AIMEE MANN RECORDING IN EXACTLY THE RIGHT WAY
UNI T Y
TALVIN SINGH MAKING MUSIC FOR INDIA IN SUFFOLK THE BRITS & THE GRAMMYS A SUMMARY OF THIS YEARâ€™S AWARDS SEASON
ISSUE 19 | RRP $6.95 USA/$7.95 CANADA
The Chainsmokers CHECK OUT HEADLINER MAGAZINE ONLINE | HEADLINERMAGAZINE.NET
New from DiGiCo
SD12 SETTING A NEW STANDARD
Predictably Stunning In 2015, DiGiCo launched its compact S-Series, which boasted a modern workflow at an affordable pricepoint; last year, the whole SD Range became much more powerful thanks to the introduction of Stealth Core 2
Software across the board; now, in DiGiCo’s 15th year,
72 input channels with full processing
meet the new and predictably stunning SD12.
36 aux/grp busses with full processing
LR / LCR bus & 12 x 8 Matrix
The new DiGiCo SD12 doesn’t just re-write the book on
12 FX processors & 16 Graphic EQs
compact multi-application consoles, it simply rips it up
119 Dynamic EQs, 119 Multiband Compressors, 119 DiGiTuBes
Advanced surface connectivity with optional DMI cards
UB MADI & optional Optics
and starts again.
www.digico.biz DiGiCo UK Ltd. Unit 10 Silverglade Business Park, Leatherhead Road Chessington, Surrey KT9 2QL. Tel: +44 (0) 1372 845600
Contents #19 Cover Story
P28 / The Chainsmokers 06
MIXING THE CHAINSMOKERS
DJ Swivel talks us through the making of The Chainsmokers’ exciting debut album.
SONIC VISTA INSIGHTS
Our friends in Ibiza speak to renowned sound engineer and musician, Marty Strayer.
One of our favourite US songstresses talks to us about her latest record, Mental Illness.
We look back on the 2017 Grammy and BRIT Awards: the good, the great, and the awful.
This multi-Grammy winning artist and producer chats music production, VIs, and plugins.
RECORDING ED SHEERAN
We meet Joe Rubel at his Pixel studio in London to discuss his work on Ed’s latest smash album.
We chat open tuning and silent energy with the London Contemporary Orchestra.
BLACK ROCK STUDIOS
Headliner descends on Santorini for a catch up with studio owner, Kostas Kalimeris.
A WINGED VICTORY
An insight into making music as a team with this respected neo-classical duo.
A candid conversation with the President of Lectrosonics about the future of wireless technology.
It’s all about inspiration, and the right amount of analogue kit for this top class music maker.
This issue’s ‘one to watch’ has big aspirations, great songs, and a very smart attitude.
The ‘90s Britpoppers are back with a darker, edgier, and more full-on sound.
MASTER OF THE HOUSE
A look inside Abbey Road’s unique surround mastering suite with engineer, Simon Gibson.
COVER STORY: THE CHAINSMOKERS
It’s been a hell of a journey for this US group, whose sound has evolved as much as their songwriting, which has put them right at the top of their game.
HEADLINER | ISSUE #19
We check out the monumental audio infrastructure at Abu Dhabi’s annual cultural festival.
THE DEAD DAISIES
Rock and roll’s best kept secret, and perhaps the next stadium band? Meet The Dead Daisies.
LAUREN DEAKIN DAVIES Into The Den with this talented young producer, who’s making lots of beautiful records.
GREAT FIRST IMPRESSIONS
UK rapper, Doc Brown, puts JH Audio’s new Performance Series of IEMs to the test on the road.
GRUMPY OLD ROADIE
Lydall Twatt chats to us about his first rock and roll experience, courtesy of his grumpy old uncle.
#19 From the Editor
“It's the songwriting that has really taken our career to the next level.” The Chainsmokers
We’re delighted to have The Chainsmokers on our cover this issue. I first met the guys a couple of years ago at Sony HQ in London, and they were already making serious waves across the pond, and had come to the UK to make some more noise. Two years later, they’ve definitely done that: their big ideas and aspirations, and an insane work ethic have taken them to the very top of their game as one of the biggest acts in the US today. The guys drop their first album on April 7th, and will head out on a huge arena tour the following week. And we’re happy to say, they’re still as humble as they are talented, despite their quite remarkable success story. Also inside, we pay a visit to the tabla playing legend-cum-producer extraordinaire that is Talvin Singh - this guy is a true gent, and phenomenally talented; he gives us a lesson in studio kit, and tells us how he gets his inspiration from making music for India in sunny Suffolk. We also look back on 2017’s much talked about awards season, where Adele once again dominated the Grammys, and our cover stars stole the show at the BRITs with a fantastic collaboration with Chris Martin and Coldplay. But let’s not forget the guys behind the scenes that made sure everything went smooth as silk from an audio and lighting perspective - these would be pretty dull affairs without them..! We loved chatting to Aimee Mann, too - here at Headliner, we have been big fans of this super-talented songstress since she did the soundtrack for the Hollywood blockbuster, Magnolia, back in ‘99, and we’re pleased to see that her latest record, Mental Illness, is just as beautiful and heartfelt as that material. And in her own words, “If they’re all waltzes, so be it.” Absolutely, Aimee! All this and much more inside - we hope you enjoy the issue. Paul Watson Editor
SOCIALISE WITH US: headlinermagazine.net @Headlinerhub HeadlinerHub headlinermagazine
HEADLINER | ISSUE #19
CONTACT Paul Watson email@example.com +44(0)7952-839296
Graham Kirk firstname.lastname@example.org +44(0)7872-461938
Artwork Eimear O’Connor Jolien Hordijk
Contributors Adam Protz, Jordan Young, Henry Sarmiento, Jon Tessier, Jade Perry, Lydall Twatt
Design Without Boundaries Acoustically Coaxial Three-Way Smart Active Monitor We break boundaries in engineering to make the best even better. The 8351 Acoustically Coaxial Three-Way Smart Active Monitor represents this bold and imaginative thinking. The center is Genelec’s Minimum Diffraction Coaxial driver in a Directivity Control Waveguide. Behind the waveguide are two Acoustically Concealed Woofers. The directivity control equals that of monitors four times the size. The smart signal processing perfects monitoring accuracy with GLM AutoCal. The 8351 can only be described as the most solid, most articulate monitor available today – in a surprisingly compact package.
32 Hz – 40 kHz (-6 dB) ± 1.5 dB (38 Hz – 21kHz) 110 dB SPL Amplifiers: 150 W Class D (woofers) 120 W Class D (midrange) 90 W Class AB (tweeter) Drivers: Woofers 2 pcs 215 x 100 mm Midrange 127 mm Tweeter 19 mm
Genelec Oy T +358 17 83 881 email@example.com www.genelec.com
MIXING THE CHAINSMOKERS DJ Swivel has been busy mixing The Chainsmokers’ first record, which drops on April 7th. We asked our two-time Grammy-winning columnist to take us through the process. Photographs Lucas Taggart I started working with The Chainsmokers two years ago in New York. I invited them to the studio, hung out for an hour or two, and they played some music to me. They had given me six songs just to listen to, and they wanted some feedback on; they were curious, and they asked me how to make it better – it was more of a friendship thing, really. A few weeks after that, they gave me the first song they wanted me to mix – it was called Good Intentions, from their Bouquet EP. Next time I heard from them was when they’d written Don’t Let Me Down; it was a totally different musical direction, and it just sounded like a smash, so I mixed that. I had moved to LA at that point. From there, it turned into a success in a month or two, and
shortly after that, they gave me Closer, which became the third song we worked on. As soon as they started to put out their own material consistently, people really started taking notice. They’d release a track, and a month later, there’d be another single, and so on – they were constantly applying pressure. And then with [the single] Roses, they really connected with their audience, and it just ‘went’. Immediately after that, they got onto their next EP – no delay at all. They’d put out one song at a time until they had a collection of five songs, and then they would package it into an EP. Once the demand got so high, they knew it was time to make a record. After their Collage EP, they went out on tour in Europe, and when they
“My entire rig is in my laptop I just have my iLok and my plugins.” came back, Drew [Taggart, one half of The Chainsmokers] played me two more amazing songs, one of which was Paris, and then at the top of this year, we really started digging in.
In The Mix
I mixed the whole thing at home, but as far as vocal production and recording, we used Westlake in LA for the most part, with a few days at Paramount, a few in The Village, and Paris we did at Jungle City in New York. The record was mixed completely in the box, and part of that for me is the convenience. Mixing is about being comfortable, and I don’t believe hardware sounds any better than plugins; it’s how you use it. It comes back to your ears – as I have
said many times, I am an ear head, not a gear head. There are tools I love, of course, but if I lost them tomorrow, I would still find a way to mix a great record. Drew did a lot of the production in Ableton, then we finished it in Pro Tools, and all the mixing was done in Pro Tools, too. The process was: Drew had a song, a scratch track; from that scratch track, I would produce the vocal; and once we had a great vocal, I would give that a cappella back to Drew, and he would get the production to 90 percent. He would then send me those stems, and I would mix that record. Then, we would do final production stuff – we might add a guitar, or try a string arrangement, for example. And once we had all that, I would finalise the mix, add the elements, and any final little touch ups. It’s not a conventional process; normally when I mix, people send me files, I mix the record, and that’s it. This was way more hands on, back and forth, and quite a few layers.
On The Master Fader
This would vary, to be honest. Sometimes I’d use a simple Waves SSL Buss compressor, and maybe a little EQing; and often I would use the SPL Vitalizer from Plugin Alliance, just to add a little shine to the top. I might also do a little carving out with the low end, and emphasise certain frequencies. So a little compression, a little corrective EQing, but not a ton. And the last argument we always had was around multiband compression. I always
like to leave that in the hands of the mastering engineer, whereas Drew is from DJ world and is used to having to complete records himself Drew can get a record to a very good place, and as he masters his own records, he leans on multiband compression. So we always did two versions, and got two mastered: sometimes it was my version, sometimes it was the multiband version. Although in his defence, on this album, I concede defeat to him, as we mostly went with the multiband masters!
I have a lot of Waves go-to kit. I particularly love the Renaissance DeEsser, which I follow up with the SSL E-Channel Strip - that’s my absolute go-to EQ and compressor. And then I follow up with the Renaissance Vox - not a whole lot, just to tighten it up one more time and catch anything that’s poking out And after that, it depends. If it’s a very bright vocal, I might use two to three instances of the Renaissance DeEsser more as a frequency sensitive compressor. If there is one frequency around 3k in the upper mids that’s bothering me on certain words, I’ll slap another one on the chain. It’s not only dealing with the sibilance, sometimes it’s with actual frequencies. On female vocals, the Renaissance DeEsser picks up on that well. I have to say, the SSL E-Channel Strip is an absolute work horse – it does exactly what I need it to do, and I know it very well. It’s very intuitive, and it’s the one I was raised on, so I
love it. I use it on everything. Back in the days when people used boards, they would have 72-96 channels of an SSL, so that’s what the channel strip was, and that’s what they would use for almost everything. I use the Waves H-Delay on everything, too, just as a nice clean delay that has some nice FX on it like the lo-fi effect, which I use a lot, and the low and high pass filters. Then for reverbs, I use Lexicon for my plate, and the Valhalla VintageVerb plugin for my large hall. My entire rig is in my laptop. I have my iLok, my laptop, and all my plugins, and I am good to go. The mixing was mostly done using my Genelec 8351s - I just love those speakers, especially as I am mixing at home and it’s an untreated room. The room sounds okay, but there is definitely some reverb and noise here and there, and the Genelecs just correct any problems with the bass, which is just perfect for me, so I live by those speakers. What I will say is, don’t expect what you would expect from The Chainsmokers, because this is not an EDM album, it’s a pop record; and it’s more about the songwriting and production than the groove. Most of the songs started on piano and vocal – and once that is done, you just build around it. And we’re all really pleased with the results! @djswivel www.waves.com www.genelec.com
Sonic Vista Insights Marty Strayer
MARTY STRAYER: BRINGING THE HOUSE DOWN
Our friends at Sonic Vista Studios in Ibiza chat to experienced front of house engineer and musician, Marty Strayer, an inspiring gentleman who’s worked with an eclectic mix of international artists including Prince, Madonna, Dixie Chicks, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, P!nk, and Ariana Grande. When did you get started and how? I was always in bands growing up, and was raised playing the piano. I taught myself the bass and then guitar, started writing tunes early, and learning to put on shows. I started touring when I got a job at Clair Brothers in the early ‘90s. Which tour has been most complex? I would say it was probably Madonna’s Drowned World Tour in 2001. Drowned World was just a very elaborate show, and Madonna wanted her studio sound in her [ JH Audio] in-ears. It took a lot of time in rehearsals to get that just right. We had two boards out there – one for the band inputs, and one dedicated to all the effects. It was pretty crazy. Any major setup changes of note? The main difference in the last 20 years has been going from analogue to digital, and from wedges to IEMs. Jerry Harvey offers me the best support and reliability possible - not to mention the fact his in-ears sound absolutely amazing. I use the work horse JH16s for my artists, and they always do the job great. Do you foresee changes in touring? Well, technology is just getting better and better
with digital consoles getting smaller and more powerful, and better sounding. That’s the big one for me; in the next 10 years, we will without doubt see that trend continue. What’s your go-to console today? The DiGiCo consoles are really great sounding desks with tons of outputs and inputs, and powerful plugin capabilities. I like the SD7. I love the options it gives me for routing and outputs. It was a bit of a learning curve, but it just sounds so much better than anything else. I approach things kind of old school and keep things simple, but I really like the EQ, and the general overall layout is super comfortable for me. I’m not a hugely technical guy, so for me, simple is good! And what about outboard/plugins? I’m a minimalist, but I like the Waves stuff, just for some compressors and reverbs. I am a big fan of the Waves C6 plugin. Although I try to keep plugins at a minimum, I find the C6 offers me noise control and compression at very distinct frequencies, and I always use it for my vocals. Who are you working with currently? I’m working with a great kid, Josh Herbert. I’m writing and producing, and just generally guiding
him. He opened for the Dixie Chicks last year, and we are hoping to have a big year in 2017 with him. One to watch, for sure. Your last tour was Dixie Chicks... Yes, the Dixie Chicks DXCMMXVI tour. It was a great tour that took us all over the world, and will continue this year in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada - perhaps more of the USA, too. They’re talented girls, a great band, and their show is just awesome. The girls really do perform at a very high level, and have high expectations. They have great ears, too, and really know what they want. I also did their performance with Beyoncé at the CMAs. We rehearsed for two weeks in LA, and it was interesting to mix the two camps. I think Bey’s camp learned a lot from our camp; we are a bit more casual, and everyone had a blast! It was an awesome experience. And next, Soundgarden. Amazing! Yeah, that’s one of my passions; they make me feel like I’m part of the band, because I really get to mix actively, especially to help Chris [Cornell, frontman] with his effects and vocal sound. @sonicvista www.sonicvistastudios.com
Aimee Mann Mental Illness
We chat to Grammy-winning US songstress, Aimee Mann, whose new album may be just as melancholic and heartbreaking as some of her previous, but it’s entirely addictive and in her own words, “If they’re all waltzes, so be it.” Nicely said.
