UNI T Y
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ELECTRIC LOVE FESTIVAL
AT SIXTH ANNUAL
RIEDELâ€™S ARTIST AND BOLERO
Contents #32 Cover Story
P30 / Emeli Sandé 08
Our friends in Ibiza chat to Bryan Borders about music production and White Island inspiration.
At Stockholm’s Friends Arena, it’s a tribute concert to remember: 60,000 people celebrating the life of Avicii.
The project of Sam Vogel, whose underground vibes have captured the hearts of the dance community.
SONIC VISTA INSIGHTS
We talk about immersive audio, the Creative Passport, and making her home studio commercial.
DJ Regard explains how an idea that came to him when he was drunk turned into a viral hit..
We chat about her debut album release, geeking out over songwriting, and speaking terrible Russian.
From chef to BRIT Award-winner, the Scottish singer-songwriter talks us through his journey and live show.
Production duo, The Alias, talk about working on Steps’ new album at Miloco Studios..
The duo that ‘no one has ever heard of ’ talk Lily Allen, MySpace, and production techniques.
JEWELS AND STONE
Hamburg’s immersive production of this show is fully immersive. We go backstage with the cast and crew.
The team behind the Doctor Who theme let us in on the tech that allows them to continue their legacy.
The masters of scoring computer games chat about their unique process, and favourite audio kit.
TINA TURNER MUSICAL
The Grammy-winning mix engineer talks us through his process, and the CLA MixHub plugin he’s developed.
SONNOX DRUM GATE
How do you to transform a tricky drum multitrack into a great sounding one? Try this new plugin, for starters.
Immersive audio is quite a buzz word right now; we explore a cool Genelec project which speaks volumes.
THE FULL SPECTRUM
The pianist dubbed a ‘musical lord’ by Mark Ronson reveals why he lets his music do the talking.
We look into the world of wireless and pick up some pointers on what we should all be looking out for.
Robbie Robertson of The Band tells us how he created the score for Scorsese’s Netflix epic.
Celestion’s full range live response speakers stay (almost) neutral while bringing that guitar speaker sound.
We descend on Miloco’s London HQ to record a charity single with Downton Abbey star, Michael Fox.
We chat to Bart B More, Infuze, and Loopers about their musical experiences at ADE 2019.
COVER STORY: EMELI SANDÉ
Emeli Sandé reveals why her third album is a departure for her, how she transitioned from songwriter to artist, and how her first holiday alone helped her gain a new perspective.
A chat with this uber-popular dance duo to talk about life in Ibiza and an amazing Glastonbury experience.
We head to the West End to track Shan Ako’s amazing journey from The X Factor to Les Mis.
A light touch was needed when capturing the dialogue for El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.
We talk to Anders Andreen, founder of Urbanista, about creating a brand that delivers, and makes a difference.
INSIDE THE VAULT
A FESTIVE SOUNDTRACK
Headliner talks to SIREN, the company behind the music for some of the UK’s biggest festive adverts.
The company behind the John Lewis Christmas ads reveal how they tackle the ‘Christmas Super Bowl’ every year.
A drum masterclass with Ash Soan at London’s Metropolis Studios with competition winner, Daniel Kelly II.
THE BRITS 2020
Eliminating ‘can’t’ from your vocabulary is the one piece of advice Nile Rodgers’ drummer will give you.
We look at the three nominees for Rising Star at the 2020 BRITs, which promises to be a belter of an event.
We descend on Riedel’s ROC facility in Wuppertal, Germany, which is a true communications hub..
We talk early beginnings, hardcore music, extra terrestrials, and Will Smith at EDC Orlando.
EDC ORLANDO 2019
A chat about PA technology with the team who amplified the emerging talent at EDC Orlando 2019.
This artist has evolved from a classically trained vocalist to a leading lady in the dance music scene. .
HEADLINER | ISSUE #32
We chat to Disciples, a trio of musicians who have become one of the biggest names in house music.
#32 From the Editor
“Music has always been this incredible pillar to me; it's in my strength, almost like a refuge...”
We’re ushering in the roaring 2020s with our biggest issue yet, speaking to cover star Emeli Sandé, who gets real about the difficult third album, making the jump from writer to artist, and why she wants to give a voice to the marginalised and the forgotten. Robbie Robertson of The Band reveals how he went from reluctant score creator to Martin Scorsese’s go-to guy for the director’s biggest films, most recently creating the score for the epic Netflix film, The Irishman, and we visit Grammy award-winning Imogen Heap to learn about her Creative Passport initiative, immersive audio on stage, and making her studio commercial. Tom Walker opens up about his journey from full time chef, to BRIT Awardwinner, and we head over to London’s West End to meet Shan Ako to track her journey from The X Factor to starring as Eponine in Les Mis. DJ Regard tells us how that song that’s been stuck in your head for months came to him after one too many drinks, while emerging jazz singer, Anoushka Lucas talks about her debut album, geeking out over songwriting, and speaking terrible Russian. Meanwhile at EDC Orlando, electronic duo, Black Caviar confess their mutual love of extra terrestrials, while Jauz and Wenzday talk us through their pumping EDC performances Over in New York, James Francies talks debut albums, Mark Ronson, and why he lets his piano do the talking, while in drizzly London, we meet Chic’s drummer, Ralph Rolle, who shares his secrets on life, drumming, and cookies. In London, we visit the award-winning sound design and audio facility behind those iconic John Lewis Christmas adverts to talk friendly competition, personal favourites, and the gear that makes it all possible, while production sound mixer, Phillip Palmer tells us why a light touch was needed on the set of El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. In the studio, UK production duo, Future Cut talk breakthrough success with Lily Allen, and creating timeless classics, while in the US, Finishing Move reveal how they compose the music for mega-games including Borderlands and Halo. Enjoy the issue, and see some of you at NAMM! Alice Gustafson Deputy Editor
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Senior Writer Contributors Will Hawkins, Jon Tessier, Henry Sarmiento, DJ Swivel, Floyd Mason, Ben Simmons
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T H E W O R L D â€™ S F I N E S T U LT R A - N E A R F I E L D - M I D F I E L D M O N I T O R S
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Sonic Vista Insights
10 MINUTES WITH BRYAN BORDERS
Bryan Borders (aka Yung Sensei) is an American electronic music producer, DJ, and radio host from North Carolina. Currently studying at Berklee College of Music, he came to Ibiza to soak up musical vibes from our studios, and musical knowledge from our mentorship program. His unique production skills enticed our curiosity to ask him a few questions about what drives his sonic creativity. Words Henry Sarmiento & Jon Tessier What inspired you to get into music? I always loved to listen to music when riding in my parents’ car when I was really young. I would always ask them to play the albums and songs I liked the best from their CD collection. Pretty much as soon as I had my own iPod, I was constantly using it to search for new artists and songs to listen to. In grade school I joined the concert band program because I wanted to learn to play an instrument, and as a percussionist I discovered that rhythm came pretty naturally to me. That community introduced me to a lot of great band and orchestral music. I guess realizing that I could make my own music was just the natural progression from all of that. Why did EDM production interest you? It was my grade school friends who first introduced me to EDM in 2011. I had never heard music with that kind of sound before, and it just fascinated me like nothing else ever had. I was hooked on the genre for years and to a degree I still am! Another big revelation I had was that electronic music was pretty much the only genre with nothing
stopping me from producing it myself right then and there. I didn’t need a studio or a ton of expensive instruments, only me and my computer. I didn’t know anything about production at the start, of course; I just knew I wanted to make electronic music. How did Yung Sensei come to life? Right now my style aligns most closely with American EDM, but what I’m really trying to do is make electronic music with just as much influence from other genres as well. Some artists and bands that have directly influenced my music or my creative process are the Stone Roses, Daft Punk, Kanye West, Koan Sound, Johnny Marr, Pendulum, and Snarky Puppy (thanks to the Berklee community for introducing me to that last one). And of course I could go on! You could say that I’m still finding my sound, but I think that bringing such a wide range of influences to a genre that’s currently so insular will help me create something really unique and special. Ultimately though, I just want to make good songs that people will listen to over and over again. It’s all in the service of great music.
Tell us about Electric Odyssey... Electric Odyssey is the weekly show that I host through the Berklee Internet Radio Network. Every week I put together an hour-long DJ set of electronic music that I want to share with audiences, and perform it live on the air. Each episode has classic tunes, more recent tracks, and new releases that I really like. There are also short talk segments where I discuss what I think is great about some of the songs from that week’s playlist. I really enjoy sharing the music that I find, and the show has become a great way for me to discover new music as well! I’m not at Berklee right now so Electric Odyssey isn’t currently airing, but it’ll return at the start of next year. What is your opinion on EDM today? I actually don’t listen to a ton of straight EDM right now, mostly because I feel that a lot of it has started to sound the same. When I got into EDM in 2011 or 2012 I could easily tell apart the different “sounds” of each artist I listened to. With a lot of newer producers I’m not nearly as sure, and I think
Sonic Vista Insights
“The explosion of EDM tutorials means new producers essentially have step by step instructions on how to make whatever subgenre they want...” there’s a few reasons for that. For one thing, I feel like a lot of EDM artists are focusing too much on creating cutting edge sounds and not enough on using those sounds to support the music they’re making. Personally, I’d rather listen to a song that sounds a bit dated but has its own unique voice than a track that has complex sounds but uses them in the same way as a hundred others. I also think that the explosion in EDM YouTube tutorials is partially responsible. New producers essentially have step by step instructions on how to make whatever subgenre they want. On the one hand that’s amazing since it helps anyone break into the scene, but it’s not nearly enough if you want to make music that sticks. Of course, this isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of EDM artists following their own unique visions and making great music out of it right now. If there weren’t I wouldn’t have anything to play on my radio show!
come on! I went to Sonic Vista’s website and immediately sent an email confirming that the opportunity was available, and we’ve been in communication ever since!
How did you end up at Sonic Vista? at the beginning of this year, I was searching through Berklee’s available internship page online because I wanted to get some practical experience in a production or sound designrelated career field this summer. When I first saw Sonic Vista’s mentorship program on the list, I thought the offer was too good to be true. Getting to produce my own music in a world-class studio? In Ibiza? I mean,
What are your top three plugins? One thing that’s super important in my workflow is transient shaping. I’ll use Native Instruments’ Transient Master if I need a quick fix - it only has three knobs and sounds great. If I need more control, I’ll go for the Waves Trans-X. It has the greatest versatility of any transient plugin I’ve seen. My go-to for filtering is Soundtoys’ FilterFreak. Its sound is amazing enough to warrant that on its own,
What piece of gear has been your favourite to work with at Sonic Vista? Well, since I’ve been here I’ve worked in three different studios with seven different pairs of monitors. I’m pretty sure that’s more monitors than I’ve used in my entire life so far! One set that stood out to me was the pair of Genelec 8351s in Studio A. I really loved their sound in that room, and when I looked them up later I discovered just how customisable that sound is. I think it’s a good bet that they’d sound great in just about any room. They definitely cost more than I’m comfortable spending on any one piece of gear right now, but I’ll keep them in mind if I ever feel like splurging...
but it also has a two-filter option which opens up a lot of creative possibilities. My last pick is actually a free plugin by Voxengo called SPAN. It’s a frequency analyser with a lot of features, but I personally use it for tuning drums since it automatically shows you which frequencies correspond to notes on the scale. How has the Waves Trans-X helped your workflow? Transient shaping is super important for me when I’m designing a sound or mixing, and this plugin offers the most flexibility that I’ve seen. Most transient shapers only give you two or three knobs to adjust a sound’s attack or decay, but Trans-X actually lets you do this with multiple frequency bands. For example, if a drum needs to be punchier in the low end but already has enough high-end snap, I can choose to boost only those lows without touching the highs. No other transient shaper that I’ve used so far has given me that kind of control. A big thanks to our friends at Sonic Vista Studios in Ibiza for this cool interview. www.sonicvistastudios.com www.waves.com www.genelec.com flycomusicgroup.com/artists/ yung-sensei/
INSPIRE & CREATE
Grammy-winning artist, Imogen Heap, is one of the UK’s most talented and unique creatives, who has never been afraid to push musical boundaries. Last year, Imogen was recipient of the MPG Inspiration Award, which seems apt, as we find it difficult to think of an artist as inspiring as she is. We chat about her Creative Passport, the digital container designed to allow artists to regain ownership of their ‘digital selves’, immersive audio on stage, and making her studio commercial. Words Paul Watson
he Round House is a unique and quite beautiful property which has been in Imogen Heap’s family since she was a child. Imogen lived here until she was 12, and then bought the place herself when she was 30. It’s peaceful, close enough to London that you’re still an easy commute away, and has a terrific recording studio, where Imogen has made plenty of records, and will be hoping a new generation of creatives follow in her footsteps in 2020 and beyond, as she aims to turn the place into a commercial residential recording hub. “I don’t technically live here now - I live in Hackney, because [my daughter] Scout’s gone to school, and it’s much more of a community, and our friends are there; so we’re hoping to turn this place into a residential studio, and we’ve pulled out all the stops,” opens Imogen. “We’ve got some fancy schmancy desk downstairs (a 16-channel Neve, no less), so we’re seeing how we can do that, as we need to find a way for the house to fund itself. It’s very old, it’s got lots of bits that are falling off it on the outside, and we need to renovate it - but it’s always been, you know, this beautiful house to live in. It’s a big financial burden, but I don’t want to lose it.” And understandably so. It’s a stunning building with an enormous amount of character, lovely grounds, and the studio is fitted out beautifully (more on that later). So it would certainly make a great residential space, and there aren’t that many studios that are set up for that type of workflow in the UK right now. “This is also where I gave birth to my daughter - actually, literally on the floor, there,” smiles Imogen, adding that she wasn’t as calm then as she is now. “And the months after that I wasn’t able to get into the studio as I normally am, and I was confronted with releasing a record, and the kind of angst that it brought: ‘Oh no, I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do that; how could I make sure that everything’s correct?’ And then I’ve got to check that those people have got that correct information, that it is going to credit everyone correctly, and that’s before I market it.” It was at this point that Imogen realised that the costs of creating and marketing versus the amount of money that she was going to receive (digital streaming, etc.) that it really wasn’t worth it, so she opted to invest the money into ‘an experiment’: “Basically because I discovered this new technology called Blockchain,” she explains. “And long story short, I imagined the music industry, and how I would love it to be as a music maker. How in 10 years time, money would be quick and easy to come in rather than take two years and lots of information getting lost along the way. I knew there was something in this technology which can bring this to life, and I just wanted to get stuck in. Now, nearly five years later, we’ve developed a platform that’s called the
Creative Passport. It is essentially a data store - a place for you as a musician to put down all your information that you’ve probably got on folders across your computer or in paper folders somewhere, old contracts, anything that you’re like, ‘where is that thing?’. To put it all in a place where you know that in time, it is going to be integrated into a service so that you never have to type it in again. “So if you need your PPL number, you’ll need a PRS number, and you might need an old contract that you had or somebody might want to review that you just get yourself organised. So next year we’re going to have our minimal viable product where you can essentially just start typing all this information that you’re used to typing in twice: it could be your biography, for example, which a magazine like Headliner could use. It’s integrated into a few services already so that you can populate your biography on a few different services at once. And then beyond that, we have a little map which you can publish your data on, so you’ll start to see all the other music makers, where they’re popping up in the world and what they do, and their skill sets, and whatever information they want to share. And then you’ll also be able to have a band page, so you can link to that also. What we’re trying to do is just map the music makers on the planet: ‘What are you doing, where are you, what’s your artist name?’
MUSIC TO THE MASSES
We start to chat about the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stage show, which Imogen has written the entire score for. After receiving smash reviews in London, it got commissioned on Broadway in New York, and has continued to grow on a global scale. “It’s going to San Francisco, and even Melbourne in Australia, so it’s amazing, really. And my music gets played every night without me having to be there, which is the first time that’s ever happened! It’s pretty amazing to walk past the theatre and think, wow, tonight 1,500 people are in London listening to my music.” And many more thousands have been listening to Imogen in the live arena over the last couple of months as she has just completed a very successful UK tour. It’s been an immersive experience for her and her fans thanks to some incredible technology on stage, one key part being the development of her MiMu gloves. “The MiMu gloves come from a frustration point, much like the Creative Passport, just wishing that things were a little bit different when I’m on stage because I had a ton of gear, and I was always rushing between places: going over there to do my sampling, but going over there to try and catch the sound, and never having play and record when I needed it, moving sounds with a fader on a little mixing desk, but nobody really knowing what I’m doing,” she explains. “So I dreamed of the ability to be able to catch my
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“With something like Hide and Seek, which for me is really immersive, I often have to remember to open my eyes, as I get so lost in it..!” voice and release it and move it around the room, and kind of scrub through the audio wave. And thanks to my amazing team, we’ve developed this system called the MiMu gloves. The jewel in the crown of the MiMu gloves is the highly advanced software which allows the gloves to be programmed, which is called Glover: “It’s super powerful and incredible; you can see the input of the glove, whether it’s one finger point pitch, or an accelerometer peak to create drums or trigger points. And then you can just very easily map it to any MIDI number.” Imogen has also created MiniMu gloves for kids - priced at less than £40, they’re a gateway for very little people to start creating music. “You get a little felt glove that you cut out yourself and then you stitch it together; it’s got a battery and some crocodile clips, and a little circuit board. Then you go to a website, program it, connect it via USB, and off you go - it’s got pitch and roll, all sorts.” And soon, when Glover is released, the MiniMu will be able to access Ableton: “That’s when it really starts to come to life,” Imogen enthuses. “So from the age of six, kids will be able to program notes and time between notes - and then if you know about Ableton - or if you’ve got a parent who knows [smiles] - then you can start to play sounds inside your laptop. And that’s exciting. It’s just a great introduction.” Staying with an immersive experience and the gloves - conversation turns to d&b’s Soundscape system which Imogen, along with other leading artists such as Bjork and Kraftwerk, is championing and using on her live shows. Imogen is a big fan of the work d&b’s Ralf Zuleeg is doing with Soundscape: “I think Ralf is quite amazing; he is pushing 12 Headliner
the system and working with artists like Bjork and Kratwerk to bring it to life. It’s hard when you’re trying to do something that’s not the norm, and we discovered that with the gloves. We never intended it to be a commercial thing - it was a passion project - but then we thought ‘well, so many people want to make music like that’ “So when I come in half way through the show, I come in through the back, and before the d&b Soundscape system, people would wonder ‘where is she?’ But this time I am singing from the back and they can hear me coming from the back – it’s simple, but really great, and it seems silly to not do that now. Petra, my sound engineer, can also place sounds on the screen wherever she likes - she is following me and tracking me on the grid, whereas I am moving my voice around the space using my MiMu gloves. So she is taking my main voice, and I’m taking my effects. So with something like Hide and Seek, which for for me is really immersive, I have the sound in my headphones and I’m moving the sound all around; and for me it feels like this embodied, full experience because all the voice is coming live, and all the looping effects, harmoniser, delays and reverbs are all just there at my fingertips. I often have to remember to open my eyes, as I get so lost in it all..! “Have you ever seen that ‘you think you’ve seen black, but you haven’t seen black’ by Dolby? It’s like that: we don’t do it, but if you imagine ‘you think you’ve heard sound, but you haven’t’. So people don’t even realise they’re hearing the show in an immersive way - they won’t necessarily notice, and that’s what you want - you want them to come away thinking ‘that was an amazing sounding show’, and not to notice the system just come away with no ears ringing and having
heard everything perfectly.” How much more difficult does Imogen think it is trying to make it as an artist in 2019? “Well, if I was starting out now, I definitely wouldn’t have the time to make the music I want to make. Why should you have to spend so much time marketing yourself so hard? People have to spend so much time on that to be heard above the noise, but they really need to be spending time writing those songs and honing their craft, but people don’t have time for that anymore. “So we have a transformation to make, and it is slowly happening. As we raced into digital, because it was amazing and we could access songs whenever and wherever we wanted them, now we have to catch up with the data and allow all of that information to be connected to the song just like it was connected to an album in the liner notes. When that happens, all of these possibilities can get unlocked. I want to have a simpler life - get back to music making - but the more services and socials and platforms, the more exhausting it all is. So we need to find a way to live at a human scale in this digital world.” Before I leave, Imogen takes me down to her studio to play a track from a new project she’s been working on. It sounds extraordinary - and really shows off the quality of her studio space. “We’re modular, so you can have as little or as much of whatever you need; we also have an amazing team of engineers who can look after you, and if you book before March, you’ll get a discount, as you’ll be one of the first!” Hit the link below to check it out for yourself. round.house www.imogenheap.com www.dbaudio.com
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LEAVE A LIGHT ON
We chat to Scottish singer-songwriter, Tom Walker, about his rise from culinary busker to BRIT Award-winner in what on one hand seemed like no time at all, and on the other, an eternity. Words Paul Watson
om Walker made the journey down to the capital when he was 19, bringing with him his guitar and, perhaps more surprisingly, his chef whites. “I was 19, I was a full-time chef, and all I really wanted to be was a professional singersongwriter,” opens Walker, with a smile. “I actually applied for a guitar course, but they were like, ‘er, yeah you’re not the best, what about songwriting?’ And before you ask, yes, that is an actual thing, believe it or not! And I was like ‘sweet, okay’, and although I’d been looking to do a songwriting course, I had no idea that one actually existed. So I did a three-year degree, and busked around London for a year while also chefing full-time.” A bizarre route into the industry – and it certainly hasn’t been a simple one, either. “Oh, making your way into this business is literally the hardest thing ever, I was soon to find out,” Walker concedes. “It’s funny, because when you are in it, , you realise it’s really small, but to open that first door felt almost impossible for a long time. You have to keep a focus, and you have to keep believing; and eventually I managed to bash down some doors and got signed to Relentless Records.” And the last three or four years have been, as Walker succinctly puts it, ‘absolutely mental’. He did his degree at London’s LCCL. “I literally did songwriting classes – that was my degree,” Walker reiterates, seemingly still baffled by the concept. “In my first year, I had a teacher called Jez Ashurst, who is an amazing songwriter, and there were only six to eight people in each class, depending on who felt like coming in! [smiles] So it often felt like one-to-one training, really, which did me a massive favour. Going to university for three years was the best thing I could have done for my music career, without a shadow of a doubt.” And being made to write really helped him hone his craft. No time for writer’s block, then? “Yeah, totally! I was handing in a ridiculous amount of songs every term: 16, three times a year, I think, which seems a lot to me,” he reflects. “Sometimes they could be more like ideas than real songs, but it was a lot of material. But off the back of that, it just paved the way for me, really.
ROCK & ROLLERCOASTER
Walker’s big hit single, Leave a Light On, catapulted him to national and then international stardom. It got picked up for a TV commercial, he reveals, which really added fuel to the fire: “I wrote it with a guy called Steve Mack, and around six to nine months after its release, Sony Bravia TV were putting out a new advert, and they pitched the song for it, and we ended up doing an amazing orchestral version of it in Angel Studios which was really cool, and crazy because it included some of the best session players in London who I would never get in a room with me unless we were doing my song instrumentally! [laughs] And we put my original vocal on top of it.” Any involvement in the orchestral scoring, at all? “Oh god no, I can’t score anything! I just wrote the song. We did an acoustic version which they took the vocal from, and then we had a great version with a 30-piece orchestra. Strings just make me want to cry, to be honest – whatever the song might be - just because they’re so beautiful! So that was a special moment. We did a track called Angels, too, and that had a big string section on it. I’ve done some very cool stuff in the last three or four years, and I’ve been very lucky really.” As Walker mentioned, it’s a hell of an industry to get through the door of. Before I let him get back to soundcheck on his UK tour, I ask if these last few years have literally flown by, or whether it’s been serious graft. “It’s been both,” he declares, with a laugh. “Time has flown, but it’s been the hardest graft of my life - and bear in mind I worked six days a week as a chef! But the music industry is on another level – and there is so much travelling! We did 127 flights last year - that is a lot of flying. It’s an amazing job, but it’s such hard work. But in terms of getting into the industry, I just didn’t see another option. I’ll always remember thinking, ‘I’ll die trying to do this’ - so that’s what I did. And thankfully it did work out, otherwise I would still be busking...” Tom Walker just completed a UK tour which included dates at Glasgow’s King Tut’s and London’s O2 Arena. www.tomwalker.com
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Not Giving In
Tom Walker UK Tour
NOT GIVING IN: THE TECH BEHIND THE VOICE Tom Walker’s front of house and monitor engineers, Mike Platt and Liam Shannon, explain why DiGiCo and JH Audio are game-changers on the BRIT Award-winning singer’s 2019 tour. “Tom is incredibly laid-back and easy to work with; one of the greatest pleasures about working on this project is not just how friendly Tom is, but the whole touring party,” monitor engineer, Liam Shannon tells Headliner. “Over the last few tours we’ve seen a number of different musical directors working with Tom, and there is one thing that has always stayed the same throughout, and that is Tom retaining the final call on every arrangement of the tunes, how he wants to run the setlist, and whatever else in-between. You’ve really got to respect that passion and determination, as I’m sure even if you had half the schedule he has, it would be so easy to want to pass off any responsibility you could!” The Scottish singer-songwriter rose to fame after the release of his single, Leave a Light On, which peaked at number seven on the UK singles chart in 2018, swiftly followed by a UK number one album and a Best Breakthrough Act win at the 2019 BRIT Awards. Walker’s 2019 sold-out UK headline tour quickly followed, which saw Shannon and FOH engineer, Mike Platt, settle on JH Audio IEMs and a pair of DiGiCo SD10 consoles.
Monitoring the Trend Shannon is using eight stereo in-ear mixes: Tom’s, five for the band, one guitar tech, and one spare; and three mono mixes: Tom’s wedges, Tom’s vibe board, and a drum sub. Until this tour, Shannon was experiencing a recurring issue with Walker’s bassist where it was proving very difficult to hear him in the mix. However, since the combination of getting new, freshly-moulded in-ears from JH Audio, and being stood on a riser that is isolated slightly by its rubber wheels, Shannon has been able to get more consistent results going from venue to venue, with varying degrees of bass resonating through the stages. “It’s actually one the the hardest things I struggle with in some venues – where the monitor position has to be directly behind the subs, or on a stage that vibrates incredibly hard because of them,” he admits. “It makes it incredibly hard to hear any clarity, dynamics and especially low end.” The start of 2019 saw the team switch to JH Audio, with Shannon, Walker and the majority of the band using either Roxannes or JH16s, with the rest using Cosmic CE6Ps. “The JH in-ears just have a massive increase in headroom,” Shannon insists. “Certain
parts of the set get incredibly busy with instrumentation, and this switch was another instant step in the right direction to helping the dynamics to keep breathing. It took a while to get used to mixing into their different sound, which I would say is a rounded, rich low end and a less accentuated high end.” It just so happens that Walker prefers an accentuated high end, but really loved the tighter low end and overall dynamic range of the Roxannes, so the team turned on the high-end boost of his wireless receiver to reach a happy medium. “There’s one song called Not Giving In that has a big drum and bass-style ending that always ended up taking up all the dynamics in the mix,” Shannon remembers. “The vocal couldn’t sit above the music without sounding really compressed. I’ve not had that problem since upgrading to the DiGiCo 32-bit I/O cards. The beauty about solely working in the isolated space of in-ear monitors is that when there’s a major change in the signal flow, it’s immediately obvious if those changes are for better or for worse. I’m not sure if I’d be able to confidently comment on those nuances if I was competing with different PAs in different acoustic environments each night.”
