for clever people From touring sound to fixed installations, audio professionals spec NEXO for the high levels of performance and reliability that come only from a truly innovative approach to speaker system design. Find out more at www.nexo.fr
Thinking. Inside the box.
06 | SWIVEL ON THIS
38 | 10 MINUTES WITH... JAMES GUNN
Grammy-winning producer, DJ Swivel, gets a hearing test from NYC’s finest audio doctor, and a spanking set of JH Audio in-ear monitors.
The inspirational director and co-writer of Guardians Of The Galaxy explains why music was at the heart of everything in this movie.
10 | THE ORIGINS OF MUSIC (PART II)
40 | AES: SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT
Our friends in Ibiza move onto the Common Practice, Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods in part II of this fascinating series.
Attendance is up, exhibitors are up, and Graham Kirk and I are up (very late) talking trade show revolution over startlingly strong red wine.
14 | DAVE STEWART: ART & SOUL
42 | MODULAR MUSIC TO MY EARS
The creative arm of legendary duo, Eurythmics, speaks out about the studio scene, new blood in production, and that Stevie Wonder moment.
Lady Gaga’s FOH guy, Chris Rabold, is blown away by the performance of Nexo’s new M28 loudspeaker; so much so, he’s taking it on tour.
18 | ROADBLOG
44 | ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES
Planning on attending a trade show in India? Jerry Gilbert offers some sterling advice based on personal experience: get a bloody Visa!
Henry Sarmiento gets particularly experimental when working with Roland’s new AIRA range at Sonic Vista Studios in Ibiza.
20 | BRING YOUR ‘A’ GAME
46 | VOCAL HARMONY
East Coast music legend, Johnny A, looks at Boston’s diminishing music scene, and offers a tip or two on how to make money selling music.
We head to The Standard Hotel in LA to talk to Enrique Inglesias’ feature vocalist, Celia Chavez, about how to take a step back on stage.
22 | MIXING DAVID GRAY
48 | SPOTLIGHT: CRANE SONG INSIGNA
The men behind David Gray’s live consoles share a multi-platinum work ethic that makes the UK songwriter’s shows sonically superior.
Audio consultant, Nick Mitchell, is the first to jot down an official opinion on the new Insigna EQ from Crane Song.
26 | COVER STORY TWENTY SHADES OF GRAY
49 | BEHIND THE SCENES
Two decades after the release of his first album, the Chester-born songsmith is back with what is undoubtedly his best work to date. 30 | EDUCATING MILES
Atlanta-born mix engineer, Miles Walker, has what it takes not only to make great records, but number one records that earn Grammys. 32 | SOUND OF THE GALAXY
BAFTA-winning sound designer, Simon Hayes, recalls a fantastic working relationship with Guardians Of The Galaxy director, James Gunn.
2 6 | D AV I D G R AY
A waterlogged golf course with lashing rain didn’t stop us supporting this great charity, but it did mean a caddy was in order. 50 | GRUMPY OLD ROADIE
Robert the Roadie wonders how the German market would react if Britain boycotted their music scene and starved them of entertainment.
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FROM THE EDITOR
"PROFESSIONALISM IS... AND THAT IS WHAT I WANT." - DAVID BRENT I think it’s safe to say that we have pulled out some stops with this issue, our last before the festivities begin. Not only do we have an exclusive with one of the UK’s most successful ever solo artists, David Gray, but we’ve also got one with the legend that is Dave Stewart, one half of legendary pop duo, Eurythmics, producer extraordinaire (though don’t call him that, seriously), and seller of 75 million records. Both Davids provide fascinating insights into the industry as it is today, and look at a number of key musical issues: artist remuneration; dwindling record sales; touring revenue; the importance of capturing real performances and real music in the studio; starting your own label... The list is long. It’s not all about music, though - well, it is, but with a twist... We meet not only the BAFTA-Award winning sound designer for Guardians Of The Galaxy, Simon Hayes, but the movie’s director and co-writer, James Gunn, who is already working on the sequel. Speaking to these guys was a real treat, and beyond fascinating. For anyone who hasn’t seen the film, you must the fusion of comical genius (all captured on set, I might add - none of this overdubbing nonsense), intricate storytelling, and mindbogglingly fantastic musical scoring, is something to behold.
But it doesn’t stop there, of course. We speak to Boston Music Hall of Famer, Johnny A, about his new album, Driven, which he wrote, engineered, and produced from the comfort of his own home; and Grammy-winning mix engineer, Miles Walker, gives us the lowdown on what it’s like to make music in Atlanta for an Australian artist that you’ve never met, three albums in! We also head to Los Angeles, to check out AES 2014, which exceeded all our expectations, we’re pleased to say - as did the Downtown area of the city! What a breath of fresh air (literally) the Nokia Centre L.A. Live is: a far cry from the smog-filled dump I seem to remember 15 years ago. Across the road from our hotel, Enrique Inglesias was playing the Staples Center, which meant Celia Chavez was, too; Celia is Enrique’s charming feature vocalist, and we met up with her at the uber-cool Standard Hotel, to discuss her love of the big (and the really little) stages. There’s plenty more where that came from, but if I go on too much longer, we won’t have room to write our 17 (seventeen) features... So whoever you are, and wherever you are, I hope you enjoy the issue, and as ever, thank you for choosing Headliner!
Paul Watson EDITOR
PAUL WATSON email@example.com +44(0)7952-839296
GRAHAM KIRK firstname.lastname@example.org +44(0)7860-481996
JORDAN YOUNG JONATHAN TESSIER LOUIS HENRY SARMIENTO II
ROBERT THE ROADIE
S I H T N O L SWIVE It was a nice change to have Jeremy Skaller step in for my column last issue. I knew he would bring it, and I loved what he had to say. But this month, I’m taking back the reigns and going to be talking about something so few of us in the industry (and out) pay attention to. Hearing. And to be more specific, hearing protection.
» We have nothing without it. It’s the most important piece of this puzzle, and many of us (myself included) often take it for granted. We bombard our ears with all sorts of noise, a never ending attack on our precious cilia. Nightclubs, football games, construction, and even something as simple as your car window down on the highway. Each and every time we push our ears a little too much, we lose a little bit of it. How many of you go to bed at night, and hear the little ringing that never seems to go away? Most of us can’t hear it during the day because of all the other noise we’re paying attention to, but it’s not until we turn the lights off that we realise it’s there. And for some of you, it might be getting louder every day, loud enough to really become a problem. I’m in the same boat. I want to protect my hearing, but I never want that to get in the way of life. When was the last time you said no to going out with your friends because the bar was a little too loud? I’m guessing for most of you, never. And when was the last time you went for a hearing test? If you ask me that question, I’m a little embarrassed to say, never. For God’s sake, I’m a professional audio engineer, how have I gone ten years in this business without a proper hearing test? It’s ludicrous! Well, I finally decided to change that, so I went to visit Dr. Julie Glick at Musicians Hearing Solutions, here in New York. Julie is a Doctor of Audiology, and the top choice for musicians like Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, John Mayer, Maroon 5, and many more. She’s created a very unique practice for herself, catering mostly to musicians and audio professionals like myself. I visited Julie at her office over on Park
Avenue, which is not unlike your average doctor’s office, except she’s got a whisper room in hers, basically a recording booth, where we get to take my ears for a spin! We talked a little about her background and practice, new technologies in the space (mostly innovated by the hearing aid industry), and even her ability to diagnose a brain tumour simply from a hearing test. I didn’t realise how much our hearing can tell us about the rest of our health! After a little chit chat, I got the rundown of what to expect today. First, I’d be doing my hearing test, then we would go over my results, and finally Julie will take ear impressions for an eventual build of earplugs and in-ear monitors, provided by JH Audio.
LISTEN VERY CAREFULLY So now it was time for my hearing test. I entered the whisper room and sat down. Boy was it quiet. I’m used to a quiet room in the studio, but knowing I was finally going to find out exactly what my ears are hearing, and if I held any major damage, was a little frightening, and the silence was deafening (pun intended). I put on the cans, and Julie was going to start playing tones at different volumes isolated in both my left and right ears. Following that, she would ask me to repeat words; she was talking into my ears to ensure my speech legibility was accurate, too. We started with the right, and each time I could hear the tone I would click a button. We started with midrange frequencies, went to the lows (as low as 125Hz) and then up to the high frequencies (maxed at 16k). I started clicking away, thinking to myself I was doing fairly well. These sounds were so quiet, sometimes I wondered if I was clicking at a tone, or the bit of ringing in my head. Julie could tell if I was cheating and clicking at nothing, so I did my best to only click when I heard something. Once we got to my left ear, I felt like it became a little more difficult, and thought maybe I had a little more damage in my left. Finally, after about ten minutes, we made it through to the speech test. I learned that a high frequency hearing loss in combination with poor speech discrimination in
DR. JULIE GLICK
“ANY PAI R OF J H AUDI O I N- EARS YOU GE T IS G OI NG TO F EEL L I K E A WH O LE NEW L I ST ENI NG EX P ERIE N C E , B UT OF COURS E I L I K E M Y BAS S , S O I HAD TO G O WIT H T HE ROX ANNE. . .”
one ear is a red flag for further testing to rule out an acoustic tumour. Very interesting stuff. Thankfully for me, I got through the words with little trouble. I hopped out of the booth and she showed me my results. She said my hearing was actually quite good in both ears, speech recognition was great, and all signs pointed to no hearing loss at all, so nothing to worry about. This was great news, and a sigh of relief to know that I’m mixing as accurately as I can, and have nothing to compensate for; and now with my renewed interest in hearing protection, I’ll be taking the necessary steps to ensure my ears stay in working condition for as long as possible.