My first memories of Aimee Mann
MENTAL ILLNESS Words Paul Watson
date back to 1999, when the Hollywood movie, Magnolia, came out. She wrote the soundtrack. Two amazing songs, Wise Up, and Save Me, are still on my iPhone today, and I had a good listen to both before unwrapping the CD I received in the post of her latest work, Mental Illness. When I realised that I didn’t in fact own a CD player, I resorted to the car, and found myself listening to the album in its entirety, along Hertfordshire’s country lanes. From the opening track, Goose Snow Cone, it’s Aimee Mann at her finest; and an hour later, I’m parked up, totally content, wondering which tracks to go back to for another listen. All of them, I decide. I play it through again, and it’s at this point that I realise we should all take time to listen to music properly – we live in a world where music consumption is frantic and erratic, and track listings on an album sleeve are so often deemed null and void. We lose the art, and indeed the heart of what’s really going on in an artist’s mind. Mental Illness is full of great songs, and most notably, great performances. It’s largely guitar/ vocal, and up close and personal, with some lovely string arrangements, and it sounds great. Have a listen to that opening track, along with Lies of Summer, and Simple Fix – that’ll give you some idea of the feel of the whole album. “This is probably the kind of record I would make if I thought people were clambering for more slow, sad, melancholy acoustic guitar songs,” Aimee tells me, with a smile. “I always try to get away from that a little bit on each record, as I worry it’ll be too depressing for people, but then I thought, ‘nobody buys records anymore, so I should just do what I want to do.’ There is a certain liberation in that, to just make the record you want to make.” True enough. And doing her own thing is something Aimee knows all about. She formed SuperEgo, her own label, some 20 years ago,
Aimee Mann Mental Illness
which propelled her to greater things. “There was definitely a peak where I first got off a major label and put out records myself, as I sold a lot of records, and finally made money,” she says. “Now people are making money playing live, but I have a more stripped down crew, I play more semi-acoustic shows, so it’s more of a paring down, really. Touring for me was always about breaking even; you would put on a fairly fleshed out show with the hope you’d promote
get to work!’ [laughs] But you have to tighten up and record quickly, so there’s not as much time for experimentation. I like to go into the studio with a plan – it’s never been my thing to experiment with lots of different sounds - I pay way more attention to the songs, and get all that together before I go into the studio.” Paul Bryan also arranged the strings, Aimee tells me, which I think are pretty phenomenal: “They are so great. I shouldn’t be surprised,
“There is a certain liberation in that, to just make the record you want to make.”
your record, but that doesn’t really exist anymore. And that’s too bad. If you’re playing arenas, you’re making money, but anything less is very hard. I see bands with eight members and I don’t know how they do it; maybe they’re all in their 20s and fine with sleeping on people’s couches?” Mental Illness is Aimee’s ninth album, and was put together at long-time producer, Paul Bryan’s home studio. She brought in a select group of trusted musicians and banged it out in a matter of days – but her preparation beforehand was significant, as it always is. “I think it all comes down to economics – what you can afford. Paul did all the engineering, and we did record strings in a larger studio, but I think recording in his studio and having other musicians come in and work really quickly over a couple of days really helped,” Aimee reflects. “I think it helps to choose musicians who are really great, who know what you do, and work really fast. I’m like, ‘we have 11 songs, you have two days; let’s
as I know how talented he is as a musician, but arranging is a whole other talent, and he did an incredible job. And in terms of the musicians, I know how good they are, and what they are capable of. First, we put down acoustic guitar and vocal - or piano and vocal, as the case may be – and they then came in and did overdubs. I wanted to make sure guitar and vocal were the main things, and to keep the record as sparse as I could. My friend, Jonathan Coulton, who I wrote a couple of songs with, he does a lot of finger picky folky guitaring, and some nice ‘70s vocals; he was perfect for BVs and guitar on this record.” A number of the tracks are in three-four, a time signature I’ve always been a fan of. As Aimee puts it, “If they’re all waltzes, so be it,” due to her love of “that swingy, three-four thing.” She also draws a lot of inspiration from ‘60s and ‘70s musicians, which you can certainly hear in this album. “Yeah, I wanted a real folky feel, acoustic guitar finger picked stuff had to be in there,” she says. “I am not great at finger picking, which is why I got
Jonathan in there. There is some piano, too, but it was all about keeping it really stripped down. I had a couple of songs that were sitting around that I ended up changing, but when it was time to think about making a record, I sat down for a little bit every day for a few months, and just worked to bring it together. “I do think not having budgets for studio time does force people to make records on laptops, and rely on Pro Tools, putting things on grids, cutting and pasting, and getting a sound that doesn’t feel that human; but I like to hear the brushes on drum skins and fingers on strings – I like it to feel like I am next to someone when they’re playing.” And that’s certainly been achieved in Mental Illness. The record dropped on March 31st, and we suggest you give it a full listen. Before we part ways, I ask Aimee what she would consider a success in terms of how this record does. “I don’t really follow or ask about record sales; I would be delighted if people bought it, but it’s very hard to even know how to purchase and consume music,” Aimee concludes. “It’s nice that vinyl is coming back, as it’s something to have and to hold as well as to listen to, so you have to grade everything on a curve; I don’t know what that number would be in sales – it would probably sound very small! But selling an amount of records that makes my manager happy and eager to continue on... I think that would be success!” Although I begged Aimee to come and play Union Chapel and Shepherd’s Bush Empire here in London, she has no plans as yet to cross the pond – but those of you in the US, grab a ticket to one of her upcoming shows, which are sure to be something to remember. The tour starts on April 20th, and runs until the middle of May.
LONDON CONTEMPORARY ORCHESTRA H
Hugh Brunt (pictured below) is co-founder of the London Contemporary Orchestra (LCO), arguably the most unique group of musicians in the city. Unlike a conventional orchestra, the LCO fuses dynamic performance with smart, quirky locations, where overtones and frequencies can be as important as the scores themselves. Headliner is suitably impressed...
UGH BRUNT STARTED THE LCO IN 2008 with his good friend, Robert Ames (pictured right). The aim was to put on an initial season of orchestral concerts focusing on new music in a slightly different way, and from there, the pair became intrigued with the idea of site-responsive work, taking performances away from the concert hall, and exploring off-site venues. “We wanted to let those spaces lead the way that we program an event, and how we try and shape the narrative performance,” Brunt explains, adding that the first of those gigs were held in Village Underground when it was still a pretty rough and ready space. “We worked with [electronic duo] Matt Moss in May 2009, then a few years later, went to The Old Vic tunnels; and then in 2013, to celebrate our fifth birthday, we put on this site-responsive series called Imagined Occasions, which was produced with Harry Ross and Helen Scarlett O’Neill, who used to work at Secret Cinema – so the best people to work with for immersive, slightly more theatrical presentations.” The LCO used the disused Aldwych underground station for that series, a space which was closed off in 1994, and is now used for emergency training and occasional filming - parts of Skyfall and Atonement were both shot there, for example.
“So we take a space like that as a starting point, and commission works especially for that space,” Hugh continues. “In this case, Gregor Riddell commissioned for a lift shaft, which had amazing resonance – it was a slightly sharp A flat, which produced amazing overtones – and, of course, these are bespoke to those spaces.” The next performance in that series was at the top of Primrose Hill at sunset, and shortly after that, the LCO did a ‘sound walk’ in partnership with Sennheiser, which saw them utilise 200 pairs of headphones en route from Primrose Hill to London’s Roundhouse, where they then put on a big performance of music from Stockhousen. The series came to a close at Oval Space in Bethnal Green, another very rough and ready location. “It’s about amazing history and heritage; visually, they’re striking, and sonically, they’re fascinating, as well. And that’s always the starting point,” Brunt says. “Commission is the first thing we get slotted in, then once we’ve got a sense of how that new work is going to work in that space, we’ll extrapolate a program around that. It’s a very different way of how some contemporary classical site-responsive things are put together; we don’t do it just to be cool, we’re looking way deeper into it. A lot of these are one-offs, but that has a lot of beauty to it.”
“it is a very odd thing when you consider a conductor makes no sound.. this silent energy.” Meet The Conductor
Depending on the nature of the project, the LCO can stretch to 90 players, and their 12-strong choir is also in-house. The relationship with the Roundhouse started in 2009, and it’s been a very solid one. “We’ve done a few performances involving voices – a couple at the Roundhouse, which really, we consider to be our spiritual home,” he says. “The first thing we did there was for their first Reverb Festival, and it’s happened every two years since.” Brunt and his partner, Ames, are also co-artistic directors and co-principal conductors. And in your spare time..?! “[smiles] Yeah, we shape the whole artistic content from start to finish, production wise,” Brunt explains. “Then we have an executive administrator, Amy, and a guy I was at uni with called Finbar is coming to look at the business side, freeing Robert and I up a little more.” Brunt has a serious musical knowledge. He started out as a player, and his principal studies at university was singing. That’s how he got into conducting. He and Ames met at the National Youth Orchestra when they were 17, and when they were finished, they decided to get their LCO idea off the ground. Ever been totally baffled as to what a conductor is actually doing when he or she is waving his hand all over the place? Us too. So we ask Brunt to break it down as a layman for us. He pauses, laughs a little, and gives it his best shot: “It’s a thing that often crops up, and we understand why audiences are often baffled. ‘What is this person doing?’ And it’s also really hard to answer. On a basic level, our main
responsibility is really in rehearsals – to lead and direct, to make sure everything within the piece is falling into place like it should: the dynamics are balanced; the shape to the work, so it’s paced well. And if all is good in rehearsals, the performance is just about adding a bit of energy – lifting the whole thing. Setting the right tempo, bringing in players, opening and closing a phrase, understanding in the concert hall - or whatever space we’re in - the benefits and challenges of the acoustics. It could be reflected in how fast the piece is played, or how the strings might articulate something, whether it needs to be shorter or longer, depending on how that sound is going to agitate the air. So those little details. “And the most important thing is to try not to get in the way as conductors; when an orchestra is working at its best, it’s essentially expanded chamber music playing. Imagine how a string quartet would interact without a conductor... It’s about having that same level of awareness visually and audibly so every player is contributing and focused on the same goals for the performance. In that sense, some conductors will at times be deliberately ambiguous; if there’s too much clarity, players might focus too much on that message being sent out and lose some peripheral awareness. “If you are a little more ambiguous – and this sometimes happens by accident, I am guilty as much as anyone else – it means everyone has to prick their ears a bit and listen a little more. And that’s great, as the whole thing gels a little better. “From my experience of how concerts have made the biggest impression on me, the likes of Claudio Abbado, for example, who died a while back now – he was a magician, and he had the most exceptional group of players in front of
him, but would somehow elevate a performance and lift it beyond this world; and there is no way of explaining how that happens. I doubt the players would be able to explain that, either. “It’s the closest thing to telepathy – something just happens. And it’s a very odd thing when you consider a conductor makes no sound. The very word conductor is like a conductor of energy, this silent energy...”
In The Studio
Mesmerised by that descriptive narrative, we start chatting a little about the LCO’s recording work. A collaboration with Foals in 2010 lit the flame; the band put out a version of Spanish Sahara from their second album, and they wanted strings added to it. “That was first studio project we did,” Brunt recalls. “Then we worked on Holy Fire’s third album, which was quite string heavy. And then our work with Jonny Greenwood came about through some pieces he had written; the first piece he wrote for an orchestra called Popcorn Superhet Receiver – and parts of that, he lifted and put into There Will Be Blood – a Paul Thomas Anderson soundtrack. And then Jonny took to writing original material for the score. “The first time we worked with him directly was in 2012 on our second collaboration with Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master, which we recorded with 12 or 13 players; we started workshopping new material by him, written with some of our players in mind: seven strings, piano, Jonny playing electric guitar; and that resulted in a two year mini-tour of maybe 14 or 15 shows - most of the time it was something new to showcase that he’d written alongside some chamber cues from There Will Be Blood, Norwegian Wood, We Need to Talk About Kevin,
and The Master.” Depending on the space, they would tailor a set list on the day, depending on what was working best: “Jonny was incredible to work with - everything one could hope for and more in terms of commitment from both parties, the ideas both presented, the way they worked through, and the care everyone had for the final performance. They were very rewarding sessions. Through that relationship, we were asked to record strings and choir for Radiohead’s Burn the Witch record. His arrangements are majestic and intriguing.”
The Spitfire Effect
Recently, the LCO collaborated with Spitfire Audio to create a strings sample library. We at Headliner have had a play with it, and it’s pretty jaw-dropping to say the least – and certainly not your average strings library... But this, of course, is no average orchestra. “It came about out of our frustration at the lack of extended technique string sample libraries out there; and we knew Spitfire Audio were the best guys to go to,” Brunt explains. “We had an initial conversation regarding the importance of the sounds to both parties, and how well this might sit alongside the rest of their catalogue. We wanted to create something that would really cut through, and give composers a wider palette to play with, because with a lot of stuff we work on with film composers in particular, it’s very hard to demo sounds that end up being produced for a final product – the tools just aren’t available. “So we wanted to furnish composers with a better tool kit that comes directly from the LCO sound as we like to think of it; its textural effects, colour, and articulations that we’ve worked on with composers like Jed Kurzel and Jonny Greenwood for a while now – sounds that can be heard in Assassin’s Creed, or Macbeth, two of Jed’s scores – and it was a very interesting process. It gives composers better materials to work with, and as a result, the directors and producers have a clearer understanding about what the composer is getting at. So it makes that conversation a lot smoother, sets up a more efficient process that ultimately leads the composer back to the LCO to render that stuff anew – record it properly. So it’s hopefully opening a door; it’s not an alternative to doing it live.” It’s a very fascinating process, and one Brunt is keen to talk about. “It’s all written out, so that saves a lot of time. Every effect and articulation is on the chart. For each different articulation – we call them shorts or longs, where the longs will last for about 10 seconds, normally - and we’ll do those a few times on the same note, so you’re not getting the same thing every time; and when they’re looped, it feels like there is a small level of evolution within the sound,” Brunt explains. “And then with the shorts, each note is recorded six times, and then there is a hell of a lot of editing that goes on to cut it down to have the right amount of space
either side of the sound. It’s a chamber strings library, so we recorded violins separately, violas separately, then some of the cellos and basses together; and there are patches where you have the full sweep, rather than just the range of the violin or viola.” One of the central components to it all is the slackened string material - tuning the strings down, and playing various effects such as exaggerated bow pressure, which creates crunchy, raspy noise: “If you put bow pressure in, the pitch is going to increase, and as you release, the pitch lowers – like a loose drum skin in a way, it’s the same idea,” Brunt says. “So it increases the range significantly on what an orchestra can do – when the basses are tuned down, the lowest note on the library is an A flat zero, and what you have is semitones from A flat zero up to four and a half octaves, all open strings. What that means is the cello has four open strings, and to create all the other semitones, you have to put a finger down; what an open string has is amazing resonance and colour, and room for natural harmonics and overtones, so we recorded each semitone as an open string, so you have this monster of an instrument of however many notes of all open strings. It creates this incredible open sound and resonance across the board – and that is something that wouldn’t be possible to do live, something that simply wouldn’t exist without Spitfire Audio. It’s a proper meeting of technology and acoustic live practise.” The recording was done in September 2016 at Spitfire Audio’s Tileyard Studios in London (check out our interview with Joe Rubel on page 40). It’s not a big room, so quite a close sound was achieved, which means the composer has a dry starting point. “We did the recording over separate days in sections, then there was an editing process. The Spitfire [Audio] guys work very fast; we have been hands on, very collaborative, just how we hoped it would work, and we’ve had a lot of fun playing with the library on keyboards,” Brunt enthuses. “I really hope it goes down well with composers, and that producers and directors will hopefully make that whole process of demoing up sounds and understanding what the finished article is going to sound like a little easier; and hopefully some of those sounds will feel very inspiring, perhaps provide the composer a new way into a cue? If you’re up against a bit of a wall, hopefully there’s some magic in there that might provide a route in.” And how do the LCO feel about the finished product? “We’re very happy with how it turned out; it’s like bottling up some of the sounds we most care about, and that are of interest to us and some of the composers we work with... And on a selfish note, I am really pleased I’ll be able to use something I have been hankering for for a while now!” www.lcorchestra.co.uk www.spitfireaudio.com
HELPING TO CREATE THE WORLDâ€™S GREATEST MUSIC FOR 30 YEARS
1987 - 2017
Lyra 1 & 2
High Quality Recording & Production Solutions
Prism Sound 30th Anniversary Offers available to full MPG members... See MPG website for full details firstname.lastname@example.org www.prismsound.com
USA +1 973 983 9577 UK +44 (0) 1353 648888
A Winged Victory Collaborate
A WINGED VICTORY: COLLABORATE A tense thriller-drama in which a businessman’s wife is kidnapped is perhaps not the sort of fast paced film you’d naturally associate with ambient duo, A Winged Victory For the Sullen. But that is the film that composer pairing, Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran, were called upon to score by Jalil Laspert for French language movie, Iris. I speak to the guitarist and co-founder of the project, Adam Wiltzie, about working on a film with Dustin for the first time. Words Adam Protz
We’re backstage at the Barbican, a venue which regularly hosts fellow artists such as Nils Frahm and Ólafur Arnalds, also from the neo-classical genre (a name that many of the composers strongly dislike). Dustin couldn’t join in this interview as he’s currently flying home to Los Angeles, so I ask who Adam is performing with this evening. “I’m playing a concert with Jóhann Jóhannsson, I’m in his band for this tour,” Adam says. “We’re playing with the Britten Sinfonia – this is the last show in a 10-day tour all around Europe. I play a bit of everything; some bass, some guitar, some drums, I’m the wildcard!” Adam explains that he’s known Jóhann Jóhannsson for some time now, an Icelandic composer who is certainly in the same world of contemporary classical music, and has recently burst onto the Hollywood scene with scores for films such as Sicario, The Theory of Everything, and Arrival – I was completely unaware that Adam played on the latter two. Arrival is surely the most profound alien invasion film yet made, and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score is quite magnificent. It’s a fittingly unearthly score, you’d be hard-pressed to guess which parts are played by Adam. “Yeah, I mostly did guitar drones that sound like the alien ships leaving earth – otherworldly textures.”
As soon as Adam gets home from this tour, A Winged Victory for the Sullen will be working on another movie together. So clearly working with Dustin on Iris was a positive experience, then? “We have such an easy time making music together,” Adam says. “It’s super fun, super easy, we get along great. And we’d both say that it’s actually easier making a score together than it is by ourselves. Bouncing ideas, it goes much quicker.”
Scoring Iris Adam is actually in agreement that Iris isn’t a film where you’d expect to see ‘music by A Winged Victory for the Sullen.’ “Yeah, a Parisian thriller,” he smiles. “But the director was a big fan of a couple of our records. He asked us, and we saw a couple of things he’d done, and he was fun to work with. The score ended up being something quite different than what we’d usually do by ourselves. Some of the tracks we feel really close to, and some of them we might think that it’s not the best music we’ve ever done, but it’s all for the good of the film.” Perhaps slightly bizarre considering this interview is to promote the film and its music, Adam isn’t exactly talking it up. “It’s not something I’m usually attracted to; fast paced, beat-heavy stuff,” he says. “It’s okay.
