CONNER REEVES EARTHBOUND AND BEYOND
UNI T Y
FRANK TURNER ALL THE WAY TO NO MAN’S LAND
ISSUE 31 | £3.95 UK/$6.95 USA/$7.95 CANADA
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Contents #31 Cover Story
P30 / Alex Albon 08
Our friends in Ibiza chat to French DJ and producer, Hanna Hais, about new music and the afro-tech scene.
The London-based alt-soul artist takes us through the writing and recording process of his new EP.
SONIC VISTA INSIGHTS
With her first record in decades, P.P. Arnold is as affable as she is talented, and shares some fond musical tales.
Karl Winkler tells us why JH Audio’s Lolas are so standout, especially when paired with a Lectrosonics Duet.
THE ULTIMATE IEMS?
Our producer panel entertains and educates a packed house of creatives as part of Soho Music Month.
We pay a visit to Miloco’s most jaw dropping residential space in the rural Oxfordshire countryside.
BEHIND THE BEAT
A smart Coda Audio PA system was at the core of this summer’s Netball World Cup production infrastructure.
We descend on Hackney’s coolest venue for a truly immersive experience with some unique techno talent.
NETBALL WORLD CUP
INSIDE EARTH HACKNEY
We chat to singer-songwriter, Anna Calvi, about scoring this epic series, and her dialogue with Tommy Shelby.
It’s been over two decades since Conner Reeves released new music, but now he’s more creative than ever.
Regents Park’s Open Air Theatre played host to a dazzling production of Evita this summer.
A producer and writer with a great attitude offers musical tips and warns us not to sign all our publishing away.
EVITA IN LONDON
We chat to presenter/producer Jess Iszatt about the evolution of BBC Intro, and emerging artist suport.
GERMAN GRAND PRIX
We’re in the paddock at Hockenheim with the Toro Rosso and Haas teams to chat pressure pit stops and comms.
COVER STORY: ALEX ALBON
We chat to this talented 23-year-old British-Thai F1 driver about life in the fast late, and how race comms can feel like NASA conference calls.
We chat to the revered artist about No Man’s Land which was played and produced by an all-female line-up.
The antithesis of a label, The Rattle is a music collective, home to 100 artists, composers and entrepreneurs.
HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT
We continue our Celestion story, with focus on the company’s cool tech and OEM manufacturing.
Behind the scenes at France’s most immersive Bastille Day yet.
ON TOUR WITH MUSE
We dive into the audio tech that helps Muse deliver such spectacular sonics that leaves their fans spellbound.
LIFE AS AN AUDIO PRO
Why is it that so many audio pros are working for free? We get the lowdown from those in the know.
We check out the Shure seminar on theatre wireless at PLASA.
The former frontman of The Face has a new record, and a story to tell.
TOO MANY ZOOZ
From busking on the New York Subway to going viral, this trio have had quite the musical journey.
MIEL DE BOTTON
We’re at Abbey Road to chat with Andy Wright and Miel de Botton.
The Riedel founder sits down with us in Germany to chat about company growth and finding his F1 feet.
Headliner and Sound On Sound joined forces to put on a very special live music event at PLASA 2019.
HEADLINER | ISSUE #31
STAGE TO STUDIO
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#31 From the Editor
“The communications are pretty non-stop, but it's incredible; if you listen to a driver during a race, it's like a NASA conference call..!”
Welcome to Issue 31 of Headliner, which welcomes rising F1 star, Alex Albon, onto the cover for a close look at his career so far, and a fascinating insight into the world of audio in sports. Headliner lived out every F1-lover’s dream and went behind the scenes at the German GP to take a look at the comms technology which makes every race possible. Elsewhere in audio in sports, we take a look at the impressive audio and tech backbone behind this year’s Netball World Cup. P.P. Arnold is back with a new record, and talks personal struggles and racism while navigating a man’s world in our four-page interview, while also back on the scene after 22 years out of the spotlight is soul singer, Conner Reeves, who tells us where he’s been and why he’s only interested in making music with feeling. Frank Turner talks about his latest album, No Man’s Land, which features an all-female cast of musicians, while Danny Burton talks through his own musical journey after surviving a knife attack. In the studio, producer Claye shows us the ropes and reflects on being signed to Roc Nation, while we visit Abbey Road to talk to the producer behind Simply Red hit, Fairground, Andy Wright about working with singer, Miel de Botton. Singer and guitarist, Anna Calvi, shares her methods for creating the woozy score for season five of Peaky Blinders, and we’re in Germany to get to grips with the sonics behind the Muse Simulation Theory world tour. This Issue also brings you two Headliner events: Stage To Studio, dubbed ‘the coolest event at PLASA’, bringing audio and music production expertise to the expo; and Behind The Beat, an evening of Kanye West anecdotes, music industry insights, and live beat dissections from a panel of esteemed producers. Enjoy the issue! Alice Gustafson Deputy Editor
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HEADLINER | ISSUE #31
Art Director Rae Clara Gray
Contributors Adam Protz, Alice Gustafson, Henry Sarmiento, Jon Tessier, Floyd Mason, VC Pines.
Sonic Vista Insights
10 MINUTES WITH HANNA HAIS Hanna Haïs is a renowned French DJ and music producer. Known for her 2005 hit, Rosa Nova, she is a relentless creator that is still feeding the world with great music. Her new single, Waloy, is already making noise in the underground afro-tech scene, with worldwide famous DJs like Black Coffee and Loco Dice spinning her latest track. She’s been coming to Sonic Vista Studios for a few years now, and we thought it would be a cool idea to share some insight with Headliner’s readers about this amazing established artist. Words Henry Sarmiento & Jon Tessier What inspired you to get into music? I come from a family of singers, musicians and artists. My father was always playing music; a cousin of my mother was a very popular singer; and my older brother is a singer too, so it was natural for me. You’ve made hit songs in Paris... Well, I come from the South of France, so I used to go to the clubs in Saint Tropez; this is where I discovered house music. I met the resident DJs from these clubs. They lived in Paris during the winter, and I decided to move to Paris as this was where everything was happening. In Paris I met DJs and producers.
How did Rosa Nova come to life? I was in Cannes for Midem with my label and we met Sergio Flores in the street. I had a voice extinction but I managed to sing the melody of the track to Sergio, who liked it. We went to Vienna where his studio was located, and the rest is history. The track was released just before the summer, and very quickly we realised that it was going to be a success, as it was the first track played at the opening of Space in Ibiza. How did your music end up on the famous Defected compilations? Rosa Nova and another single of mine
called Ta Reine got signed exclusively to Defected. Both were featured many times on the Defected compilations and many other compilations. I think I have tracks on over 300 compilations, maybe even more - I don’t keep track anymore! You’re now a collaborative producer... Yes, and I think it was a natural progression. At first I was singing, then I started writing songs, then I moved into DJing and now production. I think that I am very good at writing melodies and hooks. Melodies come to me just like that; I wake up in the morning and I have a melody in my head, so before
Sonic Vista Insights
“Ibiza in itself is very inspirational. Artists have been coming to the Baleares for a very long time...” I forget it, I try to record it on my phone. I have hundreds of melodies in my phone in all styles. From time to time, I review all the most recent melodies, and when I come across a melody that I like, I turn on my Mac and record the vocals at home. I use Ableton Live to sketch the track, and Pro Tools to record the basic vocals; then I go into a proper studio to finalise the track with the various coproducers I work with. I have worked with Matthias Heilbronn at François Kevorkian’s studio in New York, Sergio Flores, Alex Finkin, and Alan de Lanière. For the last five years I have been working with female African vocalists like Aminata Kouyaté, Sandra Nankoma, and Diama Ndiaye - working on an African album. So when I have an idea for a melody that I find suitable for one of the vocalists I know, we do a little writing camp at home! I sing the melody to the vocalist, and we keep
working on the melody and lyrics until we have something that works. Tell us a little about your setup... I use Pro Tools to record my radio DJ mixes I like the edit functions from Pro Tools, as it’s so easy to use. For music production, I work with Ableton Live, and I use Pro Tools for vocals. My interface is by Focusrite, which is a complete no-brainer for me, as it’s so stable. And actually, my favourite piece of equipment is my trusted Sennheiser HD 25 headphones which I use both in the studio and when I DJ. How do you see house music today? I am very excited by what’s happening with afro house and in particular afro tech. I think that this is the most forward thinking music at the moment. What Black Coffee is doing at Hï in Ibiza is amazing for our scene.
Does Ibiza inspire you to make music? Ibiza in itself is very inspirational. Artists have been coming to the Baleares for a very long time. As far music is concerned, Ibiza is like a Mecca for house music lovers, DJs, and producers. The energy here is incredible. Nowhere else on the planet will you meet crème de la crème of DJs and producers. Ibiza is very competitive, but it is also very stimulating. It is much harder to meet people in Paris; the atmosphere is much more relaxed in Ibiza, and people are a lot more friendly. A big thanks as ever to our friends at Sonic Vista Studios in Ibiza for another very cool Q&A with an inspiring young artist. www.sonicvistastudios.com
It’s been five decades since P.P. Arnold made her mark on the music scene with the timeless hit, The First Cut Is The Deepest. A shy girl with no ambition to become a star, a young P.P escaped an abusive teen marriage by coming to the UK in the ‘60s to begin what would become an incredible recording career. However, with the highs came the lows: suffering the loss of her young daughter in a car accident, getting ripped off and dropped by labels, and surviving a serious car accident which left her unable to walk – all the while navigating what was very much a man’s world. This year sees the self-professed ‘glam-ma’ return to the charts with new album, The New Adventures Of… P.P. Arnold. I sit down with her in London for a fascinating conversation. Words Alice Gustafson
THE NEXT ADVENTURE
all me Pat or glam-ma,” says P.P. Arnold, welcoming me into a trendy Scandinavian cafe in London, immediately inviting me to share her pastries. Speaking in her honey-dipped, musical voice and relaying her stories with ease, aside from a rather fabulous jacket, there is not a hint of diva about Arnold. Dressed all in black and flashing freshly manicured baby blue nails and a warm smile, despite only being five foot four inches myself, Arnold makes me feel tall, as her eyes twinkle at the memories she shares. Having just released her long overdue new album, The New Adventures Of… P.P. Arnold, featuring contributions from Paul Weller, Ocean Colour Scene’s Steve Cradock, The Specials, and her songwriter son, Kodzo, Arnold is appreciative that people have responded so well to it: “I’m just humbled that the album is doing so well, and by the way it has been received by the media. Steve [Cradock] and I are really just over the moon because this is really just the beginning. You never know [how it will be received] – it’s the music industry, after all. I’ve done a lot of music through the years that hasn’t been released; you don’t think about it, but you put your heart and soul into a project, and if it’s not received well, it’s quite devastating, really.” The New Adventures Of… P.P. Arnold was recorded and produced by Cradock (a huge fan) at his Kundalini Studio in Devon, and follows on from the singer’s two ‘60s solo albums on Immediate Records, The First Lady Of Immediate, and Kafunta, as well as a more recent compilation of previously unreleased material from the late ’60s and ’70s, The Turning Tide, which was eventually released in 2017. “It was recorded between 1968 and 1970, and was produced by Barry Gibb and Eric Clapton, and that music was the next stage in my development. If that record hadn’t been released, maybe my story would have been totally different, because I got really lost when that happened.” “When the album wasn’t released in the ‘70s, everything changed – it was the beginning of the English invasion in America, and I was without a label or management, but I was still carrying on independently. Then I went to America to record with my younger son’s father, Fuzzy Samuel, who was the bass player with Nash & Young. We went there to do a record, and everything went wrong. Even though I’m from America, I spent the majority of my adult life here in
the UK, and my kids grew up here.” Swept away by her storytelling, I take it back to when Arnold first came to the UK to begin her music career in 1966, where she supported The Rolling Stones as one of Ike and Tina Turner’s backing singers, The Ikettes. Little did she know her world was about to be turned upside down. The shy 19-year-old caught the eye of one Mick Jagger, who persuaded her to try and make it as a solo artist in London. The rest is history: Arnold went on to carve out a five-decade career, working with Jagger, the Small Faces, Rod Stewart, Barry Gibb, Eric Clapton, Peter Gabriel, Roger Waters, and Paul Weller, to name a few. “It was great! I came over with Ike and Tina Turner, coming out of the civil rights revolution, into the rock and roll revolution,” she remembers. “I had grown up in a segregated society – I’m a descendant of slaves. I was born in L.A., but by family is from east Texas; they moved to escape all the Jim Crow racism of those times, so London was my first experience of being in an integrated, cosmopolitan environment, and I was young, very shy, very introverted. I didn’t know about the industry. I was thinking: ‘What does everybody see in me?’”
THE SWINGING SIXTIES
i“Being in London at that time with all the music: it was youthful, it was exciting – all the fashion, art, the culture – London was swinging, baby! Here I was, this little introverted young black woman from Watts, and suddenly I’m a part of this scene, and I’m hanging out with Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones – that would not have depend in L.A. baby, oh no, no no!” Jagger made quite the first impression: “We became friends because Mick just used to make me laugh. When I first met him in the Royal Albert Hall, he came into the dressing room: [mimes camp strutting]. This white dude with these big lips, talking black, walking black, wanting to be black – trying to do the Mashed Potato, and we would laugh at him,” she says, fondly. “We used to go to our dressing room and dance and stuff, and on the tour he used to take me and all the other Ikketes to discotheques. He made me laugh with the way he talked, and I made him laugh because of the way I talked – because I was so shy and everything. We were just friends; we were all pretty young.
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“We toured through the Chitlin Circuit - we weren’t allowed to play in certain venues or stay in certain venues because of segregation...” “Destiny is what it is; the only thing that separated us was our lives went separate ways. I made a choice that I couldn’t hang on that party scene because I had kids – that was a hardcore scene! But we were always friends, and I’ll always love him for everything; he opened the door for me. I don’t mean it like I hustled him; he opened the door for me, and he just kept going his own way. Mick was a busy boy… you know,” she says, teasingly. “All of them were busy boys!” Another ‘busy boy’ that helped the shy singer come out of her shell was Jimi Hendrix: “Jimi was my brother,” she smiles. “I mean, the way the universe planned that! I was doing a gig, and my guitarist came backstage and said ‘there’s an American guy here, and he wants to know if he could jam with the band’. And I didn’t know him, so I checked him out. I saw this brother with all this freaky hair surrounded by women, and thought: ‘Who is this brother?’ Right?! I said: ‘Tell him he can jam on the second set,’ because I never let anyone jam on the first set just in case they blew me away - which he did on the second set... but I was finished!” As fate would have it, the two lived right around the corner from one another. “It was like God had given me someone that could understand me,” she says. “We were from the same upbringing, the same roots, so he was great. We were friends, and we were lovers, but you know, it wasn’t like [adopts sassy voice] ‘Jimi was my man,’ or, ‘Mick was my man’. Yeah, I had different lovers, that’s just the way it was back then – everybody had more than one lover! [laughs] But I was just happy to have my own scene. I was not a groupie; I was picking and choosing. I’ve always been very much 12 Headliner
independent and on my own.” Jagger told Arnold that The Rolling Stones’ manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, wanted to sign her as a solo artist to his label, Immediate Records, resulting in her first UK hit single, The First Cut Is The Deepest, a few months later. “This song captured my heart; it was my story,” she states, matter-of-factly. “I know a lot of people have covered it, but I put my heart and soul into that song because that was my experience as a young girl – the first cut is the deepest – and trying to learn how to open up and have relationships once again without being afraid, so it was just like he wrote it for me – even though he didn’t. And Cat [Stevens, who penned the original] feels it is the definitive version of the song, so if he feels that, I’m happy with that!” The pain she is referring to stems from her abusive teenage marriage, which saw her become a mother of two at a very young age. “I had blown my teen years by getting pregnant at a young age,” she admits. “I mean, I never even ditched one day [of school] before, but I was infatuated. I was talked into ditching one class – my music appreciation class! I thought, well I know I can make that up; that’s not a problem! I used to love to kiss and cuddle, and that’s all I thought was going to happen, and then [makes swooshing noise] I got swooped on, and two kids later… [pauses] it was difficult, but you know, that was my journey.”
TOURING WITH TINA TURNER
Her unhappy marriage turned out to be the catalyst for Arnold joining The Ikettes, giving her a way out of her relationship, and a way to support her children. Being on the road with Ike
and Tina was a hard slog, and a personal eyeopener for Arnold, who was now exposed to the ugly world of racial segregation. “I grew up in L.A., so I had only heard about that [segregated] lifestyle. But in the Deep South, it was separated. So I couldn’t understand why the tour bus driver wouldn’t stop at certain places when I had to go to the toilet. The first time I realised what was happening, I was saying: ‘Dude, dude, I’ve got to go,’ so he stopped the bus, and I was the only one that got off. I go strutting up to the front, getting ready to go into the ladies’, and the guy says: ‘No, you have to go around the back’. I still didn’t get it. So I went around the back, and the sign said: ‘for negroes only’. I still didn’t get it. Until I opened up the door, and it was just a pit – it was awful. Then it hit me, and I just ran back to the bus in tears. “We toured through the Chitlin Circuit, which was the circuit that all the black artists did, because it was very racist back then. We weren’t allowed to play in certain venues, or stay in certain hotels – you’d go to Soulville, which was the black neighbourhood where they had blackowned businesses. It was just how it was, but the gigs were fantastic! It was all about the music.” Following this intense period, Immediate Records went bust in 1969, leaving Arnold without a deal or a manager. Cut adrift, the singer met Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb, who at the time had fallen out with his brothers. With the band split up, Gibb was keen to work with her. “I met a guy named Jim Morris – who I later married. He was the assistant to Robert Stigwood, Barry’s manager,” Arnold recalls. “Barry was very private, and so was I; and he wanted to be productive, but there was all
“I’m humbled that the new album is doing so well, and at how it has been received by the media. Steve Cradock produced it beautifully...” this feuding going on with his brothers. He started to write songs for me to record, so we started working. Robert was not happy about that because he was trying to get the brothers back together – this was serious business, understandably. Barry was really intent on being his own man, and he didn’t care what anybody else thought, so we went into the studio.” Many tracks were recorded, however Stigwood finally got his wish when the Bee Gees got back together, at which point Gibb’s work with Arnold was shelved. This saw Arnold thrown together with Eric Clapton, who she also recorded many songs with. “Stigwood didn’t like what I did with Barry, so he put that on the shelf. Then he didn’t like the stuff I did with Eric… He had no idea what to do with me, so that was put on the shelf! So I went on the road and I did a West End musical, Catch My Soul. That was a whole other story, and that’s when everything got lost. I got dropped, and then I met Fuzzy – Jim and I had split up by this time. Chaos – lost years!” Arnold headed back to L.A. to try her luck over there, but was met with tragedy. Arnold’s young daughter was killed in a road collision. “I took my kids with me, and I lost my daughter in a car accident when we were there, so the ‘70s are really the lost, tragic years. It was hard for me to come back [to the U.K] without my daughter. Fuzzy and I split up that project – it ripped our relationship apart.”
JUST LIKE STARTING OVER
Arnold returned to the UK in ‘83, and began creating a space for herself - since then, her fans have been loyal – with a particularly strong
Northern Soul following. She accepted a role in Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Starlight Express (performed entirely on roller skates).However, her comeback was stalled yet again when she was involved in a car accident herself. “My thigh muscles were split in two when I was crushed between two cars, and they told me I’d never do anything again – I’d never dance again. I was a long distance runner, too - they said I’d never do that. I said: ‘Okay, thank you – I don’t want your steroids, I’ll do it myself ’. That led me into my alternative healing, nutrition and fitness. I think if I wasn’t singing, I’d be in the healing arts. I always tell people: I’m a glam-ma who sings!” “Coming to the UK was totally different. It was good, but then there’s all the politics. The industry was ruled by men - all the business deals. I got ripped off - everybody got ripped off in the ‘60s. I always think that the artists that survived the ‘70s were the higher echelon: The Stones, Rod Stewart – that’s when artists were really making money, and I kind of missed that boat [laughs]. I had no money, but I did have a name! It would have been nice to have both.” One of the best ever innuendo-laden songs, Peter Gabriel’s smash, Sledgehammer, features Arnold on backing vocals, which was followed by her recording a string of jingles, which led her to meeting jingle production company, The Beatmasters. “I’ve recorded with The Beatmasters, and I am the mo-mo choir, okay? But seriously, KLF ripped me off! On every one of their records, the choir – that is me! A lot of things I’ve done, I haven’t got the credit for, but it’s okay – it is what it is. I did start fighting it, but I needed to work,
and I didn’t have money. I was using legal aid, but then I got a gig. So if you’re working, you can’t get legal aid [laughs]. I needed to work!” Arnold then got her own band together, selling out a few gigs at The Jazz Cafe, when Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters got in touch. She ended up touring with him for 10 years. “I originally thought that all that money I was going to make from the first tour he asked me to go on, I could use to do my own thing - but it didn’t work like that. Every time, he kept offering me all this money, I was really happy working with Roger. Travelling the world on that level, with the global exposure that I’d never had. That’s a whole chapter in itself!” “If I had to change anything, I wouldn’t have taken my kids to L.A. when I went to do that project, that’s for sure,” Arnold reflects, sadly. “I wish my daughter was still with me - she’s certainly with me in the spiritual sense, daily. When I wrote I’ll Always Remember You… (Debbie’s Song) for the new album, I wanted people to know about her, because so many people that know me now, didn’t know me then, or about my kids - and I’m really happy with it. Steve [Cradock} has produced it fabulously. Arnold’s UK tour kicked off in October, and there’s also an autobiography in the works. So after waiting for her moment for decades, she is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down. “Even now, I’m still finding my way; and for me, it’s all about faith, meditating, love, praying… don’t give up the fight. That’s the message. I was given a gift, and that gift is uplifting people. It’s not about me, me, me. It’s my gift to share.” www.pparnold.com 13 Headliner
Soho Music Month
Behind The Beat
SOHO MUSIC MONTH: BEHIND THE BEAT An evening of Kanye West anecdotes, music industry insights, and live beat dissections — Headliner took over Platform LDN, Carnaby Street in London, on June 28, for a very special evening in association with Miloco Studios and Genelec. A feast of the mind for musicians, producers, and music lovers alike: Esteemed producers TommyD, Estelle Rubio, Simon Todkill, and Tre Jean-Marie took us through a panel discussion and beat dissections. Platform LDN championed a series of very successful music and arts events this summer as part of Soho Music Month - and ‘Behind The Beat’, curated and put together by Headliner, was certainly no exception. On arrival, the assembled crowd first get a chance to check out the excellent exhibition of hip-hop duo, Run The Jewels, and their collaborations with UK artists, before making their way downstarts to enjoy a music production event with a twist: educational, entertaining, and at times, pretty explosive..! With the beers and Red Bulls flowing, the attendees settle themselves for the opening panel discussion, with a number of people having to watch from the stairwell, with all the chairs taken. It’s a sell-out, and some.
