UNI T Y
EVA GARDNER P!NK’S BASSIST CHATS TOUR LIFE & BRAND NEW MUSIC KATE NASH FROM NANDO’S TO NETFLIX, WITH A BRIT AWARD IN THE BAG
ISSUE 29 | £3.95 UK/$6.95 USA/$7.95 CANADA
LUCIE SILVAS BRITISH SONGSTRESS CHANGES DIRECTION IN NASHVILLE
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Contents #29 Cover Story
P30 / ADP: The Hit Maker 08
Our friends in Ibiza chat to Italian producer, Lorenzo De’Mauro, about collaboration, and Big Foot Studios.
If there’s one man who represents the strength of Detroit, America’s poorest city, it’s producer and writer, Griz.
This UK songstress has been writing hits for years, and is about to tour her latest solo material with Sheryl Crow.
We head to Brussels for an immersive audio experience, where the audience is listening only on headphones.
This artist has rock star heritage, plays bass for P!nk, and just completed her brand new solo EP, Chasing Ghosts.
We go backstage on this impressive live tour which has a sizeable Coda Audio PA system at its core.
We go backstage with P!nk’s monitor engineer, Jon Lewis, to talk touring life, go-to audio kit, and sonic skills.
A lesson in film scoring with this talented composer, who takes us through some of his tips and tricks.
We head to Metropolis Studios to get the lowdown on Genelec’s new S360 monitors from their studio engineers.
This artist fuses music and art, and is passionate about it. We talk to Paula about her musical journey so far.
A behind the scenes chat with Ben Inskip, whose lighting design is doing wonders for Don Broco’s live show.
We head to Southwark Playhouse to watch a very important play featuring Michael Fox and Charlie Brooks.
SONIC VISTA INSIGHTS
ON TOUR WITH P!NK
GENELEC S360 ON SHOW
BUSKERS OF THE WORLD
We head to California to chat to Katie Ferrara about her musical life working as a busker in Los Angeles.
The former WBO Champion talks mental health, Hollywood, directing theatre shows, and life after boxing.
COVER STORY: ADP: THE HIT MAKER
We chat to one of London’s leading beatmakers and producers. ADP’s client roster includes Dua Lipa, Chris Brown, and Krept & Konan; we talk new music, mixing techniques, and the UK artists that are about to pop.
LOOK AFTER YOUR EARS
We chat to some of London’s most in-demand session musicians about the importance of in-ear monitoring.
Merging Technologies unveils Anubis - and it’s much, much more than a high-end audio interface.
We catch up with this award-winning British artist in L.A., where she has carved out a new career in TV & film. HEADLINER | ISSUE #29
40-45 THE MUSICAL
ALL IN A ROW
A straight-up chat with one of hip hop’s true icons. This guy’s story is as frightening as it is inspirational.
Making music for TV & film is Rich’s forte. He takes us through the go-to kit he uses in his studio workflow.
INSIDE JBJ STUDIO
James Brown has upgraded his JBJ Studio by acquiring an SSL AWS console. It’s now on Miloco’s roster.
#IWD AT THE CHURCH
We descend on Paul Epworth’s London base for an International Women’s Day project to remember.
FLARE PRO REVIEW
We put Flare’s PRO earphones to the test across a series of music genres and get some interesting results.
GRUMPY OLD BREXIT
Another rant from our resident roadie, whose thoughts on the UK leaving the EU are very clear indeed!
PERFECTING THE PERFORMANCE
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#29 From the Editor
“New producers are making beats on Instagram, tagging the artist in their story or post, and making names for themselves...” ADP Welcome to Issue 29 of Headliner, where we chat to London-based producer, beatmaker, and mix engineer, ADP. Self-taught through trial and error, ADP has evolved into quite the hit maker, working on an eclectic range of massive musical projects with artists including Dua Lipa, Krept & Konan, and Chris Brown - not forgetting his recent collaboration with Pharrell. We talk about creative production, and the underbelly of talent that’s waiting to pop on the UK Scene. We also catch up with two revered British songstresses: Kate Nash, and Lucie Silvas. Both artists now reside Stateside, and have been making new music. Kate’s turned her hand to acting - and very successfully: her role as Rhonda Richardson in smash Netflix series, GLOW, is now three seasons deep and still going strong; and Lucie is about to head out on tour with Sheryl Crow. We speak to hip hop icon, MF Grimm, about turning his gang-led life around through creating music and comic books; and former WBO Champion, Michael Bentt, about his struggles with mental health: a u-turn from boxing to writing led to a career in Hollywood, directing off-Broadway theatre productions, and most recently, a part in the brilliant Netflix docu-series, Losers. Heartwarming stuff. Backstage on P!nk’s arena tour, bassist, Eva Gardner, chats about travelling the world, and making music along the way; she’s been with P!nk for12 years now, and has made a solo EP, Chasing Ghosts, which is well worth a listen. In L.A. we’re excited to launch Buskers of the World, our new creative initiative, in which we look at the working life of street performers around the globe: the good, the great, the challenging, and the downright frustrating parts of being a busker. First up is Katie Ferrara, who takes us through her go-to spots. We get arty in Brussels at the unique 40-45 production where a 1,600-strong audience experiences immersive audio via headphones in a pop-up venue; and head to Southwark Playhouse in London to watch All In A Row - a brilliantly worked, and very important play featuring Michael Fox and Charlie Brooks. All this, and much more inside. We hope you enjoy the issue. Paul Watson Editor
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HEADLINER | ISSUE #29
Art Director Rae Clara Gray
Contributors Adam Protz, Will Hawkins, Henry Sarmiento, Jon Tessier, Yerosha, Grumpy Old Roadie
Santa Fe Opera Asolo Repertory Theater Stratford Festival
Paramour Frozen Moulin Rouge Waitress Kinky Boots St. Lous Municpal Opera Theater Lion King The Wild Party Once On This Island Beetlejuice Benedum Center
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Sonic Vista Insights
10 MINUTES WITH LORENZO DE’MAURO Lorenzo De’Mauro is a young ambitious Italian music producer and mixing/mastering engineer. He has already achieved so much in such a short period of time: he’s released and engineered for labels for the likes of Armada, 2-Dutch, Flamingo, Big and Dirty, and Protocol; and he’s currently at Sonic Vista Studios for a mentorship program with Henry Sarmiento. We chat to De’Mauro about evolving from a 15-year-old guitar prodigy at Berklee to releasing music on big labels, and creating his own epic Big Foot Studios in Rome. Words Henry Sarmiento & Jon Tessier What inspired you to get into music? Definitely my dad and his visceral passion for music. He’s been my main inspiration since my childhood. He introduced me to all kinds of music at a very young age, and I still remember learning how to use his hi-fi audio system when I was barely four years old! Besides his great influence on my passion for music, the greatest musical influences I’ve had so far are Stevie Wonder and Jimi Hendrix. Musicianship and feelings are something I always look up to at any stage of the music productive process, whether it’s writing, producing, mixing or mastering. Was it tough getting into Berklee? I got my five-week program scholarship at only 14 years old. It was such an honour for me to be able to experience the best music school in the world at a very young age. And yes, I had to work a lot on my guitar skills to
be able to join such a great program in such an important school! I never believed in talent, I only believe in hard work, and vibes for the music. Tell us about your Aetherna project... Aetherna is my joint project with my good friend Alessandro from Rome, who also happens to be my co-partner in Big Foot Studios. Coming from a dance production background, we decided to go through something extremely unique, which doesn’t fall into boundaries. The main aim of this project is to bring freshness and uniqueness, with ambient vibes, dance recalls, cinematic feels, and a lot of weird sounds! The great thing about this project is that I managed to bring back the musician side of me, by integrating guitar parts, and more textured, organic sounds. Unfortunately, a lot of recent electronic music lacks some old school
musicianship, and that was one of my main goals with this upcoming project. Make sure to check out our upcoming EP, Not For Sale, on every portal! There’s plenty of music coming up, and we definitely put our heart and soul into it. Why did you decide to open your studio in Rome? The main drive behind starting my own studio in Rome is the challenge of creating a unique space that’s totally flexible and creative for clients to come and enjoy the positive energy behind the technical side of music. I do believe that vibes should be at the centre of the music business; if you can’t feel it, you won’t buy it! As a mixing and mastering engineer, it is important to actively interact with your clients, and to go beyond the simple engineer-client relationship. It’s not always about parallel compression, EQ-ing,
Sonic Vista Insights
“The DiGiGrid’s SoundGrid mode has heavily reduced the buffering from my DAW, and I get no load on my CPU...” or deciding what kind of limiter I put on the end of the master chain. The main aim is to have your client totally happy with the final result on a human level, so that he or she can feel and vibe the final product. I know it’s a big challenge in this industry, but I’m ready! Has DiGiGrid helped your workflow? When I am working at Sonic Vista Studios, I always use the DiGiGrid as one of the main pieces of gear in my workflow. The first thing that totally amazed me about the DiGiGrid is the super low 0.8 milliseconds latency; it’s been such a game-changer for my workflow. Furthermore, I am a big fan of the Ethernet connection and interfacing, which is extremely functional with all of the devices, and allows me to save my USB ports for storage devices. But what really got my attention on this little beast is the SoundGrid mode. It’s heavily reduced the buffering from my DAW, with no slapback, no latency, and absolutely no load on my CPU. This means having a great high processing power with no heavy duty on my Mac Book, while keeping my workflow intact and fast. I can run all of my favourite Waves plugins on many channels with ease. But let me tell you another thing: when I
am on the road and I don’t have it with me, I can continue my mixes on the road, as all the plugins are installed on the computer. Again, total game-changer! What are your favourite plugins? The Waves API 560 for saturation purposes with its gain knob; I don’t usually utilise it as an EQ. Then the Waves Inphase for mixing layered kick drums, and the Waves Linear Phase EQ for mastering purposes. And your top three synths? I would have to say my Korg MS-20 for those cool, dirty basslines; and I love the Korg Minilogue for my leads. Also, the Waldorf Blofeld for airy pads and vibes. And finally, what is your opinion on the electronic music scene today? Today’s electronic music scene is growing exponentially, which is extremely positive for the producers out there that are grinding, and getting their stuff done, released, and uploaded. On the other hand, what I’ve seen is a big lack of musicianship amongst electronic music producers. Knowledge about music is crucial when approaching all kinds of styles,
even EDM or techno. Then again, there is a high level of production skills within the scene, independently from the genre, whether it’s sound design or mixing skills. So in my opinion, what electronic music needs - especially in the mainstream - is a higher inclusion of organic, real instrumental elements that can make the tracks sound alive. Computers brought a lot of innovation in music production and music making, but at the same time, they took away a lot of attention from the human side of music. Soul and human vibes are needed for music to be emotionally driving for people. This does not mean that every electronic music track needs to have real guitar and piano parts, but it needs to feel like there is a human touch: you need to feel the emotions and passion behind the music. Whether it’s a piano part, a synth part, vocals, or guitars, the feel in music is important, sometimes even moreso than technicalities, surgical mixing or mastering, or killer sound design. We are meant to feel emotions, and music is one of the main tools for this purpose. www.sonicvistastudios.com
Skipping the Bandwagons
LUCIE SILVAS: SKIPPING THE BANDWAGONS The website bio of singer-songwriter, Lucie Silvas, opens with some of her lyrics: ‘I said what was true for me, I did what was true for me.’ It gives the impression that something she holds dear is authenticity, and if there’s one industry where holding onto that is a complicated thing, it would have to be the music industry. Those lyrics are from her song Kite, the opening number on her most recent album, E.G.O. Like much of the music from her career that spans two decades, E.G.O has such an Americana flavour to it. And while Lucie does live in Nashville, and spends a lot of her time travelling from state to state on tour, she is very much a Brit. Born in Kingston Upon Thames, London, Lucie spent her formative years moving between the UK and New Zealand, before later settling in America. This, coupled with having a father from New Zealand, and a Scottish mother, has left her with an absolute melting pot of accents when she speaks. Lucie is in the middle of a tour that takes her across the United States as we chat. “We’ve been to the very top of the States, almost Canada,” she says. “We’ve been down South, and we’re about to end up in New York and Philadelphia. After the tour, I’m going to be doing World Cafe for National Public
Radio, which will be very cool as I’ve wanted to do that for a long time. Then we head back home, and I’ve got just a little bit of time before the next tour, which is with Tom Odell. That will be really fun, I’m such a big fan of him! That one’s West coast, East coast, and Canada. It’s definitely work time at the moment!” Lucie’s Evolution Lucie entered the music industry through the back door, writing some chart hits for the likes of Will Young, Gareth Gates, Rachel Stevens, and Liberty X. She signed a contract with Mercury Records in 2003, having had one terminated with EMI a few years prior. She released her album, Breathe In, in 2004, and thanks to traction from BBC Radio 2, she had several singles enter the UK Top 10 chart. She became an independent artist once again
during her second album cycle for The Same Side. But with E.G.O being her fourth record, and her touring life being quite so successful, it seems that Lucie is doing just fine without Mercury or EMI. Not to mention the fact she’s a musician who is thriving in Music City. “Nashville has nurtured me in all ways,” Lucie says. “My husband is a musician, too, but we live in this town where people have careers and families. It also brought me right out of my shell; being surrounded by other artists is intimidating, but also inspiring. It made me push myself, and made me become everything I wanted to be. “In the beginning, I didn’t know any other artists. Being thrown into a record deal and the spotlight was very uncomfortable for me back then. When I moved to Nashville, I started again, and began performing more than I ever had. That’s been the basis of my
Skipping the Bandwagons
“The confident facade of success can get exhausting; it’s not always successful, it’s difficult and challenging...” career as a live performer, and it’s made me enjoy music a hell of a lot more than I ever did before.” Musical Outlook I ask Lucie if I’m right in surmising that authenticity is something of great importance to her. “In music, you’re very often asked to do or say things that you don’t want to,” she says. “It feels contrived. Even when it comes to working with the latest producer, I’m never good with bandwagons. I can’t do something that means I can’t look in the mirror the next day knowing I wasn’t myself in that moment. “Even with social media, there are sides to your personality that come out. Sometimes you post the confident side in photos, but when it comes to the insecure side, where you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, I won’t necessarily post those moments, but I will talk about them. “The confident facade of success can get exhausting. It’s not always successful - it’s very difficult, and challenging. So I keep my focus on being authentic, and enjoying myself.
The times I feel most successful are when I’m feeling happiest, anyway.” It comes as little surprise, then, that E.G.O wears its influences unapologetically on its sleeve. Americana, country, pop, and some elements of soul and motown. There’s wonderful variety, ranging from the Ennio Morricone-esque Girls From California, to the stunning strings and balladry of People Can Change. Lucie tells me that even now, several months after its release, she is getting all kinds of reactions to the songs, and the record itself. “In the summer, I’m off on tour with Sheryl Crow,” Lucie says. “That will mean playing to slightly bigger crowds, which will help me shoot for the headline shows. We’re also going to be doing some live records, and orchestra stuff, which is very exciting. “Then I’m doing an old school, throwback Christmas record - I’m really excited about some of the collaborations I’m doing for that. I’m really just trying to keep at it, keep on the road, and keep writing.” Lucie Silvas is living proof that it’s so important to keep on keeping on.
We certainly hope she never stops. www.luciesilvas.com @luciesilvas
For 12 years, Eva Gardner has been bassist and backing vocalist for the global phenomenon that is P!nk, an artist renowned for her amazing live shows, vocal range, and formidable stage presence. So being part of this band is quite an undertaking: a fusion of aerial performers and dancers, as well as moving sets and stages, means you must have your wits about you the whole time; and being so high octane, looking after yourself on tour is also a must, which Eva does through a healthy diet of yoga, qigong, plenty of sleep, and a juicer. She is also an artist in her own right; remarkably, in between arena shows, sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s found time to put out an EP, Chasing Ghosts, which sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s written and recorded largely while on the road. We chat about her musical beginnings, favourite kit, and the challenges touring life can bring. Words Paul Watson
IN THE P!NK D
espite touring with P!nk for 12 years, Eva is actually one of the newest members of her band, which speaks volumes. “It really is an amazing family vibe, and a special thing to be in something like this,” Eva says, adding that she auditioned for the role. “I’d actually auditioned two years prior for the house band for Rockstar INXS, and that didn’t work out - but the MD remembered me, and when P!nk was looking for a bass player, he called me up. So I tried out, and after getting the phone call informing me that I got the gig, he said ‘we’ll send you a few albums of material to learn, so pack for three months, and we’ll see you in three days!’ [laughs]” Wow. No pressure, then? “[smiles] Yeah, a very quick changeover! My first show was in Ireland at Malahide Castle, so I was thrown into the fire right away,” Eva explains. “I had one rehearsal with the band, and didn’t meet P!nk until the soundcheck before the show. She gave me a big hug, and said ‘welcome to the family’, and the rest is history.” Sounds like a great setup, for sure. And the calibre of musicians in P!nk’s ‘family’ is quite formidable. “Yeah, I feel fortunate to be in the mix with this calibre of human and musician! And the crew is great, too. It’s a big crew, and they have all been here for a long time - many have worked for her longer than I have, so there is definitely a loyalty there, also.”