A Winged Victory Collaborate
“When it comes to audio interfaces, I always use RME.”
They were happy in the end. It’s not the greatest film ever made, but it was a fun experience.” I would say that Adam is doing something of a disservice to the music – he and Dustin have done a fantastic job of putting their own stamp on thriller music. It’s certainly more synthy and beat-driven (albeit all very subtle) than what we’re used to from these guys, but it’s a very compelling and listenable album, nonetheless. As for the film, well, it looked decent in the trailer on YouTube, however I suspect the only way we will get to see it here in the UK is to buy the DVD.
Capitalising on Europe When I interviewed Dustin last summer, I was keen to find out why he decided to move to Berlin, and why the neo-classical scene is stronger there than anywhere else in the world. Adam, on the other hand, also made the move from the United States to Europe, but instead opted for the Belgian capital, Brussels. “For me, it was looking for a better quality of life,” Adam says. “I moved away in ’99, and I’d always liked Belgium in particular. I love the architecture here and the history, America just feels like a giant strip mall.” Despite living in different countries, Adam and Dustin are much closer geographically than if they were both in their respective home cities of New York and Los Angeles. With A Winged Victory for the Sullen’s music being almost equal parts electronic and classical, I ask Adam about the equipment he and Dustin use to put it all together. “The plugins me and Dustin use all the time are Soundtoys,” Adam says. “For speakers, I’m really into Dynaudio; and when it comes to audio interfaces, which are particularly important to us, I always use RME. “In my home studio, I have an RME Fireface UFX, and on stage we use the Fireface UCX for USB. The fidelity and quality of sound compared to what I
used to get from my Moog – it honestly sounded like someone had turned off the 3k to 10k cut. The sound is just so much clearer.” A Winged Victory for the Sullen are next working on the score for Chappaquiddick, a film about the political scandal of Ted Kennedy, when he drove off a bridge, proving fatal for his campaign strategist, Mary Jo Kopechne. The film work is clearly going extremely well, but when might we get another studio album for its own sake? “We’re hoping we can start on that in the summer; we’re just sort of busy until then,” Adam says. “We definitely want to make a record that’s all for us – it’s been ages.” Plenty to look forward to, then. In the meantime, Iris is available for streaming now on Spotify, and as a physical release - and it’s definitely worth a listen, despite Adam downplaying it. With Adam and Dustin’s careers both going very well indeed as A Winged Victory for the sullen and solo artists, it will certainly be very interesting to see how it all works out for them. Thankfully, it sounds like they’ll always be willing to hop on a plane for one another.
FUSING BOMBAY & SUFFOLK Indian music virtuoso, composer, producer, and film scorer — Leytonstone-born Talvin Singh is one of those rare artists who wasn’t just born to make and play music, but rather to excel in the field of music generally. Emerging originally as a superb tabla player, he became well known through working with Siouxsie and the Banshees, Madonna, and Massive Attack. He was rejected by the world of classical Indian music for being too influenced by western music; this is something we should be grateful for, as he would go on to make excellent fusion music — mixing his heritage’s traditional music with sounds such as drum and bass. His album, Ok, won him the Mercury Music Prize in 1999, and he would later become an OBE.
“Today in general you have to be very careful about having too many choices.”
Words Paul Watson We meet for our chat at Old Jet studios in Sussex, owned by Keane bassist, Jesse Quin. It’s a brilliant place — a disused US air hanger turned creative space, used by Keane, Mumford & Sons, and Noah and the Whale. Talvin is quite fond of the room he has here. “I wanted a room to be bright and true – bright is important,” Talvin says. “If you don’t have a live room, you need it bright enough to make drums sound good.”
Talvin confesses he recently went through a period where he almost lost his love for music — it’s difficult for someone raised on the Indian classical tradition to sit in studios, because music is taught in such a physical way: a spiritual approach in which the player and the instrument become one. Conversely, Talvin has found being sat in a studio and staring at screens for hours on end to be the polar opposite of physically embodying the
music you create. “When I first started doing music,” Talvin says, “it was a physical, not just sonic, experience. My first early recordings were done with two ghetto blasters! My dad worked for Granada TV and he repaired TVs and VHS recorders, so we always had nice turntables,” a smile appears on his face at the memory. “I was collecting records when I was very young – experimenting, doing silly
things with turntables and decks, really. So I’d have two ghetto blasters and me with Indian drums in the middle; I would play an electro record on one ghetto blaster, and then play the Indian drums with that beat and record it on the next deck, and play that, and then record a shaker, and so on... To the point where these recordings would get very hissy! Then I realised you just press this Dolby reduction box and the hiss goes...! [laughs] “So they were my first early productions, and for me it was a physical thing. I started losing that enthusiasm staring at a screen all day, basically. So it’s analogue equipment that has excited me again; going back to all my outboard gear, I’m enjoying it so much again.”
Lost In Music
The excitement in Talvin’s voice is unmistakeable. He then tells me about a lunch he had recently with Japanese composer, Ryuichi Sakamoto, who recently scored the Academy Award-winning film The Revenant: “I have always been close to him. We went to a Japanese restaurant, and I asked him, ‘would you ever read your favourite book and listen to your favourite album at the same time?’ He said, ‘no, that’s really daft’. So I said, ‘isn’t it difficult to make music when looking at screen and all these amazing graphics?’ He said, ‘yeah, you have to close your eyes.’” As you walk around this fantastic studio,
you gradually begin to see Talvin has set up the room with all of this in mind. “For this reason, I have my screen on the periphery, next to me,” he says. In fact, he’s set it up so nicely that when he turns his chair to the right, he’s essentially in a different space entirely. It’s the DAW on the left, console and speakers in the middle, and a mastering suite to the right, all of which we’ll get to shortly. Talvin began playing tabla as a child, and at 16, went to India to study the instrument under the teachings of Pandit Lashman Singh. There’s a fantastic TEDx talk you can watch on YouTube, in which you can see Talvin’s phenomenal ability as a player, and also get an insight into his methods for fusing his music live with electronics. A key thing for Talvin in creating music has been a John Cage style approach: “For me, the relationship between the notes is as important as the silent spaces,” he says. Despite his many musical influences, Talvin insists it’s the sounds of nearby nature that he is currently most inspired by: “In Suffolk, the strange thing is, music starts really early in the morning,” he says. “The birds singing and the sound of nature. Last summer I found it difficult to do anything in the studio. I would come in around 11am, but I had just heard the most incredible ‘orchestra’ in the morning, so I’d think: ‘what music am I going to make that will match that?’ So that started inspiring me
to record these sounds — I would go out and record it on a Zoom recorder, and bring it into the studio.” Talvin was so inspired that he would meet Chris Watson, one of the best known people in field recording, who was commissioned to record Benjamin Britten’s walks in nature to inspire the composer’s extraordinary pieces.
It does seem a logical conclusion that Talvin has recently begun working in film — for Bollywood and Indian cinema, both composing and working on the songs. “I am doing a lot of film stuff now, and the problem with film people is they don’t send anything to mastering,” he says. “So I decided I will have to do this myself! I use a Crane Song compressor, which does the job very nicely, and makes something minimal sound really massive; and then I’ve been getting to grips with the Maselec stuff, which is so subtle but so good – I’m learning a lot from that equipment.” His go-to convertor is a Prism Sound Atlas. “In terms of audio quality, it is a big step up from the competition, and you can really drive it hot, too,” Talvin says. “It’s got MIDI, which is great, so I don’t need an extra MIDI patch bay.There are two Atlases, they’re 8-in 8-out AD-DA conversion; it’s got MIDI and instrument input, which is very handy, so as soon as your instrument is in, it engages track
one. It also has two headphone outs, which is also very good. It’s just a really brilliant converter, with all the rest of the things onboard that you might just need on one box rather than having a converter box, a MIDI box, a DI, and so on. “That becomes a problem in this day and age, and Prism Sound have really thought a lot about integrating everything you may just need to record in one box, which is a really fantastic thing. Also, if you’re running Pro Tools, it has a Pro Tools card, though I am still in Logic at the moment.” Wisely, despite having a variety of kit, Talvin does have minimalism in mind for his studio: “Today in general you have to be very careful about having too many choices – it’s the same with pairs of jeans! [laughs] In the studio, you have to be careful to have certain go-to processors that you’re familiar with; it’s discipline. Once you have that ergonomics sorted out in a creative space, you can be creative – and you want it to flow. “I also have the Prism Sound Lyra – the USB one – which I have used at live gigs. They put in four outputs and two inputs.
Why four outputs, you’re wondering? DJs! If you’re a DJ, and want to record your set professionally, or on Ableton Live, or just converters, you need two stereos, so four outputs. They really thought about that, too!”
Let’s Get Physical
Conversation turns to the beautiful analogue Malcolm Toft console - Talvin’s studio centrepiece. It’s a phenomenal bit of kit, and something Talvin is more than happy to talk about: “When you set up a studio, you want to get physical,” he says. “You want to plug stuff in, do mutes and dump mixes, do fades, be more hands-on. It’s a pre-China model, and I thought that was very good news! One of the first of its kind made. The second bit of good news is that it’s got a modification on the mix buss – the stereo buss didn’t give enough level and was noisy, this one doesn’t have any noise. “I use it for summing, to be honest, not yet for patching all the MIDI in, but I will at some point on a project. I mixed a recent charity record on this, and the best mixes I remember were bussed through here. It’s a very, very good desk. The EQ especially is
top level. Especially for rock and roll stuff. Anything beyond 10k has a nice distortion about it.” As our time together begins to draw to a close, Talvin plays me some of the music he’s written for Indian movie, Once Again. It’s tremendously inspiring stuff: “One of the beautiful things is that the director has shot Bombay by night in such a beautiful way,” Talvin says, making it evident the city is close to his heart. “It’s changed so much. The landscape at times looks like San Francisco. It now feels like a city, but a strange city, because there is a huge divide between the wealthy and the underprivileged. “So I hope one day we can bridge that divide. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful film they’ve made, and it’s great for me to make music sitting here in Suffolk, and make music for India.” There’s no doubt in my mind that both India and Suffolk are lucky to have the services of Talvin Singh. It’s been a pleasure. @talvinsingh www.prismsound.com
Versatile, Expandable, Portable
24-Channel 192 kHz bus-powered professional USB Audio Interface
Distribution of Americas: Synthax Inc. 6600 NW 16th Street, Suite 10, Ft Lauderdale, FL 33313, Phone: + 1 754 206 4220 www.rme-audio.com
One To Watch Mark Sullivan
MARK SULLIVAN: KING OF THE COFFEE HOUSE There’s a few parallels you can draw between Stevenage’s Mark Sullivan, and currently the biggest pop star on the planet, Ed Sheeran. Mark’s work ethic is tireless; he’s one of those musicians who’s perpetually on tour, willing to play every nook and cranny of the country. And Ed Sheeran is known for playing a gig almost every night of the year before he released his debut album. Both are blessed with formidable stage presence, nifty with a loop pedal, and have a voice, guitar ability, and songwriting to match — although Mark’s songs and husky, booming voice, are brilliantly unique in their own right. Words Adam Protz
I catch up with Mark Sullivan at The Good Ship in Kilburn, North London, where he’s shortly going to take to the stage. I’d first been introduced to Mark’s music when he played at Headliner’s first live music charity event, Headliner Helps, in September of last year. I spot him at a table with his manager, PR team, friends, and family, and we discuss whether we’d be best having our chat in the noisy pub, or on the street outside. Opting for the street, we head out and find a spot around the corner of the pub, with London zooming past, as it does. “We’re just releasing a single this Friday,” Mark says, in his strong estuary English accent, when I ask what he’s been up to. “We’ve been in the middle of a PR campaign for that. Then we’re off to Scotland this weekend for the Caffe Nero tour, so me and my manager have a little camper van for that! Then it's Manchester on Saturday, a festival in Wales called Next
Level on Sunday, then back to Northampton, and then home Monday night. So a takeaway may well be in order by then!” I ask Mark how he wound up on his fairly crazy musical journey. “I’ve been playing guitar since I was 14, and been in bands since then,” he says. “I went solo three years ago — my bandmates all had kids and moved on!” The guitarist wisely tells me that he takes inspiration from anything: “I listen to Jimi Hendrix, to Pink Floyd, to soul artists like Donny Hathaway, even System of a Down. I think you can take a snippet of influence from any music — as long as it’s got soul and vibe to it.” It was MTV that was his real catalyst: “Me and three friends used to kick a football around in the street together,” Mark says. “One day we were watching a performance of Oasis on MTV Unplugged,
One To Watch Mark Sullivan
“When you've got one guitar, you can only create a certain sound, sonically. Because I'm a band player, I'm wanting to maximise my sound as much as I can.”
and one of my friends said, ‘shall we start a band?’ I got the guitar role, and that Christmas we got our instruments and started playing.” Mark’s live shows are dynamic and powerful, partly thanks to his loop pedal, and certainly his other array of stomp boxes. “I mainly use it to give me more layers in my performance,” he explains. “When you’ve got one guitar, you can only create a certain sound, sonically. Because I’m a band player, I’m wanting to maximise my sound as much as I can. I’ve got a wah pedal I use quite a lot. I’ve also got an EQ, which changes my sound — it gives me a bit more of a top heavy vibe, if I want to be a little more funky. I’ve got delay and reverb, which I use a bit, too.”
In terms of the future, Sullivan has it perfect in that he’s most definitely dreaming big, but is determined to make sure he stays grateful for everything that comes his way.
“I’d love this to go as big as it can go, that’s the dream for me,” he says, with the emotion clear in his voice. “But just being able to play my music and survive — I don’t want all the money in the world, I just want to play my music and to have people appreciate my music the way I appreciate music. “I want everything I can get, but for me it’s just about the music; I don’t feel like I’m owed anything. I’m just gonna keep working hard, and connect with as many people as I can.” With that being said, we head back inside, where Mark sneaks in a quick pint before his time to perform comes. My expectations are high after seeing him play at Headliner Helps, and he doesn’t disappoint. He plays through a neat Marshall ASR50 amplifier, and within his array of pedals, I spot a Pro Co Turbo RAT, and a lot of Boss kit - a Boss RC30, EQ, digital delay, overdrive, and reverb, and a classic Dunlop Cry Baby wah pedal
for good measure. All these pedals really do give this music extra power, and complement Mark’s natural gifts — his huge voice, his frontman stage presence, and those great guitar solos. During the set, he treats us to tracks from his new EP, Still Good for Nothing, as well as a few from his back catalogue - and everything is right on the money.
It's clear to me that as an artist, Mark Sullivan has got a lot of things right: he has his mind right, he’s got his music right, so the only logical conclusion is that his career will come right, too... Could he end up being anywhere near as successful as a certain ginger haired singer songwriter? Anything, as they say, is possible. @marksullivanmus
Anarchy and Alchemy
ECHOBELLY It’s been a while since we heard King of the Kerb and Great Things, but we remember these ‘90s Britpop songs very well indeed. Now, 20-something years on, Echobelly are back, with a bit of a twist: a new line-up and a slightly heavier sound might surprise some people, but not the hardcore fanbase, Sonya Madan and Glenn Johansson tell Headliner.
After squeezing past half the London Philharmonic en route into Abbey Road Studios’ cafeteria, we take a pew with two founding members of Echobelly, Sonya Madan and Glen Johansson, to talk about their new record. It’s an apt location, considering this is where the new album was mastered; and it’s also the first offering from the newly reformed band in some 13 years, produced by renowned music man, Ian Grimble, at The Church in North London. “We’ve been away for a while,” opens
Sonya, with a smile. “Glenn and I have always made music together, and did a lot of acoustic shows, little tours across the country, but we felt we wanted to do something bigger. A friend of ours, who is a top [music] agent, suggested we form Echobelly again – it had just been side projects at the time – so he booked us in at Scala [in Kings Cross] and we sold it out! And we’ve just gone from there, really.” Not a bad comeback, and without any promotion, barring a little social media action.
“Being a natural rebel, I always want to stamp my foot and have my say...” Twitter is something Sonya admits the band aren’t entirely savvy with yet, but it’s gradually building. This show was in October 2015. “We didn’t know what to expect, but it turned out to be a real pivotal gig for us, and the audience were amazing,” adds Glenn, as Sonya reveals that it was a very international audience: Spaniards, Americans, Russians, Indonesians, all of whom had travelled from afar to get a ticket. “We wish we got it filmed, now,” she adds. Work got underway for the new record,
Anarchy and Alchemy, in September, and the plan was to release something before the end of 2016, but that never happened. “We kind of did pockets, recording wise, as the producer had other sessions booked in, but we got it done by January, and we’re really happy with it,” Sonya reveals. Echobelly also put together a PledgeMusic campaign to raise funds for the project. “The recording side is very different for us now, as back in the day, we were signed by the head of Sony, who just threw money at us, and we recorded in places like AIR studios; I think our taxi bill to and from AIR cost almost as much as this record did! [laughs]. They were hedonistic days..!”