Headliner founder, Paul Watson, is chairing the talk, and he introduces the A-list producers and music makers: going from right to left, we first meet TommyD, the British producer, songwriter, arranger, DJ, and arguably most important of all, whisky maker! His ludicrous credits include Kanye West, Beyoncé, Kylie Minogue, and Sophie Ellis Bextor. He lets us know his breakthrough single was I’m Too Sexy with Right Said Fred, which garners a big collective smile from the audience. Along the row is Estelle Rubio, producer, remixer, and singer-songwriter. She also has a strong list of collaborators including Apple, Basement Jaxx, and an Ibiza regular. And last but by no means least, we meet
Simon Todkill, chief engineer at Miloco Studios, London. Having also worked with the notorious Kanye West, other clients include Skepta, Paloma Faith, Elton John, and way too many more huge names to mention. Music Theory It’s a deeply inspirational meeting of minds, and having to sum it up as I am, the running themes are: how to establish yourself in the music industry (in its current form), surviving 40-hour studio sessions, and how you simply have to be DIY. When it quickly emerges that both TommyD and Todkill have worked with Kanye West, we hear similar experiences: Todkill went through some back-to-back sleepless studio nights to get one of the
Soho Music Month
Behind The Beat
“It’s invaluable insight from one of the UK’s top producers, as he talks us through his song creation...” Atlanta rapper’s projects done to deadline; and TommyD was given the unusual request of coming up with orchestral arrangements of Kanye songs as chosen by one of his daughters, for his wife’s birthday, in the space of a few days. How on earth do they do it? Well, as all three of our panellists agree, what they do doesn’t fit into the category of ‘work’ - they adore music, and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do it. Time ceases when each is in their respective musical flow state. Rubio offers a unique voice, as she has had to overcome the challenges of being taken seriously as a female producer. With the bedroom producer type of musician becoming more and more the norm these days, there is still a heavy stereotype of men playing around with their musical gear, even though ladies like Rubio are self-confessed music tech geeks. Although, Todkill offers his sympathies, having once walked out of a session when his clients continued being sexist towards his intern after a warning. Nonetheless, male or female, TommyD,
Rubio, and Todkill preach to the audience that, today, if you want to make it in music, you must start doing your own thing. Now. Want to make it in a band? Start putting on gigs at your nearest pub/venue. Want to be a producer? Start making those beats immediately. Part Two After a short interlude, it’s the turn of Tre Jean-Marie to take apart one of his beats, opting for Magic, which he wrote with one Craig David. Jean-Marie has also worked with AJ Tracey, MNEK, and Little Mix, but the audience quickly becomes grateful he opted for a Craig David song to dissect. He makes the point that the process is always that much easier when working with someone as vocally gifted as Mr David, proving his point by playing the vocal parts a capella, leaving attendees breathless as we hear his harmonies forming with and then without his go-to Waves compressors and dynamics. But Craig David aside, it’s invaluable insight from one of the UK’s top producers, as he
talks us through his workflow and song creation process. The audience is also highly engaged throughout - it’s clearly a mix of young creators, producers, and beatmakers. Rubio then graces the stage once more to perform one of her trademark latin-house songs, getting all the heads nodding in unison. She then takes a few more questions, and, being the beacon of female empowerment that she is, encourages a few of the girls in the room to speak up - and plenty of them do, which is a real highlight. This is important work that Rubio needs to keep up, being such a natural speaker, as well as super-talented musically. There will be plenty more events and panels to follow Behind The Beat, so watch this space. Also, check out The Hub and The Pod, Headliner’s new video portal and podcast, both of which are hosted on the Headliner website. www.headlinermagazine.net www.genelec.com www.milocostudios.com www.waves.com
Audio in Sports
2019 Netball World Cup
2019 NETBALL WORLD CUP
Headliner goes backstage to bring you a full technical production breakdown of the 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup, staged at the 11,000-capactity M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool.
This year’s Netball World Cup was a real success, and in addition to the plethora of amazing athletes who entertained the nation (and much of the world) for 10 glorious days, the event benefitted from a seriously impressive production backbone, courtesy of Adlib Audio, which incorporated a fully integrated video, lighting and audio package, linking in with broadcast elements for BBC and Sky. This spectacle meant world class netball was delivered to an international TV audience, and many thousands packing into the court-side seats which were sold out for the duration. The quadrennial event featured two distinctive criteria: firstly, a fantastic Opening Ceremony which wowed the crowds and got everyone in the mood for the sport to follow. Adlib’s technical team worked closely with curators of the ceremony ‘Culture Liverpool’ and ‘Iluminos’, and provided six Panasonic RZ21K 20,000 lumen laser projectors mounted vertically to project the visuals created by Iluminos onto the courts below. Lighting and video effects combined
to produce the spectacle enjoyed by the live audience and TV viewers alike. City of Culture The eye-popping high-energy choreographed 45-minute Opening Ceremony directed by the Culture Liverpool team was a pacey collage of music, dance, aerialists, and projections mapped on the arena floor, complete with a parade by the 16 competing nation teams. Adlib worked with Illuminos, who produced the large format projection content: six Panasonic RZ21K laser projectors which projected onto both courts plus a fibre data control system which hooked them into Iluminos’ media servers programmed with all of the content. A main video element was the central flown video ‘cube’ in the middle of the arena which displayed IMAG footage from parts of the match relay and beamed information all around the arena. The flown position of the four screens started off being in the middle of the two courts, which then it became the
overall centre of the arena when in one court mode. The four sides each measured 7 x 4 metres and were made up of Adlib’s 3.9 mm pitch Unilumin product. They were flown in a diamond orientation - at 45 degrees to centre - to provide the best arena-wide viewing angles. As with lighting and audio, Adlib also supplied all the necessary screen rigging for this and collaborated closely with the house riggers. Around the sides of the courts at ground level, five 5-metre strips of 6mm LED were deployed down each side of the two courts, a layout that transformed to having the LED banners around three sides of the single court. The positions were calculated carefully so the LED was always in camera shot, therefore ideal for sponsor logos, branding, messaging and for relaying entertainment content. Adlib’s video crew dealt with all the screen management and the playback materials being sent to the various sports presentation screens within the arena. The complex setup enabled control of individual screens in the gondola
Audio in Sports
2019 Netball World Cup
“A Coda Audio ViRAY and AiRAY system was chosen to fill the arena with crisp, clear high-quality sound...” and courtside LED elements. The system allowed for multiple keyed overlays of timers, scores, graphics, information and systems all to be called up at a moment’s notice from the data fed graphical replay system. On-court drama followed, produced by Sport Presentation specialists Red Sky at Night Events Ltd, which saw 16 nations compete for the coveted Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 trophy. Sound Decisions Adlib also co-ordinated and designed the audio system for this event which included multiple flown speaker arrays, together with a control package to cater for various audio sources during the event along with Opening and Closing Ceremonies. A Coda Audio system – ViRAY and AiRAY - was chosen to fill the arena with crisp, clear high-clarity sound. The small physical size of these speakers made it easy to keep sightlines clear to the central video screens whilst keeping the audio coverage consistent throughout the area. The system was designed to cover all seating areas around the arena bowl including a temporary stand at the standard ‘stage end’ of the hall. There were seven main speaker hangs as follows: two hangs of eight AiRAY were at the ‘D’ end of the arena along with one more
six AiRAY hang at the ‘stage’ end. Four further hangs of ViRAY covered the long sides of the arena, with two hangs of nine speakers each side. The system was then zoned so that audio could be played in either half of the arena if needed (to coincide with the two-court setup), and then both halves when the configuration moved to one court Four Coda SCV-F subs made up each of the two sub hangs flown centrally in the arena. All the amp racks and distro were installed into the arena roof, to allow maximum ground space for the sports action; and because the smaller ViRAY speaker is a passive box and only needs a single channel of amplification, it reduced the amp requirement, which saved on rigging time. This was particularly useful as the final part of the journey from the lift into the appropriate roof areas is via stairs, so every little helped. As with lighting and video, the sound design was multifunctional and dynamic to deal with the demands of the sporting action and the OC. Front of house control was via a DiGiCo SD11 console, located at the back of one of the long end seating areas, and the show was run from there. The backup audio console - for full redundancy - was set up in video world backstage, along with the I/O racks and
RF distribution Most of the audio feeds were taken directly from the video: this consisted of music tracks, and recorded announcements. Added to that were Shure Axient handheld mics to look after the live announcements between games. For the Opening Ceremony, audio was generated from the video content so it was sync’d up with the rest of the choreographed visual elements. As part of this show there was a solo singer and choir which made use of additional Shure RF handheld microphones. Kenny Perrin and David Grimes looked after the audio for the 11-day event run, joined by Fabrizio Colucci for the Opening Ceremony, with Max Taylor assisting on the two day load-in and set up. Dave Eldridge had the final word: “It was great to be supplier to such a high-profile sports event locally, in home territory for us. It was really exciting to break new ground as a full tech service provider for World Cup level sporting events. It’s been a busy summer with festivals, tours and events and this was a great unique challenge in which we were proud to be involved.” www.codaaudio.com www.adlib.co.uk www.digico.biz
BY ORDER OF THE PEAKY BLINDERS... By order of the Peaky Blinders – or rather, a hopeful request on behalf of the hit BBC show’s season five director, Anthony Byrne: singer-songwriter, Anna Calvi, was tasked with creating an original score for the brutal gangster drama’s new series. Calvi reveals how she got in the mindset of unbalanced and murderous main character, Tommy Shelby, and why being an outsider makes her a typical ‘Peaky’ artist. Words Alice Gustafson | Photograph Robert Viglasky
remember being at school, and I wouldn’t even sing a line in a school play – I was so phobic of singing,” admits Anna Calvi. Ironically, the talented singer and musician would go on to make a living using her operatic, contralto voice – most recently being asked to write the score for season five of BBC hit show, Peaky Blinders. “I think if the younger me knew what I’d end up doing as a career, she’d be very happy, but surprised. I think out of everything I’ve done, overcoming my fear of singing and becoming a singer is the thing I’m most proud of, and is my biggest achievement.” A successful artist in her own right and with a handful of Mercury Prize and British Breakthrough Act-nominated albums under her belt, composing an original score for film or TV was completely new for Calvi: “I’ve written music for an opera before, but I’ve never done a score for a film or anything, so, it was a new territory for me. It was a bit daunting at first, but it was really fun and exciting to do a take on that challenge. I’ve always been a fan of Peaky Blinders, and especially the way that they use music in a series. I think it’s used to a really amazing effect. The director, Anthony Byrne, had come to a few of my shows, we got chatting and then he asked me to do it. I was really excited to be part of it.” Speaking to Headliner just after episode one has aired, Calvi speaks in a small, quiet voice that belies her intense, charged onstage performances. This is where her inner show-woman steps into the spotlight: On-stage, Calvi is an electric tangle of dark hair, smudged black eyeshadow and thunderous rock and roll. For the uninitiated, Peaky Blinders is a brutal gangster drama set in the lawless streets of 1920s Birmingham, where the Shelby family fight (literally) to navigate the worlds of illegitimate and legitimate ways of empire-building – anyone opposing them swiftly finding out what is stitched inside their infamous caps. Season five sees head of the family, Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) enter the realm of politics in the midst of the 1929 financial crash. At once a war hero and an anti-hero, a troubled Shelby is increasingly succumbing to the effects of PTSD. With the weight of the world on his angry shoulders, his confident exterior rapidly gives way to paranoia, madness and suicidal actions.“Me and Anthony talked a lot about Tommy’s psyche, and how to express
what’s going on inside him,” Calvi explains. “He’s trying to portray this image that he is strong and that he’s taking care of everyone, but inside there is this dismantling of his-self that’s happening, and that’s the part I found interesting to score. Cillian’s performance, and the dialogue, is so strong – that’s all I needed; it felt like a dialogue between us, even though I’d never met him or spoken to him.” Before sitting down to score the new series, Calvi intentionally did not binge-watch the entire show as a refresher: “I specifically didn’t, because I didn’t want to get influenced by the music that had come before. Although I had watched it a while ago, I wanted to go in fresh and make sure that I did music that was for me, not what I thought they would want.” With the daunting task ahead of her, Calvi was sent the new episodes (sometimes not finished edits) with just the dialogue captured: “In the practical sense, I would have the episode on my computer, with the dialogue. As I was watching, I’d have my guitar and vocal mic, and I would be responding instinctively to what was happening – that’s how I began the process of writing, and then I would go back and sculpt it.” Anyone that has seen any of the season’s deleted scenes will know how strange they sound without music. “It is odd, and it kind of makes you realise how much it affects what you watch,” agrees Calvi. “The music underneath has a really big influence over what you are watching.”
Calvi took a month to produce the score for episode one, but quickly got into the swing of things. “The first episode took the longest, but as I went on, I got quicker. I think it was becoming more like a week per episode. They would have deadlines because they would need to colour it and do the sound effects, and that’s new to me too. With my own music, the deadline is basically my deadline, whereas this time, so many other people are working on it, so you can’t be the one to be like: ‘Oh, I need an extra week’. It was like having a proper job and going: ‘Shit, actually, there is a deadline!’ [laughs]. So there were a few all-nighters that I had to do to get everything done!” It was very important to Calvi to capture the initial, emotional response that the images and dialogue gave her, sitting at her laptop with just a guitar and a Neumann U67.
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“It’s like playing music with someone, when you’re watching [Cillian Murphy’s] performance and responding to it; it felt like our dialogue...” “That’s all I need really, it’s pretty basic!” With Shelby’s mental state in decline and as the violence ramps up, through the score Calvi wanted to give his character a subconscious feminine voice to further unnerve viewers. “The interesting thing about Tommy is that you fall in love with someone who is multifaceted, and not just one thing. There’s a lot of complexity to the character, and so I felt like I wanted to bring out some of this side of him – whatever feminine means, because to me, feminine in his case is his darkest and most twisted side. There’s a complexity to that that I find really interesting.” Season five saw Shelby cousin, Michael Gray, make power moves of his own, seemingly turning against his family. “The interesting thing is the idea about whether or not Tommy can trust him,” says Calvi. “There was one point where I was watching the episodes with Anthony and I said: ‘Is he telling the truth?’ And Anthony didn’t want to tell me whether he was, because he liked the idea of me not knowing either. The idea with the music was to leave that open, because even I don’t know. There’s a sense of unease about that.” As source material, season five has given Calvi a lot to play with. Complicated narratives, quotable one-liners, and cunning plans that would put Baldrick to shame play out against a smorgasbord of ostentatious ‘20s glamour and opulence. The gang are out of their depth in high society, trying to pass themselves off as upstanding members of the community, however, the inevitable pull of violence, power struggles, turf-wars and revenge are never far from their minds. “We all try and get away, but we never do,” warns the gravel-voiced head of the family, Polly. 20 Headliner
Before the programme aired, the ominous trailer gave audiences a peek at what was to come: Calvi and David Byrne song, Strange Weather (written by Keren Ann) perfectly accompanies slow-mo shots of the exquisitely-dressed gang, who are ready for another war. “I think when Anthony was trying to find the right song for the trailer, that song really stuck out for him because of the beauty and danger, romanticism and also something edgy, so I think it works really well,” she says, humbly. Calvi has often been described as a virtuoso guitarist, and is noted for her particular style of playing which involves hitting the strings in a circular motion. Her distinctive style permeates the entirety of the new series, complementing the rebellious rock and rock soundtrack synonymous with the Peaky world. Often using high levels of reverb, the score is all woozy electric guitars, dissonant chords and distorted riffs – and full on rock and roll – heightening the sense of unease and conflict amongst the characters. Key score moments include a beautiful melody juxtaposing a particularly violent (even for him) Arthur Shelby beatdown, and a tense assassination attempt where the guitar is strung out like the viewers’ nerves. “The characters have different musical scenes,” says Calvi. “For Tommy it is very much about trying to express his inner world, so I used my breaths a lot to underpin the idea that he may be saying one thing, but inside there’s a turmoil and an anxiety in him which he is trying to hide – that was an important one. I guess what was interesting was using the guitar to express the outward side of him where he gets reckless
and dangerous, but there are also elements of music which are actually moments of intimacy between Arthur and Tommy where it’s showing something more vulnerable – I guess more delicate, sad and beautiful. Those parts are actually the most fun to score because that’s when you really fall in love with a character, when you see them at their most vulnerable.” Peaky Blinders is consistently brilliant at marrying modern music to a period setting, using artists such as Black Sabbath, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Davie Bowie, Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys, PJ Harvey, The White Stripes, and of course, Nick Cave in its soundtracks. What is it about these that makes them sound ‘Peaky’? Apparently, it’s all down to being a bit of an outsider. “Yeah, and a sense that the character and the music is an anti-hero,” she confirms. “It’s a sense of yearning and longing for something that maybe you’ll never get, but you’ll push yourself to the edge to get it. [The director] decides if it’s a ‘Peaky song,’ or ‘Peaky music’. Sometimes Anthony would ask me what I thought when they chose music for certain scenes, but I don’t get involved with choosing them.” With Peaky Blinders 5 now wrapped, would Calvi consider doing other score work in future? “Yeah, definitely; I loved doing it and I love the way it’s not about me. It’s about serving another purpose, and that’s really liberating – especially when you’re a solo artist and you’re always having to talk about yourself and think about your inner thoughts. It’s really nice to have another perspective; it’s freeing as a musician.” www.annacalvi.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
Evita in London
EVITA DESCENDS ON REGENT’S PARK During this summer’s London’s outdoor theatre season, theatre lighting specialist, Jon Clark, helped interpret director Jamie Lloyd’s stripped back production of iconic musical, Evita, juxtaposing new generation LED moving lights with traditional par cans. One of the accepted technical challenges of London’s outdoor theatre season are the major productions at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, which run right through the summer. Working within the existing stage infrastructure, theatre lighting specialist, Jon Clark, had his work cut out in bringing Evita to London’s Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. GLP’s award-winning impression X4 Bar 20 battens have been put to many creative uses since their launch, and Clark managed to extend the envelope further here, assigning different roles to the 24 fixtures supplied from White Light’s inventory. He also road tested GLP’s new Fusion Stick 10, while giant impression X4 XL
RGBW heads took the place of follow spots in what was generally a very monochromatic design, punctuated by cold ice blues to mimic the Argentinian flag. Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic musical, of course, tells the story of Eva Peron, from a life of poverty to spiritual leader of the nation, but here, Jamie Lloyd had applied a contemporary twist. Authentic Setting Jon Clark and set designer, Soutra Gilmour, have collaborated regularly with the director over the past decade, and since Clark also lit Into The Woods at the Open Air Theatre in 2010 as well as the opera, The Turn of The
Screw, last year, he was used to the challenges of working in this location. “We have a very established relationship which is hugely valuable, given that the stage rehearsal period is short for a production of this scale. Most of the lighting is programmed overnight with little time onstage with the cast in the correct time of day, ahead of the first performance,” Clark says. “Soutra and Jamie chose to set Evita on a dilapidated stadium seating bleacher, which to all intents and purposes looks as though it may have been sat in Regent’s Park for the past one hundred years or so. Jamie was keen that the production and the lighting design harnessed the dynamism and energy of an
Evita in London
“Evita is set on a dilapidated stadium setting bleacher which looks like it’s sat in Regents Park for 100 years...” outdoor music festival. Contrasting with the festival aesthetic, is a starker, directional lighting language, more synonymous with contemporary European opera.” The LD could envisage different roles for the X4 Bar 20s, not least for their high output during the earlier daylight segment. There are two continuous runs of GLP Impression X4 Bar 20s which are built into the roof and describe the linear form of the scenic structure and contrast with the tungsten Par and Molefay clusters. “They were perfect,” he confirms. “We used the X4 Bars in single pixel mode, allowing us to utilise them either as a 12-metre curtain of light or more selectively to isolate specific areas, pixel by pixel.” As for road testing the Fusion Stick 10, GLP’s new IP65-rated linear fixture with different beam angle options, this was a major success. “They were brilliant,” he exclaims. “We utilised them as footlights to uplight the ascending steps of the set, using the 40° lens.” Housing 10 15W RGBW LEDs, he
immediately noticed the volume of light output from such a small unit. “We needed a cold, intense source to contrast with the tungsten uplight from the Pars. The Fusion Sticks deliver a very concentrated light in a discreet form, which proved ideal. The quality of colour and resolution of dimming was excellent, and they also come with a barn door accessory which we used.” Finally, two large GLP impression X4 XL, housing a massive 55 15W RGBW LEDs, were positioned downstage left and right on the proscenium truss towers. Positioned at the top of each tower, the XLs are utilised as pseudo-follow spots to heighten Evita at key dramatic moments, with bold parallel beams. The use of the GLP fixtures not only provided Jon Clark with an imaginative solution for the Open Air Theatre production but has further ignited his interest for future productions. www.glp.de
BBC INTRODUCING: CHAMPIONING TALENT Floyd Mason looks at the rise of BBC Music Introducing, a very commendable sector of the BBC which has made giant strides in recent years creating a platform for the plethora of young emerging UK artists. With the rise of social media, insane numbers of songs being added to streaming services weekly, 24-hour news, and the increase of force-fed media slowly turning our brains to Foie gras, for artists, the chances of being discovered are dwindling. Even if a musician flitters across your phone screen, who’s to say you’ll stop scrolling and listen? Then locate the artist on Spotify/Apple to download their songs? Then book tickets to their show? It’s all too busy, and no one has time for that. Thankfully, we have BBC Music Introducing to do the hard work for us. Founded in 2007, BBC Intro has helped launch some of your favourite artists such as Mercury Prize 2019 nominees Little Simz and Idles, Jake Bugg, Loyle Carner, Royal Blood, and a guy you might know named Ed Sheeran. Having been awarded the Best New
Platform to Discover Music at the BT Digital Music Awards in 2010 and the Gold award for Best Use of Multiplatform at the Sony Radio Academy Awards the following year, BBC Intro has now gained more kudos and backing from the rest of the BBC than ever, becoming the place for the best up and coming talent from all over the UK. SUPPORTING THE CREATIVES By the time BBC Music Introducing had launched, many BBC local radio stations were airing their own weekly local music shows to champion their hometown artists. Shows such as The Box Office on BBC Three Counties Radio, The Friday Session on BBC Hereford and Worcester, Raw Talent on BBC Radio Humberside and The Weekender on BBC Radio Nottingham proved popular, developing huge interest in building a more coherent structure and platform for new
music on the BBC. These regional shows soon turned into the earliest BBC Music Introducing airings and there are now currently over 190,000 registered artists and over 470,000 tracks uploaded to the BBC Music Introducing website. Artists get played weekly across 38 Introducing shows on BBC radio, with each show reflecting its local music scene around the country. Since it began, BBC Music Intro has hosted at some of the biggest festivals in the UK. Within the last 10 years, it has had stages at Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds, Latitude, Radio 1’s Big Weekend, T in the Park, Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Winter Jazzfest in New York, and SXSW in Texas. With each county given the ability to choose one or two artists from their shows to play on their stage at any one of these festivals, the BBC Music Intro stage becomes a hub for discovering the
“The 38 Introducing shows on BBC local radio stations showcase a wealth of new music across the regions...” next big thing at every festival. The 38 Introducing shows on BBC local radio stations showcase the wealth of new music being discovered across the regions. It’s from here that artists are forwarded to BBC DJs to play on national radio. Every week, the BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra music teams feature an Introducing artist on their playlists which has proven to rapidly expand an artist’s fanbase. With the added ability to choose artists to play at various festivals, success stories include Florence + the Machine, taken by BBC Music Intro to Texas in 2008 to play at SXSW festival; and Ed Sheeran, who played the Introducing stage at Glastonbury in 2011. GENERATION Z & BEYOND Some of the BBC’s presenters have also started their own showcase gigs including BBC Intro’s own Jess Iszatt (pictured left and above) from London with showcases at the Lexington, and BBC Radio 1’s Jack Saunders at the Sebright Arms. Iszatt started out working on student radio stations, and has now made a real name for herself as producer/presenter of BBC Introducing London. “BBC Intro is so great because it allows
artists a way to get their music heard by a platform that can make a difference,” she says. “It means that an artist with nothing other than pure talent can make a real relationship with people just as passionate as they are about getting their music out there! “It also provides opportunities, completely free of cost, such as radio play at a local level, a route through to national airplay on BBC Radio 6 Music, Radio 1, 1Xtra, Radio 2, Asian Network, interviews, live sessions at Maida Vale, recording sessions at Abbey Road Studios, and the chance to play at stages and festivals across the UK and beyond, regardless of social media and streaming statistics.” Iszatt is passionate about her role, and determined to keep BBC Intro at the top of its game, breaking emerging talent in the UK. “The new musicians coming through have so many avenues of getting their music out there these days; we have to ask why they would want to send their music to us, and why it is worth their time and effort,” she reflects. “The job role is not just to play music on our show - we are proactive in going to gigs, organising sessions, educating ourselves on the local scene, inviting in guests who are not just music makers, but people who work in the industry to provide advice. We make sure all
genres and styles of music get played, and we adapt the show where necessary. Many major artists have broken with the help of BBC Intro: Florence + the Machine, Catfish and The Bottlemen, George Ezra, James Bay, Jack Garrett, and The 1975, to name a few. And more recently, Lewis Capaldi - who I saw at Introducing Live last year at a tiny pub just outside Tobacco Dock. It’s mad to think that that was less than a year ago, and now just look at him!” The UK has always been a pioneer for the best new music, and so BBC Music Introducing is making sure that this remains the case. So the next time you’re overloaded with choices from your phone, brain going into meltdown with what music to listen to, stick on your local BBC Radio station and listen back to the BBC Music Introducing show to hear the best of the best from your hometown. For more information, check out the BBC Sounds website below. www.bbc.co.uk/sounds
Itâ€™s the Grand Prix: There are 120 people talking across comms at the same time, and split second decisions that mean the difference between a driver winning or losing need to be made. No pressure. Headliner gets an exclusive tour of the paddock at the Hockenheim circuit, where Leonardo Di Biase, motorsport solutions specialist, and Jakob Stellbrinck, team leader for F1, give an insight into the Riedel technology that never fails to deliver.