Not Giving In
Tom Walker UK Tour
“I know the exact sounds I want in my head, and I can get the perfect results with the DiGiCo onboard FX...” Walker’s mix is where Shannon spends 90% of the show. “I treat it as if it’s a FOH mix with the keyboards poking higher than everything else, as that is where he draws the key from.” Interestingly, because of how powerful Walker’s voice is and the way he sings in his regular range, he has an uncommon effect where he hears his own voice in his head a lot louder than the average person, especially with his ear canals blocked by in-ear monitors. That in turn means that he prefers his vocal level to be a lot lower in his mix than one might consider normal. “It is also relatively ‘thin’ sounding, with me usually applying a HPF at 175Hz and notching out a liberal amount of low mids,” Shannon explains. “On the microphone he uses, I also have a couple of dB hi-shelf boosts from around 2kHz to add even more crispness and clarity to his vocal.” Eagle-eyed audiophiles will notice that Walker uses a Porter & Davies vibration pad on stage. “Tom loves the feeling of the low end pumping out on stage, but obviously every venue is different,” says Shannon. “To get some consistency for Tom this was the solution we ended up landing on, and he was more than happy with it. Listening to the drum kit in your ears whilst stood on that is an unbelievable sensation – it’s thunderous! From the start of the Walker campaign,
the FOH team has used DiGiCo. Platt’s FOH setup comprises of an SD10-24 and an outboard rack with some toys in. “I have been using DiGiCo for around 10 years now. It’s always been my desk of choice. I chose the smaller SD10-24 for numerous reasons, but mainly for its size and power. I can easily get it to FOH and get it tipped without it being too much of an event.” The team has recently been using 32-bit I/O cards in the SD-Rack, which have made a real difference to the show, resulting in a lower noise floor, and deep, open and clear transients. The team is using seven input cards and three output cards, and are running approximately 50 input channels from stage. Platt does the majority of his processing from within the console, and effects-wise, everything is being done on the DiGiCo. “I know the exact effects sounds I want in my head, and I can get those results with the DiGiCo onboard stuff,” he reveals, adding that Walker’s vocal chain has to be pretty long to get the desired control, whilst still allowing the artist’s voice to sound natural. “My job is to make my artist sound great and for the audience and management not to even think about the tech side of things. There is no scope for failure. I need to have 100% confidence that the gear will work every day.” Shannon has been operating on DiGiCo for approximately four years, going from an
SD9 to an SD10-24, and most recently a full-size SD10. The SD10 is complemented by a SD Rack running at 96kHz with full 32-bit I/O card upgrades. “DiGiCo compliments my ideal workflow perfectly,” he states. “The channel strip UI makes perfect sense in my head for how I want to operate, and having independent rotaries for things like every section of the EQ is absolutely necessary for me.” Describing the upgrade to 32-bit I/O as a ‘no brainer’, Shannon says the lower noise floor cleans everything when running around 56 channels. “I could hear the difference immediately in the songs where instrumentation gets incredibly busy and loud; there was more space in the mix – the same mix I’d been using built from the standard I/O cards!” Wrapping up in early 2020, Walker’s tour has garnered praise from fans and critics alike: “Working for Tom has been such a pleasure, but not only from a social point of view,” Platt concludes. “Performance-wise I’ve only ever heard positive feedback from people who have seen him perform. Tom has such high standards and is so involved in all aspects of the show. Also, Tom’s father is also a massive music fan and audiophile. Getting the thumbs up from him after a show means a lot!” www.digico.biz
The Tina Turner Musical
WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT? Tina: The Tina Turner Musical is an award winning stage musical that details the unprecedented story of a woman who dared to go beyond the boundaries of age, sex and skin colour. From her humble beginnings in Nutbush, Tennessee to her transformation into the queen of rock ‘n’ roll, Turner not only broke the rules, but reinvented them. What’s love got to do with it, you may ask? Everything, as it turns out. Kristina Love, who stars as Turner at the Operettenhaus in Hamburg, shares the advice the woman herself gave her before taking on the role of a lifetime. “I remember watching Beyoncé and Tina performing at the Grammys in 2008 in the cafeteria at my university, and jokingly saying to my friends: ‘Can you imagine a Tina musical? That audition would be extremely intense’. I can tell you today from experience, it really was!” Love tells Headliner. “Also, one of my dear friends who is a huge Tina fan always shared the desire that he wanted to produce/direct/choreograph a Tina musical, and we made a deal eight years ago that he would cast me as his Tina. Funny, huh? I guess someone up there was listening!” Born in Cincinnati, Ohio and raised in Houston, Texas, Love is the first woman to have played the title role of Tina Turner in Hamburg. “What a dream!” she sighs. “Tina has always been a role model for me as an African-American woman. She is a national
treasure, and a treasure for young women like myself who aspired to sing. Germany has become like a second home to me. I moved here eight years ago with the plan of staying for one year, and since then this country has stolen my heart.” Another dream came true for Love when she was invited to Turner’s house in Switzerland: “My first meeting with Tina was last year on my birthday,” she recalls. “We hit it off very well; she is such a humble and beautiful woman. She did everything she could to make me feel welcome and at home. This year in March, she attended our opening night performance and said that she never thought that anyone could stand next to her in such a light, but I do. To receive such a compliment was all I could have ever wanted. I am so grateful!” Turner was happy to share some tips with
Love for the role, bizarrely advising her not to imitate her. “She challenged me to find myself within her story to create what I did on stage. She told me to be courageous and to speak my mind when something didn’t feel right in rehearsals, but also to be open for correction, because I can also learn so much from being open and receiving from others,” she adds, humbly. When it came time to perform the premiere with Turner in the audience, Love felt the pressure: “I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t extremely nervous, but I was also excited,” she admits. “This opportunity gave me the chance to trust my artistry in a way I had never been challenged to do so before. I had to trust that I was enough, my work was enough, that the work my team put in to make our premiere possible was enough. Tina watching the show
The Tina Turner Musical
“Often, my legs are burning, and every part of my body, including my voice, wants to call it quits...” drove me to a place of freedom, trust and surrender. It forced me to just... be.” Love’s favourite part of the show is the frantic mega-mix segment at the end of the musical, which requires a hell of a lot of energy and stamina. “Often, my legs are burning, and every part of my body, including my voice, wants to call it quits! But I get an extra burst of energy from the band onstage, dancing with the ensemble and interacting with the audience.” Understanding Tina “Every technical element in the show ensures Having seen the 1993 film about Turner’s life, Love was familiar with the singer’s musical journey and tumultuous relationship with Ike, but decided to do some more research to fully prepare for the role: “What’s Love Got to Do With It is an American classic!” she enthuses. “It was a film that I watched growing up, but when I started auditioning for the part, I bought her book I,Tina! to do more intensive research. I wanted to approach the scenes
after having become acquainted with the woman behind the music. What surprised me the most was that even after having a career with Ike, she had to prove to the industry higher-ups that she was a capable solo artist. She is a testament of tenacity, strength and perseverance.” Love’s absolute favourite song to perform in the show is Disco Inferno. “I am wearing a costume designed by our costume designer, Mark Thompson, that pays homage to a Bob Mackie design from Tina’s days in the Las Vegas circuit. It is a fabulous fringe masterpiece! The song and the choreography are so funky! The disco era is one of my favourites in music history.” Anyone that has seen the musical will know that one of the highlights is River Deep, Mountain High, which Love says is the most challenging song to perform. “But it’s also the most liberating,” she clarifies. “This recording was an iconic moment in Tina’s career, beautifully captured in our show. Tina’s voice knows no bounds and this particular song displays this as wonderfully as the title of
the song. Everyone is waiting for this number, and I have to manage my vocal energy well through the peaks and valleys of the song to have enough power for the songs that follow in the first and second acts. This show is truly a test of stamina and endurance all around.” The musical will run in Hamburg until September 2020, after which it will relocate to Stuttgart, in November the same year. Love’s next goal is to travel the world playing her own music with a band and dancers. “I would love to be a role model like Tina and have the chance to make people happy. I want to free people through the power of my story, as she did with hers. The next dream role I would love to play would be starring in my own tour sharing music with the world,” she smiles. Armed with advice from Turner and a fierce ambition, Headliner has no doubt that the world will be hearing a lot more from Love in future. www.tinathemusical.com
In The Loop
The Tina Turner Musical
IN THE LOOP WITH TINA TURNER Debuting in London in 2018, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical was such a runaway hit that the format was duplicated, opening in Germany just one year later to rave reviews. Lead show mixer, Peppe Andersson, tells Headliner why there would be no show without Optocore, and why this is one musical he will never tire of. “This is a brilliant show; I feel really lucky to be working on it, to be quite honest with you,” Peppe Andersson, lead mixer for Tina: The Tina Turner Musical in Hamburg tells Headliner. “For almost 25 years I’ve been basically jumping houses between theatres. These days, I am employed in the Operettenhaus in Hamburg; that is my base. Any show that comes in here will be mixed by me.” First opening in London’s Aldwych Theatre in March 2018, the musical became such a success that the show (with the exact same format) opened at the 1,300-seat Stage Operettenhaus in Hamburg, Germany exactly one year later. Described as a ‘jukebox musical,’ the show is on eight times a week, featuring the music of Tina Turner – depicting her life from her youth in Nutbush, Tennessee, through her tumultuous relationship with Ike Turner, and comeback as a rock ‘n roll star in her 40s. “There’s absolutely no change whatsoever
between the German and English versions of the show; even the setup and everything down to the way it looks is exactly like the English version,” Andersson clarifies. “The only difference is that they speak German. That’s the weird part.” Remembering a successful and wellproduced musical he worked on in the past, Andersson recalls that the panelists didn’t want the show to be translated into German. “So we did that one in English, and all the press wrote: ‘Brilliant musical – really cool, but unfortunately you couldn’t understand a word’. So in Tina it’s mixed – you have some songs in the musical which are basically part of the story. So for Private Dancer or Better Be Good To Me, there are words that accompany the story that have a meaning. Those have been translated into German, which is fairly weird. But everyone knows the songs, so it’s fine. The big numbers like Proud Mary and The Best are completely in English. So it’s kind of a mixed thing, but it works fine. How can you possibly
please the masses?” Failsafe Technology “Every technical element in the show ensures the audience has an immersive experience while experiencing the story of Tina’s life,” says Kristina Love, who plays Tina Turner in the show. “We use different live microphones, radios and key instruments and equipment to recreate the way the music was recorded. This captures the signature sound of the decades of Tina’s musical career. Even down to the projection and lighting – this is specifically designed to recreate the atmosphere of places she frequented and performed. “Even the way I have been directed to speak and how I physically portray her is to reflect her development from the age of 16 to 40. One should leave the theatre feeling as if the events had happened before their very eyes. Our show is very special and unique in that it is beautifully immersive. Our creative team, and director, Phyllida Lloyd, are incredible.”
In The Loop
The Tina Turner Musical
“The theatre knows that we need to be using the best solution for this show; and Dante is taking over...” Helping each show run without a glitch is a DiGiCo SD7 at FOH, with an SD10RE used as the band/monitor desk, an Optocore DD4MR-FX, a Direct Out ExBox Dante / MADI converter, and a d&b DS100 signal engine audio processor with Audinate Dante networking. The speaker system is comprised of d&b Y8 line array loudspeakers with J-Subs and J-Infra subs for low end, with Meyer Sound UPM compact speakers for delays, and UPJuniors and MM4s for surrounds. “Every single theatre is like a living entity; you have reflections and everything,” Andersson states. “We need to make sure that all these things sound the same throughout the whole house. So you have to have a setup where all the speakers speak to each other. In order to set that up, we need to make sure that we calculate everything exactly, such as delay times and what kind of EQ curves you need.” The DD4MR-FX is used to convert to MADI, which then goes to the Ex-Box, and is converted to Dante. The DS100 from d&b handles signal processing, which to speaks Dante. “The SD7 is a good desk,” says Andersson. “Especially while programming – using the T version is brilliant. There are many things within the software that make it a great tool
for musicals, such as aliases, players, MIDI and control group programming, and its auto update functionality.” All equipment is hooked up to the audio and everything goes through the Optocore Loop. “The Optocore Loop makes all the different units speak to each other, so we need to make the Optocore into Dante. So we use the Ex-Box to get it into MADI, and then we are using a DD4 to get into Dante. That one goes into the DS100, which is the heart of the entire sound system.” Andersson likes the fact that using Optocore with the SD7 means that he doesn’t have to pull any cables, in addition to its ease of use. “The theatre knows that we need to be using the best solution for this show. Analogue is dead, that’s for sure – Dante is taking over. I have never had problems with Optocore, and the Optocore Loop is absolutely crucial here,” he nods. “Most of the outputs go over to the Optocore Loop, which is this circle of optical cables that connect all the units to the desk. If that would break, there would be no show. “If you were to cut those cables somewhere within this ring, everything would just go in the other direction. So let’s say you have an Optocore Loop with signals that go clockwise:
if you were to cut the wire at two o’clock, they can’t go clockwise anymore. That’s the idea with the Optocore Loop – to make sure you’ve got a failsafe in case anything happens”. As one can imagine, mixing the exact same show eight times a week could become irritating for the most patient of mixers. However, Andersson is relieved to admit that this couldn’t be further from the truth in this instance. “It’s a very well-written show, and it’s a good show. It’s also a lot of fun to mix because you hardly have a quiet moment where you can relax. You’re constantly on your toes. It makes it fun because you sit down at the desk and you have stuff to do until the end of the show, instead of sitting there going, ‘not this scene again’. “And that’s great in my profession, because part of the job is to mix shows, over and over and over. After the show is finished, you’re going to be mixing the same show the next day. But Tina is very rewarding because a lot of things are going on, and on top of that, it is an excellent show.” www.optocore.com www.digico.biz
CHRIS LORD-ALGE: CREATING MIXHUB Chris Lord-Alge is one of the most revered mix engineers in the US, having worked with a plethora of major artists including Green Day, Joe Cocker, and Tina Turner, earning himself five GRAMMYs along the way. He is also an audiophile, and has made some fantastic plugins with Waves Audio over the past decade or so: the entire Waves CLA Signature range is easy to use, creative, and sonically outstanding – a staple in so many studios today, from bedroom producers and project spaces to major recording facilities. His most recent Waves collaboration is the CLA MixHub, the first ever multitrack plugin, which allows budding Lord-Alges to create bespoke mix templates based on his workflow and the sound of his console. Headliner finds out more from the man himself... “Everyone at Waves has got their nose to the grindstone,” opens Lord-Alge, in his L.A. studio. “You have to be positive in this business, and the Waves guys are all about positivity and maximising creativity, and that’s what I’m trying to convey.” Lord-Alge’s Waves Signature plugins were the first ‘all-in-ones’ of their kind, the idea being to offer everything a creator would need for a specific thing in one place. “We just made it so you put it on a dry track, and then everything you need is there,” he recalls, adding that he also wanted to include faders and buttons rather than knobs because it’s harder to ‘turn the screen’. “It’s way easier to slide up and down! [smiles] So I tried to make the GUI for each one exactly the same, so when you would work on my
plugins, you’d go between any single one of them and it will be a common denominator. So I tried to make them all exactly the same shape, the way they looked, and the way you reacted with them - but they all do different things for each instrument.” We can vouch for this personally: in the Headliner studio, all of our engineers and artists work with CLA guitars, vocals, drums, and much more – all of which do their specific jobs very well indeed for any project. Lord-Alge admits that he often uses his own plugins too, despite having an insane amount of vintage outboard in his control room. A Multitrack Debut Plugins typically work on one channel at a time, whereas the CLA MixHub is the first
to work in buckets – groupings of up to eight channels, in up to eight buckets in total, so you can mix up to 64 channels from one CLA MixHub plugin window. The theory is, working in buckets will allow you to gain a mixing perspective that lets you hear how one track’s processing affects others within a project right away. So CLA MixHub is the first ever multitrack plugin: “It starts out as a brand new channel strip, but what you can do with this is see up to 64 channels at a time on one screen – and then you can control those channels visually. The reason we did that is because the way I work, I’m looking at a big format console. “I’m looking at 72 channels right now. I can look at my desk, and say ‘oh, I’m doing that to the drums, I’m doing that to the guitar, that to
“MixHub allows you to physically operate as quickly as your brain does, as it’s all there right in front of you...” the vocals’ - sort of listening to a mix. So if I’m looking at all the EQs, when I hear a part that I think needs to be adjusted, I can go right on the screen and grab that shovel.” Sounds like a great idea. “Yeah, because when you’re working in Pro Tools, and just looking at the waveforms go by, or whatever, when you hear something, by the time you actually go and try to access it, it’s over,” Lord-Alge continues. “So this is more about a workflow than anything else. The channel strip is just based on what I like, what I do, what I have - I made it like the super channel strip; how I wanted it to be, like I did with my Signature plugins. But what I wanted that’s different is to be able to organise your session. This actually forces the people that are complete messes to actually label, organise, and keep their sessions simple! “So for people that are relatively organised, and make decisions, they get their sessions to have the 64 tracks or 128 tracks – they could be 64 stereos that they can look at all at once
and be able to adjust the dynamics on them all quicker than any other way when you can see it all in front of you. Think of it this way: when you’re working, can you remember the EQ you have on something? No, but if you see it in front of you, and you’re hearing this song, let’s say the acoustic guitars sound too shiny - boom, right away you can say, okay, adjust those by 2dB, job done. “So what I’m trying to show people is that with just this channel strip, after you put it on everything, and use this as your EQ and compression, you know, like a console that has it built in, you can physically operate as quickly as your brain does, as it’s all there right in front of you.” Lord-Alge has designed MixHub so that users can also work in buckets of eight – just like on a traditional analogue console. Not everyone has room – or the money – for an SSL 4000 after all, right? “Right! [smiles] So on that note, I’m looking at eight buckets on my SSL 4000
console right now - actually, one of my buckets is stereos, so I’m looking at seven mono buckets and one stereo bucket. And that board was built in the ‘80s, so I could look even from a distance and see what I’m doing. So I really wanted to come up with something that really gives me the ability to do what I do normally, but within a plugin. “During the ideas and development stage, I remember saying ‘why can’t I stack all the GUIs on the screen, and look at it all at once?’ So instead of trying to do a sizeable GUI, that’s what we did – we created a whole new plugin where we could see everything at once “The MixHub literally allows users to mix just as I do on my console, but using GUIs on screens. It’s the first of its kind – I’m sure we’ll see some copycats, that’s pretty inevitable, but this is definitely the only plugin that can do all of this right now.” www.waves.com
ADE 2019: LOOPERS, BART B MORE & INFUZE ADE (Amsterdam Dance Event) encompasses a city-wide takeover of the Dutch capital, with over 2500 artists performing in 140 of the city’s clubs and music venues. With the 2018 edition welcoming 400,000 punters from 100 different countries, that officially makes it the biggest event of its kind. Ahead of this year’s festival, just one year shy of its 25th anniversary, Headliner spoke to three of the biggest names on the bill: Loopers, Bart B More, and Infuze. First up is Loopers, rising star of the dance scene with releases on labels like Laidback Luke’s label MixMash, Dyro’s imprint WOLV, Fedde Le Grand’s Flamingo and now Martin Garrix’ STMPD. We get chatting about how a recent change in sound didn’t turn out to be a big risk for him - a cursory glance at his millions of streams evidencing this. “I’m working on getting new music out every six weeks,” Loopers says. “It’s been an aim since I joined STMPD records.” That label being the one owned by Martin Garrix, who Loopers is sharing a bill with at ADE. “So I’m finishing off the year with a single out in November and then one more in December. And I’m also working on some collaborations with some very big artists, but I’m not allowed to talk about that right now!” Loopers’ last single was Dream Of, which sought to “find the middle ground between
bass house and tech house. I know a lot of people know me more for my heavier stuff, but this is a new direction for me. I’m just trying to find that uplifting energy. I’m really happy with this direction, it’s something new for my fans, and I think an artist should always be refreshing themselves in that way.” It was Loopers’ single, Feel It, earlier this year that heralded his change in sound, and with half a million streams and counting, it seems the fans are not complaining. Nor will they be complaining when Loopers brings his high-energy live set to ADE. “I have a very nice time slot,” he says. “I’m on one hour before [headliner] Martin Garrix. So it’s a big honour! It fits perfectly with my new sound and I can warm up nicely for Martin. And then on Saturday I’m also teaching a production masterclass for ADE.” With the Martin Garrix party going right through the night, I mention I’m praying for
his sake that this masterclass isn’t too early on Saturday morning. “Well, I’m not that lucky,” Loopers says. “It’s not super early, but it’s at 12pm.” Which is definitely early if you possess a DJ’s body clock. “Then on Sunday, I’m doing four more ADE shows.” If anyone deserves a power nap, it’s this man. Bart B More While Loopers is very much a rising star, Dutchman Bart B More brings some of the most solid experience from the entire ADE bill to the festival. He recently joined Garrix’s STMPD record label, and brings to it 12 years of experience in touring the world, and 20 years since he began making tunes in the studio. Bart has also written and produced for the likes of Rita Ora and Example, as well as remixes for Katy Perry, Cee-Lo Green, Tiesto, Chris Brown, Wiley, Galantis, Martin Solveig,
BART B MORE
“We got a bunch of songwriters together at the STMPD studio for a writing camp, which was super fun...” Bingo Players, and Peaches amongst others. “I actually have a track out today,” Bart says. He’s referring to House Ain’t Giving Up, a nostalgic banger that will undoubtedly be beloved on the dance floor. “It’s been out on STMPD Records for a few hours! It has a house revival vibe with the 90s house style.” We get chatting about how house music seems to be one of the main subgenres of dance music that stays the course, that it “comes and goes in waves, but there’s always people that love to dance to house music. It’s just a genre that you can dance to for hours on end. It will always have a place.” With Bart joining the STMPD label, we discuss the experience he brings to a mostly young roster of DJs. “I’m definitely one of the oldest,” he says with a laugh. “I’m not quite a guru or anything, but it is really nice to share my experience with the other guys. All the artists on this label are very supportive of each other, it’s very good vibes there.” And, of course, Bart is trying to contain his excitement for his many ADE performances. “I’m playing tonight at the Cuckoo’s Nest at another ADE party,” he says. “And then tomorrow night I’m opening for Martin Garrix at the RAI. There’s another party at
Club Prime on Saturday, and also a Boom Clutch party! Very busy, but very fun. The RAI will be amazing — I’ve seen some of the stuff that they’re going to show during Martin’s show — I think people will go away very pleased!” Infuze And last but not least is Infuze, who throws his New York City roots into an already eclectic mix of artists. Coming from a classical music background, his dive into dance music has seen him amass millions of views and streams across Soundcloud, YouTube and Spotify in a relatively short time. It’s a big compliment that this American’s diverse sound has landed him this huge slot at the RAI as part of this euro-centric festival. “I arrived here a couple of days ago,” Infuze says. “It’s been going great so far - I arrived on Tuesday and took the day to acclimatise, and then yesterday I spent the whole day at the STMPD studio for a writing camp, which was super fun. We got a bunch of songwriters, top-line singers together and just made a track. I had a pretty cool track mapped out already that they were really feeling, so that made it possible to walk out at the end of the
day with a finished record. It was a really good feeling!” And in terms of his ADE show, Infuze feels “the RAI is gonna be crazy tomorrow. I played at Martin’s STMPD Records showcase last year, which was one of the best gigs I ever played. I’m starting to grow my fanbase out here - Martin has been very helpful with that. I’ve always had a bit of a base here, but I definitely got a few new fans from the show last year. “Bart [B More] and I have just started to get to know each other a bit more - we’ve been connected through other people in the scene for a decade, so it’s cool to finally hang out with him properly.” And writing after the event, there’s now plenty of footage from ADE 2019 that you can watch for yourself, including the epic RAI performances. If it doesn’t convince you that ADE’s 25th anniversary in 2020 will be worth a trip to Amsterdam for, then I don’t know what will. www.amsterdam-dance-event.nl
SCORING SCORSESE Being asked to compose the score for the highly anticipated, three and a half hour film, The Irishman (sprawling over 50 years) is enough to make any musician nervous. It helps when you’ve been working with a director like Martin Scorsese since the ‘70s, says Marty’s go-to score guy and all round goodfella, Robbie Robertson. Words Alice Gustafson
wasn’t that interested in doing movie music, per se,” admits Robbie Robertson. Martin Scorsese must have made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, as he nonetheless managed to churn out a hell of a lot of film scores for the director, including The Last Waltz, Raging Bull, The Color of Money, Casino, The Departed, The Wolf of Wall Street, and most recently, The Irishman. Immediately hitting it off while working together on The Last Waltz, Robertson and Scorsese did not only become collaborators, but good friends along the way (he affectionately refers to the director as ‘Marty’). “There were times in just about every movie with Marty that I thought, ‘God, I don’t know what to do! I’m not sure I can do this!’ – which makes it exciting. But working with Marty is a completely different experience to what you would think it would be. For The Irishman, I did the score and I chose some of the music that we used in it as well. It’s turned out fantastic; I’m very proud.” Speaking in a deliberate, measured voice, Robertson talks to Headliner at The Village Studios in L.A. – where he does all of his composing work (surrounded by a treasure trove of guitars and pianos). Of course, Robertson is not just known as Scorsese’s go-to score guy. The Canadian musician and songwriter is best known for his work as lead guitarist and primary songwriter for The Band, who were instrumental in creating the Americana music genre. In fact, Headliner is pretty confident it could fill an entire issue covering Robertson’s career so far: (Bob Dylan! Ronnie Hawkins! The Band! His own solo work!) However, we’re here to focus on The Irishman, Scorsese’s new American epic crime film starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and a coaxed-out-of-retirement, Joe Pesci. Set over many decades, the critically acclaimed film follows Frank Sheeran (De Niro) as he becomes a hitman involved with mobster, Russell Bufalino (Pesci) and his crime family, including his time working for the powerful Teamster, Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino). With a production budget rumoured to be $159 million (Netflix picked up the tab) and clocking in at a marathon 209 minutes, it is among the most expensive films of Scorsese’s career, not to mention his longest. “Netflix is almost in a different business, in a way,” says Robertson. “It is questionable whether this movie could have been made without Netflix, because there is a very, very expensive special effects process in this due to the fact that it takes place over 50 years.” Sophisticated ‘youthification’ digital techniques spared the older cast having a face full of tracking dots (or makeup) in
order to convincingly play their much younger selves – it’s very good, and it’s very expensive. “There was a lot of de-ageing done to De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci – they had to look as young as they would have been during those periods,” he nods. “It’s extremely expensive, and it’s a very tedious process to complete, but in the movie you just watch this story – you’re not sitting there thinking about that. And if you do think about it, it passes in a few seconds, and you’re just into what’s happening. They did it brilliantly; they did it as good as you can do it at this stage in special effects.”
WHAT’S THE SCORE?
Scorsese is known for his meticulously-planned sequences; does he have an equally fixed idea when it comes to the score, or is there room for creative interpretation? “You know, it’s a combination of both of those,” Robertson answers. “Because it takes place over such a long period of time, Marty’s not looking for a traditional score at all. I needed to find a sound and a flavour that had a timeless quality to it, so you didn’t say, ‘Oh, that sounds like it’s right out of the ‘70s’, or ‘that’s late ‘80s right there’. I had to find this other worldly thing that just lives out there in the air somewhere, and it can land at any point.” Easier said than done. Capturing that timeless sound took much trial and error – and a lot of experimentation: “Eventually, I found this theme that occurs a lot throughout the movie, and Marty liked some of my new songs for the film, so all of these things started to blend into one another creatively in a really nice way.” Although accustomed to working with Scorsese, a film that jumps back and forth between a time period of 50 years was new to Robertson: “Yeah, this is a different animal!” he laughs. “Even after all these years of working with Marty! It’s never been about traditional movie music... when people watch it they’ll see what I’m talking about. There’s a certain mood to this film. It’s not your usual gangster affair at all. There is something about it which is authentic and in some ways, quiet.” No bar room brawls or gang shootouts this time, then? “No, it isn’t a bunch of gangsters running around shooting everybody and screaming and carrying on. It’s unusual, and it’s three and a half hours long. But that’s just the way to tell this story, you know? Other filmmakers would have been uptight about it and cut it way down, but for Marty it works just the way it is. “There’s a lot of stuff happening underneath the characters’ breath, which feels so real, because it’s based on a
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“There is a certain mood to this film, it’s not your usual gangster film at all; there is something about it which is authentic, and almost quiet...” real story,” he points out. “So finding a haunting mood for this movie was something that I thought that I needed to discover. I went back and forth on different ideas until, boom! It was like a bull’s eye. I was just thrilled that something had this quality, and it was a sound and flavour of music that I’d never done before.” “I describe the tune in poetic terms – the feeling of it. The musicians find this refreshing and different, because this isn’t somebody putting a piece of paper in front of them and saying, ‘play those dots on that page’. It’s more of a personal and interactive experience. So, when we landed in this place with the score and it had those qualities to it, it was a beautiful sense of relief!” Robertson recently released Sinematic, his first new solo album in eight years, which opens with I Hear You Paint Houses, featuring his devilish invitation: ‘Shall we take a little spin to the dark side of town?’ A duet with Van Morrison, the song makes use of bright guitar and a blithe tone that belies its chilling lyrics: mob code for hiring a hitman – painting houses refers to spattering walls with blood. The song is featured in The Irishman alongside Sinematic’s emotional closing track, Remembrance, which plays during the end credits. “I didn’t write I Hear You Paint Houses to be in the movie; I wrote it because I was working on the movie,” he clarifies. “It was just something that came to me. My buddy, Van Morrison, came to town, and he asked what I was working on. So I told him I was doing an album, and that I was also working on the music for Marty’s movie. I said I’d just written this song, but I didn’t know if it was for the movie or not. I didn’t know what it was for – I just couldn’t help but write it. I played it for him, and he said, ‘man, I really like that!’” 28 Headliner
Robertson invited Morrison to sing on the track, and then played it to Scorsese, who loved it. “At the end credits in the movie, you can hear Van’s voice come in: ‘I hear you paint houses?’ And I answer him with, ‘I hear you paint houses’. It’s a beautiful closing for the whole experience.”s
THE COLOR OF MONEYme of mind.