Conversation turns to the PledgeMusic pre-order campaign. The major pledges didn’t all come in, however anything hands-on certainly did: “We realised people wanted to be involved in the record, so although we didn’t get the big money, we had lots of bits and pieces such as ‘play percussion on the album’, so we got lots of active fans wanting to be a part of it – and it ended up paying for everything,” Glenn explains. “People seem to be keen to pay for experiences more than physical objects; playing on somebody’s record, for instance. And although I was dreading the day – maybe they wouldn’t even be able to clap in time – the results were actually really great!” “I made sure I plied everyone with alcohol, which helped,” laughs Sonya, as we order a
bottle of Brewdog each from the bar. “We hit the off license around the corner!” Certain things are the same, but a lot is different in the biz today, Sonya tells us – and it’s been a case of Echobelly trying to come to terms with this new way of doing things: “We were a little spoilt, as a lot of bands were; we got signed after our third gig, which was full of A&R men. Today, it’s very different. We have a radio plugger, an agent, a social media guy, but no management yet.” The record was mastered by Frank Arkwright at Abbey Road, and after it was completed, Echobelly then got given the opportunity to work out of one of the facility’s new studios, The Gatehouse. Situated adjacent to the main building, it boasts some epic classic kit including a 16-channel Neve console, plenty of great outboard, synths, and an upright Yamaha Piano. It’s something that the band won’t forget in a hurry. “Recording at The Gatehouse really was an amazing experience for us,” Sonya enthuses. “Musicians all over the world dream of recording at a place like Abbey Road, as it’s so iconic – and this new studio has made that dream a genuine possibility for artists that perhaps can’t afford to work in the larger rooms. The fact they have opened these spaces at all makes it so much more practical and doable in terms of making music here, so it really is a great thing they’ve done here.” “Our last record was back in 2004, and you can’t recreate what you did 20 years ago, as people change, but the new line-up has given
Anarchy and Alchemy
us a lift and freshness that we didn’t have before,” Glenn points out. “It’s a little more simple, as well; just guitar, bass, and drums.” And where does the lyrical inspiration come from? “I always go within,” smiles Sonya. “It’s like I’ve had a collection of mini films running in my head. I have closed my eyes, listened to the tracks, and seen images; and there are some rather esoteric subject matters, quite a lot of darkness, and also a lot of hope. It asks questions. Some of the music scene feels so benign and innocuous, and me being a natural rebel, I always want to stamp my foot and have my say, but it’s me doing that in a far more subtle way.” And they’re really enjoying doing it all again. There are six upcoming shows, the first of which will take place on May 18th at The Globe in Cardiff. From there, they hit Birmingham, Norwich, Sheffield, and York before heading back to Scala on June 8th. There will also be some carefully selected festival performances, Sonya tells us: “We’ll be hitting the smaller, key festivals, and we’re really looking forward. If you’re a fan of our Britpop singles, you might not recognise this album, but if you know our b-sides, and the songs the label didn’t push, then it’s really just a natural progression.” @RealEchobelly
Abbey Road Mastering
ABBEY ROAD: MASTER OF THE HOUSE
Simon Gibson has been at Abbey Road for 27 years. “Can't you tell?” he asks, pointing to his fine head of grey hair. He came in specifically to work on the facility's remastering back catalogue for EMI, yet his role has evolved enormously in that time. Today, he shares its only 5.1 suite with fellow mastering engineer, Andy Walter; the mastering department at Abbey Road is expansive, and now truly global. We sit down for a chat. Words Paul Watson Photographs Jan Klos
One of the interesting things about Simon Gibson is that he has a music degree, and is a classically trained professional musician – something we've never encountered when chatting to a mastering engineer. “Well, I thought I had quite attuned ears as a practising musician, but coming here, I learned more in a few years just listening to recordings, and understanding how to listen to them,” opens Gibson. “So I now can't help but listen to music with a critical ear! You learn to hear things that most people don't hear, and you're listening to almost everything but the music a lot of the time.” And when working on classical projects, he can read the score as he's going, which is particularly useful: “I'm looking for notes, too, you know - 'is it in the score?' A classic example is that loads of recordings I worked on used to be done at Kingsway Hall in London, which is now no more; there was a tube tunnel running underneath, and as regular as clockwork, you'd get the rumble of a train, and in a lot of recordings, in the quiet section, the rumbling is there. People would ask, 'can you filter it out?' Well, not if the double basses are playing, as you'll lose the double basses! [smiles]” It was back in 2000 when Gibson and Andy Walter moved into Abbey Road's purpose built surround mastering room. They did a long stretch with the studio's interactive department – which is no longer active – working largely on music DVDs. Today, there is still 5.1 mastering, but mostly broadcast and Blu-ray. “Occasionally, a film – like Harry Potter,
for example – will have a 5.1 score, so we do projects like that from time to time,” Gibson explains. “I share work with Andy [Walter] – we have a slightly different client list, but broadly, it's the same thing we do. There is the archive remastering, which we still do a bit of, and have a lot of specialist kit for, and we do mastering for new recordings. “Today, for example, it was a solo soprano project in the mould of Katherine Jenkins – that's coming out in June. People tend to come to me for my classical background, so I guess I'm a film/classical crossover engineer, as I have all that experience.” Although Gibson is clearly a specialist on the classical and film side in particular, he's also mastered a number of major bands including Depeche Mode, Robbie Williams, and U2. “It's all music, and I have an ear, just like anybody else, and can enjoy all music if it's good and well performed,” he declares. Film soundtracks have become almost an essential add-on to a movie, Gibson says: “It's become notable that generally, if it's any sort of action film, the music has become hotter and hotter - and you get to a certain level, and it's in the same ball park as a rock album almost, although it's scored recorded and mixed with a live band, effectively. The equivalent to a symphony orchestra with added electronic elements, and it's normally full-on. “There is always a clearly defined idea what they want to do with them, too; and it's brilliant listening to music conceived for film without seeing any of the pictures. The brain perceives music very differently if you see the pictures.”
Abbey Road Mastering
Accumulating a wide experience of what works and why it works is part of the mastering engineer's kit. As Gibson puts it, “People hand over their precious little babies, and they don't know you from Adam, and don't know the room either, so they have to trust you.” Does that not create more pressure? “Well, I always like to have people sitting in [on a session]. Yes, we also do a lot online, and that works fine most of the time, but to have someone there is great,” Gibson reveals. “It's so much more efficient, as you can hear stuff they're talking about straight away. I'll play with the track for half an hour, get a sound, and then get them to sit there in the centre, have a listen, and we'll go through it all – so it's very interactive. I've also done an awful lot remotely, of course, and you just learn to trust your instincts.” Abbey Road's online mastering service is also growing all the time, and that's largely due to that seal of quality that goes with it: “99 out of 100 clients are happy, and they come back; and all [of the mastering engineers'] resumes are online, so they can choose. I have a lot of online clients, it tends to be film music type scores often made in home studios, and you get some fantastic sounding stuff. I get stuff from China, Argentina, Brazil, Canada – all sorts; and generally, you can size it all up very quickly. Yes, it's a budget way of doing it, but for a three or four minute pop song, you can get something cooked up perfectly well in 30 minutes. For people who can't come here on the other side of the world, it gives them a taste of Abbey Road; and that is special. Everyone here acknowledges we are just part of a long tradition.”
Gibson and Walter recently upgraded their mastering room to make it 192k compatible, basically because the room is surround capable. To make this work most effectively, a complete Merging Technologies system was deployed. “One of the things we do here is Super Audio CD (SACD) authoring, and Merging Technologies Pyramix had the best option for us for that format, so that was one of the key reasons; the other is we can get the [Merging] Horus converter as well as the Pyramix, which is just fantastic,” Gibson explains. “So we have the full 16-channel system, and we are extremely pleased with it; it'll do everything we need it to.” The system has been in place since January, and although it's still early days, the guys have been getting to grips with it quite nicely: “We are now much more comfortable with Pyramix, and I am already doing the vast majority of my projects on it. It's like learning to drive a new car really: you know what you want to do, it's just trying to find the controls to do it; and within the Pyramix, we have a whole raft of software plugins: we use the Abbey Road source plugins from Waves – so some of the old vintage equipment like the RS56 mono and stereo EQ box, which is very nice - and there are quite a few more Waves plugins on the list that I still want to get around to using; I have dipped into most, and they are great.”
What makes this Abbey Road 5.1 room that little different to the norm is that it has always been set up for surround: “It would be difficult for us to do a surround master project synced to picture to take it
out of analogue world and back into digital, so we have always tended to work in the digital domain. We don't have a load of analogue outboard in there, so we're not a standard mastering room in that sense. It boils down to the engineer's ears, and it doesn't hamper us – it's just different. “We have a TC 6000, which we use as a main mastering tool: you can send an eight-channel master out and back, and master stereo and 5.1 simultaneously; and it's important to A/B between the two as well. So the standard setup is mastering out of Pyramix using various EQs and effects on the Pyramix, then out through the TC 6000, using limiting compression on that, and then returning and capturing back on the Pyramix, whether that is stereo or 5.1. It's great. “We also have the new Pyramix video card ready to go in. I do projects with stage musicals, which are often done in surround, and you need to be able to see the picture. And that goes for me and the client. So that'll be fantastic for us.” Recently, Gibson mastered Ólafur Arnaulds' score for ITV's Broadchurch, and Steve Price's The Hunt - both are great standalone pieces of music in their own right, which is a notable trend at the moment, but a day in the life for Gibson can still often be quite unpredictable: “I often don't know what the work will be until it comes around,” he says, with a smile. “I could start with nothing, and end up with four different jobs in a day; and we're set up for audio restoration, too, so I have always done work on The Beatles' back catalogue. Working here keeps everything interesting, that's for sure!”
www.abbeyroad.com 27 Headliner
CHAINSMOKERS Words Paul Watson
I first met Drew Taggart and Alex Pall at the back end of 2015 at Sony HQ in London. The Chainsmokers were making waves in the EDM scene, already had a number one in the US with Roses, and had started to raise an eyebrow or two in the UK and across Europe. They were severely jet lagged when I arrived, yet had no problem dedicating the best part of an hour of their time to me, talking passionately about their production roots, their influences (which are wide and eclectic), and their musical journey thus far. I walked out buzzing – and not just because Sony gave me my very own private car parking space for the afternoon. What struck me was the focus and obvious drive that these two guys had, and how engaged they seemed to be in our conversation – and this is them just off a 12-hour flight. So I guess you could say the writing was on the wall. Skip forward 18 months, and their world has blown up. The Chainsmokers are the hottest act in America right now: this year, they’ve already won their first Grammy for Best Dance Recording, they debuted their latest single with Coldplay at the BRITs with an epic live performance, and became only the third act in history to achieve three simultaneous top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. And there’s more... This month, they will release their debut album, which they will then take out on the road to 38 US arenas... And it’s definitely not just about EDM. I sat down with them again to discuss this whirlwind twist of fate.
“We’re very lucky – and to be honest, we can’t really explain why this has happened; we’re just writing songs about ourselves, for our friends, like we always have,” opens Alex. “But I think personally, we have always liked to challenge ourselves and push ourselves. It’s important for us to keep doing the unexpected, and to work with artists that inspire us, which we’ve been really lucky to do. Who really knows what’s happening!” I offer the boys a big congratulations on the Grammy – both of them are thankful, yet humble about it all – but there is a twist... “That was a very special moment, but,
guys are just two playback DJs couldn’t be farther from the truth: Drew is a more than competent guitarist, and both guys have serious keyboard chops. What also sets them aside from the pack, so to speak, is their ability to pen their own material both musically and lyrically. Paris, which ironically was written in Sweden, was quite a breakthrough in terms of songwriting, Drew explains: “That was one of the most recent songs that we finished, and we wrote it in Stockholm last fall. The main concept of it was done in the studio with a bunch of friends after our show in Stockholm, and it was just a little idea. After Closer, we have always played all
“We came up through dance music,but we are so influenced by many different genres” actually, we haven’t gotten it yet, so it doesn’t feel real,” Alex adds, with a smile. “Maybe it’s got lost in the mail or something?” When we last spoke, we talked about how meticulous both guys are in the studio. Although collaboration is still a big thing, when it comes to production, they are very much in their own zones. “We came from the production background, so that’s still the background of what we do,” confirms Drew. “We really push ourselves to create sounds that are ours, so when you hear it, it’s a Chainsmokers record - and that’s our main focus. But it’s the songwriting that has really taken our career to the next level.” It has indeed. Anyone who thinks these
of our potential next singles to our friends, and Paris was the one they really connected with, and really wanted us to finish. And we really liked it, too; we thought it was super-vibey, and that it was the perfect follow up to Closer.” And those instincts were correct: Paris hit the number one spot in February; it seems every Chainsmokers single gets a little more popular than the last. The boys recently took over all top three positions on the Billboard Hot 100, making them only the third band in history to achieve such a feat. The other two? The Beatles and the Bee Gees... That’s not bad company, is it? “[laughs] Yeah, that was pretty wild, especially when you look at the other artists
“We always feel that we have more to show the world, and more to prove” that have achieved that,” Alex admits, “but it doesn’t really change anything, and we’re still thinking about the next step. We always feel that we have more to show the world, and more to prove, you know? Show people what we’re capable of. A lot of these accolades we’re really humbled by, but at the same time, we’re anxious to show people more.” The boys will drop their first album, Memories... Do Not Open, on April 7th. I ask them what we can expect from it – a lot, by all accounts. “Well, as Drew says, the songwriting has taken everything to the next level. And you know, the album was something we weren’t sure we would ever do, if you had asked us six months ago, as it doesn’t feel like that’s what people are buying or listening to nowadays with streaming and everything,” Alex reflects. “But we are always in the studio if we’re not playing shows, and it felt like the music we were making started to have this recurring theme, and this red line through it, like it was all coming from the same place and telling this consistent story about us. It felt like if there was ever a time to do it, it was now. We had that voice, and message of cohesiveness. Most dance albums are compilations of sorts, but that’s not really what we wanted to do. “On top of that, we were listening to our fans, and they were keen to hear more from us, and it was getting to the point where Closer was so big and we were still making music all the time, but
it was like, ‘when is this stuff gonna come out?’ [smiles] But really, the album is a collection of memories and moments in our lives and our relationships – moments of tension, things we have experienced growing as artists, great moments and low moments, as well; and the cover art really tells that story. When you’re a kid, you have a childhood room and you grow up and leave that room, and your mum comes in and kind of boxes up all your belongings that have memories and stories attached to them – this album is representative of us coming home to that room that is now a home office or a gym, pulling that box out and opening it up to the world. “We’re talking about things that are definitely controversial in some cases, but it’s all very, very honest and real – and it’s exciting, because although our songs to date have been amazing and truly represent our evolution as artists, the songwriting on the album is a whole other level of storytelling, and opening up about ourselves, so that’s what this album deals with.” And it’s not just a dance album – far from it. Expect musicality, dynamics, colours, band members, even. The Chainsmokers have most certainly grown as producers during this experience, and have somehow managed to convey the energy and edge within their live performances to the record. Where do you begin with something like that, then? “It’s a good question! [laughs] When we were
making Roses, there was a moment when we said we were going to stop making music that we think other people want to play - stop making 128bpm 4/4 stuff, and just make music we think is cool,” Alex explains. “If people don’t play it, that’s fine, but we love it, and we’re happy with it. And that was a big turning point. But it turned out you could dance to Roses, so that gave us a lot of confidence!” And moving further down the rabbit hole, as Alex affectionately puts it, a lot of the songs on this album aren’t dance tracks at all: “We realised when doing this that we’re not leaving the DJ world by any means, as that’s our roots, but we needed to involve some more elements. So for the tour, we have put together a band, like we did at he BRITs. Drew will be the frontman on guitar and keys, I’ll be playing keys and some pads, and we have a drummer, too. So many of these songs deserve more than just hitting the play button and sitting back, you know? “We want to perform them, and that’s what we’re really looking forward to. And doing that kind of songwriting and music production definitely impacts at our live show a lot. Even going back to the Closer days when Drew started to perform that track at our shows, it changed the way our shows worked, and the way we interacted with people, and made the whole experience a lot better in our opinion.” Although The Chainsmokers cite DJs as some of their biggest inspirations and indeed idols, they
“It’s the songwriting that has really taken our career to the next level” feel there is something about a band that’s just very eternal, so for the album and tour, it’s been a case of striking a balance of sorts. “Fusing that energy and production of the DJ set, which we always have, and doing something deeper and more profound and entertaining with a band element, we think will be the best of both worlds,” Drew adds. “We came up through dance music, but we are so influenced by many different genres. Roses was a real turning point, but we didn’t want to format stuff for the whole EDM scene – we wanted to let indie, rock, punk, hardcore, and hip hop seep into our music - and it’s created an interesting collage of different influences, and created a sound which says, ‘that’s definitely a Chainsmokers record.’” It certainly seems The Chainsmokers have gone the extra mile this time – that determination and focus I saw in 2015, if anything, has gone deeper still, hasn’t it? “We hope so! We’re definitely delving deeper with the album, too - it’ll be interesting to see how that affects people. Every time we put something out, there are people that think this song sounds too much like that song, or this doesn’t have a hard enough drop, or whatever; the point being, so many people have so many opinions on what our sound should be. And being in the middle of that discussion has been very important. We want to keep evolving, keep doing things people disagree with - which also changes their opinion - and in the long term, I think that builds a really interesting opinion on who we are, and makes the possibilities of where we take our sound limitless. Because people do learn to expect the unexpected, after all...” Conversation turns to working in the studio. The album has been mixed and part produced by Headliner’s very own Grammy-winning columnist, DJ Swivel – the boys have a very solid working relationship with him, and I’m interested to see how that process worked out, considering The Chainsmokers’ insane schedule. to.