DOWN TO THE WIRE
hen I was working with Michael Schumacher, I never paid attention to comms, as I was on a different side of the F1, but what I can tell you is the radio was very heavy, and the headsets – how they now reduce the noise – it wasn’t like that back then. Everything is lightweight, and better-sounding now,” begins Leonardo Di Biase, motorsport solutions specialist for Riedel, while showing Headliner around the Rich Energy Haas F1 Team garage. “These days, [Riedel’s] Bolero is the best thing for everybody – the ability to get that amazing technology everywhere here is getting better. Everything, including the way we are working, is getting so much faster; and until a few races ago, we were using three radios, and that’s just too much! With Bolero, I can do whatever I want: extra channels and better audio. It’s perfect for me.” Bolero is on everybody’s lips that Headliner talks to at the Hockenheim circuit this year, and after an explanation about its capabilities, it’s easy to see why: the wireless intercom system is capable of supporting 10 belt-packs per antenna, and up to 100 antennas in a single deployment; it incorporates an ADR (Advanced DECT Receiver) with multiple-diversity and RF anti-reflection technology; and it integrates with Riedel’s Artist network infrastructure, all the while functioning as a walkie-talkie. In F1, every team except McLaren is using Riedel radios, and 100% of the intercom is Riedel – there are a mind blowing 2,500+ radios working during a week, as well as all of the intercoms. A pretty epic setup, then? “Yeah! Using Bolero, with one radio I can do everything that I used to do with three radios,” De Biase smiles. “The audio is digital, therefore it’s really loud and clear, plus I can put all the channels on that I want. Using radio, we have five, but in terms of intercom, we have no limit; and I can give all of the team the privilege of only talking, or wanting to listen as well.” In addition to testing in Germany, Riedel put Bolero through its paces in Monte Carlo three years ago: “It’s the most stressful place on the F1 circuit, as it’s noisy everywhere, but Bolero worked absolutely perfectly,” insists Di Biase. “Everyone’s expectation there is always: ‘there will be some problem’, but we used this, and had no problems at
all – it was amazing at long distances, plus the noise is so low, and the audio is way better. Bolero has changed the game in F1, really.” Interestingly, during a session, each team is allowed to hear the other drivers’ comms when the driver is on the track. “It’s a regular act,” Di Biase laughs, “And always using our Riedel system. Every team can hear all the other drivers on the track. There are many people who have this option, and you can split the people who can hear that. It all depends on the race: if you’re 10th and [Lewis] Hamilton is first, you don’t worry about Hamilton, you worry about a team or driver who is closer to you, so your strategy can be changed. If you have a problem, or if someone is coming for a pitstop, you can hear them and form a strategy – it can really help.”
ALL AROUND THE WORLD
All team communications are handled through Riedel Artist Intercom mainframes and panels, interfacing seamlessly with over 2,000 Motorola Tetra digital radio systems. This is no small undertaking, as Di Biase explains: “In Team Haas, we have 120 people talking around the world at the same time – all through Riedel. When they have a meeting, everyone is connected. The comms system is very advanced. By radio, we can hear five [RF] channels in the team, with the priority given by a scan list; for instance, we have two drivers: red and green, one for each driver – so the red crew can hear theirs, and so on. “We can give crew and race comms, and during the race, it’s very important that we give all comms to the whole team because the race channel is also used to call a pitstop. During that, you have all the crew working together despite which driver’s car is coming in (two drivers to one team) – and all of the teams are doing this. So that’s 20 people total working on one pitstop for a refuelling – as you can imagine, that can be stressful! But our radio systems now make everything more efficient behind the scenes.” The Tetra radios combine the advantages of analogue trunked radio with those of digital mobile radio to provide optimal frequency usage, high transmission quality for speech and data, maximum security against eavesdropping, as well as flexible networking and connection management. Beyond that, the digital trunked radio system supports full duplex communication, GPS-positioning, and connection to
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“It’s a real exercise for your brain, listening to all the comms simultaneously - though it’s less crazy than you might imagine...” the public telephone network. The system offers the option of operating different virtual channels, and it can leverage IP connectivity to support wide-area operation. “It’s a real exercise for your brain, listening to all the comms simultaneously – though it’s less crazy than you might imagine,” Di Biase points out. “All comms are in English, and I am Italian, so I work harder – but after 30 minutes, your brain starts to adjust. During one session you’re already recognising who is talking where and when. So you listen to everyone when they talk – and when people have a problem, you have to be ready. It’s not panic, exactly – but it’s stress, and many people are talking. When you hear the accent and voice you know, just run! [laughs]” Safety is a primary concern at F1, and naturally the ability to communicate with safety personnel positioned around large tracks is of vital importance. Riedel provides the same digital radios for safety and medical personnel, as well as the safety and medical car drivers. Each team has around 85 people between radios and intercoms connected at the same time, Di Biase explains. “F1 sessions are 90 minutes, and then there’s one-hour free practice on the Saturday, but in the qualifying stages it’s so fast: 15 minutes, 15 minutes, 10 minutes – so you don’t have time at all. It’s intense. And the Riedel matrix is full here, which is normal: for instance, weather conditions change, and then you can see the system is under stress. Everybody is talking at the same time when this happens, so it gets massive. In qualifying, you make decisions in less than a second: it rains, so do you change the tyres?” Riedel’s Artist Intercom matrix (a scalable 28 Headliner
digital intercom network that provides communications and audio signal distribution for any audio or intercom application) has been adopted by the sport’s governing body, FIA. In addition, F1 (which produces the world broadcast feed) and the F1 teams use Artist as the standard communication platform. It is deployed to connect the FIA stewards, the pit crews, and the drivers. In short, signals are routed to a radio base station with three antennas (two receivers, one transmitter). The signals are then routed over Riedel’s RiLink global fibre service to its own data centre in Frankfurt (which serves as the hub for its worldwide operations) supported by a NOC (also in Frankfurt) and maintained 24/7 all year round, and then it gets fed on to the teams and broadcasters. Di Biase suddenly remembers something, producing some Riedel headphones, and inviting Headliner to try them on – instantly outside noise is reduced quite significantly. “These are designed to reduce some noise, but they’re not noise-cancelling,” he explains. “They’re closed cup. If you have these, the noise is constant so they have time to send back the frequencies.”
LAYING THE GROUNDWORK
With a lot to prepare for, Di Biase is whisked away just in time for Headliner to meet Jakob Stellbrinck, team leader for F1 at Riedel. During the exclusive tour around the paddock, the size of the Riedel F1 operation becomes clear. FIA team rules permit only 60 crew on-site, but up to 250 might be at the factory in Germany with the rest split over three continents at certain races. For Hockenheim, the team is divided into three: the installation team, who arrive
the week before the event to work on the fibre infrastructure in the pit lane (6km of fibre alone is used for the garages); the team that handles the ‘brain’ of the system, where the infrastructure is kept; and the race team, who are mostly kept busy checking all the fibre ahead of a race, reporting back if there are any issues. “For example, from here, they left to go straight to Hungary [ahead of the next race] to start to put the fibre on it – 12km of fibre in total, it’s a lot! They will do the handover in Hungary, then come back here for the rigging. We like to use the same people all the time if possible; it’s good to always use the same procedure – there are a lot of details. For instance, in the day in Singapore, the pit can reach 70 degrees, and normally electronics and computers don’t like it. And then we have rain, and a lot of humidity, so we test it and send it back to product development, and they check it. Sometimes they make adjustments, and this is going across the whole production. We are quite diligent in testing every day.” The team also has to factor in things that are out of their control: “In some race tracks we have carpet in the garage or in the engineer’s office, and it’s not carpet that is anti-static, so you need to deal with the fact that if you build up a static current, there will be a problem because it will discharge somewhere! There really is a lot to think about.” All fibre used is bespoke, and made by Riedel. Each race uses approximately 8-12km of fibre, which the team installs and de-installs for each Grand Prix. At any one time, the manufacturer has three fibre sets travelling around the world, which are then split into specific channels for
“Everyone is talking at the same time; in qualifying, you have to make decisions in under a second: it’s raining, so do we change the tyres?” each of the race teams. “We have quad comm fibre, which is for the core, but because of the weight, it is very expensive to fly, so we try to make a longer reel,” he explains. “So instead of making the usual 150m, we go for 300m. It requires less infrastructure, and if you remove 10 kilos of that, it’s a big saving in efficiency. And obviously we have specialised people to do the connector testing and to maintain the fibre, so we do a lot of this ourselves. “We also use MediorNet, which is quite an intelligent product with a lot of diagnostics – which is good, because we can develop it. A few years ago, when we started to use it, we always had two people to look at it each side – now we can generate signal, and we just need one person. It may sound silly, but one person is a lot! When you have only 10 people, that’s 10%! [laughs]”
MediorNet Modular ultimately allows the team to configure the mainframe to their requirements: the frame can be filled with various Media and Link cards, as required for the specific application. Crucially, MediorNet’s standard fibre transceivers have an optical budget of 18dB minimum, allowing for distances of up to 40km (25 miles), while redundant power supplies guarantee maximum reliability. All MediorNet Link Cards provide signal monitoring and link status information, which can be monitored via status LEDs and system-wide via the MediorWorks software and SNMP network management systems. For video, Riedel’s MediorNet system leverages permanent and temporary fibre paths to provide
feeds for FOM and FIA while also providing and routing HD CCTV feeds for multiple uses around the tracks and in viewing areas. The team has around 100 cameras in use, including onboard and CCTV cameras. Via an MPLS (a high-performance telecoms switching network) which runs on RiLink, teams can respond instantly; the delay is 300 milliseconds from overseas, and just 10ms in Europe, which is pretty handy, given that lap times are often decided by that amount. “Plus, it’s more efficient, which means fewer people travelling, and lower costs – and it doesn’t affect the technology,” Stellbrinck explains. “We used to do production here with 65-70 people travelling around the world, and now they have five. This travel saving is much more efficient, and people are happier because they don’t have to travel. We can have a mixed configuration – everything running on F1 is redundant – if I have a base station for the radios, and my centralised base station is here, there are two. One we call ‘not swap’ – if one goes down for any reason, the other one is already up.” The command centre is a single complete flyaway system – a fully redundant unit with its own generator that contains routers with servers (more than 60 terabyte) loaded with Riedel software, which pulls in all the information for FIA race control. Once it leaves the track, just the fibre and the power cables are unplugged. “We control the latency as well,” he adds. “So when we go to Australia – which is the furthest for us, because most of the team is based in Europe – their uplink and downlink (which is not the same speed) is about 260 milliseconds. Sometimes the driver is speaking in the car, and
somebody in Italy is answering, and talking to the driver in realtime. Our hub is in Frankfurt, so everything goes back there, and then we split it out. We have 24 places in the world which we can also break out if we need to. Sometimes we have a situation where there are five, six or seven sides connected at the same time.” The team monitors everything constantly, and is ready to react to the smallest issue: “We know when a packet is leaving, so we are waiting for a handshake,” Stellbrinck says. “We know how long it should take. If we have a package lost or anything, it changes colour, and immediately tells you which address it is, because we need to sort it as soon as possible – we cannot afford to have a problem. Plus, we have tools on an iPhone, so when I’m not on the track, I can go to my tools, and we use a private network, so I can trigger each switch of my customer. “So for instance, if the latency is going up, we have an alarm, so we can have a look. We are monitoring 365 days, 24/7. When we have the installation team coming in the week before the GP, we start to test the line so we can tailor it as well.” Headliner has had quite the education in F1 here at Hockenheim, and all that goes on behind the scenes. Although the heat has been staggering, the technology at work here is even more bewildering. What a special experience. www.riedel.net www.formula1.com
Before most people had taken the training wheels off their bicycle, Alex Albon was already a better driver than most adults when he was seven years old. At the time of this interview, the F1 driver is representing Scuderia Toro Rosso (weeks later being promoted to Red Bull Racing). Albon chats to us from the paddock about music, NASA, and in the politest way possible â€“ why he doesnâ€™t want to speak to anyone. Words Alice Gustafson
THE SILENT TREATMENT
lex Albon has been driving since he was seven. Instead of watching cartoons after school, Albon was riveted with his first go kart, carving out figures of eight in the fields near his Suffolk home, unwittingly shaping his future career. “My dad got me into racing,” Albon tells Headliner ahead of the German Grand Prix on a blisteringly hot day in July. “I was seven when he bought me my first go kart. He took me to my first track when I was seven and a half, and that’s how it started. Back then, it was very father and son: my dad was my driving coach, my mechanic. Nowadays it’s not so much like that - the world of sport has changed a bit!” This season, the 23 year old has had an entire team maintaining his Formula 1 Toro Rosso STR14 1.6 litre car. After wrapping up with Headliner, Albon goes on to claim sixth place at the German GP – a career-best (at the time) for the relative newcomer. A Thai racing driver of English descent, Albon is driving in Formula One for Scuderia Toro Rosso, although he says he is more recognised as a Thai driver. “Silverstone was a kind of second home race to me, so that was nice, having my family there to watch the race,” he says. “I was just in Thailand this week, and motorsport isn’t that big in Thailand at the moment – MotoGP and World Superbike are bigger over there, but it’s getting bigger.” Albon enjoyed success in karting between 2006 and 2010, and has long been a fan of F1 racing driver, Michael Schumacher, and motorcycle road racer and multiple MotoGP World Champion, Valentino Rossi. Polite and well spoken, Albon is relaxed ahead of the race, crediting Toro Rosso with making him feel part of the family. “At the beginning, it was very alien for me – it’s a new world, going into Formula 1, but Toro Rosso has a history of bringing new drivers through,” he nods. “So they really understand what new drivers need; and not just driving, but also feedback, and even help with the media – everything is new. They have made me feel very welcome. I feel a lot more settled nowadays in an F1 car; more relaxed, less nervous.” If anything, Albon expected the driving to be a little bit more difficult to get used to: “The cars are – I don’t want to say they are easy to drive – but you get confidence from the car. It almost feels more like a computer game than a real car!”
Besides, Albon doesn’t have time to be nervous. This week alone has seen him race one day, fly to Scotland the next, followed by two days on a simulator, then on to Italy, and Thailand the following day. “The thing which I didn’t expect was the involvement – how busy you are,” he admits. “I did expect myself to be busy, but that takes a while to get used to. Although it’s almost like you don’t have the chance to get used to it, you just do it!” Toro Rosso has its own official Spotify playlist, helping fans (and perhaps drivers?) get in the zone before a race, revving them up with Papa Roach’s Last Resort or Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Can’t Stop. Phil Collins’ Easy Lover also features, because why not? “I like my music – I do use it as a way to get into the zone. Although I’m not the kind of guy that needs to be pumped up, in fact, quite the opposite!” he laughs. “I like the relaxing, chill music: the calmer I am, the better I drive. So no Metallica or anything!”
ALL SYSTEMS GO
Clear and reliable communication is crucial to any F1 race; Formula One has been working with Riedel for 26 years. Since F1 races occur from early March to late November, and take place on five continents, the varied climates of the locations, transport conditions, and harsh RF environments require a robust communications system that is capable of working at its optimum level in any weather condition whether rain, extreme heat, extreme cold, or high humidity. All team communications are handled through Riedel Artist Intercom mainframes and panels. Interfacing seamlessly with Motorola TETRA digital radio systems, engineers, crews, and driver have clear communications – the difference between winning and losing. More than 2,000 Motorola TETRA radio units are used every race. In addition to the entire equipment, up to 22 Riedel engineers are on site for each race. Despite the sophisticated comms gear making this all possible, ironically Albon usually says nothing during a race. “I’m quite a quiet guy on-track, so I don’t speak that much when I’m racing. I’m very focused, so I don’t want to speak to anyone. Normally the engineer is speaking to the driver a lot; and in other types of motorsport, the team will wait until you are on the street to speak to you, but
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“The communications are pretty non-stop, but it’s incredible; if you listen to a driver during a race, it’s like a NASA conference call..!” because F1 is so high tech, they need to tell you stuff quite urgently all the time – whether it’s an engine setting that you need to change, or a fail setting that you need to change, or even the balance. You can change the car’s balance with some of the steering tools. So they speak to you when they want, whenever they want! You could be in the middle of a corner, first lap, last lap. It’s pretty non-stop actually, but it’s incredible. If anyone ever gets the chance to listen to a driver during a race, it’s like a NASA conference call!” Although he admits there have been times when he’s been tempted to say something, but has held his tongue. “That happens every session,” he laughs. “Let’s just say when things don’t go right, there is no point giving angry communication – it’s not beneficial, so there’s no point. I think actually Daniil [Kvyat, fellow Toro Rosso driver] is worse than me at this! I’m throwing you under the bus a bit here!” he says, nudging his teammate. “If you want to get anything out of you, you normally say it before you turn up on the radio. We do radio tests a few times where the team leave the channel open, so then you get nervous because they can hear everything you say, so you’re just like, ‘okay, don’t say anything stupid!’”
A BALANCING ACT
In terms of feedback on how Albon and other drivers like their cars, it’s all about the tyres: “The main topic is always tyres, so for people that don’t know, the tyres we race on are very sensitive. A lot of performance revolves around how we manage the tyres, how the tyre reacts to the tarmac, so we are always giving comments about if the tyre is overheating, or not hot 32 Headliner
enough, and of course it’s just general balance. So it gets a bit complicated, but we need to fine tune our cars – they are already pretty perfect before we drive them because it’s F1, but there is still a lot to do with fine-tuning - for instance, if the front or rear is sliding – we are always playing with a 50/50 balance.” The hotter the temperature, the more weight F1 drivers lose during a race. Headliner just so happens to be speaking to Albon during a record-breaking heatwave in Germany, with track temperatures hovering around 42.6°C. The combination of g-force and high temperatures means that drivers can lose close to 4kg after every race, so drivers must take good care of their bodies. “It’s a complicated strategy; we’re pushing the limits of performance, and we don’t want to be underweight. So every morning we do a urine test, my physio or my trainer measures my hydration, and from there we take tabs – depending on how hydrated I am. And, of course, you don’t want to eat too much and drink too much before you drive. So it’s just about drinking and eating regularly through the day.” Those that believe in fate might read something into the fact that Albon’s first word was Ferrari, so perhaps it comes as no surprise that before this article even went to press, he was promoted to Red Bull Racing, and hasn’t finished lower than 6th since, setting a new PB of 4th in the Japanese GP. For now, he’s got the rest of the season to focus on, so expect to hear his name a lot more in the future. www.riedel.net www.formula1.com
TV India where composers collaborated - and he invited Mistry to join him: “While I was there, Viacom India started a festival in
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No Man’s Land
FRANK TURNER: NO MAN’S LAND We chat to Frank Turner about his latest album, No Man’s Land, which was released in mid-August, produced by Catherine Marks, and features an all-female cast of musicians. We hear you’re a self-confessed history nerd, but how did this interest in female historical figures pique? Actually, the overarching concept for the record, with its gender specificity, only arrived about halfway through the writing process. Initially, I was just trying to work on a story-telling, history album. I was wanting to tell cool stories that hadn’t been told before in song. After I had about four of them, I noticed the common thread - and there’s a definite political angle to the fact that, in trying to tell unknown stories, I ended up writing about women exclusively. But the initial motivation was simpler. Was it one of the particular heroines you sing of who drew first inspiration for the No Man’s Land project?