Eva knew she wanted to be a bassist as a young girl. Her father, Kim Gardner, was part of the whole British Invasion scene in the ‘60s, and was in his first band with Stones’ guitarist Ronnie Wood. The two of them grew up in West Drayton, so knew each other from the age of 15. “Dad was in The Birds with Ron, and he was close with The Who – particularly [Who bassist] John Entwhistle - so that was my childhood, growing up with all these guys, and hearing my dad’s stories,” Eva reflects. “So before I knew what it even meant, I would tell my school friends ‘I am gonna be a bass player!’ And here I am!” It’s never easy following in your parents’ footsteps – particularly when they’re musical ones. Would Eva agree?
“Yeah, it was slow going at the beginning,” she admits. “Dad wasn’t that into the idea at the start, so it took him a while to come around; and it was only when his best friend [Led Zep/Stones producer, Andy Johns] came over one day with a bass and a little amp, and Dad thought Andy was going to show him some cool new gear, but he said ‘actually, this is for Eva – it’s about time we give her a bass lesson’ that he accepted it! [laughs] “So that was it, no turning back - and since then, my family have been absolutely amazing. Dad was my first roadie! And looking back, it really was a very special time. I had to work for it too, though - I was told ‘no’ a few times, and I didn’t like the way that ‘no’ sounded! At that point, I realised I really, really wanted it.”
I ask Eva a little about her own music. She recently released her EP, Chasing Ghosts – a collection of well crafted, up-tempo, melodic rock songs with hooks-a-plenty. “I am always doing all kinds of stuff,” she says. “I travel with a recording rig on the road: an Apogee One or Apogee Duet interface, an iRig mini 25-key controller, a guitar, and a bass. I do demos out here, and even did a bass session in the back of the tour bus in Germany once! So I eventually had a batch of songs, and when I had a little time off the road, I booked into a studio, did live drums, re-did the vocals, and now I have a five-song EP.” Eva’s setup is what she describes as ‘old school’: an Ampeg rig, and a classic Fender bass. “I always use Ampeg amps; the SVT-VRs for fly dates and most TV stuff, and then the SVT-2Pros, which are rackmount heads, for my touring rig,” she explains. “It’s pretty straightforward, that and my Fender P-Bass, with Rotosound strings. It’s the same kind of setup as my dad and all his peers used, so I kind of followed suit. I am a second generation player, as far as setup!” Another key part of Eva’s live rig is her wireless kit. It’s hard enough for some vocalists to make the switch from wired to wireless, so for a bassist who is all about tone, I am guessing this took a little convincing. “I mean, yeah - the ideal for the true sound is on a wire, but for a lot of what we do, and what I do for these massive
Headliner 02 13 Headliner
“I didn’t meet P!nk until the soundcheck before my first show; she came up to me, gave me a hug, and said ‘welcome to the family’...” production shows, there are so many moving parts: dancers, aerialists, sets and stages moving around, so I can’t be on a wire,” Eva says. “The band needs to move around, so we become part of the set because of that, so it became a necessity for me to go wireless.” Eva was having some real issues with her previous wireless system, so had to seek out something more advanced, which needed to be reliable, as well as sonically pleasing. “My system just wasn’t delivering the goods, so my tech called around to all his people in tech world, and he asked what they were using for guitar wireless, and it was largely Lectrosonics,” Eva explains. “So we sent out for some stuff, and we A/Bd the wire against the wireless. Now, when your sound isn’t there, it’s hard to get into the show, especially with the bass, because you need the tone and rumble - and when it’s not there, it’s thin and weak. I’d noticed the problem, but when we got the new Lectrosonics system set up, everyone then noticed the difference. They would look over at me and go ‘oh, ok, there you are – you’re back!’ So we had finally come upon a system that we were very, very happy with.” Eva’s used her Lectrosonics rig for a year now, and has had zero issues with it: an LT transmitter with LR receiver. One of the cool things about the LT is its instrument input, which offers 1 M Ohm impedance, so it doesn’t load down the pickups; in other words, there is no need for a fancy cable to get great sonics. 14 Headliner
“You can’t afford to have big issues when you’re doing stuff like this, and this system has been rock solid. Ultimately, you just want to get as close as you can to the wired sound, and this does it great – that, and for it to not drop out at any time, which it literally never has done.”
ALL ABOUT THE BASS
Eva is a true in-ears advocate – her choice of IEM is by JH Audio: “We use the JH Roxanne right now, which gives me a really great low end - and it’s nice, as you can adjust that on your ears, as well. It can be really tough to get the bass experience in your ears, but these do a very good job; and we have the other elements on stage in some cases, such as the Butt Kickers, to add to that experience - and the bass amp, of course. “But I went from the JH16s that I used before - which were also great – to Roxanne, and it’s been a solid switch. I think especially as a bass player, you notice that other musicians are looking for different things from their ears. For what I do, it really helps to have that very present low end in my ears, as well as surrounding you. I have both ears in, always, and I like my mix to sound like the song; I want to have everything in there. A little more kick and snare, maybe - and my voice, as I sing, as well - but for the most part, it’s a bit of everything, which gives me the sonic experience I need.” Dare I ask how much she turns up the bass on the JH attenuator..?
“[laughs] I actually don’t need a whole lot of it, especially if I have the amp or subs, so fortunately, if they’re in play, I don’t have to have my in-ear mix too loud; the surrounding air is moving, and helping to vibrate my body, so it’s kinder on my ears!” Before I let Eva get back to the team, I ask her how much attention is given in touring world today to staying healthy, and in good shape. It’s a less rock and roll lifestyle, surely, if you’re to maintain your edge on stage during a mega-tour like this? “Oh, it’s very easy to burn out, and we have realised the things that keep us going: whatever you are putting in your body is your fuel; and we always carve out time for our yoga or qigong, which we’ve really got into, and that has been so great,” Eva reveals. “You’re away from home, and it’s easy to not feel very balanced, so these things do keep us grounded. Sleep is important, too – we get plenty of that, when possible - and we have a juicer to help us stay hydrated, and eat as healthily as we can, too. It’s our formula for taking care of ourselves. “If we’re not feeling good, it’s no good to anybody. It’s about listening to your body, and doing what you need to do to perform, and support the artist... And besides, it sucks to feel shitty! [smiles]”
@evagardner www.evagardner.com www.lectrosonics.com
OWN THE ROOM www.digico.biz DiGiCo UK Ltd. Unit 10 Silverglade Business Park, Leatherhead Road Chessington, Surrey KT9 2QL. Tel: +44 (0) 1372 845600
Beautiful Trauma Tour
P!NK SHINES ON HER BEAUTIFUL TRAUMA TOUR P!nk’s Beautiful Trauma world tour is one of epic proportions. It kicked off in January 2018, but before she even hit the road, she embarked on six months of promo work, including performances at The Grammys, the MTV VMAs, the Billboard Awards, and the Country Music Awards. Skip to present day, and P!nk and her team are doing their thing very well indeed across a string of major arenas. In June, she descends on London to play two shows at Wembley Stadium. Not a bad 18 months, then. We go backstage with her monitor engineer, Jon Lewis, to see what makes everything tick, and to find out what kit he’s using on this tour. Jon Lewis is a highly revered audio engineer who has graced Headliner’s pages several times in the past. He’s working monitors for P!nk on this tour, and it’s a pretty complex setup. “Monitors is split across two systems: one for the band, and one for P!nk,” opens Lewis. “This is because of the nature of the show; due to the acrobatic elements, the environment in which she performs is constantly changing - sometimes on the main stage deck, often above it. A lot of the show is in front of the main PA, which adds its own complications to her mix!” His main monitor system is centred around a DiGiCo SD7, and Lewis uses a combination of the console’s onboard FX, and some external processing. “My main vocal reverbs are from a Bricasti
M7, and I use a Yamaha SPX 2000 during some songs for big vocal effects, distortion, and so on. I also use a Drawmer 1973 multi-band compressor to help control my overall mix,” Lewis explains. Lewis shares the same stage racks as front of house, and the whole system is on the same optical loop, which allows ror maximum flexibly in terms of networking and workflow. Because P!nk’s voice is right up there with the best, I ask Lewis what’s on her vocal chain, and whether the artist gets involved in this kind of decision making. “Her vocal is definitely one of the best I’ve mixed,” Lewis admits. “This, coupled with the fact she is often singing upside down, spinning through the air, or while suspended on bungies, is even more amazing - and she
doesn’t miss a beat! “It is also important to note that there is no track vocal to cover these performance segments; she sings totally live all the time. “In terms of the [vocal] chain, we try different things during rehearsals, but the choices are mine. The Drawmer compressor is something I have used for a while on other gigs, including Cher, and AC/DC - it helps so much, especially when you have a singer who only uses one IEM.” P!nk’s in-ear system has been custom-made by Sennheiser, purely due to the nature of the show: “She uses a custom ear which integrates a headset mic into the earpiece, allowing no movement of the microphone when the artist is upside down,” Lewis reveals. “A traditional
Beautiful Trauma Tour
“Burning the candle at both ends is slowly diminishing; people’s physical and mental health can’t deal with it...” headset has too much movement, and would be unusable. It’s a pretty amazing bit of kit.” Born To Perform We chat a little about P!nk receiving the Outstanding Contribution to Music at the BRITs - what an achievement. “It was a great evening, and well deserved; the performance [on the night] was a complex piece of segued songs split across many places and stages in the O2,” Lewis says. “And when we do such performances, we approach each in a very individual way, with the RF and audio design being very specific to the event. “It was also great having [audio supplier] Brit Row onboard for The BRITs as, along with Clair, they also look after P!nk’s tour.” The most difficult part of the BRITs performance was the rain curtain feature; waterproofing, and keeping the vocal quality, is always a challenge on a live broadcast show, Lewis explains: “We always give ourselves options, and for this performance, we opted for JH Roxanne IEMs, as the four-pin connector offered the best reliability for the movement and elements of the piece. We have eight musicians all using Roxanne IEMs; we chose to move to these at the start of the tour, as they offer the best
depth of sound and clarity on the market at the moment. Whether it’s for a violin player or drummer, the Roxanne has the capability to perform with whatever mix is sent to it. This, coupled with the reliability and after service care from the whole JH team in Florida makes it a total no-brainier to choose them.” Staying Healthy We chat a little about looking after yourself on tour, as schedules are getting harder, and the pressure to constantly perform to the highest standard is increasing. “This has a real impact physically and mentally, so days off should be spent relaxing,” Lewis insists. “I love discovering food, and it’s a joy to travel the world, and have the opportunity to experience this. I’ve even started to document it via Instagram (@themaniacalman). “I think burning the candle at both ends is slowly diminishing at this level; people’s physical and mental heath can’t deal with it. I don’t think yoga, and vegan treats, will ever become the norm, but you definitely see more people adopting a healthier, more, some might say, realistic approach to touring.” Finally, I ask Lewis if he has any advice for a budding engineer who wants to get into tour
production or live sound. He does... “It’s important to have a balance of formal schooling, and real life touring experience,” he declares. “There are some great courses out there, but nothing will beat hands-on experience. I studied at LIPA, and tried to tour or work at PA companies at any opportunity I had during holidays. “This industry is built on people imparting knowledge to others; we all had someone who took us under their wing, and showed us the ropes. You’ll always be more accepted as the new guy if you are willing to listen. One day, you’ll be that person helping form the foundation of another’s career.” According to Lewis, this touring show is truly stand-out, and a real spectacle. “After every short break away, it blows my mind to be part of such a production and team that works so hard to put on such a complex show night after night,” he concludes. P!nk’s new record, Hurts 2B Human, went straight to number one on the Billboard 200 chart this week. For more information on this, and her tour, check out the links below. www.jhaudio.com www.digico.biz www.pinkspage.com
LOUD & CLEAR AT THE POWERHOUSE We are a fly on the wall at Chiswick’s Metropolis Studios to see what the resident engineers make of Genelec’s latest large format studio monitor, the S360, and its partner in crime, the uber-powerful 7382 subwoofer. It might get loud. Today, we’re at Metropolis Studios in London to see what its in-house team make of the new loudspeaker offering from Genelec – the S360, a particularly flexible member of the Genelec family, which is said to be equally effective whether you’re mixing critically at close quarters, or cranking it up to 11, to achieve extremely high SPLs. In a nutshell, these go very loud. But it’s not just about volume, of course: a facility such as Metropolis plays host to such a wide range of creative, which means the music that is made within its walls is always pretty eclectic. So it’s a mix of clarity, width, and feel that the engineers are after - as well as volume and general vibe. We’re in Studio C today – a great sounding, large control room, which offers really nice acoustics. A pair of S360s are sat L/R on top of the console – two cool looking black boxes,
nothing odd there... Though when the trio of Metropolis engineers clock the giant 7382 sub behind them, I’m fairly sure I sense a little nervousness on their faces. It’s Genelec’s largest and most powerful sub, and boasts three 15-inch drivers. It goes down to 15Hz, and is capable of 129dB at 1m (between 30Hz and 85Hz). It’s a beast, too, weighing in at no less than 145kg – or to put it into perspective, Anthony Joshua carrying a small Vietnamese potbelly pig.
To get things started, the guys play a couple of tracks – presumably ones they are able to reference from – through the full system, at a moderate volume. The track stops. There is a momentary silence, and then... “Really good – yeah, I really like them,” smiles Liam Nolan, one of the most in-
demand vocal engineers in the biz at the minute. His credits include Jess Glynne, Clean Bandit, and Adele, the latter of which earned him two Grammys for his work on the artist’s epic 25 album. “Would you recommend having the sub, or could you actually run them purely as two speakers?” “You could, depending on the acoustics of the room, and the installation,” explains Genelec’s R&D director, Aki Mäkivirta. “So if these go to 35Hz or so, you would have to have sufficient support; for this kind of music (the guys have opened with some pretty bassy, hard hitting stuff ), you would want to consider a subwoofer – it’s probably unfair to think that the speakers alone could deal with that kind of low end.” Mäkivirta suggests we bypass the [Genelec GLM] bass management system, so all we are hearing in the room are the speakers. This, it is
“Everything is balanced, and where it should be; it’s all very stable as you move around the whole room...” decided universally, is a great idea, and will be a good sonic test. “I’ll start it with the sub in, then I’ll drop it out halfway through,” says Alex Robinson, another of Metropolis’ studio engineers, whose credits include Elton John and Chris Rea. As I start to walk the room during this playback, I notice two things: just how good these speakers are without the sub, and how mind-blowing they are when the sub is dialled in. The clarity – and how relatively easy this system is on the ear, despite the gradual (and inevitable) rise in volume - is staggering. “This was super maximised,” smiles Mäkivirta, as the track comes to a close. The room erupts with laughter. So, what was the verdict? “The sub kind of reinforced... well, worked with the system,” says Nolan. “Normally, just using a sub puts a bit of fear in me, as you often get that kind of sloppy, flappy bottom end, but really, this is just reinforcing it, and it sounds great. Really nice and tight.”