Naturally, having spent years working with one of the best film directors out there, Robertson has plenty of anecdotes to share. “Yeah, it’s a trip!” he laughs. “It’s a very unusual process and movie/music relationship that we have. When I was doing the score for The Color Of Money, I had an idea because of the pool halls and the hustler thing, and all of that. There was a sleazy, bluesy sound I was looking for. I told Marty I’m gonna write the music, and I’m gonna hang out with a great blues songwriter, Willie Dixon – a hero of mine in the songwriting world. And then I’m gonna get the great arranger, Gil Evans, who works with Miles Davis and many other people; he’s brilliant. And I’m gonna get him to orchestrate what I write.” Robertson explained to Scorsese that he and his assembled goodfellas would come up with some score ideas and show them to him to see if they were on the right track, then record them in the studio with an orchestra once finalised. “So anyway, I’m writing these things, playing hem on the keyboard, and I hum the melodies that I’m imagining the lead instrument will play – Gil would orchestrate all that later,” he recalls. “I sent Marty these tapes of me playing and humming, and he put it in the movie! And I said, ‘No, no, no, that doesn’t go in the movie! That’s me just composing in my kind of way; we’re going to do that with the orchestra!’ And
he said, ‘Oh no, it works really well; just have the orchestra play with you on these things’. I said that nobody uses music in a movie with somebody humming the melodies, that doesn’t sound like a finished product. So that’s actually in the movie, in the score,” he laughs, shaking his head. “From then on, I’ve been careful about what I send him!” It’s not just The Irishman that has been keeping Robertson busy humming of late: in addition to his recent album, Sinematic, a 50th anniversary box set for The Band’s seminal self-titled sophomore record was released in November. Robertson is also the focus of a new documentary called Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band, that will be released theatrically early this year. Each of these projects are interlinked in some way: songs from the new album are included in The Irishman, and the documentary took its title from the song, Once Were Brothers from the album, which is about the brotherhood and dissolution of The Band. “I couldn’t be more proud of how the The Irishman, the documentary, the 50th collection, and Sinematic turned out,” he smiles. “All of these things in this circle have turned out to be something that I’ve never experienced before – something I’ve never felt before in the way that all of these things are feeding beautifully off of one another. And, for somebody that’s been doing it as long as I have, I enjoy where there’s a good eclipse!” www.robbie-robertson.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
Having decided she wanted to work in the music business when she was just eight years old, you could say the writing was on the wall for Emeli Sandé. The Scottish four-time BRIT Award-winner recently released her third album, Real Life, which she has been touring across the UK and beyond with great success. It’s a slight departure from her previous two records, put together with a family feel; the bulk of the writing and demos were done at her home studio, and produced and mixed by Troy Miller in a studio at the bottom of his garden. But it’s a special album with some great songs and quite breathtaking vocal performances. We sit down with the artist to talk about her musical journey, and her brave transition to make the jump from songwriter to artist. Words Paul Watson
EMELI SANDÉ THE VOICE WITHIN
ife is good for Emeli Sandé, who is recently back from a holiday in Bali - a trip she took alone to get some time for herself. “It’s a very spiritual place,” she reflects. “A great location for a retreat and detox, really! [smiles] It’s the first time I have been on holiday by myself, but I’m glad I did it, as it is quite something to get some time for yourself.” We start at the beginning: how Emeli got found, and her break getting signed initially as writer. “I remember always wanting to be a singer and writer from very young, even though up in Scotland I had no idea how to get to London,” she says. “I had all these demo tapes, and any time I could try and get out there, I would be pushing for that. I met [British songwriter and producer] Naughty Boy (real name Shahid Khan), and we began writing together. It was at that point that I got signed as a songwriter, and found myself writing for people like Alesha Dixon, Sheryl Cole, and Susan Boyle. So that was very exciting, and even then I thought ‘wow, if I can make a living and afford to live in London as a songwriter, that would be an incredible life!’ but there was always something pulling me to want to perform the songs.” The pivotal moment was when Emeli penned the song Clown, which she wanted to keep for herself. “A lot of people wanted the song, and were asking if Leona Lewis or Susan Boyle could have it,” she recalls. “It was really tempting to take the offer, as they were huge artists, but there was something inside of me even thought I wasn’t an artist, saying ‘you need to keep this for yourself ’, which was a big switch for me. It was great to have that year of writing for others, as it allowed me to have that insight of the industry and see how things operate – and also, it helped me hone my craft a little bit. Writing pop music was quite new for me; prior to that, it was very jazz based – I’d listen to Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone. It was Naughty Boy who helped me simplify this process, and we met in the middle with our styles, so it was a great learning experience.” It also shows the drive and self-belief required to try to launch a solo career under those circumstances. “Yeah, and it was hard getting signed because people just saw me as a songwriter: did I have the right image or personality? They weren’t sure. It was tough to find a label that saw me as an artist, so I felt lucky to have met Virgin Records. I’d done a song with Wiley called Be a Woman, so they signed me for one single, and after that, this catalogue of music was being prepared, and they took a chance on me and signed me for an album. So the whole process when I look back is just such a surprise that it all worked out so well. It was a wonderful feeling that we all won together as everyone took a risk on me as an artist, really.” And it was a risk that paid off: Emeli’s 2012 debut album, Our Version of Events, was a UK number one smash,
breaking the record for the most consecutive weeks inside the top 10 - knocking The Beatles off their perch - and included the huge hit single Read All About It. “After the success of a first album, it’s quite hard to know which direction to go in: how do you satisfy the artist in you, and how do you follow up with something that the label wants, and all those types of things,” Emeli explains. “And that’s in between both writing and finding the right direction and producers to work with. And on top of that you’ve got life..! So after the first album, with so much work going into promo and my tour, I took time to catch up with myself personally – be at home with my family, and travel to Zambia to learn a lot about myself culturally. Sometimes you don’t realise the path you’re on, so it’s important taking time out to make sure that with each album there is growth artistically.”
Her 2016 follow-up, Long Live The Angels, reached number two in the UK Album Chart, and Real Life, her third record (released in September 2019) made it to number six. “The second album was quite difficult to approach because of the success of the first, but also quite daunting. I was thinking: ‘how do I go back to that same mind frame of being really green to the industry?’ When I listen to it now, the second album is quite experimental in terms of production and lyrical stories. So with this third album, it was so nice, as I feel I had much more clarity in what I wanted to say. It was a lot more of a definitive process.” One constant throughout her 10-year journey has been the support of her label, Virgin: “The label has always allowed me to do my own thing, and they understand that I am always writing, so they’ll let me go away and write, write, write. Then my A&R will come in and give me an opinion on vibe or direction. So in terms of artistic expression, they have always let me do my own thing. With Real Life, when we had the demos, the label came and heard them; and after that, they introduced me to Troy Miller, who produced the record. I still have most of the same team that I had at the very the beginning; we have all come up and been on this 10-year ride together, and having this album feels very fulfilling, especially as this time round I was able to lead it a lot more. It was done in my own home studio, so in that sense I felt I had a lot more freedom in what was happening with the sound.” The album seems to be a response to a disenfranchised state of the world, with Emeli wanting to give a voice to the marginalised and even the forgotten. Would she agree? “Yeah, I think naturally it is very important to lend a voice to those who might feel invisible, or who are struggling – it’s always been a theme in my writing, from Read All About It onwards,” she says. “It has always been an important task for me to move my music forward. It
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“Music has always been this incredible pillar to me; it’s in my strength, almost like a refuge; that’s what I wanted this album to be for people...” wasn’t intentionally done, but it’s just the way I write. Another thing with this album is the live performance angle: when you’re on stage, certain things you do that sound amazing in the studio just don’t translate, so with Real Life, I wanted to write it thinking about how the audience will feel when I recreate it live on stage.” The process of writing and recording Real Life was a very natural one: Emeli was introduced to Ratchet, a UK-based producer, who she really hit it off with, and they just started creating. “He would bring his laptop and mic, and we would camp on the floor upstairs,” she laughs. “We worked for a few months together, and dreamed of one day making a studio together, then I decided to make the investment. Ratchet guided me on the best equipment to buy – he is very interested in all of the technology which actually is interesting to me now to an extent, but all I wanted to do was make music. So we created a space. We took my dining room and living room, created the soundproof window, and kind of defined the space. I thought if music is paying for the house then I think it’s only right that it should take up most of the space! [laughs]” Ratchet then introduced Emeli to Jacob, who has become her main collaborator: “He is an incredible piano player, and we just had this amazing energy when we wrote together; a kind of telepathy music-wise, and when he was playing, and I knew where the songs had to go,” she explains. “So most of it was done with him, and then there were two other guys, Michael and Jessie, who are my bassist and drummer. So we all kind of created during the summer.” It was essentially eighteen months of pure writing to then somehow whittle the dozens of 32 Headliner
songs down to a nice concise 11. “We had so many songs! And it came down to the message of the album: if this was the last album I would ever make in my life, what do I want the legacy of this music to be? Music has always been this incredible pillar to me in my life, it’s in my strength – almost like a refuge,” Emeli reveals. “That is what I wanted this album to be for people – to not worry about which stories I want to tell, more about how I can give people as much strength as possible through the music.” When Emeli met Troy Miller to chat about the production approach for the record, they spoke for seven hours straight. “Troy has a studio in the back of his garden, so the whole thing was made at houses, which I really like! Troy’s whole family would be there, and all the writing was done at my house, so we were blessed with special love, and it was definitely a family-orientated project,” Emeli says. “Troy is very creative: during Human, he was playing an empty wine bottle! He is a great drummer, so to watch him get wine bottles out and start hitting them with spoons so amazingly... It’s stuff like that which blows my mind, and shows me what production really is, because you don’t often get to work with someone so accomplished with instruments who also produces and mixes, so watching his whole process was a real education for me.” Troy mixed the album in the same space, with Emeli present during the mix. “That’s when it tests your relationship with people, as it gets so intricate, and then by the time you listen to the 20th mix, you lose perspective and have to let go of the control,” she smiles. “But I could really trust Troy with what
he was doing as he was so passionate and really wanted to get it perfect. He’s a real perfectionist. On Free As A Bird, which I’d written with Jake and the guys long before I met Troy, he and I played it together and I sang it while doing it, and it turned out to be a very special take, and we never did it again. So me capturing that moment shortly after meeting him was really special.” I ask Emeli what advice she would give an emerging artist today trying to make the grade. “The industry is so internet-based now, which is the biggest difference over the course of the last decade. It’s wonderful in one sense, as it opens ground for everybody; but it also puts people under scrutiny a bit too early, because sometimes you have to make mistakes, make bad songs,” she says, very matter of fact. “When I was with Naughty Boy, I had a place to sharpen my sword where I was safe to develop; and I think that might be something that is missing at the moment, because at the very beginning, the whole world is watching what you’re doing, so for people’s confidence that can be disheartening. “But I would say try and be as bold as possible, and don’t worry what everyone thinks or about chasing numbers, because essentially what will give you longevity as an artist I think is finding a unique path. Everyone wants to stream lots and get all the likes, and I think it stops people from being true artists as they worry about that stuff. So I would just say stay true and ignore the internet for the time being, and try and be as bold and unique and original as you possibly can. And from that, you will stem a career that will last a long time, and you will stand out from others.” www.emelisande.com
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From Glasto to Ibiza
MAMBO BROTHERS: FROM GLASTO TO IBIZA We chat to Christian and Alan Anadon - otherwise known as uber-successful dance music act, Mambo Brothers, about their musical evolution, life in Ibiza, and Glastonbury Festival. “It was a beautiful experience,” Christian Anadon says of his first-ever Glastonbury Festival. Growing up and living on the picturesque island of Ibiza, I was wondering whether or not Christian, one half of the Mambo Brothers, would take to Pilton Farm, in deepest Somerset. “We don’t often get to see things like Glastonbury. Our agent took us for a three-hour walk all around the different areas. We were amazed by all the different stages and concepts.” While Christian and his brother Alan, who form dance music act Mambo Brothers, were born in the Spanish isle and party capital of Ibiza, the sights and smells of Somerset may not be too alien to them, as their mother is Scottish. Their parents met on holiday as teenagers in Benidorm, shortly after moving
to Ibiza and opening Café Mambo - one of the most successful businesses on the Sunset Strip. As they grew up and became increasingly involved in the business, both brothers got to witness the likes of Carl Cox, David Guetta and Swedish House Mafia performing sets that deeply inspired them. Now being at a point where they have more or less taken over the bar, it has coincided with their music career also taking off - culminating in a tour last Summer off the back of their May single, If You Wanna. It takes them back to the UK for a Defected Records show in Bristol, over to Barcelona, Sweden, and then back to Spain for a home-island show in Ibiza. Summer’s not such a quiet and relaxing time for Mambo Brothers, then?
“Not a relaxing time at all,” Christian says, whose accent is a melting pot of his Spanish and Scottish lineage. “But we don’t say no to anything.” I ask if he has a preference between the touring life to sticking around Ibiza and playing shows at home - after all, why would you want to leave? The answer I receive is an entrepreneurial one: “Travelling around Europe and seeing all the public places is great for us, we get so many ideas from the places we visit, rather than just imagining it all! Nice hotels, nice restaurants, eveything, really.” When I ask if Christian, who is the shorter-haired of the two brothers, received any business inspiration from Glastonbury 2019, he says: “Well, we should do a mini Glastonbury
From Glasto to Ibiza
“Rather than put on one event, we decided to make the celebration last all summer for 25 years of Mambo...” in Ibiza [laughs]! Maybe without the really peculiar smell.” Staying on the business side of things, we, of course, have to discuss the fact that Café Mambo reached the ripe old age of 25 last year. Boasting a central location on San Antonio’s Sunset Strip that couldn’t be more perfect for witnessing the legendary Ibizan Mediterranean views and sunset. This is before even mentioning that Mambo always attracts the biggest names in dance music. Café Mambo’s opening parties tend to get the biggest crowds in an average year, but the 25th anniversary year was always going to be that extra bit huge. “We opened in 1994,” Christian says. “We decided that, rather than just doing one big event, which loads of people would miss out on, we decided to make the celebration last all summer for 25 years of Mambo.” When I ask how he and his brother, Alan, are possibly able to juggle their burgeoning
music career with running their expansive business, Christian explains that he’s a big believer in teamwork: “When we arrive at Ibiza airport, we go straight to Mambo, no matter the time. Even if we haven’t slept for three days, we’ll go straight to the bar and make sure everything is alright. But when we have such a strong team, why would we say no to such a beautiful thing as DJing abroad? That said, it does keep us on our toes most of the time!” Mambo Brother’s latest single, Optimo, realeased on Circus Recordings, has had quite the reaction in Ibiza, with remixes in tow. It’s a delicious, percussive piece of house music that you should place inside your ears as soon as possible. Catch them at a party soon, and remember, next time you’re in Ibiza, make damn sure that Café Mambo is your first stop. www.mambobrothersibiza.com
WEST END GIRL
From The X Factor to the West End: Headliner absorbs some of singer-songwriter, Shan Ako’s positive vibes at London’s Gielgud Theatre to talk dream roles, Simon Cowell, and Les Misérables. Words Alice Gustafson
han Ako has been up since the early hours, but annoyingly she does not look anything close to being tired. Headliner visits her at London’s Gielgud Theatre, where (at the time of writing) she is starring as Éponine Thénardier in Les Misérables - The Staged Concert - eight days a week. “I usually have to be here at 6pm and I leave at around 10.20pm – I don’t have to necessarily be out of my house until 4pm, and I usually work on my own music before that. Oh, gosh, it’s fine,” she assures me in her soothing voice, waving her hand as if it’s nothing. “I’m used to performing and traveling, and I enjoy it. But it is getting cold now... but at the same time, I do like my cosy jumpers!” Often singing the ends of her words, Ako has a refreshing ability to make the best out of every situation; during the interview she radiates nothing but sincerity and gratitude. A ray of sunshine personified, the London-born 26 year old makes herself comfortable in a cozy room in the back of the theatre. “Shirley Bassey was here yesterday,” she says excitedly, showing me the Dame’s signature in the guest book. Long, braided hair piled up neatly in a huge bun on top of her head, Ako is wearing a fabulous midriff-bearing jumpsuit that would make most women rear away in terror. “It’s been lent to me for our photos today,” she says, adjusting it carefully every time she moves. Ako has loved music since her school days, fondly remembering singing anything she had learnt during the morning assembly at home. “That was my happy place! I just always remember loving it, going home from school and non-stop singing the songs. Most of my family are quite musical as well. My dad is a singer and he’s very much into reggae music. I saw him performing and producing in the studio, and seeing that obviously inspired me as well. My mum has a great taste in music, too – it’s in the family. Music has always put a smile on my face.”
As comfortable playing the guitar as she is singing, the Brit School Alumni began releasing self-produced music as a teenager, writing lyrics to provide inspiration to young people. Ako went on to gain exceptional credits and performance experiences, including the pre-mobo awards at Cadogan Hall, the Barbican for the London Jazz Festival, and winning the Project Aloft Star for emerging artists run by Starwood Hotel Group and BBC Radio 1. However,
her first big break came when she auditioned for 2018’s The X-Factor, receiving a standing ovation after her moving and earnest rendition of Never Enough from The Greatest Showman soundtrack. At the time of interview, it is exactly one year since Ako’s life-changing audition. “It was terrifying,” she admits, smiling. “I had auditioned once before when I was 14 when they lowered the age limit for a while. Then the opportunity came up again, so I thought, why not try it? Another reason I acknowledge the opportunity was because they were also offering me a chance to present my own music on the show, so it was the perfect platform. And it worked!” Surviving the show’s brutal Six Chair Challenge round with a rendition of Donny Hathaway’s A Song For You, Ako then progressed to the Judges’ Houses stage of the competition, where she performed an original song, earning her a round of applause from multi-award-winning American songwriter, Diane Warren. Ako says that when it comes to Simon Cowell, what you see is what you get. “He’s been so cool,” she enthuses. “I can tell that having his lovely son has brought such a light to him – it’s beautiful to see. It was an honour to be in his presence at all times.” While most associate Ako with The X Factor, what is less well known is that the singer has a 1st class degree in Music Business and Arts Management, which has prepared her for every eventuality. “I thought to myself: ‘What if my music doesn’t happen? What if I’m not at the front of the stage all the time?’ I wanted to equip myself to learn the music business. I knew that I wanted to work in the industry one way or another, so that’s enabled me to develop management skills. It helped with the business side of things, such as contract-signing and even being on The X Factor. Although it was musicbased, I learnt important life skills too. It got me in the right frame of mind. Even now, if I were to lose my voice – God forbid,” she adds, touching wood, “I have no problem going to work behind the scenes and helping to create someone else’s dream, and making that a reality for them.” She really does mean it. Since appearing on The X Factor and the subsequent 2019 X Factor National Arena Tour, Ako’s life has changed dramatically. “It definitely grew my online presence. A lot of people recognise me on the street, and they tell me how much I have inspired them, which is so nice to hear.” Although Ako has been singing and performing since being a teenager, appearing in Les Misérables - The
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“It’s nice to use social media to help others; if I can just give a little inch of positivity to someone’s day, I’ll try my best to do it...” Staged Concert was her West End debut, starring alongside Michael Ball, Alfie Boe, Carrie Hope Fletcher, and Matt Lucas. Produced by Sir Cameron Mackintosh, Les Misérables is the world’s longest running stage musical – currently in its 34th year in London. Its celebrated score includes big songs, I Dreamed a Dream, Bring Him Home, One Day More, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, and Éponine’s big number, On My Own. Produced on screen by Mackintosh (with Working Title and Universal), Les Misérables is regarded as the most successful movie of an ‘original’ stage musical. “I have a great team behind me,” says Ako, graciously. “They have always supported and encouraged me. I was definitely nervous about taking on this role; I’ve always been a fan of musicals. I’ve done tours and theatre shows, but I’ve never been in the West End – everything I’ve done in the past has been straight singing, not necessarily acting. This is taking on a whole different character! It was very nerve-wracking because it’s an all-star concert, not just any show. You’ve got the best of the best, and people that have been in the industry from a young age. So this is a true honour. It was very, very scary, but I feel very welcome, and I can only learn from them – which is what I’ve been doing. I thought that it was going to be so hard, but the reason Cameron probably entrusted me with the role is because there is something within Shan that is also in Éponine.” Following its major renovation, the Sondheim Theatre is now hosting Boublil and Schönberg’s Les Misérables productio, beginning not long after Les Misérables - The Staged Concert finishes its run next door. Ako is beaming to announce that she has also been cast as Éponine in the 38 Headliner
Sondheim’s version of the musical, too. “It will be different for me because the current version is a concert version of the musical, so we’re singing into mics, and there’s just one set. Whereas in the theatre next door, it will be the actual theatre production of the musical again. I have to admit, when I go next door, it’s going to be weird for me... but I think I’ll be alright. I’m really happy that I’ve got an opportunity once again – it’s amazing! This time I’ll be proper, fullon Éponine. So [spoiler alert!] when she dies, it will be like she really dies, with fake blood and stuff,” she laughs. “Plus I’ll have more lines. It’s good though. This is a different type of acting and I’m telling a different story.”
Since The X Factor, Ako has steadily been releasing her own music independently, including feel-good track, Get Back (which she performed at Judges’ Houses on the show), stripped-back ballad, The Silence, and most recently, Beautiful I Am – accompanied by a body-positive video, which Ako edited herself. “I like the challenge of editing it myself. It’s hard work, but I know how to use these programs. It’s hands-on Shan! The only thing that’s tricky is finding the time to do it, especially being in the musical.” Ako has albums worth of songs that she’d like to polish and compile for an EP release – at a point where she has more time. “I think that when you put out the right things, the right things will come back to you. It’s true - when you’re living in your purpose, I feel it will just naturally happen as long as you do your bit. It’s being open to receive it. “I think the beauty of music is that there’s
a freedom within it. For me, music is not just a thing, it’s a lifestyle. You grow through the motions and you grow with it; things change. You just have to keep going.” Ako is a passionate supporter for mental health awareness, and refreshingly, uses her vast social media reach to spread positive messages of self belief to her followers. (Not a pout or a pair of dog ears in sight). “I try to encourage people, especially online and on social media with regards to their mental health,” she nods, humbly. “It’s nice to use social media to help others. There’s a lot of people going through the opposite of what I’m going through, and I if I can just give a little inch of positivity to someone’s day, I’ll try my best to do it. I know the opportunities that I’ve been presented with don’t come along all the time, so I take them with much gratitude. I try to encourage others to go after what they love and what their heart desires. What’s the worst that can happen?” Les Misérables at the Sondheim will keep Ako busy until October 2020 - and the Headliner team was blown away by the whole cast’s performance when we watched the show a few weeks ago: it’s a fresher, even more beautiful Les Mis production that will appeal to a whole new generation, as well as satisfy its existing hardcore fanbase. Stunning, in a word. “I would love to do my own tour and have an album out in 2020,” Ako concludes. “I’d love to travel the world. I have dream musicals I’d love to do, and dream music goals as well. I’d love to be in Hamilton! Something exciting will happen, I’m sure. I’m putting it out there already..!” www.shanofficially.com
A light touch was needed when capturing the dialogue and audio for El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. Production sound mixer, Phillip Palmer, tells us how he got it done, while the film’s lead actor, Aaron Paul, and producer, Vince Gilligan, provide some entertaining, behind the scenes insight. Words Alice Gustafson
n Vince Gilligan’s much anticipated follow up to Breaking Bad, fans finally got to see what became of high school underachiever-turned-meth-maker, Jesse Pinkman. It turns out, the fans weren’t the only ones who didn’t know what to expect. “I knew this story started with where we left off in Breaking Bad, but I had no idea where it was heading,” admits Aaron Paul. Describing taking on the role of Pinkman once again as like “revisiting an old friend,” Paul says that Vincent Gilligan, creator, head writer and producer of Breaking Bad floated the idea of a sequel a while ago, but only wanted to do it if it was perfect. “I mean, Vince... I would follow [him] through a fire! About seven months down the road, he gives me a call and says, ‘I’m done, and I think it’s pretty damn good’. The thing is with Vince – he has a legacy to uphold. But if you trusted Vince throughout that entire series [of Breaking Bad], you should absolutely trust him in this film. He’s the last person that wants to mess with this legacy, and he absolutely crushed it.” Paul describes Gilligan’s handling of the El Camino film and the ending of Breaking Bad as “perfect,” and found it surprisingly easy to slip into the role of Pinkman again: “I only had to rewatch one episode to remind me where he was at emotionally – what things happened during that particular time period to cause him to react the way he’s reacting. For me it was easy to slip on that skin again, but also I was playing him slightly different because he’s a different man. I think the story of this film is really about the struggle to survive.” Breaking Bad is considered to be one of the best TV series of all time, even managing the rare feat of nailing the perfect ending (we’re looking at you, Game of Thrones). Expectations were high: everything had to be perfect. Production sound mixer, Phillip Palmer, knew this more than anyone, relying exclusively on Lectrosonics Digital Hybrid Wireless to record almost all of the dialogue and many incidental and ambient sounds that would normally be added in post-production. His lab comprised of three Venue 2 wideband modular receiver systems, eight SMV transmitters for body mics,
four HMA plug-on transmitters for boom and plant mics, a couple of older UHs which were used for the ‘voice of God,’ on set, and a couple of LT transmitters for sound department communication. “Wideband tuning is important given the increasingly crowded spectrum we have to work with these days,” he explains. “So the Lectrosonics Venue 2 was an obvious choice. It’s a rackmount chassis that can hold up to six receiver modules, so you can mix and match tuning ranges based on what transmitters and frequency blocks you’re using.” That wideband capability – and Lectrosonics’ wellknown ease when it comes to receiver-transmitter pairing and quick switching of frequencies - proved invaluable when filming in Albuquerque. “People who are used to filming in New York or Los Angeles tell me, ‘It must be great to be out there in the wild west where you have free airwaves,’” Palmer laughs. “In fact, there is so much RF in and near Albuquerque! There’s a lot of military, industry, and push-to-transmit sources like walkie-talkies. What might be wide open in the morning can have interference in the afternoon. The frequency agility that Lectrosonics provides has saved my bacon on many occasions!” It’s Lectrosonics’ long range at a given transmitter output power and its sound quality that most impress Palmer, and proved to be invaluable during the shoot. “That’s the meat and potatoes of the brand, in my opinion. It’s so clean and so dependable. Range is great and all, but if the signal doesn’t sound good, that doesn’t matter. I’m in 100-milliwatt mode most of the time, and on occasion, like for car-to-car stuff, we’ll boost to a quarter-watt. But keeping your wattage lower allows you to stack as many wireless channels as you can in that crowded spectrum. That’s where Lectrosonics has been the champion.” This flexibility let the team record the majority of dialogue in real time, which is usually ideal for getting the actors’ best performances. “We absolutely were able to minimise the need for ADR because of Lectrosonics. I put a body pack on everyone
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“Most of what you hear was recorded on set; [producer] Vince Gilligan loves the real sounds, and Lectrosonics allows us to get them all...” unless the character wearing minimal clothing precludes it. Having a mic on all actors all the time always reduces the chances that someone’s speech is going to get buried in the environment. It also gives us separate tracks for editorial to work with in the event that actors overlap each other when speaking.”
THE MONEY SHOT
In fact, this creativity applied to many nondialogue sounds as well – the kind that most productions would add using computer sound design and Foley. In a frantic scene, Pinkman has broken into once-captor Todd Alquist’s apartment to find a stash of cash he knows is hidden there: “Aaron Paul absolutely rips that set apart,” Palmer enthuses. “Then it switches to this overhead view of the floor plan, where you see multiple Jesses ransacking multiple rooms at once.” Symbolising his manic search in this way was a brilliant idea for which Vincent Gilligan credits production designer, Judy Rhee: “That set was totally real - they built it like that, with a wide camera flown 60 feet in the air, Palmer reveals. “Point being, we couldn’t be in the shot, so I had wireless microphones planted everywhere. Post enhanced things somewhat, but most of what you hear was recorded on set. Vince 42 Headliner
loves the real sounds, and Lectrosonics allows us to get them all.” “I love this [set] – this tickles me,” Gilligan said in a behind the scenes look at the making of the film. “It’s a third floor apartment in real life, and so they built this whole set on this riser that takes it four feet off the ground. We are finishing up this big search, as Jessie has spent 16-18 hours straight tearing this place apart, looking for the money. In between takes on this crazy shot, looking straight down from the rafters you can see the camera way up there,” he says, gesturing upwards.“We had 90-minutes of takes, and the whole thing will get boiled down into Pinkman searching for maybe 15 seconds of screen time.” As the film’s title suggests, cars play an important role in the film. “We did the same thing [using wireless mics] with vehicles, such as the Chevy El Camino in the title,” Palmer continues. “We were able to get the sounds of all the real cars instead of having to go back and invent them.” Like the original series, El Camino featured a number of locations in extreme environments. Asked how his equipment fared under those conditions, Palmer beams: “I put this stuff through the wringer. Lectro’s gear has held up so well over the years that when I do retire a piece, it’s by selling it rather than putting it in mothballs. Another element
is, their service is phenomenal. In the rare event something does break, I can’t think of a time when they’ve been unable to fix it. I’ve taken things to places, got them dirty, got them wet, beat them up, and Lectrosonics has always been able to make them perform like new – often much faster than I ever plan for. I could never choose a different manufacturer for my wireless equipment.” www.lectrosonics.com
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ANDERS ANDREEN: URBANISTA VALUES We sit down in London with Urbanista founder, Anders Andreen, to chat about the evolution of his uber-cool Swedish audio brand which fuses entrepreneurialism and seriously high-end sonics. “I’ve been building up Urbanista for the last seven years,” opens Anders Andreen, as he hands me a coffee. “We have designed a brand for the curious, the active - the modern people around the world who want a brand to connect with; but also equipment to fulfill the days, and with a focus on audio products, namely headphones and speakers. And we’ve tried to do that in a way that hopefully looks good, and with a lot of functionality, so the products can really enhance your day.” According to Andreen, an Urbanista product can add to your lifestyle: you might need one in the car, one at home, one in the office, so it helps having available price points, but with a continuity in terms of quality: “At the same time, we really don’t want to come short on branding, so we tried to make everything look good, but also at a deeper level, to engage in the right sort of collaborations and activities,” Andreen explains. “Every week since we’ve been going, I’ve heard that I’m stupid to get involved in such a crowded market! [laughs] but it is a challenge to get market share - to really go up against the big guys. It’s all about doing what you believe in, and hopefully we offer
something different than the rest of the market, and better in some elements, too. If you do that right, it is possible to grow.” And Urbanista is growing very quickly, though it is still a small company: “But that’s what makes us a whole lot more agile, and with a start-up feel, so there’s very rarely a time where we will say ‘we can’t do it’. It’s all about that ‘yes, yes, yes’ mentality, and then we’ll work out how to do it!” Conversation turns to the portfolio of products that Urbanista has in its locker Andreen says for Urbanista to work, it had to have something for everyone. “Something for every sort of wallet,” he adds, with a smile. “So we try to have a product range that solves different challenges or goals in life, whether it’s hitting the treadmill, or commuting on airplanes or trains, speaking on Skype, or just fading away with some nice music in our ears. “We have different items for different needs. It’s important to have entry price points, as long as they still deliver a good enough quality for the audience; and then you have higher price points with a more sophisticated sound.
Urbanista’s Athens earphone (£119) is primarily targeted at athletes and gym-goers. “This kind of earphone should be problemfree: it should always sit in your ears, and have a bass that really kicks you in the ass,” Andreen enthuses. “It’s got a bit more vibe, more low-end, and is completely waterproof, so it deals with sweat very easily. The name Athens is a nod to the first Olympic Games.” All of Urbanista’s products are named after cities: Paris (£99), for example, is a great ‘everyday pod’, Andreen continues: “It’s your entrepreneur pod! If you’re on the phone all day, it will help isolate the sound of the call from the outside world: it’s easy to chat for a long time on the phone, as the battery life is great; you can listen to music as it’s a nice balanced sound; and ultimately, you can always be available. The name Paris comes from the city’s fast fashion heritage, so we wanted to tie it in with that.” Wireless charging is also incorporated. “Which makes it more available, doesn’t it? And less cable to worry about,” he says. “The case that comes with the earphones is a little wireless charger pad, so these are true wireless air pods.”