“H E ARIN G I S T H E SINGLE MOST I M P O RTA N T TO O L WE HAVE AS AU DI O PRO FES S IONALS. IT IS O U R LIF E FORC E .” PLUGGED IN Now comes the fun part... Impressions! Jerry Harvey is known as the man behind Ultimate Ears, and now his new company, JH Audio, which focuses on both in-ear monitors and plugs, as well as hearing technology for the aviation community. JH is the leading innovator in monitor tech, and they graciously offered to let me build a pair and test drive them for myself. Before I got to try out some of the demo units, Julie started mixing the silicone concoction which she would be injecting into my ear canal. I was asked to bite down on a foam piece, which kept my jaw open, for about five minutes while the moulds were being formed and dried. The sensation of the mould entering your ear is a very strange one. It closes in on you, and eventually shuts most of the world out like a foam earplug would. I couldn’t speak or do much of anything while these things dried, but the wait wasn’t so bad, and I just zoned out for a bit. Finally, before Julie removed the moulds and put them in boxes, I had a second for the obligatory selfie. Now came my favourite part of the day which was testing the monitors. I had three models to choose from: the JH13, JH16, and the Roxanne, which has an astounding 12 (yes, twelve!) drivers inside them. These tiny little earbuds have 12 drivers in each ear. Unbelievable, and a testament to the care and thought that goes into designing and building these pieces of technology. First up was the 13s. Now, one thing to note is these demo units aren’t moulded; mine would take a few weeks to build, so the perfect fit isn’t quite there, and you mostly just have to push them in your ear and hold them to match the audio quality of a mould. I found the 13s had a great deal of clarity and shine, but not quite the oomph I need when I’m mixing or listening. I need a rounder bottom, and some nice punchy bass. Next up was the 16s, which I was
told have more intensity in the low frequencies. And that they did. It wasn’t in your face or over the top, but they had the thump I’m usually looking for. Last up was the Roxanne, which is the latest model from JH, and their top of the line in-ear. Now these babies cost about $1,700, so I would hope they had everything I was looking for and then some; and I can say without a doubt, they delivered. The biggest difference with the Roxanne is the potentiometers for the low frequencies on each ear, which means I have the freedom to push them when I want, and dial them back if I need. Not only that, but they also had much more emphasised punchlines in the low-mid frequencies somewhere between 250-500Hz. I have to say, the differences are subtle, and for the most part, any pair you get is going to feel like a whole new listening experience for you, but of course I like my bass, so I had to go with the Roxanne. It gave me the flexibility I needed, and all the right qualities I wanted. The final step now, is customisation. JH allows you to customise the colour and design on each pair which only makes sense since each pair is already custom designed to fit only your ear. A design tool on the JH website allows you to pick various colours or even upload artwork for print on each ear. I haven’t quite done this step yet, and was hoping to on this 14-hour flight I’m on to Korea, but unfortunately these transpacific flights don’t have WiFi, so hopefully when I land I’ll have a bit of time to finish the process! I have to say that Julie was incredibly generous with their time, and was pleased to answer all of my questions. I left feeling a weight was lifted off my shoulders. My hearing was A OK, and will hopefully remain that way. What I wanted to get across in this article is that hearing is the single most important tool we have as audio professionals. It is our life force. Without it, we have nothing. So it’s important that we take care of it the same way we take care of the rest of our bodies. Getting a hearing test isn’t very expensive, and most health insurance companies will reimburse the cost. Go do it. I waited far too long for mine, and while my hearing was just fine, it very easily couldn’t have been. Something which would have been easily preventable if I noticed any loss early. It’s like anything, early diagnosis is the best way of fighting any illness. So go get your ears checked, and if you find that you’re often in loud environments, invest in a pair of moulded earplugs. They will save your hearing, which you can’t get back when it’s gone.
E EAR H T E D I S IN
MOULD E H T G N I MAK
THE FINISHED PRODUCT While in Korea, I had some time to work on the design of my in-ears using the IEM design tool on JH Audio’s website. I went through and tried some ideas, but wanted something unique that wasn’t quite offered on the website. I wanted a black translucent mould with gold exterior, and my logo along the bottom, but the gold option isn’t available, so I decided to contact the design team at JH to see if they could sort it out, and they happily
mocked up what I wanted, and it looked great! I gave a quick ‘OK’, and they were delivered within two weeks back to Dr. Glick, who then had me come back in to ensure a perfect fit, and teach me how to properly insert them into my ears, which can be a little tricky at first. Firstly, the case they come in is made of carbon fibre, and looks gorgeous. It’s also personalised with my name on it, which is a nice touch. Inside are your IEMs sitting on a reverse mould, and underneath is a cleaning tool and little screwdriver to adjust the bass response. They looked so cool in person. I picked them up and Julie was very helpful with inserting them in my ears. Once in, they fit like a glove. Perfectly comfortable, and easily something that can be worn for long periods, like a flight. The isolation is incredible; once in your ears, you basically can’t hear anything from the outside world; it’s just you and the headphones, and they sound like an absolute dream. I’ve had the chance to listen to them over the last few days, and I’m really at a loss for words on how to describe them. The sound is, of course, phenomenal. Each Roxanne has 12 drivers (yes twelve!), all phase corrected to make sure every wave hits your ear at the perfect moment. But even more than the unbelievable sound is the experience of having something that fits your ear perfectly. It’s like a little secret between you and your headphones that the rest of the world isn’t aware of, and your ear unlocks this experience. It’s an interesting feeling to have a piece of technology that is almost a part of you. I personally can’t see myself ever going back to traditional headphones for moving on the go. These are audiophile headphones in a nice small package, a best of both worlds really. I would encourage anyone who truly values sound or is just interested in a new listening experience, to go and make a pair. Pricing varies from a few hundred, to nearly $2,000, so there’s a pair for everyone. I think you’ll truly be amazed. www.jhaudio.com
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Pictured: Kelly Hansen, Foreigner lead vocalist with the HH transmitter.
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SONIC VISTA INSIGHTS P A R T
THE ORIGINS OF MUSIC C O M M O N PR A C T I C E PE R I O D: B A R O Q U E , C L A SSICA L , A ND R O M A NT I C M U S I C ( 1 7 T H T O T H E 20 T H CE NT URY )
SONIC VISTA PRESENTS THE SECOND PART OF THE FASCINATING EVOLUTION OF THAT THING WE CALL MUSIC. WORDS: LOUIS HENRY SARMIENTO II & JONATHAN TESSIER
usic is one of the most ravishing fruits of human civilisation. It makes us weep, and makes us smile, but most importantly music also has the power to challenge, comfort and excite us: a civilisational landmark of emotional history, which today is an international phenomenon; a significant medium for communication, escape, catharsis and self-discovery. However, not that long ago, music was but a rare and feeble whisper in a wilderness of silence. But in our day and age, listeners have become detached from the importance of its value, the complexity of its elegance. and the refinement of its history. Furthermore, because of our ability to access it at anytime, anywhere, and at any price, modern music consumers are now taking this wonderful pearl of joy for granted. We are here today to offer a gentle reminder of how music has come of age, starting from early civilisations, to the classical age - also known as the Common Practice Period, to the years of Ragtime and Jazz, until today’s modern pop formats. Re-examining history will allow us to make better sense of how it has evolved, and thus how it will continue to evolve. The Common Practice Period is an era spanning between 1600 to around 1900, when European art music* was the centre of musical attention. Encapsulating the Baroque, Classical*, and Romantic periods, this stage
of musical history was extremely important to establishing music as a profession, cultural landmark, and higher art form. 1600 - 1750 is commonly know by music historians as the Baroque period, or the age of invention and rapid innovation. Vivaldi, Handel, and Bach transformed music by opening the doors to instrumental music. From a private affair reserved for the King’s leisure, to a public spectacle, composers from this time were the ones responsible for turning quartets (composed of four musicians) into orchestras (20 people or more). They also introduced the laws of chords: inspired by Isaac Newton’s laws of gravity and motion, composers believed that chord progressions had a tonal centre revolving around the home chord. Also, music went from being soothing background noise to a true statement of power: for instance, Louis XIV, the King of France, would bring in 24 Italian violinists just to play at his social gatherings. Composers were getting positioned in higher ranks in the Royal staff, such as Jean-Baptiste Lully, who was King Louis XIV’s composer for 30 years. During that time, Arcangelo Corelli created the concerto for string instruments, and Antonio Vivaldi was responsible for pioneering the music symphony, as well as glorifying musical virtuosity, and transforming violinists into the first music superstars. Composers such as Nikolai Diletsky discovered the ‘circle of fifth’ in 1679, an essential tool to understanding the
“N OT T H AT L O N G AGO , M U S IC WAS B U T A R A R E AN D F E E B L E W H IS P E R I N A W IL D ER N E S S O F S IL E N C E . . . ”
“ relationship between major and minor keys. Until then, there were 19 notes in the musical spectrum, and much research had been done to reduce them to the standardised 12 notes we know today. This system was called equal temperament, and J.S Bach was the first acclaimed composer to recognise its importance, which led him to create the Well Tempered Clavier in 1722, a masterpiece that helped establish equal temperament as a standard of music tuning for centuries to come. Other important inventions were created during this time, such as the piano instrument in 1700 by Florentin (Italy) instrumental builder, Bartolomeo Cristofori, along with the introduction of opera and
their own techniques and creative signatures; although they were technically proficient, they forced themselves to obey simple structure in order to highlight the importance of symbolism and symmetry. For example, apart from a few complex linking chords, classical harmonies were generally composed around a I, IV, V chord progression (interestingly enough, a progression similar to the blues that appeared in the 20th century). These musical geniuses shaped and refined music: Haydn established the rules of the symphony; Beethoven pushed the boundaries of composition, even after he was deaf; Franz Schubert was the first to mix folk songs with classical music; and Mozart
“BEETHOVEN PUSHED THE BOUNDARIES OF COMPOSITION, EVEN AFTER HE WAS DEAF.” concert houses that opened their doors to ticket holders, thus slowly detaching music from the exclusivity of the Clergy and the Crown. The years that followed between 1730 and 1830 were rife with social, political, and artistic change. In contrast to the serious disruptions of the time, music was created around the sole pursuit of pleasure. While wars were being fought, Kings being decapitated, and Napoleonic battles erupting all over Europe, the music that was created around this enveloping chaos was more focused on structure, simplicity, beauty and hedonism. It was the era identified as Classical Music; a period of musical elegance and sensibility with a backdrop of sanguine normalcy. A time that gave birth to giants of European music: Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig Van Beethoven, and Franz Schubert. Each one of them having
was one of the first self-employed musicians who did not depend on Royal commission to survive. After his impoverished death, his widowed wife, Constanze Mozart, sold his manuscripts in the free market, thus making her a pioneer in the commercialisation of sheet music, therefore laying the blueprint for the modern music business we know today.