The first song I wrote for the record was Jinny Bingham’s Ghost. I wanted to write a song about Camden Town, which is one of my favourite places in the world, but take a different angle to, say, Suggs or the Libertines. Her story seemed like a good angle in for that. After that, I wrote about Dora Hand and Nica Rothschild, and then the theme made itself clear. It must have been a rare situation to be the only man in the recording studio! How was the recording experience with all-female backing? It was great! The most important thing about all the people I worked with was their talent, rather than their gender. Catherine Marks is an incredible producer. I did want to find a woman to fill that role, but she’s also at the
top of her game, and embraced the concept wholeheartedly. Playing with different people for a change was liberating too - I love The Sleeping Souls, and will play with them again, but it was cool to branch out for this session. It took me in some unexpected and refreshing creative directions. You really trace across the globe and history with the figures you sing about - the research must have been painstaking? [laughs] I think my history professor would say that my research was secondary. I wasn’t in the archives in cotton gloves! But it was really fun getting into all the books and sources that I could find - which were thin on the ground for a lot of these people. Getting history and music together for one project was really
No Man’s Land
“Catherine Marks is an incredible producer at the top of her game; she embraced the project wholeheartedly...” cool for me, marrying my two passions successfully ... I think! [smiles] I’m not claiming historical infallibility either, by the way - some of the historians on the podcast have corrected a few things here and there. You also ran a podacast alongside the record? That must have been a new and fun experience for you... It was a bold new frontier for me, for sure. I felt that it would be respectful to try to dive a little deeper on the people I’ve written about - condensing a whole life into three and a half minutes is quite a stretch. Getting knowledgeable guests on the show has been wonderful, as I say. My own learning curve is ongoing, with all these people. I hope other people have been learning too. You say your two greatest loves, music and history, have always
been separate until now. But history must have nonetheless always been a big influence on your music, if not directly? I suppose my understanding of the world in general is based on my extensive (some might say obsessive) habit of reading history. And that will naturally have bled through into my songwriting in general. I’ve certainly used dates and historical metaphors here and there in my writing. But in general, before this record I have tended to write in a confessional, autobiographical style. The big difference here is choosing to write about the lives of other people. And how’s the rest of the year looking for you? Will we be seeing you and the No Man’s Land musicians playing these songs live? I’ve been thinking about trying to work out
getting some or all of the players from the record onto the stage, but it’s a challenge, given that everyone has their own regular gig! But we’re working on it. To start with, we have a tour at the end of the year on which I will be playing two sets, the first of which will be a solo set focused on this material. At the time of writing, Frank Turner is touring out in the U.S. with shows in Arizona, New Mexico, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida. The tour comes to a close in Fort Lauderdale on November 8th with a one-off acoustuc full-band show in Dunfermline, Scotland on November 22. www.frank-turner.com
CHANGING THE FACE OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY
Sitting with Bobby Bloomfield on a bench in front of the entrance to the historic Tobacco Docks, we have on one side of us two disused old ships that would have been transporting tobacco from the ‘new world’ in the heyday of the London Docks, and behind us a canal, the only remaining watery feature of the docks, that is now mostly used for a scenic jog by Londoners. Words Adam Protz
t might not be immediately obvious, but the Tobacco Docks are now the epicentre of a global renaissance in music. It’s the current home of the studios, performance, and co-working space of The Rattle. But The Rattle is not a record label; in fact, you might even say it’s the antithesis of your typical profit-minded record label. The Rattle is a music collective, home to 100 artists, composers and music entrepreneurs. And with many of its artists launching their careers through its mentoring, even playing at Glastonbury in some cases, a new space ready to launch in Los Angeles and an imminent move to bigger premises in London, you could say it’s going quite well. Bloomfield’s journey from living in a squat, to touring the world as the drummer of Does It Offend You, Yeah?, to co-founding The Rattle has been as bumpy as it has been fascinating. “When I was 18, I was effectively homeless and couchsurfing,” he says. “1997 came along and I started getting help from the government, and I started building a studio in my squat and recording bands. I made around 50 records before I’d ever been in a proper studio. Then I landed some jobs writing music for a film and a TV commercial, which paid for several holidays, and some professional music equipment!” Bloomfield would soon be brought into the spotlight, as he explains that, as a music producer, you generally end up learning how to play most instruments. Then one of the other people who was couch-surfing and selling The Big Issue that he knew as an 18-year-old came into a venue he was working at and said: ‘Hey, I’ve just got a massive record deal. We’re gonna be touring the world, and I need a drummer!’ “So then I had the career touring the world and putting out albums with DIOYY? and remixing people like 50 Cent, P Diddy, and Linkin Park. Then that stopped because of a bereavement — I spent the next five years making music for TV commercials, games, and films.” A big part of the music industry that The Rattle is looking to change is one of the first sentences you will read on its website: ‘Music makers in the traditional music industry earn only 12% of the revenue. We don’t care for that statistic.’ Bloomfield’s musical life adds fuel to that fire. “Looking back on my successful music career, I realised
I didn’t get paid,” he laughs. “I was shafted from every direction. Like most artists, I care about putting out music, rather than money and possessions. It seems to me that the old music industry was built on that. So in 2015, amid the rise of Trump and Brexit, I also noticed there was no counterculture to quash these things, as there always has been previously. “I then looked at the festival bills that year, and realised it was all the same bands that were playing 25 years ago. Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, The Cure, instead of young people. So doing my research, I learned that streaming, which on one hand has saved the music industry, has left us with an industry that doesn’t care about new music or fresh ideas, but cares about monetising its back catalogue. I voiced this to everyone I knew because I’m a complaining old bastard, and then I met Chris [Howard, Rattle co-founder] who told me to do something about it.” The aforementioned Howard, who helped Bloomfield create The Rattle, is an alumnus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a serial entrepreneur and investor since. And last but not least is co-founder Jon Eades, who previously established and led Abbey Road’s technology and innovation arm, Abbey Road Red. Between the three of them, it’s a powerful pool of experience that’s reflected in the collective they’ve set up. “Chris is incredibly ambitious in business and wants to disrupt industries,” Bloomfield says. “And I’m ambitious in terms of art and culture. I really do care that The Rattle fucks shit up! We’ve now raised £1.7 million, opening in Los Angeles and doubling our size in London.”
And while The Rattle is both making money and helping its artists and startups make money, Bloomfield is very keen to infer that money shouldn’t be the sole aim of an artistic ambition. “For me, the most successful person I can think of is George Harrison,” he reveals. “Not because he was a millionaire with a mansion, but because he realised those things weren’t making him happy and he then went on his spiritual path.” Which of course then influenced some of the greatest music ever written. “I’ve had a bit of money now and then, and I’ve been on big tours with thousands of screaming fans, and it turns out those things don’t make you
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“It’s incredible to imagine what this enterprise could achieve, and just how much it could disrupt the music industry...” happy. I think success is just being happy. Artists have this sort of pathology they’re born with that means they’re only happy when they get to truly express themselves, which explains why we’d often rather starve than work in an office and never make music. So if we can find a way where artists can express themselves, find their bliss, and be able to pay the rent, then I think we’ve fucking nailed it.” I ask Bloomfield what he sees as The Rattle’s biggest wins so far. “PENGSHUi touring and remixing The Prodigy,” he says. “Too Many Ts touring Asia and their next album having five or six of the biggest names in hip hop on it. We’ve had artists have their music videos shown at The UN.” While these achievements and the money raised for its creative projects are huge, the staggering thing is that The Rattle is very much in its infancy, only founded in February 2018. It’s incredible to imagine what this enterprise could achieve and just how much it could disrupt the music industry, especially when considering Bloomfield and his team’s ambition to have Rattle spaces in cities across the globe. Watch this space…. seriously.
STUDIO KIT AT THE RATTLE
At its current incarnation at Tobacco Docks, The Rattle has four studios: the control room, essentially its mothership studio, the live room, often used for rehearsals but also for recording its beautiful piano and drums, and studios one 38 Headliner
and two, also known as the writing rooms. Each studio has some incredible equipment. A name that very much pops out at me from The Rattle’s equipment list is Focusrite - the space has three Focusrite Clarett 2Pres and one Focusrite Thunderbolt Clarett 8PreX. “I actually had a contact at Focusrite,” says Bloomfield. “They’re a family business in High Wycombe, and I’m from Reading, so I have friends of friends. They were a really good fit because they make shit hot pres with nice interfaces, and throughout our time we’ve never had a single problem. Everything has been recorded cleanly, not a single dropout, and they just plug and play. “I remember when interfaces were a nightmare! Focusrite are rock solid, and they kindly provided us with some equipment for our writing rooms, and hopefully we can continue that relationship.” Another big name on deck is Shure. The Rattle homes six Shure SM57s, and a Shure SM58. “To put it simply, we use Shure because they’re very good microphones,” insists Bloomfield. “The truth is, during my time with the band, there were a handful of mics that accidentally got put in my bag after a gig. They were Shure mics! The 901 was left inside my kick drum, and that’s been with me for 10 years - I’ve donated it to the Live Room as it’s the best kick drum mic. The SM57s, I have dozens of and you can do anything with them. I found out that all of Beck’s acoustic guitars on one album are recorded
with those, so I’ve been using them on acoustic guitars ever since.” The Rattle is also home to an abundance of Waves plugins: “We had to have Waves,” Bloomfield reveals. “You can’t have a modern studio without them. They’re one of those companies that know that they belong in every studio. The plugins that I use in every single session are the H-Delay, on everything. I obviously use the L2 on everything! I particularly enjoy the Channel Strip plugins nowadays, just to send a really high volume signal through, because they break up in a really interesting way. If you have a really clean bass sound, you can isolate mids in the bass and put it through something like their channel emulators and blend that in. Oh, and Waves Center - that is my absolute favourite plugin. If I lost all my Waves plugins, I could probably still do everything with Center.” Last but certainly not least, Soundtoyz plugins also have a happy home at The Rattle. “My favourite one is Crystallizer,” he says. “It’s an Eventide simulator, but it also does some more psychedelic stuff. And their Little AlterBoy is amazing — if you’re one person in a bedroom pretending to be a multiple gender choir, you can layer up all sorts of voices and affect each voice slightly differently. They’re fantastic plugins.” www.waves.com www.focusrite.com
The Clarett sound – now on USB Clarett USB lays down the challenge to interfaces twice the price. The ultra-low noise and distortion and wide dynamic range of Clarett can now be experienced with any Mac® or PC supporting USB 2.0 and above. The Clarett USB series features three interfaces: Clarett 2Pre USB (10-in, 4-out), Clarett 4Pre USB (18-in, 8-out) and Clarett 8Pre USB (18-in, 20-out). The included standard USB and USB Type-C™ cables connect to Mac® or PC, and you can record with super-low latency through amp simulators and effects plug-ins. Includes:
Included standard USB and USB Type-C™ cables connect to Mac® or PC
Hiding in Plain Sight
HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT
Responsible for the first ever dedicated guitar speaker, Celestion drivers have become the ‘voice of rock & roll’, delivering many of the most memorable performances by guitarists, including Jimi Hendrix and Slash, through to the modern-day shredders. Deciding that it’s high time that the manufacturer’s pro audio side of the business had some time in the spotlight, Celestion lets Headliner behind the scenes to learn more about its industryleading practises and OEM manufacturing.
“People know us for our guitar speakers,” begins John Paice, marketing and artist relations at Celestion. “What is less well known is that we’ve been developing and producing speakers for professional audio sound reinforcement manufacturers for quite a considerable amount of time as well. As an OEM supplier, we provide the transducers that go inside the black boxes, line arrays and sound reinforcement towers in other brands’ products. We’re fighting a bit of a battle trying to inform people that we are very much involved in that side of the technology!” The company has steadily gained a reputation for its professional loudspeakers and compression drivers, and in addition to developing Celestion’s standard range, the R&D team works with a number of leading OEM customers to establish the parameters of a specific project and identify the best way to fulfil the design brief – either by modifying an existing model, or developing a new product from the ground up. “Our R&D team is the biggest in the pro
audio transducer industry, I believe,” states Paice. “We’re now a leading producer of coaxial speakers and I believe we sell more branded high frequency compression drivers than any of our main competitors. We are very active in the sound reinforcement arena. Everybody is familiar with the MI side of Celestion, but you will find that in the sound reinforcement world, we’re up there as well. We are a serious player in pro audio, and more than that, we are definitely industry leaders when it comes to high frequency compression drivers and coaxial loudspeakers.” The company’s team of research and development engineers use state-of-the-art design, development, analysis and testing tools, all housed within a purpose-built loudspeaker development facility in England. Operating in the most demanding sound reinforcement applications, what makes Celestion industry-leading are its compression drivers, which have earned an enviable global reputation for innovative design, exceptional performance, and superior reliability.
Finite Decisions It all starts with the design: Celestion has access to the latest design software employing the principles and methods of Finite Element Analysis (FEA) for efficient loudspeaker development, as well as design tools such as 3D CAD for technical drawing. “We start the design of a loudspeaker typically from some target specifications based on what the salesman or the customer has requested,” explains Celestion’s head of engineering, Paul Cork. “Then we’ll take the target parameters and put them into some software to calculate the remaining parameters that we need as part of our design, because some of the requests we get are very loose, so we need to put more technical input into what the target actually is!” The team utilises box-modelling software to determine all the perimeters that the driver has to match to work in the customer’s box: “Sometimes the target is going to be that they want a speaker that has a certain
Hiding in Plain Sight
“Cost is one of the bigger drivers in the design of the loudspeaker, as well as the performance...” sensitivity, and some of those requests are quite meaningless until you put some flesh on the bones,” Cork advises. “So we have to get the target and define the target properly, and then we can start actually building a speaker around those perimeters.” One of the main components of a loudspeaker is the motor assembly, specifically focussing on the magnet assembly and the voice coil. The motor assembly alone determines a lot about a loudspeaker in terms of its sensitivity, power handling, and naturally, its cost. “Cost is one of the bigger drivers in the design of the loudspeaker, as well as the performance, where you can have a perfectly performing driver, but the customer doesn’t want to pay for it,” says Cork. “There is always a balance and a compromise with loudspeakers. Once we’ve got the targets well-defined, we’ll then use Finite Element Analysis software that breaks down a complex equation into lots of small equations – which is where the finite element comes from.” The team designs a magnet structure using this software, designing its voicecoils using some in-house software. A third piece of software is used to transpose the voicecoil design into the magnet assembly design, and from there the team can quickly pull out the full motor design. “The computer power these days allows us to design a speaker in 20 minutes, whereas 20
years ago it would have taken a couple of days, or you’d probably just guess at it rather than modelling it at all!” Cork laughs. “The software that we’ve developed inhouse is incredibly powerful,” he stresses. “We believe that we’ve got the best software of any of our competitors in terms of it being pure loudspeaker design software, rather than using electric motor design software, and then redefining it for loudspeakers. Whereas we’ve gone the full hog, and design software specifically for loudspeakers.” The development process is dramatically enhanced by the ability to produce prototypes and sample runs on site. The Ipswich facility is equipped with a full production line, plus lathes, presses, coil winders and all the other machinery required to build short runs for testing, measurement, approval and production engineering. Celestion engineers make extensive use of industry-standard test equipment, including the Klippel Distortion Analyser, measuring actual physical prototypes to verify the results achieved in FEA modelling. The system provides detailed analysis of motor design, voice coil alignment and cone suspension to achieve the Bl and stiffness (K) symmetry necessary for low distortion performance. The motor design is refined first, due to that being where the majority of the cost lies: once the engineers have a motor design, they know roughly what kind of performance
they’re going to get from the driver, and what kind of price. Following this, an acoustic design is completed, using FEA software. The manufacturer also makes acoustic models of the loudspeakers, allowing the team to determine the acoustic response of the driver before having to build anything. “Basically we can begin the whole speaker in theory first,” explains Cork. “Then we come to prototyping it, so in the UK we have resources like a machine shop and voicecoil winders – we’re largely self sufficient.” Measuring the Speaker Once the prototype has been built, it is measured in the factory and then sent to the in-house hemi-anechoic chamber (like an anechoic chamber, but with one baffle that the loudspeaker is mounted to). “Here we just measure what the loudspeaker is doing – there’s no cabinet interaction and there’s no interaction between the front and back of the driver – you’re just literally measuring what the driver output is,” he points out. “We’ll always measure the SPL, impedance and harmonic distortion. Then we’ll also measure the low frequency parameters and large signal parameters. The amount of measurements we can take is staggering, frankly.” If a driver is performing like the target, it is taken to the power test facility – nicknamed “the torture chamber” by employees.
Hiding in Plain Sight
“Guitar speakers are a black art - you change one tiny thing, and you’ll change the tone of the speaker...” “It’s a concrete bunker built onto the side of the building just to try to keep the noise in (and away from the rest of the factory). We’ll generally do a free air power test which just has the driver hanging on a hook, then an in-cabinet test which replicates real life better, followed by an AES power test which is a good reference point of a power test. Then we’ll do customer-specific power tests, which can get phenomenally loud! A lot of the work we do is in mechanical engineering to make sure these drivers keep on working, which is why we do an awful lot of power testing in our torture chamber – breaking a lot of speakers!” The team takes the results and then tweaks the design so that next time, they don’t break. “It’s a constantly evolving design – we make sure that consistency and reliability is key in the drivers. That’s pretty much what people want. If it’s a hi-fi speaker at home and it breaks, it’s inconvenient, but if the speakers break at a big concert, it’s not quite so fun!” Cork never fails to be surprised at the response from customers when asked what they want from a pro PA driver: “If you ask them to list five things, you expect them to say: ‘sound quality, no.1, cost, no.2, but generally speaking, it’s all reliability. They usually say that out of five they want: reliability, reliability, reliability, with cost and
acoustic performance coming after that.” Ahead of the Curve In terms of what sets Celestion apart, Cork highlights that the company makes significant investments into specific software and research, singling out the Axi2050 compression driver as a prime example. “This is a revolutionary design which has been five or six years in the making, so we really do long term research projects where we’re not going to see any return on our money for five years. I think that sets us apart – we invest in ideas for long term success.” “We launched Axi2050 a couple of years ago, and nobody has ever done something like this before,” confirms Paice. “We’ve identified a requirement and found an innovative way of solving a problem in a way that nobody else has done: it reproduces sound from 300Hz, all the way up to 20kHz; one single device that doesn’t require a crossover. In terms of pure clarity of reproduced signal, it’s a step ahead of the competition.” For all of the sophisticated software, gadgets and procedures that Celestion uses for its pro PA products, the manufacturer has a very different approach to its MI offerings: “For a guitar MI speaker, you can just use your ears,” says Cork. “Guitar speakers
are a black art – you change one tiny thing, and you’ll change the tone of the speaker. MI speakers are all about tone, rather than sensitivity or power handling; and a lot of that comes from experience and having an ear for it. It gives us an edge, for sure.” Most recently, Celestion has redefined its approach to pro PA driver design, along the way improving performance in terms of specifications power handling and overall SPL, and achieving the lowest possible distortion. “It’s a learning curve, and we’re continuing to climb it,” Cork smiles. “Some of the design techniques that we’ve done for the latest range of pro PA drivers are really quite innovative and novel. As well as designing single drive units, we’ve been designing whole techniques to be able to refine and improve on the next series of designs. It’s constantly evolving. With our earlier pro PA woofers, 20 odd years ago, we now look back on them and think, ‘yeah we didn’t get that quite right,’ but a lot of what we’re doing now, we really think we have got it right. In terms of overall performance, we really feel that we’re up there and can match and beat the performance of a lot of the competitors, so it’s all good.” www.celestion.com
â€œI explored every option, but time and again found myself pulled back towards the sound of the Horusâ€? Jack Ruston, MPG Breakthrough Engineer Nominee
Horus and Hapi converters you deserve merging.com
THOMAS RIEDEL: HOMELAND SECURITY Riedel has been involved with Formula One for 26 years, however prior to that, company founder, Thomas Riedel, had no idea what F1 was all about. Headliner meets Riedel on the hottest day of the year at the Hockenheim circuit where it al began for him, despite his attire failing to impress many years ago. Headliner applies some more suncream. Due to meet Mr. Riedel any minute in his homeland at the Hockenheim ring ahead of the F1, today track temperatures are hovering around 42.6°C..! A well-dressed Riedel appears and extends a friendly handshake, although he points out that he hasn’t always been known for making a great first impression: “Hockenheim was the very first place we experienced F1. I had never been to an F1 race before I started working in it! I just sort of thought: that’s cars, oil, dirty. I had a perception of it which was very different to what it was – I put on old trousers and a t-shirt, and thought it would end up dirty. “I went to Hockenheim, met the manager
in charge of GP in Germany, he looked me up and down and said: ‘So you’re Thomas Riedel’. I don’t know what I looked like [laughs], but that was the start, and now it’s great to come back to that location – all those old memories come back. And travel-wise, I certainly like the fact that things are closer to home, too!” Riedel clearly must have impressed in the end though, as these days, all team communications are handled through Riedel Artist Intercom mainframes and panels. Interfacing with Motorola Tetra digital radio systems, engineers, crews and drivers have clear communications that can mean the difference between winning and losing. More than 2,000 radio units are
used during every race, and in addition to the kit, up to 22 Riedel engineers are on site. Tech Savvy Having toured the pits and garage, we feel it safe to suggest that the recent advancements in radio and communications equipment in F1 has been pretty staggering. “It’s definitely a straight-up curve for us in terms of our business in sports, and it’s done the same in wireless technologies,” Riedel nods. “Our Bolero system is a true gamechanger – not just here, but in football – we’re getting one league after the other, and the NFL, which we just won in the US. But in motorsports, it’s great to see how you can enable new things, and get a much better
“We have introduced intercom and talkback systems to F1 teams to bring intelligent communications...” audio quality with duplex comms, then go beyond that and use that technology for commentary purposes. “You can use the technology to have people go live on air - like, for instance, the lady who works for BBC Radio on site here – she uses Bolero, and we send the audio straight to the UK, and that goes on air – it has a talkback button and everything, so you have kind of a wireless commentator in a way.” Reportedly the latency is so minuscule, it’s essentially live, right? “Exactly – with Bolero, you combine traditional walkie talkie features with a wireless system – like an IEM and mic would do for you – and no frequency management is needed anymore because you can get great coverage over a large area without the hassle you’d have with traditional wireless mics,” Riedel enthuses. With Riedel kit being used simultaneously across several continents by various drivers, the technology plays a big part in any victories
– something that is not lost on Riedel. “I have to say, that is something we are really proud of – and the latest steps are here thanks to Bolero. When I started in F1, there was nothing like team intercoms, just analogue two-way radios on one or two channels, and that’s it, so we have introduced intercom and talkback systems to them to bring intelligent communications,” Riedel explains. “I still remember the team manager of McLaren, who were the first team to use our matrix intercom – our Artist system – and after using it, he said he had no clue how a communications system could help a team, and how they could improve pit stops with that system, which then logically ended up in all the teams. But as it’s a very competitive business, for us it was great, as we won all the teams, basically! [smiles]” It has been suggested by various media sources that F1 popularity has been in slight decline over the last few years, with the sport struggling to maintain the same level of
appeal to the younger generation. What does Riedel think? “Some people do say that F1 struggles, but I wouldn’t 100% agree, as we’re still talking about a huge business, and a huge fanbase,” Riedel reflects. “F1 turns over about 1.5 billion or so in revenue – it’s huge. And that revenue also reflects a value and success story that is still there. “Does it still grow like it did in the past? No, it doesn’t. And we do have challenges as the next generation of people are interested in different things. And you know, we have E-Sports coming in big-time, and that’s also kind of a sport, but these things do connect... I think motorsports more than any other sport has a function of connecting these worlds, and this will happen, as we have the simulators running already, which I have to say is pretty close to the real racing. So who knows where that might lead...” www.riedel.net
Do Something Extraordinary
VC PINES: DO SOMETHING EXTRAORDINARY VC Pines (AKA Jack Mercer) takes us through the writing and recording process of his second EP as the first single from the project, Bones, is released and premiered on Radio 1. The second EP all kind of fell together suddenly, and everything landed in the right place. We had a couple of songs finished at an early stage - Bones and Taste Your Love - and I had a load of ideas bubbling and forming for around a month or so. Then as we were in [Headliner’s studio] The Kennel, it all just kind of clicked in my head. I knew that I wanted to start the EP with the segment of an interview with painter, Sean Scully, as self-belief is something I think we’re all working on ourselves. I was watching a documentary, Scully, and the idea of self doubt seemed to be something totally unfathomable to him. He went on to explain how believing in yourself is a necessity if you want to ‘do something extraordinary’, and so we thought what better way to let that statement grow than a full bloom of the brass players - so [tromobonist] Misha Fox and [trumpet guru] Laurence Wilkins burst their pipes into the mic. A lot of the songs start with a loose idea, followed by a session with SelasiHD, who creates stand out work on FL Studio. We’ll create a song structure, usually with a vocal melody and most of the lyrics and a beat that Selasi has made. Due to his style, there’s usually one or two key elements in the beats
that really stand out and almost become an instrument or main rhythmic feature as the song develops. The railings sound throughout the choruses of Pluto is an example of this, The chords and structure to Bones was written during a writing session at The Kennel with singer-songwriter, Luke Marzec; we recorded the chords, knowing that the song was going to start with the main guitar riff, which we recorded next, followed by bass and keys. The keys parts involve a Hammond organ and a Rhodes coming from a Nord HP-3. We then recorded and layered the vocals to the first verse, choruses, and middle eight. The session ended with a few cold ones downstairs for good measure. Taste Your Love was birthed from a Headliner content piece called A Song In A Day. The aim was to write and record a song within one day and have the whole thing documented. We started the day early at Numen Studios, home of Jordan Timms, Max Smith, and James Trood – Trood is the drummer in my band, the Violet Collective. I had a chord progression in mind already, so we laid that down to click, sprinkled the drum kit with a fantastic Shure setup with a bit of a twist: in addition to the standard Beta 91 on kick, ‘57 on snare, and SM7b as
a mono room mic, we used a Beta 98 on the resonant head of the kick for some controlled punch, and Beta 181s on the toms, which the Numen guys were blown away by - we like to screw with certain sounds when mixing, and drive the drum kit using distortion and compression, and the way the drums were recorded let us do that perfectly. The low end was amazing, and there was virtually no bleed from the toms, which is insane considering how small that drum room is! So Trood did his thing, and Andrew followed with some tasty bass lines before we hit The Kennel. Vampiric Tendencies I’d focused a lot on vocal lines and lyrics that morning as well as getting the vibe right rhythmically, and knew I wanted to write something from the mindset of someone else. The song instrumentally has a pain to it, and so I wrote about love in a vampiric sense: Dracula himself showing what he has to offer, in exchange for an eternity with his love. We recorded and layered all of the vocals, including the backing harmonies, with some additional guitar, and Spitfire Audio strings which were then run through a Waves Manny Marroquin Distortion to really fuck them up how we like it! We then used certain effects
Do Something Extraordinary
“When we got the Anubis, we found ourselves going back over mixes, as we were hearing a new level of clarity...” such as the Waves Pitch Shift to play around with the vocals in the bridge to add more of a vampiric element in the production. Lifeblood was written during a session with artist, Lucy Lu. I had the chord sequence, and Lu had an array of effects made with soundscapes his mother had recorded around the city. The beeping sound was a street crossing beep, put into MIDI, which I played on the keyboard whilst using a pitch changer to fit with the descending chord sequence. Lu then laid more keys down to complement the guitar, including delicious bass lines and climactic strings. We recorded the vocals for the pre-chorus and chorus together, and each wrote our own respective verses with the theme of record labels profiteering from artist suicides, and how fans are also affected. So we had this collection of songs, all but one with programmed drums, some sub bass, and a generally studio-esque sound, however I knew that I wanted this project to line up more closely with the energy of the live shows, so I knew I needed to get the Violet Collective on the recordings to clarify the translation. Taste Your Love already had live instrumentation as the main skeleton of the song, and it sounded great, so I got back into Numen Studios for a weekend and the boys managed to lay down the bass and drums to the whole EP. The energy was there! We recorded several options with varying energy
so we could chop them up where we wanted. Next up was the brass: we had a day at The Kennel recording into a Vanguard V13 mic, bouncing ideas off each other and getting several layers down and again, recording certain takes with different dynamics, especially for Skully. Voicing An Opinion The majority of the vocals had also been recorded on the V13, giving a beautiful, warm sound. Then, half-way through the recording process, we discovered the Austrian Audio OC818 and genuinely didn’t know which one to use. In the end we kept the previous takes, and recorded the rest on the OC818 as it was so special; we tend to do a lot of layering vocally, so blending things together is never really an issue, especially with plugins such as the Waves H-Delay, H-Verb and R-Verb, and the H-Comp for parallel compression. We’ve recently discovered Waves’ OneKnob plugins which we tend to use when focusing on sub-mixes: the ‘Phatter’ gauge is frequently used. We also used a lot of the CLA stuff, plus Manny’s ToneShaper. These plugins are scattered all over the project at various points - and the Waves SSL E Channel is our channel strip of choice across every track. Although our mastering is done at Alchemy by Barry Grint, we like to use the Waves SSL G Buss and the NLS buss along with some
Tape Saturation before we render the files. What’s really allowed us to take it to another level with this second EP from a sonic perspective is a new audio interface: Merging Technologies’ Anubis. The moment we loaded up the tracks and played it through this unit we were utterly blown away. The clarity was on another level, and paired with the Genelec 8341 speakers, we heard things in the mix that we hadn’t ever noticed before. Due to the Genelec speakers alone, we tend to mix as we go, and as the songs develop, but the addition of the Anubis meant we went back over everything and made adjustments. We had to, as the Anubis literally gave us new dynamics to deal with. And as for its headphone amp – well, suddenly the headphones became just as important a reference tool as the speakers; and as a result, it helped us with our stereo imaging as well as overall mixing. Wabi Sabi is a big part of our process, so accepting the little imperfections that appear along the way are what makes it raw and real; that’s what makes our songs human, with pumping heart beats that run through the melodic veins of each track. www.merging.com www.genelec.com www.waves.com www.shure.com
What makes an in-ear monitoring experience great? The obvious answer is fantastic sound - but there are lots of other factors to think about when choosing the right IEM. We asked Karl Winkler, a talented multi-instrumentalist as well as head of marketing and sales at leading wireless manufacturer, Lectrosonics, to take us through what he deems to be the best setup heâ€™s ever come across. We find out why his newly acquired set of custom JH Audio Lolas, when paired with a Lectrosonics Duet wireless system, have blown this audio fanaticâ€™s mind.