“ I t ’s “It’s been hard actually,” admits Drew. “I think what we learned is that the last five to 10 percent of finishing an album is super-hard, way more time consuming than creating the rest of the songs; and we did have to bounce around, back and forth. Finishing 12 songs is very different than finishing one or two, as you use up all your tricks really quickly, and have to push yourself to create some new production identities for these songs. So we definitely became much better producers. Trying to make all these songs different but cohesive at the same time was a very gratifying experience.” And credit to the boys for making an actual album rather than dropping a mix tape or a track here and there, which seems to be quite a trend of late. It’s mad to think an album is kind of considered ‘old school’ in today’s world, isn’t it? “Yeah, from a consumption standpoint, singles make a lot more sense; it’s a lot less risk, work, and investment in time, promotion, and money; but when you have a comprehensive collection of music that’s really revealing about you as an artist, then it’s important to put that out.” Nicely said, Drew. So tell me about that BRITs performance with Coldplay, and what we can expect from the tour... “I think people knew we had worked with Coldplay, but not that we had finished a song together, and they definitely didn’t know that it was going to be debuted at the BRITs! So that was pretty nerve wracking,” Drew admits. “You can’t believe it’s happening, and being able to debut something in such a cool and surprising way - you just don’t get to do that very often, especially with a guy like Chris [Martin]. “Coldplay are a band that has influenced us for so long, so that was pretty wild. The whole TV performance thing is such a crazy thing, especially for us, as we don’t come from that world and our team don’t come from that world. We kind of had growing pains figuring out how to get
our ears dialled in perfectly and working with the right equipment - getting someone you trust to mix the record that’s going to sound good on TV and in the room, but we figured it out.” And production rehearsals are well underway for the tour, which is being catered for by leading UK rental house, Brit Row. It sounds pretty epic. “It’s definitely intense! [smiles] Like the album, we had a very ambitious idea of how we wanted the tour to be. As Alex was saying, some of these songs won’t be articulated in the best way if they’re thrown into a DJ set, so we’re bringing a drummer, and an amazing piano player - both of whom we found online that were doing covers of our songs, and both incredibly talented - and then we basically made them our band,” Drew explains. How cool is that? “So for the songs that lend themselves to a band, we will bring them out, but we still want to create the energy of a rave, and tell a narrative, so we’re building that narrative with this group called The Production Club, who do amazing work. They’ve done all Skrillex’ stuff, deadmau5’ stuff; it’s cool to work with them on less of an EDM type act – which is us – and build something that tells a story that’s less like an aesthetic and more of a narrative. But it’s also a lot to undertake in a very short period of time, and it’s arenas for the first time ever, so...” So there’s a lot of big moves being made here? “Yeah, and we’re just trying our best to put it all together and make it work and be awesome,” concludes Drew, with a laugh. “And to cater to our new fans, and to our old fans, and just put on an amazing show. That’s what we’re here for, bro...” The Chainsmokers’ album drops on April 7th, and they embark on their US arena tour the following week. Thanks for your time, guys, and we wish you the best of luck with everything (not that you’ll need it...) www.chainsmokers.com
THE GRAMMYS AND BRITS 2017 It’s okay everyone, take a breath — awards season is over! All the speculation, performance restarts, and that Best Picture moment at the Oscars is behind us now. As ever, it’s been both fun and exhausting following the BRITs, the Grammys, and the myriad of film awards shows. Headliner looks back lovingly at the winners, the losers, and the diligent sound technicians and lighting teams that made it even remotely possible.
HERE WERE TWO MAIN TALKING POINTS AT this year’s Grammys show, held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Firstly, a certain young lady from Tottenham: one Adele Laurie Blue, who swept the board once again, taking home five gramophone statuettes, winning every category she was nominated in. And, as has been the theme this awards season, the anti-Trump sentiment ran strong. While Adele’s behemoth of a success, 25, was for many a shoe-in to win multiple gongs, there was equal feeling that Beyoncé’s Lemonade was the most worthy of the Album of the Year award. Apparently, Adele felt that way, too: “I can’t possibly accept this award,” she said, before launching into a speech about her adoration of Queen Bey. “You are our light,
and the way that you make me and my friends feel, the way you make my black friends feel, is empowering. And you make them stand up for themselves. And I love you. I always have, and I always will.” Adele also took home Song of the Year (for single, Hello), Record of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album, and Best Pop Solo Performance. Phew. While this was quite clearly an unmitigated success for her, Adele’s evening was somewhat marred by her George Michael tribute performance, which was stop and start to say the least — she restarted the track, after apologising and telling the audience she couldn’t bear to “mess it up.” Busta Rhymes kicked off the political jabs, by referring to Donald Trump as
Awards Season Grammys & BRITs
“The Chainsmokers relied on JH Audio IEMs for their epic BRITs performance.” ‘President Agent Orange’; and A Tribe Called Quest’s performance ended with people of different races entering the stage, and rapper Q-Tip fervently repeating ‘resist’ as the show hurried to commercial. Katy Perry performed with the US Constitution projected behind her, and Paris Jackson made reference to the Dakota Pipeline protests while presenting.
Let It Shine
It’s worth bearing in mind that, were it not for the outstanding work of the lighting guys, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga would have gone to a lot of effort for nothing. GLP was very much at the forefront of operations this year; inventory was supplied by PRG’s Los Angeles office, and included vast quantities of GLP’s new generation fixtures including X4 Atoms and X4 Bar 20s. These were used in performances by both Bruno Mars and Beyoncé. GLP’s lighting was key to the success of Beyoncé’s awesome, pregnancy themed performance. Set on floor carts in two rows, multiples of X4 Bar 20s created the main ‘wall of light’ without being seen, lighting designer, Robert Dickinson, confirmed: “This formed a scenic element of smoke and light as a backdrop for [Beyoncé’s] performance, as well as accentuating the musicality, with the complexity that the fixture offers. The fixtures not only created a beautiful background, but at the same time, were able to punch through and hit the music when needed.”
However, it was the use of the X4 Atoms with Bruno Mars that really caught the eye. The set was backed and constructed with more than 340 pieces of the fixture, which now houses an upgraded 30W light source. Bruno Mars was also one of several artists representing JH Audio at the Grammys – he opted for his trusted JH16s, with Lady Gaga, The Weeknd, and Alicia Keys also flying the JH flag. And in terms of the audio, DiGiCo was right in control, providing a four-console setup. The consoles are all on a loop, sharing no less than eight SD racks (that’s a whopping 500+ I/O!), with guaranteed full redundancy. In short, it all went down a single fibre, and was run like a daisy chain – a far cry from the old days of analogue splits. The setup utilised an SD5 as the master console, alongside an SD7 at front of house (which dealt with everything musical); and two further SD7s were dedicated to monitoring, one either side of the stage, each with its own system – when system A was in operation, B was line-checking, and vice versa. Furthermore, a DiGiCo Orange Box was connected from a DiGiCo I/O rack to the broadcast truck’s Calrec Apollo console as a backup and test for future development.
Back across the pond, at London’s O2 arena, the BRITs underwent its annual celebration of popular music. The 1975 (featured in issue 18 of Headliner) — who seem to have exploded onto
the music scene - brought what felt like an intimate gig to an arena, performing their hit song, The Sound, before we paid tribute to artists who we lost in 2016: Prince, David Bowie, George Martin, Pete Burns, Merle Haggard, Leonard Cohen, and, of course, George Michael — an emotional tribute to the latter being paid by his former Wham! bandmates. Chris Martin followed this with a beautiful rendition of Michael’s A Different Corner, with special video footage of the star performing behind him, quickly turning the performance into a haunting virtual duet to a now silent room — not a dry eye in the house, of course. Taking a more political turn, Katy Perry gave a quite unique performance joined by Skip Marley showcasing new song, Chained To The Rhythm, while two skeletons danced on stage with her – one dressed as Donald Trump, the other as Theresa May(!) with white houses poignantly dancing in the background. Katy was sporting her JH Audio Ambient FR in-ear monitors to aid her pristine performance. The award for the most pointless performance probably goes to MOBO and Mercury winning grime artist, Skepta, with half of his performance of his track, Shutdown, being muted for home viewing due to the repeated use of a rather rude word... It was still a top effort, though — he took to the stage like a pro, commanding the audience’s attention, and ironically played audio from a complaint phone call seemingly from Kanye West’s 2015 BRITs
“The GLP fixtures were able to punch through and hit the music when needed.”
performance where the rapper joined him on stage. And the real moment of the night must go to the phenomenal yet perhaps unlikely pairing of Coldplay and this issue’s cover stars, The Chainsmokers. They absolutely smashed their performance with their live debut of Something Just Like This, Martin fronting up the vocals with a crazy amount of energy, leading to him jumping into the crowd (and definitely struggling to get back out again). The song is a perfect blend of a Coldplay ballad and The Chainsmokers distinct pop drop sound; a big hit in the making, for sure. The Chainsmokers told Headliner that the BRITs was a once in a lifetime type experience; they also relied on JH Audio IEMs for their stage sound on the night – a pair each of JH16s.
Sounding It Out
There would be no BRITs without the sound guys, of course. And keeping with BRITs tradition, Britannia Row was once again the audio provider. As usual, they delivered — and some. The BRITs is a hell of a production — this year’s might be the most impressive to date, too — and being a live show, so much can (and often does) go wrong... But thankfully, everything went as smooth as silk as far as we could tell. For the second year running, Britannia Row chose to make this a DiGiCo-only affair in terms of mixing consoles. Six DiGiCo SD7s were deployed in total: two dedicated to monitor position, two for front of house, and a further two were brought in especially for the Coldplay performance. In addition, DiGiCo’s new baby, SD12, also got a run out: two SD12s sat proudly at front of house to look after the hosts, presenters, and winners, plus the screen content for the room. We also spoke to George Michael’s long term sound engineer, Gary Bradshaw, about his work on the night. “Myself and Dan Green [for Chris Martin] had half the desk each. I had the left side three faders: one of the music, which was recorded especially for this performance; one of George from the tour, and a fader for those little bits of dialogue that were cut into the tribute,” he says.
The desk, a DiGiCo SD7, was provided by Britannia Row Productions, as was the entire live audio infrastructure. “Josh Lloyd from Brit Row looked after front of house; he is very, very good,” Bradshaw insists. “I have 100 percent trust in him; he knows that SD7 better than anyone I know.” Colin Pink was Brit Row’s team leader for the event, and found other artists’ mix engineers were equally at home with the console set-up. “Chris Rabold, who mixes for Bruno Mars, said to me, ‘Brit Row is the only company we trust enough not to feel the need to bring in our own desks’, which was nice to hear. We used the new DiGiCo SD12 for the presenter boards this year; DiGiCo lent them to us, and they were great.” On the lighting side of things, GLP also played a major part at the BRITs – 52 Impression X4s, 26 Impression 4XLs, and 96 Impression X4 Bar 20s were part of the core rig, with a further 60 X4S fixtures brought in to cater for Little Mix and Ed Sheeran, and 14 X4 Bar 20 for The 1975. So although similar from a production point of view, the BRITs winners shaped up quite differently to the Grammys. Emeli Sandé picked up Best Female Solo Artist, and it was a big night for the legend that is David Bowie, too — Starman picked up Best British Male Solo Artist and Best British Album for his epic swan song, Blackstar. The Global Success Award went to Adele, and Best International Male unsurprisingly went to Drake. Queen Bey picked up Best International Female (no surprises there either), and A Tribe Called Quest got Best International Group after releasing their first record in some 20 years in 2016. So like we say, make yourself a cup of tea and reflect on another crazy awards season, and if it isn’t too soon for you, get those predictions in there for 2018. Our main prediction, at this point, is that the Oscars team will be rigorously checking their envelopes like never before. www.digico.biz www.glp.de www.jhaudio.com
Shaun Martin The Piano Man
SHAUN MARTIN: THE PIANO MAN Shaun Martin is a man of many talents. With a career spanning r&b, hip hop, gospel, and jazz, the fivetime Grammy-winning keyboardist, producer, and songwriter has played with and produced for some seriously big hitters. We sit down to chat about his remarkable musical journey, which started on the piano when he was just a few years old.
Shaun Martin's musical journey began at just four years old (more on that later), but it was in the late '90s that things started to get really interesting, working for Kirk Franklin as the gospel superstar’s musical director while also co-producing his records. He has since established himself as a truly in-demand studio musician and collaborator, working with legends like Erykah Badu (on her sophomore album, 2000's Mama's Gun), and a host of well known artists including Timbaland, Chaka Khan, Yolanda Adams, and Tamela Mann. He is also the proud owner of five Grammys - three for Best Album, two for his work with the jazz fusion phenomenon, Snarky Puppy; and in 2015, Martin released his debut solo album, the largely instrumental, jazz-infused, 7 Summers. And in his spare time? Every Sunday, he can be found doing his thing at Dallas’ FriendshipWest Baptist Church, performing to thousands as the Minister of Worship. Earlier this year, Martin was showcasing his latest demos at the Winter NAMM show in California. We ask him to tell us a little more about what he got out of the whole experience: “I'm not sure I've ever got so much work done in so little time,” he admits, with a smile. “NAMM was great; it gave me the opportunity to connect with some old friends as well as make new friends and build new relationships, which is always a good thing. I also had the pleasure of demoing the Virtual
Instrument (VI) line for Waves Audio, and present some of them for the first time. Many people weren't aware of the VIs, and I was glad that I was able to introduce the masses to another arm of this legendary company.” The manufacturer's new VI line is one that's rapidly expanding, it seems. “Waves are working diligently to create some very cool synths and very authentic sounding vintage keyboards,” Martin confirms. “I got involved because my booking manager, Eric Gerber, reached out to me about an opportunity that had come across his desk from a friend. Then he reached out to my manager, and we thought it was a perfect opportunity considering the fact that I didn't even know Waves had done that type of thing until now.” Headliner learned about Waves' meticulousness in terms of plugin development on a trip to Abbey Road Studios last year; the level of detail in the sampling, and generally recreating the sonics is pretty staggering. How do the VIs do in comparison, and how many is Martin using, though? “I use a wide variety [of VIs] considering the fact that so much of music production these days is computer based; I've never really been on the development end of it, though,” he says. “I do, however, like to compare how any VI sounds against the real instrument that it's trying to emulate. One thing that's key for me is, ‘can I get the same feeling when I hear this plugin that I get when I play the original
Shaun Martin The Piano Man
“I was blown away by how the Waves Electric 88 actually felt; it truly warmed my heart...” instrument?’ So I'll play a Minimoog plugin, and play an actual Model D Minimoog; and if I get the same chills, then I'll rock with it. I did the same thing with the Waves Electric 88 VI. I compared it in its original factory setting against my suitcase Rhodes, and I was blown away by just how similar they sounded, as well as how good it actually felt! It truly warmed my heart...”
Virtually Nothing In It Although Martin will always be a vintage keyboard user, he admits it is quite possible that some of these VIs could replace some of his old school kit. “I do like to integrate old and new, and come up with things that are not normal, so anything is possible,” he says. “And it's not just a studio thing, especially when you're talking about consistency. With vintage keyboards, they've been around so long that you don't always know what you're going to get when you're doing a live performance in the middle of nowhere. That just happened to me on a recent show in Haiti, actually - my Rhodes was... [pauses] well, let's just say, it had been worked over! [smiles] I was able to use my Waves Electric 88, and it sounded so warm and full. It literally saved my tail! And these VIs are very user friendly, too, and quite explorable. You can create your sounds as well as play the stock Rhodes sound.” Martin has been a Waves plugin user for some time. He uses the L2 Ultramaximizer “on pretty much everything,” he tells us: “I had a friend named Eric Hartman who
taught me to use the L2, so I can make even the lamest things pop! [laughs] I use the C1 quite a bit, too; it's multi-functional, and it really can handle a lot! Then there's the Waves MaxxBass, too, which does a great job; and all Manny Marroquin's plugins are great when you want to get creative. So I use quite a lot, actually.” We chat a little about Martin's musical background, and how he first got into what he does today; he started out playing classical piano at the age of four, and the church also played a pivotal part in his musical education. “The church was actually where I first learned to play the Hammond B-3,” Martin explains. “Then I studied jazz throughout High School at the Booker T. Washington HS for Performing and Visual Arts, before graduating from the University of North Texas. It was then that I began touring with Kirk Franklin, and writing and producing with Erykah Badu; and once I started producing, I began to take notice of things like sonics, and how they work in translating a musical message. I would watch the mix engineers use their ear, and craft sounds from analogue instruments.”