he classical age blended in with the earlier part of the 19th century. It was the Polish composer, Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849), who drew the final curtain and introduced a new musical epoch: the Romantic Age. Inspired by Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven, his music was centred around one instrument, the piano, an instrument now installed in every middle class household at
the time - a newly recognised social group that had money and the desire to acquire knowledge once reserved to higher members of society. Part of this knowledge was that of music, which is why it became a trend for the new middle class to install pianos in their living room. To meet this new demand, a tidal wave of sheet music was printed and sold to the new social group (folk and classical music included). This enormous access to music allowed a new social group to emerge: female musicians. Since playing the piano was a sign of accomplishment for middle class women, it gave them a medium of selfexpression and sometimes even a source of revenue. An example of this would be Robert Schumann’s wife, Clara (Wieck) Schumann, considered one of the most distinguished and inspiring pianists of the Romantic era along with Chopin. Being a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, Romanticism was an artistic movement that went against the scientific norms that were shaping society at the time. Musically, it was an intellectual current that was inspired by classical giants such as Mozart and Beethoven, but at the same time, opposed their need for structure and formality. Entering the mid 19th Century, some musicologists labeled this period as the age of tragedy, since composers like Hector Berlioz were inspired by topics such as death and destiny. Tragic love became an obsession, emotional exhaustion was no longer a consequence but a necessity, and brilliance was linked to borderline madness. But this radical thinking that accompanied the industrial age was also fruitful with musical innovations. One of the most influential composers of that century that has inspired numerous modern film scorers of our time - like Danny Elfman, Franz Waxman, and John Williams - was Hungarian composer, Franz Liszt. He was a pace-setter and innovator, recalibrating the forces of music by introducing symphonic poems, creating musical responses to non-musical artworks, and dismantling Western music with the introduction of 12 tone serialism (a composing technique revolving around the restriction of repetition). Another important composer of that time was Richard Wagner (1813-1883), who pushed the boundaries of music, and was considered the most dangerous composer of them all. He was a direct inspiration to Hitler, who quoted Parsifal (Wagner’s last opera composed in 1857) as a major influence, and used Wagner’s music in many Nazi events to promote his political agenda. Indeed, Wagner was outspoken about his anti-semitism and the reason why Parsifal had such an impact on Hitler was because it promoted racism towards Jews, and advocated the ideas of
Arthur de Gobineau, who popularised Aryanism. Coming out of the Romantic phase and entering the Modern era of the early 20th century, composers started focusing again on more simplistic forms of music. In France, musicians such as Gabriel Fauré, Erik Satie, and Gustav Mahler reacted to Wagner’s bad influence and shifted their composing styles to simpler music, and banished pomposity of all kinds. Since Wagner was inspired by classical music, these younger composers returned to influences of the Baroque period, and found inspiration in the compositions of the great J.S Bach.
he early 20th Century was a rebellious and mind-opening time for music academia; it spawned the concept of Atonality, meaning music that deliberately lacks a tonal centre, and we finally saw the incorporation of music from other cultures. Thanks to the World Fair at the Trocadero in Paris (1900), composers were now exploring newly imported musical concepts such as Polyrhythm from Africa, and the Pentatonic scale from Asia - two major elements that are now paramount to the creation our contemporary music, especially in Hip Hop (Polyrythm) and Rock (Pentatonic). Furthermore, after the American inventor, Thomas Edison, invented the phonograph in 1877, the music industry was changing from the commercialisation of sheet music to selling records - a paradigm shift that would affect the creation, consumption, and sale of music forever.
In the next chapter, we will dive into the foundations of our contemporary pop music, an era during which the forefathers of contemporary music laid out the blueprint of what would be the basis of all music today. www.sonicvistastudios.com
“ROMANTICISM WAS AN ARTISTIC MOVEMENT THAT WENT AGAINST THE SCIENTIFIC NORMS THAT WERE SHAPING SOCIETY AT THE TIME.”
VOCABUL ARY AR T MU SIC: Also known as formal music or serious music is an umbrella term used to refer to musical traditions implying advanced structural and theoretical considerations and a written musical tradition. Coined by British musicologist, Philip Tagg, art music is one of the three axioms of the triangle consisting of folk, art and popular music. In the Western world, art music usually refers to the broader classical music, but also covers non-Western classical traditions such as Chinese classical music, Indian classical music or traditional Japanese music. CL ASSICAL MU SIC: Not to be confused with the Classical period between 1730 and 1820, classical music is also a broader term used to refer to European art music.
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A RT & SO UL WORDS PAUL WATSON
Dave Stewart needs no introduction, but just in case... He is perhaps most recognised as the creative arm and long-time band member to Annie Lennox in multi-platinum selling UK duo, Eurythmics. That musical journey began in 1980, after the pair broke away from British rock/pop band, The Tourists. International super-stardom followed for Eurythmics (as it does), in the form of an MTV VMA for Best New Artist in 1984, a Grammy in 1987, the BRIT Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music in 1999, and an induction into the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. Oh, and let’s not forget the 75 million records sales. Add to that Stewart’s own three BRIT-Awards, all of which were for ‘Best Producer’, and Lennox’s eight (she landed ‘Best British Female’ no fewer than six times), then it’s suffice to say that the lad from Sunderland and the lass from Aberdeen didn’t do bad.
Skip to present day. While Lennox has been busy recording and promoting her new album - a collection of classics with her unmistakeable vocal twist - Stewart has been busy producing no fewer than five albums in 2014 alone, and they’re all a bit quirky. Fresh from laying the strings down on new British songstress Hollie Stephenson’s debut album (which is BRILLIANT, I should add), he takes a well deserved break from the console to look back on 35 years in the biz, and then forward to the 2015 MPG (Music Producers Guild) Awards, where he will be presented with the ‘Outstanding Contribution to UK Music’ accolade...
Tell me about Hollie Stephenson, whose debut album you’ve just finished - literally! Oh, she is unbelievable. In fact, I just spent yesterday in what was Ocean Way Studios doing the strings on the last track of her album, so yes, it’s very fresh, and we’re both buzzing! She only turned 16 in February this year, and I first heard of her when she was 12, then I met her and her mum several times over the next couple of years, and then she when she was 15, I flew her over to America to do the first recordings, and now I have to say, her album is one of the best I’ve produced this year. How do you mentor a talent like this that is so rare, and of course, so young? Well, from my side, it is really about me helping, like most producers or co-songwriters and collaborators, by trying to realise her vision; unlike the producer who says, ‘this is my sound and I’m going to put my sound on you’, it’s realising that she was obsessed with all these early Billie Holiday albums, and understanding all the music which she talks so passionately about, and the music she was singing and playing. It was about showing her how to do it in the studio, really. She could play an acoustic guitar and sing her songs well, but I was able to explain about horn sections, how backing vocals work, and the use of different sounds from different periods, and then slowly develop her. I suggested that we should record four tracks first, and that we would do it like they always did it back in the day: live, with the horns in this section, drums here, and so on; and she sang with them all playing, and did a fantastic job, you know? The other thing is, she already had two songs on SoundCloud, both of which she wrote entirely by herself when she was just 14, which is amazing, so this girl has essentially been writing Motown classics for years, already! To be able to adapt so well, working in that kind of daunting environment at that age, sounds staggering to me... She must have blown you away! Oh yeah, completely. Yesterday she was saying it was the happiest she had ever been, which is great to hear, and how she loved watching strings going down on her latest track, which is called Sunday Morning. Another thing happened actually, which was interesting... We recorded four songs in Jamaica, and a documentary film maker, who’s making this amazing film about these lost tapes in Jamaica, flew out and filmed Hollie doing a duet with the now deceased Dennis Brown, Bob Marley’s favourite singer, but when he was just 16, so that
will be in the film, which is very cool. A lot of things have happened since we started making the record, and then Hollie played her first gig in America, and a songwriter magazine editor went bonkers about her [laughs]. So there’s so many people wanting to get a bit of time with her or just meet her, you know, which is great, but at the same time, she is only 16, so she only understands some of it, you know what I mean? I saw your interview with Bob Harris on the BBC show, My Nashville, the other day. It was interesting to get your take on Music City, and how it got you making records again, after some 13 or so years out of the game. Tell me about that... Well, this year I’ve produced five albums already, and I made a documentary called Ringmaster General, about the making of two albums in five days, where I do duets with all the amazing Nashville characters, singers, and musicians Martina McBride to Alison Krauss - I then went back and made many albums there, one with Joss Stone, and then I took Stevie Nicks there in March this year, and made an album with her in two weeks, which with Stevie is pretty mind-bending - it would normally take two years! And now I’ve set up an office there inside Blackbird Academy, part of Blackbird Studios, my favourite place in the world, and I have an office here [in LA] as well, so I can go between the two. Making all these albums with all the great players in the big rooms was really special. Country, as a scene, is getting bigger and bigger in the UK and Europe, is this down to the musicianship and the overall quality of songwriting, do you think? Yeah, I think so. I myself haven’t really made any country music as such, I was just really in love with the fact that everybody is talking about music there, and not deals and chart positions, in the world of songwriters, and the city itself. You can walk in anywhere, and there are just incredible people everywhere playing mandolins and drums and guitars. Certain cities seem to be on the musical fault line, and that’s one of them, like Kingston is in Jamaica, which is throbbing with music - that’s somewhere else where I spend a lot of my time. It was great being accepted and brought into the fold in Nashville; suddenly I wasn’t an outsider anymore, and it is like a second home to me now. Do you think there is still a need for dedicated recording facilities outside of musical hubs like Nashville?