This ‘tightness’ that Nolan notices is happening because of the way the 7382
sub has been put together, Mäkivirta explains. “The subwoofer has a very interesting design - it goes to 15Hz, and this makes it really fast,” he says. “Yes, it’s a huge subwoofer, but because it’s so fast, it means that from the time it takes for the audio to go from the input to the output, the sub remains constant – and this is untypical, but it’s also a pretty short time, considering it’s a subwoofer – and that is what gives the sub such very unique properties.” “It’s interesting, as you say how fast it is, but you also don’t get that unrealistic, really quick transient, which you get with some of the other main monitors,” points out Robinson. “It doesn’t feel unnatural, as it’s a really sharp transient.” “No, everything is balanced, and where it should be,” confirms Nolan. “For practical purposes, for us, even the maximum that you’ve got on that playback - I would imagine it would still go louder again, because some people like that – I mean, this room would be shaking. But it’d be interesting... Well, I don’t know if interesting is the right word, necessarily, but it’s always a good test, isn’t it? It’s very stable as you move
around the whole room, which is great; we don’t get that with our current monitors at all, which is brilliant.” It sounds like Robinson is hinting that we should turn everything up to 11. And Nolan is of a similar mindset. “I want to see how loud they go, but I’m also a bit scared,” he laughs. It’s agreed that this will be the litmus test. As we hold onto our proverbial hats, the knob is cranked – in a big way. Despite the volume, there is no pain, as such – it doesn’t ‘feel’ crazy loud, and the sub absolutely comes into its own at such high SPL, no question. It fills the room, but accurately. This system has serious guts. “They’re pretty good, I’m not gonna lie!” exclaims Nolan, with a smile. “That may have set our hearing back a little, though,” suggests Robinson. “Well, no mixing for us today, but it was definitely worth it,” Nolan concludes. www.genelec.com www.thisismetropolis.com
DON BROCO: EMBRACING TECHNOLOGY Rising British rock band, Don Broco, have just completed a UK arena and club tour, and are now bound for the States. We go behind the scenes to find out all about their team’s state of the art production values, and bespoke lighting show, designed to complement the music. The Don Broco journey has been an interesting one: they were making waves a decade ago, playing Camden Crawl and Download Festival in 2009, as well as supporting Enter Shikari on a short run of shows in May of that year. In 2012, their debut album, Priorities, entered the UK Top 40, peaking at number 33; and three years later, Automatic made number six, which helped the band land the huge support slot for the UK leg of Bring Me The Horizon’s 2016 tour. Don Broco’s most recent album, Technology, made number five last year. Skip to present day, and this quartet have completed their own UK tour, and are heading to the US. It’s been a very fruitful musical journey so far, and Don Broco have certainly proven they have longevity - yet you can’t help but feel they’re just getting started. For this tour, production values have been
paramount; dominating their stage production is a very impressive lighting rig, centring around GLP Impression X4 Bar 20 LED battens, specified and programmed by Ben Inskip. Getting Involved Inskip was asked to join the band’s team in 2017 when they announced a one-off show at Alexandra Palace to kick off their new album campaign, which at the time was the biggest full production show they had done. Things have moved on, of course. “Since then, we have done shows of all shapes and sizes, but this arena tour was another big step up for them, and a fitting end to the Technology album cycle,” reflects Inskip. In keeping with the Technology name, the LD set out to give the shows a futuristic look throughout the cycle, ‘using a lot of straight
lines to create interesting shapes’. Taking the campaign artwork as a reference, he came up with tes idea of a portal to another dimension (think Stargate). “The design evolved over many revisions, to a point where I had plenty of high impact looks, and tons of versatility at my disposal,” Inskip reveals. “The X4 battens were at the top of my list when choosing fixtures. There really isn’t anything comparable for highlighting the shape of the production, as well as having the ability to get those really cool sheets of light, and a substantial stage wash at times, too.” In fact, Inskip has turned to GLP for his solutions many times over the years, dating back to the original GLP impression 90. “I’m a big fan of the entire X4 range, as well as the JDC1 [hybrid strobe],” he says. “But for this project, I’ve blown my budget on as many X4 Bar 20s as I could get!”
“The X4 Bar 20s are perfect for what I’m trying to do with the Broco show; they were always going to feature...” He’s not kidding: he sourced no less than 76 from Siyan..! With variance in venue size, the lighting package had to be scalable, but that wasn’t a bad thing. “The routing of the tour actually worked out quite well in this regard, as we started in the smallest venue on the tour, and scaled up a bit every day,” says Inskip. “The design scaled vertically and horizontally while maintaining the main shape, which is where the X4 Bars really helped give continuity to each show, no matter the size.” As a regular user of the X4 Bar 20, Inskip is familiar with the vast number of looks that can be achieved. “They are perfect for what I’m trying to do with the Broco show, so they were always going to feature in the design, however it ended up,” he admits. “I have used battenstyle fixtures through the campaign, each for different applications, but for the bigger shows, I needed something that could offer more versatility. “Of course, the classic sheet of light that the
X4 Bar creates when zoomed in is something no other batten offers, and the ability to move them to create different shapes and scenes - almost like moving walls around the stage was pretty awesome with the quantity I had to play with.” Shaping it Out Inskip ran all the X4 Bars in Single Pixel HR mode, and instead of pixel mapping through a media server, used the FX engine and timeline on his Vista L5 desk to get all of the looks he wanted. As for the rig itself, he had four overhead trusses in a 45-degree chevron shape, and some returns on the back truss at the same angle, giving three distinct chevrons, all traced with X4 Bars. “The riser arrangement on the stage mirrored the shape above, so I had X4 Bars running down each ramp, and also on the podium risers,” Inskip reveals. “This gave me some pretty good layers, and definitely made the shape of the risers and trusses a stand-out feature of the design.”
Inskip handled his own programming, a challenging undertaking when running the X4 Bar 20 in Single Pixel mode due to its large channel count. “But having this much control over the units meant I could use them a lot throughout the show while still making them look different each time we see them,” he points out. After another successful tour of duty, Inskip is unlikely to replace the X4 Bar 20s anytime soon – actually, he has already specified them on future designs. “The versatility they provide is what makes them stand out,” he concludes. “Going from vertical walls of light all over the stage to a massive zoomed out audience effect with the same fixtures, as well as being responsible for giving the entire production its shape, made them critical to this design’s success.” www.glp.de www.donbroco.com
Buskers of the World
I’ve busked a few times in NYC and London, and can tell you that it’s not for everyone. It takes nerves of steel, and skin seven layers thick to perform for professionals running to work, tourists hustling to see the sights, and shoppers heading to the next clearance sale, and waiting for that precious few who stop, listen - and yeah, give you money. It takes a special kind of performer to busk, but I’ve seen the power of music stop 50 people in their tracks in a subway tunnel in NYC to listen to a lone violinist playing a Soundgarden song, or a group of teen siblings harmonising Eleanor Rigby a capella, and it was absolutely stunning. I will spend the next 12 months talking to professional buskers, sharing their experiences, discussing the equipment they use, and their best practices and strategy for making a living doing what they love to do. First up is Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter, Katie Ferrara. Words Will Hawkins 01 Headliner
BUSKING IN L.A.
atie was born and raised in East L.A., and is a true Angeleno. Which is rare to find in Los Angeles, because everyone living here seems to be from somewhere else. I met her at The Runway, a new downtown area in Playa del Rey on the westside of Los Angeles where Facebook, YouTube, and other burgeoning tech companies have their campuses. The narrow streets of this perfect new prefab modern community have a faux downtown USA vibe, and are filled with young business professionals, mothers with their kids, and midday shoppers. When I turn the corner, I can hear Katie’s voice from about 50 metres away, and I’m drawn to it like siren song. I find her sitting in front of a storefront with her merch table front and centre, singing one of her originals. A few people are having lunch a few feet away while others stand in a semi-circle watching and listening to this raven-haired chanteuse. Her voice is beautiful; familiar, yet unique. Katie mixes some covers with originals, and frankly, I can’t tell which ones are hers, and which ones are not that’s how good her songs are, and that’s how seamlessly she makes the covers her own. Katie just released a new single, Weightless, and when she’s not busking, she performs at local clubs like Hotel Cafe, travels around the world to perform, and is busy in the studio making new music. As her three-hour set comes to a close, we sit outside the nearby Whole Foods store, and discuss music, songwriting, and her busking career over some sushi and pizza. HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN MUSIC?
I joined the choir in high school, and then started teaching myself how to play guitar while I was in college. I would say my career began about eight years ago when I started recording my own music while living in London. I recorded
two EPs overseas, then moved back to L.A., and started playing in clubs on the Sunset strip. I wasn’t very successful at making money, and that experience led me to start busking, and developing my musicianship out on the streets. WHERE ARE YOUR FAVOURITE SPOTS TO BUSK?
I busk in Burbank, Santa Monica, Universal CityWalk, Highland Park, and various farmer’s markets around L.A. I’m mostly at CityWalk these days, and I like to go once a week to play. You have to apply to their street performer program in order to busk since it is a very popular spot with high foot traffic. I really enjoy playing at the Marina del Rey farmer’s market because it’s close to the ocean, and I love eating all the really great food! People are very supportive. I used to go out to the Santa Monica Pier on the weekend, but I live too far away to do it all the time. The view from the pier is incredible. I think my other favorite busking location has to be Universal CityWalk because the tips can be great, and I make a lot of fans playing out there. TAKE US THROUGH YOUR BUSKING SETUP...
I have different setups for different situations; it all depends on how long I’m playing for, and if I’m traveling or not. If I’m going to be in the same spot for a while, and there is power, I will bring a PA system: I have a Fishman SA 330, AKA ‘the fish stick’, and I love it because of the onboard effects. The guitar sounds great through it; many of these portable amps don’t do the guitar justice. I will also bring a chair to sit in, a drink holder, iPad clip, a rug, and my pedal board. I have a TC Electronic Play acoustic pedal which I can use to add harmonies to my voice, and loop beats; and I use a Sennheiser or an AKG dynamic mic. I basically bring the same set up I would take to a bar/winery gig. If I need to pack light, I will bring either my Mackie Freeplay amp, or my Crate Limo as my sound system. I Headliner 02 23 Headliner
“As musicians, we should be building community, and not competing with each other for a space to be heard; playing in places where people appreciate what you have to bring goes a long way...” love the Freeplay because I can easily take it on a plane, and the battery lasts a long time. The Crate Limo is an amp that has been discontinued, but I love the onboard reverb and guitar effects. It’s also pretty loud, and I can sit on it if I don’t have a chair! I always bring my AirTurn mic stand; it’s so portable and lightweight that it can fit into a suitcase. I also bring my Voyage Air Guitar. This instrument is special because the neck folds down so that you can bring it on an airplane, or pack it easily in the trunk of a car. It’s got a fullsized body which makes it different from other folding guitars because the volume and sound quality is not compromised. I’ve tried traditional travel guitars like the Taylor GS mini, mini Martin, and KLOS guitars. These are all great smaller body guitars for songwriting, or coming up with ideas on the fly, but they just aren’t loud enough for me, and sound a bit clunky. I think if I finger-picked a lot, and played bluegrass, then a mini-guitar would be fine, but I play a lot of rhythm guitar in alternate tunings. When I’m not traveling with my folding guitar, I keep it in a Ritter guitar case. They make really great soft shell gig bags that are 24 Headliner
waterproof and lightweight. The quality is similar to a Mono gig bag, but at half the price. IS L.A. A CHALLENGING PLACE TO BUSK?
There aren’t too many challenges compared to other places in the world, I would say. We have great weather, and the rain is only a problem in January and February. In the summer time it can get pretty hot, though. Busking in the heat is not fun at all, but then there are plenty of spots in Venice and Santa Monica as well as in the South bay. The one thing I will say is that busking in very touristy areas can be challenging due to the oversaturation of artists. The Santa Monica promenade always has too many performers, in my opinion; and that can affect the amount of tips and sales you make, as well as how loud you can be. I see artists playing over each other all the time. My advice to anyone who considers busking is to find places in L.A. that need live music, because then people will see you as a commodity. As musicians, we should be building community, and not competing with each other for a space to be heard. I think
busking in general has its challenges because people just assume that you aren’t that great, or you are looking to get famous. Playing in places where people appreciate what you have to bring goes a long way. HOW DO YOU PROMOTE YOURSELF?
I have a sign that I like to display in front of my setup with my name, website, and Instagram so that if people want to find me online, they can take a picture. I use social media quite regularly, and live stream every performance on Periscope or Instagram so that I’m not only playing to an audience in person, but also to my online fans. AND WHAT’S NEXT FOR KATIE FERRARA?
This year I will be releasing my first full-length record, and doing some touring in the fall. I can see myself still continuing to busk, but I also see myself opening up for some bigger artists, and playing in venues with my band.
Michael Benttâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s life has been nothing short of remarkable. A sensational amateur boxer whose career would encounter rollercoaster moments as soon as he turned pro: he was knocked out in his first professional bout, which put him at rock bottom. It took extraordinary mental strength to bounce back from that, but Bentt did just that, flooring Tommy Robinson with a formidable KO to become WBO World Champion some 10 fights later. This was 1993. A year on, he retired, after a near fatal loss to Herbie Hide. This time, Benttâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first sensation was one of relief. We chat about the massive highs and unbearable lows that have made him the man he is today, and how the arts have allowed him to excel in all he does, most recently in the quite brilliant Neflix docu-series, Losers, which focuses on the mental health issues that surround professional sports people. Words Paul Watson
ichael Bentt never wanted to box. The British-born athlete was dragged into the sport by his father, and when he stepped into the ring to defend his title for the first time against the formidable Herbie Hide, something didn’t feel right. That fight cut deep, and post-bout, doctors insisted that one more punch could end Bentt’s life, let alone career. The former fighter admits his first reaction was one of total relief – but boxing had taught him some key disciplines, which he would use to channel his true passions: writing, and acting. In the years that have followed, Michael Bentt has become a published writer, Hollywood actor, and offBroadway theatre director. And perhaps coolest of all, he’s just featured in the quite brilliant Netflix original series, Losers, where he was able to tell his story. So where did it all go right? “It’s been overwhelming, and a dream, really,” says Bentt, with a smile. “It’s surreal too, man! ” Bentt is referring to Losers, in which he speaks out about his life in and out of boxing in the opening episode. It was Bentt’s friend, Thomas Hauser, author of Muhammad Ali: A Tribute to The Greatest, who provided him with this unique opportunity. “Tom and I had lunch in New York a couple of years ago; he said ‘Michael, meet the writer, he is from Canada,’ and we talked about boxing, and life – the demons you have to overcome as a boxer, and so on,” explains Bentt. “A year later, he put me in touch with the Netflix crew. We had a discussion, and I said I would love to be a part of it. It was a very easy, and smooth process.” I admire Bentt’s brutal honesty in Losers. It’s engaging, and heartbreaking viewing; at one point, Bentt reveals that he was so low, he literally had a loaded gun in his mouth. “I couldn’t do it... I wanted to do it, but I couldn’t do it,” he says, point blank. “Boxers are extreme creatures, and also extremely sensitive people - that’s how we fight in the first place. Mike Tyson is a wound down system of nerves, but he is very, very sensitive. You have to have a place to come from to box.”
Losers sends a lot of messages, but one that stands out to me is mental health, and how talking about it can only be a good thing. “One of the most important things I learnt as an actor was to tell the truth – on camera, or off camera,” Bentt says. “I started writing for a magazine in the 1990s, and all I knew to do was tell the truth; getting knocked out by Herbie Hide I am very honest about, and I am honest about all my experiences. I think as uncomfortable as it can be, we have a responsibility as people to talk about the tough times, and our inner demons.”
THE DOMINO EFFECT
Bentt tells me he wouldn’t ever have got out of that dark place if it wasn’t for the mentors that he ran into, or ‘searched for subconsciously’, as he puts it. In 2001, he landed a role in the Ali movie alongside Hollywood star, Will Smith, playing his opponent, Sonny Liston. That opportunity came from a chance meeting with renowned boxing writer, Bert Sugar, at an HBO boxing conference, where Bentt was initially offered a writing assignment. “Bert said ‘Hey Michael, I want you to write for my magazine’. I’d written a few articles before, but he saw I had something, and again, he gave me a shot,” Bentt reveals. “It turned into me writing a couple of profile pieces on some boxers, but it ultimately led to me writing ‘Anatomy of a Knockout’ [for Sugar’s Fight Game mag], which movie director, Ron Shelton, then saw, which led to him calling me for the Ali film. It’s crazy, really, how it all happened. “These people saw something, believed in me, and gave me a shot - even when I didn’t believe in myself at times. Sometimes I still get dark, I get the ‘oh, oh’ - that sandpaper, almost... [pauses] When that happens, I go to my computer and start writing. That’s my medication.” Bentt tells me in no uncertain terms how his father quite literally forced him to box, yet he acknowledges that the sport has helped him to succeed in life in the long-term. “I didn’t want to be a boxer, but I was spending time with some great people in my life who encouraged me to succeed,” Bentt reflects. “I am not beating Tommy Morrison
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“Mental health is a beast, and it’s our responsibility to extend a hand or a kind word to somebody who needs it. I think we should all be mapping out a course of our time for this...” without that; and I am never going to be the so called great amateur boxer I was without that. You have to have something to express, and that is true boxing. “It has also given me such a great education. I was 19 years old, and I went to Moscow - that is a cultural education for me, and it saved my boxing career, travelling and meeting people. It’s like going to Harvard! [laughs]”
After Bentt retired from boxing in 1994, he enrolled in Northampton College in Pennsylvania, to begin pursuing his true passions. “I was doing occasional commentary for boxing, and I wanted to get a broader understanding of TV production, as I wanted to produce behind the scenes,” he explains. “I started to eat, sleep, and drink acting – just like I did boxing as an amateur. And when we apply ourselves to that degree, and don’t think about being judged, or worry how long it’ll take us to get somewhere, it really works.” Bentt essentially applied the same values and dedication to a different art – and he hasn’t stopped doing it since. Skip to 2011, and he was directing an off-broadway theatre production. “Yeah, man! I directed the boxing play, Kid Shamrock, in 2011 and 2013. It was very well received and acclaimed, and I was thrilled with it,” he enthuses. “It’s based on a true story: a 1970s fighter, Bobby Cassidy Snr., and his son, Bobby Cassidy Jnr. He called me up one day,
I was living in LA – and he told me about the play, asked me to take a look at it. “I had an audition that day, and I had to see my acting coach, and I gave him the play. He said ‘you have to direct this play, you know this world; not only do you know this world physically, but psychologically, as an actor.’ So I said I’d do it. Bobby flew me to New York, and we rehearsed for four to five weeks. We cast it, and we worked on it hard. Everyone was brilliant; they went for the jugular, man!