Music Maker So Martin chooses to wear several musical hats, and is equally passionate about performance and production. Incidentally, most of his production work is done out of a studio in Dallas, which he runs with his friend, Nathan Forsbach; and he also works out of Luminous Sound (also in Dallas) with fellow Grammy-winner and Waves
user, Tre Nagella. How does he manage both those hats, then? “The key is honestly just knowing which role to play. If I'm called to be a musician, then I'm a musician. Lanes are really important... If you don't stay in the designated lane, you'll go crazy! Fortunately, from Timbaland, to Erykah, to Kirk, most people know exactly what they want in the process, so it's easy to produce from a space that’s familiar. “So I still write and produce now, mainly with Kirk Franklin; and I still perform with the hombres, Snarky Puppy. I've accumulated three of my Grammys for producing [with Kirk], and two for my role in Snarky Puppy, so I'd say those are career highlights for sure. And releasing my own album, 7 Summers, and watching where that goes, as well.” Rather than leave us with a stand-out rock and roll story, Martin prefers to keep it simple, and quite poignant. He's just all about the music, it seems: “I have many, many musical memories, but what I really look forward to is making music that brings peace and love to people all over the world...” We can't argue with that. We wish Shaun the very best with all his future projects.
With its tiny size and feather weight, the Lectrosonics SSM bodypack transmitter gives you the freedom of placement on your talent. Wig? Ankle? No problem. And the SSM never heats up, so it can even go against the skin. The patented, compandor-free Digital Hybrid Wireless® transmission gives you the freedom to choose your favorite lav or headset mic without concern for coloration. And Lectrosonics has always been famous for freedom from RF problems, with the SSM being no exception. Then there’s the ability to use a smartphone app for changing settings, the wide 75 Mhz (3-block) tuning bandwidth, and the choice of 25 or 50 mW RF power, right in the menu. Of course, you have the freedom to spend quite a bit more than the SSM on other minature bodypack transmitters, but why would you? Demo the Lectrosonics SSM and prepare to be amazed.
<< Scan here to learn more about the SSM
www.lectrosonics.com or 1-800-821-1121 In Canada, call 877-753-2876 Made in the USA by a Bunch of Fanatics.
In Europe, call +33 (0) 78558-3735
Recording Ed Sheeran
RECORDING ED SHEERAN
After working with Northern Irish five-piece, Beoga, in the studio on their latest record, a massive opportunity arose for Joe Rubel. Ed Sheeran asked Beoga to help him out with a couple of tracks, and as a result, Rubel was invited to work with the man himself to help engineer Divide, the new Sheeran album everyone is now talking about. Headliner investigates... The new Ed Sheeran record was produced by Benny Blanco, and not in the most traditional way. Because Blanco doesn’t fly, he and Sheeran boarded a damn big boat (Queen Mary 2) in the US, and embarked on a 10-day cruise to the UK, making music on their way in a purpose built studio, put together by Blanco’s engineer, Chris, who then jumped on a flight to join Joe Rubel at Sheeran’s Suffolk home, to help create another studio ready for them all to work in when they finally turned up in the UK. Still with us? This all sounds bonkers... Was it? “[laughs]It was different, for sure; and ultimately a conversion of a tree house,” Joe smiles, adding that although money wasn’t an issue, sourcing the kit was difficult at times. “Chris built the studio on the boat, jumped on a flight, met me over here, and we cracked on. When they pulled into the dock, Chris went off to meet them and ripped the studio down – and at that point, I had just got a bunch of ‘holder’ gear – we’d ordered all this Chandler gear and it hadn’t shown up, and wasn’t going
to for another month, so I thought I couldn’t have Ed walk in the first time I met him as his engineer, and him look at all these blank racks! “We ended up building two studios up in Suffolk, and there is one at Ed’s London place, as well, so we needed more mics. We had an old Neumann U47 which we used for pretty much everything, and we filled in the gaps with Sontronics [mics] - they sent us a bunch. Their Aria valve mic sounds just as good as a U47, in my opinion.” The team worked for six weeks at Sheeran’s home - he and Blanco had done a lot of the core work while en route from the US - and around 20 songs were done between there and Decoy (pictured below), Cenzo Townshend’s studio, which is just 20 minutes down the road. Sheeran is a big fan of the state of the art facility. “During the first Decoy sessions with Ed and [Northern Irish five-piece] Beoga, they ended up writing the Galway Girl song [for the album] out there, as it’s such an inspiring
“Ed really enjoyed the production process...” place. We got them in initially for overdubs, as Ed wanted to collaborate with them, and they were done in half a day, so I set up the room so Ed could jump in when he liked, but they just sat out by the lake in the sunshine, wrote the song, and then came back in and played it. “Ed loves Decoy – he isn’t really a fan of big studios, but he thinks Cenzo’s place ‘always looks like it’s been cleaned’, so he’s comfortable. It also helps that everything works, of course!” Recording was completed in August, and then they did a big orchestral session with 15 players at Abbey Road’s Studio Two, where Ed’s brother, Matt (an orchestrator and classical composer himself ) arranged the song, Perfect. This was supposed to be the end of the project, however, two weeks later, Sheeran called Joe and said there was more to do: “At that stage, I would work here in Pixel ( Joe’s studio, pictured right) and at Ed’s – I would send tracks to him first, then the label would want to hear it, but if he was happy, that was usually it. Ed also put out a Stormzy
remix of one of his songs, Shape of You, so I had Stormzy in here to do that, too. I think Ed really enjoyed the production process; it’s the first of his records that he’s produced, which was definitely a big thing for him.”
Another major project that Joe has recently worked on is the Spitfire Audio London Contemporary Orchestra (LCO) sample library. He has worked with the company for several years on their library recordings, but this one came with a real twist. “Usually, Spitfire Audio will have a chart, and you use that same chart for a bunch of different articulations, but Hugh [Brunt, LCO co-founder] actually orchestrated the whole thing, which was ingenious, really. He is really on it, and it saved a lot of time.” The recording took place at Tileyard, Spitfire Audio’s studio, which, although not big enough to get a whole orchestra in, is a great place for the job in hand: “We had six violins, six violas, four cellos, and three basses, which you just couldn’t physically fit in there at the same time, so each section was done separately, and it was quite unique in that respect,” Joe explains, adding that they used eight mics in total for the entire capture. “We used a main pair and an out pair, which is a fairly standard way of recording an orchestra, but that would stay in situ; so you’d have your main pair fairly central, and then your out riggers would be positioned wider. Then you’d put the violins
out and record all that. But before we started, we’d marked out the room so we knew where everyone was going to sit, so the violas would sit a foot back from that - somewhere they physically wouldn’t be able to sit - but the four main mics would stay in the same place, so you’d have a little bit more of that depth, and you’d go back a bit. “So we did violas, then cellos, then basses, all going back a bit more, so the basses were almost at the back wall. You’d have that sense of distance, basically; and then we had four spots, depending on what the section was. I used Royer mics and small [Neumann] KM184 condensers over each desk, basically, the idea being you could have those as two different options.” One of the unique things about the LCO library is the LCO themselves (turn to page 12 for our LCO interview) – and Joe was a big fan of the open string element that was captured. It’s truly unique sounding. “We wanted to make these noises that were specifically LCO noises, as these are techniques they use with people they work with,” he explains. “And that’s it for me; the detuned thing is a perfect example of why the library is so good. I am fascinated with sampling, and Spitfire Audio are amazing for mock-ups, so, of course, it sounds so good. I record a lot of orchestras, but the LCO as an instrument is one of those kinds of patches that you just could not get in the real world. “What Spitfire Audio have done is made these tools so good, and so obtainable. Ten
Recording Ed Sheeran
years ago, you’d need racks of gear to run VIs you could trigger off MIDI, and everyone had five computers, and you’d need a bank loan to get started; this is so versatile, anyone can put their own stamp on it.” Everything was mixed in Pixel in a couple of days or so, and was done as naturally as possible – not a great deal of compression and EQ was used, just a little at the top end. Joe used a mix of Neve, Marg, and Manley kit to get his desired tones. “We took off some bottom end rumble, particularly in the rooms – and then you have the subsonic stuff that you can’t hear that eats up your headroom, so you kind of get rid of that, too. You get a main mix, then you can go into close and room mixes, and then there is a hyped mix, which is slamming it through my [Emperical Labs] Fatso. It sounds distorted, chewed up, and has no dynamic range. Then there are two FX channels, one is a distortion box, and one is a reverb. And the results..? “Pretty amazing, actually; and it really is left open so you can tweak if you want to; that’s why I gave Spitfire Audio so many [FX] options to choose from. And the distortion can go absolutely nuts! In fact, when I first played with it on the Beta version, I have to say, I had the biggest grin on my face; it sounds like it was chewed up in here, so I’m definitely okay with that!” @joerubel www.spitfireaudio.com
INSIDE BLACK ROCK STUDIOS
Kostas Kalimeris is a true musical multitasker. A&R, engineer, producer, mixer, and proud owner of one of the world’s premier recording facilities, Black Rock Studios, located on the stunning Greek Island of Santorini. We sit down for a chat about taking Black Rock international, the issues with the Greek music scene, and speccing out high-end studios. Our conversation with Kostas begins with a brief chat about the songwriting camps that Black Rock Studios host. The brainchild of his business partner, Leo Chantzaras, it brings an eclectic mix of budding composers together to collaborate in a series of workshops to create that bit of musical magic. “The songwriting camps are going very well; we do them twice a year, and we try to keep the level of writers as high as possible - and we are always full,” Kostas explains. “There are 25-27 writers involved for three to four days of writing together, and we set up eight rooms in total, each of which is equipped with high quality gear.” Kostas is a true advocate of Genelec monitors, and has a pair of 8040s or 8050s set up in each room. It’s the perfect choice for these types of gathering, especially considering the type of music that tends to come to the surface during the week. “Both these [Genelec] monitors have a very nice bass sound, and our songwriting
camps bring out a lot of pop and EDM, so they tend to love their low end,” he smiles. “Sometimes they push them a lot... you know how these EDM guys are! [laughs] Actually, it’s funny; I realised that even on my main SSL [console], the main monitor control goes up to 11... I found that out two years after I got it!” I can’t really picture him head-bopping to electronic beats at his SSL, but that did make me laugh. The SSL in question, by the way, is the impressive centrepiece of Black Rock Studios control room, the world class facility that Kostas built seven years ago. “We opened Black Rock back in 2009, and it’s been quite a journey; I started out as an engineer, and now this is my main job,” he continues. “I am mostly producing, but also engineering and mixing the projects that I am producing, too.” Kostas’ career got a serious kickstart way before Black Rock, of course – as a teenager, he was working with some very established Greek acts in some serious facilities.
Kostas Kalimeris Black Rock Studios
“It’s so important, picking the right monitors; I was very focused on Genelec.” “Although I was 17 at the time, I was pretending I was 22, you know? [laughs] But I was very lucky. I started to work in the best studio in Greece at this time; it was a big Westlake studio with a big Neve desk. And then 10 years later, I found myself head of A&R at Universal Music Greece, and I also became in-house producer at Universal, too, so I was doing a lot.” And to date, he has worked on more than 300 albums in the Greek market, and with pretty much every artist in the country. “I’ve engineered and mixed a lot of Greek acts, I’ve done A&R for most, then I’ve produced, mixed, and recorded plenty, too,” Kostas confirms. Get the man a hat rack! And what happened next? “Well, after 10 years at Universal, I moved to another label for another seven years. I was head of A&R and producer there, too; and by this time, I had built my studio in Athens. I was also working as Greek representative for Sterling Sound [in New York City], and I worked for four years for The X Factor Greece, too, as A&R consultant - choosing the repertoire for the participants. This year, they hired me to find the coaches for the Greek version of The Voice.” Setting The Bar High I try to take in just how much this man does, and has done; it’s pretty incredible, whichever way you look at it. His Athens facility, I should add, is yet another string to his bow – although not as grandiose as Black Rock (what is?), it’s a similar space, and still a very decent facility with some top quality kit. More of a home to Greek music than Black Rock, which is 90% international artists, many of which are serious players in the biz. “I remember dreaming about a studio like Black Rock, because Greece is such a nice location; but my goal was always to be attractive to international clients. We don’t do a lot of Greek projects at Black Rock for two reasons: one, budgets; the crisis and the declining music market means there are often no budgets at all, but still some of the established artists I write with can afford to come here. And two, Greek artists are not used to ‘recording out’; they are used to three to six hour sessions in Athens, not being organised to come to Santorini for a month to do a whole album.” Black Rock’s most recent claim to fame is playing host to the epic Bring Me The Horizon. The British band descended on the island for no less than two months, and worked their socks off, Kostas tells me. The band brought their engineer in from the UK, and Black Rock provided them with an assistant, with Kostas overseeing proceedings from afar. “The band’s producer and keyboard player, Jordan Fish, I have honestly never seen a guy work so hard in all my life,” Kostas reveals, with a smile. “In two months, he maybe had four days off. And he was working 12 hours a day, plus he did three months pre-production. They recorded the whole
album here, and it was an amazing experience. I was also really impressed! We also had Justin Bieber here to do a few songs for [his last record] Purpose, and One Republic were in a couple of years ago, too – so some major names. “Because of Black Rock, a lot of people trust me; and because of this, they hire me as a consultant – to supervise and design studios. So I am supervising two new studios in Athens at the moment during the building stages. I am working mostly with Roger Darcy - we take the space, and the needs of the client, and go from there. I am not a designer, as such, but I have a lot of experience of building studios, so I understand the needs, and I am working with the client and label to build it. But my main business is in A&R and producing and mixing, of course.” Not a bad sideline, though, is it? In terms of the facility, Black Rock’s SSL room has pretty much everything under the sun and a little more..! It’s also got some serious Genelec 1035B monitors at its core – Kostas’ first choice speakers, as per the 8040s and 8050s that he chooses to deploy in the rooms for the studio’s songwriting camps. “It’s so important, picking the right studio monitors,” he says. “Greece was never on the map in the international recording industry, so new clients are very suspicious; they prefer to work with small monitors, and not the big speakers, if they don’t know the acoustics of the room. But, when I have to build a studio, the first thing I do is visit some nice studios to check the monitors they have installed already. In this case, it goes back to 2000, and I worked in a Paris studio - a big place with a Neve desk – and it was my first experience mixing with Genelec speakers. I was very impressed, so I decided next time I built a studio, I was going to use these speakers. So I was very focused on Genelec especially. I worked with the small 1031s for years, and I was never happy working with big speakers, but the Genelecs I really love. “It’s funny with big speakers; when you have them, sometimes nobody uses them, but if you don’t have them, nobody books your studio! [laughs] But the good thing is, although I have a lot of people that come here and work with the nearfield monitors, I am always trying to convince them to work with the big ones – and at the end of the day, they are doing so; they’re all very happy with the Genelecs. If something sounds really good on the 1035Bs, there is going to be zero issues with the mix; they are very true, and transparent. “Also, these monitors are very useful for writing. If you have a band, and the bass player plays in the equipment room, for example, and the band plays in the drum booth, you need to get a big sound for the guys performing; and now we have a number of artists – r&b artists in particular – that are coming to work at Black Rock just for the speakers!” www.genelec.com
Gordon Moore: Wireless Wizard Words Paul Watson Gordon Moore hasn’t always been in audio. After majoring in Biology in the ‘70s, he fell rather bizarrely into retail, specialising in selling diamonds. This bored him to tears, however, and soon he would launch his own desktop computer business - until he saw the writing on the wall: “One day soon, these products will be available in Walmart.” True enough. Today, Moore is the rather inspiring President of Lectrosonics, a leading wireless audio manufacturer based out of New Mexico, whose products are, in their own words, ‘built by fanatics, for fanatics.’ The company’s work ethic is as impressive as its vast product line, and a 2017 Academy Award for Technical Achievement underlines this, putting them right at the top of the pile. I sat down with Moore at a quite marvellous Mexican restaurant for a candid chat about audio successes, challenges, and downright failures – and why this concoction makes Lectrosonics the smart thinking company it is today.