“It’s not only about growth and money, it’s also about how we can grow the brand so that it’s interesting for people around the world...” Helping People Urbanista isn’t just about delivering great products, it’s about aligning the brand with important issues. It recently teamed up with the Tim Bergling (Avicii) Foundation in Stockholm for a special concert celebrating Avicii’s life. “This was all about mental health, and raising awareness of it; and we tied in a big concert in memory of Avicii. We got in touch with the foundation in spring 2019, when it was just being created, and its agenda is to drive support, first of all, but also hopefully to resolve some of the tools that you can use for mental health improvements. “We started talking, and we realised this is such an important topic for us personally, but also for the community that we talk to, and that we hopefully relate to. We all know how the world has changed over the last few years; the wheels start spinning faster and faster, and our DNA is not made for this fast life, to always be connected, always be available. It’s something new. And the fact that we never just slow down and let our thoughts digest puts a completely different pressure on us - to always be performing, looking at Instagram, and seeing how beautiful and pretty and successful and happy everybody is, can make you miserable.“The most common cause of
death between the age of 15 and 25 is suicide, and that is a mind-blowing statistic. Any other cause of death is dealt with, but mental health is still sort of looked at with that stigma. So I think it was a given for Urbanista to join forces with the foundation, because Avicii creates such an important carrier: he’s known across the world, and people know not only how successful he was, but also the challenges that he was fighting every day, so people relate to it in an easier way. The concert was the sort of the pinnacle of the awareness around this foundation, and hopefully that’s a pinnacle that we will continue to grow.” And a huge success: 50,000 people turned out at Stockholm’s Friends Arena. “It was a beautiful concert, and although the core message was mental health awareness, it felt like a celebration of life as well, like a crowd that was very much up for it, as well as very emotional,” Andreen reflects. “And the performers were hugely entertaining, as well. David Guetta was one of the warm-ups, which gives you an idea of quality of line-up!” It Might Get Loud We chat a little about Urbanista’s two recently released portable loudspeakers: Sydney and Brisbane. “Sydney is a 5W speaker, and retails at
around £35; and the nice thing is, you can connect two together to make stereo sound,” Andreen explains. “And if you want a bit more punch, Brisbane is the big brother: two 10W speakers with a DSP driver, and you can connect those together too. It’s got a great, rounded low end, and this retails at £99. “We work with a very good audio engineer, Alex Grelin, who puts his magic into these products, so we benefit from a really sophisticated and balanced sound.” Exciting times ahead, no doubt, for what is ultimately an audio brand with a message, and a fine talisman in Anders Andreen to shout about it. So what happens next? “We have very fast growth plans - 50 to 100 percent each year - but at the same time, it’s not only about growth and money, it’s also about how we can grow the brand so that it’s more interesting for people around the world. Obviously our home turf is Scandinavia, and in that territory we are one of the biggest players, but we want to cater to everybody in the world, while creating a lot of good values along the way.” www.urbanista.com
The life of Swedish DJ, songwriter and producer, Tim Bergling (better known as Avicii) who died so tragically in April 2018, was honoured recently with a tribute concert in Stockholm. Nearly 60,000 fans turned up at the Friends Arena to pay their respects - an all-time Stockholm record for a single show. Photograph by Ralf Larmann
his show was the result of a request by Tim Bergling’s family following his passing. He wanted a celebration of the artist’s music presented as the fulfilment of an idea Bergling had to have his music performed by a live band and orchestra. Among the all-star line up of guest artists who also paid their own tributes were Aloe Blacc, David Guetta, Kygo, Nicky Romero, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Adam Lambert, Rita Ora - plus long-time Avicii collaborators Carl Falk, and Vargas & Lagola. From a technical perspective, the production values were befitting of the occasion, and the main show was live streamed on Bergling ’s Facebook and YouTube channels. GLP Nordic’s Daniel Hellsten was appointed production designer and production manager by event producers Panos Ayassotellis and Michael Jobson, on behalf of the Tim Bergling Foundation. “Getting the production up in time became a challenge, given the fact that we only had 36 hours from first truck loading in at the venue to artist standing on stage for rehearsal with full camera production. But we gave it our all, and the entire crew did an amazing job working side by side with each other to make it in time,” Hellsten says. The highly experienced Paul Normandale was invited by Avicii’s former tour manager, Michael Jobson, specifically to handle the lighting. “He asked me to get involved having seen the work I had done with other clients, although I never had the pleasure of working with Tim,” Normandale explains. “And since the show was live streamed the LD also had the task of lighting the entire show in real-time.” Meanwhile, Hellsten wasted no time in putting an outline production design together featuring many new GLP LED products. “My original design involved a lot of GLP fixtures,” he confirms. “When Paul [Normandale] got involved, he tweaked some numbers and positions, but overall he was happy with the choice.” The inventory was largely provided by rental company,
Bright Group Sweden, with assistance from MoreTec / MoreRent and GLP themselves. This included large quantities of GLP impression FR10 Bar, JDC-1, X4 Bar 20 and Bar 10, KNV Cube and Dot, and Highlander. Prior to the tribute show, five of the world’s leading DJs each played a 30-minute set under the same lighting rig, with some of the fixture programming, which was masterminded by board operators, Daniel Löfgren and Hunter Frith on a couple of grandMA2 consoles, retained for the main show. In addition to the DJ sets, the lighting also had to cater for TV broadcast, the principles, and band. Normandale feels that Bright did ‘a remarkable job’. Show direction was in the hands of Harry Bird, MD of multimedia company, Comix; Helena Dillén and Tom Harrison (Comix) in collaboration with the promoter, producers, and Daniel Hellsten. “The event was a huge success in every way,” Hellsten condludes. “It was truly beautiful how we all came together to make this work. A perfect way of celebrating Tim and his musical legacy in front of this huge crowd, along with millions watching the live streams. “As a friend of Tim and the people around him, I’m proud to have done my part to help make this show celebrate him and his music, as well as raising awareness of a very important issue.” Normandale adds his own testimonial: “I was happy to provide whatever skills I could to bring the obvious depth of feeling in the room to fruition. I have worked with GLP fixtures on many occasions, and it was nice to see the new products in a real stadium setting. They performed extremely well indeed.” All proceeds from the concert went to the Tim Bergling Foundation, created after Bergling’s death to advocate for the recognition of suicide as a global health emergency. www.glp.de
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DJ REGARD: RIDE IT
The man behind that song thatâ€™s been stuck in your head for months has seemingly shot up from nowhere, landing very comfortably on BBC Radio 1â€™s A list. Since then, hit song, Ride It, has amassed over 150 million combined streams and is cruising 2.7 million streams on Spotify globally a day, reaching no.1 on iTunes, Shazam and in the viral chart ahead of usual chart dominators, Ariana Grande and Ed Sheeran. Kosovan DJ and producer, DJ Regard, explains how an idea that came to him when he was drunk turned into a TikTok viral hit. Words Alice Gustafson
t’s a very surreal experience that I am very happy to be a part of,” DJ Regard (real name Dardan Alija) tells Headliner. “I’m very excited to be one of the most popular artists in the charts with major artists like Ariana Grande and Ed Sheeran. It’s been incredibly exciting and unexpected. The track has received support from Lewis Capaldi – I would never have dreamed to have support from a superstar like him! No matter where you are from, or where you live, it’s all about believing in your dreams.” Regard first started making music eight years ago when his cousin inspired him to take up DJing, and by the age of 15 he had picked up a regular gig in a local café in what is now Feriza, Kosovo. Fast forward to 2019, and Regard boasts 550k subscribers and over 400m views on his YouTube channel, and is behind one of the catchiest songs of the year – a remix of Jay Sean’s 2008 song, Ride It, only with a faster tempo and lower pitched vocals. So why the viral success this time around? Turns out, it’s all down to having one too many drinks, and TikTok (if you’re over 30: Google it). The Chinese iOS and Android social media video app was launched in 2017 for creating and sharing short lip-sync, comedy and talent videos. In 2019, TikTok, together with Douyin (its Chinese version), hit one million downloads globally – and that’s excluding Android installs in China.
THE TIKTOK PHENOMENON
This summer, TikTok users chose the song as a backing track for the #RideIt challenge, with over 4 million people creating videos with the house remix. “TikTok is one of the best apps to boost tracks,” says Regard. “The first 100K videos happened gradually, but then my management team, LEAF identified that the track was going viral due to influencers using the song. After that, I signed Ride It with Ministry Of Sound (Sony Music), and the remix just went the right way to blow up!”
The fact that the relatively new platform has helped in propelling the track to ludicrous popularity would not have been thought possible just one year ago. But the internet works in mysterious ways: a few TikTok users took part in the #rideitchallenge, a playful viral craze which saw people creating videos of themselves riding inanimate objects in time to the infectious track. “I have so many favourite #RideIt videos,” Regard laughs.“Each of the videos are different, ranging from funny videos, to serious videos.” Timing does seem to be everything, as Regard’s remix was actually released three years ago, only picking up when the TikTok craze began. “Music never dies and it can blow up at any time! I have very good contact with Jay Sean, and he is very grateful – and a good person. I was touring in Croatia when the idea of making Ride It came to me,” he remembers. “I was very drunk returning to my apartment from my gig, and I was listening to Jay Sean’s song. The rattling in my head from the sound system at my gig made the perfect combination to make the track! The moment I arrived home, I started to form the basic idea for the Ride It remix.” The remix was perfected by Regard on FL Studio using izotope and Waves plugins, although Regard stresses that: “It’s about talent, not equipment.” The producer reveals that his next release will probably be a collaboration, to be released in January 2020. Will Ride It be a tough act to follow? “Everyone who works for success, one day will achieve it,” he smiles. “My success is not accidental. I will be happy to challenge myself to create bigger and better remixes – and original music in years to come.” www.djregardofficial.com photograph (above) by @itsjustgillian
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Crafting Hits At Miloco
THE ALIAS: CRAFTING HITS AT MILOCO Julien Gingell and Barry Stone are the formidable writing and production duo The Alias, who made an immediate impact as producers in the ‘80s, working with Stock, Aitken and Waterman on records by the likes of Bananarama, Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan and Rick Astley. It wasn’t until 1999 that Julien and Barry formally became a duo, then under a different alias as Jewels and Stone. Having many individual successes in the remix world, Jewels and Stone took things to the next level, remixing Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Murder on the Dancefloor, Boyzone’s No Matter What and S Club 7’s Don’t Stop Movin’. The Alias are back and working on the upcoming Steps record, who Gingell and Stone have plenty of history with. Headliner chats to the duo at London’s Miloco Studios, where work on the album is taking place. Asking how they’re doing, Stone replies: “I’m wrecked! Thanks for asking though. Working with Steps has been full-on for the last few months.” I point out that it’s a rare thing these days to have just two producers working on an entire album, as these two are
with their frequent collaborators in Steps. “Yeah, and it’s been a huge undertaking for us,” Stone says. “Apart from our mixer, Pete Hofmann, it’s just us two, so a hell of a lot of work. I guess we’re both quite fanatical about pop music so working with an artist like Steps who are pure unadulterated pop with no other agenda is a very good fit for us.” Gingell adds that “there’s a lot of crossover, but at a push, I tend to focus in on the rhythmic elements and Barry has a better ear for vocal details. For the most part, we have oddly similar musical tastes and reference points, so when we have a production or remix we’ll instinctively be on the same page about where to take it. If I have a clap sound from
an obscure ’80s 12” remix in mind, he’ll know exactly which one I’m thinking of.” Whenever The Alias and Steps come together, commercial success seems to be assured. 2017’s Tears On The Dancefloor did well to climb a number of international charts. In the UK, Stone recalls a certain gingerhaired singer-songwriter blocking the album from the top spot. “I seem to remember Ed Sheeran keeping us from the top spot,” he says. “Damn him! The approach hasn’t been very different this time. I think we were more prepared this time though.” Having seen the pop landscape change drastically since they began working in the
Crafting Hits At Miloco
“There’s a lot of crossover, but I tend to focus in on the rhythmic elements, and Barry has an ear for vocals...” ‘80s, I ask The Alias what they see as the key developments in recent decades. “Obviously the technology has completely changed the game,” Stone says. “In some ways for the better but in other ways not. The amount of choice it gives you I find completely frustrating as it’s so much harder to commit to something. I’m thinking particularly about vocals here. “Especially working with a five-member vocal band — we record take after take and know we have all this material banked to compile the ultimate performance after the artist has gone but then you end up spending the same amount of time again or more sifting through the takes.”
ONE STEP AT A TIME
And with both Gingell and Stone known for a techno rave remix or two throughout their careers, should we expect any heavy dance tunes on this new Steps album? “Nothing too hardcore,” Gingell says.
“We’ve always been happy to be at the pop end of the club scene. This album has aspects of both the remix style work and the full production.” The latter is “more intense – you get to guide a song through beginning to end, and because of the vocal production, more so with a band such as Steps where the harmony stacks are so integral to the sound. I love me a good remix though, especially when it’s a track that feels like its own animal, rather than a side event to the radio mix.” Sat in London’s Miloco Studios HQ, we take a stroll down memory lane, as both of these producers have a rich history here. “The first time we worked here was with Dead or Alive,” Stone says. “We were actually in the same room we’re in now (the Elektrobank studio) although back then it was called Toyshop. Never a dull moment with Pete Burns around. We did covers of Prince, Madonna & U2 tracks with them. We returned again a year or so later to record what would become our first hit single: I Breathe
Again for Adam Rickett whose vocals we recorded here.” As you can imagine, Stone says being back at Miloco has been great: “The room has been completely revamped and looks very different to how it did back then, but still has the same great vibe. The team at Miloco are all lovely, and I’m sure they’ve all loved hearing the new Steps record blaring out through the walls!” Asking what 2020 holds for this powerhouse duo, Stone responds: “Season two of Handmaids Tale for me!” Meanwhile for Gingell, “It’ll be Season four for me. I won’t spoil it.” With so many hits to their names, I think it’s safe to assume they’ll be doing plenty more of that next year, rather than spending it in front of the telly. But if they do, they’ve earned it. www.milocostudios.com
The Radiophonic Workshop
BEHIND THE SONIC SCREWDRIVER
The BBC Radiophonic Workshop has left an audio legacy, responsible for the vast range of unusual sound-effects for numerous programmes, including Doctor Who’s TARDIS dematerialisation sound, to the Sonic screwdriver, as well as much of the programme’s distinctive electronic incidental music. Headliner takes a trip to Miloco Studios to learn about the Radiophonic Workshop’s reinvention as a band, and the tech allowing them to continue their weird and wonderful legacy...
“We always used to say that the BBC Radiophonic Workshop was good for outer space and inner space, and by inner space I mean, ‘what’s going on in your brain?’ You know – how would you set a nervous breakdown to music? That was one of the early commissions, I think,” remembers British composer, Roger Limb, who is best known for his work on the television series Doctor Who whilst at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Formed in 1958, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop was one of the sound effects units of the BBC which produced incidental sounds and new music for radio and, later, television. The unit is known for its experimental and pioneering work in electronic music and music technology, as well as its popular scores for programmes such as Doctor Who and Quatermass and the Pit during the 1950s and 1960s. The original Radiophonic Workshop was based in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios in London, closing down in 1998. “I was at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop between about 1972 and 1994,” Limb
continues. “The workshop had already been going for quite a while by the time I arrived, and I had to do a bit of learning on the hoof! I left in 1994, and eventually some of us in the workshop decided we’d form a band and take some of our material out on the road.” The BBC Radiophonic Workshop was set up to satisfy the growing demand in the late 1950s for ‘radiophonic’ sounds from a group of producers and studio managers at the BBC. Often the sounds required for the atmosphere that programme-makers wished to create were unavailable or non-existent through traditional sources, and so some would look to new techniques to produce effects and music for their pieces. “There were all sorts of experiments going on on the continent, particularly in France and Germany, relating to electronic music,” Limb recalls. “It was all to do with the manipulation of sound; and the BBC, and people in this country generally, started to get intrigued. There was a lot of tape manipulation, and that was one of the main techniques in the early days.”
In 1963 they were approached by composer, Ron Grainer, to record a theme tune for the upcoming BBC television series, Doctor Who. Presented with the task of realising Grainer’s score, complete with its descriptions of ‘sweeps’, ‘swoops’, ‘wind clouds’ and ‘wind bubbles’, Delia Derbyshire created a piece of electronic music which went on to become one of television’s most recognisable themes Over the next quarter-century, the workshop contributed greatly to the programme, providing its vast range of unusual sound-effects, from the TARDIS dematerialisation to the Sonic screwdriver, as well as much of the programme’s distinctive electronic incidental music, including every score from 1980 to 1985. In the ‘70s, Limb found that the workshop was changing. “Instead of providing weird stuff or weird programmes, it became more of a music factory. We might do a jolly signature tune for a children’s programme. You don’t want to scare the kids, you just want to engage them in some nice, interesting, jolly music, which
The Radiophonic Workshop
“I am one of those people who grew up on those Radiophonic sounds, so it’s just there in my ears...” isn’t played on conventional instruments. Goodbye, oboes, goodbye violins! It’s not frightening or anything, but it’s engaging. It’s direct, and kids reacted to it. There’s this whole generation of kids who grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s who were intrigued by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. It became a little bit of a minor mystery, I suppose. And they have grown up and quite enjoy what we’re doing now, which is the band we formed after we left the workshop.” Making The Band In May 2009, Dick Mills reunited with former BBC Radiophonic Workshop composers Limb, Paddy Kingsland, and Peter Howell, with archivist Mark Ayres, for a live concert at London’s Roundhouse, performing as The Radiophonic Workshop (dropping ‘BBC’ from the name). The composers, backed by a small brass section and a live drummer, performed a large number of their BBC-commissioned musical works including sections of incidental music from The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy and Doctor Who (including a medley of Mark Ayres’ work) as well as some collaborative compositions written specifically for the Roundhouse concert. The live performances were mixed in surround sound and interspersed with musical video montage tributes of deceased members of the workshop, including Daphne Oram, Delia Derbyshire, and John Baker. In 2013,
the original workshop members regrouped again for a more concerted program of live appearances. They were joined by drummer, Kieron Pepper (The Prodigy, Dead Kids, OutPatient) and Bob Earland from Clor. Earland, an engineer, producer, and musician, joined the band as tech support, and now also plays percussion and synths. “I am one of those people that grew up with those sounds,” enthuses Earland. “So it’s sort of there in my ears from growing up.” Earlier in 2019, Goonhilly Earth Station, one of Cornwall’s most iconic locations, staged an ‘Apollo 50’ event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. The Goonhilly satellite communications site, based on Cornwall’s Lizard peninsula, played a pivotal role in broadcasting the Moon landing in 1969. ‘Arthur’, once the largest satellite dish in the world (and named after King Arthur) signalled the dawn of the space age when it beamed images of the 1969 moon landing to millions of homes around the world. The Radiophonic Workshop played at the event, and created a special piece for the occasion. “We’ve done the show, but we are just about to do the final mix,” explains Howell, musician, composer, and member of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. “We actually had NASA voices in it, and extracts from interviews with some of the astronauts, which were kindly supplied to us. It was a half an hour piece – all original stuff. The first half takes us up to the actual landing, and then you
get round the back of the moon. As soon as we can start coming back to Earth, we start to hear the interviews with the astronauts.” “I’d like to talk a little bit about something that Peter did,” interjects Limb. “If you know about the moon landing, there’s this little beep which crops up when NASA is talking to the crew. Peter took that little beep and made a sort of... well, how would you describe it?” “I Radiophoniced it!” Howell laughs. “I’ve evolved a digital way of doing something that we used to do in analogue, which was with two tape recorders spaced apart, and the tape running from the first one across the room to the second one. Then you’d have a very long delay, which you then fed back into the mix, plus adding new material. So in other words, you build up a series of different things. The interesting thing on this occasion is there are pitch changes and panning possibilities on its way around the circuit. You can then actually build up something that is playing random pitches and gradually build it up, so this one beep - and it was only one - developed into a whole piece.” As the ‘60s drew to a close, many of the techniques used by the workshop changed as more electronic music began to be produced by synthesisers. From the early days of a studio full of tape reels and electronic possession of various synthesisers including oscillators, the workshop then found itself inpossession of various synthesisers including the EMS VCS 3 and the EMS Synthi 100,
The Radiophonic Workshop
“On stage we have a Korg MS-20 patchable monophonic analogue synthesiser, and an MS-50 as well...” nicknamed ‘The Delaware’ by the members of the workshop. New sounds for programmes were created by using recordings of everyday sounds such as voices, bells, or gravel as raw material for ‘radiophonic’ manipulations. In these manipulations, audio tape could be played back at different speeds (altering a sound’s pitch), reversed, cut and joined, or processed using reverb or equalisation. The most famous of the workshop’s creations using ‘radiophonic’ techniques include the Doctor Who theme music, which Delia Derbyshire created using a plucked string, 12 oscillators, and a lot of tape manipulation; and the sound of the TARDIS materialising and dematerialising, which was created by Brian Hodgson running his keys along the rusty bass strings of a broken piano, with the recording slowed down to make a lower sound. These days, the band uses a mixture of old and new gear. “I use a Eurorack Module, and I modify and build stuff as well,” says Earland. “I use a Korg Granular Synthesis, feeding old analogue oscillators through it - and it works great. On stage we have a Korg MS-20 patchable semimodular monophonic analogue synthesiser, and a Korg MS-50 as well.” Limb uses a Korg KingKORG knob-driven 61-key analogue modeling synthesiser for almost every gig.
“It’s got some wonderful sounds – particularly analogue sorts of sounds,” he adds. “For a while I had the Korg Kronos in tow, but I mostly use that in my home studio now.” Howell admits that he is somewhat of a software geek: “I had all this gear around me in that circular studio as part of the workshop for years, and with all due respect it’s like – been there, done that! Now I’ve moved on to a lot of software-based things. Bob likes to use MetaSynth, which you can pass very analogue-style sounds through. It’s a brilliant piece of software and allows you to do similar things to what you were doing in the workshop in the analogue days, but with bells and whistles. Frankly, it’s an extremely clever bit of gear and it’s actually resulted in a couple of the new pieces that we do live.” The Radiophonic Workshop has recently announced the release of Matthew Holness’ Possum OST, its very first soundtrack for film. “For Possum, I did all the monster sounds with a scrubbing brush and an autoharp,” says Howell. “Then I used digital techniques to record it and do things with it. But the original sounds were very Radiophonic! Limb used a Korg Kronos for the project: “It has some wonderful, scary stuff in it, and I was able to do a little bit of tweaking of some of the internal sounds within the Korg to get the desired effects.” When performing with the band, the group
focus on a mixture of material. “When we did a gig at the Roundhouse, we worked jolly hard for about a month, putting together material,” says Limb. “And not just Doctor Who, but a cross section of a lot of the stuff we’ve done, including new pieces.” “We’ve got quite a lot of new material,” nods Howell. “It’s probably about half old and half new. We very, very tentatively introduce new stuff right from the beginning of playing as a band, and people of all ages are interested in what we’re doing.” “Some of the older generation are really dedicated fans, and they take things to quite interesting lengths,” smiles Limb. “One guy I spoke to said that after seeing us play the Doctor Who theme, he shed a few tears.” From the start, the band were determined not to become their own tribute band. “We didn’t want to be a tribute band in the sense that we’re just doing the old stuff,” Limb explains. “We rather enjoy doing new stuff. Somebody said that the whole of the Radiophonic Workshop as it was in the 1980s can be fit onto one laptop computer now. So we’ve come a long way, but we’re still manipulating sound, and we’re still recording good things when we hear them – yes indeed,” he nods. “I came across a fridge door the other day which you just wouldn’t believe! We are always looking for sounds.” www.korg.com/uk
Ani nt el l i gentappr oac ht ogat i ng. . .
Sonnox Drum Gate
TO THE BEAT OF THE DRUM We take an in depth look at the Oxford Drum Gate, the latest plugin release from Sonnox, which promises to transform the workflow of gating drums. Gating drums can be a tricky business, depending on how and where they’ve been recorded. Unless you’re in a good space with some decent separation, you can find yourself in a bit of a hole when it comes to gating in terms of dealing with boominess, all kinds of spill, and various frequencies which are battling each other relentlessly. In these situations, when you apply gates to a kit with intent, you can run the risk of compromising on your transients and overall sonics. A recent mix session we worked on included quite a lot of the above – the drum stems we received had been recorded in a pretty confined space over nine tracks: kick in and out; snare top and bottom; a stereo room mic; tom mics; and a pair of overheads. No mic on the hats, as the space was so tight. The other issue was how dynamic the drummer was: a very talented, jazz/funk player, with lots of tom action and interesting progressions,
and occasionally a bit heavy on the right foot, which caused a few headaches when it came to compressing and gating using our regular channel strip. The kit hadn’t been recorded badly, it was just messy to deal with due to the recording conditions, and how busy the playing was. I guess when you’re asking a drummer to ad lib to jazz, you’re making a rod for your own back! Anyway, I digress... The Sonnox Drum Gate, I was soon to discover, can alleviate many of these issues, and is a really special plugin for a number of reasons. It’s not just a fantastic - and quite surgical - tool for the pro user who knows his or her frequency ranges inside out, but it’s also a great tool for the amateur, who might need help tidying up a kit using a piece of software that isn’t daunting with 200 knobs on it. Let’s start with the GUI: a lovely, intuitive look with three separate elements. We have Detection, Delay, and Leveller, along with three selectable drum icons: kick, snare, tom.
Nice and straightforward. The plugin also offers a walkthrough where it points out which bit does what, and so on. I have a quick look, all seems fine, then I dig right in, pulling up the said drum session. Can You Kick It? First up, the kick (in) drum, which is the fatter of the two – and first element, Detection, which does exactly what it says on the tin. Using the vertical slider on the left hand side of the GUI, you can open the threshold to listen and indeed look for your desired spot, allowing you to locate the point at which the drum signal is starting to come through the gate. Next, the Decay element, which is adjustable via a horizontal bar along the bottom which displays the frequencies. It’s brilliant experimenting with this and cutting and boosting signal where required; the graphics really help, but it’s what you hear
Sonnox Drum Gate
“It’s not only a great surgical tool for the pro user, it can tidy up a drum kit quickly and effectively without feeling in any way daunting thanks to such a simple GUI...” (or not as the case may be) when you dial just a little extra in or out that really amazes me – it’s so responsive, and remarkably accurate. After a little tweaking, I find if I bring the decay down to around 20%, cutting at 41Hz and again at 275Hz, it’s tight enough sounding with great separation, yet still allows for the feel and all the subtleties that go with this jazz/funk style of drumming. The leveller is the third element, and perhaps the most amazing: you can tell the plugin to ‘listen’ to your drummer, and auto-set a target area in the frequency range to allow for a consistency of sound. For example, when I click ‘auto-set’, it is programmed to ‘listen’ to a dozen or so hits, then decide where the sweet spot should be. Incredible. You can, of course, get highly meticulous and do your own levelling – and most users will - but the point I’m trying to make here is how quickly and effectively the Sonnox Drum Gate has turned a problematic drum mix into a great sounding multitrack.