THE HARDEST PART
According to Bentt, it’s your own responsibility to extend a hand, or a kind word to somebody who’s going through a tough time, no matter how difficult that might seem. “I think everyone should map out a course of their time for this,” he says. “Mental health is a beast, and I think we all have our issues with it; some of us just handle it better than others. “If I am in pain, I’m gonna write about it, or am lucky enough to express it in a role - many of us can’t do that. But if I see a kid who’s looking low on a bus - we can all see that – then I am there. I have a 14-year-old son, and I give him this kind of advice every day. It’s important that we help where we can help.” Music is also a release for Bentt, as well a constant source of inspiration. “I listen to music every day; it helps me get through a lot of things,” he says. “As I was born in the UK, but mum and dad are Jamaican, my taste is pretty broad: I love Marvin Gaye, and
Stevie Wonder, yet I also love Andrea Boccelli, you know? And I tell you this, the past few years I’ve got to know, and got into the music of [rapper] MF Grimm. I had no idea he was a genius – and what a story he has. His music is as just as inspirational to me as listening to Bob Marley or Marvin Gaye – it’s epic stuff.” So life is good for Michael Bentt. And we at Headliner are delighted to hear it. Do check out Losers on Netflix – it’s well worth bingeing on.
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ADP: THE HIT MAKER
London-based producer and artist, ADP, has come a long way since his bedroom DJ days, where he spent much of his time recreating the beats he loved from rap songs, finding samples, and remaking them. Even back then, though, he was forward-thinking: he knew music production was where he needed to be. Self-taught through trial and error, his work ethic, determination, and natural talent for beatmaking paved the way for a musical life where composition, and now complex production, have turned out to be two of his finest attributes. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s led to work with a string of major international names: Krept & Konan, Chris Brown, Dua Lipa, M.I.A, and most recently, a new project with Pharrell. Quite the journey. We sit down with this humble creator in his loft-style West London studio, where the lightbulb moments happen. Words Paul Watson | Photographs Betty Oxlade Martin
DP has been in this space for two and a half years – the minute you walk in, you can tell it’s been treated well acoustically, but it’s also got that ‘homely’ vibe that he likes so much, with great natural light – if he’s in the mood for it. He’s just back from a BRIT Awards party, so is happy to keep the blind shut this morning.“Long night,” he smiles, switches on the air conditioning, and sinks into his chair. We start off talking about some of the artists, and big records, that have influenced ADP’s style and overall approach to producing music. “I was a big fan of Dre – The Chronic was a game changer for me, along with the whole Diddy / Bad Boy era, and Biggie, of course – that ‘90s scene was pretty much all I listened to,” he reflects. “Then I got into Swizz Beatz, DMX, Rough Ryderz, and the early Cash Money [Records] stuff, Master P, and the down south trap stuff.” Once he’d started recreating the beats he loved, he began making his own, and it went from there. “It was just trial and error, and researching stuff online, like ‘what does a compressor do?’,” ADP explains. “I kept going until it sounded right to me, and then it was about figuring out the process, and working out in what order I needed to do things with the audio. Which plugin comes after which, and so on - and then make a chain.” Most projects ADP embarks on, he approaches with a fresh mindset, though he always has his Pro Tools recording template that he takes everywhere with him. “It really works for me, because as soon as anyone hears what I can do – a vocal recording, for example - they seem to love the sound of it,” he says. I ask him to take us through this magic chain. “Well, I have the Manley Reference mic, which is great – that’s going into the Manley Core Reference channel strip, and then I go into my UA 1176 and that’s just so clean that by the time it gets into my UA Apollo, I hardly have to do anything. It’s such a great chain.” And from there, it’s into his go-to Waves plugins, of which there are a handful:
“Once in Pro Tools, it’s literally a case of me opening up my Waves Renaissance bundle: I love the R-EQ, the R-Comp, and the R-Vox - and I also dial in the C6 multiband compressor, which is great. Then, I’ll use the doubler on the lead vocal, just to add some thickness, really, and that’s it. I’ll bring in the Pro Tools standard reverb, and then my go-to delay is the Waves H-Delay, which is just amazing. And it just works every time. The Waves stuff is sick, and every part of my chain counts, you know? It’s part of my sound, for sure.” The word ‘producer’ has become a funny one in recent years – some creators and composers who self-produce often don’t believe they’re actually producers; and on the flip-side, some of the real old school might still argue that you’re not a producer unless you’re in a huge room on an SSL or Neve, with an engineer by your side. We laugh a little at the various interpretations, and decide that any creator with talent could and should label themselves a producer. Which brings us to ADP’s unique route into production. “It honestly started back in the Myspace days! [laughs],” he says. Really? “Yeah, man - I was connecting with people, sending beats to people, and then they’d take the beats, record vocals over them on their bedroom setups, and send me the vocals back, which I would then drop into a mix, and try to create a track. Essentially, I was making them sound as I thought they should sound... with varying results! [smiles] It would literally be, ‘nope, that doesn’t sound great, let me try again’, until I found I really had it. And eventually, I did.”
ADP is most definitely self-taught, I decide – which makes his story even more impressive, and interesting. But there were pivotal moments along the way, of course, which opened doors that have played crucial roles in his musical journey so far. “Luckily enough, I met my old landlord - Hank Hughes – at uni, as he went back to do a degree later in life. He had a building at Ealing Studios, and he’d heard my stuff, and
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“I see a lot of new producers on Instagram; they’ll make beats and tag the artist in their story or post, then people see it, and like it...” liked what I was doing,” ADP says, adding that he’d already done a work experience module at Hughes’ studio as part of his commercial music degree at Westminster. “He believed in what I was doing, and said there was a studio there for me if I wanted it. He said he wouldn’t charge me full rate until I was up on my feet – so I kind of fell into having my own studio, which was amazing. Especially in that place, as everyone would go there.” Rather than audio lightbulb moments, as such, ADP says during his time at university, he and a couple of his friends ‘just connected’, and ended up making songs together for the whole three years. “At that point, I guess I thought, ‘ok, now I’m a producer, I know what I’m doing’,” he smiles. “Well, I thought I knew... I still think I know what I’m doing, but you have to learn every day, man, in this business...” Wise words, indeed. Conversation turns to some of the artists that have had an impact on ADP’s career so far – and vice versa, of course. Krept & Konan is certainly one. “Yeah, we definitely just connected,” ADP reflects. “We did one session – it wasn’t what they wanted to do, actually, but was what their manager was going for at the time – and then they were looking to do an EP with rap beats. From there, they liked what I did, so I ended up doing their whole mix tape, and as a result, just ended up working more and more with them.”
Mix tapes and EPs are at the top of the tree in terms of what artists seem to be churning out in 2019. I ask ADP if the industry is in any danger of losing the album. “Well, people aren’t doing albums as much, 32 Headliner
certainly not to begin with,” he says. “It’s single, single, EP, mix tape. Then, later on in their career, they will be more likely to go down the album route.” Through Krept & Konan, ADP met South London rapper, Yungen, which led to more high-end production work: “I did his Black and Red project/mix tape, which led to him signing a deal with RCA, and then I did all his singles after that; he’s been a big part of my career journey, and still is. I also did a lot on Project Purple that he just dropped - and I mixed it as well. Yungen and Krept & Konan were the main two in terms of pivotal points in my career, I would say.” And then the phone started to ring. A lot. “Yeah, I think people saw that I was doing full projects for artists, not just one-offs – doing ‘start to end’ showed how involved in the whole process I actually am, I think.” Dua Lipa and Chris Brown are two other huge names that appear on ADP’s musical resume. “The Dua thing was me and songwriter, Andrew Jackson; we got in, wrote a song, and at the time, he and Dua were represented by the same management,” ADP reveals. “And they heard it – and loved it. So we got her to cut it a couple of times, and we had it perfect. She was performing the track, Want To, on tour, and everyone went crazy for it. It didn’t end up going on the original album release, but it got synced with Jaguar with their E-Pace car, so got released as a single, and now it’s on the Complete Edition Deluxe. It came organically, really, which was nice.” As did his work with Chris Brown: “Yeah, me and a mate of mine worked on this project - he was in with Chris’s team
through some of his LA connections. So we put together four or five songs for him, and sent them through. The first two we made, they came back to us on the same day asking us to send an instrumental, as Chris was going to cut them there and then! Now, he cuts a lot of songs in a day, so there were no guarantees, but a year later, we’re still on the project - and that was amazing. This was just through the writer’s connections.”
THE LONDON SCENE
The music scene in L.A. is arguably as good as it’s ever been – but what does ADP think of the current scene in London, and its young talented creatives? “I mean, it is all so accessible now; I see a lot of new producers on Instagram, and they’ll just make beats and tag the artist in their story, or their post, and then people just see it and like it; and then the producer starts getting songs with these people, and they’re getting released, and getting names for themselves,” he says. “But when I started, it wasn’t like that at all. You had to position yourself in certain rooms and circles to build a relationship, and get your stuff heard; just hang around, and someone might say, ‘oh, what are you working on?’ And I’d be like, ‘here you go’, and I’d play something. But now it’s great due to the accessibility of it all. Amazing, really. Just put something out there, tag them, and they’ll hear it.” As ADP goes to pull up a recent mix, I spot a pair of Pioneer DJ decks. I ask if he still incorporates them into his production. “You know, not for a long time,” he says. “But the last time I did, it was a Krept & Konan song called Gangsta Party – a west coast, old school, bbq summer song. I chopped Krept’s vocal, put it into Serrato, scratched it in, and stuffed it
“The Dua Lipa track I made three and a half years before it was released, but it sits nicely on the album, and is still very ‘now’...” into the beat – but that was last time I did it [smiles].” Although projects-a-plenty go on within the walls of ADP’s studio, the one project he is always thinking about is his own: “It’s always in the back of my head. I never plan to make songs for myself, as it never works - it’s better just to let stuff happen. Then I might go, ‘ah, that might work for me’. But that is what I am most excited about. Though I just came back from doing stuff for Pharrell’s new project the other day, which was super cool. “To even have the opportunity to be there with the other guys who were in the room was insane: Poo Bear, Murder Beatz, Boi 1da, London On Da Track, and little old me, the English guy! [laughs]” Joking aside, ADP eventually acknowledges that it’s quite an achievement to even be considered at that level. So what about a current day in the life of ADP, when it doesn’t involve flying out to Pharrell’s pad in L.A.? “[laughs] I just listen to music, go through samples or loop ideas I find online, or just start playing, and see what sticks,” ADP explains. “I don’t have a lot of free time to make beats anymore, because I am doing a lot of additional production and mixing - but it varies day to day. I still make beats in the session, but I don’t have time to sit and make them, which I miss, actually. But I love finishing people’s songs, as it’s always an opportunity for me - and I love mixing, too.”
As ADP plays one of his recent mixes, the impact and complexity of his beatmaking is clear to see (and hear). He offers a few little mix techniques.
“I like to use parallel compression on my drums to give it that extra pop; and I will normally group the percussion – anything in the same frequency range, really. I will mix, then sub-mix, just to make life a bit easier,” ADP reveals. I ask if he mixes as he goes. He does. “Yeah, never from scratch; my rough bounces are always pretty close [to masters]. I do all my drum programming in FL, which for me, slaps way harder than anything else – then I just bring it back into my main DAW to mix.” ADP’s main monitors are Adam Audio S3XVs linked to an Adam Sub12 for low-end reinforcement. It’s loud in here, I can tell you. “They are set up horizontal right now, for the room shape, and they sound great; I am very happy with them,” ADP says. “I don’t get any fatigue when I use them, and I do a lot of long sessions in here, so that’s important to me; and when the Sub12 is hooked up to my mains, that’s when the room really shakes..! [smiles]”
I was younger, then I quit, as I wanted to play football - which I was rubbish at! But yeah, the other day I recorded my first ever song on a grand piano, live, with a singer, in free time. I played, she sang; it was amazing, actually. Sounded fantastic.” Yet another string to the ADP bow. So finally - 2019 and beyond: any artists or musical trends we should be looking out for? “The London scene is popping now, especially the urban scene,” concludes ADP. “The UK drill scene is now crazy popular, with tracks going top 10, top five, even number one – so that’s definitely something to keep an eye on.”
I ask ADP if he has to be ahead of the game, so to speak, from a production perspective, bearing in mind that many label schedules result in releases taking a year or more to see the light of day once they’re recorded. “You know what, I listen back to some of my year old mixes, and they still sound new to me; no one knows they were made back then,” he reflects. “The Dua Lipa track I made three and a half years before it was released, but it sits nicely on the album, and is still very ‘now’. So yeah, maybe a bit of out of the box thinking does help, sometimes.” And ADP has been turning his hand to piano recently, too – should we be surprised? “[laughs] Well, I learned to play piano when 33 Headliner
Looking After Your Ears
LOOKING AFTER YOUR EARS ON STAGE In-ear monitors have been around for some time, but now they have become a staple for all creatives that take to a live stage. Like anything, systems range in quality, but principly, artists of all levels are focusing on getting their live mixes as good as they possibly can using IEMs. It’s great for the industry, great for the engineers, who have quieter stages to work with, and most of all, it’s really great for the ears. In-ear monitors are critical components in modern touring and production systems for both the artist and the engineer. There are countless advantages over traditional stage wedges including lower, safer stage volumes. This, in turn, results in superior audio clarity, and ultimately a better performance from the artist - and that’s before we even consider many of the other advantages, least of all not having to lug heavy speakers onto the stage, and battling with feedback issues. Swapping from wedges to in-ears initially brings a number of challenges for artists and the engineer, but it pays off in the long run. For the artist, switching from a loud stage environment to essentially hearing everything inside your head can feel odd to start with, but when you consider the huge benefit that comes with having your own, personalised mix sent directly to you, it’s worth persevering. To get an idea of just how much it pays off, we chat to some talented session/touring
musicians who are working night after night, often in multiple bands, to make a living out of the music industry. All of them have made the transition from wedges to IEMs. Listen Up James Smithells is a guitarist, keys player, and vocalist for a string of artists performing on the circuit today: George Ogilvie, Marius Bear, and Caitlyn Scarlett, to name a few. “The ability to protect your hearing from surging dynamics by working at safe volumes that you choose is a life saver,” he says. “Without them, I wouldn’t really know where to begin in terms of preparing for any live show. The ability to hear the mix that you want, without any bleed, was once a dream, but now seems to be the professionally standard way of achieving the perfect on stage sound for any level of performing musician.” Singer-songwriter, guitarist, and groovemeister general, Lucy Lu (pic below),
has made quite a name for himself on the South London jazz scene. He too says he couldn’t play a show without his IEM setup. “As a vocalist, it’s so easy to over throw your voice when trying to hear yourself in the on stage mix when using wedges,” he says. “The moment I changed to using IEMs, I noticed the general stamina of my voice increased, which meant I could sing for longer, and play more shows, day after day. “I’ve known too many singers on the grassroots circuit that have suffered from voice issues after two or three shows simply from not being able to hear themselves, and having to push to get above the on stage audio bleed. With IEMs, you have clarity; and the ability to raise the vocals in your mix, and lower the levels of other instruments. The noise cancelling effect also stops any kind of pitching confusion.” As well as the practicality on stage of using IEMs, the portability is also something
Looking After Your Ears
“The best part about using in-ears is that you can hear everything that’s happening, which is a real treat, especially when you’re keeping the cymbals splashy...” to think about, according to accomplished session drummer, James Trood (pic above), who works with Alunageorge, Ben Khan, and VC Pines. Trood is also a frequent MD for bands. “Being able to transport your perfect on stage sound mix in your pocket relieves artists of a load of stress and worry over achieving the right sound on the night,” he insists. “And the best part about using in ears - other than the fact they stop you going deaf - is that you can hear everything that’s happening on stage. This is a real treat, as usually on stage you can’t hear a thing. Especially when you’re keeping the cymbals splashy.” Said as only a drummer can. But these are all valid points, and it’s good to see the young creatives investing their time and [very] hard earned cash into IEMs. On the audio engineer’s side, getting to grips with running a wireless in-ear rig requires a new set of skills - particularly given the ever-changing RF (Radio Frequency) landscape, and continuous clearance of
spectrum. One company keen to keep on top of this is Shure. “We’re continuously working to improve the experience for artists and engineers by upgrading and developing new in-ear technology,” explains Shure’s Stuart Moots. “For example, our new bodypack receivers for the [Shure] PSM1000 and PSM900 in-ear systems now feature a brand new digital processing circuit that works to provide higher quality audio over RF, with improved stereo separation, greater dynamic range, and better signal-to-noise ratio. On the RF side specifically, the signal stability is improved, with greater protection against drop-outs.” One professional who’s dedicated her working life to the human ear is Jenna Paley, owner of Project Decibel, a company which fits IEM moulds, carries out hearing tests, and is striving to form partnerships with leading music industry organisations to make hearing wellness more accessible and more affordable. “As an audio doctor, my main concern is hearing loss prevention. That being said, I also
do a lot of IEM fittings; in-ear monitors aren’t inherently hearing protection devices because they too can get dangerously loud, and you have the ability to turn them up just as loud as you would a floor monitor,” she explains. “However, if worn properly, they definitely give you the best opportunity to protect your hearing by blocking out stage noise, allowing you to keep your monitor mix low. I highly recommend them for all performers, and anyone who is on stage. “In addition to working with MusiCares, a Recording Academy organisation, we recently finalised a partnership with BMI, an extraordinary music rights organisation. It’s partnerships like these that allow us to reach more people, and provide more on-site hearing tests, wax removal, and ear mould impressions for custom earplugs to those who otherwise would not be able to access it.” To find out more, check out the links below. www.shure.com www.project-decibel.com
Merging Technologies has launched what it believes is its most unique audio product of all time: a single device with multiple workflows, which is part of the musical journey from initial recording to final master. Headliner investigates...
nubis is so unusual, Merging claims, that it’s a genuine one of a kind; it incorporates analogue and digital audio, networked audio, and DSP/FPGA technology into one neat, and very smart, package. So what is it, exactly? A lot of things: a monitor controller that also controls your network; a music recording hub that allows you to network, for example, a whole band or orchestra; and a low-latency mixer and processor with super high-res audio. Merging highlights Anubis’ talent through a series of missions. For example, if your mission today is to create a great mix, you’ll need full control of your monitoring: that might be reference monitors, nearfields, headphones, sources, a surround mix, a downmix, perhaps – you get the picture. Anubis gives the user that ‘mission control’ in a single, compact device.
MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK
But Anubis is also modular - Merging has been pretty forward thinking in its design, so the user’s investment is protected - or future-proofed, if you like. So what you buy today will only evolve. For example, today, it’s a control room or an on-location monitor controller, tomorrow a music studio or live event interface, and the day after, it could be something else that allows you to succeed in your ‘mission’. Booting up between missions completely changes the user interface, and the function of Anubis; and plugins will be released to aid whatever workflow is required. And it’s not just in-the-box features that Anubis offers; it also allows for expanding its capabilities to any other RAVENNA/AES67 devices on the network: from stereo to 22.2 monitoring, from a four-piece rock band to a full symphony orchestra, Anubis essentially puts you in control of any situation, whether you’re right next to your equipment, or literally miles away, directly from its touch screen or via tablet or laptop through its built-in web server. Anubis has tardis-like qualities – it appears small, but it’s giant inside. Via its touch screen, you have access and control of the I/Os from any other Merging device on the network, and this extends it enormously. Pairing these
other devices allows Anubis to extend its I/O as if they were built-in. In other words, massive capabilities. With its internal DSP, Anubis can actually manage as many as 256 x 256 signal paths, and if you need to go bigger, or create a more complex RAVENNA/AES67 network configuration, involving devices from other vendors, DAWs, consoles, or several Anubis units linked together, Anubis integrates into existing ANEMAN controlled ecosystems very easily. ANEMAN unlocks the huge potential of a large network with an intuitive and powerful user interface.
Anubis boats a pretty outstanding A/D performance with a dynamic range of 139dB, and some very nice mic pres; and Merging’s D/A technology is transparent, and sonically accurate. And there are Anubus variants: Anubis Pro, which offers 192kHz performance; and in true Merging fashion, if your ‘mission’ is working in true high-res audio, Anubis Premium, which offers 384kHz and DXD plus DSD flavours up to 256. Can’t go much higher than that! Furthermore, the headphone circuit is something Merging has invested great efforts in designing, and the company insists it’s the best ever headphone preamp it has built, offering users the precision needed to evaluate a mix whatever the sample rate. The Anubis interface has two analogue high quality combo connectors, and an additional two front line/ instrument analogue inputs. On the output side, you get two gold plated XLR, and two TRS jacks; and there are two independent stereo headphone jacks. Finally, there is also MIDI I/O or GPIO and the all-important AES67/ RAVENNA connector. In launching Anubis, Merging are certainly making a statement, and it that will undoubtedly raise an eyebrow or two in the audio industry – it’s an extreme high-res audio solution for a string of applications, that you can easily fit in your backpack. Look out for our review of Anubis in the next episode of the Headliner Hub. www.merging.com
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KATE NASH: UNMISTAKABLE GLOW From Nando’s waitress, to BRIT Award-winner, to landing a leading role in the hugely successful Netflix series, GLOW. Harrow-born Kate Nash is going from strength to strength, and we also mean that in a physical sense, with Kate reprising her role as Rhonda ‘Britannica’ Richardson, a wrestler in the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling circuit. It may sound like a long stay at the top, but there’s been a fair amount of adversity thrown into the mix since the roaring success of her debut, Made of Bricks. Kate parted ways with major label, Universal, following her sophomore record, My Best Friend Is You, leaving her to reinvent herself as an independent artist. But in hindsight, it’s difficult to see how she ever fit into the increasingly outdated major label-artist mould: she’s always switched up the genres in her songs without warning, is an outspoken activist on LGBT and women’s rights; and, of course, refuses to sing in any accent besides her North-West London mother tongue. Which would go some way towards explaining why she’s adapted so well to being free from Universal. Last year, her crowdfunding campaign for her most recent album, Yesterday Was Forever, raised $155,412 on Kickstarter (more than double the $70,000 goal). With the singer originally looking to pursue acting back when she attended the
prestigious BRIT School, it does appear that landing a part in GLOW has had an all-round galvanising effect. Kate is out walking her dog in California while we chat on the phone. “We’re filming season three of GLOW at the moment,” she says, still unmistakably a Londoner, despite her burgeoning Hollywood career. “It’s a really fun season, and it feels like we’re really getting to the depths of the show now!” I ask Kate how much time her GLOW commitments are taking up. “It takes up about half the year - so it’s a case of figuring out what I can do in the free time I do get.” It’s great to hear that, even though music is no longer her full-time gig, Kate is very happy to be doing both pursuits.
“It’s actually brought a lot of balance to everything,” she reflects. “And it’s nice that everything doesn’t revolve around touring now. I’m lucky to have the fanbase that I do, and that I’m not so co-dependent on one thing.” The GLOW cast got the chance to be trained by WWE legend, Chavo Guerrero. If you are/were a follower of World Wrestling Entertainment, you may remember Chavo as part of Los Guerreros with his uncle, Eddie Guerrero, whose slogan was: ‘We lie! We cheat! We steal!’ (which, in hindsight, slightly feeds into the hands of Mexico-phobe Donald Trump). “Chavo is a legend, wrestling icon, from a family of legends,” Kate laughs. “Such an amazing learning experience, and also about the culture of wrestling, as well.”
“The confident facade of success can get exhausting; it’s not always successful, it’s difficult and challenging...” And on top of her foray into the world of the spandex and suplex, Kate has been doing another kind of trash-talking; she kicked off 2019 with a single that tackles plastic pollution, the punktastic Trash. “I was asked to take part in an exhibition by Athena Pagington, the makeup artist,” Kate tells me. “She had given artists a certain number of days to collect their single-use plastic, and make something out of it, and I got two weeks. For the Kickstarter campaign for Yesterday Was Forever, quite a few people ordered signed copies, and I was tearing off all this plastic — it was such a waste! It made me so hyper-aware of my plastic usage, because I wasn’t throwing any of it away. I couldn’t believe the amount I accumulated in two weeks, as one person! “I was talking to people in Arizona who were making experimental vinyls, and I thought it would be cool to make the trash from my music into more music somehow. I ended up making records out of epoxy resin, with plastic that had been cut into tiny pieces, and set in the resin. It’s really inspired me to go down a more environmental route with my music.”
Both the song and its accompanying music video have a strong ‘90s MTV, punk aesthetic. A pleasingly nostalgic VHS style in the visuals sets Kate against a green screen of the dreadful landfills that the song is referencing. But not directly: ‘impure toxic devotion runs through me like a plastic ocean.’ “I wanted to use double meanings, and make it relatable, making it also about the toxic relationships I’ve had,” Kate reveals. Perhaps surprisingly, though, Kate takes issue with the language of ‘save the planet’, as she sees climate change as more damaging to ourselves, the human race, rather than our home. “I don’t really think the planet needs to be saved,” she explains. “I think we’ll all die, and then the planet will replenish itself. It’s more a case of the temperatures becoming inhospitable for us.” It’s an interesting idea that I’ve heard before, that climate change is more of a danger to us as a species; once the danger (us) is reduced in terms of population, Earth can return to being a luscious, green utopia. “I also feel like ‘save the planet’ is a bit too grand for people to relate too,” Kate says. “It’s
a bit of a huge thing for people to get their head around, and you feel too small. That phrase isn’t helpful; it validates the attitude of a problem being too big for an individual to feel they can make a difference. It’s more important for people to see what they’re doing as a consumer. We need to avoid getting into a situation where everyone’s fucked… Well, perhaps the rich people will all be in special pods! [laughs]” It will be most exciting indeed to see where this activism takes her between now and June 30th, which will see her performing at Community Festival in London, alongside The Kooks and Blossoms. In the meantime, Trash is available to stream and download now. And don’t miss her rapping and bodyslamming in the excellent GLOW, streaming now on Netflix. And the beauty is, all these options are zero-waste! www.katenash.com @katenash
Dissolving Time & Reality
GRIZ: DISSOLVING TIME & REALITY If there’s one man who represents the strength of the people of Detroit, America’s poorest city, it’s GRiZ. A producer, songwriter, and saxophonist who blends huge beats with huge horns. With new album, Ride Waves, released last month, I speak to this exciting artist about his latest record and its features which include Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa. Also, the all-important studio elements that went into the album, and how he leverages his success to lift his community. Words Adam Protz “This album was like writing a book,” GRiZ tells me, from his home studio in Denver, Colorado. “I wanted to write a narrative. But at the same time, I wanted to freestyle, no holds barred. Just to freak out with no rules!” GRiZ, real name Grant Kwiecinski, was born and raised in Southfield, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. The city famously became the largest US city to file for bankruptcy in 2013, and a swathe of buildings were left derelict and abandoned. However, recent years has seen some wonderful regeneration, particularly in old theatres and music venues. So, despite being born in a city that has endured struggle, GRiZ joins the rich heritage of Detroit’s musical legacy, a very important place in genres spanning Motown, techno, jazz, hip hop, and rock. He took up the alto sax (the planting of a very important seed) and piano in elementary school, and later dropped out of Michigan State University to focus on his burgeoning
music career, where he had been a regular DJ at parties. First album, End Of The World Party, was released for free in 2011, and saw him begin supporting such acts as Bassnectar and Pretty Lights. So with that new record on the way, we first deal with the star-studded features GRiZ had along for the ride. “One was Bootsy Collins, who, if you don’t know, is one of the ultimate funk legends,” GRiZ says. “In fact, without him, funk music might not exist in the same way.” He’s not wrong - Collins rose to fame with James Brown in the early ‘70s, and later as a member of Parliament-Funkadelic. “We also had Wiz Khalifa feature,” GRiZ continues. “That one turned out really great we had some gospel choir on there. He doesn’t rap about weed at all on the song, which is crazy for Wiz Khalifa! It was a little different for him, and really tested his writing ability; he did a great job elevating the song.”
However, a big-beats dance record with hip hop collaborators shouldn’t have you thinking this is an all-out, glass-clinking party album. “There are certain songs on the record that play into depression and anxiety,” GRiZ says. “It’s important for me to shed light on, and work through those emotions, and honour them in a constructive way. These tracks are hopefully safe places to have catharsis and emotional release from those feelings. But I do try balancing into the positive realm as much as possible, and I’d say most of these tracks are found there.” That’s certainly true on the politicallytinged single, A New Day. GRiZ’s trademark dance sound blends with reggae verses from Matisyahu. It’s unquestionably a serious foot-stomper with an uplifting chorus, despite being about street violence. I ask GRiZ if he sees any strong links between his background as a jazz saxophonist, and producing - is he able to bring a virtuosic
Dissolving Time & Reality
“The confident facade of success can get exhausting; it’s not always successful, it’s difficult and challenging...” approach to it? Is it possible to achieve that ‘flow state’ that jazz musicians clearly tap into when they completely lose themselves in an improvised solo? “Definitely,” he responds. “That flow state of performance on an instrument; it’s like a deep state of meditation, in a way. Your brain waves connect to the tempo and melody. I definitely find that space.” Studio Vibes So with that being said, I quiz GRiZ on which parts of his studio help him in his quest to dissolve time and reality. “I’m working on Kii Three monitors, which have four subwoofer cones, which is crazy! I also have my Apollo Quad Duo from Universal Audio, and I use a lot of their plugins, because they’re amazing. When I’m working with saxophone, I really enjoy using the Multiband Compressor from FabFilter. Awesome, especially for dealing with high frequencies, and as an editing tool. I really like using tape saturators to give it a little more grit, also.” Little surprise that plugin maestros, Waves,
come up in conversation, also. “Waves are awesome,” GRiZ says. “Especially on the road, as they don’t tax my computer too much. Things like the CLA2A, or the CLA Silver Bundle - I use those a lot, a lot, a lot! [smiles] For a quick vocal reference, the CLA Vocal plugin styles out the vocals and widens them - and it really works. If I want to saturate the vocals with sax, and see how it all sits in the track, that plugin really helps me to go for it. So these days, I definitely am using Waves a lot.” On top of all this, GRiZ has achieved some staggering things for charity. He’s raised $200,000 in the last four years, with a large portion of that going into Detroitbased projects. Several of these are music education based; he’s very keen to make sure kids in Michigan, who are facing their music departments being heavily cut, get access to music, just as he did. It goes without saying, he wouldn’t be GRiZ, had it not been for taking up sax and piano as a child. A global charity he works with is It Gets Better, which works to support young LGBTQ communities.
So knowing that GRiZ is clearly set on doing everything within his power to lift communities up in Detroit, my final question is how the city has influenced his music. “I mean, it has such a long lineage of soul, funk, and R&B music,” he says. “So much of that originated in, and was championed by the city of Detroit. It’s one of the reasons I’m so into the Motown sound. “But I think more so, the spirit of people who have been around the city has been the biggest influence. There’s a spirit of resilience, that is the heart and soul of the music you hear in the GRiZ project, and the main driving factor in Detroit musicians. “This resilience to struggle, and inspiration that comes from a city that has seen so much success and failure - it gives you this drive, and the ability to see potential in things. That’s the Detroit attitude.” www.mynameisgriz.com www.waves.com @griz
40-45 The Musical
Musical theatre is always a challenge from an audio perspective: plenty of cues, a ton of I/O, masses of RF, and lots of bodies on stage. But here’s the thing: 40-45 isn’t showing in a theatre. Equally, there is no stage or PA system. Instead, this unique production is set in a bespoke, expansive pop-up just outside of Brussels with a 70m-wide blank canvas area, where the 1,600-strong audience, like the show’s 50 cast members, is constantly moving – and listening entirely on headphones. Words Paul Watson
his is musical theatre with a twist, and some. 40-45 is a story of love and loss, centring around a family torn by religion and war during the German invasion of Antwerp in 1940. The ever-changing set (there are about 15 main scenes) is brought to life – and, at times, death - by a series of stunning LED screens, which act as glorious, harrowing, and exciting backdrops: there are RAF Spitfires, German motorbikes, resistance shoot-outs, and celebratory drinks in a Belgian bar. It’s the height of true interactivity. 40-45 provides an immersive experience from start to finish, where the audio quite literally moves around your head, and the audience quite literally rolls about in tribunes of 200 at a time, each tribune moving individually, with the occasional low-end rumble coming from down below courtesy of three subwoofers. At the core of the audio is a DiGiCo SD7T console with expander, running Quantum 7. “No other console on the market could handle this show; the automation system, and the functionality of the DiGiCo Theatre software is worlds apart from the competition,” says sound operator for tonight’s show, Igor Dockx, from the technical area, which houses the DiGiCo setup. “It’s so much more capable, way easier to program, and more forgiving; and it allows you to make changes in real-time over multiple cues, which is a necessity here.” There are always 20 to 25 actors ‘on stage’ at any one point – sometimes more – and many of these are singing, too. As a result, the SD7T expander is wholly dedicated to the 25-piece choir, with the main SD7T controlling the rest of the show. “The idea is that the audience uses headphones, and the cast uses IEMs; the principles have a stereo mix each, and the choir members share a number of mixes, all of which are mono,” reveals Pieter Doms, 40-45’s main sound operator. “We are using all of the busses on the SD7T, so we’re running 140 channels total, and utilising 190 snapshots, as each show needs to be pretty much identical to the last. We then have 32 stereo mixes, and 33 mono auxes; we use at least one band of EQ on all of the principle cast members as a dynamic band to duck down [around the 3k mark] when they get really aggressive.” The audio distribution system – designed by Amptec was manufactured as OEM by Glensound: 800 bespoke headphone boxes, each with a built-in preamp, and 100% wireless; a stereo mix is sent to the receivers located on each audience tribune, and from there, audio is distributed to the
Amptec dual-boxes, located between the audience seats. “There are 1,600 sets of headphones in use, all of which are tested before every performance, and we have a 50-strong crew,” says Doms. “Because there are three official languages in Belgium, a live translator will often be brought in, and we can patch that audio direct to each and every seat if we need to thanks to the way the headphone system has been designed. It’s very flexible, and the headphone panning will always be accurate, depending on where your seat ends up in the arena.”