So how high does this Academy Award rank in the Lectrosonics all-time achievements, then? “It’s always been a goal, but it’s not something you can snap your fingers at and have happen; but we have been so tightly involved with the film and production world for so long,” opens Moore. “In 2016, the top five for best sound mixing were Lectrosonics movies: The Martian, The Revenant, Bridge of Spies, Fury Road, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Impressive. And Moore admits he often knows more about the films coming out than the rest of us – way before production, even: “We might get a call about a movie, and then they’ll add, ‘Oh, by the way, please keep that new Mad Max movie to yourself, okay?’ [laughs] But
yes, this year, we were over the moon.” And rightly so. Lectrosonics had applied twice before [for the award], and were rejected outright as the Academy weren’t considering wireless mics in the technology category at the time. This time around, that all changed. “Karl [Winkler, VP sales and service] dropped everything when he found out they were looking at wireless, worked up the application, talked to the engineers, and put it all in there; then we were told we were in the running, and they wanted us to do a presentation,” Moore explains. “So Karl put together something, and worked with our west coast guy, Kelly Fair. You only get five minutes to do your presentation – and 40 companies got to do this, total. So Kelly rehearsed this, and went in there. It went well, and they told him we were going to be called in on a conference call, and that would be the in depth
unusual, normally people say they invented it!’” It’s been a pretty interesting journey for Moore in audio world. Before Lectrosonics, he had no knowledge of the audio business at all; he got his Bachelor of Science in biology, and for the 13 years prior to joining the Rio Rancho audio firm, he couldn’t find a job in that field. “In 1975, I found my way into the retail business, and quickly became a manager of a local chain of Catalog Showroom. I became a certified gemologist, as we were selling diamonds, and I was with them for 13 years... and bored to tears! So I resigned, started a small computer business selling IBM-lookalike desktop computers, but I saw the handwriting on the wall that eventually, this was going to be a product sold at Walmart. “That weekend, I started looking, and there was a job at Lectrosonics going. That became a
“The next Bill Gates will be the guy who can make customised microprocessor development available to the small company.” interview, discussing the pointed technology and the patents behind it, who the contributors were, and so on.” Smart Thinking So Moore, Winkler, and David Thomas (the guy who came up with the idea regarding the technology for the company’s Digital Hybrid wireless system) were in for a grilling... Moore took the historical side of the questioning, Winkler took the marketing, and Thomas took the technology. “I was thinking at the end of the call, ‘how do I hire these engineers?’” Moore laughs. “But we were honest as Dickens – they asked DT (David Thomas) at one point, ‘so was this predictor algorithm your idea?’ And he says, ‘oh no, I stole it – it’s used in other types of applications so the concept looked like it’d work well, so I adapted it’. They were amazed! [smiles] They said, ‘that’s
one phone call, two interview process, and the rest is history.” During Moore’s final interview, the President of the company at the time, John Arasim, provided some words of wisdom which he has never forgotten: “John said there were three rules regarding Lectrosonics business: ‘one, we build the best product we know how to build; two, we don’t do business with the government; three, we have fun,’” Moore recalls, fondly. “I was sceptical! I had come out of a job where fun was not part of the equation. So the company was very small; I was employee number 32 at the time. And we were telemarketing, there was no budget for business travel, everything was done on the phone. And John ignored me for the entire first six weeks of the job! Then one day, he walks into my office and says, ‘well, are you having fun?’ And I thought, ‘Yes, I am!’ And 28 years later, I still am!”
Moore is quite infectious to talk to, though of all the company ‘characters’, he describes himself as number three in the line-up, “and a remote third at that.” His admiration for Arasim is clear: “John came into Lectrosonics in ‘81, and he was so creative; he developed the first frequency agile UHF receiver (the F104), and then he also received the first directional sonobuoy for the Navy. He needed to pressure test it, and also test its directionality. He bought a used 16-inch gun barrel from USS Missouri, had it shipped here, capped both ends, and drilled a hole in the middle so they could insert the sonobuoy and put water in it so they could test its directionality like it was in the ocean. “He also helped build the first TV broadcast tower in Detroit, Michigan. So he had a very colourful background. He was very gruff, and quite a character, which made him very good for the workers – he is also the reason the plant is so clean.” And I can vouch for that, having had the full tour – the place is spotless, even the machine room, which I found pretty surprising. How so? “Oh, John instigated it all,” Moore says. “When he was hired to rescue this company, the first day on the job, he shows up for work, the board were ready to meet him, and the first thing he did was pick up a broom and start sweeping. It sets the pace, you know? [smiles]” Indeed! And back then, there was a real need for change at Lectrosonics, starting with common sense decisions, Moore explains: “It was a case of eliminating product lines that weren’t performing, and getting rid of hairbrained ideas. For example, we had a product called Audio View, and it was essentially a white board with transducers attached to it. So it was a giant speaker, and then a low band VHF wireless mic system. Think about it... a teacher standing with a mic in front of a speaker? [smiles] Every time one got shipped, the company lost a few hundred bucks!” Several decades on, it’s a different story at Lectrosonics – and, of course, with the demand for smaller and more efficient products across the whole industry, products have seriously evolved. I ask Moore which in particular have recently taken the firm to another level. Quick answer: the SSM transmitter, and Venue 2 – SSM being “next level stuff,” Moore tells me, “and made possible by surface mount technology.” OK, so in terms of where the world is right now with wireless, where does Moore see the next serious breakthroughs coming from? “Because of the influence of cell phones, we are losing spectrum everywhere, and that spectrum challenge is what we’re dealing with right now,” he says. “We’ll be forced into new parts of the spectrum, and some very short wavelengths, so it’ll be tough; but it’ll settle in the next five years, because the spectrum crisis - which was predicted five years ago - is vanishing, as these technologies are getting better at managing the spectrum, so there is less attraction at spending billions of dollars on new spectrum if they can take what they already have and get more efficient.”
And full-on digital seems to be the next step: “Digital Hybrid technology has been very solid, but it’s pushed as far as we can go; there are more and more radio sources, so it becomes more and more difficult, so we have to go digital.” Conversation turns to the UK briefly, and Moore’s admiration for Ofcom. We don’t hear that too often, so I ask him to tell us more... “Well, we had a long phone call recently [with Ofcom]; they contacted us. What is refreshing is that they acknowledge the importance of PMSE (Programme Making and Special Events) wirelesss, and are looking for manufacturers to be involved with the process of allocating new bands, so I think the UK is very progressive in opening that up, so we’re working on that – and it’s music to our ears, to be honest. “There are always questions to be asked about technology, as testing is very costly; for example, I signed off today additional testing costs for a transmitter, and just for the UK and Europe, it’s about $25,000; and if we want to do US and Canada, it’ll be closer to $50,000 – and that’s any time we bring out a new transmitter.” Growing Pains Expansion and growth are certainly two things Lectrosonics knows all about. I ask Moore to take us through the major historic company milestones: “The first one was in ‘88 when we built the new building; and that itself was built with expansion in mind. The CR185 transmitters had just come out, and people didn’t know who we were; I would call a TV station and they’d be, ‘Lectro who?,’” Moore says, half laughing. “It was WGN in Chicago who first started using our wireless. We had a very aggressive dealer in Chicago who went on the road and pushed our gear hard; and it was actually the first Iraq war that gave us a boost, too: when General Schwarzkopf was doing a press interview, an ABC crew walked in with one of our plug on transmitters, they go up to the press feed, take the plug on transmitter, and plug it in. All the other guys had cables running to the back, and all the crews called me afterwards and said, ‘the funniest thing just happened...’
[laughs] We went from zero to 60 in three seconds flat with that!” To put that into perspective, when Moore started with Lectrosonics, if they sold three wireless units per day, it was cause for celebration; here, the number of CR185s being sold a month went from 25 to 250 in just six months. “It was a lot of growth headaches,” admits Moore. “We had to come up with new mechanisms for tracking orders and parts, and we were in a constant state of reorganisation; a lot of time was spent keeping up with the volume, and we had our problems, for sure.” The next phase of growth was in 2005 with the Digital Hybrid and SM transmitters, and the following jump was four years later, with the spectrum change in the US. Today, Lectrosonics is a 150-person company – roughly five times the size it was when Moore first came onboard. So what will the next five years bring? “We will expand further, but now we are dealing with spectrum change, which, if anything, has been a distraction – but it impacts what we do for the long term. We always have an eye on efficiency, and are always thinking of ways to do that: for example, on the assembly line, a UCR411 receiver took 47 minutes to assemble, whereas an SRC takes seven. “Eventually, what I would like to see is for customised microprocessor and chip development becoming available to a small company like us. What lacks is the technology for us to do that, as it takes hundreds of millions of dollars to do this – some of the big tech manufacturers can do it, but they’re looking at selling millions of units, like flat screen TVs, look at the evolution in that but that’s been driven by the immense size of the market. It’s economy to scale that we simply can’t take advantage of. I am not sure any pro-audio company making products of this type can, really – the volume isn’t there. We are a fraction of the size of the major competitors, but even they can’t look at a custom chip.” It’s an interesting point, and it’s a place Moore believes the technology will get to eventually: “We just bought our first 3D printer - and that was absolutely unaffordable to us two years ago. I think that will happen to microprocessor development eventually. The next Bill Gates will be the guy who can make customised microprocessor development available to the small company; he will sell gazillions of them.” As our conversation comes to a close, I ask Moore to summarise his business ethos: “Management has to be transparent, and it’s a team effort. John built the team and retired, Larry continued building, and retired, and I have a team now. If an employee asks me how business is, and it’s been sucking lately, that’s what I tell them. We have more ideas than engineers, and, really, that is where our strength is.” Inspired, I leave Mr. Moore to get on with his world wireless domination. It’s been a pleasure.
Photo: Paul Gärtner | Design: Bertil Mark
GLP German Light Products GmbH
THE ULTIMATE HYBRID FIXTURE
440W DISCHARGE SOURCE 2.5° TO 55° ZOOM 2 GOBO WHEELS (22 GOBOS) CMY PLUS COLOR WHEEL THREE PRISMS ONLY 25 KG
GLP German Light Products GmbH Industriestraße 2, 76307 Karlsbad +49 (7248) 972 19 0 email@example.com /GLP.German.Light.Products /GLPimpression www.glp.de
SHEIKH ZAYED: HERITAGE FESTIVAL Protec has successfully pulled off one of its most demanding production support challenges ever, at the annual Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival in Abu Dhabi. The event, which was held at the Al Wathba race track, celebrates UAEâ€™s cultural inheritance as well as the diversity of other cultures around the world. The festival offered a variety of educational platforms, interactive performances, fountain shows, a tribal parade and a dazzling fireworks display each night.
Live Production Heritage Festival
“An elaborate Optocore dual redundant fibre network was deployed to transmit pristine audio to all the locations - this required a massive 2.6km of cable!” Protec were engaged for the fourth consecutive year to provide top-end sound and lighting kit for this gargantuan 30,000 sq.m site. Not only was the scale unprecedented, but a late decision meant the event was extended to two months, completing at the end of January. An elaborate Optocore dual redundant fibre network was deployed to transmit pristine audio to all the locations - this required a massive 2.6km of cable, and was all managed from a central control hub. This meant 40 interactive live shows per day, with time-coded fountain and firework displays, provided an emergency announcement system and programmed call prayer across the entire festival site. Pretty epic stuff, basically. Immersed in their own unique cuisine and culture (including traditional dress), each of the souks presented four shows per day, amounting to more than 2,000 live performances over the 52day duration of the festival; and with additional sound coverage required for the kids area, horses, and Union Circle, Protec’s audio department had no fewer than 14 separate sites to manage over the vast festival grounds. In addition (yes, there’s more!), the company dipped further into its sizeable inventory to provide a separate sound system for an independent one-day event, Union March, in which tribes from across the Emirates marched to signify unity as part of the National Day celebrations. To oversee the deployment and operation of the massive technical infrastructure, Protec fielded an experienced crew under the project management of Simon Travis. Daniel Dignan and John Francis took charge of the audio for Heritage Festival with Tim Allison looking after the Union March, while lighting was in the capable hands of Geronimo Abad, Nelson Noche, and Ferdie Caloy. Speaking of the challenges faced by his team, Simon Travis stated that in order to convert the site plan provided by the Ministry of Presidential Affairs into reality, heavy investment in equipment
had been required, notably the acquisition of 76 Electro-Voice SX300 loudspeakers. In addition to the audio, Protec specified a number of industry standard lighting fixtures from its cutting edge fleet.
The Union Circle was the main hub of the event where the firework display and fountain show — which had been added for the first time — took place. Many people used this area to set up blankets and picnics on the grass surrounding the water. Ten towers were set up around the grass area in the Union Circle, each supporting 12 Cans facing out towards the festival, along with four Molefays, (two each side of the tower to provide a wash) and six lighting fixtures facing into the centre circle of the fountain to add both beam and general colour effects, and highlight the UAE flag. All lighting was controlled from an Avolites platform. Audio coverage for Union Circle came courtesy of 32 JBL VerTec 4889 line array elements, powered by Camco Vortex 6 amplifiers — again fed from the Optocore X6R network converters. A Soundcraft Si Compact digital mixing desk took inputs from a wireless Shure Beta 87 and a single channel from a Pioneer DJM-900 Nexus mixer and CDJ-2000 digital DJ deck, used for fountain music; the remaining channel provided the timecode. All channels, including two further firework inputs, were taken individually back to a DiGiCo SD9 for local playout in the centre circle area. Protec were also tasked with lighting the rear pathways and areas around the mosques with LED floods and LED Pars, while LED battens and Molefays were used in the kids area. In this massive deployment of industry standard spots, profiles, and washes, including 1000 conventional Pars, all fixtures had been detailed mission critical tasks. So how did they stand up to the conditions,
considering the location was a race track, and the terrain was fairly uneven? “With more than 75 truss lighting towers, it was necessary to ship in prefabricated concrete blocks,” explained Protec’s project manager. ”We made steel plates so we could mount the truss on top. As a result, everything was rock solid.”
The biggest challenge had been equipping 10 of the 11 souks with concert grade lighting and sound. Each souk represented a specific country, and their purpose was to showcase their heritage and culture by selling traditional clothes and food, as well putting on performances four times a day to showcase traditional dancing and singing. Lighting in the souks was largely derived from Par Cans, boosted by Molefays, which gave a wider colour wash to the surrounding pathways. “Our task was to ensure that each of the souks’ performance stages was lit perfectly,” emphasised Simon Travis. “There were more Par Cans than I have ever used split between the main Union Circle main site and various souks. We used 144 Par Cans in one souk alone, and 126 in another.” For these centre stages, Protec supplied 10 small Mackie ProFX12 desks as well as a number of mics stands, DI boxes, and aux cables. Six small SX300s were attached to the truss towers and Protec maintained master control so they could monitor the levels and insert the pre-programmed prayer times and emergency announcements. All limiting and compression took place within the SD9 to ensure no sound bleed between souks. In addition to the stages, Protec also lit the surrounding grass area. It had been Daniel Dignan’s task to maintain audio consistency across the 14 or so zones, including the site-wide announcements, with all signals running back to the master control room via the elaborate fibre network. To accomplish this, Protec deployed 76 of their
new EV SX300s, powered by L-Acoustics LA48 amplifiers, distributed around the souks and various event areas, and mounted on lighting towers. “In total, we took 29 lines from the site out and into a DiGiCo SD Rack and SD9, and sent 15 lines back out to the individual systems around the site,” explained Dignan. Other inputs into the SD9 came from QLab cue-based software, connected to the internet — which triggered the announcements. A further 16 outputs were supplied over the Dante platform by two Four Audio DBO1 Dante breakout boxes (for the souks), and allowed an extra channel to deliver important site-wide announcements (and prayer), cutting all other inputs by 15dB as it did so. The fibre network comprised five Optocore X6R-FX interfaces, linked to the master control room where the signals ran into an Optocore LX4B FOH unit. Outputs to the Optocore X6Rs would automatically cut the QLab play back via a ducking gate on the SD9, and return to the pre-existing state at the end of the set.
Union March was a one-off event attended by a host of dignitaries including the leaders of each of the Emirates, and the King of Saudi Arabia, and was broadcast on several channels throughout the Middle East. Tim Allison took charge of the PA and playback, as well as the microphones for the main grandstand. With a large parade ground to be covered, his PA included 40 L-Acoustics K2 elements, with LA racks, again running over an Optocore fibre network and DiGiCo SD21 digital desk with D-Rack. Eight towers consisting of four L-Acoustics K2 were used to cover the grandstand, while a VIP area in the middle was served by a pair of K2, carefully positioned to preserve sightlines. In terms of sources, shotgun and lectern mics were chosen to pick up the speeches and tribal chanting. “We had Shure VP89L mics behind the stacks of K2 to ensure what the tribes were singing was audible,” said Allison. “We also had Schoeps Mk4 lectern mics down there for any speeches.” Expressing his satisfaction with the event, Tim Allison stated, “I have done many types of similar show — the difference with this show, as in the case with any show that involves animals, is that it makes it more challenging for the show cues.” Simon Travis summed up the event as a whole: “This gave us full control over the entire site from a central position, and by using more automation, it made the event less engineer heavy. The new EV speakers we purchased for the occasion were perfect for the conditions and the audio distributed clearly and evenly over such a large site; the Optocore system provided a very logical solution.” As for Dan Dignan, he revelled in the unconventional nature of the sound design: “It may not have been rock and roll, but I’m certainly proud of this one!” www.optocore.com www.digico.biz
“All limiting and compression took place within the DiGiCo SD9 to ensure no sound bleed between souks.”
â€œI explored every option, but time and again found myself pulled back towards the sound of the Horusâ€? Jack Ruston, MPG Breakthrough Engineer Nominee
Horus and Hapi converters you deserve merging.com
The Dead Daisies Bringing The Noise
To those who don’t know them, The Dead Daisies are something of a rock and roll hall of fame band, featuring John Corabi, who has fronted both Mötley Crüe and The Scream; Marco Mendoza, who has slapped the bass in Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake; and Brian Tichy, who has drummed for Ozzy Osbourne and Foreigner. Doug Aldrich, who I’m speaking to today, has also played in Whitesnake and Dio, and is said to be one of the greatest lead guitarists in the biz.
