019 London Olympia, National Hall 15-17 September 2019 Plasa is a recognised event for the entertainment technology industry, presenting from London, the entertainment capital of the UK. The show consists of product launches and creative solutions, and seminar programmes ranging from talks and panels, and workshops to immersive demos. What’s more, 8/10 visitors are returning visitors, showing commitment to what the show brings to the industry. The exhibition categories include: Accessories, Audio, Audio-Visual, Broadcast, Effects, Industry Services, Lighting, Staging/Rigging, whilst Audio is the second biggest sector of the show.
AES NEW YORK 2019 New York October 16-19, 2019 This show, the 147th Audio Engineering Society International Convention, is made for those interested in all things pro audio: Studio Recording, Home Recording, Music Production, Live Sound, Broadcast
and Streaming, Networked Audio, Audio for Virtual and Augmented Reality, Game Audio, and Sound for Picture or Product Development. As well as exhibits and demos, there will be comprehensive papers, workshops and tutorial programmes. AES New York 2019 will be co-located with the Independent NAB Show New York, and an all access registration to ISE includes access to the NAB show as well.
CHARITY CORNER MUSIC SUPPORT BACKS THE INDUSTRY
PLASA ORGANISES CHARITY BIKE RIDE FOR BACKUP AND STAGEHAND
Mental health charity for UK music professionals, Music Support, began in
A group of industry colleagues are planning to cycle 100 miles across the UK to Olympia London on Saturday September 14 to raise money for the entertainment industry charities Backup and StageHand. The group are looking for more cyclists to join them. Organised by PLASA and the Production Services Association (PSA), last year’s team consisted of representatives from PLASA, PSA, Whitelight, Autograph, UK Rigging, Harman, SFL, Anthem Publishing and Real Marketing Services. Together they raised over £1,600. PLASA’s MD Peter Heath commented: “The 100 mile bike ride has become somewhat of an annual tradition, raising awareness and money for a valued industry charity. With mental health remaining a prevalent issue, the money raised will be put towards tackling this in the industry. We are calling for more cyclists to sign up for the challenge and support this worthy cause.”
April 2016, the founders being veterans of the music industry with personal experiences of mental health and addiction issues themselves. After witnessing the sometimes negative impact of working in the live sound industry, they realised a personal and confidential service was needed. The charity’s mission is to make sure nobody in the UK music industry is left to suffer alone. Music Support offers a 24/7 telephone helpline with peer support from volunteers with personal experience of emotional, mental and addiction issues. It also provides “Safe Hubs” backstage at UK music festivals where there is an opportunity to chat with someone. There are also supportive resources on their website, and educational events that take place. Helpline: 08000306789 Enquiries: email@example.com To donate or volunteer and for more information, visit the website: https://www.musicsupport.org/
To sign up for the bike ride, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
P54 SEPTEMBER 2019
The Lowe down Phil Ward talks to Mike Lowe, who became a director at audio rental powerhouse Britannia Row in 1987…
ust as Pink Floyd embarked on their Momentary Lapse Of Reason tour in the late 1980s, Mike Lowe joined the company that had grown out of the band’s ever-growing PA system into one of the world’s leading rental providers. It was the culmination of around 20 years’ experience on the road, beginning with looking after the gear for local bands on his native Merseyside while at school and, a little later, studying at Southport Technical College. He was soon a production manager before production managers existed, and broke into the US with another prog rock giant… What was your first little ‘shove’ onto the road? I’d just got my driving licence at 17 and the drummer in one of the local bands I knew got some professional shows in Germany. They needed someone who did everything – van driver, tech, the whole one-man show. That was me. And during that trip I was offered another one… so I thought I’d do this for a couple of years and then get a proper job. Everything just rolled on from there, and I never did get a real job. Some might disagree, but we know what you mean… how did it ‘roll on’? In those days there was no Wigwam or Adlib, so if anyone got anywhere in the music business they moved to London. So that’s what I did, and continued one-man roadie-ing for a variety of acts. One of the first was a bass player and vocalist called Colin Norfield,
who became a sound engineer for Pink Floyd. One real breakthrough gig was Emerson, Lake & Palmer, which lasted for about four years and got me into all sorts of scrapes in cahoots with their trucking chief – a certain Mr Bob Kelly. I once managed to wrap one of the huge artics across a roundabout in Zurich, with Kelly fast asleep next to me in the cab… Are there any other particular artists that linger in the memory? So many... Pink Floyd and David Gilmour shows are always very special. I count myself to be incredibly lucky to have worked with many of the greats who are no longer with us: Sinatra; Miles Davis; Ella Fitzgerald; Sammy Davis Jnr; Whitney Houston; Rory Gallagher; John Martyn. The list is long. Which technical development has had the biggest impact on audio? Electricity – followed by DSP. What has been your greatest live experience? Miles Davis starting a show at the Royal Festival Hall playing Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time After Time’ on muted trumpet. He began playing acoustically from the dressing room with a barely audible, thin sound that grew in volume as he walked the corridors to the stage. Still playing, he walked up the choir risers blowing his horn into the wood-lined rear wall and side of the stage, which amplified his trumpet acoustically. He then
brought the band in who were on stage before Miles made his entrance, and then walked down to the front of the stage. This had not been rehearsed. He worked it out after soundcheck. The only instruction that came out ahead of the show was ‘don’t put my mic in the PA until I hit the front of the stage’. The man was a genius. It sounds quite a haunting experience… Not quite as haunting as a show we did at the Albert Hall with Larry Adler in a wheelchair shortly before he died, duetting ‘Rhapsody In Blue’ ‘with’ George Gershwin. Alder was in a single spotlight with a piano keyboard playing itself: some punch tapes had been found from a piano that Gershwin had in his apartment in New York over 50 years before, and Gershwin’s playing had been digitised for this performance. I don’t think Gershwin was ever recorded playing one of his own compositions – just this paper tape. If you could go back in time, where would you go? Liverpoool in the '60s – it was bursting with creativity, and all with great Liverpudlian humour. The singer for a band in The Cavern one night said in a thick Scouse accent – “We’d like to play a Four Tops number now called ‘Don’t Walk Away Renee’” – as opposed to René. Liverpool being the ‘capital’ of Ireland then, it seemed that everyone had an Aunt Renee, or Irene. The music, the art, the poetry and the humour just kept coming for years, and it was a wonderful part of my life. n
Marika Hackman - A journey inside one of 2019's most revealing and remarkable records.