It is also able to pick up the softer kicks and hits, and manage them as subtly or clinically as you desire. For kick (in), it was great being able to slide up and see how an 80Hz rather than 40Hz cut could focus on that ‘bite’ I was looking for to complement the main kick sound, and then I cut at 200Hz also, and still kept the feel and vibe. It took a lot of the dullness out of that second kick drum signal. Super Sonics What entirely blows my mind is using it on a snare; the minute I apply it, I get a genuine ‘wow’ factor: job almost done just by turning it on. But again, letting the plugin ‘listen’ to the drummer and literally adapt settings in line with his style, is the real stroke of genius. The fact you have the Shorten Decay (on softer hits) option is so perfect for this drummer, too, because of his dynamism. In terms of gain reduction, I’m at around -42dB, which is cutting off everything from the outside
world, yet losing nothing tonally, and cutting none of the snare verb off, either, which I find to be a real sticking point using my regular channel strip’s gate. Another box ticked. Finally, it’s toms, which have been a real pain on this project. Until now. Using the same process, in about a minute I’ve got wonderful control and separation over the toms with no audible compromise sonically, and what feels like zero transient loss. Because I’ve been so glued to my screen, it dawns on me that I haven’t yet A-Bd the kit with old settings against new, so I listen first without, and then with the Drum Gate dialled in, and as expected, it’s a complete transformation. In conclusion, this is a special plugin that I can’t see myself not using on any future drum project – whether they’ve been recorded at Abbey Road, or in a shed..! Pro user or aspiring pro, definitely check it out. www.sonnox.com
JAMES FRANCIES: TAKING FLIGHT
James Francies is a musical lord. Not Headliner’s words, but Mark Ronson’s. The promising and obscenely talented pianist, keyboardist and composer explains why he lets his piano do the talking. Words Alice Gustafson
lenty of young musicians show promise, but very few enjoy the sort of meteoric rise that pianist, keyboardist and composer, James Francies is currently experiencing. At only 24, the Texas-born musician has played with jazz headliners like Pat Metheny, Chris Potter, Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts, Stefon Harris, Eric Harland and Terrace Martin. He’s also found the time to carve out quite a name for himself in hip-hop and R&B circles, having played with Lauryn Hill, José James, Common, and Nas, in addition to featuring on Chance the Rapper’s Grammywinning hit No Problem, working with powerhouse vocalist, Yebba, and regularly appears with The Roots on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon alongside his mentor and friend, Questlove – also one of the producers of Broadway musical, Hamilton. Used to regularly travelling for various projects as it is, Francies is likely to be a lot busier from now on after being praised by Mark Ronson after featuring on a stripped back version of Ronson and Yebba track, Don’t Leave Me Lonely. “If you don’t know who James Francies is, he’s a 24 year old musical LORD signed to Blue Note who played on No Problem and tours with Pat Metheny!” said Ronson in an Instagram post. “He and Yebba have an incredibly special musical connection – like a psychic connection – which you all will get to partake of when Yebba’s album comes. So basically for this recording, I just sat James at the electric piano, plugged in Yebba’s mic and got the f**k out the way, like I was in a Ludacris song. James adds his own emotiveness to this song, a little more Radiohead/Glasper vibes, and Yebba’s vocals bring chills as always.” Speaking to Headliner from his home in New York, (he has just flown back from performing with Ronson and Yebba on Later... with Jools Holland in London) a jetlagged Francies is a man of few words. “I enjoy being able to describe life through sound. To me, that’s what makes music relevant; speaking on a subject without words.” Forever humble, he is taking all the recent accolades, collaborations and dream projects in his stride. “I first did a few sessions with Mark and Yebba, and Mark took a liking to me. He’s been working with her, so we both thought it would just be natural for me to join him. So everything’s kind of circular. He’s got a great sense of humour as well. Everyone in the UK has this sense of humour that’s incredible; very dry, very sarcastic – I love it.” Francies has been called ‘a pianist with liquid dynamism in his touch’, playing the piano for the first time aged four, then becoming a standout pupil at HSPVA – the renowned performing and visual arts high school whose alumnae
include Beyoncé, Jason Moran, Chris Dave, and Eric Harland, later earning a full scholarship to Manhattan’s New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. While he was earning his degree, Francies also found the time to rapidly ascend the jazz ranks and build a professional career. Early bandstand time with Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts helped him raise his profile, as did his first international tour with Chris Dave and the Drumhedz. Chris Potter tapped him for his trio along with drummer Eric Harland, and Pat Metheny assembled a trio with Francies and drummer Nate Smith. Meeting Questlove and Roots keyboardist, James Poyser a few years ago, Francies then became a go-to resource for Quest and company – subbing for Poyser on Roots concerts and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, participating in the Roots-produced Hamilton cast recording, in addition to varied film and TV score work organised by Quest. “I always naturally gravitated towards the piano,” he remembers. “I started studying classical music and other genres, and got into jazz when I was around 13. I went to this performing arts high school that a lot of great musicians went to, I got signed when I was about 19, and started touring with Chris Potter and playing with The Roots.” Poyser introduced Francies to Robert Glasper – a good friend of his, and he hasn’t looked back since. “He introduced me to The Roots, and James – who’s a great friend of mine now – brought me to the show, where I met them all, the producers and Quest. I’ll never forget this: I was in class one time, and I got a call from a Philadelphia number. They’re like, ‘Hey, can you do this gig with us this weekend?’ I said, ‘Sure!’ I thought it was gonna be some low profile thing, but it ended up being with LeBron James at the GQ fashion All Star party, playing with Nas and all these other people. That was my first gig ever with The Roots! It went really well, and from then on, Quest started calling me for stuff and for the Jimmy Fallon show. It all kind of fell into place from there.” Francies released his debut solo album, Flight, in 2018, melding his jazz mastery and pop experience on 11 searching tracks. On Flight, Francies pays homage to jazz’s past and future, bolstering the art form’s history while saying something personal. “I wanted Flight to have its own sonic identity,” he says, “so I blended electronic-sounding stuff with acoustic playing, without compromising any of the compositions or soloing. Everything was based on compositions; it was a combination of life experiences and telling a sonic story in a way that showcases all the different sides of me. It has different elements, but they’re all very organic for me, and
Headliner 02 59 Headliner
“I’ve been using Korg for years, and their boards always give me the versatility I need; the brand is also very supportive of me...” very honest. This record is for everybody. It’s for the college students to nerd out on, and it’s for somebody to pop in at home or work out to.” Francies has known his rhythm section – bassist Burniss Travis II and drummer Jeremy Dutton, both from Houston, and Dallas drummer, Mike Mitchell, who handles one tune – since his early teens. Appearing on four tracks is Houston native, Mike Moreno, who provided Francies with crucial support after he relocated to New York half a decade ago. “Whenever he was writing new music, he’d have me come over and play it,” Francies remembers. “He was always willing to share, and he’d always do gigs with me, even when I first got here. There’d be nobody in the audience, but he’d still do it.” On four other tracks, Francies’ singing lines entangle with the young vibraphone star Joel Ross, a Chicagoan the pianist met eight years ago. “Joel is one of the most talented people I know,” he says. “He’s always been that good – always.” Tenor saxophone giant Chris Potter – “a great mentor and a great bandleader,” – appears on a trio of cuts, and Yebba, Chris Turner, and Kate Kelsey-Sugg highlight one track apiece. A moving anthem to hope, My Day Will Come, was co-written by Francies and Yebba. “We met in New York and we hit it off instantly. It was this moment where you’re playing a couple of notes with somebody, and there was a connection and chemistry. We’re the best of friends and it’s cool to be working with her on her debut album with Mark – he’s overseeing and producing everything. You’re going to be hearing a lot more from her soon.” Helping craft Francies’ music is synesthesia – 60 Headliner
a condition which allows him to perceive sounds as colours. “That’s just like another sensation, I guess. I mean, when I was younger, I always remember thinking, ‘Oh yeah, this song is this colour,’ but when I got older I realised that it’s not normal for everyone else,” he laughs. “I figured everybody else experiences this too, but it’s not the case. It’s like being in my own little world. It’s like painting, in a way.”
ON THE KEYS
Francies is a Blue Note Recording Artist, endorsed by Korg Keyboards and Yamaha Pianos. “I’ve been using Korg for years now and their boards always give me the versatility I need,” he says. “The people over at Korg have paid attention to detail for so long, and they are also very supportive.” Francies says that Korg’s Grandstage, (which the brand dubs its ‘ultimate stage piano’), gives him the best of both worlds. “The simplicity of the interface – it’s just laid out in front of you and it’s easy to navigate through. Even if you’re using it for the first time or the second time, it’s easy to get through. What I love about the Grandstage is that it has five different pianos in it. I’m used to playing so many different genres that need a certain texture out of a piano. With an instrument like this, you always have what you need, whatever the style calls for. Having five different instruments in one is such a beautiful thing because you can’t go wrong. Every time I play a note, I can hear how much work has been put into it.” For the Chris Potter tour, Francies used a Yamaha CFX, in addition to a Korg Kronos on
his right hand side, a KingKorg for lead sounds, a Hammon organ to his left, running a couple of different bass patterns that he tweaked from a laptop using Logic. “I’m pretty old school when it comes to gear,” he admits. “I love the piano. For me, that’s my closest connection to speaking. If I have that, everything else just comes after it; everything starts there.” Having already worked with the best that the jazz, hip hop and soul worlds have to offer, surely Francies is in a position to make any dream collaborations happen now? “James Blake and Thundercat are people who I hope to work with in the immediate future,” he answers. “I just genuinely love their music and have been a fan for a long time.” At the time of interview, Francies is gearing up for an American tour with his trio as part of the Blue Note Records 80th anniversary tour, afterwards joining Chris Potter and Eric Harland for a European and American tour which will see him into the new year. Then Francies will start work on his second album. “I love doing all sorts of musical projects because for me, it’s all about having your own sonic identity where no matter what it is, you can still get better. If I can just have my little stamp and have my sound, for me, that’s cool. I love performing. I love travelling...and not being able to sleep,” he laughs, “I just posted this thing on Instagram where I was like, I’m done with all this shit! But the music definitely makes it worth it.” www.jamesfranciesmusic.com www.korg.com
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AND THE TEAM LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOU THERE
Conventional guitar speakers are, by their very nature, not neutral. To solve this, a full range flat response (FRFR) speaker is typically deployed. However, that all-important â€˜musicalâ€™ character musicians get when playing through guitar speakers is lost when using an FRFR. Headliner interviews John Paice, marketing and artist relations at Celestion, who explains why the F12-X200 full range live response speaker provides an (almost) neutral characteristic across the entire frequency band, but also delivers the feeling of playing through a guitar speaker. Words Alice Gustafson
or guitar players who use modelling and profiling amps, a full range flat response loudspeaker is viewed as highly desirable for delivering the output of your emulated set-up in all its glory,” begins Paice. “While this can provide an impressive amount of detail and fidelity, it can also lack the physicality and the tactile and auditory feedback you get from playing through a bona-fide guitar speaker. It feels different; colder – more sterile, perhaps.” Traditionally, electric guitar players have plugged into an amplifier connected to a speaker cabinet to create their sound. For decades, the guitar player stood in front of a wall of iconic Marshall stacks. However, Marshall – and companies like them – wouldn’t be where they are without the loudspeakers that partner their amps. “When making a purchasing decision, guitar players choose an amplifier brand based (at least in part) on whether they like that amp’s sound,” says Paice. “And it’s even more the case for the guitar speaker that is used with the amp. Unlike a home hi-fi speaker or a PA speaker at a concert, guitar speakers don’t just reproduce amplified sound, they significantly contribute to its tonality.” Recent years have seen a trend moving away from traditional amps and speakers, which can be attributed to any number of reasons: if you’re a gigging musician, amps can be heavy and awkward to carry; they can get in the way, and have a tendency to break if dropped. Meanwhile, in larger venues, it might be necessary to mic up the amp, which is difficult to do consistently, night after night. This in turn can result in an inconsistent guitar sound. “It also means that the player has one fundamental sound that they take with them always, which is not the most flexible situation to be in, particularly if you’re in a band who plays lots of different styles of music,” Paice points out. In response to this, a new breed of amplifier evolved. Referred to as ‘modelling’ or ‘profiling’ amps, these amplifiers incorporate sophisticated signal processing
functionality, which enable them, when used together with impulse response software, to closely and quite convincingly emulate any and all amplifier and speaker types. The only strictures being memory space available in the hardware and the budget limitations of the guitar player – as well as their desire to collect different sounds.
Essentially, the modelling amp has all the required tonality already programmed into it. “That being the case, we want the amp’s output to be reproduced by very neutral sounding speakers,” Paice stresses. “Conventional guitar speakers are, by their very nature, not neutral – their purpose is to contribute a desirable tonality to the guitar sound. The modelled tone already has speaker tone built into it, so you don’t want to overlay another guitar speaker’s tone over it, adding an additional flavour to the one you already chose. By and large, this isn’t really desirable.” Up until recently, the solution has been to deploy a FRFR speaker, which provides a neutral sound reproduction across the audio spectrum. Being very neutral-sounding – this solves the problem of ‘too many tones,’ but simultaneously introduces another issue. Paice explains that if there is a downside to this kind of device, it’s the fact that the very attributes enabling the speaker to perform in this neutral-sounding way, can also render it somewhat lifeless-sounding; removing a degree of musicality from the finished performance that make it less appealing both to play and to listen to. “They often lack the physicality a guitar speaker brings,” he warns. “The upshot is that while the tone of IRs are nearly identical to playing through a real speaker, playing them through the FRFR speaker feels different. The problem with FRFR is that it doesn’t sound very ‘musical’. Guitarists will tell you that there’s a feeling and a character you get by playing through guitar speakers that you don’t get
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“You can use the F12-X200 anywhere you are using a modelling amp with impulse responses: in a backline cab, a monitor wedge on stage, at home, or in the studio...” with the FRFR. It’s often described as stiff, sterile – dead almost. It reproduces the sound, but not the feeling of playing.” The current crop of FRFR speakers are essentially pro-audio drivers, manufactured to offer as neutral and linear an output as possible. In this way, they are very different from guitar speakers, which are purposely designed to break up into harmonic resonances. Guitar speakers are designed to produce musical-sounding distortion and other desirable tonal colouration by using thinner cones, together with other sympathetic materials and design techniques. This is where Celestion’s F12-X200 comes in, which yes, is a speaker for guitarists, however, is quite different from the manufacturer’s standard guitar speaker product range: it’s an MI product that channels the speaker manufacturer’s PA know-how. What the F12-X200 speaker does is bring both key characteristics together in one loudspeaker. It truly is a full range driver, delivering a frequency response from 60Hz all the way up to 20kHz, with a sensitivity of 96dB. dB. The higher frequency part of the signal is reproduced using a Celestion compression driver which has been integrated using a high quality 64 Headliner
crossover circuit. This enables the F12-X200 to reproduce the full spectrum of audible frequencies for the most accurate output possible – in whatever environment and set-up a musician might be emulating. The F12-X200’s response is remarkably neutral, with Celestion technology built in to ensure there are no unwanted colourations that could overpower the input signal. However, it has been built with the lighter moving mass and straighter-sided cone of the type commonly used with guitar speakers – giving the F12-X200 that traditional guitar speaker feel. The whole response of the speaker is live, delivering all the physical response and tactile feedback musicians would expect from playing a traditional guitarist’s set-up. “It doesn’t just sound like you’re playing a guitar through a guitar speaker, it feels like it too,” enthuses Paice. “You can use the F12-X200 anywhere you are using a modelling amp with impulse responses: in a backline cab, a monitor wedge on stage, at home, or in the studio!” www.celestion.com
THE NEXT STAGE IN SOUND.
Through sweat, noise, and heavy wear, the TwinPlex™ subminiature lavalier stands up to the toughest conditions to make every word a clear statement of quality. shure.co.uk/twinplex ©2019 Shure Incorporated. See shure.com/trademarks.
The Soundtrack To Christmas
THE SOUNDTRACK TO CHRISTMAS And no, we don’t mean Mariah. Headliner meets SIREN, the company behind the music for some of the UK’s biggest festive ads of 2019. “Christmas has become a very important period for us as it provides opportunities to be part of some of the best and most anticipated creative work of the year,” says Sean Craigie Atherton, company director and executive producer of award-winning music production company, SIREN. Opening its doors in January 2011, SIREN specialises in producing original compositions, music supervision and strategy for production companies, advertising agencies and their clients, and in recent years has worked on various high profile campaigns. The unofficial competition to have the best Christmas ad in the UK gets more competitive (and more widely scrutinised by the public every year), with retail, supermarket and fast food giants like John Lewis, Waitrose, McDonald’s, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, M&S, Ikea, Argos, Asda, and more throwing their projects into the festive ring (or wreath). SIREN has worked on three McDonald’s campaigns in a row, including 2019’s high profile Christmas ad, Reindeer Ready, in addition to Sainsbury’s very own festive effort, Nicholas The Sweep. Speaking to Headliner at SIREN’s central
London office, Atherton explains the importance of collaboration, working with Alex Baranowski on the short McDonald’s advert, which depicts a young girl befriending a reindeer, later on heading down to Maccy Ds with her family when she runs out of treats. “Alex’s talent for writing rich and sophisticated arrangements with tender melodies that tug on the heartstrings was crucial,” he stresses. “His execution balanced the main requirements of the brief: melodically emotive, without losing sight of the domestic setting of the story. In order for the music to move the audience in 90 seconds, we needed to represent our hero, Ellie and her family, and give them greater depth.” Baranowski’s use of warm and nuanced instrumentation brings an intimacy to the film that helps the audience connect with the characters. The piece begins with a gentle waltzing piano, with twinkling counterpoint provided by celeste (none other than the famous Harry Potter celeste!) – eventually introducing a seven-piece string ensemble. “The score’s arrangement increases the layers of instrumentation as the bonds
between the characters become stronger,” Atherton elaborates. “This technique helps to create an emotional arc to the film. The solo violin line is added to not only provide variation in the music, but to also heighten the emotion for the audience.” The string arrangement creates a harmonic base that moves with the highs and lows of the story, brought to life by conductor, Andy Brown with The London Metropolitan Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios in Studio Two – engineered by Joe Rubel. “Naturally, we jump at any opportunity to record in this sacred place!” Atherton grins. The McDonald’s score had to be intimate in both its scale and instrumentation choices. If the music was too grand or lush, it ran the risk of being disconnected from the story. “We recorded two violins, two violas, two cellos and one bass cello. And a live celeste – did I mention it’s the same celeste John Williams used for the Harry Potter score?” he enthuses. “This was recorded for the additional Christmas magic the client needed.” Meanwhile, Sainsbury’s Nicholas The Sweep depicts the ‘totally true story’ of a young boy who is banished after being accused
The Soundtrack To Christmas
“His execution balanced the main requirements of the brief: melodically emotive, without losing sight of the domestic setting of the story...” of stealing an orange from the first ever Sainsbury’s 150 years ago, who goes on to fill out a much bigger red suit. The magical, Elfman-esque score is quite a departure from the McDonald’s advert, and is longer – which required a different approach: “Exactly,” he nods. “The music brief for the Sainsbury’s Christmas ad was quite the ask – it needed to be an epic, filmic score, telling the story of Nicholas the sweep and guiding us on an emotional journey from harsh Dickensian life, through injustice, heart-wrenching jeopardy, to warm, fuzzy feels, and revelatory heroic goosebumps. No pressure then! “We worked with composer, Chris White who created the lush orchestral score, dealing deftly with the compositional challenges of establishing a theme that could evolve and develop as we move through the narrative, as well as instrumentation for the different characters – all without missing a story beat – and within a limited time frame.” The choral vocals used at key moments in the score evoked emotions from loneliness and despair, through the banishment scene, to a magical presence with Nicholas’ return – before helping to transition to pure joy on Christmas morning. Once again, conductor, Andy Brown and The London Metropolitan Orchestra brought another dimension to the score with a live performance recorded at
London’s Angel Studios. Sainsbury’s required a bigger session, including 21 strings and six brass musicians, as well as live vocals. “We were sad to hear that Angel would be closing, so we were very motivated to get in and have one last session with them,” he says, sincerely. “We’ve used Angel throughout the last nine years of SIREN. It’s hugely rich in history and has been a go-to studio for producers and labels for years.” SIREN ensures the right composers are paired to a brief, then facilitates all of the live recordings, talent booking, orchestration, contracts and licensing. SIREN is usually approached in August or September for Christmas projects. “If you’re not still revising by October it usually means you’re out of the running. It can be very stressful!” he laughs. In terms of what material the team are sent to work on, usually the agency or director will have a temp track which gets applied to the offline edit. This helps the editor form a tempo structure for the picture, whilst giving the client an understanding of how the film works with musical dynamics. This can be both a positive and negative for the music supervisor. “If a client only sees the offline edit with the temp track, it can be very difficult to break that spell with new, original work,” Atherton admits. “On the positive side, it can also benefit us as it provides a
certified direction on how to move forward. Occasionally a client sends us films with no musical reference or direction – which allows us to approach the brief with impartial ears.” “What we try to do at SIREN is to always understand what the purpose of the music is, and what the audience needs to feel. The emotional core of the music and story is the absolute key. Once we have that (the skeleton of sorts) we can begin to flesh it out with genre, instrumentation, dynamic and punctuation. This can be led by present trends, traditional rules (for example orchestral scores) or individual tastes of the team.” Anyone that watches TV in the UK knows that once the Christmas ads start, there is no let up until the new year. So when does SIREN get to first see the finished result of their hard work? “Often, the production process is so close to the wire we don’t always get a chance to see the final film before it’s aired,” Atherton answers. “The joy of finally seeing your work - which usually work you’ve invested months of your life into - on air never really dissipates. That said, there’s a strict ‘you only get to watch your ad on the telly once’ rule in my house, so you have to enjoy it while you can!” www.siren.uk.com
The Christmas Super Bowl
THE CHRISTMAS SUPER BOWL Factory Studios is a regular hit factory in terms of its much-loved TV, film, online, radio, and commercial work. Headliner visits the award-winning sound design and audio facility behind the iconic John Lewis Christmas adverts to talk friendly competition, personal favourites, and the gear that makes it all possible. “Nobody expected it to become what it’s become, and the pressure gets a bit bigger every year,” admits Anthony Moore, founding partner of Factory Studios and the Factory Family – a multi award-winning sound design and audio facility with projects that span TV, film, online, radio and some of the most heartwarming adverts to grace the small and big screen – including pretty much every high profile Christmas ad of recent times. “Exactly – and especially with John Lewis, there’s more expectation every time now! When you go online and you see the amount of people that have viewed each ad, I think, ‘Oh God...this thing has come out of my studio, and 30 million people are watching it!’ It’s pretty mind blowing, but I’m so proud, because we put so much love and effort into them.” It seems to be up to the UK public to decide which ad is crowned the best Christmas effort each year (the Brits love a good vote), it now being commonplace for corporations to ramp up the budgets to filmic levels (Sky roped in E.T himself and a grown up Elliott this year). Who will produce
the winning ad? John Lewis? Waitrose? Sainsbury’s? Moore dubs it the ‘Christmas Super Bowl’. “I love it because it’s the one time of the year where people actually want to watch an advert, and go out of their way to watch them. I think sometimes commercials get a bit of a rough deal because they’re trying to sell you stuff, but a lot of what we do is about telling amazing stories. Yes, there might be a brand at the end, but they’re engaging and there’s so much talent and craft that goes into making these films. For me, some of the sound design in commercials is right up there with the best feature films - there is amazing talent in our industry.” Talking to Headliner at Factory’s central London studio complex, Moore – who started his career as the ‘mystery DJ behind all those crazy Ibiza mix albums’ - has accumulated over 20 years of award winning experience in audio, sound design, music and broadcasting. He says that a key part of producing such well-crafted work is that the team is not a factory production line, acting more like a family-run business.
“Every person plays a key part here, and it’s quite a small team – there’s about 20 of us,” he nods. “It’s a bit of a family; we all care for each other, we all give a shit, and we all want to do great work.” John Lewis is one of the big players in the Christmas ads scene (ranking at numbers two, three, four, five, eight, 11 and 14 for the most-watched festive ads of all time). This year saw Factory work on its ninth John Lewis Christmas campaign, Excitable Edgar, (in partnership with Waitrose & Partners), in addition to the McDonald’s Reindeer Ready ad, the BBC’s #XmasLife, and Dogs Trust’s A dog is for life, not just for Christmas campaigns. “The sooner you start talking about your sound design, the sooner you can think about how it could eventually sound,” says Moore. “We’ll always go in at the first edit stage and look at what the client wants to get out of the sound design, and what they want the music to do. “This gives them a base point to see where we go from there. From that point on, it’s just a case of refining and making things better by updating things in post.”
The Christmas Super Bowl
“For Christmas 2019, the ad creators were trying to cheer up the world; they’re all about togetherness...” Where The Magic Happens With six Pro Tools HD studios and the UK’s first Dolby Atmos licensed suite for commercials and trailers, Factory offers a comprehensive audio production and sound design service. “We did Pro Tools way back in ‘97,” Moore remembers. “When everyone was like, ‘Oh, that’s not very good – you can’t do it on the computer!’ Lo and behold, 20-odd years later, it’s the industry standard. This is going back to the days when we just came out of using tape and everything was going into digital audio workstations – those were brave times back then! Pro Tools is is amazing. It gives flexibility in what we do because we flip between music and sound design; in terms of an editing piece of kit, there’s nothing that comes close. It’s so intuitive, and for mixing is brilliant and speedy.” Across its studios, Factory uses Avid Pro Tools HDX in every room, two SSL AWS948 consoles, an Avid D-Control, and two Avid S6 consoles, with Focal monitors in every studio bar the Dolby Atmos-certified mix room for trailers and commercials, which features an immersive Alcons Audio configuration. “Recording voices through the SSL consoles makes everything sound great. Sometimes we master music out of the desk, so you can get that lovely EQ and compression. It’s nice to have a bit of analogue
freedom in this digital age, because a lot of the other rooms in the facility are purely digital. We can just dial it in when we need to, or give things a certain sound when we want. I would never say goodbye to the analogue stuff because it’s obviously massively resurgent again, but it does bring a character and warmth to things. I like to use my hands and get a feel for stuff, so we love SSL. We’ve actually got all the SSL preamps around the building as well for recording voices – just because it makes everybody sound amazing.” Moore must have lots of go-to plugins to help sprinkle that extra bit of magic? “We use Waves a lot; the L316 Limiter is used for a lot of our online mastering at Factory. R-Bass is a wonderful tool for dialling some extra bottom end in to the mix, and works a treat on voice. H-Reverb and H-Delay are great for creative sound design. The SSL 4000 Collection is a lovely set of tools that sits well with our SSL desks and allows us some SSL magic in the box. “Every engineer has their own niche, but I’m a big fan of an old school Focusrite Red. It’s a classic compressor – I feel like I’ve used it forever! It’s used in all my projects and sits on the mix buss doing its thing, glueing it all together and making things sound great.” Virtual Instruments also have a big part to play in Factory Studios’ workflow: “Spitfire Audio: the orchestral dons!” he laughs. “Every library of theirs is top class,
and they just get better and better; they are becoming a staple in a lot of my more musical sound design work. I’m a big fan of these guys; I love the community they’ve created, and their libraries always seem on point: LCO Textures, Albion Tundra, and Eric Whitacre Choir seem to find their way into a lot of my musical sound design concepts. I’m super impressed with their recent BBC Symphony Orchestra release too – it’s a superb orchestral toolkit with such a user-friendly interface. It’s becoming a staple component for a lot of my music projects.” With so many incredible festive adverts behind them, understandably Moore struggles to pick a favourite, although he does have a special place in his heart for Dogs Trust’s advert, as it features the vocal talents of his own dog, Ron – who also voices Excitable Edgar in the John Lewis advert. “The John Lewis work is what I’m super proud of, just because it’s become the iconic advertising brand of the last 10 years. I love where we got to with them this year, and I thought our work on McDonald’s was really lovely too. I’m just glad a lot of the 2019 ads have been fun, and weren’t trying to make you cry! They’re all about togetherness, and call me cheesy and old fashioned, but that’s what we need.” www.factory.uk.com
Eliminating ‘can’t’ from your vocabulary is the most important piece of advice Ralph Rolle, drummer for Nile Rodgers and Chic can give you. Headliner meets the musician in London, who shares his secrets on life, drumming and cookies. Words Alice Gustafson
alph Rolle has been playing drums professionally since the age of 18, and more than four decades later is a much sought-after drummer and producer. You’d need to take a big breath before reeling off his impressive performance and recording credits, however he is best known for working with Nile Rodgers and Chic – who he still plays with. From The Bronx, New York, Rolle first started drumming when his older brother placed a drum kit in their small, shared bedroom. “We had twin beds right in the middle, and the drums gave me an excuse to be able to come across the bed. That wasn’t allowed,” he chuckles. “I’m left-handed and my brother is right-handed, so he told me I could play, but I wasn’t allowed to switch the drums around. Since then, no one ever corrected my posture! Because honestly, there’s no real correct way to play. The argument I always tell people is, if someone tells you you’re playing wrong, just ask them to explain Jimi Hendrix. That will end it. There’s nothing to talk about! One of the best guitar players of our lives played an upside down guitar.” Headliner meets Rolle on a drizzly day in one of the oldest and most historical pubs in London. Despite his busy schedule, he takes his time, listens intently to what others say with genuine interest, laughs often, and is warm and polite to everyone he encounters. And he still plays ‘wrong’. “I still play left handed,” he nods. “It’s kind of worked to my advantage, because I’m doing a lot of extra stuff like percussion parts, hand claps with my left hand, and I’m still holding the groove down and doing fills with my right hand. My brother became an engineer – he’s a lot like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory – and he wanted to theorise my playing style. He says that what I’m doing is I’m taking the path of least resistance, because my hands never have to cross and it opens me up to do other things. He just went through this whole thing, and I said, ‘Brother, I’m just playing!’ But he was right. I mean, it is kind of taking the path of least resistance. But it seems to be working okay!” Rolle and Rodgers go back years – Rolle is currently on a US tour with Nile Rodgers and Chic which will see him through until summer this year. When Rolle first went to a Chic rehearsal, he quickly found out the way Rodgers works: “We were playing the medley, and in the middle of it Nile stops, packs up his stuff and starts leaving, and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I must have
sounded like complete crap!’ And I’m one to ask, right? So I said, ‘Is everything okay?’ He said, ‘Yeah, everything’s fine. You sound great. I’ll see you in Switzerland!’ And that was that. I guess he had other stuff to do!” Rolle has been loyal to Rodgers since that day, even turning down the opportunity to play at The Democratic National Convention for Barack Obama in 2008. “I told the guy that asked me no because I was working with Niles. He looked at me like I cursed at his mother: ‘You said no to me? The great and powerful Oz?’” he booms, eyes widening. “It’s just that I am very, very happy to work with Niles. It’s a good gig; Niles is a good person.” One gig he sure as hell wasn’t going to turn down was Glastonbury in 2017, which saw Chic perform atop the iconic Pyramid Stage. “It was the most beautiful day,” he remembers. “The weather was beyond perfect, and it was completely, totally packed. They estimate there were about 225,000 people out there that day. We went on after Barry Gibb, who was amazing. I have just loved the Bee Gees my whole life, as everyone does, and they did a killer show.” Rolle is not one to act cool around his heroes, excitedly telling me how he got to shake Gibb’s hand and take photos with him. “Oh, it was huge for me! Then we went on stage and I did get a little nervous when I looked out. I know we put on a great show, but when I saw the audience go out, up the hill, over the hill and disappear, I was like, ‘Wooow!’ But the nervousness went away really fast as soon as we started.” Rolle has a real love of people and entertaining. “Probably the most comfortable place for me is in front of an audience now,” he realises. “I love talking to people. I just love it – I don’t know what it is about! The communication part of performing is so beautiful, it’s just giving them the love and sharing something of yourself with people. The energy comes back and it starts this revolving, generation of energy and before you know it, you’re all connected.” Rolle doesn’t have a bad word to say about anybody, learning from every experience – good or bad. “I’d say that 99.5% of people that I’ve worked with are very, very cool. Although there was one particular artist that was the meanest person – she was so, so mean,” he laughs. “She’s an old Motown artist and they warned me that she’s pretty mean to drummers, so I was ready. But they were right. Her drum charts haven’t been updated for at least 20 years, and it had a bunch of different markings on it and you
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“Can’t is the building block of slowing yourself down; if you elimate the word, and start working in a more positive way, it will open up doors...” had to decipher which ones to follow based on how she wanted to do the arrangement. I think I made the bad mistake of asking if there was a possibility of getting another drum chart. She told me there’s nothing wrong with her charts and to read it the way it is. I said ‘Yes ma’am’. I was very respectful.” Rolle recently performed on the soundtracks for Cats and Elton John biopic, Rocketman, which saw him visit Abbey Road Studios. “The director and Taron Egerton walked in. I’m very rarely starstruck, but I loved him. He sang one of the songs live while we played it, which was crazy. He didn’t warm up or anything. He walked right up to the mic and nailed it. He’s dope. As for Abbey Road, I’m always blown away when I walk through those doors. It’s a dream come true for any musician to play there.” When inside Abbey Road’s big, orchestral room, Rolle couldn’t contain himself. “I love Black Panther! I’m probably the only person that’s seen it seven times on five different continents.To walk into a room and to know that the soundtrack was done there...I was a little kid. I was screaming! I have a video of me taking a full panoramic shot, going: (mimes silent screaming). If I could do soundtrack work all the time, I would love that – just Nile Rodgers and soundtracks.”