“I NEVER SEE MYSELF AS A PRODUCER, WHICH IS PROBABLY WHY I AM SO MAD ABOUT MUSIC.” Well, for me, there are two worlds. One is the complete hardcore electronic world in your bedroom – and this is relevant to another album I produced this year, which was all electronic. I worked with Deadmau5’s engineer, and got someone to mix it, it was all software and plugins, and that was amazing, So I swing from wanting that, and then this [Nashville experience]. I either want to be in a big room with all the great players and put it all down at once, or be on my own in a tiny room recording everything with Ned Douglas, who has been my programmer engineer for years. It’s weird this year, because at one point I was producing my daughter, Kaya, in this tiny little room, who is signed to Warner Bros., and then next door I was producing Stevie Nicks in a huge room. Stevie was 64, and my daughter was 14, and I was wandering between the different rooms, and it was amazing. Obviously Stevie got talking to her, and she got talking to Stevie, and although their music sounds completely different, there were a lot of similarities in what they felt. Another amazing album I made this year was with this kid I met online; he is from Louisiana, and the project is called Stewart & Lindsey. That is just the most incredible sounding record, and we were never in the same place! He’s singing in his mum’s apartment in the middle of a tiny town in Louisiana,
and I’m playing electric guitars and stuff in Los Angeles! So really, there’s four completely different albums. I never see myself as a producer, which is probably why I am so mad about music, and I like songwriting; as a career, if I was only making ‘a sound’, like Phil Spector, I’d get a bit fed up and bored, as I’m sure he would had if he’d kept that up for 50 years, you know? [smiles] I like diving into the craziest situations; I just follow my instinct with what I think is musically ingenious. So you’re actually quite well balanced between major studio and project studio. Is that a healthy way to be, in today’s world? Yeah, I think so. I remember years ago when [the second Eurythmics album] Sweet Dreams took off, we’d seen lots of interviews explaining that we made the record on a TEAC eight-track with a 16-channel desk and a Klark-Teknik spring reverb, and all this stuff [smiles]. That’s what we made it on, and it was in magazines all over the world. I remember a lot of American hip hop artists in particular said, ‘hey, I read that article in that magazine, that you could make this stuff in your bedroom’, and that was a very exciting time for everybody to realise that. During that period, I would always have a little studio with me on the road or in my hotel room, and I would put
down stuff on a tiny little four-track cassette Tascam recorder. I remember vividly writing this song called Don’t Come Around Here No More with Tom Petty in a hotel room in San Francisco, and the master is actually the four-track cassette recording that I made, all the way up to where the band comes in, so it’s only actually two tracks and Tom’s voice. So it was a very, very experimental world going on. Christ, I remember suggesting we record Be Yourself Tonight in a French suburb in the Russian quarter of Paris, where people were actually wandering about outside - some were having coffee, kids were playing table tennis, nothing to do with a famous pop group or rock group and you’re in a tiny little room, the size of a small office, with no overdub room, making a record, when you’ve already had four or five hits! [laughs] I remember the kids running out, they couldn’t believe we were making a record in there until The Old Grey Whistle Test turned up to interview us with a camera crew! And then look at tracks like There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart) to hear what’s on that record is insane, a male opera singer who could sing five octaves, Stevie Wonder playing the harmonica solo, an orchestra, and of course it’s all electronic, so there was so much sort of hybrid mixing stuff, and in order to do that, we had to do all sorts of tricks, like having an orchestra recorded in a corridor of The Church [Studio, London], which Paul Epworth has now bought and has made a beautiful job of turning it into a new studio. But we’d be recording on a roof, and then we’d be back on the eight-track, in fact we went back to using an eight-track on Be Yourself Tonight, really, whereas most people that’d had a handful of hits would have probably been working on a 48-track, or whatever! I remember I had my mum and one of the girls that worked with us grinding their feet on some gravel in time with a track called Ball and Chain, so it was just a totally experimental time; and I am still doing that kind of thing, and I think it’s very important to have, to use the outdoors, to use huge studios, and these studios should exist because you shouldn’t limit musicians. You don’t have to make it in a bedroom or on a laptop, because you might suddenly want to have somebody playing a great big timpani drum! So any upcoming producers out there in the UK should just follow their ears, so to speak? Well, it’s all about thinking differently in innovation. Let’s say there was a band, and you thought maybe you could produce
them, and you lived in Sunderland, and you had some mics and a laptop and an interface, or whatever you had. I wouldn’t just think, ‘right, so we have to record it in the bedroom or the garage’, because you could always speak to your local vicar about his church hall, right? Just for a day, get in there and put the drums down, and depending what kind of band you are, you’ve suddenly got this amazing real organic sound, and you’ve done it with two microphones! Now, go into the bedroom and the singer can sing. Just don’t feel closed in. If you have a bit more money, do what I did in Nashville, and just get in a big room for two days, and get everything, then you can go in a small space if you want to do overdubs, but it’s really necessary, I think, to have big spaces to be able to make a noise and record stuff. What’s helped with all the technology is, you can have some old shipyard warehouse or something, and have a laptop and some microphones and a pair of headphones, and record the most incredible stuff. And then, because it’s real reverb and real room sounds, there is something very special about it. On This City Never Sleeps on Sweet Dreams, we recorded the squeaking of the wheels of the train as it came into Camden Town tube station. It’s stuff like that, you know? What role does the MPG play in our industry today, and what does it mean to be honoured with the Outstanding Contribution Award? If you think about the way music has been consumed, and how a lot of people just assume music should be free, and the whole topsy turvy world that the music industry is going through, how artists are often at the bottom of the pyramid, and then the producer is below that, then I think the MPG plays a pretty big role. In royalty terms, if you imagine an artist gets 14 points, then the producer gets four, and then if you imagine one of the biggest selling albums used to be in the millions, now it’s in the hundreds of thousands, so it’s a lot of work for diminishing returns. So, for an organisation like the MPG to put the message out there that actually, it is quite a big deal, and it does take quite a lot of time and energy to make a record, raising awareness that there are these people called producers, and they should be recognised in some way or another, is very important. The general public don’t know or even understand who produced it, or what they did, and that’s okay, but the thing is, for this award, it’s obviously about producing, and producers - people who can understand what you go through to make a record - and that’s a nice thing; not only are you often a therapist for the artist, having to understand what they
“WE RECORDED SWEET DREAMS ON A TEAC EIGHTTRACK WITH A 16-CHANNEL DESK AND A KLARKTEKNIK SPRING REVERB...” want to get out emotionally, but you’re also working out the best ways in which to do it, technology-wise, and trying to get the best performance out of them. So it’s a huge honour for me. Are you aware of the MPG’s ‘Credit Where Credit’s Due’ initiative? Yes, I am aware of it, and I would love to know more about it, as I have been supporting FAC [First Artist Coalition] from the beginning, which is working with a lot of different organisations, and there are so many issues. I am also in the process of creating something called the First Artist Bank, which is going to tackle a lot of things, and we can be connected to so many different ways and means in finding the route to where the money lies when the work is done. A lot of the time, Spotify gets blamed, ‘hey we’re only getting X amount’, well that’s probably because your record company has got the rest! Spotify only played it, but you signed the record deal, and they have to get the rights in order to play the music. Thing is, if you’re a Swedish artist, and an independent, for example, and Spotify have paid the record label $250,000, $220,000 of that might be in your pocket, so that’s the whole debate: who is where, and what is right. There are so many unfair laws that protect all sorts of businesses, but for some reason, recorded music and songwriters are at the harsh end of that list. If you had a farm, that was your grandfather’s farm, that was his grandfather’s farm, and they farmed the land and passed it down to you, nobody’s going to walk along and say, ‘hey, now it’s the public’s’, are they? They’re songs, and why pick on us? If you built a department store business in 1910, and you’re the third generation running it, no-one can come along and say, ‘now the department store is the public’s, folks! Okay everybody, run in and take what you want!’.