THE ULTIMATE IN-EAR EXPERIENCE?
y journey into the world of custom IEM earphones began in 2010/11 when Lectrosonics introduced the Quadra digital wireless monitor system - the first digital IEM on the market and widely considered the best sounding system of its type ever made. However, due to the pack size, the frequency spectrum it used, and the potentially confusing ‘more me’ four-channel mixer on board, it never really succeeded in the market. That all changed in 2017 when Lectrosonics introduced a new digital IEM system: the Duet. We did our best to apply all the lessons learned from the Quadra system: the pack had to be small and have a standard, one-knob interface, and the system had to use the standard UHF spectrum. We threw a few more things in there as well, including analogue and Dante transmitter inputs, two stereo transmitters in a half-rack package, and a headphone amp on the pack that would provide enough power to drive even the lower-efficiency dynamic IEMs to a decent volume. All these things proved quite challenging, but we got there in the end, delivering the first systems in late 2017 And once we did, we started getting calls from IEM companies again. They wanted to borrow the Duet to showcase their earphones, since the sound quality and particularly the stereo separation of our system was unique in the industry. We loaned systems to several IEM manufacturers for the NAMM show in January 2018. The feedback we got from early users and from the IEM companies who had borrowed the Duet system led us to improve the Duet system even further, which got me excited to show it to one of the industry icons of the IEM world – Jerry Harvey Audio. Jerry is a legend, of course, having mixed monitors for Van Halen, and was one of the originators of the in-ear concept, having founded Ultimate Ears (which he later sold to Logitech). While at the InfoCOMM show in Orlando later that year, I decided to visit JH and show them the system. I set up a Duet System in his office, and he listened on a Pono high-definition audio player through, I believe, a set of custom Laylas – JH’s highestend balanced armature CIEMs. They were impressed enough to call their Nashville office right there, and then to let them know they wanted one of our systems in there, pronto. Next, one of JH’s top technicians was asked to give me a tour of the manufacturing operation, and to take my ear impressions.
The factory tour was fascinating. I saw the process from ear molds to shell casting to fitting the tiny components, to acoustic and electrical testing, to finishing work. Suffice to say, it is an impressive operation with a lot of hand craftsmanship and attention to detail. In fact, it reminded me a lot, in some ways, of the Lectrosonics HQ and factory in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. It is always good to see innovative, careful, home-grown manufacturing happening, not just sub-assembly work that is so common these days.
iAgain, I went through the process of getting ear molds made, very much the same way as was done back in 2011, when I got my first set of IEMs. Although the laserscanning method is technically very cool, I do think that the silicone molding method still has the best potential to actually match a person’s ears. My right ear has a strange ‘crook’ in the canal, and seemed to pose a problem for the lasers, while the silicone doesn’t care. In looking at the literature at JH, I was immediately attracted to the Lola model, brand-new at the time, due to the hybrid design. But with this arrangement, the dual dynamic drivers are used for the midrange, while BA arrangements are used for the bass and the treble. I’ll say this about JH as well, their marketing literature is really well done. The descriptions are thorough, and I had a strong sense that the Lolas were the right earphone for me, even though I’d never heard them. For one thing, they are designed for musicians, while some high end custom earphones are designed for audiophiles. Being a string player myself, I definitely appreciate when the mids are right, such as with ATC loudspeakers from England, for instance. So I left the JH HQ with ear molds made, and a demo set of their universal fit 13v2 and Layla models for my testing purposes with the Duet system back at Lectrosonics. I cued up their amazing website where you can custom build your ears, choosing body colour, logo, cables, and custom face plate material. Since I’m a string player, I chose zebrawood as it reminds me of the heavily figured curly maple often used for violin making. I placed my order! About two weeks later, I got the confirmation that my ears were on the way – it was just too exciting.When my Lolas arrived, first I was struck by the incredible – no, insane packaging. And I, like most people, think of Apple as the king of packaging. Nope – JH has them beaten by a country mile. The outer box looks very chic, but then Headliner 02 49 Headliner
“The JH Audio Lolas grabbed me and held on tight; these things have exactly my preferred sonic signature...” inside it is the actual container for the ear set – made of milled aluminum, black anodised, with the JH logo, my name, and a magnetic closure. Just insane. It speaks to the quality of everything else about JH Audio by just holding it in your hand.
BURN BABY BURN
Now to the part that you’ve likely been waiting for... But I didn’t listen to them right away, as most gurus recommend some burn-in time for any IEMs, and specifically for those with dynamic drivers. I figured I’d connect these to my iPhone XR and let some music play, loudly, through the Lolas for a couple of hours just to get them woken up. Next, I went ahead and put them in my ears. I started to listen to some very familiar material. I started with Peter Gabriel’s Big Blue Ball, since it has such a variety of styles on it. I moved on to LP Heart to Mouth, one of my favourite records of recent vintage. I spent some time listening to some of my classical favorites like In 27 Pieces with Hilary Hahn on violin, and perhaps the classic Chopin recording of all time: Etudes, recorded by François-René Duchâble in 1981. Then I went back to some Beastie Boys from The In Sound from Way Out to hear some groovy instrumental jams. And, on everything, the Lolas just absolutely blew my mind. It was clear right away that I’d made the right choice. The Lolas grabbed me, and held on tight; these things have exactly my preferred sonic signature: tight, deep but not bloated bass, gorgeous mids, and un-hyped but detailed highs. And this was without any EQ! I never like the high frequencies to be pushed in my face to simulate detail. The Lolas get it just right. The integration of the bass to the low mids is absolutely seamless. When I’m listening to classical violin and piano, many systems 50 Headliner
show their faults, but not the Lolas. The main thing that I got from them was musicality. They are never in the way – they just seem to disappear. Now, perhaps the other CIEMS have more ‘space’ or ‘dimension’ - although I’d be surprised - but more hype in any part of the spectrum doesn’t do it for me. I’m after a natural ease to the music, since the way I hear most of my music is by playing in an orchestra or string quartet. In other words, there should be space, but not artificial space. There should be dynamics, without headroom restrictions. There should be detail but not ear fatigue. And there should be bass, all the way down to 10 Hz, but nothing exaggerated or bloated. And that’s what the Lolas do. Electric guitars sound like steel strings being struck by a pick and going through a tube amp into a 12-inch speaker in a wooden cabinet. Violins sound woody and resonant, with complex harmonics that change as the player goes through the registers. Cellos make me cry. Upright bass sends chills down my spine for every woody, plucked note on those taught, rope-like strings. Drums have snap and punch. Cymbals give a sense of the size, shape, and bronze alloy used to make them. And, of course, vocals sound like the person is standing right in front of you. Yes, the Lolas deliver all of this.
A TASTE OF PERFECTION
I took these things home and dug out my Fiio F11 headphone amp and charged it up (I haven’t used it in years!) but I ended up not using it for much of my listening. Directly off the iPhone, the Lolas sound great. Would they sound better with a great amp? Probably! I’ll have to bring them to a hifi show and listen through some of the esoteric stuff.
That first night at home with these things, I listened to recording after recording after recording, just for the pure pleasure of it. The analytic side of me receded, and the music listener emerged. I have never had a more pleasurable listening experience with any other playback transducer, bar none. The only thing better is live acoustic music. Then there is the part of paring these with the Lectrosonics Duet system, which I did the very next day at the office. This, too, was a revelation. Almost all wireless monitor systems are analogue, and about the same sound quality as good FM radio or maybe really good cassette tape. The technologies aren’t that different after all. So, the Duet system is the only pro digital IEM out there these days, and the sound is definitely distinct from the analogue systems. First, the bass is deep and flat, without bloat, the stereo imaging is excellent, and there are no dynamic interactions with the source as there are with companded analogue FM systems. It was a lot of fun to listen again to some of my favorite, familiar sources through the Duet system into the Lolas. The music retained its life, the soundstage was all there, and the pace and rhythm of the music was ever present. So, if you are in the market for custom in-ear transducers, I heartily recommend that you give the Lolas a listen. The JH universal versions will give you a good idea of how they sound before you plunk down your hardearned money for the custom version. Have some patience - it is a process, starting with getting your ear molds made by someone at JH themselves, or an audiologist. But as I can attest, it is worth the wait, and then some. www.jhaudio.com www.lectrosonics.com
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Recording in Paradise
ANGELIC STUDIO: RECORDING IN PARADISE Headliner visited Miloco’s Angelic Studio with chief engineer, Luke Gibbs, Enter Shikari’s Rob Rolfe and Rou Reynolds, and The Hoosiers’ frontman, Irwin Sparkes, to find out more about working in what is without question one of the finest residential recording studios in the UK today.
Hidden away in the heart of rural England, Miloco’s Angelic Studio provides artists with a completely exclusive and idyllic setting to record in. Based within two beautiful farm buildings, it has been converted and refurbished to perfection, offering an exquisite residential recording environment. Angelic was built by late producer and former-Jamiroquai keyboardist and songwriter, Toby Smith - and it’s a formidable recording and mix space with a kit list that’s nothing short of jaw dropping: an SSL console as its centrepiece; a great-sounding live room complete with Yamaha grand piano; every guitar amp you could wish for; racks of incredible outboard; synths you might not even know exist; and the most extraordinary
collection of vintage microphones. Chief engineer, Luke Gibbs, lives onsite in one of the barns. He reflects on the time that English band, The 1975, spent at Angelic for almost seven months straight. “Half the day was spent recording – the first half of the day they’d have personal trainers. They would enjoy the countryside space because they knew they’d be here for such a long time, so they weren’t going to do too much every day,” he says. “They would relax and have the time to be creative. They were set up in the accommodation building, so they had their own area, and they were sat up there writing. They’d come [to the studio] for a few hours of the day at first to get the initial bits of recording done. That scale changed as time
went on where they spent less time writing, and a lot of time in here recording.” The accommodation that Gibbs speaks of includes a full kitchen (Angelic also keeps its clients fed and watered to a very high standard as part of its all-in service), plenty of bedrooms (including en suites), and spacious chill-out areas complete with tie lines to the studio, so artists can still create when they’re not in the main studio building. “It’s got everything, really: the most fantastic audio equipment, a fantastic live room to be able to work in, and the most inspiring of settings. It really is the ultimate studio,” Gibbs declares. “It’s just pure escapism – getting away from it all. It’s such a creative headspace, and there’s such a special vibe
Recording in Paradise
“Acoustically, and in terms of the mood and environment that is being created, Angelic is on par with nothing else we’ve ever experienced...” here that I think Toby created intentionally. Everything has fallen into place perfectly, and this is exactly what he wanted.” Jon Gilmore, producer for The 1975, is also full of praise for the space: “Angelic’s main room is a truly beautifulsounding space; a wonderful, relaxed rural atmosphere has meant every session there has been an absolute pleasure.” Enter Shikari recorded their last record, The Spark, at Angelic. Drummer Rob Rolfe says enthuses the band had a fantastic time at Angelic Studio when recording “It’s a place when you can really settle in and make yourself at home, relax and spend a good amount of time to get a full album recorded, or even just a few tracks,” he says. “We settled in really quickly; it has such majestic surroundings. We were there in the winter - I remember it being very cold, waking up in the morning and seeing frosty grass and mist rolling across the hill, horses
out the front. It was so calming, and that allowed uo to stay focused on the job at hand, creating music. As a result, we got such a lot of work done. And the kit - you’ve just got everything you could wish for, and as a drummer, that airy live room allows for lots of miking positions. It really is just the ultimate studio.” Shikari’s frontman, Rou Reynolds, concurs: “It’s a state of the art recording facility,” he says. “The Spark was a big step for us, so it was good to have that time to let the sound settle in; that enabled us to have a greater sense of it as an album.” Lead singer of The Hoosiers, Irwin Sparkes, has many memories of recording at Angelic Toby Smith managed The Hoosiers, so he has a real connection with the studio - although it wasn’t always about the music..! “I would not want to be chased down those country lanes by a tractor driven by anyone else other than Toby Smith, and that’s exactly
what happened,” he smiles. “I don’t even know why he had a tractor – he might have just found the keys. But he did make it up to us by arranging for us to drive, high up in combine harvesters in the neighbouring fields, such is the bucolic splendour of the location. “Angelic was a home from home. I remember Toby hired a nutritionist once to tell me I was the fattest Hoosier, which is a badge of honour; I’m okay with that! It isn’t like any other recording studio I’ve ever been to. It’s been built with the oversight of someone who has spent a lifetime working in music, and recording in the best studios around the world. “Acoustically, and in terms of the mood and environment that is being created, it’s on par with nothing else we’ve ever experienced. We walked into Angelic studio mere boys, and we left battle-hardened men.” www.milocostudios.com
GETTING TRIPPY AT EARTH HACKNEY
The gig which you are about to read about could not feel further away from a â€˜hands in the airâ€™, whooping your favourite artist kind of night if it tried. This particular Wednesday evening at EartH (Evolutionary Arts Hackney) in Dalston, East London, feels like a shamanic ritual, psychedelic exploration, and sound-bath healing all rolled into one. And not only because of the esoteric, trippy live music from Anthony Child, Samuel Kerridge, and Acolytes of Yama, but also thanks to the L-Acoustics L-ISA 360 technology, being used to Earth-shuddering effect (quite literally). Words Adam Protz
onight’s headliner is Anthony Child, the Birmingham-born producer and DJ, best known as his techno alter-ego, Surgeon. But under his own name, he will be performing his less beat-driven musical explorations that incorporate his intricate sound design, ambience, and drone influences. And with such enormous depth of sound, it’s a huge win that tonight, he’ll be accompanied by an L-Acoustics L-ISA 360 sound system. Enabling artists and productions to deliver new multidimensional sound experiences to audiences of all sizes, L-Acoustics has worked closely with alt-J (at the Royal Albert Hall, no less), Christine And The Queens, Childish Gambino, deadmau5, and a number of other huge names to deliver the most immersive experience possible for artist and audience alike. The L-ISA setup at EartH comprises a frontal system of five hangs of seven Kara flown equidistantly across the front of the stage, visually giving off ominous ‘oomph’ before you’ve even heard them. They are joined by a central subsystem of four KS28. Positioned along the stage lip, 10 X8 provide the front fill; and the surround system is provided by 12 Syva, evenly spaced and mounted along the left, right, and rear walls of the theatre. Completing the setup is an overhead system of eight X8 hung from the auditorium ceiling. Opening act, Acolytes of Yama (AOY), certainly gives the technology a spectrum of spiritual proportions to work with. They are a duo-collaboration between the musician and producer, Flaminia, and the shamanic singer and creative director, Benas Bar. Their set begins with the pair sat opposite each other, cross-legged, as the smell of incense begins pervading the hall. AOY begin gently playing their assortment of Tibetan singing bowls and gongs, meaning the audience is treated to a sound bath experience that they perhaps hadn’t bargained for. If there’s any truth in the notion that these instruments provide spiritual healing, coming through the L-ISA system, I’m pretty sure my soul has been astral-projected into the next dimension. These sound bath rituals tend to be hosted in the living rooms of hippy types — L-Acoustics’ 360 technology ensures every audio vibration pervades the being of the audience from every direction. It’s a trippy experience, to say the least. Especially as producer, Flaminia, begins pumping out deep electronica and beats, while Benas Bar adds his shamanic quota with ancient Buddhist-style throat singing, that’s somehow equally comforting and terrifying. How is Samuel Kerridge to top that? Well, as a firmly
established name in the electronic music scene, he walks on to the stage to warm cheers. Tonight also celebrates London techno event Superstition’s fifth anniversary, and clearly the techno-heads in the crowd are tipping their hats to Kerridge’s services to the genre. But the transcendent and esoteric nature of the evening so far transfers effortlessly into this second set - his music seemingly never begins or ends. As I forewarned earlier, tonight was never going to be your typical rave, with no cheers signalling the end of a three-minutes-ish song. Kerridge’s set is an interweaving odyssey of intellectual beats, syncopated rhythms, and deep, dark melodies that leave you feeling high despite being sober. Be sure to check out his 2019 release, The Other, as soon as possible. The L-ISA technology is just as transformative in this second set, the only cause for concern being that it is so huge in scope, you worry if pieces of the ceiling might start coming down mid-performance. Thankfully, EartH has been able to hack it so far, but can it hold out for the headline set of Anthony Child? Child has been among the UK’s most prominent electronic artists, in a career that started in the mid90s. While the success of his techno project, Surgeon, is undeniable, he’s made it no secret that he’s ardently wanted to take his ‘pure sound’ music as far as it can go. Well, landing at EartH with some of the best speakers on the planet, would have to be a success in my book. And considering the audience has sat and listened to two hours of music almost entirely devoid of melody, and are still willing to listen to this set for another hour goes to show his pushing of the envelope is going resoundingly well. And resoundingly well can equally be applied to his set, with those resoundings being the deepest and the darkest. The lighting and visuals leave you wondering if there’s something in the water, but couple majestically with this mind-expanding smorgasbord of music. While there are parallels with Samuel Kerridge’s performance previously, it’s nonetheless totally individual in its own right. Kerridge bopped around the stage energetically, while Child is a stoic figure with his finger literally on the pulse, powerfully rooted to the spot. Translucent arpeggiators, beats, and ingenious sound design sends the audience into raptures. If there are any gigs at EartH coming up that you’re tempted by, this L-ISA technology should give you an enormous incentive to go and check this venue out. www.l-acoustics.com www.earthhackney.co.uk e on deck is Shure. The
Headliner 02 55 Headliner
Q&A: Samuel Kerridge BRITISH ARtist, samuel kerridge, has built a name for himself with his forward-thinking techno and next-level sound design. We caught up with him at his earth in hackney gig. What a set at EartH! How was the experience?
I loved it! I really enjoyed the format of the show; it felt relaxed and gave me a sense of freedom to let things develop naturally. There wasn’t a pressure to deliver something more specific - it was open, and the audience was willing to engage.
Did you catch Anthony Child and Acolytes of Yama’s sets? Some interesting stuff in there...
Both were great! Some of the tones Anthony was kicking out split me in two, some serious pressure drone at its finest! [smiles]
Was it your first time sharing a stage with Anthony Child / Surgeon?
We’ve played events together before but nowhere in the context of EartH. Usually we cross paths when showcasing another side to our soul.
A special part of the evening was hearing all this intricate music and sound design coming through the immense L-ISA 360 system. what do you find an immersive audio system like this adds from an artistic point of view? It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, because of course I love performing, but I never get the full experience like the audience does. I got a feel during soundcheck, and that certainly influenced my approach to the performance, as I mentioned earlier. But hopefully these immersive systems are the future: I want my brain melting; and we shouldn’t be living in a two-channel society. 56 Headliner
You’ve kept busy since, premiering ‘The Other’ at Berlin Atonal Festival, and you’re back doing shows in the UK again. HOw WAS BERLIN? The space throws up its own unique challenges to a performance, but overall it was killer! The visuals looked fantastic, and for a premiere we were really happy. Berlin Atonal have showed a lot of faith in me over the years, so hopefully these special shows go someway to repaying that support. We recently performed The Other at The Lowry theatre in Manchester which was just as rewarding. I love playing in the UK, but most of my gigs are in Europe.
That show was with Taylor Burch, who features heavily on your new album. Can you tell us a little bit about how you met, working with her, and what she’s brought to the table?
We met through our Downwards Records affiliation back in 2013, and I’ve always been a big fan of her band, DVA Damas. When the idea of The Other sparked, I immediately had Taylor in mind for the project. It took a while to come to fruition, but the music was formed around her voice; it was a considered approach with the narrative taking centre stage. www.l-acoustics.com www.earthhackney.co.uk
“Hopefully these immersive audio systems are the future: I want my brain melting; we shouldn’t be living in a two-channel society...”