QUANTUM OF SOLACE
What’s been a complete lifesaver for 40-45 is DiGiCo’s Quantum 7 engine. Thomas van Hoepen, who designed the show alongside Marc Luyckx, says efficiency was of paramount importance, and without Quantum, it simply wouldn’t have been doable. “We tried making a show setup on an SD7, and ran out of channels quickly, especially due to all the Waves plugins we run via the Waves SoundGrid server,” van Hoepen explains. “Productions are getting bigger and bigger, and people want more and more; and shows like 40-45 are just the beginning of what productions are going to be in the future. You want people to have a musical experience, and that’s what we have been able to achieve. Suddenly, we’re not restricted anymore; our creative minds can go wider, as the desk now allows you to go wherever you want with the mix thanks to Quantum.” And gone are the days of limitations in terms of how an operator can use compression and EQ from the SD7, adds Igor Dockx: “If you wanted one actor to benefit from compression, then they all had to use the same compression – it was a general thing. Now with Quantum you can really choose per aux send, individually, who is listening to what; this is nodal processing, which is extremely powerful, so much more convenient, and totally versatile.” The DiGiCo console is running at 96kHz, over an Optocore loop. “We are using two Optocore DD4MR-FX engines running in parallel, with the second unit running as a backup. It is a very reliable transportation system, and its main advantage is that it’s not a network system, nor is it IP; it is a proprietary, plug-and-play system which, when configured once, will go on forever,” Pieter Doms explains. “We run it in a loop so that in a worst case scenario, if one cable breaks, all the audio can go everywhere; the loop is
Headliner 02 43 Headliner
“Shows like 40-45 are just the beginning of what productions are going to be in the future; you want people to have a musical experience, and that’s what we’ve been able to achieve...” not closed anymore, but will still provide full functionality. You’re not dealing with IP, and you can set the Optocore system up in the desk, too, which is such a huge advantage. It’s the core of the system, basically.”
The musical part of the show is coming from a pre-recorded orchestra, played back on a QLab system. A conductor, who triggers the QLab, conducts live for the singers, who can see him on the screens. Two QLab systems are running in parallel at all times: one for audio (A), and one for backup (B). The QLab is playing out audio, which is coming out on a Waves SoundGrid system, and being converted to standard MADI on a DiGiGrid MGB. The DiGiGrid then feeds the MADI into an Optocore DD4MR-FX, which is converting the BNC MADI to optical MADI, and the optical MADI is being added to all the other optical signals in the loop. “So the QLab A and B [engines] are both available on the Optocore loop,” summarises Pieter Doms. “We have a number of macros, and everything in the building is redundant, so if something fails, one button cures it – it’s perfect redundancy throughout. And again, like the mics and actors, we try to stay digital from the source up to the console with no analogue conversions in between. All the cues are recalled from timecode via the QLab system, and the cues are opening all relevant channels at the right time, which means as operators, we are able to keep mixing and balancing every detail, since every dB can be heard on headphones.” There are a number of challenges for this production, but the biggest is undoubtedly 44 Headliner
the fact everyone is experiencing the show on headphones, which means there is no sensation of acoustics - unless you have a Klang system. “We use the Klang system for the audience instead of the actors. It was important to create a listening experience; this to give the audience a feeling of normality while wearing headphones,” Thomas van Hoepen explains. “Listening to headphones is one thing, but experiencing the feel of a musical is something totally different, so we had to somehow create a space for the listener. Klang allows you to have a distinction between front and back, and around your head.” 40-45 is putting on 10 or more sell-out shows each week - a great result for any new musical. But according to van Hoepen, keeping the whole cast happy is an even greater achievement: “Because of the nodal processing, we can give each cast member exactly what they want, and keep in mind we have 140 player settings in the desk for all the cast roles, which changes every show. Furthermore, you have to keep those people satisfied with the mix you give them every time - and some people at first do an ensemble role, then on the next show they’re a principle role. So seeing them content the whole time is quite something.” As a DiGiCo distributor, Amptec has been in contact with van Hoepen and Marc Luyckx for some time about the possibility of using an SD7 Quantum for 40-45; and as the configuration of the show started to become clear, the possiblity of using Quantum became more concrete. “The ability to run the show on one surface during production, while at the same time having the ability to program the show
with two engineers was one of the most important criteria for choosing Quantum,” declares Amptec’s David Liebens. “Because the technology is very new, DiGiCo, Amptec, and Pieter Begaerd’s company, Studio Haifax, who own the consoles, worked closely together to ensure that the sound engineers were able to program and configure the show smoothly.” Before 40-45, my only real experience of a headphone-only event had been an elaborate silent disco at a music festival, which was more comical than anything else. This, however, was something special. After a couple of scenes, I genuinely forgot that I had headphones on – the cans were comfortable, clear, and rich in low end, complemented by Amptec’s very nicely designed preamp; and the immersive mix translated all the emotions with quite extraordinary precision. Credit to the sound team from the ground up for capturing everything so well: from the intimate moments to the fraught ones; the nosedive of a Spitfire, to the fragile sound of a solo cellist. Quite incredible; and for me, uniquely immersive. The audio seemed to fill my headspace, and the reverbs felt otherworldly; as I moved, so did the audio, every time. I can’t recommend this production enough – if you’re anywhere near Brussels anytime soon, and are fortunate enough to be able to get hold of tickets, do not miss this show, at any cost. www.digico.biz www.amptec.be www.optocore.com www.digigrid.net www.waves.com www.40-45.live
â&#x20AC;&#x153;I explored every option, but time and again found myself pulled back towards the sound of the Horusâ&#x20AC;? Jack Ruston, MPG Breakthrough Engineer Nominee
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Be More Kind Tour
ON TOUR WITH FRANK TURNER Frank Turner began his career as the vocalist of post-hardcore band, Million Dead, and when the band split in 2005, he embarked on a primarily acoustic-based solo career, which has seen him evolve to global star status. Headliner goes backstage during the UK leg of his ongoing Be More Kind world tour, to see what production values are making this show tick for the British punk folk singer-songwriter. Photographs Steve Sroka Be More Kind is Frank Turner’s seventh studio album, and was released in May 2018. Since then, he’s been touring the record, with Adlib Audio at the helm from a production persepective, providing crew, video kit, and a full audio package. System tech for this tour is James Coghlan, who’s been working with Adlib’s Alan Harrison to ensure that Turner’s front of house and monitor engineers, Luke Buckbee and Johnny Stephenson respectively, have everything they could possibly need. Coghlan had completed a short run with Turner and co. earlier back in 2018, where Adlib supplied a Coda Audio AiRAY system for some club and academy shows
which didn’t have access to a house PA. It was Buckbee that took a particular shine to the Coda system at the time, which was the reason it was deployed once again for this more sizeable arena run. The sound system comprised of AiRAY and ViRAY boxes, supplemented with flown S2-F low frequency extensions, and a broadside array of eight stacks of Coda SCP-F subs on the floor to provide a balanced low end coverage. In addition, three Coda APS speakers per side were used as infills, with four HOPS8s brough in as front fills. The Coda system works, not only because the boxes are small and very lightweight, but for their sonic
quality, and even coverage, according to the team. This proved ideal for the smaller theatres and rooms that the band performed at during 2018 - especially as weight loadings and truck space in general was limited - and it has translated perfectly to these larger venues. The Coda Rig The standard set up consists of 12 x AiRAY and four ViRAY downfills for the main hangs, plus eight AiRAY and four ViRAY for side hangs. Furthermore, six SC2-Fs per side are flown behind the main arrays. The AiRAY was toured with the 90-degree AiCOUPLER waveguide, and ViRAY with the 120-degree ViCOUPLER waveguides.
Be More Kind Tour
“The Coda system works, not only because the boxes are very small and lightweight; it’s also the overall sonic quality, and even coverage...” ViRAY was positioned beneath the main hangs as downfill for its increased horizontal dispersion to help cover the front rows; and in London, at the Alexandra Palace show - a long, and pretty tricky space, acoustically they did away with the side hangs, in favour of ViRAY in small ground stacks to fill the sides, and then flew the AiRAY boxes as two delay hangs, which worked out very nicely. Total Control An Adlib fibre control system is at the core, with Dante as the main protocol between front of house and stage; and the fibre network also carries signal to control the amplifiers. An Outline Newton is utilised as the master console matrix, which took in analogue and AES from front of house. The outputs from the Newton then feed a Lake control system, which feeds the amps with both
LiNET, and an analogue backup. There are 12 x Linus14 amps and 25 x Linus10s in total on this show, all connected to a Mac Mini at front of house, running Linus Live to control the amplifiers. With Turner’s hectic live show schedule, the band provides their own consoles – a Midas PRO2C for front of house, and a DiGiCo SD9 for monitors, with Adlib supplying the racks-and-stacks, control, crew, and their technical and creative fine-tuning skills. From an audio perspective, the tour has been very straightforward so far: “I knew that any small question I might have would have already been considered and sorted,” declares Coghlan. “And it’s that attention to detail and thoroughness that makes everything exceptionally smooth.”
Infinity & Beyond
JOEP BEVING: INFINITY & BEYOND Dutch piano composer, Joep Beving, makes me feel tiny as he approaches and shakes my hand, and I’m 6’ 3”. But I quickly learn this is a gentle giant, who at the time of writing is preparing to release his third, more electronic record, Henosis. It’s music that is very much resonating with fans — his streams have surpassed 100 million, he’s been picked up by classical giants Deutsche Grammophon, and he performed at Burning Man Festival last year. We’re speaking the day after his headline show at EartH in Hackney, London. Words Adam Protz “I’d always had an interest in music, and always played it,” opens Beving. “But at one point, I had to find a job! [laughs] I had a career where there was no time for music, or to create. It led to me feeling completely disconnected from the people around me, and what I was doing. “So I basically had no option other than to go to the piano that was in my house. They were like meditation sessions on the piano. With the piano, things felt right again, and I began feeling connected again. And at one point, I thought I’d do a record. But just for myself, my friends, and family. Just to have it out of my system.” Beving is treating Henosis as the third album in his trilogy. “Solipsism seemed to be a really good
title for that connection through music,” he explains. “When I did the second record, I kind of zoomed out from that very intimate place that I started in, wondering what that would look like on a philosophical level. “I’ve grown to realise there’s a spiritual undertone in that process. For me, that culminates in the end of this trilogy. Getting rid of the egos that we carry with us. Creating security, jealousy, greed, and fear, mostly. Henosis means ‘oneness’ [in Classical Greek)] - getting rid of all those ego thoughts, and giving into the moment.” I can certainly attest that listening to Beving’s contemplative music has brought about some deep relaxation. “I think the first two albums are there to create a little space in time that you step
into,” Beving says. “A definite calming down of stress and nerves, an antidote to global franticness.” Beving and I both glance out the window at London, one of the most notoriously frantic cities on the planet. “For the new album, I don’t know! I hope people will find the time to invest, and listen to the whole thing. It’s more of a journey, and a deep listening experience. I hope people will feel like they’re not there for the moment, and not have to think anything.” I quietly enjoy the fact that, despite seemingly achieving enlightenment through the piano, Beving is wondering why the pint of Amstel he ordered hasn’t yet materialised. Looking beyond his epic beard and hair, Beving is no hemp-wearing hippy, he’s a
Infinity & Beyond
“The recording of the Spitfire libraries is phenomenal; texture, the depth and warmth of the instruments...” down to earth guy. After this deep dive into the non-physical plane, Beving and I give ourselves a break, and discuss some of his favourite material goodies in his studio. “I just started using Spitfire Audio for this record,” he says. “Mainly for the string parts. The recording is so phenomenal — the woodwind section is your analogue synth dream. Everything is in there; texture, the depth and warmth of the instruments. I definitely use it for sketching, and a little bit in the actual recordings. “I have become a big fan of Spitfire, they are so quintessential to the genre now. For the strings, I have the Albion library. Actually, I recently bought the entire Albion range: Tundra, Uist, the lot of them! It’s very dangerous, because they sound so amazing! “We recorded strings in Babelsburg Studio (the oldest large-scale film studio in the world, in Berlin), which sounded incredible, and yet I still missed some of the sounds of the samples.” I ask Beving which interface was used for
Henosis, and I learn he’s been using RME for some time, a brand often favoured by touring artists because they are so small, yet powerful. It’s a great compliment that Beving, a classical composer, has one just for his studio. “For the album, I worked with an RME Fireface UCX,” he says. “But I’ve been using that one forever. I used it for a lot of the recordings on Prehension.” And with so many intricacies in his music, I’m keen to know which monitors Beving is working with. “My speakers are Genelecs,” he confirms. “I have the 8030A models. I used to work on them at my work, and I really liked the power that they pack. They have so much low end, so much depth. They sound great, which makes them dangerous - in a similar way to Spitfire! “With plugins, I don’t have any Soundtoys, but they were used very well at mix stage. FabFilter are also based in Amsterdam, and I use them quite a bit; the equalisers are fantastic, and their reverb saturation is phenomenal. Then, of course, there’s my Waves go-tos: I’m using a whole bunch of
them, including the Scheps equaliser, and many instances of the API for tape emulation! I’ve been using Waves for about three years now - the range of plugins within their offering is fantastic. I used to try and fix everything with Ozone and Native in Logic, but over the last few years, I’ve been investing in plugins, and really noticing the difference.” Beving and I wrap up our quantumphysical ramble so he and his manager can catch their flight back to Amsterdam. His words linger with me as I huddle on to a bus to go across London, packed out with commuters looking like they’ve had a long and stressful day. But just as potent as Beving’s words is his music for detaching yourself from stress. Be sure to check out his new album, Henosis, to create some space in a world that is sorely lacking it. www.spitfireaudio.com www.waves.com www.rme.com www.genelec.com
The Art Behind the Art
THE ART BEHIND THE ART NAD teamed up with artist, Melanie Keay, to celebrate the launch of the NAD M10 streaming amplifier. Melanie is an award-winning multi-disciplinary artist from Toronto, and has been drawing, painting, and designing to music for years as a way of quieting the mind, and focusing on her work. Melanie listens to Goodbye by Soul and Jazz artist, Paula Champion, to tap into her creativity, and bring it to life on the canvas. We speak to Paula about what music, technology, and art mean to her as an artist. You recently partnered with NAD... Yes, I am so grateful for the partnership with NAD Electronics. Their reputation precedes them, and it’s been a pleasure working with the team in their launch of the all new M10 Streaming Amplifier. It’s such a smart, sleek, and sexy concept! I am genuinely honoured to be associated with such a cutting edge brand. And the M10 amplifier has helped you to reproduce your music the way you intended it to be heard... Yes! It’s so very important for creatives to hear what they see in their mind’s eye, reproduced with such integrity to their craft. Expression is one thing, but communication is another; and hardware like the M10 Amplifier helps us communicate our expression precisely, and
stereophonically. I was taught to listen to mixes on various platforms prior to mastering. This way we can ensure that wherever it’s heard, that the weight or warmth of a moment in any given song is both heard and felt as eloquently as we expressed it. So this technology is responsible for displaying your work of art to your fans and listeners; how does that make you feel? Oh, my word! When I was first approached about the opportunity, I was excited, and truly grateful. However, when I finally received a sneak-peek of the trailer, I was humbled, and completely blown away. NAD just gets it, and it was so masterfully done! My art was displayed so organically on their platform, and
with all the feel. I shed a tear; a beautiful and happy tear. It felt like ‘breathing’. Which is what art should feel like. There was no seam between the technology of the M10, the artisan Melanie Keay, and the movement and emotion of Goodbye.We all shared the same space in harmony with one another. I couldn’t be more pleased and inspired. As an artist, is this something you think about when recording in the studio? Tell us about the journey your music goes on, from writing and production to listening. Absolutely! My process and approach to art is stillness. I like to feel, visualise, see. I like to centre, so that I can hear the frequencies and/
The Art Behind the Art
“My process and approach to art is stillness. I like to feel, visualise, see. I like to centre, so that I can hear the frequencies that inspire the melody of the next phrase...” or experiences that inspire the melody and/ or the next phrase. Whatever that is, however it comes out. Conversely, it’s all modified along the way. Yet, I have found that my first emotion is the organic one, and the win for the direction, emotion, melody, feeling, and phrasing to come.
a show. I am genuinely kind to the audio engineer, because I understand that they hold my voice in the palm of their hands during any given performance. For that reason, I always tell my musician friends, ‘please be nice to the audio engineer. They are truly your friend’ [laughs].