So how can we expect to remunerate artists fairly when streaming seems to be such an issue, and some artists get cheques for a couple of dollars for more than 10,000 plays? That’s a lot! I’ve had cheques for a cent! [laughs] I am a real advocate for Spotify, because a lot of the other streaming services are a bit wonky, as you say, and also there are so many giving it away for free, so it’s very complicated for an artist to get paid. If you play something on the radio in America, the artist doesn’t get paid, yet 100,000 people might hear it when it’s broadcast. With streaming, each individual is hearing it on their own in a room, but if you add that up to 500,000 people playing it, you’re likely to get in the region of $10,000, or something like that. So, it’s a volume business; and if the payments are fair, then obviously this is going to be the transition, and there is no way of stopping it. Everything, not just music, is moving in this way. You’re going to have cars that drive themselves soon. It’s just a matter of understanding which [streaming services] have transparent and fair payment systems. So what about the songwriters and producers that don’t perform – how will they survive? I think this is the really big question, whether you’re making a record independently, or with a major record label. Obviously I think that when there are syncs involved, which is where a lot of money comes from now, be it a film, a TV show, or a commercial, somebody should say, ‘well hang on, a percentage of that sync should be treated like a royalty’. If you think about it, when a major like Universal does deals with beats, and put all the music in there, that really is a sync: you’re allowing them to use it, and that music isn’t really owned by them, it’s owned by them and the producers, and the songwriters, and everybody else who made it. But labels are just not seeing it like that, so that’s another big debate. Really, if Universal are walking away with a billion dollars from that one beats deal, why should that be just theirs? You’re also an advocate of PPL... Yes, they have been collecting performance rights monies and stuff like that for years, through all the various means in which they can, because before the Internet, it was a bit of a laborious process with a lot of paperwork, and it was easy to be foggy. The Internet has forced transparency, and if people aren’t joining in yet, they’ll have to, as it causes transparency in governments, in medicine, in everything. People are still hiding in the corners, but they can’t hide
“I LIKE DIVING INTO THE CRAZIEST SITUATIONS; I JUST FOLLOW MY INSTINCT WITH WHAT I THINK IS MUSICALLY INGENIOUS.” away forever. So I think all of these guys like PPL need to somehow be in complete contact and constant debate with managers, producers, and artists, to make everything become more and more straightforward for people to comprehend, and understand where the money is, and how to get it. I’m sure they’re going to massive lengths all the time because of the nature of which music is appearing now - all over the bloody place - so I think they’re doing a very important job. Without the likes of PPL, lots of people would get nothing. People are definitely more aware of their rights, now. I mean, you’re not really aware of water until it starts running out, then you start going, ‘hang on a minute, we’ve only got one bottle of water left!’ Things are changing constantly, because that is what the world is doing, and the Internet is getting more and more robust. Along with every invention, there is always an upside and downside. The downside is, every time somebody invents a clever way of doing something, somebody else invents a clever way of undoing it. One of your musical icons is Stevie Wonder. Tell us about the time he turned up to play harmonica on one of your big numbers... That’s a very funny story... Annie [Lennox] and I had been at the studio, and we were told that he was coming, and I said that I thought Stevie should play on There Must Be An Angel. She said it’d be impossible, but I sent him the song anyway, and he sent a message back saying he loved it, so he was going to come to the studio at this time. We didn’t realise then that Stevie is classic
for being hours and hours late, so it got to about 1am, and we thought he was probably not coming, so we went back to the hotel. We then got a phone call saying Stevie was waiting, so we quickly headed back to the studio, and we had a great talk with him, and he was good fun. He then said, ‘okay, let’s do it’, so he went into the room, and this guy tied up all his [hair]beads in a kind of bag to stop them making a noise on the mic when he was shaking his head, and then it was this big, suspenseful moment. I played the track, hit record, and he played that exact solo that you hear on the record from beginning to end, and we were stunned. He said, ‘how was it?’ and I said, ‘it was absolutely amazing’, but we didn’t really know what else to say, so I asked him if he wanted to do one more for luck, as producers often do, and he said, ‘yeah, sure’. So we went from the same point in the song, pressed play and record, and he played an Irish jig all the way through! [laughs] Amazing! Finally, is there a song that sticks out for you over your career, or is that like asking, ‘how long is a piece of string?’ Ah, that’s hard... A good few with Annie, definitely, but actually, usually my favourite one is my last one, so in that case, it’s the one I co-wrote with Hollie, which we recorded yesterday with a full string section, and it’s called Sunday Morning. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about her soon... www.davestewart.com www.mpg.org.uk
- A (ROUGH) PASSAGE TO -
I N DIA WORDS JERRY GILBERT
The invitation was to fly to Mumbai and run a press office for a sound and light trade show. Figuring it might be a transformative experience, and my one chance of visiting the sub-continent to see Queen Vic's finest colony, I nearly bit their arm off...
his was seven years ago, and I promptly phoned a few mates. “Won’t need a Visa, will I?” “Nah, don’t think so,” came the collective response. After all, a chance to inspect the damage wreaked over 90 years by the British Raj had to be worth something. But it quickly went wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong. I arrive at Heathrow for the Virgin Airlines night flight, pass two levels of security, and arrive at the departure gate with one eye already on the in-flight hospitality. “Er, where’s your Visa, sir?” Visibly shocked, but thinking on my feet, my instant riposte is: “Don’t worry, I’ll buy an entry visa when I land.” At that point, I am virtually frog-marched out, told that I have breached the last cordon of security, and that Uncle Richard would almost certainly have lost his license as quickly as his spacecraft if I’d made it through. In fact, the hostess is clearly so embarrassed, she volunteers to rebook me on the same flight the following day at no extra cost, and hold my luggage. “Just get a passport picture on the way out,” comes the sage advice, “and make sure you get to the Indian High Commission at the Aldwych no later than 5.30am, as there will be a large queue for visas. “ Of course! It’s October, and the religious season, with Diwali and what-not. They’ll be a mass exodus. So I dutifully return home, Crimewatch-style photo in hand, and set an early alarm. At 5.30am, I am strolling down the Kingsway towards the Aldwych. Ha! No queue… In fact, hardly anyone about. Then I discover why. It’s October 10th, Mahatma fucking Gandhi’s birthday, and a National Holiday! It’s one of only two days in the year that the High Commission is closed. I call the airport and prepare to suspend everything by a further 24 hours, thanking my lucky stars I have built in two ‘buffer’ days (originally allocated for tourism). Now I would have to land and head straight to the Bombay Convention & Exhibition Centre, where I am told the ‘local’ PR team will meet me. However, there is still the Visa problem to negotiate. Sure enough, there is a massive queue stretching back a mile. The guy in front of me helpfully explains that there is a daily quota, and that if we miss the cut, we’ll be back in the clubhouse before you can say Dengue Fever. Over the next four hours, we ebb ever closer to the front of the line. It’s looking promising … In fact, I am three people away from getting in the door. It is two minutes to one (and you just know what’s coming next), and the Embassy closes for lunch between 1pm and 2pm. I can’t help thinking that if we hadn’t introduced concepts like lunch and tiffin and suchlike to India, it wouldn’t now be regurgitated in my face. As I seriously contemplate walking the short distance to the Thames, to hurl myself from the Temple embankment, I gain access, and it’s like a walk back in time. I eventually reach the desk where the Visa-walla asks, “Where’s your letter of Invitation from your sponsors?” My what? From who?” “Er, let me call them right away and get an official letter faxed over.”
"But at least I got to see India; abject poverty on the streets, while I have a choice of entrances into my 7-star hotel bathroom." “I am sorry sir,” comes the voice, straight off a call centre recorded message, “our fax machine is broken.” Cursing Gandhi, Allah, the prophet Muhammad, and anyone else I can think of, I rush out to the Waldorf Astoria; I’d just written a feature article for a magazine praising their new pâtisserie, and now it’s payback time. Fortunately, the business centre takes compassion, and soon a fax is appearing in their paper tray. I want to kiss it. I race back to the Embassy with the precious piece of paper, the clock ticking. It is now around 4.30pm, and I have been there 11 hours. When the stamp goes into the book, I nearly cry — even though my patience has only earned me a six-month visitor’s visa — leaving the other unfortunates who have breached one of the tiny bureaucratic sub-section clauses (who have become my new found friends) to the mercy of officialdom. I race to the airport, catch the flight, and then it’s a taxi to the exhibition centre just in time for the show’s opening. The taxi pulls into a dirt track, the Bombay Exhibition Centre being far from the grandiose building I had been expecting. I am told cheerfully that the previous year it had flooded, and only the presence of Ohm, NEXO, and Martin Audio line arrays — loudly competing with each other in the courtyard — reassure me I am actually in the right place. I am stinking for England, and badly in need of a shower (or a tropical monsoon). I look for two things: the voice evacuation system, in case of emergency, and the local PA crew. There is no evidence of either, just an empty shell. In fact, the PR agency never did turn up. But at least I got to see India… Well, the String of Pearls, Gateway to India, and even the Taj Hotel, which later got blown up. Abject poverty on the streets, while I have a choice of entrances into my 7-star hotel bathroom, and whether I wanted to frost the glass doors from my in-foam hand held remote. I never did get invited back, but I do note with wry amusement that the Indian Embassy has now stopped the practice of personal visits, and it’s postal applications only. Next time, I’ll use an agent to do it for me… However much it costs.