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ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING
Singer-songwriter, Conner Reeves first came to the world’s attention in 1997 with his gold-selling debut album, Earthbound, scoring five top 30 singles in the UK, culminating in a Brit nomination and international touring with Whitney Houston. After stepping out of the limelight for 22 years, the shy soul singer is back, and working on new music. Speaking to Headliner, the man whose voice will still give your goosebumps goosebumps reflects on his journey, where he’s been, and why he’s only interested in making music that makes people feel something. Words Alice Gustafson
here’s a paper bag I’d be more comfortable wearing; I don’t even need the eye-holes!” jokes Conner Reeves as Headliner sets up the camera for one of the first interviews the soul singer has done in a long while. It’s been a wild ride for Reeves, whose debut, gold-certified album, Earthbound was released in 1997, leading to a string of top 30 hits, Top Of The Pops performances, international touring with Whitney Houston, and then – silence. Until this year, which saw Earthbound finally appear on streaming services, opening up Reeves’ music to a whole new audience, and igniting the singer’s desire to start working on new material. Reluctant to have anything to do with the world of celebrity or the ‘look at me’ publicity machine, Reeves recently dipped his toe into the world of social media, posting a few updates showing himself in the studio. It turns out his fans had been patient, immediately encouraging him to release new music. “I was really touched by it,” says Reeves. “My son and my family kept saying: ‘Have you seen this online?’ I don’t ever look at myself online, but there have been YouTube videos that people have put up. I wouldn’t even know how to put one up! There were loads of comments underneath, and people were saying: where is he now? There was a lot of interest in my coming back out there. It’s a huge change for me because I’ve been in a supporting role for years, and I deliberately stepped out of the spotlight because it was kind of a crazy, rollercoaster ride. Then I became a father, and I wanted to be a proper father, so I wanted to withdraw from things.” Reeves is not interested in fame, and can’t stand to watch himself on film. He jokes around by asking us to shoot his good side, “well, my less bad side,” he clarifies. A warm host with no airs and graces, it’s hugs all round before Reeves busies himself making Headliner proper coffees, singing away to himself (the runs!) in his Moroccan den of a recording studio/writing room in London, where he uses a Focusrite audio interface, a Rode NT1 microphone and Logic Pro X to capture his recordings. Dressed in a smart, pinstripe suit jacket, a band T-shirt and aviator style glasses, Reeves’ look wouldn’t be complete without his signature cap (rocking this long before the Shelbys hit our screens). With a soulful singing voice that inexplicably makes listeners want to cry with happiness, Reeves is a London boy through-and-through, dropping his ‘t’s’ when he speaks, and frequently apologising for “going on a bit”. To his credit, he’s got a lot of gaps to fill in. As a teenager,
Reeves was the only one in his family with an interest in music. “I wasn’t allowed to sing in my own house because I’ve naturally got kind of a deep voice. My favourite artists were Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, so I was really pushing my range. My voice would go because I was pushing it too high. It was a small house and I’ve got three brothers, and [singing] wasn’t encouraged, shall we say. My dad used to say that my bedroom sounded like a vasectomy clinic that had run out of anaesthetic,” he laughs. “There was no precedent in my entire family for music, so for me wanting to be a singer, I might as well have said I wanted to be an astronaut! In fact, I would have got more support.” To practice, Reeves would venture out of the house, and could often be found singing in local parks at nighttime. “I had to go up the park with the dog late at night,” he nods. “The worse the weather was, the more I’d go, because no-one would be there. I adore my parents, but they just couldn’t understand it.”
EARLY DAYS s, no matter where they are in their Although clearly a talented young singer-songwriter, Reeves struggled to get signed: “No one wanted to sign me! My then-management had to create a label. They took me to all the major labels with My Father’s Son and the other songs, but they didn’t know how to market me because I sounded black, but I’m white, and they didn’t know what to do: Is he a heartthrob? Is he a serious musician? Is it gospel, funk, pop? They just didn’t know what to do.” After the eventual success of his album, to Reeves’ astonishment, he caught the eye of one Whitney Houston, resulting in him becoming her support act on her tour. However, the experience was not as Reeves pictured it to be, taking place when Houston was struggling with her inner demons. “It was really weird,” he admits. “She is my number one favourite female singer, ever. So, you can imagine – this was a dream come true here. But it was a bit of a double-edged sword because she was not the Whitney that I had grown up listening to. She had started falling. The first concert we did was in Berlin, and I was so excited to watch the gig. I would have paid money to see it, and I was getting to watch it for free! When I watched her she just looked like something was going on – something not good.” Preferring to stay out of the spotlight, Reeves continued writing songs for other prominent artists, including Tina Turner, Rod Stewart and Joss Stone, then moving to rural France for a few years where he did manual labour for minimum wage. Headliner 02 59 Headliner
“Music has always come first for me, not presence or celebrity; I’m just not interested in fame - I never have been...” “My life has been an amazing up and down. From being someone that was doing really well – financially and otherwise – and then I found myself by a turn of events living in France working as a labourer for minimum wage to pay the rent. There were some pretty lean times. At one point I was digging holes in a garden in 90 degree heat for about eight euros an hour, and I didn’t think, ‘poor me,’ but I thought, ‘Well, isn’t this amazing how life goes up and down!’ [laughs]. But I don’t regret the experience; it’s almost like I got broken down to nothing and rebuilt again.” After a hard day’s work, Reeves always found solace in singing and writing music: “I’d come back from doing this labouring – and it was, as they say, au milieu de nulle part – the middle of nowhere in France. I had to cycle there, cycle back, and it was ridiculously hot – all to make enough money to rent this shack of a house I was living in. But when I got home my relief was not watching the telly, it was writing songs. I wrote loads of songs while I was there, and I had an amazing time – I’m not complaining about it. I was in a covers band, and we got to play at these street parties during the summer months. I sang in front of 100,000 people at Party at The Park – fast forward and I’m singing in front of 100 people on the street. Simple, French farming people were dancing right in front of me, and the joy on their faces in a way meant more to me.” Reeves has never made any attempt at joining the celebrity world: “I did my Welcome To The Future EP more than 10 years ago, and it got lots of critical acclaim and I’m proud of it, but I haven’t had loads of failed attempts to put myself in some sort of I’m A Celebrity...Get Me 60 Headliner
Out Of Here! thing. I’ve been approached for a few things like that, and I just went: ‘Naaah, not for me, thanks’. I’m just not that creature. Music has always come first for me, not presence or celebrity. I’m just not interested in that – I never have been. My heroes didn’t play that game: Stevie Wonder, George Benson, Donny Hathaway – they were just artists, that’s what they did. They happened to be famous because they were so good. There’s a difference between famous and being an artist.”
Reeves is most passionate when talking about discovering new, authentic artists, singers that inspire him, and the importance of musicians continuing to create music with feeling. It’s all about the goosebump-factor: “I’ve discovered some amazing artists on Spotify,” he enthuses. “These artists are real, and they’re raw and they can give you goosebumps, and there is no record company going: ‘No, I’m sorry, you don’t look right, you don’t sound right, you’re not writing about certain things that everyone else is writing about’. These artists don’t use autotune – they sing. That’s the goosebumpfactor, where it touches you – that’s soul. “I think there’s a danger of the emotion being stripped away,” he elaborates. “I mean, the human voice, man! It’s so important as an instrument: it’s organic, it’s biological, it resonates within the cavities in your body, and that’s why you get goosebumps because of the lyrics – because of the emotion. You strip that away and you might as well have robots writing songs, and having them sing it. I had forgotten what it means to listen to a song where you feel touched deeply, and that
has never happened to me listening to the Spotify top 20.” It’s important to Reeves that his new music connects with people, and is relatable. “I’ve certainly had lots of experience about the real world since I had that first album out,” he smiles. “Hopefully it enriches the songs I’m going to be releasing soon. I want to say something that makes people feel something. If five people listen to it, that’s fine, and if five million people listen to it, I won’t do anything different. What you’ll get is stuff that I really mean – I’m not doing it with an ulterior motive. You’re passing something on from something you’ve got access to that other people haven’t, and you’re trying to say things that maybe people can’t say, but it says things for them.” As well as working on new music, Reeves will dip into what he calls ‘the vault’ – where he metaphorically stores his unreleased music from the last 20 years. “There’s going to be a lot of stuff coming out which will be very different, but hopefully the quality will be the standard,” he says modestly. “There won’t be any: ‘I love you baby, you drive me crazy,’ or ‘up in the club’. I think that’s been done enough! I like the songs I can really put my heart and soul into. It’s those kind of songs when I can stand up and say: ‘I mean every word of this,’ so hopefully people will get that. It just feels like I’m on the right path again after that massive detour. A 20 year break! I don’t know where it’s going to lead, I really don’t. But I’m on it, and I’m not getting off it again.” www.connerreeves.com photograph (above) by @itsjustgillian
THE NEXT STAGE IN SOUND.
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The Million Dollar Question
CLAYE: THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION
Producer and songwriter, Claye, is no newcomer to the music scene. Signing a publishing deal with Roc Nation early on in his career, and co-writing a string of hits including Sean Paul’s Hold My Hand, the classically trained pianist is busy working on new music – and has accumulated plenty of advice to offer new artists finding their way. We visit Claye’s London home studio to talk music production, and the unlikely inspiration behind his latest song.
Having once been signed to Jay-Z-founded Roc Nation, producer and songwriter Claye went on to co-write Sean Paul’s Hold My Hand. Featuring Timbaland protégé Keri Hilson, the track featured on Paul’s Grammynominated Imperial Blaze album and has exceeded 50 million streams. So far, so cool. So naturally Headliner is surprised to learn that the inspiration for Claye’s recent song, Murda, came from watching a daytime rerun of 80s drama series, Murder, She Wrote – a show built around middle-aged widow, (and damn good amateur detective, mind you) Jessica Fletcher. “This is one of my secrets,” Claye says, lowering his voice conspiratorially, “but I tend to always get inspiration from movies. I purposefully do that because they took the time to write and construct the story and narrative, so I don’t need to figure out a story or concept – they have done the job for me. There is something you could say to me right now – a line or a song, and I would use that as the basis of a song. I am always writing down
ideas for titles, concepts and lines. For Murda, I was watching Murder, She Wrote on TV, and I thought, ‘you know what, let me come into the studio’. I wanted to do something like ‘murder she wrote,’ but not based on what the other reggae guys have already done – but literally based on the episode I just watched. This is no world of a lie: I came in and I put a drum loop on, I went through the sounds and heard the sample, ‘killaaah,’ and then I went [sings] ‘murder she wrote’ – and that’s the hook I wrote the song around!” Born in Jamaica and moving to London in 2002, Claye (real name Clayton Morrison) grew up in church as a child, and although wants to avoid the cliche of saying he inherited his talent from his parents, he has to admit that this is the truth, as they were both singers. As an adult, Claye’s music sits nicely in a gentle, reggae-infused box, however he is a classically trained pianist, although perhaps reluctantly. So what made him take the instrument more seriously? Girls, of course. “I never liked the piano,” he admits, shaking
his head at the memory. “I never hated it either – it was always there but I wasn’t that interested in it. I was in church singing and the piano was there, but I wouldn’t touch it. But then someone was playing Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino, and I loved it. I thought if I could learn to play that song, then the girls would be impressed [laughs]. Then that started it, and I wanted to learn more.” Studio Time Warmly welcoming Headliner into his cozy – and great-smelling (he’s been burning sage) – home studio at the bottom of his garden in a neat cul-de-sac in London, Claye is without ego, speaking quickly in a quiet Jamaican lilt (although being softly spoken could be down to the studio’s impressive acoustics). Dressed down in jeans, a simple red t-shirt and socks and sliders (no judgement here), Claye is first and foremost a family man - earlier today he was trying to fix his kids’ pool table after high winds battered most of the UK – although he admits that he first got into the music scene as
The Million Dollar Question
“The deals you see with some artists are disgusting, so I’m glad I understand the royalties side of things...” he had nothing to lose at the time. “When I came to live in the UK, I was young and semi-reckless with no commitments, so I thought I’d give music a go. It wasn’t even a planned thing. Then the family comes into the picture, so I can’t leave again [laughs]. At the time I was teaching music, so I decided to stay and pursue musicmaking.” Although citing slick R&B / hip hop producers and artists Timbaland, The Neptunes and N.E.R.D as influences, Claye’s music tastes and inspirations are broad – his favourites are actually Maroon 5, Coldplay, Bon Jovi and Journey. “I love classical music too – I’m a big Hans Zimmer fan; I love soundtracks. Classical music makes you appreciate music. But my drumming influences come from Timbaland, as I’m a drummer second. I’m multi genre: I could do a rock song if I needed to, but I wouldn’t [laughs]. It wouldn’t be as good as my first music – reggae, dancehall and R&B. You can hear those influences in my music - take away the beats and vocals away and you hear R&B harmonies – I can’t get a way from it!” When he’s not being inspired by daytime TV, Claye is open to discovering new music on Spotify. “I’m like a kid in candy shop when I hear things. It helps me to stay fresh and inspired; I don’t listen to a lot of radio. When
I’m creating, it’s what I’m feeling, and what I know how to do. I’m not being fed by what’s popping.” In the studio, Claye is using an Arturia Keylabs 49 hybrid synthesiser, a 27in iMac, a Novation Impulse MIDI controller keyboard (“l like it because I can map stuff, and I like the feel of the keys,” he says), and a combination of Eve Audio SC207 and Yamaha HS50 monitors. Emulating different hardware in plugin format is a Universal Audio Apollo MKii interface, while he also relies on a Native Instruments Maschine Platinum Edition, an Akai APC Mini and a Sontronics Orpheus Mic. Claye is a big Waves fan: “I have a lot of waves plugins – Waves is old school, and it works,” although his particular favourites are the CLA-2A and dbx 160 compressor / limiters, the Rvox vocal compressor, RBass and MaxxBass for bass enhancement, RDeEsser to remove the harsh frequencies and sibilance in vocals, and H-Reverb. A big moment in Claye’s career came when he signed a publishing deal with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, although he didn’t immediately jump at the chance. “I was procrastinating,” he admits. “I bit the bullet and went and saw their new space in London. I didn’t know what to expect, but the game-changer for me was the name [Roc Nation]. If you know how
to use it, it can open doors.” So what is Hova like in person? Claye is honest – he has no idea. “I didn’t meet Jay Z. He’s so busy, and it would be weird to bump into these level of guys. I’m weird…I probably would have seen him and not said anything. He’s probably busy and not open for a general chat [laughs]. What I’d love to get from him is his top five tips – no selfies, just knowledge. I watch all the interviews these guys do, because I like to understand what they’re thinking.” Considering his initial blasé attitude to getting into the music scene, Claye now takes the business side of his career very seriously, preferring to oversee every aspect himself. Being part of the Roc Nation family meant there were opportunities to attend ‘writing camps,’ where he learnt about all the different aspects of the music industry. “I spent that time doing the pitching, which I hate now, but I didn’t realise that I was honing the whole craft. If I wasn’t working in music I would probably be in something in branding – I love business. I’m very much behind the business of what I’m doing. The deals you see with some artists are disgusting and ridiculous, so I’m glad I understand the royalties side of things to avoid that happening to me. It needs to make sense for the artist.”
The Million Dollar Question
“Would I sign a publishing deal again? No. Because most publishers don’t really do anything...” Any golden nuggets of advice so far? “Well, I was at a writing camp in New York when I was with Roc Nation. I was on a table with Angela Hunte, who did Empire State Of Mind, and there was a guy called Storm that works with Usher. He said to me: ‘Do you want to sell a million, or make a million?’ He told me to take my time. It sounds like a trick question, and at the time I said: ‘sell a million records’. He said: ‘Always do the maths properly. To sell a million takes a lot of work and infrastructure. You need a million people to sell a million. You only need 10 people that give you 100,000 to make a million’. If you sell a million, you don’t walk away with that because of deductions, distributors, and so on - everyone tucks into the pie first. But if you’re independent and you sell direct to fans, a million could be a million. Then you can fund your career. Funnily enough I was a producer at the time, not an artist. “The same guy said to never, ever second guess yourself, because music is spiritual – it needs to write itself. The moment you start to overthink, you aren’t writing the song. You can get writers block if you overthink. If you want to write a book but you don’t know what to say, of course you’re going to get stuck. That changed everything for me, and if I saw him now I’d shake his hand. I don’t think he knew
what it meant to me. I pass it on to anyone that asks me now. A lot of artists just care about the top 40 or top 10, but that doesn’t mean longevity.” Fight For Your Right And what about an example of learning someting the hard way in the music biz? “Okay, publishing deals – would I sign one again? No. Because most publishers don’t really do anything. And what a lot of people don’t know is that some of the huge current artists - whoever you are picturing now, you’re probably right - don’t really have managers, they get a very highly paid P.A. It’s a clever thing because they don’t want to give away 20% of 300 million, but these people of course will not turn down a very high salary to be an extremely handsomely paid PA, basically doing a managerial role. “I work with two publishing companies now, but it’s great because I retain ownership,” he elaborates. “That’s my advice to anyone. I’ve learnt so many lessons, I don’t know if I’m allowed to say some of the stuff! Always go with your gut. I personally am unmanaged, but not because I don’t want a manager. Sometimes it’s not about going to the establishments that are established, because the visions are blurred. I learnt the hard way
about that. Find the people with heart and drive, and figure it out.” For now, Claye is focused on releasing his new album, which is available now – promising to be his most explorative, cohesive and personal work yet. You will hear the Murder, She Wrote-inspired number on the new album, and Claye is eager to see how the new release is perceived. “I obviously used to do a lot of reggae and roots – I used to have long dreadlocks,” he smiles. “But I grew up doing dancehall, though the mainstream media weren’t messing with it. On the album, you can expect to hear my influences, and what I’ve been holding onto for so long – it’s a fusion of the era of ‘90s dancehall and reggae, mixed with me listening to ‘80s music and R&B – it’s feel-good, summary vibes.” Perhaps it’s the sage talking, but Claye’s vibes are infectious. Even when discussing the harder lessons he’s learnt, there is never a hint of malice or a complaint. “I’m a spiritual guy, I burn sage before I do anything to get my energy and my vibe to create. I love crystals, too. It comes with not having to judge anything else.” www.claye.co.uk photographs by Tae Avlon
Bastille Day 2019
FRENCH NATIONAL DAY GOES IMMERSIVE An advanced audio solution from France Radio and Gilles Bouvard for Grand Concert de Paris ensured that the most important day on the French calendar was a real spectacle.
The most important day of the French calendar is the French national holiday on July 14, celebrating the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille. The Grand Concert de Paris takes place every year at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, in the Champ de Mars. This year, a crowd of 300,000 people assembled to listen to the concert and see the impressive firework display, while a record audience of three million viewers tuned in to watch the spectacle on television. Specialising in the delivery of large-scale shows around the world, Gilles Bouvard Events and Shows (GB4D) regularly uses Optocore and BroaMan fiber optic converters for the construction of networks over long distances, particularly in the Champ de Mars, where they have been hired by Radio France since 2015. But as requirements evolve in line with the technological advancement, a highly
innovative approach was adopted this year to build on the site wide Optocore redundant optical loop backbone that has been deployed for the previous four years. To capture the audio this year, no fewer than 152 Optocore X6R preamps (FX and TP) were in use. This was the result of earlier successful trials: “We had conducted several experiments with Radio France before the event, including the recording and capture of a jazz concert in 2018, with immersive sound, using a 22/2 multi-channel mix,” reveals Gilles Bouvard The idea itself emanated from Pascal Besnard and Bruno Lompech from Radio France, resulting in the BroaMan / Optocore equipment for this extraordinary concert being installed at La Maison de la Radio. Bruno Lompech takes up the story. “Before thinking about mixing 22:2 I thought of the huge possibilities of audio network coverage that Optocore offered, and I proposed it to our engineering department as
an alternative to other more audio-oriented IP systems. From a standard concert we could imagine something way more innovative than a simple stereo mix to our FM transmitters.” The audio recording was made using 48 Optocore preamps wired to a LAWO console for the antenna sound (directed by Stéphane Desmons). The concert was mixed by a Yamaha Nuage post-production console for the immersive sound. “It was crazy!” exclaims Bouvard. “Everything was connected via a [BroaMan] MUX22-IVT/MADI, for audio and video.” Tuning in to the live concert in Studio 105, they were immediately immersed in a 16:2 sound. The distribution of audio stems to the 18 inputs of the immersive sound converter was handled uniquely by the MUX22 IVT / MADI. Meanwhile, a BroaMan Route 66 16/24 video router retrieved HD SDI camera signals, distributing the video to the sound
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“Before thinking about mixing 22:2, I thought of the huge possibilities of audio network coverage that Optocore offered, and proposed it as an alternative to IP systems.” engineers in all studios, and broadcasting the concert to the Dailymotion video-sharing platform, with images and sound immersively mixed in 22:2. As Lompech explains, “We arranged to distribute to other studios because ultimately we wanted to be able to operate any mix from any of our studios to the mixing booths.” Gilles pays tribute to Hervé Desjardin of Radio France and Perric Charles for their work on this project, while François Lund (of GB4D) accompanied Gilles Bouvard in the implementation, alongside Diane Hivert, who is responsible for BroaMan / Optocore distribution in France. Bruno Lompech also credits Hervé, whom he describes as ‘one of the world’s leading specialists in this technology’: “He saw the opportunity to mix live for our networks on the net, at the same time as mixing for our Radio Frequency Modulation (FM Radio) antennas, a mix more elaborate than the simple stereo mixing tradition. This was made possible not only by the quality of the Optocore preamps, but also the speed of
distribution of audio channels from one studio to another, with almost zero latency.” Once proof of concept was established, the BroaMan / Optocore topography was immediately earmarked for the Grand Concert in Paris. The relationship between Radio France, the expertise of the GB4D team and deployment of Optocore kit is based on mutual trust. “The process becomes easy; however, that said, nothing is left to chance in the preparation of equipment in our premises,” says Gilles. “Having the confidence of Radio France has the effect of putting more pressure on our shoulders. In that regard, credit goes to Titou Victor, who worked with me on this great concert, and Greg Poirier and François Lund in our workshops.” In addition to Bruno Lompech, who is retiring this year, Gilles also singles out Laurent Fracchia, one of the sound directors of Radio France, who was stationed in the OB truck for the Grand Concert de Paris. This 5.1 truck has already been equipped with 120 LAWO preamps.
“But we are often asked to provide somewhere between 48 and 96 Optocore preamps for events, depending on the recordings to be made. This can take the mix total up to 216 preamps. The quality of the Optocore preamps is extremely high, and so it does not make any difference to Radio France’s sound engineers whether they use LAWO or Optocore preamps, especially when Optocore gain and phantom can be controlled directly from the LAWO console,” says Gilles. GB4D detailed 144 preamps for the stage 120 for FOH and 24 Dual Mic preamplifiers for solo monitors. In addition, eight FOH preamps were used for the on-site public ambient sound, in addition to the live radio and television sound recording; at the same time a multitrack recording was performed on a 128-channel Merging Technologies Pyramix system from the FOH console, facilitated by the additional MADI ports (3 and 4) on BroaMan’s bidirectional Video and Data MUX22-IVT/MADI converters, and M12—an Optocore MADI router with eight MADI ports.