What does the connection between music, art, and tech mean to you? I have friends that are audio engineers, and they use a wide range of technology to fulfil the deadlines of many a-level artists and indies alike. The before and afters are pure magic. They are just as vital to the sound of the art as the artist themselves.That’s the power of technology! They use technology to massage the vocals and track so that the artists can truly communicate the message or vibe that they want the listener to experience. Even during
Goodbye is a beautiful track; what do you think about the way the artist interpreted your work? It’s so funny, because it is my most vulnerable expression to date, and I wrote it as a cathartic piece from a very real place. However, I paused when it came to putting it on the EP. When I mentioned that to the producer, Jalon Smith, he adamantly said, ‘Goodbye is the EP’, and the response has been overwhelming since the release. Having NAD select that song out of all five tracks, and watching the beauty and brilliance
of artisan, Melanie Keay, interpret Goodbye with such emotion and clarity in alignment with the piano, lyrics, and movement... Well, it felt like alchemy. It felt like I’d landed in this beautiful place that heard beyond the music, and into my soul. Isn’t that what all artists dream of? Melanie is a force! I would love to do a live show with her, and sing while she paints my soul happy. Again, I am completely grateful to the NAD team for pooling such brilliant strengths together to create such magic. www.nadelectronics.com @paula_champion
All In A Row
ALL IN A ROW @ SOUTHWARK PLAYHOUSE
Autism is a topic that perhaps isn’t conversed about in the mainstream as often as it should be, and with the cries of controversy that new play, All In A Row, has received, it’s perhaps understandable. Written by playwright, Alex Oates, who cared for autistic children for over 10 years as a social worker, it has been criticised for using a puppet as the autistic character in the play.
It’s evidence of a problem in society in which social issues are treated as taboo, and the criticisms of this play may frighten other writers from broaching the topic of autism in plays and other media for fears of backlash. This negativity aside, it’s been handled very well by Southwark Playhouse, the venue for this play, pointing out in a statement that some of the physicality of the role and the adult language within the play would have made this role inappropriate for a child actor, autistic or not. And one of its actors, Charlie Brooks, has wisely said that she hopes people will come and experience the play first hand before passing judgement, rather than sitting at home and being angry about it. Hear, hear. The main positive? All In A Row is an excellent play, and does a brilliant job as a conversation starter. Laurence, the non-verbal boy with autism who forms the centre of the story, at no point feels dehumanised by the theatrical tool of puppetry, which is largely thanks to the excellent puppeteering and voice acting from Hugh Purves, who worked on Solo: A Star Wars Story. That’s not the only stellar work here — Charlie Brooks (Eastenders, Wired) is Laurence’s mother, Tamora, and also a tech
entrepreneur whose income mostly comes from giving motivational talks, rather than shifting units. As we see in the play, she’s confident and assured in her public speaking, but needs several tall glasses of wine to cope at home. Martin, the father, is given a fantastic blend of dry wit, good nature, but an inclination towards passive-aggression by Simon Lipkin (Avenue Q, Rock of Ages). And caught up in it all is social worker, Gary, played by Michael Fox (Dunkirk, Downton Abbey). Fox, playing the young Gary who insists on wearing a beanie hat indoors, brings such empathy to this character who is torn between clearly caring deeply for Laurence and his wellbeing, but wanting to be a million miles away from the arguments and drama. Meanwhile, Lipkin brings a great comedy to Martin — but the challenging sense that while he’s all jokes on the surface, that this is a man being torn up on the inside. Similar from Brooks as Tamora, only she fully succeeds in putting forwards a woman who must wear a mask of confidence for work, but then utterly struggles to keep that mask on at home. The audience’s seats surround the stage and set, giving the almost claustrophobic sense
that we are the walls enclosing this family who are so close to breaking point. Laurence, who is clearly loved by his parents and his carer, has been reported to social services after one of his rare acts of aggression in a local park. It’s hard to imagine, as he and Gary share a pizza together while watching Finding Nemo. When Martin and Tamora arrive home, the question of who made the call to social services permeates the play. It’s the parents’ last night as a family together with their son before he is taken to a special needs school, where they will be allowed to visit Laurence once a month. Meaning it’s Gary’s last shift as Laurence’s carer, and it’s a particularly rough one, as he gets caught up in the family arguments, which are very upsetting for Laurence. It’s at times a difficult watch, but this play is equally uplifting. And with a busy audience on the night, it’s wonderful to see that All In A Row has risen above the all-too-easy criticisms. www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk
Violence, Adversity & Imagination
MF GRIMM: VIOLENCE, ADVERSITY & IMAGINATION The day before I speak to hip hop legend, MF Grimm, my house is broken into. So a wonderfully timed putting of things into perspective is reading Grimm’s story — this is a man who was assisted in landing a role on Sesame Street at age five by his neighbour, one Morgan Freeman. But by the age of 14, he had turned his attention to becoming a professional MC. However, this was coinciding with a wayward turn into drug dealing; he was expelled from his high school in Hell’s Kitchen, NY, and this was only the beginning.
By 1993, MF Grimm had an album’s worth of solo material, and was ready to release his debut LP. But the following year, he was shot seven times in an attempted murder by rival drug dealers. The attack left him paralysed, deafened, blinded, and in a coma that doctors predicted he would never awaken from. Miraculously, he came to, recovering all his senses, but he has needed a wheelchair ever since. His criminal story would not end there, though - he went straight back into music, but felt he had to return to drug dealing to cover his considerable hospital expenses. The authorities finally caught up with him, and Grimm spent several years in prison. “It’s my life,” he says, as I ask him about his recently released eighth album: American Hunger: Rebirth Vol. 2 Trials, Tribulations, Humiliation and Elevation. Since leaving prison and putting his criminal past behind him, he’s been prolific as a musician, and also
received an Eisner Award nomination for his comic books. “The original American Hunger was the first ever triple-CD in hip hop. And for the Rebirth albums, we just decided to do brand new versions of these songs, which are now 13 years old.” Indeed, Rebirth Vol.2 is the second reworking of songs from 2006’s American Hunger, in which the original Grimm vocals have been digitally remastered, and then added to brand new beats — it’s a very interesting concept, perhaps most notably on closing track, Lift Me Up, with the sparse backing putting great emphasis on how raw and emotional the lyrics and vocals are. Elsewhere, it’s very much the classic hip hop sound, something that is lacking these days. The reasoning behind the March 15th release was to coincide with the Ides of March, most notorious as the day of Julius
Caesar’s assassination, where 60 conspirators were led by Brutus and Cassius to stab their emperor to death. Grimm sees some parallels in his own life, as the title, Trials, Tribulations, Humiliation and Elevation, might suggest. “I love Julius Caesar,” he says. “I treat myself first and foremost as a king, but coupling that with knowing that how you treat others is so important. I know first-hand how arrogance can blind you. This rebirth allows me to revisit some of those lessons of humility.” The Bigger Picture It’s no exaggeration to say that Grimm’s life story is one of Shakespearean proportions. And yet, a face value criticism that is all too often made of hip hop music is that its lyrics are mostly arrogant, and glorifying violence, drugs and guns. “I think I have a lot more patience with the younger generation than some of the
Violence, Adversity & Imagination
“My life is source material for everything I do; I’m in the fortunate position where I get to use my creativity and imagination. I’m grateful I still have time on this planet.” other MCs my age, because I’ve been through it myself,” he says. “All you can do is offer your expertise, and your failings. I think the problem is when people try to force them to change; nine times out of ten, they’re gonna lash out at you. “When you become frustrated with the kids mixed up in this stuff, it becomes like a magnet: two negatives that repel each other. Instead, I’m trying to attract the solutions.” It’s one of the reasons his highs and lows are documented in the graphic novel about his life, Sentences: The Life Of MF Grimm. But also in his lyrics on the new record: ‘I share all my mistakes, I talk to them. Is it our fault? They watched us, and they mastered it. Is it too late to teach the babies how to channel it?’ Life Lessons Knowing that MF Grimm was put in a coma after sustaining seven shot wounds, and that the doctors fully expected those wounds to ultimately be fatal, I have to ask him how coming back from that coma, and the
resulting paralysis, has impacted his life since leaving the hospital. “My life is source material for everything I do,” Grimm says. “But not just being in a coma - everything from being on Sesame Street at five years old. And I’m still in the fortunate position where I get to use my creativity and imagination. I’m just always grateful that I still have time on this planet.” Which reminds me of Grimm’s link to Morgan Freeman, who lived in the building next to his, and helped his mother to get him onto Sesame Street. A very pertinent figure to consider when discussing how events in your life shape your future. “Our paths haven’t crossed since,” Grimm says. “But, of course, that has stayed with me. I also feel that way about Jim Henson (creator of The Muppets and Sesame Street). He told me I was going to be a great man one day if I used my imagination. I could never forget that.” It’s hard to think of anything more poignant than how the five year old Percy
Carey, who we now know as MF Grimm, hanging out on TV with Big Bird, could be led so far astray into a world of darkness and violence. But it’s equally beautiful and inspiring that Jim Henson’s perfect advice saw Grimm correct his course to making the world a better place with his imagination. As our enlightening conversation draws to a close, I ask what the future might hold for MF Grimm. “I just want to keep making music and comics at the moment,” he says. “But my dream is to go into the world of animation, and to one day be competing with Pixar. That’s my goal. To emulate what the great Jim Henson did.” MF Grimm has clearly tapped into his ability to shape his reality with his imagination, so I for one will not be betting against him adding that to his list of accomplishments, in the face of all that adversity. @percycarey
Mixing It Up in Film & TV
RICH AITKEN: MIXING IT UP IN FILM & TV A true veteran engineer in the vast landscape of film, television, and games, Rich Aitken and his Nimrod Studios have racked up a ludicrous amount of credits. He was part of the Ivor Novello-winning team for his work on Playstation 3’s Killzone 2, and has always worked on BBC mainstays such as Silent Witness and Casualty. We chat to him about his workload, and how he attempts to maintain a healthy work-life balance. “I’m split more 75% mixing, and 25% live and recording work,” opens Aitken. “Which usually means flying out to Prague, or Sofia, or working at Abbey Road or AIR Studios.” A vast amount of Aitken’s work is comprised of production and mixing for film composers, which is interesting, as a number of composers attempt to be self-sufficient these days when it comes to production. “Well, I’m yet to hear a piece of music that sounds amazing that was completely put together by one person,” Aitken admits. “For me, the best pieces are usually the ones that are written by a composer with a couple of great musicians, and someone really cool has recorded it, and someone cool has mixed it. I’m yet to hear a composer who can mix for themselves.” I ask Aitken what he’s been working on recently, which quickly gives me a good idea of just how busy this guy is. So much so, that
he has to consult his diary to make sure he doesn’t forget anything. “There’s the Viola Davis movie, Troop Zero,” he says. “And I worked on a film called Close which stars Noomi Rapace, then there was Silent Witness. I also worked on that really weird Channel 4 show, The Circle, where they shove people into blocks of flats, and they can only communicate with each other using social media!” Aitken was originally a member of punk rock groups, even being signed with EMI in the ‘90s, so he had experienced the life of a touring musician before becoming more studio-based. So as a songwriter, he gradually moved into composing, before eventually realising that audio was where his true passion and strength was to be found. Having carved out one hell of a career, I ask what advice Aitken would give to those wanting to break into this industry.
“Network, network, network,” he says. “Talent alone will get you nowhere! When I first got into this, the main barrier was getting the equipment, but equipment is cheap now. Your talent is just the entry fee these days. “You’ve really got to be ‘right place, right time,’ easy to work with, social, and have an understanding of the history. And don’t try to run before you can walk. I see far too many people who are 19 or 20 years old, trying to do everything, and then they’re burned out before they’re 25. I’ve done too many 20-hour days in a row myself. Your kids don’t know who you are anymore!” Finding Sonnox Knowing full well it would be mad not to ask Aitken about the gear he works with, we start with a key part of his arsenal: Sonnox plugins. “I’ve been a user of Sonnox for many, many years,” he says. “They’ve been really good to
Mixing It Up in Film & TV
“I use the Sonnox Inflator plugin on the big and powerful stuff, and I’m using TransMod a lot; they’re my go-tos...” me. By a weird stroke of luck, after getting married, I moved to a village where the CEO of Sonnox lives! I’d already been using Sonnox for around 18 years, and then suddenly I’m about eight doors away from the CEO, which is a bit weird! “I use the plugins on my busses, as most of my mixing is done that way. So I have quite a few plugins on each buss. I usually have their Inflator plugin on the big and powerful stuff, and the percussion busses; and I’m using the TransMod quite a lot as well - they’re my two main plugins. “I also use the Sonnox Oxford Reverb a lot, too, but I use it in Early Reflections mode to try and create width on something that doesn’t have width, to put it behind dialogue or another instrument. In my line of work, you have to make sure there’s nothing piercing in front of the dialogue.” I ask Aitken how he became acquainted with Sonnox originally. “It came from using the Sony Oxford Console,” he explains. “Then, when I started using Pro Tools in 1996, I needed a decent
EQ. I forget when the Sonnox GML EQ came out, but as soon as it did, it gave me a solution to missing the EQ from the Sony Oxford. It had the same ability to provide that shape. Back in the early days of Pro Tools, there were no EQs that could do that, so it was a game-changer for me. “And then their compressor that came out shortly after - that was a very big thing for me, also. Most plugins seem to be trying to be the next big dirty bass slammer, whereas Sonnox plugins seem to be more delicate and clean tools.” Making Waves Aitken also uses a handful of Waves plugins in his studio workflow. “I use the Waves LoAir Subharmonic Generator,” he says. “I used to use a compression buss, but with all the recalls in film work, almost everything is in the box now, so the LoAir was the right solution for getting that ‘subby’ bottom. And also, the Waves Abbey Road Vinyl plugin; I don’t use it to try and make things sound like a record,
I use it on bass lines! It give it a kind of enrusted vibe, so it feels like it’s in a location. I don’t like it when basses don’t have any tangibility to them, so the Abbey Road plugin is fantastic for giving it that sense of reality. I also use a lot of SoundToys stuff and FabFilter EQs, which are a huge help.” In terms of what’s coming up, Aitken is most looking forward to calming things down. “I’m just coming up to the end of a non-stop, 18-month period of absolute mayhem,” he laughs. “It’s an experience I don’t care to repeat. I’m doing an album for a library at the moment, trailer stuff; and I’m also preparing a live show for a legendary rock band who are doing orchestral versions of their stuff, but I can’t tell you who that is yet! I’ll be doing more Casualty in the summer.” Clearly, Aitken’s idea of calming things down is a little different to most! www.sonnox.com www.waves.com
A Look Inside
A LOOK INSIDE JBJ STUDIO Hillingdon-based JBJ Studio recently invested in an SSL AWS console to help transform its sonic capabilities as well as studio output. The acquisition has also led to a partnership with leading global studio giant, Miloco, with 2019 already looking like being its busiest year ever. Just 12 months ago, JBJ was running off a laptop and a microphone. It was working, but owner, James Brown, was prepared to take a risk, and invest to create something special. He had always had one eye on an SSL console, but never thought it would be possible to make the jump – until he did. “I have wanted an SSL since college – I used a G Series there,” opens Brown. “And ever since SSL introduced the AWS range, I’d been thinking ‘that looks a bit good, but I’m never going to be able to afford one’. But I started saving, and I kept discovering that it did other things that I didn’t know it was capable of. In the end, I just had to have one, and it’s been a total game-changer for JBJ.” According to Brown, just having the SSL AWS desk gives his studio a certain kudos, but it’s ultimately the combination of features and sonics on the console that have made
such an impact in his studio workflow. “It’s essentially a classic analogue board with some excellent digital features - quite literally the best of both worlds - and I love the way that it speaks with Pro Tools in particular,” he says. “There are some people who say the AWS doesn’t have the grunt of an old E or G Series console, and although it might not crunch like those boards, it still has an SSL sound, and it’s much cleaner in terms of preamps, which gives you headroom for days. I also love the X Rack stuff, as well - the way you can recall all of the compressor settings is fantastic.” Brown finds the EQ on the AWS particularly musical, and loves being able to switch between the E and G Series EQs at the push of a button. “I just find this EQ so responsive, so you don’t need to do too much at all,” Brown
reveals. “I am constantly flicking between the E and the G, and it’s literally 50-50 as to what goes through what, as the paths are so different: sometimes the E is brittle and hard, and sometimes the G is a bit soft, but depending on what it is I’m trying to feed into the track, they’re two different flavours, which is really great. It’s like having two EQs. “For vocals, I tend to use the G to kind of soften them up a little bit, but for guitars, I’ll tend to use the E. It’s really cool. Then we are mixing into a GML8200 [parametric EQ rack], which is sat on the mix buss output - and obviously I use the G Series buss compressor... I just love that thing.” There are three rooms at JBJ: control room, a fairly small live room, and a larger live room. It can play host to pretty much any audio application, from mix sessions and overdubs to drum tracking and full live band recordings.