Perhaps this band’s most intriguing
THE DEAD DAISIES: BRINGING THE NOISE Words Adam Protz
facet is founder and rhythm guitarist, David Lowy – he hails from a very wealthy family in Australia who own the Westfield Corporation, and is the CEO of the family’s private investment group. That may not sound particularly rock and roll, but he has used his money to go from the business world to touring the world with a stellar line up of rock musicians. The Dead Daisies may sound a little like they’ve been pieced together, but Doug tells me that isn’t the case at all. “These guys are all friends of mine,” he says, in his North Carolina accent. “Brian and I had done Whitesnake together, Marco was in Whitesnake for a little while, and John Corabi and I have known each other since being kids in high school. I talked to David Lowy, and he suggested I come out on the road with the guys for a little while, see if it’s cool - and we just hit it off. So we got together in January 2016, wrote a record, recorded it, and we’ve been touring ever since.” Easy as that, eh? I try to gauge from Doug whether the band’s founder had always been most passionate about this rock music, but got sucked into the business world by his family, or if he’s just living a dream life of being big in both worlds. “David had played guitar and been in bands when he was younger; then he went to work for his father in business,” he explains. “He’s an
The Dead Daisies Bringing The Noise
extremely intelligent person. Then one day, 10 years ago or so, he decided he wanted to start playing again, so he reached out to some musicians and started writing songs. He basically does both now – half the year he’s with us, half the year he’s working with his father.” Doug tells me that despite this unorthodox
subtle reference to the band themselves, visually.
If you speak to Doug about his gear, you’ll quickly find out he is a vocal advocate of Lectrosonics, the company which provide his wireless transmitter equipment, that enables him to strut around the
“You can run 50 feet across a stage without any loss of tone with these things.” origin story, The Dead Daisies feel more like a band than in his experiences with Whitesnake and Dio, because all of the guys write and record everything together, which has gelled into a great camaraderie. This was as true as ever in the case of one of their recent singles, A Song And A Prayer. “It was a song that came together pretty easily when we were writing it,” Doug reveals. “In the studio, it started to take on more of a commercial shape; the melody, the lyrics. The guitar part in the intro, which is almost a Sweet Child O’ Mine kind of single guitar intro, that happened by accident – I’d put an arpeggio in the chorus, just to add some flavour, and John Corabi heard it and said, ‘why don’t we start the song with that line?’” The band wanted to try something different for the song’s music video: “We released a short movie style video that goes along with it; it really leaves a lot to the imagination. It’s thought provoking... It’s cool!” The video is indeed worth a watch; it contains a storyline that holds its own, with only the odd
stage without the fear of tripping over multiple guitar cables. “I’ve always been a cable guy for guitar,” Doug admits. “There’s never been anything in the wireless world that competes with cable, and I’d been convinced of that for a long time. Then, when I joined Dio, they wanted me on wireless because we were gonna be on big stages, and it would have really pissed them off if I’d tripped over a guitar cable. I bought a wireless unit, and I had problems from the get go. It was nice to be free from the lead, but it never sounded the same. “The guys would keep saying, ‘turn it up! It’s not coming through!’ And it got to a point where the wireless was so bad that I just went back to cable.” However, after hooking up with The Dead Daisies some years later, it soon became apparent he’d have to begrudgingly try wireless again. But he’d tried a few different brands without success. “Then I was with Phil Soussan, who plays bass for Ozzy Osbourne and Billy Idol, at a convention
in Vegas,” Doug reveals. “Phil told me a guy from Lectrosonics was dropping off an LT wireless transmitter for him, and I should check it out. He was telling me that everyone was using them now, including Slash [from Guns N’ Roses]. So I tried it for a couple of minutes and was impressed. We were in this big theatre, so I thought I’d test how many dropouts I’d get by going way out to the front. To my amazement, there were none!” Most astonishingly of all, when Doug switched back to his cable, he couldn’t tell the difference. In fact, he thinks the Lectrosonics LT may have actually sounded better than the cable. “Normally when you’re running a pedal board with a wireless, you need to have your wireless receiver back by the amps, so there’d be a cable running from the receiver to the pedal board and back to the amps. But I found that Lectrosonics have a wireless battery operated receiver, which is the size of a cigarette pack! It’s unbelievable. That in itself is usually a problem with wireless – you’d get some hums and buzzing. Now that’s not a problem at all.” Doug understandably explains how a lack of confidence in your equipment can really mess with your performance, but he’s now so confident in Lectrosonics that he referred his band mate, Marco, to buy one of their transmitters when he ran into problems. David Lowy bought one, too. “You can run 50 feet across a huge stage without any loss of tone with these things,” he concludes, glowingly. Look out for The Dead Daisies at Download Festival this June - it’ll be one not to miss!
Lauren Deakin Davies Inside The Den
LAUREN DEAKIN DAVIES:
INSIDE THE DEN Words Paul Watson Photography Bellanova
“If producers get heavily involved in creating sounds for artists, they should be able to tell the artist how to create those sounds live.”
Lauren Deakin Davies is a force to be reckoned with. Starting out in the industry at 15 as part of a folk band, she quit school with her bandmates in tow to pursue her dreams, hiring her mum as manager along the way. Fast-forward three years, and her musical aspirations are still very much a family affair: Lauren as a successful music producer, and her mother as the owner of independent label, Folkstock Records. I headed down to ‘The Den’, Lauren’s affectionately named studio, to talk tech, The MPG, and being a woman in the music industry. After greeting me with a big smile and a very welcome cup of tea, I’m led down the garden path to Lauren’s musical home, ‘The Den’. And what a welcoming space it is. “I got into this business because I was in a folk band, really,” Lauren says, as we take a look around. “We actually left school for the band, and were lucky enough to go to some major studios including Universal and Metropolis at that time. I was 16, and although I already knew a bit about music production, I was starting to really fall in love with these big studio spaces.” Lauren studied some music tech at A Level, but admits the course didn’t really cut the mustard: facilities were poor, and the kit was dated; but on a positive, she did get to grips with analogue equipment, which really turned her on to audio. The Den actually started out as a party room – Lauren’s stepdad is an engineer, so he installed strobes and lasers, and he was planning on turning the space into a pool room. Lauren, however, had other ideas… “I totally commandeered it, and we started rehearsing in here,” she smiles. “We were in a girl band, but all played our own instruments;
we put that mirror on the wall to see what we looked like as we played.” Spookily, as she says this, the said mirror lets out a creak, and I’m sure it’s going to fall on me. This prompts me to get up and take a closer look at her guitar collection. A Fender Telecaster and Taylor acoustic shine brightly, the latter of which Lauren has had since she was 15. A guitarist at heart, I ask Lauren about her early recording experiences: “It was me recording myself. Then my mum said I should be doing more of it, as I was pretty good at it; she found an artist, and I did a whole EP for free. It was my first, and it actually sounded alright. “I’d got to know a lot of engineers and artists, so was able to improve my techniques from the advice and feedback they gave me, and then word of mouth got me more work.” Currently, Lauren’s day in the life is based around production and mixing, but she does session work, and plays live shows, too: “Winter is for tracking, spring is for writing, and summer is for gigging and writing, basically,” she tells me. Lauren managed to work on four albums last winter, one of which is Kate
Lauren Deakin Davies Inside The Den
Dimbleby’s Songbirds, which received critical acclaim from the broadsheets. She plays me some of the tracks, and I notice a distinct vocal sound: warm, rounded, and right in your face. A trademark, perhaps? “I always think my mixes are crazy vocal-heavy,” Lauren laughs. “Kate has a great voice, and the harmonies and arrangements are great, too. She is in her 40s, and I think there is something so important about that, especially the way women are seen in the music industry.” A working day in The Den begins at 10am, and if you’re in for the long haul, you’ll likely get bed and breakfast thrown in, too... Where do we sign?! “[laughs] It’s really nice because sometimes artists stay here, too - the house is only at the top of the garden, and we can block time out that way, as we have the accommodation. It can make for a great working environment. “If we’re at the start of a project, the artist will normally show me the song, and I’ll see what I can improve on. Sometimes they welcome my ideas, other times they just want me to record what they have. It’s a mix of both, really.” At just 18, Lauren became the youngest ever full member of the Music Producers Guild (MPG), and that has opened several doors for her, one of which really helped put her on the musical map. “I’ve done panels and talks representing the MPG, which has been amazing. Dan [Cox, MPG director] was an absolute legend with getting me involved with Laura Marling’s The Reversal Of The Muse project. Laura wanted to know what, if any, difference there was between a male and female record producer, so she made a collaborative album only using female producers. And Lauren was in good company: fellow producers included Dolly Parton and Haim. No pressure, then? “Exactly! But when I asked her what the conclusion was - because there had to be one, right? - she said there isn’t really a difference between male and female producers... But for me, it would have been a way more valid experiment if she got new artists that hadn’t been in the studio before. No male producer is going to be more dominant than Dolly! But new female artists can feel very intimidated, so that would have been a bigger variable.” Conversation turns to Folkstock Records, and Lauren’s unique working relationship with her mum. “I am basically the in-house producer, our dining room table is the creative hub, and mum runs the label from there, so we have a kind of symbiotic thing going on: she finds an artist she really likes, she comes to me and asks me if we should work with that artist, and if they want to record, we record them.” Lauren will then track everything, and her mum will have some influence picking the singles before they get licensed and released. “We only work with people we really care about, and then we tend to work with them for most of their career. I am a folk fan, and there is a great niche for it; and I love having the contrast of working with indie rock and folk, using completely different parts of my brain.” Evidence of this is Alexa Mullins, a talented artist Lauren was introduced to when she was 17, and Alexa was just 14. She has worked on several projects
with Alexa, and continues to do so. Other artists she regularly works with include singer-songwriters Emma McGrath and Minnie Birch. But keen to prove she isn’t a one-trick pony, Lauren plays us a straight-up pop song - a very cool track from a band she was in called Delora: “I was involved in the production, and wrote the song, but we’re not together anymore; we broke up last year, which is a massive shame. Ironically, management didn’t like that I did music production as well, so I had to choose one or the other..!” What a truly ridiculous ultimatum that is to put on anyone in a creative industry! Conversation turns to mixing; and as The Den doesn’t have much separation, headphones are pretty crucial in her workflow. “I am a huge fan of Audio-Technica headphones,” she enthuses, picking up a pair of her M50s. “I have two pairs of these, which I frickin’ love. I got one set as a present from my brother, who is a theatre technician, and I invested in another pair because I liked them that much. Having two pairs is also crucial for continuity; if you’re working with an artist, you have to make sure you’re hearing the same as they are when working with headphones. “I use the M50s a lot as reference, and the combination of those and my KRK speakers is unbeatable for me. Although I do most of my mixing on my monitors, I’ll often take some of the bass out of the vocals - I hate muddy mixes, you see - and then I use the M50s as reference, to see if I’ve taken too much off or not. Every time, they’ll tell me yes or no. They’re very true, the stereo imaging is great, and the overall definition is incredible. Also, if you’re constantly tracking with headphones, you want something that you can’t feel you’re wearing – and the M50s are so comfortable, you forget you’re wearing them. I’ve also just acquired a pair of ATH-M70s, too, so I look forward to putting them through their paces as soon as possible!” According to Lauren, today’s ‘new wave’ of affordable audio kit, and people embracing new technology means we are on the brink of the most interesting period of music ever. “I’m not saying the producer will ever be obsolete, as they need control of the project, but I can see us going back to the producer being the project manager, and I think the artist will have so much more involvement - and I encourage that so much,” she says, eyes widening. “This is especially true when I’m working with Alexa. If she is hearing it, I say, ‘do you want to have a go?’ And I let her sit in my chair and tweak away. It’s key that artists can convey their ideas. I also believe that if producers get heavily involved in creating sounds for artists, they should be able to tell the artist how to create those sounds live, especially if they want the artist to have longevity.” Furthermore, in the short time since this interview, Lauren has launched a solo career under the guise ‘DIDI’. Make sure you keep a close eye out... @Lauren_D_D www.audio-technica.co.uk
DOC BROWN: GREAT FIRST IMPRESSIONS As talented British rapper, Doc Brown, hits the road following the release of his first rap single in a decade, he’s got a new bit of kit in tow which is providing him with a hell of a stage sound: his universal JH Audio Roxanne in-ear monitors are changing the game entirely, in fact. Photograph by Nicholas Sayers Lou Reed once said, ‘Sound is more than just noise. Ordered sound is music.’ That’s not to say the often chaotic creation of music is in any way a mistake, but to me, his words suggest a certain layered order born of that very chaos. Before I experienced the overwhelming power and clarity provided by these Roxanne Performance Series IEMs by JH Audio, there was a lot of noise some of it ordered, some of it not quite so much. The way these technological wonders separate out each part of your live show to create a crystalline bed of beautiful sound between your ears is nothing short of astounding. What I heard the first time I got all my stage elements coming back at me from the desk was uncannily reminiscent of the original recordings themselves. I cannot overstate the confidence that gives a vocal performer such as myself, who has at times been unsure of where his voice is sitting in a live mix, and then overdoes it trying be heard and loses said voice and has to cancel a show (yes, guilty!) Reassuringly chunky but not unwieldy, surprisingly comfortable with genuinely universal fit shells, these bad boys are a revelation. Not to mention the variable bass output which can be altered via an attenuator on the cable itself - the attention to detail is completely mind blowing. A lot of love has gone into the making of these, which is fitting, because we all love music! In fact, to fully complete the quote from that Lou Reed interview: “…Ordered sound is music. My life is music.” ‘Nuff said. www.jhaudio.com
THE Fibre Network for the Pro Audio Industry
The NEW M-Series
Advanced MADI switches with bridging and routing options · Single channel and stream routing · Standalone or network performance · Built-in LAN switch and RS485 router
· Dual PSU, no fan · The most cost-efficient and powerful audio switches on the market
4 BNC or fiber MADI ports 2 SANE ports (MADI over Cat5) 2 Optocore hi-speed fiber uplinks
8 BNC or fiber MADI ports 2 SANE ports (MADI over Cat5) 2 Optocore hi-speed fiber uplinks
GRUMPY OLD ROADIE
Introducing Lydall Twatt My name is Lydall Twatt, and my Uncle Grumpy has asked me to write his column for this issue. Last month, he took me to a gig with him to ‘show me the ropes’. He had to take me because daddy has some pictures of him doing terrible things with a sheep and a clown in Brazil. Here is what he taught me... The first thing to do is have a look at the day sheet – that’s a special piece of paper which tells you what time things are supposed to be happening. A shifty looking man will give this to you. He is called the production manager, and his job is swindling the band, the promoter, and the roadies, all at the same time. You are supposed to read the first line of the day sheet and then scrunch it up and throw it at another roadie. Now the fun starts! Those boxes in the truck are full of exciting stuff, which all needs to get taken out and set up in the right place as quickly as possible. Top tip from Uncle Grumpy - keep those cases full of unused batteries, gaffer tape, jack plugs, and cable firmly shut so that no-one asks any questions when you order another box of each for your next tour, with a band called eBay. When everything is set up, it’s time for line check. Don’t make the classic mistake that so many roadies do – line check is about making sure that the musical equipment works, not testing the drugs, which will already have been tried out in the production office. The production office is like Atlantis: everyone has heard of it, but no-one knows where it is. Next, the band will turn up. They will fart around for half an hour, put drinks and burning cigs on the equipment, and then bugger off to McDonald’s to show off. After all this excitement, it’s time for dinner. The chef is a nice fat man with tattoos; he gave me a ‘hot-knife’ for pudding, then tried to kiss me. At last, it’s time for the main event of the day – opening the doors! The audience members will rush in and stand at the front looking nervous. About 10 minutes later, the sound engineer (an old man with a bottle of wine) will amble out and put on the walk-in music. This is a wax cylinder of favourite songs from his youth, featuring artists like George Formby and Mrs Mills. The kids will give up and go to the bar. The band run on stage and arse about for an hour or so. While they are bothering on, you can use the time to catch up on sleep, read the paper, take more drugs, or play hide and seek with the other roadies. This is also a good time to nick clothes, money, and iPhones out of the dressing room. If you see a ghostly, see-through figure near the dressing room, that’s the manager. It can’t see you, so there is nothing to be scared of. Well, the band have finished and it’s all over. Leave all that equipment on stage and scamper over to the dressing room. If you are lucky, you will be able to scrounge drinks and cigs, and maybe kiss an ugly girl. Keep your head down, though, as the stage manager will be looking for you. Eventually he will find you and shout his magic word repeatedly until you go back to the stage and pack up all that bloomin’ equipment. Anyway, those local boys will put it all back in the lorry, so next, it’s off to the bus. This is like a normal bus, but driven by a blind man from the north of England. There is a little bed for you, but you are not supposed to go in it. Instead, you must sit up all night in the magical back lounge, where you can ponce drugs off the lampies. Stay up all night until, at three minutes before load in, you are finally ready for bed. No need to set an alarm, because the stage manager will come and get you. Being a roadie with Uncle Grumpy was the best day of my life! And when I grow up, I am going to be a miserable whinging old git just like him. 58 Headliner
“The production office is like Atlantis: everyone has heard of it, but no-one knows where it is.”