Bastille Day 2019
“The possibility of passing video via the network between mixing and listening points is very satisfying...” It was Laurent Fracchia who realised the final sound mix for radio and television. He had prepared a rescue mix of four stereo groups that was distributed in MADI in the Yamaha DM1000 as a back-up if necessary. The console was implemented on the Optocore network to manage TV commercials and wireless microphones for pre-show presentations, and was also used to broadcast the soundtrack of the fireworks. In addition to X6R-FX-16MI and X6RTP-16MI preamps for stage capture, a V3RTP-8MI was used for ambience microphones. The Optocore network also distributed audio stems for the Adamson broadcast systems. Devices used for Stage Left, comprised an X6R-FX-8AES/8LO, and for Stage Right broadcasting, a V3R-TP with eight AES port and eight analog outputs (these were wired in backup on the amplifiers). The France TV television channel was connected by an Optocore DD32R-FX, equipped with two older X6P-8MI/8LO for the sharing of resources, as well as by an X6RFX-16AES-SRC and DD32R-FX. “The FOH broadcast processor was interfaced in the network via a DD32RFX for AES streams, and an X6R-FX for analogue backup on which was wired a
V3R-TP-8MI to capture the atmosphere,” says Gilles. The four mixing consoles were connected to the MADI network, with two interfaces: BroaMan MUX22-IVT/MADI and Optocore M12. As to the dual redundant fiber network, GB4D again conceived the transmission in two optical rings which he described as a ‘false star’ (thus described because the ring was created in the Optocore Stagebox). The first loop connected the FOH controller, the stage left broadcast and the stage left preamp rack, while a second loop, deployed from the Optocore stage right preamp rack, connected the Radio France 5.1 and France TV OB vans. Elsewhere, GB4D used a new Optocore AutoRouter simultaneously at another big French National Day concert in Toulouse, where they were responsible for the audio and video network, deploying the signal distribution on 14 points of sound and eight SDI points, requiring the installation of six kilometres of fiber. In conclusion, Bruno Lompech describes the Paris experiment as a complete success: “We were able to prove that from a dedicated event to a media source, thanks to Optocore’s intelligent and transparent distribution we could create a multitude of events simultaneously.
“All this was made possible thanks to the commitment on the ground of our teams, those of Radio France, but also the control of the technology by the teams of GB4D, who fully believed in our project. In parallel, the possibility of passing the video via the network between the different mixing and listening points has brought us enormous satisfaction, with a sufficiently straightforward implementation to fully convince us of the quality of the Optocore and BroaMan devices.” www.optocore.com www.broaman.com www.merging.com
MUSE WORLD TOUR: FIRST ART, THEN NOISE Muse are renowned for their spectacular sets and sublime sound, as well as allowing their production and audio staff to explore technologies to deliver the best concert experience possible. We recently joined the bandâ€™s audio team on the Simulation Theory world tour to find out how they continue to blend music, art, and audio technology.
eople are now aware that the first thing that can negatively impact the audience experience is poor sound quality and sound distribution, and productions are tempered with the role that social media plays,” opens Marc Carolan, FOH engineer for Muse, when asked how live sound today is perceived by the paying audience. “So it’s timely that we have all this new audio technology available at the same time that social media is happening. We’re getting real-time, real-world feedback from people on a platform where they’re not afraid to express themselves, and if it gets to a point where refunds are being issued, that can be very expensive, and can damage reputations.” With more Best Live Act awards than they have released albums, Muse are not a band that has ever been associated with poor quality live sound. If anything, the trio are known for their spectacular stage productions — and their current tour is no exception. Carolan has worked with Muse for 18 years, joining them mid-way through their second album, resulting in the band trusting him to do what is right for the tour. His chosen audio supply company is UK-based Skan Professional Audio, who joined the production in 2003, and have been responsible for the design of the sound system for all production shows. Skan designer, Matt Vickers, who toured with the band in the early years, is the system architect, and works for months in advance of the tour with the production team (led by George Reeves) to ensure that the system is where it should be physically placed within the set of the show, and the audience space, and with realistic trim heights to suit the audience geometry, not just what looks best in a visualisation of the show.
The band and production and management teams understand the importance of delivering their sound to the discerning Muse audience, and were incredibly supportive throughout the entire design process to make sure that the arrays were in the optimum locations with no compromises due to other production elements. Touring a full system of control and d&b SL-Series, and having just finished a U.S. indoor arena tour, Muse’s audio team then made the transition to some of Europe’s outdoor venues, which turned out to be surprisingly seamless. The outdoor shows are scaled-up versions of the indoor shows, so once the PA positions within the set were established, they remained in place (thanks to some clever Stageco cantilevers), and the line lengths were simply increased. ArrayProcessing was then applied to all arrays. With visuals heavily influenced by ‘80s sci-fi and horror films, the tour is a futuristic sensory overload: part Blade Runner, part Tron; the band shares the stage with an army of neon-clad trombonists, snarling robots, menacing creatures, and giant monsters. The trio’s adventurous tour concepts are always evolving, but one thing remains constant: their excellent sound.
SPELLBINDING ON STAGE
Those lucky enough to see them perform never tire of exclaiming that they can’t believe that all that sound and power comes from three guys. Their live performances are legendary; a tidal wave of thunderous guitars and drums, wailing riffs, and a frontman who can switch from a flawless falsetto to anguished belting quite expertly. “First of all, the band members are fantastic musicians, they’re really, really good,” Carolan nods. “And second, they’re that rare breed of musicians who know what they
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“As the mix engineer, it’s a really nice feeling to know you’re able to reproduce your show as it’s intended 99 percent of the time...” want to do, and how to achieve it. “With the d&b system and the fine-tuning control tools it brings such as AP and the prediction software tools, our work is very similar from location to location,” says Eddie O’Brien, FOH minder. “We get the same result quickly, which is very refreshing. As a footprint, the content of the show is pretty static, and is easy to transfer venue to venue. We’re just left with acoustic differences in the room, and we can address this with the d&b system.” “The size differences between venues are dealt with by simply adding delay arrays but leaving the core stage end PA system positions unchanged, making only angle and box count changes to suit each venue’s audience geometry,” adds Vickers. “We advance all the shows with full 3D CAD data and model in ArrayCalc to ensure that every seat in the house has the same experience. There are no longer ‘cheap seats’ due to the audio quality.” When used as intended, and with accurate array placement within each venue, the SL Series can guarantee that the highest/widest/furthest seat has the same experience as the pitch level VIP zone. Correctly placed arrays in a stadium now typically require only two pitch delays, with additional roof-hung arrays only for the higher venues where they deploy the touring six-position ring system of GSL’s lighter brother, KSL. The team chose to use the SL-SUBs simply tipped on their ends in a horizontal spaced array. “We found that the SL-SUBs didn’t need to be in big blocks to deliver the level, control and tonal response that we wanted, so we thought ‘out of the box’ and took a new approach,” Carolan explains. “By shifting from indoor to outdoor 70 Headliner
venues, the Sub-Array physical deployment changed slightly. The team worked with timing, and at some outdoor venues, they worked on a super-wide SUB experience. But aside from that, very little has changed with the actual musical tonality.” Rehearsals play a big part in the preparation, with Muse and the team using London’s Air Studios for a couple of weeks as a base to finetune the tour beforehand, where they bring in the full touring control package. “We mostly work on arrangements of the new songs to make it transfer live; it’s always a very concise and streamlined process,” says Carolan. “I just bring my console and my stuff. For me, at that stage in the rehearsals, I don’t want big reinforcement, I don’t want a big system. I prefer to just concentrate on the musical details first and make that my bed — first art, then noise!” “The album mix is a reference, and that’s important, but it’s also about translating the feeling of what the album mix is, not just ‘tracing’ it. We understand the intention, and transfer that to the audience experience. As the mix engineer, it’s a really nice feeling to know that you’re able to reproduce your show as it’s intended 99 percent of the time.” Show by show, the touring audio team fine tunes and deploys cabinet quantities and angling based on the actual event spaces. “When people ask why I love using the SL series so much, my answer is that it’s smaller, weighs less, uses less power, and goes louder,” says Skan touring array expert, Joachim Dewulf, who has been working with the band since 2015. “If you see the number of speakers we fly for stadiums, we have a main hang of just 18 GSL!”
KEEPING IT MUSICAL
According to the team, the high-quality, smooth musicality of the SL Series is the most essential feature. The large-format line array system is said to provide the audio fidelity and configuration flexibility to deliver a great concert experience in any venue efficiently. “As you can see, there are only two delay masts, with no other visible supporting structures. We’re quite far out, and it’s incredible audio engineering that they’re able to cover this so well,” Carolan gestures around the arena. “You don’t have to rob Peter to pay Paul anymore. You don’t have to sacrifice something to get something else. You can have everything. From the musicality point of view, that’s such a huge leap forward. If you can imagine it, and if you know what you want, then you can achieve it.” Considering the wall of sound that is Muse, so far, the tour has had no complaints about SPL. “In fact, we keep confusing the noise police,” Carolan laughs. “The SPL of my show, without anybody regulating me or telling me ‘this is the envelope,’ sits at around 100dB over 15 minutes, which historically would seem like a low figure. But with the SL Series, it’s absolutely all you need, because of the speed of the system, its impact, and the perception of size. It feels really good. There are points, of course, when I’m pushing a little bit, and there are points when I’m pulling a little bit back.” “The GSL system is doing exactly what it says it will do,” agrees audio crew chief and monitor minder, Liam Tucker, who has worked with Muse since the rehearsals for the Closing Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. “It’s sorting the environmental control. It’s
“Once we heard the system on the Muse tour, we realised we didn’t need flown subs anymore; GSL is such a big improvement in sound...” helping us because we can run as hard as we want to at front of house - or as hard as we’re allowed to - and the off-site noise is minimal.” Tucker adds that behind the arrays and out of the audience area, the system is so quiet that he’s often not sure if it is actually on. “I have to walk out in front of the speakers sometimes to know if it’s on, especially when the house music’s playing. It’s been asked, especially if all the offices are backstage, ‘Is the PA on?’ It’s only when the production office is on the side, that’s when they notice it!” “People are aware of noise, and what we perceive as noise,” agrees Eddie O’Brien. “It has become a bone of contention, and a tool of leverage to complain to promoters.” Vickers says environmental sound control and offsite noise issues are increasingly being monitored locally in and outside of most venues now, and with stadium touring becoming more common, there are a number of venues around Europe that have their own ring speakers installed by the promotor so as to adhere to strict licensing conditions for the events: “It’s important for us to retain the same tonal and behavioural characteristics of the PA for all seats, and as we were touring our own ring system, there were a couple of occasions where we had to convince the local promoters and authorities that with our touring design of less arrays would guarantee better results for the audience, and exceed all of their noise requirements. The SL series absolutely enabled us to fulfil that promise.” And what about the super fans pressed up as close as they can to the front barriers? “We’ve also really concentrated on creating a
great close-field experience,” is the answer. One of the team’s favourite things about d&b’s GSL system is that flown subs aren’t required. At the design phase the team decided to trust the product and made the decision that the GSL easily packs enough of a punch and gives much better pattern control over the low frequencies than any historic combinations of arrays. This was based on real-world experience that the team had from using the system in anger in promo shows leading up to the production tour, as well as scientific prediction results available within the d&b ArrayCalc software. “With GSL, people at first are unsure about it, because on the surface it appears as if it’s more space in a truck,” says Tucker. “But if you look at it, we used to have J-Tops and J-SUBs behind it, so you factor in the amount of truck space that takes, and when you work out the amount of GSL you’d need to do the same job, it’s actually less with fewer amps, and it’s less flown weight in the roof, which is a great added benefit to us, and production.” “Once we heard the system on the Muse tour, we realised we really don’t need flown subs anymore,” Dewulf agrees. “Since we got GSL, it’s such a big improvement in sound with a much better low end.”
respect and trust between all departments and the production team, we have been able to place the sound system how we wanted it, and now everyone involved with the show, the promoters, and most importantly the audience are very happy with the results. “With less arrays and supporting structures, the SL series with AP keeps promoters happy as they can sell more tickets, and the touring team happy as it delivers brilliant coverage and projection in the rear, because now dispersion in both the horizontal plane as well as the vertical is dedicated full-range, it all works amazingly well together. So I’m sure we’ll continue our ongoing streak of only positive social media reviews for many shows to come!” The Simulation Theory tour came to a close on October 15th. www.dbaudio.com
Within the industry as a whole, sometimes the audio system can take second chair to the video and visual production, so working with audio technologies that are smaller, lighter, and adaptable, but still deliver an amazing musical experience, is critical. “On this tour with Muse, thanks to mutual 71 Headliner
WHY ARE AUDIO PROS WORKING FOR FREE? Whether it’s due to doing a favour, the power imbalance between the engineer / producer and the client, being held to ransom, or not wanting to rock the boat, the facts don’t lie: many recording professionals are not being paid for their work. Headliner interviews MPG executive director, Olga FitzRoy about the Music Producers Guild’s new research into the problem, its ramifications, and what can be done about it, while music professionals speak out about their experiences of working ‘on-spec’. Words Alice Gustafson
new piece of research by the Music Producers Guild shows that many recording professionals are not being paid for their work. In fact, a staggering 88% of producers and sound engineers reported being asked to work for free, with 71% agreeing to work for free in the past three years. Having representation seemed to reduce the instances of people working for free slightly, with 61% of MPG Full Members reporting that they worked for free in the last three years – 64% of those with managers having worked for free in the past years. “I knew unpaid work was a problem in our industry, but I didn’t realise how endemic it was,” says MPG executive director, Olga FitzRoy. “Of course, people will do favours for friends, but it’s completely unacceptable for record labels and commercial studios to exploit professionals in this way. We don’t employ someone to put in a new bathroom and then decide to pay them if we feel like it. It’s an issue I’ve long been aware of, and it was something I pledged to try and tackle if I was elected onto the executive. My colleagues were unanimous in agreeing that we should look at this.” Of the MPG’s findings, FitzRoy is not short of things to say when asked what most surprised her about them: “There were three things shocked and surprised me the most: Firstly, how widespread this is, with 71% of professionals working for free in the last three years. Secondly, the amount of money that is being lost, with the average being £4,000 a year. This is not a trivial amount, and can mean the difference between someone being able to continue to work in the industry, and having to consider changing career. Finally, I was shocked at how accepting people are of being exploited. One person commented: ‘I worked for free in a commercial recording studio in London as an assistant engineer for roughly a month. As I was developing my skills, this seemed reasonable’. While we’re not against young people doing some shadowing to learn about the job, working for a month in a commercial studio is exploitation, and this sort of thing shouldn’t be happening. People’s time is precious, and even someone new in the job of assistant engineer can be a valuable member of the team and contribute hugely to the success of a project.” The research shows that those with management and those who were MPG Full Members had a lower
incidence of working for free than those without any sort of representation, but given that 61% of MPG Full members had worked for free in the past three years, it is still very much an issue, even amongst experienced professionals. “Amongst people starting out in the industry, we’ve seen reports of commercial studios ‘trying people out’ for quite long periods of unpaid work before offering them paid employment, and amongst more experienced mixers and producers, ‘on spec’ work is common,” she nods. “This means that a mixer or producer might be asked to work on a track, but that they will only be paid if the track is released. There were of course also professionals who didn’t work for free, and felt very strongly that they shouldn’t do so.” The reasons for doing the unpaid work varied, with 50% saying they were doing a genuine favour for a friend, while 20% felt under pressure to do a favour for an existing client. A key finding was that 42% had done ‘on spec’ work, undertaken on the understanding that they would be paid if the client liked the work. “The highest proportion of clients that were asking people to work for free were self-funding artists,” FitzRoy elaborates. “So in those cases I think they are just trying to do everything on a wing and a prayer – and our research shows that unfortunately many people will do this work for free. Sometimes there is a skills swap, or payment in kind, such as additional share of publishing or use of studio time / session time with a musician, etc. The most common reason given for working for free was to ‘showcase new skills’ and ‘building a relationship with a client’. While we recognise that engineers and producers’ relationships with their clients and the rates they charge are a matter for them and their management, we would always recommend that engineers and producers aren’t left out of pocket, even if they are keen to offer a preferential deal to a new client. Studio time, maintaining equipment, travel, sustenance and childcare all add up, so we would always recommend at least charging a demo fee as a bare minimum, and never working for free.”
WHY ARE WE KEEPING QUIET?
iSelf-funding artists were by far the most likely to ask people to work for free, with as many as 77% of respondents doing unpaid work for self-funding artists. Next were indie labels, with 34% doing unpaid work for an indie label, with nearly 17% doing unpaid work for a major label.
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“The average value of unpaid work per year was estimated to be around £4,000 per person, ranging from £400 to £40,000...” Independent TV and film productions, as well as radio stations, commercial studios, and charity projects are amongst the other clients who have benefited from free labour. In total, 41% spent one-to-six days a year on unpaid work, and 36% spent one-to-four weeks, while 5% said it was how they spent most of their time. The average value of unpaid work per year was estimated to be around £4,000 per person, ranging from a few hundred pounds, all the way up to £40,000. Why is this a topic not usually spoken about more openly? “There are a number of reasons, but the main one is the power imbalance between the engineer / producer and the client,” answers FitzRoy. “Particularly for those at the beginning of their careers, or establishing a relationship with a new client – people don’t want to want to be seen as being ‘difficult’. I think there’s definitely an element of not wanting to rock the boat – we are a service industry, and generally whatever the client wants, the client gets. I think we often find it difficult to say no to a job. Unfortunately, it has become so endemic, particularly for people starting out, that they often feel that this practice is acceptable. Everyone’s time is precious, no matter where they are in their career, and they should be paid for it if they are doing a job, whether that’s sitting on reception answering phones in a studio, or doing a mix for a label.” Recording professionals may think they are doing a favour, or have other reasons for working for free, but what are the repercussions to them and the wider industry? “It absolutely cheapens the procession,” states FitzRoy. “Assistant engineers, engineers, 74 Headliner
mixers, producers and mastering engineers are all experiencing this. As I said before, the reason people ask is because they will often find someone who will work for free. This encourages a culture where for certain types of projects it becomes the norm, and likely reduces the rates that are paid for other projects. “Interestingly, only 15% found that unpaid work led to more work ‘most of the time’; 45% said it ‘sometimes’ led to more work; and 38% said it ‘hardly ever’ led to more work. This means that just under half of the people are working for free, and not even getting a benefit from it in the future. Many people also commented that when they accepted an unpaid job, their work wasn’t valued, and it often wasn’t a good experience.” What can be done to combat this issue? “We are going to be looking at our findings in more detail, to see what will be most effective,” she reveals. “We are launching an assistant engineer membership that will give assistant engineers many of the benefits of the MPG’s support network. We’ll be talking to trade bodies that represent some of our members’ clients to see how we can work together to make sure everyone gets paid, and we will be issuing guidance to help members negotiate fair payment. “We will also be talking to studios to see how we can make sure people from all backgrounds can get entry-levels jobs in the industry; the most important thing is starting the conversation and supporting our highly talented professionals to demand fair pay for their hard work.”
It depends how much I like the person, and how long it’ll take. I remember major label stuff I used to do: they’d just withhold payment with a view to you forgetting or giving up – which is the same kind of thing. If I have done stuff for free, it mostly makes me feel like shit and I hate myself for doing it, so I don’t do it now.” – Nathan Boddy (MPG Full Member). “I don’t often get asked to work for free. Working directly with bands I get paid (normally) in a timely manner and in full, but when working with bands through indie labels or a band manager, invoices can often go unpaid for months or even years. I follow up and remind/ negotiate getting paid every week/month (which feels like such a waste of my time). As a sole trader, cash flow is so important to my survival and often these types of situations make me really struggle financially.” – Anonymous. “I was working in a commercial studio as a runner for a week of work experience. The train commute cost over £30 a day. There was no offer to reimburse travel costs and I had to pay for my own food. One night when I stayed late to pack down, I was bought food and offered a taxi to the station. I ended up out of pocket and used up holiday at my other job.” – Anonymous. 403 people responded to a survey promoted by the MPG to its members and the wider audio community via social media. Only respondents for whom assistant engineering, engineering, mixing, producing or mastering were their main source of income were included in the results.
WHAT THE PROS ARE SAYING...
“A lot of the time, it’s people asking for favours rather than out-and-out: ‘Can you work for free?’
Shure talks wireless
Theatre sound is unsustainable, a jam packed audience learnt during a candid panel discussion held during PLASA 2019. Shure’s event on the future of audio in theatre productions (in association with Curtain Call) revealed why digital radio mics had to happen, and why sound is almost an afterthought in musical theatre.
heatre sound has evolved significantly over the past 20 years. From the increasing availability of wireless microphones, to the development of discreet lavalier mics designed explicitly for theatre, new technology continues to push the industry forward. Audiences gathered at PLASA London to hear the opinions of a panel of industry experts who explored the future of audio for theatre, and how it continues to influence the very nature of theatre performance. The panel comprised Curtain Call’s John Schwab, performer and actress Siubhan Harrison, sound designer Richard Brooker, sound engineer Zoe Milton, MD of Autograph, Scott Arnold, Wicked the UK musical’s sound engineer, Janee Robinson, and Shure product developer, Stuart Moots. During the discussion, the message was clear: digital radio mics had to happen: “There was no option, we had to do that,” stated Brooker. “That, therefore is a worthwhile technology to invest in, and we’re all going to use it, and there are various benefits. On the practical side, the frequencies can be fitted in. Digital consoles have opened up a whole world of – almost an Aladdin’s cave – of goodies that we can use: anything you can do on your computer, you
can do on a console.” Brooker is of the opinion that sound factors low in terms of importance for theatre, despite it being key to the experience of a musical. He expanded upon the ways technology has had to adapt: “The principal characters [in a theatre show] wear two mics because sweat can temporarily dull down a microphone, so we switch over to the B pack so we don’t lose quality and clarity in the sound. They used to be larger and we used to get a lot of hassle from wardrobe, the costume designer, and from the occasional temperamental performer who might have said ‘I’m not wearing two of those!’ “There has been a lot of pressure on that kind of thing, so manufacturers have helped by reducing the size of the transmitters, and in Shure’s case, changing the shape of the transmitter as well, so it’s much more ergonomically beautiful.” Meanwhile, Arnold revealed that there “are not enough theatres in London,” meaning theatres are being built in a hurry to cope with the influx of productions, or musicals are being held in venues that were not designed for productions of a large scale. “We’re full up. That puts up a whole different world of challenges. You have a theatre like the
“Trying to fit a full scale musical into a 900-seater playhouse is a challenge. When a sound designer goes into a show they have to think a little bit outside the box...” Noël Coward, which is s typical playhouse, and it now has a musical in it. Trying to fit a full scale musical into a 900-seater playhouse is a challenge. When a sound designer goes into a show, they have to think a little bit outside the box.” Arnold added that “theatre sound is unsustainable” due to expensive products, estimating that in only five years it will be unviable unless changes are made to discover the next solution. However he had some good news to share, adding that professionals such as himself and Shure are currently working to find a solution. To watch the full panel discussion, visit Shure Performance & Production’s YouTube page. e https://www.youtube.com/user/ShureUK 75 Headliner
DANNY BURTON: ELECTRIC UNIVERSE Danny Burton has had quite the musical journey. Founder member of The Face - one of the hottest-tipped UK bands of the ‘90s, a devastating knife attack knocked him off-course as a young musician. Now, he’s back with his debut album, Electric Universe, out on November 1st. A lifetime in the making, he’s now got 14 tracks he can be proud of – all produced and put together by the man himself, and there’s a UK tour planned for the autumn. Honest, gritty and truly relatable is how Burton describes his debut album – and although we can certainly understand why, these adjectives also perfectly describe the man himself, who’s sat beside me, pouring out two large glasses of red wine. “It was all done in my bedroom; it’s like the Starship Enterprise in there,” Burton smiles, as we clink glasses. “I’ve got a nice Neumann mic – a TLM – a good sound card, decent keyboard, and a MacBook running Logic.” Each track was designed to jigsaw seamlessley together to form an album, and everything is 100% Danny Burton: every instrument, word, and note - yet there’s a full rock band feel. There’s classic rock in there,
indie rock, and definitely a hint of Brit Pop. “All the best songs come to you from somewhere, you kind of pull it out of the ether, or on voice notes in my case,” Burton smiles. “I was at a New Year’s Eve party when I decided I was going to do an album – something I could write and record myself, and be proud of. By February I was writing, and three months later I had it done. And since then, I have another couple of albums worth of songs done. But going from the voice memos, I would drag them as a reference into Logic so I could remember what I’d been playing. I’ve done everything on the album, from drum programming to guitars, keyboards, and vocals.”