A Look Inside
“Miloco is a great move for us; it’s an amazing brand, and they’ve already been pushing clients our way...” “Our control room was treated by [the late] Graham Whitehead, who was an acoustician at the BBC,” Brown explains. “He did some stuff at Maida Vale, and the Royal Opera House, so it’s not an overly-treated dead room, but it’s fairly neutral, which is just what we wanted. “This week, for example, I am tracking an artist called Kasiika, an Asian artist who is doing very well, with a kind of Destiny’s Child early ‘90s vibe, but with real musicians; and next week, we have Tim Rowkins (All Saints) mixing a project,” Brown explains. “Then I am also doing an album with a band called Freeman, who are doing great things. “Teaming up with Miloco is a great move for us, as they’re an amazing organisation, and they’ve already been pushing clients our way. It’s already the busiest year we’ve ever had by some way, and we have been able to increase our prices to pay for some of this stuff. I can only put that down to having the SSL, really.” www.jbjstudio.com www.solidstatelogic.com @jbjrecordingstudio
The Church Studios
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated each year on 8th March, and during the lead up and on the day itself, companies and countries around the world find unique and interesting ways to celebrate women from the past and the present, as well as bringing forth ideas to drive equality into the future - this year it was themed #BalanceforBetter. Words Yerosha I’m attending a day workshop at The Church Studios in Crouch End, London previously owned by David Gray and The Eurythmics, now owned by Paul Epworth, who, alongside Walters-Storyk Design Group and Miloco Builds, has transformed this facility into a world class recording complex fit for the 21st Century. Teaming up with Spitfire Audio (whose orchestral sample libraries and virtual instruments can be heard at the top of the music charts, as well as on a cinema screen near you), SA Recordings (a record label and music platform dedicated to sounds and recordings by contemporary composers), and Foundation FM (a diverse, creative radio station), the day brings together 30 aspiring female engineers to take part in a series of interactive workshops and panels, culminating in a bespoke track, composed and produced by leading women in the industry, released via SA Recordings on April 5th to kick off its new ‘Singles’ series. “This project is the start of what will be
a series of events and initiatives designed to champion women,” opens Alys Gibson, manager of The Church. “And we are excited to be working with like-minded partners to drive this forward.” Paul Epworth goes on to say that records should be made in a way that truly reflect the audience demographic: “It is vital that we as an industry can diversify from the established singular gender perspective in the recording environment to the greater benefit of the artform.” Walking into the studio’s SSL live room, I find 30 aspiring female engineers, and the big push to encourage young women to enter the audio biz becomes clear.
Start Me Up
As Alys Gibson welcomes everyone to the event, she briefly explains the proceedings of the day before showing us through to the Neve room. It’s an incredible space with real character, complete with a 72-channel [Neve] console at the helm. Today, we are to watch
Fiona Cruikshank, recording engineer at Air Studios, record a beautiful bespoke piece for a string quartet composed specifically for this event by Homay Schmitz – one of Spitfire Audio’s in-house composers. The piece is called Eyes Ahead, played by musicians, Magdalena Filipczak (Violin), Natalie Klouda (Violin), Meghan Cassidy (Viola), and Emma Denton (Cello). It’s interesting to understand the nuance and teamwork that goes in to making a quality recording: “The first part of the process is usually to listen to the demo, and speak to the composer about what kind of sound they would like,” Cruikshank tells us. “Do they want it to be close, and in your face? More natural and roomy? Full of character, or clean? In this case I feel that Homay’s piece suits quite a natural sound, but defined and characterful, so a little ‘closer’ sounding than actually sitting in front of the quartet would sound.” With this in mind, she guides us through her mic choices:
The Church Studios
“There are quite a lot of dynamics in the composition, so I’m going to respect that, and not compress it too much...” “I’ve set up quite a few more mics than I usually would,” she laughs. “16 in total, because I want to show you different ways to record a quartet.” There are three options for the main pairs: a cardioid pair (NOS - at approximately 90-degrees) of Neumann U87s; a Blumlein pair of Royer ribbons; and a spaced pair of omnis (TLM170s). “The idea of a near-coincident pair is to pick up a nice, natural stereo image. I’ve chosen the U87s because we all love the rich sound of a Neumann. With a spaced pair, you can get a wider image, which is less defined but I like the warmth and fullness that omnis bring, and the added definition. And with the Royer ribbons, I think because the mics are bi-directional (figure of 8), and at 90-degrees, you get a realistic stereo image, but also pick up a lot of character from the room.” For the close mics, she tries a Coles 4038 and a DPA 4011, as close together as possible, so they can be used together, or individually. The coles is darker sounding, and the DPA is brighter and cleaner. For viola and cello there are two options: a KM86 positioned further away; and a close valve mic - a U67 for the viola, and U47 for the cello. “I tend to gravitate towards something a bit brighter for the viola, and the 67 is my first choice, if the studio has it... The 47 is loved
by many engineers on cello and bass for its overall richness.” Lastly, a pair of omni room mics: her trusted DPA 4006s. “I love these as room mics,” Cruikshank smiles. “And I’ve positioned them where the church engineers ‘usually have them’ - it’s always a good idea to get advice from the in-house engineers! [smiles]” And without further ado, they begin to record. It’s great listening to them share ideas: composer, quartet, and recording engineer, on which take is best, which parts should be re-done, and tweaking the score. “When I first started, I could easily understand how it feels ‘on the other side of the glass’, because I had sung in bands, been recorded, and played oboe in an orchestra for years,” Cruikshank tells me. “Part of the way I run a session now is incorporating that understanding, and bringing the right attitude - and part of that has been learnt by assisting and watching others.” We can struggle to tell the difference if we have nothing to compare it with, so to be able to assess take after take, you start to get a real understanding of the variety, subtlety, and nuance that goes into each recording, and why certain takes are preferred to others. I have never recorded a string quartet before, and the debate between recording
with a click vs. without is interesting: it starts without, then is brought in to act as a guide for a couple of takes, then without again, to get a more natural take once the quartet settles in to the tempo. Without a drummer, it’s a marvel to me how four people can stay so perfectly in time with each other. Cruikshank encourages everyone to have a go on the desk, and play with faders: “I want everyone to have a go on the Neve, as I think it’s a treat for all of us to be using this beautiful desk! Listen to the options, and start thinking about what worked well, and which combinations you might like to use on the mix.”
The Afternoon Session
After lunch, we move in to the SSL control room for a session with MPG Breakthrough Engineer Award-winner, Marta Salogni. In real time, she talks us through her process, and the real take-away is understanding the art of subtlety, and not over-doing it; sometimes less is more, and knowing that is a skill in itself. “There are quite a lot of dynamics in the composition, so I’m going to respect that, and not compress it too much,” she tells the room. “This has been recorded beautifully, so level and enhance what we have, rather than anything major, which I wish was my job every day! It’s sometimes literally restoration!”
The Church Studios
“It is vital that the industry can diversify from the established singular gender perspective in the recording environment...” First step of what Marta calls the pre-mix is having a reference mix as the starting point. We listen to all 16 mics - eight rooms, eight close mics - and we all agree that the omnis for the main mics sound the most natural. Marta then begins EQ-ing, using the Pro Tools EQ. “I’m going to go in on each track, and do a basic EQ, taking off the low frequencies that are not useful for me, below 60kHz, in case there were any bumps in the room. It’s safer to add a hi-pass filter, and listen through to check we aren’t shaving off frequencies that we need.” Marta then pans the spot mics to position them how they were seated in the main space: violin on the left, cello on the right. To start mixing in earnest, she pulls all the faders down to zero, and then using the omnis as the loudest room mics, builds it from there, bringing in the other mains, and explains that later on, the spot mics will be used to give it definition. “It sounds more pleasant when I take out a little of the low mids,” she reveals. “In this case, with the omnis, a little bit less of 200kHz and 500kHz. I’m trying to be careful, and not take out too much of the natural elements and richness of the low mids, but I’m thinking forward, and know that I’m going to be adding other microphones, and it’s going to constantly change as I go. “I’m going to cut a few high frequencies
off the cello mic, as to not interfere with the frequencies of the violin, but still make it coherent. I’ve come to terms with the fact that sometimes I need to work against myself - I need to leave frequencies in that I don’t like in other microphones because I know that they make the recording natural. I need to be careful not to take too much out.” Marta explains how she uses spot mics: “I automate the mics when I feel that one particular instrument is falling under the weight of the others, and when I feel like a specific part would benefit from more volume. That’s one of the last parts of the mixing process for me: when my ears know the piece, and feel the need to add dynamics to the recording to help the compositional element shine through.”
A Job Well Done
We then move back into the Neve room for the panel talk, whilst the mixed track is sent to mastering engineer, Katie Tavini, who’s in her studio in Brighton. I had a quick chat with Katie after the event to understand her technique: “As is common with live events, timings don’t always go to plan,” Tavini smiles. “So when I received the mix, I was a bit nervous, wanting to get something sent over in time for the guests to hear an example of a mastered track. For this reason, I used a very minimal setup of entirely plugins, so I didn’t have to
run anything in real-time through external gear. I did spend time giving it a good listen before any actual processing, just to get the feel of the track. “I used the Sonnox Limiter as a safety tool with the output set to -1dB. I didn’t really limit this mix at all, this was purely as a safety net. Then a Brainworx Digital V2 mono - an EQ plugin which I used to dip ever so slightly at the ‘attack’ frequency of the lead violin. I also used Brainworx Digital V2 - this is a mid/side EQ, and I really love how it can very subtly change the stereo spread of a track. I used this to bring out some warmth in the cello part. It was such a beautiful piece of work, and Marta’s mix was pretty special, so it didn’t need much additional processing. “It was such a powerful experience being involved - bringing to life such a beautiful composition in only one day, and with only women. It was a unique way to celebrate International Women’s Day, and I am very grateful to Brendon and Church Studios for putting on this event, and asking me to be involved.” As Tavini’s master hit the studio inbox, we we all sat and listened to the day’s results - a truly moving and beautiful way to celebrate International Women’s Day. Have a listen at www.sarecordings.com www.thechurchstudios.com www.spitfireaudio.com
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IN THE MIX: FLARE PRO EARPHONES
First of all, I just want to be clear that I’m using the Flare Pro earphones as an upgrade from the JVC earphones I bought in Sainsbury’s for seven quid when I found myself desperately headphone-less. So hopefully this review will serve to also answer the broader question of whether it’s worth investing in the higher-end headphones on the market. A little like when consumers are given cheap, supermarket wine, and asked to compare it to the vintage, oak-aged stuff.
Spoiler alert, but one thing that shoots that question out of the sky is the fact that Flare PROs are used by one Tony Visconti, the Grammy-winning producer of David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and several other legends of the musical folklore. But here’s the mad thing: he doesn’t just use them for personal music listening, he uses these things in the studio. So now you know what one of the greatest figures in music and audio thinks of Flare PROs, but what about an everyday philistine who buys headphones in the electronic department in Sainsbury’s? Well, let’s start from the unboxing. And the box honestly does add so much value: it’s beautiful, like a little device you might find on the Death Star. That is, if the Death Star had been treated acoustically for recording the Cantina Band. In it are several compartments. You’ve got a very generous number of spare earbuds which easily fit on the the earphones themselves; three size varieties, to ensure maximum comfort for all the differently shaped ears out there. The earphones also give you two crucial options: you can attach them to the Bluetooth device for wireless listening (a nice bit of attention to detail is that you can clip this
on to your clothing); or you can plug it into your phone, laptop, or whichever device you’re listening on. The metal is aerospace Grade 5 titanium, which makes it sound a little like the raw materials have been provided by the Guardians of the Galaxy (clearly not a complaint!). Anyway, it’s time to quieten the mind, and listen. After experimenting with the sizes, I opt for the smallest buds (green), and hit play on some tracks that I consider sonically complex enough for a high-end headphone review. Hitting play on Jon Hopkin’s Emerald Rush, my jaw drops. It really is like hearing the song for the first time - so many subtle parts that I’d never been able to hear with inferior speakers and headphones. And when the kick drum hits, it has that shuddering effect that you only can experience at a high-profile gig with an enormous stack of expensive speakers. I decide to contrast this with a piano piece from the soundtrack of the film Lion by Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka. And I’m quickly made aware that the Flare PROs are not only to be enjoyed with biginstrumentation tracks. All the wonderful
complexity and subtlety wrapped up within the piano has such precision to it with these earphones. It’s a very sensual listening experience, to say the least. They also block external noise to a very impressive degree, in a way that is only normally possible with on-ear headphones. Finally, I stick on Enter Shikari performing in Moscow, to see if I can be flown away to the Russian capital by Flare. And with the stunning clarity of the snare, cymbals, the audience screaming along, and all the raw bellows of Rou Reynolds in the 4K HD equivalent captured by Flare PROs, it honestly does almost make up for the fact that I couldn’t make it out to Moscow that particular evening. It’s abundantly clear that these earphones are not just empty hype; they provide a seriously enhanced version of the joy of sitting and listening to your favourite music. These are the kind of headphones that musicians dream of you using to listen to their music. Flare are leading from the front - don’t get caught at the back. www.flareaudio.co.uk
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GRUMPY OLD BREXIT Part Two...
There was a time when I could buy the Sunday Times, and it’d last all week. Now, of course, with all this Brexit shit, the game is changing so quickly that they really need to print an evening edition as well, just to keep up with the changes. So as I write this, it’ll probably all have changed by the time you read this exciting edition of Headliner (also available in Europe). A confession: I listen to LBC [radio]. It used to be an acronym for London Broadcasting Company, but then some clever fucker morphed it into a talk-only station, and it became ‘Leading Britain’s Conversation’. I prefer my own take on the acronym: ‘Let Battle Commence’, because of the clowns that run the shows, and their unfair advantage: the fader. I was listening to some prick alled James O’Brian the other day (fuck, I’d hate to be his wife). He was basically giving someone a right seeing to for being ‘a thick northerner’, and so a ‘leave’ voter. It was entertaining, all the same, although a tad unfair. O’Brian, even though he comes from Kidderminster, is a professional radio git, and the poor northern bloke (I think his name was Robert Plant?) had clearly only ever spoken to his pals up t’boozer, so had no chance against this pro gobshite. Then I suddenly had an idea - ‘bingo’, as John Penn would say. This is what should happen (maybe it has by the time you read this?); it ticks all the boxes. England should leave the UK. I’m fucked right off with the Scottish lady named after a fish who keeps coming back at us saying Scotland wants to leave the UK. Right back at you! We leave first, which means the Scottish fish woman will be free to negotiate her deal to remain in the EU, which apparently Scotland voted for. Good luck there, Mrs Haddock. While you’re at it, you’ll be able to work out why your education system and health service is going to go down the pan. You do all know, don’t you readers, that Scots - including Mrs Bream - collectively take more out of the pot per head than their UK counterparts? Hence, the free prescriptions and university places. Well, fuck that - let’s leave and rebuild Hadrian’s Wall (my Trump moment). Now, my bonus card. Yes, Northern Ireland. Goodbye, we’re off! Oh, the Northern Ireland border problem - gone in a flash, and becomes their (and the UDC’s) problem. Good luck. What have I missed? Wales. They’re over on the left, I think? Just reintroduce the Severn [Bridge] crossing toll. That’ll keep them out. They hate parting with money, but they’ll have Stereophonics to replace their payments - and their rugby team. That leaves us in England, and we can move on - free to farm our own fields in the freezing cold, starting at 5am; work in our own hospitals (smiling while being pissed on by a pensioner); run our own hotels (including 24-hour shifts); and all this for the minimum wage! Brilliant. I’ll tell the kids: this is what we voted for, and my plan will deliver it. But as I said, it’s ever-changing, so by the time you read this, we might have been invaded by the Isle of Wight.
“Brexit is ever-changing, so by the time you read this, we might have been invaded by the Isle of Wight...”