When he’s not working on projects at his record company, Phat Kat Productions, or getting his Le freak, c’est chic on, Rolle takes his ‘How to Get and Keep A Gig’ drumming masterclass on tour: when you see him drum, that little boy jumping onto his brother’s drum kit comes alive, the sheer joy of performing taking over. 72 Headliner
During these sessions, Rolle shares his exceptional drumming skills, anecdotes from his 40 year professional music career, and gives lots of insider secrets on how to get your foot in the door of your chosen career path. Rolle has already brought his masterclass to Tokyo, Dublin, Berlin, Manchester, New York and London, receiving critical acclaim from both professional and student musicians, producers and other creatives. It all started when N.Y.U invited Rolle to be a guest speaker to classes of graduating students, where he utilised his lesser known talent as a motivational speaker. The result is that Rolle’s masterclasses are part drum lesson, part life lesson. The thing he puts a lot of emphasis on is what he calls the five Ps: passion, power, placement, performance and purity. “I go into different anecdotes about what that means and hopefully people will grab something from that. It’s more about the connection between where you are and how you will get where you want to be.” Rolle only turns serious when mentioning the C word: can’t. “I talk about eliminating the word ‘can’t’ from your vocabulary; you should allow yourself to get out of your own way to do the things that are necessary. ‘Can’t’ is the building block of slowing you down for the rest of your life. If you eliminate the word and start working on things in a more positive way, it will open up doors for you to understand that mistakes are just as important as the trials. That’s exactly why I started doing masterclasses; I care about the music, and I care about you – that’s what’s important to me.”
Rolle is a Yamaha-endorsed artist, preferring to use a Yamaha Absolute Custom Nouveau or Maple with a black sparkle finish, paired with Audix D6 and Shure B91a mics for his kick drum, Shure SM57 and B98AMPs for snares, a Shure KSM137 for hi-hats, a B98AMP for toms, two AKG C414XLS for overheads, a Shure SM57 for the tambourine, a Roland SPD SX sampling pad, and two BSS Audio AR-133 active DI boxes. Rolle also owns a successful bakery which operates in New York and Tokyo. When not playing with Chic, he can be found in The Soul Snacks Cookie Company at 5.30am working with his team of bakers, all of whom are from the local community. Fans of his grandmother’s secret cookie recipe include Whoopi Goldberg, and also famously from the Bronx, Jennifer Lopez. ( J.Lo eats cookies?) “This goes back a little way,” he smiles. “But one of the accounts that we had was Sony studios. Our cookies were a treat for the people recording. One day, we get a phone call that there were no more cookies and J.Lo was coming in. She requested that the cookies be there by the time she gets there. We were closed, but we had to open up, make some cookies and run them down to the studio for her to have. I never had a chance to talk to her about that!” Sadly, Rolle doesn’t have any cookies on him, but promises to send some in the post. True to his word, a batch turns up at Headliner HQ the very next day. You’ll find us in the queue behind J.Lo. www.ralphrolle.com
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REF LINK & BEYOND
Every wondered what the refs are talking about on the pitch? We paid a visit to Wuppertal, Germany, to check out Riedel’s ROC facility – a powerful, bespoke communications hub currently dedicated to monitoring audio and video for the DFL Bundesliga 1 and 2 leagues. Words Paul Watson
n arrival at the ROC (Riedel Remote Operations Centre), I see 12 big screens, filled with images of elite German footballers, a map of Germany with each of the 36 Bundesliga teams ‘virtually pinned’ to it, what looks like nine bespoke workstations, and a lot of stuff that isn’t quite registering with me at this point – it’s just clear that the ROC is a technological beast, and I’m about to find out how and why. “So you’re looking at footage from the Bundesliga,” opens Riedel’s project manager, Carsten Voßkühler. “We can monitor up to 10 matches at one time, all from here, and it’s all operated from here also. We have the potential to run anything from in here, but for now it’s the Bundesliga, which runs here every weekend.” To break this down, what Riedel has created here is something of a communications mothership from which they can monitor multiple channels of video and audio to the highest detail, allowing their operators to communicate – in this instance – with referees in the Bundesliga catering to all of their communications needs. This season, the DFL (Deutsche Fußball Liga) and DFB (Deutscher Fußball-Bund) have deployed Riedel Bolero S referee communications systems for all 306 2nd Bundesliga games, and in the final 15 DFB Cup matches. As a result, league referees can experience all of the benefits that the 1st Bundesliga referees have already been enjoying for more than a year, including high-transmission security, significantly improved voice and sound quality, and guaranteed quality assurance from the ROC in Wuppertal. The ROC further expanded its capacity and kit list at the start of this season in order to make way for the rapid expansion in remote management services. The Bolero S wireless intercom system, which boasts remotely monitored VOX voice activation, was developed by Riedel’s Managed Sports Services division in close cooperation with DFL and DFB experts to provide the ultimate communication system between referees, assistants on the pitch, and video assistants in the Video Assist Center (VAC) in Cologne. From the ROC operators can remotely control, configure, and calibrate all system components in real-time, ensuring maximum security and optimum sound quality. “After the successful premiere in the Bundesliga last season, it quickly became clear that we would also be using
the Riedel solution in the 2nd Bundesliga and for the DFB Cup,” says Ansgar Schwenken, DFL director of football affairs and fans. “Riedel’s tailor-made technologies and comprehensive system management from the ROC in Wuppertal have considerably enhanced both the referee comms and the integration of the video assistant. The cooperation between the DFL and Riedel is a perfect example of how innovative technology and the emotion inherent in football can be perfectly harmonised.” As a result of the implementation, all of the 2nd Bundesliga’s 18 stadiums are now equipped with the appropriate Artist and Bolero hardware, and Riedel’s support capabilities in the ROC have been raised to a whole other level. The ROC now offers space for 12 audio specialists who can monitor up to 10 matches simultaneously on any given Bundesliga Saturday. The processing power comes courtesy of RSP-1232HL SmartPanels – fully customisable workstations for each ROC operator which include patented Hybrid Lever Keys and phase-accurate stereo speakers; and in addition to these, there are also 12 RCP-1028 panels, six RCP-1128 panels, tand 12 2300-Series SmartPanels, all equipped with the MediorNet Control App, which allows the team to access the video signals from the Cologne VAC and distribute the live images to their screens while at the same time being able to customise each monitoring position to each operator’s needs. As with any major setup such as this, redundancy is of paramount importance: there is a backup power generator which means even in the event of a major power failure, the real-time monitoring of the football matches remains unaffected.
MATCH DAY CHAT
180 Bolero belt packs are deployed across the 36 Bundesliga stadiums – five per club, and Riedel can see all of them from the ROC, even the status of each unit’s battery power. “We see when they are going into the charger, and when somebody takes them out – all from here,” explains Voßkühler. “So it’s total monitoring, basically. We have three antennas and one Artist system per stadium: two on the infield, one for redundancy; and another antenna down in the changing room for the referees, so that when they come to the stadium, they can start talking to us or to the colleagues in the VAC right away. That was very important
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“It’s a different situation depending on each stadium: Dortmund is very loud, but a match in Bundesliga 2 on a Monday night might be way quieter; we factor all of this in when optimising the audio levels...” for us and for our client, because they are in a silent situation; it’s calm, and it’s no stress, and they can put the Ref Link on and talk to their colleagues and make sure everything is working well.” It all begins about five hours prior to the kick off, when Riedel carries out the first system tests: “Five or so hours before kick off, our operators come to the ROC and start to communicate with Hawkeye, who deal with the goal line technologies, and are on site,” Voßkühler continues. “Hawkeye takes our belt packs and does some system tests, then two hours before the match starts, the referees come to the stadium, then Hawkeye gives the belt packs to the referees.” After this, the refs head down to the pitch to take a look around, have a chat, go back to change, and then 30 minutes before kick off, head down to the pitch once more for their warmup. “It’s at this point that our operators start making some adjustments to the system from the ROC: is the referee talking loud, is he too quiet, is the stadium really loud? It’s a different situation depending on each stadium: for example, if you’re in Dortmund, it is very loud, but if you’re covering a match in the Bundesliga 2 on a Monday evening, there might only be 4,000 fans, so it’s way quieter. All of this is factored in while optimising the audio level for the specific situation. 76 Headliner
“We’re doing it over the whole game: when something changes - for example, when the microphone is not in a perfect position - we can see it from here. We even know on which side every single referee likes to have his headphones; and we make the impressions of the ears like we do with the F1 drivers, using silicone, so each referee gets his own perfect custom fitting just like an in-ear monitor.”
One operator could be working on as many as three matches simultaneously, so they have to have voice awareness of who is talking and from which match. That must be pretty stressful, no? “Oh, I think so,” smiles Voßkühler. “And although you might not think the refs are talking a lot of the time, in fact they do have to communicate quite a lot, so that has to be physically tiring for the refs, too - running around the whole time with the players, communicating with different voices during the game.” You must hear some colourful language, too... “Oh that can be very interesting! You don’t know how many requests we get about that!” It’s quite a thing putting trust in a new technology, especially in such a highly emotional sport as football, surely? “Yes, and you must have trust,” declares Voßkühler. “You’re combining these two elements of technology: on the one side it’s like straight,
cool technology; on the other, you have humans running around, and it’s a highly emotional topic. So to get to this point, that’s really a very sensitive thing.” It was the DFL that approached Riedel, not the other way around, which also speaks volumes: “They had difficulty with the old system, and liked the idea of working with us as we are quite involved in all parts of football; Thomas [Riedel, founder] said ‘yes, we can help’, as he always does, and six months later, Bolero S was born.” And it’s a whole life cycle, Voßkühler confirms: “Teams like Frankfurt or Berlin – their stadiums have the Riedel infrastructure already, as they’re using it for their own TV; and on top of that, you have some clubs using it for coach communication, where the coach is talking to the strategist who sits in the stand,” Voßkühler explains. “So as you can see, that communication infrastructure really is a life cycle: we’re getting from the TV studio to the guests at home, right up to the referee communication in the stadium. “In terms of sustainability, it’s a huge step. We’re not doing broadcast production - that’s the business of our customers - but we are monitoring and servicing them to a really high level, and we’re proud to be doing so.” www.riedel.net
BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL GAME we chat to dfb referee, nicolas winter, about his experiences on and off the football field, and why the sport is such a great leveller... What’s a typical working week for a referee? It’s very exciting. Similar to freelancers, referees coordinate their day-to-day business on their own. Monday’s schedule usually includes recovering from the weekend before getting right back into a training routine. It’s not only about fitness: to be ideally prepared, you also need a general match analysis with a referee coach, including video analysis. Of course, I also watch the other matches of the day as preparation, which helps me plan possible courses of action for my own games. This is an essential element of theoretical preparation. Tell us a little about your fitness regime... I have an athletics coach who I train with several times a week; and at the same time, we have a great athletics coach at the DFB who provides us with an individually tailored, holistic fitness program. This includes nutrition, regenerative measures, and much more. After the analysis of the last match day, we already start preparing for the next game. For this purpose, I analyse the two teams whose game I will be leading. We prepare for each season in a very detailed and systematic manner: a total of six weeks after the summer break, including one week at the DFB summer training camp. We also spend the winter break preparing for the second half of the season. In January 2020, the one-week training camp for DFB elite referees takes place in Portugal.
How crucial are comms on a match day? Communication is absolutely key on the pitch. This applies not only to communication between those on the pitch – the referees, assistant referees, and fourth officials – but also when the referee communicates with the video assistant in Cologne. Talking to my assistants on the field during the game is one thing, but the connection to the Video-Assist Centre in Cologne and also to Riedel’s Remote Operations Centre in Wuppertal before the game is just as crucial. And it works perfectly. We have a crisp and clear audio connection. That’s worth its weight in gold when you look at the sound levels in the stadiums. The voice quality of the system is absolutely critical. For me, I can say that my experience with the Bolero S has been nothing but positive. England recently introduced VAR - and the initial reaction has been mixed, to say the least..! What do you think about this technology, and how do we get it right? I believe that technological innovation always requires a process of sensitisation - this was and is also the case in Germany. Every technological innovation needs some time to evolve. In the case of an obvious misperception on the part of the referee, the Review Area, as the ‘Pitch Side Monitor’ is called in Germany, is certainly a valuable tool. And this is already standard in other sports: just think of American football or ice
“football has a lot of power, moves the masses, and brings together all kinds of social classes...”
hockey. The referee has the ability to evaluate his own observation, to correct himself if necessary, and make the right decision.
What are the best aspects of football – and where would you like to see some change? Football has a lot of power, moves the masses, and brings together all kinds of social classes. And, it is universal. It is played all over the world, from Bhutan and Gibraltar to Trinidad and Tobago. Football is supposed to unite people, so the issue of respect in football is more important today than ever. I would like to see respect on and off the pitch getting the attention it deserves. Emotion in football is fantastic, but certain limits must not be exceeded. Professional football has a clear role model function: we need mutual respect between referees and players on the pitch, in the stands, and anywhere where football is played; this is where everyone involved needs to play their part. www.riedel.net 77 Headliner
EDC Orlando 2019
In Stereo Bloom
EDC ORLANDO 2019: IN STEREO BLOOM EDC Orlando 2019 was the largest yet, covering around 40 acres of footprint at Tinker Field – around 25% more than the 2018 event – and attracting more than 225,000 attendees, around 50% up on last year’s festival. We spent some time at the Stereo Bloom stage to chat about the Coda Audio system which played host to many of the most exciting emerging electronic music artists. EDC is an event which quite literally takes over a city – yet unlike some huge festivals, it feels less chaotic, more concentrated, and really friendly; and the artist roster is monumental, ranging from superstar DJs such as Deadmau5, Steve Aoki, and Jauz (featured in this edition of Headliner), to some of the fast-evolving crop of self-made EDM talent such as Wenzday, also featured in this edition, and one of the many artists to play the Stereo Bloom Stage, powered by Coda Audio. One of the PA providers for the Stereo Bloom Stage was ESP – a company which has always tried to lead the way in terms of audio technology, and isn’t afraid to play a curve ball or two. “We’ve been looking for a long time for that next loudspeaker product which could provide a better phase response, and just had a much more natural, clear tone,” explains ESP’s Bill Danilczyk. “We have a number
of boxes, and we use them for what we feel they’re best suited to, but we’d got to the point where we’d had a good system for 20-plus years and needed to bite the bullet and invest in something new.” It was at InfoComm 2019 when Danilczyk got the chance to first listen to what Coda Audio had on offer – and he was immediately sold on the concept, and more importantly, the sound. “Number one, the high fidelity of the sound is amazing; and the real game-changer for me is Coda’s DDP driver,” he continues. “You get the same amazing fidelity out of the Coda system like you would out of the highest quality hi-fi systems; getting that at much higher outputs blew my mind right away. And whatever you put into it, you start listening to the music that you’ve heard one thousand times, yet all of a sudden you hear new things. These kind of intricacies and this level of sonic
detail is something that was just totally missed before – and that translates to the live stage.” One of the things that’s very important to Danilczyk is the openness of a speaker: “The high end is so good, and totally effortless: the fact that Coda can do -6dB to 22kHz means you’ll get an absolutely perfect 18kHz, which is really what you want; and all that distortion that clouds the high end was gone, so it made the highs so much clearer. Coda’s four-inch voice coils also mean it’s a much stronger motor in the box, and the fact that you’re going from a paper cone to a carbon fibre is fantastic. This was just some of the stuff I could hear right away. Then once you understand the technology behind it, you realise it’s entirely transparent: there is no smoke and mirrors; this wasn’t processing, and it wasn’t phase shifting to steer something, you know? What you hear is exactly what you are hearing. And in the low end, well, the
EDC Orlando 2019
In Stereo Bloom
“Not one artist asked for anything: there was no ‘turn it up’, ‘add more highs’, not even an ‘add more bass’; this Coda Audio system just sounded amazing...” Coda driver is amazing: the way it controls the cone is fantastic, and the impact of the bass is phenomenal.” Stealing The Stage Danilczyk tells Headliner he put a clip taken from the front of house at EDC up on Facebook to demonstrate how good the system is: “You don’t really see the speakers, and it was only taken on my iPhone 8, but you can still hear the impact of the bass,” he smiles. TES provided a DiGiCo SD9 at FOH for EDC Orlando, and the main Coda Audio rig consisted of the following: 12 AiRAY per side, with raised outfills of eight ViRAY per side; and four APS for front fills. For low end reinforcement, 24 SCPs in a four row end-fire configuration that extended under the stage, and a centre block of 12 SCV subs in a two row end-fire. “I have to say, at EDC this system just sounded amazing,” declares Danilczyk. “This is the largest Coda rig that I’ve used so far, and the low end impact at 175 feet was unbelievable whenever you walked in the space. And this is one of the crazy things about Coda: we did left, right, left, right as we went across - so basically we flipped the outer
outfills to keep stereo - and when I walked between the ViRAYs and the AiRAYs, I genuinely couldn’t tell the difference. That was a huge ‘wow’ moment right there for me; an entirely seamless sound, with no difference in sonic quality.” “It was phenomenal, and so much clearer than any other system on site, in my honest opinion. We went back 500 feet to the middle of the bridge and it was clear as day. It was just amazing, the depth of the throw and the clarity - and the overall impact. I walked over and listened to another stage’s rig which had another manufacturer’s system on it, and I was like, ‘really?’ It sounded so distorted in comparison. Then I walked over to one of the tents, and again, compared to the Coda stage, it just didn’t cut it for me, at all. Even the main stage – which of course looked incredible - didn’t get close to the clarity and impact that we achieved with our Coda rig.” At the end of the festival, the head of the audio department for EDC came over to Danilczyk and thanked him for bringing that level of sonics to proceedings; furthermore, he experienced another ‘festival-first’: “This has never happened to me at any show or any festival before, especially a festival with 25 acts in three days - but not one artist
asked for anything. There was no ‘turn it up’, no ‘add more highs’, not even an ‘add more bass’ would you believe... Nothing! We gave the DJs four of the SCV single 18s per side with three ViRAYS per side, so that was their monitor setup – and clearly, it worked great for the artists. The only thing we had to do out front was keep to a certain dB limit - but here is the amazing thing, again: we were 105dB at FOH, I looked at the amps, and we still had 10dB of headroom. The AiRAYs are just so amazingly powerful! And the fact that you can get so much into a truck and not be overweight is fantastic as well.” I ask Danilczyk to summarise his EDC 2019 experience. “In terms of sound quality, we were a whole load of steps up,” he concludes. “We were stage four at EDC, so there were bigger stages around, but we had more of the emerging talent; a lot of people went to these shows, and they were all blown away by the sound. The fact the artists were also so satisfied really does speak volumes.” It does indeed. Check out our interviews over the next few pages with Jauz and Wenzday, both of whom played at EDCO. www.codaaudio.com
Wenzday, AKA Taylor Chung, has evolved from a classically trained vocalist to a leading figure in the current state of dance music. After moving to L.A. to commit to a full-time DJ career, she became one of the most sought after open-format female DJs in the city. We caught up with her after her set at EDC Orlando: one of her 2019 highlights.
hile cutting her teeth in the club circuit, Wenzday graduated from the prestigious hit-maker incubator, Icon Collective, and today, her signature sound appears on her own label, 40oz Cult, which she owns alongside her brother, Dack Janiels, and HAMi. It’s a movement which has only grown stronger - she and Janiels have performed 40oz Cult Takeover shows across the US such as L.A., San Diego, and Honalulu; and they have collaborated with acclaimed brands such as Space Yacht, Bassrush, and SXSW. Wenzday made waves with her hit release, Heartbreak House, a track which went down a storm within the dance music community and became a symbol for her loyal fanbase known as Wenzday’s Heartbreakers. Through her original productions, she has been featured on a number of top music blogs such as Billboard, Your EDM, EDM.com, and many more. She has also been the host of her own weekly radio show on DashX since 2017 - Everyday Is Wenzday. And it all began when she first moved to Los Angeles to commit to DJing full-time when she was just 16. “My dad works in Los Angeles, so I’ve been really familiar with the city for a long time,” she explains. “In high school, I was really bullied in the Bay Area, so a majority of my friends were my L.A. friends which also made the transition seamless. I also knew that this was the most conducive place for me if I wanted to pursue my music as a full time career.” We should also point out that Wenzday was the youngest person ever to DJ the Playboy Mansion - that must have been an interesting experience, to say the least..! “[laughs] I was 14! My dad used to throw parties and events at the mansion, which was where I first saw some really high level DJs perform. My dad introduced me to one woman in particular, DJ Tuesdae, and she became my mentor. Eventually I got to open for her at the mansion at many of my dad’s events.” Wenzday started out as an open format DJ in Los Angeles, and then about three years ago she attended Icon Collective Production School. Shortly after that, she began putting out her own original music, and she eventually got her first big break, which happened to be in Hollywood. “It was at the [Hollywood] nightclub, Les Deux. My friend was the resident DJ therel and let me cover shifts until I was eventually hired on a weekly basis,” she recalls. “From there, I met more DJ friends, my former manager, and promoters - it really taught me what it took to work
in that industry consistently, and the art of being an opening DJ.” And considering the open DJ format is so maledominated, it’s even more applaudable. Are there many more ladies shaking up that scene? “When I was coming up in the open format, all of my mentors were men, and I didn’t really know or have any women in L.A. who were doing it besides Sam Ronson, who I could look up to and follow in terms of a career path,” she reveals. “That being said, there are some killer female open format DJs playing consistently: look at Lady Sha and Kayper, as examples. Since I started, this has been changing, and every year I see more and more women getting into DJing professionally. I think it’s up to the pros in the industry to be nurturing and understanding, and to really try to help the new guard – be that male or female. My best advice to any girl thinking of getting into DJing is just to not give anyone a reason to doubt you, hone your skills, and know your music.”
This year marked Wenzday’s first ever EDC Orlando set she performed on the Corona Electric Beach Stage. “Being a part of EDC Orlando was such a dream come true; this festival was so much fun, and after attending and playing EDC Las Vegas, it was cool to see this festival in a different state, with very different weather,” she says. “It is surreal to both attend and play. There are so many different walks of life here, but everyone is here to have a good time, to dance, discover new music, and connect with like minded people - and that is a really beautiful thing. “I’m also really happy with my set! I got to drop my new Demons Dancing EP which I just dropped, and brought up my friend Birthdayy Partyy to debut our new collaboration. The rain was definitely a challenge, as at one point it really started coming down, but we made it work, and it sounded awesome! So a huge thank you to everyone who stayed from start to finish.” And 2020 looks like being a busy one for this extremely determined young DJ: “I have lots of releases planned for early 2020,” she smiles. “My friend, Badjokes and I have a collab dropping on Dr. Fresch’s The Prescription; I have a collab with Birthdayy Partyy, and a collab with my good friend KANDY featuring Dread MC. It should be a lot of fun!” www.wenzdaymusic.com
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FEEL THE VOLUME
Jauz is the project of Sam Vogel, a 26-year-old Los Angeles-based artist whose production, energy on stage, and underground vibes have captivated the hearts of the dance community. He moved to L.A. to pursue a career in music, and in one year went from aspiring producer in the crowd of Hard Summer, to playing the main stage. His release of his addictive original number, Feel The Volume, earned him a global reputation after its release, and garnered support from heavyweights in the biz including Zedd, Skrillex, and Diplo. We catch up with Jauz at EDC Orlando â€“ a festival which, he says, is growing like wildfire.
auz has been making music his whole life, and started getting really serious about it when he started playing guitar at 11. “I was sure I was going to end up being in a metal band, touring around in a van, and was so excited about it. Unfortunately though, it was tough for me at 14/15 years old to find other people as dedicated as I was to start a real band. That’s when I found dance music, and saw that all you needed to produce eletronic music was yourself and a laptop. After that, I was sold. It’s all kind of history from there. There wasn’t a moment from when I started producing electronic music that I didn’t consider myself a ‘professional’. I knew I was going to do this for a living and I wasn’t going to stop until I made it happen, and luckily, now I’m here! “I had been sending out my music to tons of artists, anyone I thought might like what I was doing, and finally one guy actually responded to me. His name was Kennedy Jones, and at the time he was one of the biggest trap producers in the L.A. scene. He started playing one of my remixes at his shows, and after that, I knew he was my guy. I sent him a new song basically every single day, until finally enough was enough. He ended up introducing me to his manager, Moe Shalizi, who has now been my manager since 2013. Moe and I started out together, both basically at zero, and now not only have our careers grown together, but our management team has grown to include artists like Marshmello, Alesso, Roddy Ricch, Slushii, Sikdope, and Southside.” At the beginning of his career, Jauz went from an aspiring producer in the crowd of Hard Summer, to one year later playing the main stage. “It was definitely very surreal. I don’t really know how it happens for most artists, but for me it really felt like it all happened overnight,” he reflects. “I went from being a fan with a dream to achieving so many goals I thought would be completely impossible so fast, and I honestly didn’t even have time to realise what was happening. I think that helped though. No matter how amazing something is, how huge the accomplishment, I would just keep my head down and focus on whatever the next goal was. I never wanted to lose that drive or hunger that I had when I was just a fan, and honestly a lot of days I wake up and still feel like this is my first year in ‘the biz’. It feels really crazy to think I’ve been doing this professionally for almost six years now.” His release of Feel The Volume - still a staple in almost every headlining DJ’s set, years after its release on Mad Decent – was somewhat of a game-changer.
“Yeah, I’ve thought about this a lot, and I really haven’t come up with a good explanation as to why it was such a success,” Jauz admits. “I feel like a lot of people say it’s because of how it blended genres and broke barriers, but my best guess is that it’s just simple. It’s such a simple song, so easy to get in to, and is just full of energy. The verses or melodic sections are really rudimental, for lack of a better word; and it’s a pretty straightforward track (even though the original is actually seven minutes long!) I think it being so simple made it really easy for DJs to play it in their sets, and make tons of edits with it with a lot of bigger, popular records. That’s how I always heard it at the beginning. DJs would play 7 Nation Army or something like that and it would drop into Feel The Volume, and it would always work.” Is there a secret recipe for creating viral remixes? “I don’t really know if I have one to be honest! [laughs] I just try not to overthink it too much, and go with whatever feels natural for the original song. In all of my music, but remixes especially, I like to try to keep a balance between keeping the integrity of the original song but also putting enough of my spin on it that it feels like a totally new song.” And what was it like being a resident with Hakkasan Group in Las Vegas? “I always thought a Vegas residency was something that was way above someone like me, so it was a pretty huge surprise when I started my year long residency with Hakkasan group. Looking back on it now, I feel like that was a great ‘coming of age’ or growing up experience for me. 90 percent of the time when I play shows, it’s my show, or a big festival where people are there to hear crazy dance music. Basically, I’m playing to my target demographic. “Vegas is completely different. People are there to party, and some might know who I am, but most of the crowd is just there for a good time, and I’m supposed to help them do that to the best of my ability. Essentially, I go from being an ‘artist’ to really being a DJ - reading a crowd, knowing when to switch it up and when to play the right song at the right time. I hadn’t had any real experience with that in the past so it helped me grow a ton in my ability as a DJ and a performer. The whole team as Hakkasan is incredible and I made some real friendships there that are still strong today.” Conversation turns to Bite This!, Jauz’s label. He’d had the idea of starting a label in early 2015, but wanted to wait until the moment felt right, he says: “I also had the hardest time coming up with a name for the label. That postponed the start date quite a few times actually. Eventually, after brainstorming for months and finally giving up on starting the label, the name kind of just
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“EDC Orlando is one of the newer festivals in the states, and every single year it grows like wildfire; I was completely blown away...” popped into my head. I thought the ‘Bite’ made sense because of the obvious shark reference, but also ‘Bite This’ really encapsulates everything I stand for and am trying to cultivate through my label - music that other people want to copy, or ‘Bite’. My goal is to put out as many different types and genres of electronic music as we can, and help push the envelope on creative, inventive dance music that will keep our world evolving.”