BRING YOUR ‘A’ G A M E WORDS PAUL WATSON
enowned American guitarist and songwriter, Johnny A, was born in Malden, Massachusetts, and grew up in the North Shore area, cutting a career playing out of Boston’s reputed rock clubs in the ‘70s, a time when the city had a buzzing and remarkably eclectic music scene. This self-confessed guitar nut, who grabbed himself a number one single on his first album, was recently inducted into Boston’s Music Hall of Fame, and although he’s grateful for the accolade, he admits the city’s musical roots are getting worn and tired, and opportunity for up-and-coming artists is lacking. Sadly, there are very few decent places left for Boston’s rising talent to play, and gone are the days of WCBN’s Rock and Roll Rumbles: giant battle of the band events put on by the now legendary radio network where 25 (yes, twenty-five!) of the city’s local artists would compete against each other, round after round, engaging the musical community, and providing a competitive and exciting scene. So where is this city’s next Aerosmith or J Giles Band coming from? Well, if all Bostonians adopted the Johnny A way of thinking, perhaps they might not be a blue moon away... His latest album, Driven, was written, recorded, and mixed by the man himself, in his homemade studio, Thanks to a lot of hard work, and a stupendous crowdfunding campaign, it’s been received fantastically well by the music press, and, wait for it... It’s making money! Yes kids, it can still be done – and without major label backing. Yes, Johnny A has toured the world, and he’s no stranger to a major, but this period in his career, I think, might be his most important – and certainly most creative. Despite being, as he puts it, “just an independent musician playing in a pretty tough scene”, he gives real hope to the next generation. So all aspiring hit record makers, sit back, and take note, from the man who knows how, in today’s game...
“MUSIC IS COMMUNICATORY - IT’S SUPPOSED TO EMOTE...” BOSTON I’m now living some 35 miles north of Boston, in the New Hampshire area, but it was in Boston that I made my name, and my living, playing music. Is there still a scene? Well, yeah, kinda, and oddly enough, I am getting inducted to the city’s Music Hall of Fame this year... Maybe that two bucks will get me a cup of coffee, I’m not sure, but it’s nice to be recognised, all the same. In the mid-to-late ‘70s, there was a lot going on; I was on the same bill as The Cars before they got their deal, and what was really great about the Boston scene was its unbelievable musical variety. Boston has always been a jazz city because of the Berklee College of Music, and it’s always had that heavy duty blues thing, and it’s also had a great singer-songwriter scene thanks to the likes of James Taylor, Jonathan Edwards, and even Van Morrison for a while. Then there was the rock stuff, like the J Giles Band, and I remember Aerosmith breaking
through in ‘72; and then there was this punk scene with bands like The Neighborhoods... I could go on, but it’s fair to say it was a seriously eclectic place to be. RADIO KILLED THE RADIO STAR Back then, we had WBCN, this amazing progressive radio station which was very supportive of local acts. We also had a lot of clubs, indie labels, record stores, all of which would support the independents. We’d have a thing called Rock and Roll Rumble which WBCN did, which started with 25 bands, and would whittle down to two winners. It was so competitive, exciting, and healthy. It’s not like that anymore, as venues have closed, and local radio doesn’t support acts like they used to besides, what is radio anymore? It’s rough to be an independent musician today. I remember my first solo record after I left Peter Wolf, it got some organic legs that kinda grew, and I got picked up by Steve Vai’s label, which was distributed by Sony Red, and it gave me a hit record and the number one song across the country on that first album. Then I made another album, and I left the label, and I’m back to being an indie artist again. Thing is, these days, people don’t even want to pay for music, they think it should be free, and it makes it tough for any serious artist making a real living to have a career in the arts or music, you know? GO DO IT! I’m on all of these streaming sites: Music Choice, Pandora, Spotify, Reverb Nation; all that shit, and I never see any money from it. After my second album, Get Inside, it took me a while to get more out. I released an album in 2001, another in 2004, and then when I left the the label, I wanted to do a live album, but I had a ‘no re-record’ clause, so I couldn’t record my own songs for five years... As a result, my live project came out in 2010, The One November Night. I had success with that, which you don’t expect with a live record compared to a studio release, but I did sell enough to be profitable, which was great. And now, my new album, Driven, which came out in June, is going great guns. I did a very successful Pledge Music campaign, and managed to raise $40,000, so I could promote it, get a publicist - I even got Bob Ludwig to master it! It’s a top-shelf release, but it is self-distributed, through my own company, and online. I’ve been approached by some labels, but I’m cagey around those guys, man - I own a house, I have kids, and I have to make money. I can sell a CD (yes, a CD!) at a show for $20, or a download online for $12. I have my manufacturing costs and production costs, but honestly, you can sell 10,000 records and make $200,000; and between all that, and what you pay for your fees, you may be able to realise $16-17 out of that $20 bucks, and if you sell 10,000 units, you can actually net $160,000 before taxes, and live to fight another day.
DRIVEN TO SUCCEED I love producing my own discs, and when I was with Peter Wolf, I co-produced his first comeback record that he did for Warner Bros. which was on Reprise Records. With this record, I took it a step further. I have never been an engineer, and I have never had my hands on a console; I guess I was the architect of tone, but with Driven, it was all different. I installed a studio in my house, which started as a place to track my stuff, as I record everything direct – I don’t like amplifiers, and the only thing I ever miked up was the drums, and I didn’t even do that on this record! So I didn’t need a live room, but I needed a different sounding room, so when I could play back, I would get an accurate representation of what I was hearing, and the more I worked on tracking, the better it started to sound. TESTING, TESTING! I have a 1,400 sq ft. space, with 8.5 ft. ceilings, and it’s broken up by lots of half-walls, curved walls, and crazy standing waves, so I got the guys from Genelec in to have a look. Paul Stewart came up with Will Ecclestone, and we all listened to the room, to see what we could improve. They thought that with a little treatment, the room was actually fairly accurate, which is pretty amazing considering I had never intended on it being a studio; it’s a rec room with a pool table, an entertainment centre, a couch, and a bar! So, I did the tracking, it sounded really good, but when I went to mix, I realised there were limitations. I wanted an analogue feel, even though I was recording on Logic [at an 88.2 kHz sample rate]. There were limitations in playback, as I was working in the box, and I wanted to use external EQs, compression, and preamps, even though I have all the plugins I could ever need. So, after tracking, we disassembled the whole studio, and I ended up buying an SSL new AWS bank 48 console, and it made all the difference in the world. As soon as I was up and running, even a stereo playback through the console was light years ahead of what I could have come up with – and that was just the circuitry. When Genelec came up, they tested the room, and what they like to see is no more than plus or minus 5dB at any frequency when they’re doing their calibrations - anything within that is within spec, and acceptable. My room seemed to have an excitement at about 5k; the bass was manageable, but I needed to buy some acoustical panels to run along the back and side walls with the console, and I put some clouds above the mix position. The guys then came back and recalibrated it where the monitors sat, and I was in spec at every range except for 110dB on the left-hand-side, was -6dB, so within 1dB at every frequency range, I had a flat response, which was amazing, considering it’s just an otherwise untreated room within a house!
TAKE YOUR BRAIN TO ANOTHER DIMENSION I have worked in a ton of top studios, I have good ears, I am diligent, and I am anal, but if you hear Driven, it was all done in my house, and to be honest, if someone came along and wanted to distribute my record and re-record it, I don’t think I would do it anywhere else. It was that fantastic. I also believe in your own space, you have that extra luxury of experimenting. I am a big Beatles fan in every way, and I like to look at this as my Revolver. That [Beatles] record had so many ‘firsts’, where they used effects like looping, which are commonplace today, for the first time, and they used the studio as a tool, a real experimental tool. That’s how I see Driven, and that’s how I set about making it. I did this using two sets of excellent studio monitors: Genelec 8260s, which are threeway monitors; and Genelec 8020s, smaller models for my nearfield. One thing I can tell you about the Genelec tone print is, if you put yourself – your head, or your ears – in the same listening ratio from the bigs to the smalls, it’s just amazing how much those speakers sound alike. As a matter of fact, the thing that I found is in the midrange – let’s say it’s the lead vocal or a centre guitar - when you switch back and forth between the two sets of monitors, that does not move; it stays in the same physical space. That is a phenomenal advantage when mixing, as when I listen to music, I visually see the mix; front to back, left to right, and top to bottom. I was striving for dimension and depth in the mix from top to bottom, and for my first time as an engineer and producer, I was really proud and happy with the results of what I was trying to accomplish from that original depth of field, using the Genelec monitors and the SSL console. I don’t know what the point of vanity studios are these days – they’re certainly not for people like me, because I can’t afford them. And to be honest with you, as proven, I don’t need to be in a studio like that. I have got the best bass sound I have ever got on a record, and even Bob Ludwig said to me they were exemplary guitar tones. He said they were some of the best he had ever heard, and this guy has mastered everybody, you know? Music is communicatory – it’s supposed to emote. Just like when you’re looking at a painting or you go to a movie or you read a book, it’s the same thing... You can still make a successful career in the music industry today, you just have to think a little outside the box. www.johnnya.com www.genelec.com
S M I X I N G D A V I D G R A Y WORDS PAUL WATSON The morning after David Gray’s intimate show at Union Chapel, Headliner travels back into London to chat with his two superb (and very tired) live engineers, Graham Pattison and Jamie Hickey. Over what seems like litres of coffee, we talk touring, songwriting, technology, and French splitter vans...
ince Graham Pattison got asked to work on David Gray’s week-long Bare Bones Tour in 2007, he hasn’t looked back, and has been at the helm for the world-renowned songwriter ever since. “I remember getting the call, getting in a splitter van in France [where I live], and making the journey first to The Church Studios in London to pick up David and the band, and then up to Scotland for rehearsals; he wanted to reinvent himself at the time, which actually, looking back, was kind of the birth of what we’re doing now,” smiles Pattison. I ask him if, because of the phenomenal production of Gray’s latest offering, Mutineers, he has to work harder to replicate that sound live. “The acoustic space is completely different on the road, as the way people feel and react is incredibly organic, so it’s actually never a case of replication; it’s more an evolution. Every night you’re doing your take of those songs on that day; the album is the frame, and you’re making a new picture every night.” So that’s a no, then. Fair enough, and understandable, I guess, considering Gray’s sets are often fairly unpredictable, and his songs take different shapes depending on his musical mood. “He loves it when the band members lose it a little,” adds monitor engineer, Jamie Hickey, who’s worked with Pattison for many years with bands including Tindersticks and Kula Shaker. “When they get it wrong, he likes it, as they’re getting so into it; it happens on Sail Away, and a couple of other numbers, but it just adds to the atmosphere and the performance. To actually replicate the record would be
nigh on impossible, as the band dictates what happens night after night. “The other thing about Dave’s music is, most people don’t know the early stuff, just White Ladder onwards, which was the explosion that had such a huge effect on pretty much everyone. That record went super multiplatinum! Everyone thinks White Ladder was his first album, but no, he goes back way before then, and actually he still plays the first song off his first album, A Century Ends, most nights. He did it last night [at Union Chapel] and totally nailed it, actually. Sometimes after a tough touring schedule, which we have definitely had, the air conditioned venues in the US can take their toll, and your voice might be at 90% rather than 100%, but he found something extra last night, which he has a habit of doing, and it was really special.”