It’s quite a different recording approach to The Face – that original material ultimately evolved out of some seriously rock and roll recording sessions at John Entwhistle’s house with Rod Stewart’s guitarist, Gary Grainger, and The Who’s legendary live sound man, Bob Bridden. “It was surreal, and amazing - but half of the band couldn’t cut it, as the partying was pretty hardcore to say the least, so they quit. I remember being in the studio the following day, pretty low, but before we knew it, the guys had arranged for Zac Starkey to join the band, and we recorded [The Who hit] Substitute with Zac on drums, John [Entwhistle] on bass, and Gary on guitar,” smiles Burton. “We
“All the best songs come to you from somewhere - you pull it out of the ether... or a voice note, in my case...” still needed a guitarist full-time, so we got Gary Nuttall in, who played with Chesney Hawkes, and that, along with me and Ronnie [Thomas] became The Face.”
TURN & FACE THE STRANGE
Burton admits that the recordings weren’t incredible, but along with the band’s energetic live show, they did get the attention of a lot of labels. The Face were championed heavily by the likes of Steve Lamacq on Radio 1, and were right on the brink of making some serious waves in the industry when fate dealt a near-fatal blow as Burton became the victim of a vicious knife attack. The attack happened as he was out celebrating the news that he’d landed the starring role in Pete Townsend’s hit musical, Tommy. His musical universe went into the depths of a black hole – yet he remains remarkably philosophical about it all. “One of the guys cut me on my head, and across my nose – he nearly took my eye out –
and another guy was stabbing Ronnie in the back. It was crazy. So my face was a mess for ages, and I had to shave my head – I had the long ‘mod’ hair back then. And that experience put me off doing it all, really. I was in intensive care - but I look at it as part of life,” Burton reflects. “You’re never quite the same, as you suppress that kind of pain; and there was a culture in London – I guess it’s still there, to an extent - to stand up for yourself, even if it’s not in your nature. But it definitely knocked the wind out of my sails, and I suffered, as musically, it was all about to happen. So when it didn’t happen, that’s when I hit rock bottom and went off the rails.” As conversation turns back to the new material, Burton’s eyes begin to widen – he’s clearly as passionate as ever about making original music. “Dangerous is the new single – I remixed it for radio, as the first two [singles] we had some bites – some regional - but we need to get rotation on national radio. Thankfully, my
label, Right Track Records, are really behind the project – they’re fans of the music as well as my label, which feels good – so I really do believe this single could be the one.” Burton says it’s only taken six or so months to get the record to where it needs to be which is pretty quick - and the album launch party, which took place in London on October 8th, was a great success. Now it’s a case of pushing the record, and hoping for a big bite. “I’ve now got a really good band behind me, and [bassist] Ronnie is still there – just like he was right at the beginning of The Face when we were 16,” Burton smiles. “I believe in the songs, the band, and this upcoming single – so now it’s a case of seeing what momentum we can build from there. Let’s wait and see!” We wish Danny and the Right Track team the best of luck with the new record. For more information, check out the link below. www.dannyburton.co.uk
Too Many Zooz
TOO MANY ZOOZ: UNSCRIPTED When it comes to musical acts achieving viral success, it’s hard to think of anyone doing so more wildly than Too Many Zooz. After meeting at the Manhattan School of Music, Leo Pellegrino, Matt “Doe” Muirhead and David “King of Sludge” Parks decided to busk on the New York City Subway to make some money from their musical abilities. This casual decision had momentous results: their self-invented and self-defined genre of Brass House took busking to a place it had never been previously. The punch-packing power of the music, the virtuosity of each member, plus the energy of the band (most notably Leo P’s absurd yet brilliant dancing) stopped commuters dead in their tracks. But most crucially, in this digital age, the New Yorkers would get their phones out and record the trio. Before long, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc etc, were flooded with videos of Too Many Zooz. That was 2013. Today, TMZ have performed at the BBC Proms at The Royal Albert Hall, shared a stage with Beyoncé, and their hit single Warriors has been remixed by Armand Van Helden and even adapted into a song with Jess Glynne.
They’ve just finished one of their biggest rounds of touring yet, including a huge show at Kentish Town in London back in May. Their new lighting set up and on-stage dancers provide a dazzling reminder of how far they’ve come since collecting tips from Subway-users. “That was a fun show,” Matt Muirhead, the group’s trumpeter, tells me. “That was definitely one of the bigger shows we’ve ever done. Once we had the record with Jess (Glynne) out, she’s so big in the UK, so our UK following is massive in its own right.” Prior to the formation of TMZ, baritone saxophonist Leo Pellegrino had already been gracing the New York Subways in a band “called The Drumadics,” Muirhead says. “This is going way back. He’d already been playing in the Subways for about nine months
before I started playing with him and Dave.” When I suggest that a lot of conservatorylevel musicians probably wouldn’t be humble enough to busk in railway stations, Muirhead responds: “I think those people probably don’t have to pay rent. For us man, we were just broke. And just trying to figure out a way to generate income, and do something we love. For me, it was a huge win. I was 17 or 18, dead broke, and just moved to the city. “It was like paid rehearsal, basically. Once we got into the groove of doing it everyday, it became so easy. At a certain point, you just wanted to go to the Subway for the inherent benefit of what it was. It was a place where I’d practise trumpet for about three hours, then go home with about 100 bucks in cash. For an 18 year old kid, that’s pretty good! It was a
Too Many Zooz
“Genelec speakers are great, man - the bass is huge and warm, and you just get such a full-body sound...” no-brainer for all of us. Since then, our music has always been shaped by our experiences down there. The first records we ever released were all just music we’d improvised in the Subway over and over, until one day it wasn’t really an improvisation anymore.” Perhaps the craziest thing is how spontaneous and unplanned the journey of Too Many Zooz has been. “We never even planned on being a band,” Muirhead says. “It was mostly necessity — three guys trying to make some money, and after so much time we kept getting asked: ‘what’s your band name? Can you play this show?’” That being said, Matt, Leo and Dave had a very palpable sense they’d caught onto something after their first busking session: “The first day we played together, we felt this kinetic energy. It wasn’t like this fucking dramatic television moment where we looked into each other’s eyes and said ‘this is it!’ But we definitely had a moment the first day, where we looked at each other and said ‘alright man, I’ll see you tomorrow!’ And we just started playing every day. It is wild to go from The Royal Albert Hall and all the things we’ve done. I know Dave in particular always
thought we’d go on to do something big.” I’m pleased to hear that the band are very much open to making a future cameo appearance in the New York Subway — although in their eyes, it wouldn’t be a shock return. “For us, it wouldn’t be some big thing,” Muirhead says. “More a case of whenever we have the time. We enjoy it!” Muirhead also serves as Too Many Zooz’ producer, and “lives in the studio”, so I’m excited to talk through the equipment and software that helps shape the sound of the mighty Zooz. “The funny thing about the Yamaha NS10s is, I like working with them because they sound like shit! There’s no EQ coming out of the speaker, it’s completely flat. When you’re mixing, it makes it so easy. I also love Genelec — two of my go-to New York studios have Genelecs. They both use the 8050B, and the master studio monitors are the 1237A. Genelec are great, man. The bass is huge and warm, it’s just a full-body sound. Whenever we work on them, I think ‘our record sounds bangin!’” In terms of plugins, a lot of Muirhead’s use of those is “centred around engineering. I use H-Delay by Waves a lot, that’s my favourite
non-hardware delay. The Valhalla Vintage Verb is a great reverb that I really love. I’m obsessed with EQs and compressors. The H-Compressor from Waves I also use a lot. And I love Waves’ Q10 — as far as EQs go, you can’t get a smaller Q than on that one. So for really fine-tuning post-EQ master stuff, it’s great. Waves makes amazing stuff, man. They really have done an excellent job over the years. I own all of their plugins, and even after all these years of using them, I still learn new things about them every day.” 2019 is far from musically over for Matt, Leo and Dave. “We’ve got the new music coming later this year,” Muirhead says. “Then we’re going to Canada, and doing a West Coast tour in the States. Then we have some time off to record some more music. For us, right now, it’s just about getting in a lab and getting creative. We’ve always carried this thing of not trying to have too much of a plan.” What a beautifully unscripted tale, is that of Too Many Zooz. www.genelec.com www.waves.com
Wright & de Botton
The Long and Winding Road
THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD
Headliner spends the morning with prolific music producer, Andy Wright, and singersongwriter with a message, Miel de Botton, at Abbey Road Studios. de Botton shares her difficult journey from Oxford law student and professional psychologist, to singer, while Wright reveals that the secret to perfecting Simply Red hit, Fairground was Mick Hucknall’s dental appointment.
Music producer, Andy Wright is a selfprofessed ‘8 O’Clock kind of guy’, preferring to start work in the morning. Although it wasn’t always this way: “I used to get up late in the morning, go to work, come back, bath the kids, put them to bed, then go back to work and get home at 5am,” he says, shaking his head. “I don’t really have the physical ability to do that now [laughs]. That was my routine for a few years, and it was great! There was a bit of pub time factored in there… it’s all part of the job though. You’ve got to discuss the work you’re doing!” Getting his first break in the music industry in the ‘80s, Wright progressed from keyboard player and programmer, to indemand music producer, going on to work with Massive Attack, Simply Red, Tom Jones, Imogen Heap, Jon Bon Jovi, Alisha’s Attic, Eurythmics and guitar legend, Jeff Beck, to name a few. Most recently, Wright has been writing and producing music with Swiss singer, Miel
de Botton, whose recent single, Yes! stresses the importance of wellbeing and listening to your body. Meeting Wright and de Botton at Abbey Road Studios, the pair fill Headliner in on their individual journeys that led to them working together. Bold Moves Before working as a producer, Wright took the risk of setting up his own studio in London’s Primrose Hill in the 90s, although he admits that he was in quite a bit of debt: “I was really skint! I had one of those angel experiences, I think. I went to see the bank manager, who was this really adorable man who was close to the end of his career, and somehow he took a bit of a shine to me and said: ‘I think that the only way we can sort you out is to give you more money,’ which is basically what he did. He gave me another £10,000 to sort out the problem. So I went and spent it all on studio equipment and paid for rent on a little room, and that was the first studio.”
After a time, Wright discovered that his landlord wasn’t paying his landlord, which saw him move to another studio in London. “That was the studio that things really started to happen in,” he reflects. “Over the next few years, I was in there every day – all day, all night.” In 1995, Wright took the first steps on a long journey with Simply Red, creating the unique sounds and beats featured on the phenomenally successful, Fairground. The band’s first UK number one single, Fairground went onto spend four weeks at the top, and 14 weeks in the Top 40. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: Wright received production credits on every Simply Red album since. So what’s the secret to producing this hit track? A dental appointment, apparently. “I remember the night before I went to meet Mick Hucknall. I had a really strange dream about meeting on a stage in a farm in Wales, and him hating me,” Wright remembers. “I went there the next day and we got on really well. Mick is a year and a
Wright & de Botton
The Long and Winding Road
“The bank manager gave me another £10,000, so I spent it on studio equipment and paid rent on a little room...” half older than me; I’m from Nottingham, he’s from Manchester. We’re both not from wealthy families – his is famously poor – so we had the same reference. While he’s famously difficult, in fairness he’s always been very nice to me, so I can’t really complain! So, 11-12 albums on, my role changed very quickly from programmer to producer.” Studio Time Wright has an acute memory of everything he’s done, recalling every detail with ease: “For Fairground, Mick wanted to do a Brazilian, carnival-style track. In the studio, Mick would go: ‘That’s what I want, get on with it,’ – as if it’s easy to summon up 200 bazillion drummers all at once. luckily I’d heard a record by The Goodmen called Give It Up, which was sampled from Sérgio Mendes’s Fanfarra (Cabua-le-le) originally. “This was one of those great moments that made it happen: Mick had a dentist appointment. That was it. I said: ‘I know these two records,’ and he said: ‘I don’t care about them, I want you to do it,’ – but it’s very hard with a few percussion sounds on a drum machine! He said, ‘Anyway, I’ve got a dentist appointment and I’ll be gone for two hours’. So I sent the guy off to the shops to buy the records and by the time Mick got back, I’d already sampled them. We added a few
ingredients like a house piano, a wobbly synth and the vocal, and that’s about it. Then it was number one for four weeks, and the album sold millions off the back of it. I’ll put it down to the dental thing, because I would never have got an opportunity to do that – he’s far too impatient for that! I like him enormously now,” he adds quickly. “He’s got loads of talent and he sounds like no-one else. Everyone will tell you: ‘He’s difficult, he’s fiery, he’s impatient,’ and we’ve got to navigate each other a bit because I bring a lot to the party if I’m allowed to, but if he squashes everybody’s ideas at the beginning, you can only work at his pace.” In 2000, an unlikely coming together with Jeff Beck led to Wright’s production of the album You Had It Coming. Marrying edgy, unexpected influences with Beck’s virtuoso playing produced a ground-breaking album. A Grammy award followed for the track Dirty Mind in the category of Best Rock Instrumental Performance. “I was bewildered because I don’t know how I got the call for that,” he admits. “I was a pop producer and Jeff was a guitar legend, so I didn’t think I was the guy for that really. But I decided to take the meeting and found him to be incredible fun; we just had this very Carry On kind of humour between us very quickly. From beginning to end, we did the album
in seven weeks. It’s only 36 minutes long, which people complained was too short, but the record won a Grammy and was critically acclaimed.” Wright is happy that he experienced life in the studio before it got overtaken by screens and software: “When I started in ’83, there weren’t screens in the studio – in terms of computerassisted music, you had a little sequence box, some synths, a lot of things that all network together via an interface called MIDI, and that was how I started really. I’d program things and then record it onto tape. On the plus side, I think the sound of the records that were made in that period – and in any period really – are as much dictated by what you can’t do as what you can do. With the early technology, you tried everything in your power to make it as good as it could be because your imagination was big, but the equipment was slow and a little bit volatile. For that reason, you’d make sure you recorded onto tape!” Meeting de Botton in 2013, Wright immediately saw her potential and they began to work on new music, becoming firm friends in the process: “It was a very magical process,” says de Botton in a soothing, well-spoken voice. “I was a bit desperate because I didn’t think the people around me would help me produce
Wright & de Botton
The Long and Winding Road
“Pop music is extremely egocentric, and Miel’s music is going outwards, not just inwards...” the album that I wanted. So I spoke to a friend who’s a healer, and she told me that Andy would be at this charity event and that we should meet. He’s a wonderful, amazing person to work with. He’s let me blossom and come out with my own truth and creativity. He’s a very deep soul, and he’s become a wonderful friend. He’s changed my life completely.” Born in Switzerland, de Botton and her younger brother, philosopher, Alain de Botton had an idyllic childhood growing up by a lake in Zurich. Her financier father, Gilbert de Botton, shared his love of music with her, often singing French chansons with his young daughter. Before finding her feet in music, de Botton went to Oxford to study law, before qualifying as a clinical psychologist in Paris where she practiced for six years in drug addiction centres before relocating to London with her husband. On her move to London and her father’s death, with a one-year old son and much of her father’s estate issues to look after, she took a break. Then, a few years and another child later, her marriage fell apart. “I thought that law was my path, mainly because my dad and I used to have very heated discussions over things, and he said: ‘You’d make a great lawyer!’ After studying
law, I did a five-year psychology course in Paris, and I practiced for six years in an adolescent centre. It was fascinating and I did enjoy it. After my dad died, that’s what turned everything upside down. The singing was this passion that had gone on in the background, but it was never anything that I thought I’d make a go of professionally – then suddenly things started changing. The strength of my passion was growing.” Not wanting to stick to any one genre of music, de Botton’s most recent album, Surrender to the Feeling, takes influences from Lenard Cohen, Van Morrison, Florence and the Machine, P!nk, classical opera, reggae and dance music. “I really like to have the variety on the album,” she enthuses. “Some people want me to decide: ‘Are you dance, are you something else?’ I’m not deciding. I like variety!” New single, Yes! is co-written by de Botton and The Hoosiers’ Sam Swallow, who also features on the track. A joyful and upbeat song with a message that silence can be fulfilling within the agitation of modern life, the song echoes themes of wellbeing and the quest for inner peace – a way of life that has become very important to de Botton. “Positivity is very important,” she nods. “The first line is: ‘I was so tired, I had to
rest’. It’s about the journey to health and appreciating silence when one is a bit older, but at the same time it’s got a very joyful sound to it. It’s telling you to follow your needs, and it says quite bluntly: eat when you are hungry, drink when you are thirsty, rest when you are tired. It says there is not much time; there is so much time – it’s the dichotomy of life, guiding you to better health.” “Pop music is extremely egocentric, and Miel’s music is going outwards and not just going inwards,” Wright adds. “I think that’s a really special place to find yourself in, and the world clearly needs that as well: strong messages, trying to get back on track.” “There is a joy to contemplation, to silence and to meditation – things that are slower,” agrees de Botton. “I hope they’ll listen. Right now, all around me I’ve got lots of friends having major health issues, and I’ve had my own. There is a song on the album which is quite poignant, which is about addiction, and that was drawn from my experiences in that field. I think we all need to knuckle down and listen to our bodies and what’s going on, and slow down if we need to.” www.mielmusic.co.uk photographs by Danny Clifford
Stage to Studio
STAGE TO STUDIO @ PLASA 2019
What does it take to get the best recording out of a live performance? PLASA London attendees got to find out for themselves this year, with the 2019 exhibition refocusing its attention on audio with the debut of Headliner and Sound On Sound’s joint initiative, Stage To Studio, which saw talented emerging artists, VC Pines and Effie perform live, after which the tracks were mixed ‘in the studio’ by professional engineers in front of a live audience. Headliner grabbed a front row seat to watch the mixing magic in action.
Long-time PLASA attendees have often bemoaned the London expo’s gradual straying away from its audio roots over the years. So it was to the delight of many that in 2019, PLASA gave the people what they wanted, working with Headliner and Sound On Sound to host Stage To Studio. Chaired by original member of Iron Maiden, Tony Moore, an abundance of singer-songwriting talent took to the stage over two days, with headline acts VC Pines and Effie having their live tracks mixed immediately after their performances in front of a live audience, demonstrating techniques for capturing high quality sound from the stage, and maximising live multitrack recordings when mixing. Guest engineers from renowned Miloco studios, Simon Todkill and Jamie McEvoy, let the packed pro audio audience in on their top mixing tricks, talking the engaged crowd thorough everything from microphone choices, placements, to mixing decisions. Displaying their respective DAWs on a big screen during the mix process, the engineers offered a unique insight into the decision-
making processes involved in crafting a successful live recording. Having worked with the likes of Kanye West, Matt Corby, Hiatus Kaiyote, Charli XCX, Movement, The Griswolds (to name but a few), Todkill has garnered quite a reputation for his natural aptitude and ability to translate an artist’s vision into sound. So far, his career has seen him earn various accolades, including numerous Gold and Platinum album credits, such as on Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and Matt Corby’s ARIA Song Of The Year, Brother. As Miloco’s chief engineer, Todkill has developed a natural aptitude for creating sonically lush recordings, gaining a reputation for consistency when helping achieve artists’ visions, whilst maintaining their individuality – a skill he expertly applied to the live recording of singer Effie’s track on day one. “I’m very, very hands-on, so I will spend time in the studio when my tracks are being mixed,” said Effie. “But hearing it live, and then seeing what [the engineers] do to it, it’s actually a different process in some ways, so
it’s been really interesting.” McEvoy also boasts an impressive project resume, having recorded and mixed on a varied list of projects, including Noel Gallagher, Placebo, Liam Payne, Simion Mobile Disco, The Jesus And Mary Chain, and The Vaccines. During Stage To Studio, McEvoy applied his love of depth, distortion and studio experiments in order to apply exciting, energetic and punchy recordings to VC Pines’ live track – talking the standing room-only crowd through his every decision. “[Stage To Studio] was a really cool thing to do,” VC Pines told Headliner after the mixing session. “I’ve never seen the mixing process straight after playing, with the full band altogether in such a short space of time before. Jamie did a great job!” Performers Hope Winter and Natalie Shay also benefitted from a peek ‘behind the scenes’ at the mixing process, embracing performing at a pro audio event: “It’s always great when creative industries cross over a bit and share their knowledge on each one,” said Winter after her performance.
Stage to Studio
“The quality of artists and insight offered by Q&As made this event truly unique and brought musicians, producers, and brands together in a creative space...” “As a musician you’re always thinking about new tech and mics, so I think it’s really cool for music to be involved in the day.” “It’s great,” added Shay after her set. “I think [the concept of Stage To Studio] is very interesting – you can tell that the people that are watching, are watching with knowledge. During both days, ‘Tony Moore Presents’ welcomed a showcase of emerging artists performing acoustic sets. Known to champion an array of talent using legendary London venue, The Bedford, Moore injected his knowledge, performance skills and good humour into Stage To Studio. Beginning his career as keyboard player with the band Cutting Crew, Moore was an original member of Iron Maiden, and in more recent years he has promoted home grown talent including Ed Sheeran, James Bay and Paolo Nutini. After watching Todkill in action on day one, audiences were treated to a lively (and humorous) Q&A segment, ‘From Jay Z to Whisky: An audience with TommyD,’ interviewed by Moore, who despite their familiar patter, insisted they had never met before. TommyD is an award winning music producer, songwriter, artist, DJ, and founder and creator of 8O8 Whisky. With over a billion streams under his belt, he shared anecdotes, production tips, and life lessons
with the entranced crowd. “It feels like the energy that I used to remember at PLASA is very palpable here,” reflected Moore. “I was fascinated by the live mixing sessions: taking a live performance and really showing us the process that everybody wants to know about. For me, I both learnt something, and I’ve shared something.” Stage to Studio was made possible courtesy of Miloco Studios, which provided expertise and professional standard equipment to the feature. The two-day event was also sponsored by Shure, Genelec, Celestion and JH Audio. Commenting on Shure’s participation at Stage To Studio, Jack Drury, market development specialist, explained how using Shure products facilitated flawless audio in a challenging environment. “It’s quite a challenging event to put on in many ways, because we’ve got a little bit of wireless on stage, and PLASA is quite a wireless-heavy event,” he said. “We’ve mitigated that by bringing along some top level wireless products. We’ve got Axient Digital running on the stage, ensuring crystal clear audio - and we’ve had no wireless issues in the entire two days. We’ve also got some wired mics for the instruments as well: Beta 58As on everything that is not vocals or a drum kit (guitars, backing vocals), and Beta
91As on the snare and toms. We’re lucky to be here with some really excellent partners like Genelec and Miloco Studios – these guys know exactly what they’re doing and they’re making our equipment sound great, and there’s been some fantastic acts too.” Genelec’s Andy Bensley was also impressed: “The event was remarkable in many ways. It succeeded in bringing music and audio to PLASA in a way that has never been previously achieved. The quality of artists and the insight offered by Q&As made this event truly unique and brought musicians, producers, brands and resellers together in a creative environment. “The opportunity for Genelec to provide our 1238 SAM Master Monitors for the live mix element was a great exercise, as the precision and fidelity they were able to offer in a live setting exceeded all our expectations. ‘Stage to Studio’ was a great success, which added real value to an important UK show and we look forward to being part of future events.” www.shure.com www.genelec.com www.jhaudio.com www.celestion.com
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In the paddock at the German GP with F1 driver Alex Albon; interviews with Frank Turner and Conner Reeves; on tour with Muse.