We chat a little about EDC Orlando 2019, where Jauz was one of the headline acts. It’s a festival that has enjoyed exponential growth, and has really made its mark on the circuit. “EDC Orlando is one of the newer festivals in the states, and every single year it grows like wildfire,” Jauz confirms. “Florida has some of my favourite shows I’ve ever done, and EDC Orlando is always a shining example of that. I’m pretty sure this was my third time here. The first two years I played on the Kinetic Field, which is the main stage, but this year I got to play Circuit Grounds, which I was really excited about. When I showed up at the festival this year, though, someone pointed over to where the Kinetic stage had been since EDCO started and said ‘there’s your stage’, and my jaw just about fell to the floor. “In the past, the Circuit Grounds stage had been a bit smaller, but allowed for more of the artists’ production and was a bit more curated. This year the festival had got so much bigger that Circuit Grounds was the size of the old main stage, and Kinetic was even more massive than it was before! I was completely blown away.” A pretty surreal experience, then? 84 Headliner
“Oh yeah, even after playing 30 or 40 festivals over the years, any time you step out in front of a massive crowd, it’s definitely a bit nerve wracking. That being said, I will say that it’s actually harder to be in a small room, where you can see everyone’s eyes, you know everyone can see your every move. Once I get out on stage at a massive festival, and the initial rush is over, it’s almost like I’m just up there all by myself, as if I was DJ-ing in my bedroom. It’s actually relaxing, and allows me to have more fun on stage.” Saying that, EDC Orlando was also one of the more challenging shows Jauz has played in some time due to an unexpected dose of flu: “The last few months of 2019 have been pretty slow for me, which has been great because I’ve had a ton of time to finish all the new music for next year,” he explains. “EDCO was the only show I had that weekend, and the next day my wife and I had a wedding to go to in San Diego. When we first planned our travel to EDCO with the wedding in mind, and with how few shows I had over the month, we decided to fly in to the festival on the day of the show, do an afterparty, and then leave from the afterparty straight back to the airport and fly to San Diego to catch the wedding. I’ve done travel like this a million times, and the lack of sleep doesn’t normally bother me, especially when I’ve had so much time off. “However, a week before we went to Orlando I came down with a crazy flu. I was stuck in bed for four days straight, sleeping as much as I could trying to shake the sickness off before the festival. I couldn’t even get out of bed until the actual day of EDCO, and even then I was still hurting pretty bad. So I just took a ton of Dayquil, got on
the flight and hoped for the best. I’m not sure if it was the medicine or just having been so dormant the few days before, but when I got on stage, even though I felt like crap, my energy went through the roof. I was having a blast up there! I made it through the rest of the night, onto the red eye, all the way to the wedding and back, and somehow my body didn’t break down on me. That was definitely one of the more demanding show days of my career so far! [laughs]” For all of his festival shows, Jauz’ kit is pretty simple, but extremely effective: “I just run the standard 4 CDJ 2000 Nexus 2s, with a DJM 900 Nexus mixer. We’re talking about beefing up the gear for the Dangerous Waters tour coming up in 2020, but I like to keep my set up as simple as possible so the least amount of stuff can go wrong, and I can just focus on giving the crowd the best show I can.” Before he jets off to his next show, we ask Jauz if there is a career highlight he can share with us? “It would have to be headlining the Bill Graham in San Francisco, and having E 40 and Too Short as my direct support acts,” he beams. “Growing up in the bay, E40 and Too Short are who you look up to as literal hip hop gods, and to get to hang out with them, and have E 40 even tell me his son was a fan of mine absolutely blew me away. That is still one of the fondest memories I have of touring to this day.” www.jauzofficial.com
This Could Be Good
ANOUSHKA LUCAS: THIS COULD BE GOOD Headliner speaks to emerging jazz singer-songwriter, Anoushka Lucas about her debut album release, geeking out over songwriting, and speaking terrible Russian.
Anoushka Lucas is in a cupboard. Sort of. Ducking into the tiny Writer’s Room in the Bush Theatre on her lunch break to speak to Headliner, she explains that she’s managed to squeeze in between a desk and an armchair. “So, that’s a good visual,” she laughs. What she’s taking a lunch break from, is rehearsals for Chiaroscuro: a London show where soulful live music and spoken word collide in a bold reimagining of Scottish poet, Jackie Kay’s 1986 play. Wrapping up in October 2019, Chiaroscuro is a celebration of queer women of colour across generations, set to a breathtaking score by Shiloh Coke. Described as “an exceptional voice and a great songwriter,” by Jamie Cullum, Lucas is known for her singer-songwriting capabilities, influenced by the sounds of Carole King, Zadie Smith, Amy Winehouse and Billie Holiday. Acting, however, is something new: “I’ve never acted before,” she admits. “I have this funny side-career in theatre – it’s not funny,” she corrects herself. “I thought I would come to London, make my music and be somewhere with it quite early on, and actually it has taken a lot longer for me to understand what sound I wanted to make, and how I
want to present myself – and also to navigate the industry. It has changed a lot over the last 10 years.” Lucas has a strong background in musical theatre, composing many original scores, and for a ‘non-actor,’ has made decent cameos in Kenneth Brannagh’s Murder on the Orient Express as well as Netflix musical, Been So Long, although she says her scenes all got cut. “Now I’m about to compose the music for a new, big musical, which is funny because I’ve always been so focussed on my own music, that I didn’t notice that I was doing so much theatre work, and now I realise that it has become another part of my career. After tiptoeing around [acting], I said, ‘okay, I think I’m ready to do some proper acting,’ - so Chiaroscuro is my first proper go at it. I’m playing a big part with lots of lines, which is pretty nerve-wracking, but fun. I like doing things that scare me because I think that keeps me focussed. If I sit back on stuff I find easy, I get kind of bored, and I think what I do isn’t as good.” Born and raised in West London to a French-Cameroonian mother and an AngloIndian father, Lucas has always had a flair for
performing. Having studied at the French Lycee, Lucas excelled in piano, ballet and languages before going on to study Russian and Italian at Oxford University, although she insists that she speaks “terrible Russian”. On the phone, Lucas speaks quickly and excitably in her clear, well spoken voice, frequently interrupting herself and barely stopping for breath as she goes off on tangents – pausing occasionally to ask me if she’s waffling. Despite her manic schedule, the emerging jazz singer radiates enthusiasm and is at ease – chatting in an unassuming way, as if talking to a mate. Making Music Just prior to starting rehearsals, Lucas released her debut album, Dark Soul, produced by Martin Terefe ( Jamie Cullum, KT Tunstall, Martha Wainwright). Combining elements of classic soul and jazz, and echoing the likes of Norah Jones or Laura Mvula, Lucas’ voice is at once light and delicate, yet conveys an unmistakable depth and warmth. Her meandering, dreamy style favours the melancholy (although she’s actually got a great sense of humour) – frequently
This Could Be Good
“I’ve never quite found the right balance; at this point, there is no part of London I haven’t lived in...” making jokes at her own expense in-between tracks when performing live. Unashamedly autobiographical, Lucas combines an honesty in her music with a sensitive warmth, touching on themes of love, sex and loss. Her two favourite songs on the album are Falling and title track, Dark Soul. “They’re both miserable,” she laughs, insisting that there are some happier ones on there too. “These are the two songs that I love – although I like the whole album, a lot,” she corrects herself. “I’m very proud of it. My favourite track on the album is Falling because I wrote the entire lyrics for it in about 20 minutes. We were jamming in the studio and messing around with all these different chord structures, and it came to me quite quickly. The reason I really like it is because the song was an expression of something that was true at the time in my personal life, but that I had not expressed to myself or to anyone. While I was writing the song I realised that this was how I felt, and that it was big. Sometimes I am more honest in songs than I am as a human. When I listen to it, it feels very vulnerable and very honest, and I really enjoy that. I also really love Dark Soul, and this is partly because of the way that people react to it – which I didn’t expect because it’s not happy. But people really like it! The song is what got me noticed by Jamie Cullum, and I
feel really pleased that I can make something that resonates with other people that deeply.” Lucas has been gigging for over 10 years, but is still surprised to see what songs resonate with audiences. “People come up to you at the end of the gig and go: ‘God, I really like that song,” – and when you hear that once, twice, three, 10 times, you think… okay there is something in that that is bigger than me. I find all of that increasingly really interesting in terms of trying to understand why some songs land, and some songs don’t. You can watch people perform songs and know that a song has something that another song doesn’t, so I’m getting more and more into geeking out about it as I get older.” Extreme Measures Lucas’ life veers between spending way too much time at home, or no time at all. “I’ve never quite found the right balance. At this point there is no part of London I haven’t lived in. I was listing to my housemates all the places that I’ve lived over the last 10 years, and they said, ‘Wow, you really don’t have an allegiance to one part,’ – and I said, nope! Her whole family is fervently passionate about music – her parents meeting in the ‘80s while they were both in bands, and encouraging her gift when she showed a
natural aptitude towards it. “I used to go to my dad’s gigs quite often, and I grew up knowing a lot of adult musicians, so that must have seeped into the back of my brain. I had one of those oneoctave child Casio keyboards when I was about seven, and started having piano lessons after that. There was so much music in the house all of the time,” she remembers. “My dad can’t really be in a room without there being Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles or Cream playing at maximum volume, and my mum is the same about Prince and Lauryn Hill, so music just seemed as natural as being alive. “When I was 14 I started writing songs, but I didn’t really think anything of it. I always think it’s funny when people ask me when it was that I decided that this is what I wanted to do as a career – because I didn’t! “I think also to be really honest, my parents were jobbing musicians and it had been hard, and my mum was very proud of my sisters and I being academically successful. When you get into somewhere like Oxford, it’s not something you can really turn down without a good reason. I think I also went so that I didn’t launch myself into music with no plan B, although it turns out I never wanted to use the plan B.” In terms of her songwriting process, Lucas’ methods have changed over time:
This Could Be Good
“I used to be very driven by my feelings; I’d sit at the piano, bash out some chords, and find some words...” “Songwriting has always been a place of comfort and solace. I used to be very driven by feelings – I have a lot of feelings – and I would get an idea about a feeling that I would want to express – sit at the piano, bash out some chords, and find some words. Once you’ve got two or three lines you can kind of run into the storytelling.” Meeting a playwright at 22, Lucas was introduced to the world of writing for musicals: “What I discovered through that is it’s a different thing to have a deadline where you can’t wait for inspiration, so then I tried to learn more about the craft: how do you build a song in a genre? Another thing is I’ve started writing away from my instruments, because I think when you play an instrument and you know that instrument inside out, you kind of get locked into it, so the piano is leading a song, instead of the song.” Intimate Shows First coming to Headliner’s attention at unpretentious music venue, The Duke Of Cumberland in seaside town, Whitstable, Lucas enthuses about playing smaller gigs in pubs: “That is legitimately my favourite gig of all gigs. It’s just outside of London so it’s a nice excuse to get out, see the sea and have some nice food. I always have such a
nice time. I know the audience can be a bit [pauses]...you never know quite what you’re going to get, but I kind of love that [laughs].” Recently singing to Primary Talent International, Lucas looks forward to the opportunities this will bring: “I just thought I would stand here with my piano and guitar and everything would pan out, but no – it matters who is managing the books, who shot the album cover, who is booking gigs, and who is telling the world about you. I’ve been quite careful, because I’ve made a lot of mistakes. This will lead to bigger and better gigs and better support slots, so more people who wouldn’t have necessarily seen me, will see me. It’s incremental. And I really, really love gigging. It’s probably my favourite thing in the whole of my life. To be able to play venues with the best sound systems, sound engineers, and have loyal crowds of people who want to hear you in that space! It is so different to when you start out playing in the back room of a pub where no-one is listening to you. It’s exciting that it might lead to gigs that are even more enjoyable.” One such prominent slot saw Lucas open for the British Summer Time Festival in London’s Hyde Park, supporting none other than Celine Dion. “When you support people that are really
established, the quality of what you can deliver goes up because the sound is better, and the stage is better – everyone doing their job is so good at their job, so you only have to do your job. In smaller spaces you have to sort the kit, make sure the band are paid, work around a faulty microphone – so those gigs have been amazing. It is definitely how I would like to spend my time!” Lucas has a terrible confession: she did not watch Dion perform: “I had a wedding that I had to leave for, so I had to miss Celine, for which I feel tremendous regret. I could see that it was going to be a pretty good party!” Lucas’ sound could easily become a Radio 2 favourite, with Dark Soul being played on Jamie Cullam and Steve Wright’s shows of late. “I’m delighted that people want to play it on their radio shows – they are welcome to. This album has been four years in the making, and I’ve released it independently with the help of my fantastic manager. There has been a lot of stress around getting the release right, and so it’s kind of amazing that it’s out, and that I’ve completed this project. It feels like now it’s starting to have its own life independently from me.” www.anoushkalucas.com
FUTURE CUT: ALRIGHT, STILL
The reason the middle eight to Lily Allen’s debut single, Smile, is comprised of ‘la la las’ is because she had no idea what one was. These are the kind of juicy pop culture tidbits that production duo, Future Cut, toss out when asked to reminisce about their time in the music industry. Tunde Babalola and Darren Lewis found heavy rotation in the digital underground scene from 1998 to 2004, striking gold when working with a then unknown Allen in the early 2000s. Headliner visits a west London studio to talk creativity with the producers that ‘no one has heard of’. Words Alice Gustafson
he general public don’t know who we are, but they’ve definitely heard of us,” asserts Lewis, one half of UK music production team, Future Cut. Comprised of Lewis and Babalola, the duo have successfully transitioned from promoters in Manchester’s drum ‘n’ bass scene in the ‘90s, to curators of some of the pop world’s biggest hits; the turning point being when they met an aspiring young singer by the name of Lily Allen. “We didn’t really know what we were doing to be honest with you,” Lewis admits. “We thought we were making a hip hop album with her. To be fair, she didn’t know what she was doing either!” Future Cut co-wrote and produced the majority of the singer’s hit debut album, Alright, Still – which went on to sell over 2.5 million copies worldwide. Since feeling their way through the world of music production with Allen, they have never looked back, securing a constant stream of work with the likes of Rihanna, Nicole Scherzinger, Shakira, MIA, Olly Murs and Little Mix. Inviting Headliner to sit in a low-slung seat they dub the ‘throne chair’ in the corner of their London studio (owned by Guy Chambers), Lewis and Babalola laugh, remembering their test when working with big artists: “It doesn’t matter how big the artist was, the first time we met them, we’d ask them to make us a coffee or tea,” Lewis smiles. “It was a stupid little thing, but it was a real leveller. Often they’d look at us and laugh, and we’d go, ‘yeah so, two sugars please’. And they would just go and do it! Really what we were trying to say was, in this room, we’re all the same. It really sets the tone for the rest of the session.” “We were sort of put in our place by Tom Jones once,” Babalola points out (Manchester accent still in tact, despite years of London living). “I used to have these really nice sunglasses, and I was wearing a vintage pair in the studio. Tom noticed them and asked me what brand they were, as he thought he had some like it at home. Then for the next two weeks, he turned up in a different pair every day just to show, ‘I’m Tom Jones, motherfucker! You’ve got one pair, I’ve got the whole shop!’” Headliner asks if they made Sir Jones make them a coffee? “Erm... no,” answers Lewis. “We learnt a lot from him. He told us he did It’s Not Unusual in two takes – cut straight to lacquer. It wasn’t even on tape! It went straight to mastering through the equipment. That stuck with us for a while; you still must be able to make records like that.”
With Alright, Still ready to go, Future Cut couldn’t get a bite for over a year. “No one was interested in it and everyone was telling us how terrible it was!” remembers Lewis, shaking his head. Working together as a three proved a prolific combination, churning out a quarter of the album in just one week. Allen would sing melodies with no words, and Future Cut would piece that into a verse, pre chorus and chorus arrangement – with lyrics being added later. “One of the reasons the middle eight on Smile is just a lot of ‘la la las’ was because we asked Lily to write a middle eight, and she didn’t know what one was! We never knew at the time, but she left the room and called her manager and said, ‘What the fuck’s a middle eight?’ He told her, and she’s like, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’. And so she just sang the ‘la la las,’ and then we never got around to changing it,” Lewis shrugs.
MYSPACE, As evidenced by a Twitter user’s recent ingenious suggestion to have a social media platform that plays your favourite song when someone looks at your profile, there is an entire generation unaware of the stress of selecting your top eight friends (although Tom was always there for you). When social media was in its infancy and direct artist-fan communication wasn’t even a thing, Future Cut set up Allen’s MySpace page for her, and she ran with it. “It was the first time ever where you could actually follow an artist and connect with that person directly,” Lewis remembers. “Some of the bigger artists just had no idea what this thing was, so if someone sent them a message, they’d just reply. We set her page up, and she understood it in a way that no one else did. Certainly record labels didn’t get it at the time, and she knew that the way to connect with people was to connect in that way: directly. She did stuff like a mixtape, bullied the label into paying for them to duplicate 1,000 copies, and she personally decorated each one and sent them to her fans. She just built this incredible following really quickly; she understood how to maximise the numbers. It was escalating week by week; so the first week, it was 500 followers, and then it was 50,000...The paradox was, the more she gave away, the more fans wanted to buy into her, and that had never really happened before. Certainly not in that way. Lily blew up, and put Adele and Kate Nash in her top eight friends – they weren’t signed at the time. Literally the day later, every record label rang them both. I’m not sure if that would happen now.” Headliner 02 89 Headliner
“The reason Lily Allen’s Smile has a middle eight full of ‘la la las’ is because we asked her to write it, and she didn’t know what one was...” LEARNING CURVES
Allen wasn’t the first talented artist they worked with: British singer-songwriter, Conner Reeves partnered up with Future Cut on a number of songs following his hit 1997 album, Earthbound – only recently releasing the classic-sounding soul melody, Love Lead Me On – a whole 15 years after recording it. “Working with Conner helped us enormously because we learnt how to work with a voice. We probably learnt everything we knew about vocal arranging from working with Conner, as obviously he is so proficient at doing that,” Lewis nods at Reeves – also joining us in the studio. “It was fascinating to see someone just keep going until it was totally perfect, and seeing how he builds up those harmonies – often we had tracks with 40 or 50 tracks of vocals. It was just a whole new world for us.” Future Cut then took what they learnt and applied it to every artist they worked with from that day on. “That was a huge learning curve for us,” Lewis admits. “It’s a tough pill to swallow as a young producer to realise that the song is more important than anything else – the production is secondary.” Listening to the remastered track together for the first time in years, Reeves and Future Cut are blown away by the song’s timeless feel. “It’s kind of exciting finding a lost treasure in your house and reacquainting yourself with it,” Lewis smiles, tapping his foot to the rhythm. “Definitely some of the pop records from 15 years ago sound like they are 15 years old, but Love Lead Me On sounds timeless.” “It doesn’t matter what’s sort of music it is 90 Headliner
– when someone’s passion comes through, you connect with it,” nods Babalola, turning the track up. Upon first meeting Future Cut, Reeves remembers that he felt like a kid in a candy shop: “What they did was wide open; it sounded raw and authentic. It was like they had just raided an old stacks cellar, coming up with the oldest, unknown stuff that no one had ever heard before. It’s about doing authentic work that’s not time sensitive. And with these guys, we’ve got a whole load of that. It’s this whole seam of gold. We’re going to cherry pick songs we’ve got in the vault and come up with something new to potentially release.”
IN THE STUDIO
A speedy workflow is key for Future Cut in order to quickly capture a vibe or idea. When travelling, they take a wheel-on suitcase containing a stripped down version of what’s in the studio. “It basically contains pretty much what you see in this room, if not better,” says Lewis, gesturing around the studio. “It’s probably faster, and it fits in a little carry-on. It’s all the same plugins, the same sequencer, and so on.” The duo are less focused on particular pieces of equipment than you might expect for producers – the ideas and the song are more important. In the studio, they use a mix of Universal Audio and Waves plugins, a lot of samples, a Neve preamp for vocals, and a treasure trove of vintage mics. “So it’s usually a super pure, really nice mic into a nice preamp, going into Logic,” Lewis explains.“We’ve got to that point now where you kind of know what to do, so we don’t fiddle too much with stuff; you just know where stuff
should sit and how it should sound. You can pretty much get a good vocal out of anything if need be; the equipment is just a channel for the talent.” Having a good set of monitors is important to Future Cut, who are using a pair of Focal Trio6 Be speakers which they say sound great, and Yamaha NS10 speakers, which they say ‘sound horrible’: “Every studio in the world has them,” says Babalola. “It doesn’t matter where you go, you know where you stand with them, and you get used to the sound. You don’t use them for critical listening, but you know what you should be hearing – they’re pretty solid.” Babalola and Lewis differ slightly on their attitudes to fame, with the latter preferring to stay out of the limelight: “No offence Conner, but I think anyone who wants to go on stage and perform in front of thousands of people is insane! I love being part of that history and part of those experiences – being in the studio with great artists, but that’s where it ends for me.” Babalola feels slightly differently: “The best example is in Goodfellas when Henry takes his date through the back entrance of the restaurant. I’ve always been drawn to that. I don’t want everyone to know me, but at the Grammys or at the Oscars, it is cool if people know who you are. I want to be known for being a person that is really good at what he does. Then people are inspired by you and want to work with you because of what you do. So yeah, I’m kind of drawn to that a little bit, but I also know that it’s all a load of bollocks as well!”
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FINISHING MOVE: NEXT LEVEL SOUND
Headliner catches up with award-winning production duo, Finishing Move, who compose music and handle sound design for television, film, ad campaigns and popular games such as Borderlands 3, Halo and Halo Wars 2. For Brian Trifon and Brian Lee White, it’s all about triggering different parts of the brain, getting the mind fully juiced, and turning the mix a little bit roasty. Confused? You won’t be.
“The very first gaming project that we worked on got cancelled,” admits Trifon, one half of production duo, Finishing Move. “So we thought we were going to be working on a really big game franchise, and it got cancelled! I thought, ‘Oh shit, I guess this is our career over!” However, fate (in the guise of the very same gaming company that cancelled their first project) stepped in, offering the duo work on an anniversary edition of Halo – a remastered version of the game that featured extra content, high-definition resolution, and remastered audio and graphics. No small feat considering since launching in 2001, the gaming series has gone on to become one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time, not to mention one of the highest grossing video game franchises – the term ‘Halo killer’ being used to describe console games that aspire - or are considered to be - better than Halo. “This meant that the work that we had done on the previous cancelled project didn’t
go to waste, because we were already trusted individuals. So everything worked out for a reason, although it was a little bit of a rocky start there on our first project,” he laughs. Founded with White, Finishing Move has a deep knowledge of the game development process and the role of interactive music in a superior gaming experience. Meeting 10 years ago in San Francisco, the pair have a background in marketing and advertising, later progressing to writing jingles and collaborating on projects, which brought them to their first computer game project. “What was really great about that was that it was an opportunity to jump into the deep end of the pool,” White reflects. “So not only were we composing the music, going back to the original stuff, transcribing it and then figuring out a new way to make it sound great for the 10 year anniversary, but also managing the budget on the project. We really kicked things off by getting thrown into the fire...and surviving!” “We decided to make this an official thing
because we work really well together,” says Trifon. “We have complementary skill sets, and we just really enjoy it. Halo boosted our career quite a bit. Here we are now we’ve gone on to work on some really sweet franchises, and have made some really cool music.” The sweet franchises in question include Halo Wars 2, Crackdown 3, and Borderlands 3 - to name a few. Headliner is speaking to the duo on a typical day, which usually sees them divvying up their time working on interactive music, establishing an aesthetic for the visuals they are working on, testing what they’ve done, and getting valuable feedback. Composition White explains that the duo are usually given a version of the game that isn’t playable yet, with minimal game capture: “We’re not scoring for a movie or TV where it happens the same way each time - it’s more like concept art, so we have a lot of discussions about what we’re trying to accomplish
Next Level Sound
“Scoring games is like concept art; we have discussions about what we’re trying to accomplish stylistically...” stylistically. For Borderlands 3, which is a massive game, they needed a number of composers. So as we were writing music, we would test and make sure how it worked, and then adjusted our writing to that.” “I think the big, broad brush of the process is that with most of the music in games, we have to picture it as interactive – you have to plan around how the players are going to experience that music,” Trifon offers. “The big differentiator between games and film or TV is that you’re not working to picture almost all of the time. You have to create something for the game and then put it in and play with how it interacts with the player’s approach to the game, and really test it and see how it makes you feel. “The other thing is that a game is triggering different parts of the brain – when you’re watching a film, it’s a pretty passive experience, but when you’re in a game, your mind is fully juiced, and you’re working. So the types of music and how you feel and perceive music totally changes in that context.” This requires a different approach to composition, and lots of iterations. Usually, Finishing Move are the last people to add their skillset to a game in terms of sonics and mastering: “We’re often putting assets directly into the build and testing them,” Trifon reveals.
“Sometimes we’re actually placing in assets we’ve composed, and testing them. A big part of our process and something we really pride ourselves on is having a really great mix space and deep knowledge of the sonic process to make stuff sound good.” Adding Fusion to the Mix Helping aid the duo’s workflow is an SSL Fusion all-analogue 2U stereo outboard processor, utilising its five analogue colouration tools designed to bring the perfect combination of added tonal character, weight, and space to a mix bus or stereo stems, complete with that signature SSL analogue sound. Trifon was first introduced to SSL’s Fusion two years ago, after selling all his analogue gear. “I never really reclaimed what I was missing, so I finally bit the bullet [with Fusion] and I went back off the blocks for my master chain. I started building that piece by piece to get a sound that I wanted,” he explains. “Typically, I have a bigger mastering chain that has a couple of transformer processors and a couple of compressors, and then the Fusion. “I instantly loved the drive control on it – that sound of cascading transformers that I was missing. The transformers give you a bit of that. Fusion is the missing piece of the puzzle:
it’s not killing my dynamics, it’s filling up the sound in a way that behaves really nicely on cinematic stuff with strings and big drums, but also sounds amazing on pop, rock and EDM. That’s the cornerstone of how I use the Fusion: I love the drive control. I would pay the price of the unit for just the drive control!” Although this is not the only feature of Fusion that impresses him: “The other parts are also great, like the EQ – and the high frequency compressor is another amazing tool that most people don’t think about. They don’t thing about de-essing their whole mix, but when you’ve got a bunch of really harsh sample libraries and stuff that’s gone through the wringer, and been converted 1,000 times, it can have some nasty aliasing. “The high frequency compressor really helps settle that down in a way that’s a little bit more natural because it’s an analogue circuit. Also, using a plugin de-esser has this natural almost tape-style high frequency roll off. And that’s great.” The pair also like to add a bit to the width in terms of the stereo image control: “I use the insert for SSL like a 4K style VGA compressor,” he continues. “That goes in on most mixes. I love that insert, it adds a whole lot of value. It’s great for processing single tracks.” According to Trifon, in terms of working
Next Level Sound
“The SSL Fusion has this sparkly ‘pop’ that can turn a mix a little bit roasty, which is really cool...” with instruments, the Fusion’s transformer options sound a little sweeter on a bass guitar or vocal: “It’s got this sparkly ‘pop’ that can turn a mix a little bit roasty, which is cool for a very specific kind of mix. When you use them on an individual vocal, electric guitar parts, or bass guitar, they have this really vibrant sparkle that helps you through the mix.” Trifon uses Reaper as his DAW, which he uses to send audio stems back and forth. “We don’t try to open each other’s sessions that just get super messy and is really prone to error. Whenever we’re trading stuff back and forth, I can drop them all into Reaper. Then I run everything through the stems through a subtle mastering chain individually. This takes some of the burden off of using hardware in the real time balance, and that was one of the main reasons that I switched to Reaper – being able to automate proxies using the hardware in a way that I didn’t have to constantly sit there and after three minutes start another path. Now I can do something else and monitor it.” Trifon lets Headliner in on an industry secret: apparently, most professional composers are hoarders when it comes to sample libraries. “I think the big thing for us that’s sort of
a differentiator, is that in addition to wasting a load of money on literally everything that comes up (because we’re total plugin and sample addicts), we make a lot of our own custom instruments. “We really focus a lot on recording our own samples and then processing those, and then turning those into instruments or toolkits. We get a lot of mileage out of that, because it’s very unique to our sound.” White elaborates on the benefits of doing this: “Because then you can reuse stuff for years, even decades! And it’s not like that’s the sound that everyone else is using – instead, it becomes that the more you use something, it reinforces your own unique sound. “That’s one of the things we really love about recording and making our own sounds and patches – we can continue to use those colours, textures and sounds for years to come. Whereas whatever the best short string of the moment is, that everyone’s using - that shelf life is a little shorter.” Having the same first name isn’t all that Trifon and White have in common: they are both experienced guitar players. “If you listen to a lot of our music in gaming, you probably wouldn’t think that these guys play the guitar and bass,” Trifon laughs. “I’ve been playing
guitar for about 25 years at this point. It’s kind of a cliche, but the computer is really an instrument too – the software, designing sounds and effects chains and all that. That’s the other area where we both feel extremely confident and comfortable in the creative zone – processing and designing sounds.” Typically, from initial discussions, each gaming project can keep the team busy for two years, although they can’t disclose what they are working on currently: “because the fans get a little antsy,” says Trifon (not to mention the game creators, Headliner imagines). For Trifon and White, scoring computer games is always about finding the right sonic recipe: “There are no rules, and we’re always trying to push the boundaries in terms of what’s possible in real-time, especially with the nature of a computer game, where there is no script, as such,” White summarises. “How do we make it feel like a film when we don’t know when the tank will blow up, you know? So sometimes it’s about cheating the cinematic experience a little.” www.finishingmoveinc.com www.solidstatelogic.com photographs by Zach Bell
SUBJECTIVE IMMERSIVE Genelec immersive systems are on the cusp of being much more widely appreciated, due in part to a collection of high-quality classical immersive recordings that capture performances by an ensemble of renowned Finnish musicians. In southern Finland, Headliner takes a look at this once in a lifetime project. “I think in general nowadays, many recordings are too polished and end up losing the vibe and the atmosphere of the actual moment,” admits professional double bassist and Genelec brand artist, Juho Martikainen. “It’s all about the music, and this is the point we are trying to make. It’s about the creativity and to be there to help inspire the best possible level of musical ability.” The project in question saw Genelec collaborate with Japanese engineer, Mick Sawaguchi to produce a series of high-quality classical immersive recordings that capture performances by an ensemble of Finnish musicians in Lahti’s Sibelius Hall. Opening its doors in 2000, the concert hall takes its design inspiration from the Finnish forests. During its construction, the building was considered the flagship of wooden construction, which, when completed, was
the biggest public wooden building built in Finland for over a hundred years. The Sibelius Hall complex – an area of nearly 90,000 m3 – is composed of four elements: the renovated Carpenter’s Factory, the Main Hall building, Forest Hall, and the Congress Wing. These are not one-use recordings: relying heavily on Genelec monitors throughout, they will form a key part of Genelec’s critical listening sessions at global shows and events in the future. “I gave a lecture about immersive music recording and demonstrated various recordings from the UNAMAS label in the Genelec demo room,” says Sawaguchi, recalling last year’s AES spatial audio conference in Tokyo. “At the event I had discussions with Genelec’s MD Siamäk Naghian about working together on an immersive recording that could become a reference disc for the company.”