THIS YEAR’S LOVE A great vocalist will sound good through any microphone, of course, but since Pattison switched Gray to a DPA d:facto II, the results have apparently been spectacular. “I have been an advocate [of DPA] for a while, and I bought more DPA mics this year. They’re stunning to work with, and the difference in tonal quality and headroom since using d:facto has been unbelievable,” Pattison insists. “Dave did a few acoustic-led shows in Ireland, and because his voice is so strong and has such a dynamic range, and the mic is so transparent, the combination is stunning. The same thing happened last night, as Jamie said; now and again, a special moment or a special gig will go down, and it makes you realise not only how good his voice is, but how truly amazing the microphone is.” Pattison recounts a story from 2010, when Gray had just completed his ninth studio album, Foundling, a collection of songs that didn’t quite make the main albums, but were released in their own right. He wanted to take them out on the road, but with a bit of a twist.
“He’s such a prolific writer, so has to seriously condense his records down from more like 30 songs to 11 or 12, so there was an opportunity to put out another record, and he wanted to tour it in a completely different way,” Pattison explains. “It was grand pianos, cellos, pedal harmoniums, all sorts. At the time, Neil MacColl was his guitarist, a very experienced player that had been with him since the first record. I knew Walter at [DPA’s UK distributor] Sound Network, and said I was interested in giving some DPA mics a go,
“WE FELT THAT THE DPA 4099 S WITH THE TOM MOUNTS MIGHT DO THE TRICK, AND FRANKLY, THEY’RE BLOODY BRILLIANT, AND SOUND SUPERB.”
and the minute I got hold of the 4011 and stuck it on Neil’s battered old mandolin, it suddenly sounded wicked! We just had it going through a vocal PA, and he looked at me in almost disbelief at the quality of sound. He went out and bought a superb Gibson mandolin after that, so you can imagine how good that setup suddenly sounded! “From the source, everything will be right using anything by DPA. I’ve worked with d:facto for a whole year now in a lot of environments, and I really like it. Unlike many top mics, it’s also durable. “Dave might not take the mic off the stand,
but he takes the stand with him around the stage, so it certainly isn’t static the whole time.” This year also marks the first outing of the DPA 4099 on drummer, Keith Prior’s kit. Prior plays a super-expensive Craviotto hand-made kit, and according to Pattison and Hickie, “if he is going to that level of investment, then so must we”. “His kit is worth something crazy, like tens of thousands of pounds, so we felt the DPA 4099s with the tom mounts might do the trick, and frankly, they’re bloody brilliant, and sound superb,” enthuses Hickie. “I’ve got the 4011s on the overheads, too, which are also great. I remember when I took a DPA package out to Australia with [UK indie folk band] Daughter, we put 4099s on the toms, 2011s on the overheads, and d:facto on the vocals, and that whole setup made a phenomenal difference. That band is all about the floor toms, and I also put them on [ JH Audio] JH16 in-ear monitors; the combination of fidelity and clarity made a crazy transformation, and the 2011s as overheads were unreal. We also use JH16s with Dave’s band, which has made the stage far more workable, and definitely easier on Graham, too. “I have a [Neumann] KMS105 and KMS9, both of which are great, but with d:facto... Booooom! Straight away it’s at another level. When I soloed the vocal of the pianist, I was like, ‘where is the piano?’ Seriously, the projection is outrageous! There is no spill from the back of the mic, which is just amazing.”
IN THE COMFORT ZONE With eight people on stage, and nine positions to cater for (Gray has a centre position and a piano position), it can be a challenge, audio wise, especially considering many of the venues on a typical David Gray tour are reverberant concert halls. “We started out on wedges, but we wanted to clean the whole thing up, so six out of the eight have moved onto JH16s. The band absolutely
love it, and although it was the first time on in-ears for many of them, none of them would go back to wedges now,” reveals Hickey. “Dave does have wedges though, a pair at the front and at the piano, and there’s nothing worse than a sampled piano in mono, as it sounds like arse, so I have the wedges positioned just behind him, so when he is playing the piano, he gets the full stereo image in the back of his head. You can really sit in that image, with panned guitars and drums, and it becomes an extension of the room. He actually has no idea he has reverb on his vocal when he is playing the piano, as it just sounds like it’s part of the space, and it’s great to be able to make him that comfortable, and see him lose himself in the music.” Pattison has been a DiGiCo user since stumbling across a D1 while on tour with Ingrid Gomez in 2003. Although historically a hardcore analogue user, one show with the D1 made him change allegiance, somewhat: “I loved how small the D1 was, and that I didn’t have to move mix position; I was always in the sweet spot. I had a great show, then met a guy that taught me the tricks you only get from using it, the stuff you might not find in the manual, and from there, I asked all the gigs on that tour to switch out the analogue boards for a DiGiCo, just like that! At the end of that ten-day stint, I was really confident with it. I found even then, DiGiCo had a very analogue approach to the digital world, much like today’s SD range, and that still resonates with me.” Hickey is also on an SD10, but that hasn’t always been the case... “I only used DiGiCo for the first time in rehearsals, and I decided to spec an SD8. I’d always used a [Midas] Pro 2, which was cool, but within a week on the SD8, I knew it was another level for me. I realised I needed something with a little more to it, and I didn’t want huge footprint, so I went for the SD10,” he explains. “Now I have more processing power, all the macros, and I’m in a software environment that I’m really used to. The layout hasn’t changed [from the SD8], which was a very cool move on DiGiCo’s part, as you can jump on any DiGiCo desk and instantly be familiar with it if you’ve used any of the models before. As a result, I’m now up to 80 processing channels, 28 auxes, and I have all the macros I could dream of! “The automation is what really seals the deal for me; when you have 40-50 songs in a scene list, like we do with Dave, you can do it all instantly on the DiGiCo: make a change, put it where you want, store it, and paste it across. You can’t do that on any other console. The drummer is very particular about his sound, and that changes every day, so the routine is to set him up with his in-ears, and then deal with the room, and of course changes happen even between soundcheck and the show, but with the SD10, I can just select his mix, add whatever he feels he needs on the night -
perhaps it’s less bottom snare or a little more reverb - then store, paste, and it’s done. And it won’t affect any other automation. In that respect, DiGiCo has changed my life.”
SAIL AWAY Pattison has been a Waves user for a long time,
but has only just started to see the benefits of using the plugins out on the road, thanks to some gentle persuasion. “Fab [Piazinni, of Waves] said, ‘look, man, get your Waves shit together, now is the time!’ And he was right. I mean, upgrading to the SoundGrid was an obvious move, and after using it for a week, I realised I actually couldn’t do without it... Even though my tour profit has now basically gone [laughs]. But seriously, the Waves stuff is superb; it provides me with a lot of flexibility, and the quality of plugin is phenomenal. I use it on everything.” The two engineers have a clear bond, and also a serious work ethic, which must come in very handy when you take into consideration Gray’s meticulous daily on stage routine. “Dave has an on/off switch: he is either not doing music, or he is full-on,” Hickey says. “We soundcheck at 3pm every day, and that will last two full hours. He’ll go through every song, not for any other reason but passion, and getting it right; we then mix the support band, take maybe half-an-hour for dinner, then we start the show. We mix the support, then there’s a short changeover, then it’s Dave. By the end of the show, we’re absolutely done, as we have to stay focused and passionate about the music throughout. It’s shattering, and it’s intense, and then we do it all over again the next day.” “If he was an arsehole, I couldn’t do my job, and vice versa,” interrupts Pattison. “We get on well, we hang out for a beer after the show, and
“WHATEVER YOU NEED ON THE NIGHT, BE IT A BIT LESS BOTTOM SNARE, OR A LITTLE MORE REVERB, I JUST HIT STORE, PASTE, AND I’M DONE. IN THAT RESPECT, DIGICO HAS CHANGED MY LIFE...” we’ve got a longstanding working relationship, which helps enormously. When we worked with Tindersticks a while ago, they were amazed that we actually liked each other, as the previous crew were at loggerheads, apparently! But this industry is all about people, and we have a great team, and we work with a great artist; we’re proud to do what we do, and lucky enough to love doing it.” www.digico.biz www.dpamicrophones.com www.waves.com www.jhaudio.com
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D A V I D
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T W E N T Y
S H A D E S
DAVID GRAY IS
D A V I D
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ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL MALE
“ W E ’ R E L I V I N G I N A W O R L D T H AT M O V E S S O FA S T, I T ’ S
SOLO ARTISTS TO COME OUT OF THE
IMPOSSIBLE TO THINK WHERE WE’RE GOING TO BE IN
UK IN THE LAST TWO DECADES. HE MADE THE SMART MOVE OF CREATING
HIS OWN LABEL, IHT, BACK IN THE EARLY ‘90S, WHICH PAVED THE WAY FOR AN ILLUSTRIOUS CAREER. AFTER THE RELEASE OF HIS FOURTH ALBUM, WHITE LADDER (1998), HE HIT SUPERSTAR STATUS, GRABBING THE UK NUMBER ONE ALBUM SPOT, AND THE ATTENTION OF THE MASSES. TWENTY YEARS ON, WITH MANY HIT ALBUMS AND SINGLES UNDER HIS BELT, ALONG WITH MULTIPLE BRIT-AWARD NOMINATIONS, GRAY HAS JUST COMPLETED HIS 12TH ALBUM HIS FIRST IN FOUR YEARS – AND IT’S A BELTER. MUTINEERS WAS MADE IN COLLABORATION WITH MUCH-TALKEDABOUT PRODUCER, ANDY BARLOW, AND IT’S UNDOUBTEDLY GRAY’S BEST WORK IN YEARS. THE MUSICIANSHIP ON THE RECORD IS SUPERB, AS ARE THE ARRANGEMENTS, AND GRAY’S VOCAL PERFORMANCES ARE RIGHT OUT OF THE TOP DRAWER. HEADLINER CATCHES UP WITH HIM IN THE MIDST OF HIS US TOUR IN DALLAS, TEXAS, TO TALK ABOUT THE MAKING OF THE ALBUM, LIFE ON THE ROAD, AND HIS GROWING CONCERNS ABOUT THE CURRENT STATE OF THE RECORDING INDUSTRY...