A year later and the project was picking up steam, which saw Martikainen work closely with Sawaguchi on the concept. The pair worked to select the music for the recording and the classical musicians for the performance. “It was a very natural process and there was a lot of freedom for me to decide with whom I would like to play and which type of repertoire we would record,” Martikainen remembers. “Mick really loves the sound of the double bass and wanted classical performances, because he felt this type of music really suits the immersive audio format. After going through various options when choosing the pieces, Martikainen decided to play it safe and go with Franz Schubert’s Trout Quintet for the first piece. “It is an all-time favourite for me,” he enthuses. “We then chose Jean-Baptiste Barriere’s Sonate No:10 which is a Baroque
“Very rarely do you find a recording location where there is a dedicated monitoring room with good acoustics; the Genelec 8341s were the perfect solution...” piece, originally composed for two cellos, but we played an arrangement for a double bass and cello instead. And then of course I had to play one piece composed by Giovanni Bottesini as I think he was a true master of the instrument. So I chose maybe his most famous piece, Elegy.” “We wanted to use the latest equipment but keep the mic’ing as simple as possible,” notes Sawaguchi. “We opted for a spider tree setup with the artists placed around the main mic, with other microphones placed to capture the rich sound of the hall. This is what I call ‘Subjective Immersive’, as we are using microphones as tools to capture the art.” Acoustics The shoebox-shaped hall and oval-shaped auditorium and stage are optimised to provide the very best acoustics – further improved through the careful selection of furniture and materials. The venue’s adjustable acoustics are controlled by a vertically movable canopy located on top of the stage, reinforced by a total of 188 acoustic doors located on the
sides of the hall, which open to form an echo chamber, complemented by 2.7km of woolen curtains. Corrugated walls break up reflected sounds, while a glass façade covers the imposing wall elements, using structured laminated veneer lumber panels filled with sand and mineral wool. The monitoring solution comprised a pair of Genelec’s 8341 coaxial point source monitors located within a lobby space of Lahti’s Sibelius Hall, which operated as a monitoring room for the immersive recording before the final mix by Sawaguchi at his recording studio back in Japan. In this type of ad hoc monitoring environment, Genelec’s GLM calibration software proved to be invaluable in optimising the 8341s for the space and minimising any unwanted acoustic influences. “With this kind of on location recording, monitoring situations can be challenging – very rarely do you find a recording location where there is a dedicated monitor room with good acoustics,” observes Martikainen. “But the 8341s were the perfect solution as
we were all able to hear what we had played, and how it really sounded – which is ideal for musicians. I was very happy when I heard the tracks and I think the system has captured this vibe brilliantly!” After its first public performance at Inter BEE, the recordings will be used to help showcase Genelec immersive systems at events globally. Genelec is also researching what other type of platforms it can use for immersive material. “I think there’s been a big rise in the popularity of immersive music and I’m certain it will be the new format that customers will use and enjoy,” Martikainen asserts. “Working with Mick Sawaguchi on this project was a once in a lifetime opportunity. As a musician, it was a great thing to be a part of, and I feel incredibly lucky to have played with great colleagues in a great hall with great equipment. It doesn’t get any better than that!” www.genelec.com
The Full Spectrum
THE FULL SPECTRUM As we head into 2020, we discover that there is one date all users of wireless microphone equipment should have firmly pencilled in their calendars. Not ready for a post 700MHz world? Fear not! Shure is. From May 1 2020, PMSE (Programme Making and Special Events) users of wireless mics will need to clear the 700MHz band of radio frequency spectrum. This isn’t some small detail: the impending clearance is the most significant change to affect the industry’s ability to operate wireless kit since the initial spectrum re-allocation following the 2012 digital TV switchover. Production companies and rental houses who operate equipment in the 700MHz band will already be well-aware of the change – the time UK regulator, Ofcom ran a significant compensation scheme to help owners switch their kit over still being fresh in the memory. You may assume that your business will not be affected, however be sure to check: almost anyone operating wireless microphones and in-ear monitors will be affected by the postclearance RF landscape. “A common misconception we hear is the idea that the clearance only affects owners of wireless kit operating in the 700MHz band,” says Stuart Moots, associate director, Pro Audio Group at Shure UK. “While
that might be true from a kit-replacement perspective, it does not take into account the knock-on impact of losing another significant portion of UHF spectrum.” First to take into consideration is just how much spectrum has been lost since the first round of clearance in 2012. (The chart below illustrates how the UHF portion of RF spectrum will look post-clearance.) To put this into perspective, UK wireless microphone users have already lost nearly 19% of previously available UHF spectrum since the initial clearance of 800MHz in 2012. The additional forthcoming changes will see the available UHF spectrum decrease by around a further 30%. All-in-all, that’s a total loss of over 43% since 2012. Secondly, it’s important to remember that the amount of wireless devices on-air (including wireless microphones) is increasing, while the amount of space available to operate in is decreasing rapidly. “Any devices previously operating in 700MHz will now have to move down to the remaining available space,” advises Moots. “This includes many digital TV transmitters
that will also need to shift into the same remaining space.” The severity of the impact will vary greatly from region-to-region, with some regions already feeling the impact as devices begin to re-allocate. “In the worst affected areas, we are set to experience up to a 90% loss of available UHF spectrum, which presents new challenges for PMSE,” Moots warns. What can be done to ensure the 700MHz clearance doesn’t adversely impact your dayto-day operations? According to Moots, staying in the know is of key importance here. “For businesses and engineers on the front line, it is those who take the time to understand spectrum policy and regulation who will be best placed to work within the RF environment post clearance.” Anyone who owns gear in the 700MHz band – as well as below 694MHz – will be affected by this clearance. Understanding what spectrum is available to you in a given area and how Ofcom is managing the spectrum is critical to achieving successful productions. Those requiring further information are
The Full Spectrum
“Keeping on top of evolving wireless techniques is one of the best investments you can make for your own career.” encouraged to refer to Ofcom’s 700 MHz planner to see how the clearance might affect spectrum in specific areas. (Details are subject to change, but it’s a pretty good indicator). How’s Your RF Knowledge? Bolstering your RF knowledge is also advised to make sure you are fully prepared. “Essential knowledge with a genuine understanding of how to efficiently deploy and coordinate world-class wireless setups will make you more employable to production companies,” Moots insists. “Wireless techniques and best practices are always evolving, and to keep on top of these changes is one of the best investments you can make for your own career. To aid engineers and production companies in staying up to date, Shure regularly run seminars and workshops designed to teach all levels, from beginners to advanced.” Shure’s Audio Institute (SAI) runs many courses, including an RF coordination two-day training session. The education and network platform for Shure customers includes system integrators, consultants, music industry retailers, engineers and musicians. Why do audio professionals need RF certification, you might ask? Unexpected interference from LED walls, pyrotechnics,
broadcast crews, enormous coverage zones, multiple rooms and stages; anything that might spell RF disaster – Shure has seen it all. You know what it takes. You know the rush that comes when everything needs to go right and curtain call is in 60 seconds. The endless tours, late nights, tech rehearsals and site walks. You’re the first one in and the last one to leave, long after the fans have all gone home. Sound familiar? Perhaps overhead and labour costs on routine installs are eating away at your profits, or maybe you are spending too much time making repeat trips to a job site to troubleshoot simple wireless audio configurations. With the growing number of devices joining wireless microphones and personal monitors on stage and competing for clean spectrum, these dream gigs can quickly turn into nightmares. “We’re there, at the big game. On the sidelines, in the halftime show, on the refs making the calls. In the theatres, at the curtain drop, when the house lights dim,” says Moots. “When the producer shouts, ‘lights, camera, action!’ in a national broadcast studio, and even in an intimate 400-seat club, the audience singing along to every word. As the RF experts, it’s our gear that’s called upon night after night to make the show go on.”
It’s not all doom and gloom though: the silver lining of a continuously decreasing RF landscape is that it does encourage manufacturers to innovate. Next-generation digital wireless systems (such as Shure ULX-D and Axient Digital) are good examples of how wireless tech is stepping up to the challenge. A well-engineered, linear and robust digital wireless system is more spectrally efficient than an equivalent analogue system. “For example, with Axient Digital, we can place more than three times the number of frequencies per MHz than with its analogue counterpart,” Moots enthuses. “In HD (High Density) mode, we can take this efficiency even further by up to three times this amount once again! “With any new technology, there is a small learning curve,” he concludes. “However, we as engineers must stay on top of the tools available at our disposal. A solid understanding of new wireless tech, fundamental RF principles and upcoming changes to spectrum are the best ways for any engineer to prep for a future post 700MHz.” sai.shure.co.uk https://www.shure.com
RECORDING VOCALS IN THE VAULT We head into The Vault, the newest recording space within Miloco’s London HQ, to record a track from scratch with multi-talented creative, Michael Fox, all in the name of Movember. Words Paul Watson I’ve been fortunate to have worked in several of the rooms at Miloco HQ over the last 12 months: a couple of great full band live recording sessions in The Pool, and a tinkle or two on the ivories in The Bridge, the facility’s excellent writing room. This is my first jaunt in The Vault, however, which is the newest Miloco recording studio. It strikes me immediately as a cosy and comfortable to work in space; everything is plug and play, it’s nicely treated and dimly lit, and it just has a nice vibe. There’s also a little piano (¾ size, I think), a quality pair of studio monitors, and a really great vocal booth; it feels like the perfect place for an artist and engineer/producer combo to come in and work on some ideas, or perhaps lay down master vocals on a project that they’ve worked on elsewhere. Multi-purpose and versatile. Today, I’m recording a Nick Cave cover, Into My Arms, with Michael Fox. A talented
singer-songwriter and musician in his own right, Fox is perhaps most recognisable for his work in TV and film: he was footman, Andy Parker, in British period drama, Downton Abbey - also appearing in the 2019 Downton Abbey movie - and was in the much-talkedabout Hollywood smash, Dunkirk, in 2017. This project is being undertaken in aid of Movember - the leading global organisation which is committed to changing the face of men’s health. It famously encourages men to grow a mosutache for the duration of November; at the time of writing, we’re just heading into November, and as you can see by the picture on the right hand page, Fox is already well on his way to growing that tache. Sonic Goals We’re after a really intimate sound today, and an in your face, warm vocal – so we’ve brought along some Austrian Audio microphones to
help us achieve that: I find the manufacturer’s flagship OC818 great for vocals and acoustic guitar, and we have a pair of Austrian Audio OC18s to record piano. I also want the A-D conversion to be as good as possible, so I’m using a Merging Technologies Anubis interface - the newest, and arguably coolest product from Merging - it’s easy to use, and sounds stunning. First of all, we lay down a guide to click, using one OC818 to capture vocals and guitar together. Using that guide, we record the main acoustic guitar, which I mic nice and close; you can do that comfortably with an OC818 around the 12th fret or even closer to the sound hole, and not worry about any boominess in the recording, such is the control it offers, particularly in omni mode. We then decide that the acoustic guitar shouldn’t start the track off – instead, Fox wants ‘a wash of electric guitars’ to begin the
“The OC818 captured all of the dynamics in my voice; it’s very natural sounding, with a great low end...” track. We go direct jack into the Anubis with a Telecaster and a pedal board of reverbs and delays, and very quickly get the sound we’re looking for. The acoustic guitar sounds fantastic through the OC818 without any processing at all – the air at the top end is great, and the midrange has plenty of presence; furthermore, the isolation of the sound booth really helps capture the intimacy we’re after. Next, vocals: Fox’s mic technique is excellent, which always helps, and after having a play with the various polar patterns available on the OC818, I find myself torn between cardioid and hypercardiod, both of which offer a warm, full sound. Fox has got a nice bite in his voice - especially when he moves from head to chest voice - and both settings bring this out nicely. I’m not applying any compression on the way in here, either - the control of the voice into the mic and the very natural, transparent sound I’m getting out of the Anubis is working great as it is. We do a couple of run-throughs: I switch between polar pattern as we go - something
you can do remotely using the OC818 - and when we’re ready for a take, I opt for cardioid; it’s just that little smoother to my ear. After we’re happy with a take, I get a rough mix together before we add several BVs, each of which we double, and pan L/R at 50 and 70 percent respectively – this, I find, always creates a nice stereo effect (if the singer can double-track accurately, which Fox can). I complement these BVs using a three-second reverb courtesy of a Waves H-Verb, and then parallel compress them in a BV group using the Waves H-Comp, just to glue the signals together a touch. Finally, we decide to overdub a little piano, and the OC18s are perfect for this: one either side, about eight inches above the instrument, direct into the Anubis. Not a hint of noise in the signal, totally clean, and really no need to EQ anything either – there is enough warmth, and plenty of sparkle, which is just what we want in order for the piano to cut through. The track has essentially mixed itself in The Vault, and when I’m back at Headliner HQ, I don’t need to do much to it at all - just a
little tweak here and there, before I send it off to Alchemy to be mastered by Barry Grint. Fox says he thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and the end result also got a big thumbs-up. “It was great fun working at The Vault, and we got a lot done in a short period of time; it’s a very relaxing and cool space to record in,” Fox says. “I love this Nick Cave song, so there is always pressure putting your own take on it, but I was really pleased how it came out: the OC818 captured all the dynamics in my voice, and being such a gentle song to sing for the most part, I got right up close to the mic, yet had no issues with popping or boominess. It’s very natural sounding with a great low end.” For a behind the scenes look at our session at Miloco, and to hear our final mix, check out the YouTube link below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oiOa_q6sxY
www.milocostudios.com www.austrian.audio www.waves.com
Harris, Guetta, and Ghosting
DISCIPLES: HARRIS, GUETTA, AND GHOSTING I’m sat with all three of the Disciples — Nathan Duvall, Gavin Koolmon, and Luke McDermott — at The Lighterman, a Kings Cross gastropub, overlooking the canal, the King’s Place concert hall, and the Guardian newspaper’s offices. Kings Cross has gone through some serious regeneration from being totally run down, to London’s transport hub. The very fact I’m sat in a fancy restaurant with one of the biggest acts in house music is evidence of this. Words Adam Protz
“SW4 was wicked,” Nathan Vincent Duvall, one third of Disciples, tells me. “Last year we did our live show on the main stage for the first time, which was a great experience, ‘cos we’d never done it before. We pulled a really good crowd, but it was torrential rain. This time, we were inside a tent and it was bloody hot outside. But people still came inside and didn’t care. Our live show is very different to our DJ sets; we’re able to play a lot heavier, which suits us because we just wanna have fun!” Disciples are tucking into their assortment of olives and main courses, pints of Shoreditch Blonde and Coca-Cola. “We headined the tent Idris Elba played in,” Nathan continues. “It’s pretty crazy seeing him on my TV and then going to SW4 and seeing him behind my decks.” Have Disciples met Mr Elba, prospective James Bond? “Yeah, he’s a lovely
guy. The crazy thing is, when we met him at another festival, he then had to catch a flight to get fitted for Thor.” I’m speaking to the production trio in August, so it’s not overly surprising to hear they are in between trips to Ibiza. “We’ve been out there with Calvin Harris and David Guetta,” Luke says with a cheeky smirk. “We’re back there for a set on Friday afternoon,” Gavin adds. “I’m sure it’ll be a fun one. Good times! Good clean fun!” This induces a knowing laugh from everyone. “After this weekend Luke and I go to Norwich,” Nathan says. “And then Montenegro on Sunday, and then back home Monday. Then, I might see my wife!” Disciples broke through with house-hit They Don’t Know, with big support from BBC Radio 1 and Pete Tong. Following a collaboration on single How Deep Is Your Love
with the world’s highest-paid DJ, Calvin Harris, Disciples very much became an established name. This year, they’ve furthered their cause with two singles: No Ties and All Mine. “I am a bit love/hate with Ibiza,” Gavin confesses. “Obviously the whole dance community is there - you walk in a club and suddenly you’re hanging out with Diplo. But also, it can get a lot! You have to balance it out, or you can get lost in the parties. It’s great when you’re 19, but when you’re 63 like me [laughs] - well, my liver is 63!” They also tell me that being more selective with shows has meant better results in more quality studio time, as is evidenced in 2019’s No Ties and more recently, All Mine. “We made a conscious decision to go back to the drawing board and figure out what we loved again,” Nathan says. “There’s three of us, so
Harris, Guetta, and Ghosting
“If we’re in a session and we want stuff to sound good quickly, we use Waves CLA, as it’s all mapped out...” that’s three minds and three people to please. That can make it difficult in the studio, so we needed to take the time out and fall back in love with what we’re doing. I think No Ties was the by-product of that. It’s our sound that we started with in 2013, mixed with our vocals, our bass lines and our drums. That lit our fire to make more, and it was received well on the radio, in clubs and everything else.” I’m keen to know what a typical studio session is like when Nathan, Gavin and Luke all manage to get together. Originating in Croydon, only Gavin has stayed in South London, meanwhile Nathan has moved to Kent and Luke to Hertfordshire. “Basically, we just buy our music nowadays from a writer in LA,” Gavin says, totally deadpan. “He does all the work, and the great thing is, he only costs two grand per track!” The resounding laugh from Nathan and Luke confirms my suspicion that I haven’t just elicited a controversial scoop. “I’ve let the secret out, but it’s 2019 and I think you can be honest about these things now. “But on a real, it’s evolved so much over the years, it’s hard to pinpoint who does what. Sometimes an idea will be really fleshed out by one person, but obviously we all have to
love it. Obviously I’m not gonna give out the name of the writer, but hit me up on Instagram if you want it!” Nathan almost falls off his chair. Ghostwriter or not, Disciples will soon be supporting David Guetta on his next tour. “We’re going to Germany, France and Italy with him,” Luke confirms when his bandmates struggle to remember. “We’ve never played with him before so we’re not sure what his crowd is like,” Gavin adds. Probably very large, for starters? “Yeah, the sheer amount of people that will turn up to these things — it’ll be a new venture for us.” Having rubbed shoulders with Calvin Harris, Idris Elba and David Guetta, Disciples’ dream collaborations would be with the notoriously reclusive Daft Punk. “That would stop time for us,” Luke says. “Weirder things have happened,” Gavin says. “But if years ago I told you we were gonna achieve all these things, would you believe me?”, Luke says, addressing his bandmates. “I wouldn’t have believed it,” Gavin says. “But at the same time, I did think about wanting these things a few years before, and I was like ‘I’m gonna sit in my room and manifest that!” Metaphysical visualisation aside,
conversation turns to studio go-tos: “Waves make some of our go-to plugins the Tony Maserati plugins are incredible, and the Waves Chris Lord-Alge (CLA) Series is so good. If you’re in a session and you want stuff to sound good quickly then we go to Lord-Alge because he maps it out. They’ve got the compression, reverb, treble, bass, noise gate and pitch. Doing that on vocals is a godsend. “And then we love Decapitator from Soundtoys. Echoboy is unbelievable, because you get more control over your delays, spread them left and right, and it’s not too harsh. The main delay in Logic, you can’t mess with it too much. And Valhalla Reverb has been a life-changer for us. I thought reverb was just reverb before Valhalla. Oh, and Waves L2 on the master, always!” With that David Guetta support slot coming up very soon, Disciples are quickly becoming unstoppable. All Mine is available everywhere now. www.waves.com
Drum Mastery at Metropolis
ASH SOAN: DRUM MASTERY AT METROPOLIS Imagine a competition where the top prize is £5,000 worth of microphone gear, a masterclass and mentoring from one of the top figures in your field, and fully professional video and audio content to promote yourself with at one of London’s very best recording studios, used by the likes of Stormzy. Now that you’ve mulled that over, it’s a prize that was offered by Shure microphones to one winner from thousands of drummers who entered across the globe. And by no means a ‘lucky’ winner - the requirements were sending in a video that briefly showcases what they can do with a kit and pair of sticks. One of those judges was legendary drummer, Ash Soan, who has worked with Adele, Cher, and The Rolling Stones, to name just a few, and also on film and television that includes the new Lion King and Doctor Who. I’m sat with Soan, and the winner, out of 1,080 entrants, Daniel Kelly II. We’re at Metropolis Studios in West London, easily among the most sought-after music studios in the world. “It’s my first time in London,” Kelly says, who is giving off strong ‘kid in a toy shop’ vibes, fully understandable after a few days
DANIEL KELLY II
soaking up the immense expertise of Soan, in Metropolis’ incredible space, with five grand’s worth of Shure microphones awaiting him back home in the States. “There’s been no real plan,” Soan says, looking every bit a musician in a jazzy shirt and an array of bracelets that have their own musicality each time he moves his arm. “The prize was quite a considerable amount of money’s worth of Shure gear, and two days here with me and an engineer to kind of go over recording techniques and what’s it like being a studio drummer. Miking the kit up, mic choices, it’s been a nice little journey!” I ask Kelly if he’ll be coming away from all this with a nice set of demos. “Well, today we’re doing a performance video,” he says. Born in Hampton, Virginia, he is very much an accomplished drummer in his own right, studying at American music
conservatoires and building up a strong CV in the worlds of gospel, jazz and classical. “It was feeling good - I was satisfied with just the practice room.” We’re sat in an absolute mothership of a control room in Metropolis, and we can see the drums set up in the recording room through the window, so I can easily imagine that it would be a special feeling. “Thanks to God for this being my first time across the Atlantic,” Kelly says, his enthusiasm never dimming. In collaboration with Shure, he has filmed a video that shows him drumming around London, which he says is: “The best way to discover the city! To have my kit in so many different locations. The great thing is people actually stopped to see what I was doing, and even clapped and cheered as I finished. I should come here more often! [laughs]”
Drum Mastery at Metropolis
“These Shure mics have been around me for all of my professional life, but this masterclass has also been great, as I have learned about some new ones too...” When Drummers Connect When I point out that the two drummers are practically finishing each other’s sentences after a relatively short amount of time together, Soan smiles, and says: “Music really can bring people together. I know that’s a little vomit-inducing - but as far as the mentoring is concerned, technically I can’t really teach anything to Daniel. But this environment is somewhere I’ve been most of my professional career, so I know a lot about this, and the ups and downs of the studio. After this we might go and meet a producer friend of mine, and Stormzy is going to be upstairs later so Daniel will hopefully get to meet him too.” I slightly struggle to maintain my professional cool after Soan casually mentions that Stormzy is going to be in the building later, but he has worked with the Glastonbury-headlining rapper before. Despite all the A-list talent Soan has worked with, Kelly’s introduction to his new mentor was via this competition.
“I was reading about the judges,” Kelly says. “And when I saw everything Ash has done, I was thinking ‘this can’t be possible!’ [laughs] Adele, the Lion King movie - he is the studio session drummer. But I was also thinking that when I walked in here, he was gonna chew me up and spit me out!” “Which, of course, wasn’t true,” Soan adds, with a laugh. When I ask Soan about the role Shure has played in his considerable career, he simply replies: “They’re always there! When you think about the snare drum, there’s a very good chance you’re going to go to a session and have an SM57 on it. Some of these mics have been around me all of my professional life. “But this masterclass has been great to learn about some mics that I don’t know as well. All the guys at Shure that I’ve been with have been fantastic. There’s millions of different mics you can use, but I think you have to start with the 57. If you think sonically over the years, and think about the records that have
used it, you really have to start there.” Despite recently collaborating with both Elton John and Hans Zimmer by recording drums for the live-action Lion King film, and having already worked with some of the biggest names in music, Soan reveals that the huge-name projects just keep coming in. At the time of writing, he’s drumming is simultaneously number one and two on the UK album chart with a Robbie Williams and Rod Steward duet that features on both their new albums. Not to mention recording drums for a Christmas song by a certain Taylor Swift. All in all, Kelly’s uncontainable excitement makes perfect sense, all things considered. And all thanks to the good people at Shure microphones. So while Ash Soan continues to sit unchallenged at the very top of the drumming industry, Daniel Kelly II is without a doubt a name to remember. www.shure.com
BRIT Awards 2020
Rising Star Award
BRIT AWARDS 2020: RISING STAR AWARD The Brit Awards 2020 have announced a healthy shake up for this year. With an announcement of fewer awards, scrapping fan votes and a promise of more music performances whilst giving artists full creative control, has the award ceremony done enough to catch their falling ratings? Along with a change of structure, the Critics Choice award has also been rebranded as the Rising Star award and this year’s three nominees hoped to follow in the footsteps of past winners Adele, Sam Fender and Rag’n’Bone Man. Celeste pipped Beabadoobee and Joy Crookes to the post, but all three artists have very promising futures to look forward to - and here is why. Beabadoobee Born in Manilla and raised in London, 19 year old Beatrice Kristi is Indie artist Beabadoobee. Having signed to Dirty Hit in 2017 - (The 1975, Wolf Alice and more), she was inspired to make music to slide alongside Kimya Dawson’s soundtrack to the coming-of-age film Juno; with bands like Pixies, Pavement, and Sonic Youth as her main influences.
Reacting to her nomination, Kristi said: “It’s super cool to be nominated for the Brits rising star award and I’m so grateful. It’s so weird to think that writing music in my bedroom could appeal to so many people. Thank you so much to anyone who has voted for me.” Joy Crookes With soft, husky vocals and neo-soul grooves containing contagious complexities, you might be surprised to learn that Joy Crookes’ first record bought was The Clash’s London Calling. But by understanding the music inspired by the “mad honest” lyricism of Amy Winehouse and Lauryn Hill, it’s clear that Crookes has as much to say about life experiences as Joe Strummer himself. Listen to Two Nights, for example. Her multi-cultural heritage (coming from an Irish father and Bangladeshi mother) is
showcased proudly and vibrantly in her music videos and this confidence has earned her slots at Radio 1’s Big Weekend and Glastonbury, receiving praise for her ‘entirely intentional’ timeless music. Crookes has said that watching artists like Lily Allen, Corinne Bailey Rae and Amy Winehouse perform at the Brits had been a major influence on her: “I’ve always looked up to these inspiring and strong women, so to be able to be recognised in the same way they were is insane.” Celeste Since releasing her debut single Daydreaming in 2016, Celeste’s beautifully haunting voice has left everybody’s spines chilled yet their ears on fire… In a good way. She is the winner of the 2020 Rising Star BRIT Award - and deservedly so, we think.
BRIT Awards 2020
Rising Star Award
“We will be putting creativity, British culture, and exceptional performances at the heart of the show...” Backed by a jazz-roots band - Gotts Street Park - and with modern influences such as Frank Ocean, Solange, and Kanye, Celeste is a definite one to watch and is still snowballing into success. Strange - a ghostly ballad - was recently playlisted by Radio 1 all whilst on a European tour supporting Michael Kiwanuka. Here’s what she had to say about the BRITs nomination - before she was announced as the winner, of course: “My earliest memory of the BRITs was 2002, I was around eight years old,” said the 24-year-old. “MC Romeo had me at ‘turn up the bassline’ and Mis-Teeq were the women I wanted to be when I grew up. I remember being in a frenzy with every word they sang. It was in that exact moment that I thought I would like to be a part of that one day [so] to be nominated for the Rising Star award is a huge honour.” A big congrats to Celeste on the win, and to Joy and Beabadoobee from all at Headliner. And something else that stood out for us was that each of these three artists have been hugely supported by BBC Introducing, yet
another example as to why the BBC Intro scheme is so important for emerging artists. With the BRIT Awards taking note of what BBC Intro has to offer, and nominating artists with something to say, pure talent and excellent song craftsmanship (or craftswomanship), perhaps this is what can turn reputations around for the BRITs, and gain recognition for talent over figures? Or as BRITs chariman, David Joseph, puts it: “We will be putting creativity, British culture, and exceptional performances at the heart of the show to make BRITs night a world class celebration. “The awards should be a global platform for the artists of the year to create moments that live beyond the night itself.” www.brits.co.uk
Q&A: BLACK CAVIAR we chat to troy hinson of Black caviar at edc orlando 2019 to talk early beginnings, hardcore music, extra terrestrials, and why will smith will always be a big fan... TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND BLACK CAVIAR...
My name is Troy, I am a Virgo, and my life partner, Jared, is a Capricorn. We are both originally from Allentown and Reading, PA which is right outside of Philadelphia, but have been living in NYC for about 15 years now. We played in bands our entire lives but decided we had to grow up and be adults who have health benefits and a 401k plan so we took on regular nine-to-five jobs. We started Black Caviar for something to do out of weekend boredom, and it somehow became something that people seem to care about, so now here we are talking to you, and it’s wonderful!
YOU BOTH bonded over a mutual love of hardcore music and extra terrestrials...
[smiles] We both grew up playing in local hardcore and metal bands which was a lot of fun but super exhausting; yelling and carrying on like that. As far as extra-terrestrial biological entities are concerned, we believe that the veil of secrecy needs to be removed, and are hoping soon for full disclosure.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FIRST BIG BREAK...
I’d say it was probably the first time at a gig we got our full rider, which was a personal fivestar Michelin chef, a private petting zoo, and a bouncy castle. Jared and I looked at each other and said, ‘I think we’ve made it’ [laughs].
you seem to have settled in your quest to find the ‘perfect bounce’ - when did that happen?
One of the most important parts of writing music for us is the rhythm. When you can get a groove sitting perfect inside the beat it becomes magical. This would be the desired effect for all of Black Caviar’s musical releases past, present and future.
You recently debuted your major collab, What’s up Danger, with rapper, Blackway from the Spider-man: Into The Spider-Verse movie soundtrack. how did that come about?
We were signed to Republic Records, and they asked us if we would like to turn in a song for the upcoming Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse movie. Of course we said yes with absolutely zero hope or expectations anything would actually happen. They linked us up with the talented Blackway, and we did the track. We’d turned it in and didn’t hear anything. They got back to us a month before the movie came out and were like, ‘it’s in the movie, and by the way, the eBay and McDonalds commercials with What’s Up Danger come out next week..!
were you excited to be part of EDC Orlando this year, and how did the set go down?
Of course, we were completely tickled pink being asked to perform and be a part of it this year. We kept wondering how we convinced anyone that letting us come and play there was a good idea.
“one of the most important parts of writing music for us is the rhythm - when you can get a groove sitting perfect inside the beat, it becomes magical..” This was our first time playing EDC. Hopefully they didn’t think we sucked and want us to come back again! It was a frightening yet exciting experience - the main stage was so massive, but luckily the porto-potties were fairly close, which helped relieve some of the stress and anxiety! The show was absolutely fantastic. I think what is most memorable was the amount of butt cheeks on display at EDC. As far as festivals go, I feel like EDC attendees have the best butt cheeks of any festival around the world.
AND FINALLY, a career highlight to date?
That would have to be Will Smith talking about how much he loves dancing to our song, Coco! www.realblackcaviar.com
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Emeli Sande, Tom Walker, Imogen Heap, Les Miserables, The Irishman