WORDS PAUL WATSON How big a decision was it to launch your own label, IHT, from the get go?
Well, I’d had a few record deals, and they hadn’t gone so well, so I don’t know how many options were open to me when I’d completed [my debut album] White Ladder. I had a strong following in Ireland, and the logical thing to do seemed to be put it out ourselves. It was certainly the most fruitful option, demystifying the process of just getting on with it and putting a record out, and obviously the rest is history, as it went very, very well. It took a while, and was a spectacular success. That’s to do with the quality of the record, but also the passion of the people working on it; you break things down to
a small scale, and things begin to succeed. You realise you don’t need that many people, just the passion and intensity, and the intelligence of each person involved, so it was a small scale operation, but a key learning point for me. How difficult is that to do in today’s game, would you say?
I think it’s difficult for artists in any situation, established or starting out. The key for me is, I have a following, so I can play live, and live tickets sub everything else at the moment. The record business has collapsed, and ownership has become a thing of the past, and obviously revenue is withering as well, so it’s very difficult to see how this is a sustainable model. I don’t know how on earth bands can get started; clearly it can’t go on like this, and things need to be shaken up on a legal level, and the streaming services - there needs to be better remuneration for people making music. It’s nonsensical at the moment, so God knows how you’re supposed to get started. It’s just fall away, fall away, fall away, and I think this thing with U2 giving their record away to everybody in the world has been a PR disaster, and it sounds the death bell for ownership if they’re willing to do such a thing. iTunes have sort of partnered with them on it; it’s an attention grabbing thing, and they’ve succeeded in that way, but they’ve got a lot of negative attention. I don’t know what the logic to it is. What can we do to prevent publishing revenue from withering further?
I think it’s only going to further recede, so I don’t understand how the financial structures are supposed to be built to make records properly and go out and promote them, tour them, and make them a success, unless it’s some huge pop success or a thing of the moment that catches fire on the Internet. But everything can’t be that, so it’s a system that doesn’t really hold together anymore; I haven’t got any answers, but I can say it has changed, and five or ten years down the line, it’s going to have to be restructured as it doesn’t make any sense at the moment. It’s all based on the archaic value system, pre Internet, so the whole thing needs to be thrashed out in the courts. Artists need to get together and defend themselves if the record industry isn’t going to do it for them. God knows what conversations go on behind closed doors, but it’s a world that doesn’t make
any sense at the moment, so I don’t know how people are supposed to get started or make any money making a record. What’s your take on digital?
One of the huge advantages of the digital revolution is that it’s put the means of production in the hands of people that only own a laptop and a couple of microphones. You can pretty much make the record with that. OK, you might need to do a bit of recording in a real studio, but you can do an awful lot for nothing, so that’s one advantage; and in one sense, there is more new music being made because the means of production are readily available for people who have music inside them and want to express it. Then of course, you go out into the market place and none of it makes any sense, so there’s a sort of stampede. More music than ever is being made and released, and with it there’s less and less opportunity to monetise it in any sense! It’s got to move on, but quite how it’s going to happen is another matter. There’s a lot of very powerful people who are watching their revenue streams disappear: artists, record companies, publishers. I presume they’re going to club together and thrash out something that makes more sense, but I don’t quite know what that is. We’re living in a world that moves so fast, it’s impossible to think where we’re going to be in ten years. All I know is, every time I put a new record out, I sort of know how things are. The number are about a quarter the size of what I’m hoping they’re going to be, as it’s all just falling away at an insane rate! [laughs] Hooray! 500 records! There’s a resurgence in vinyl at the moment, and that’s a lovely thing to see, but it’s not going to help the overall picture. Your new record is, for me, your best work in years. What was it like recording with andy barlow at The Church Studios in north London?
Thank you, and yeah, I totally agree that it’s got something extra. Andy was very much at the helm on Mutineers. It’s really ‘our’ record, and the band also played a huge part: Robbie Malone, Keith Prior, and Caroline Dale on the cello as well. Those are all the main players on this one. We recorded a little bit of it at Andy’s place down in Peacehaven near Brighton, and a couple of bits from my home studio in London, but 90% of it was recorded at The Church. It cost me a lot to make it, and there were no
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stones left unturned in both the sound and the essence. There was not a glib moment on any song, and there are no fillers; every second was hard work, and it was a joyous thing when it all clicked. It wasn’t an easy record to make, and when it really began to happen, you could feel the intensity, the excitement, and that moment of discovery; and I think it’s tangible on the recording. There is a real freshness there, so it’s a big record for me... And talking about things not making sense, I spent about oneand-a-half years writing stuff, and then a good year in the studio, leaning on and making this record... Now how much time and money I’ve spent on it I couldn’t even tell you, and then you come out to the marketplace and there’s very little there! [laughs] It’s not going badly, it could be better, but it’s a battle at the moment. Everything is. Vocally, you’ve excelled yourself on Mutineers. How many vocalists did you actually use on the record?
[smiles] It’s just me! But yes, and I had such fun doing the vocals. I’m hitting the low vocals and the high falsettos and then the harmony parts. Andy has such a great ear, and his attention to detail meant the vocal nuancing was better than anything I’ve done before. It was incredibly dynamic, and he got me to back off and try and sing. He says, ‘you’re singing in fourth gear, Dave; try and sing in second gear’. So he got me to try and hit it as soft as I could but while still getting the note, and at that point, you get a more open sound and less attack. It took me to another dimension, and that’s why I built such a big band out on the road to try and do justice to it. It’s great when it all cranks up. Moving onto the touring side, you’re using a DPA d:facto II mic. How are you getting on with it?
Yeah, this is a mic that I have been using for a while because my live sound man, Graham Pattison, who is a wonderful talent, has a very strong relationship with DPA. He’s been scoring these mics, and they’ve been very good for me. I think d:facto sounds great, and I can hear my voice coming back through the wedges absolutely crystal clear when using it; the clarity is phenomenal. Do you have a stronger relationship with Graham because, as an artist, you need to understand more about the kit these days?
Well I think that’s definitely true, but I think beyond the changes of technology, Graham is another band member to me. He is as important to me as someone who’s in the band. When I’m having a hard time on stage, as some rooms sound terrible – they might be bass traps, or you might be too close to the PA - it can be very very hard to get a clear sonic picture of what you’re doing on the stage, so in the back of my mind I know that Graham is making it sound as good as it could ever possibly sound under the
“ I T H I N K D : FA C T O S O U N D S G R E AT, A N D I C A N H E A R MY VOICE COMING BACK THROUGH THE WEDGES A B S O L U T E LY C R Y S TA L C L E A R W H E N U S I N G I T; THE CLARITY IS PHENOMENAL.”
circumstances, and that’s such an important thing. There’s something wonderfully reactive about Graham as a sound man, so if I throw some stuff out there and he throws some delay spins on it, which will happen on several songs, it’s made up fresh every night; it’s never the same, and it’s an abstract terrain where it’s very much creating, not just putting the music across to the audience. If he needs to push the effects from the [DiGiCo SD10] console, he just gets stuck in like Andy does in the studio; it’s not, ‘go and put a little bit of reverb on’, it’s more, ‘wallop it all on!’ He is another band member making brave decisions and bold strokes, and that’s what I would always want. From the sound man and from my band, I’d rather they fucked up by being brave than just playing it safe, otherwise it’s boring. Graham is there for me 100%, and has been amazing over the last seven years. We must have done about 400 shows together now. Do you have much input with regard to your live sound? I know Graham uses DiGiCo with Waves plugins at FOH...
Yeah, I leave it to him really, but I might steer him a little bit if we’ve used something on the record a lot, I might say, ‘you might want to get something like this’, if we used a certain
slap-back or effect in the studio, for example. The first time Andy got involved, we had a lot of discussions and meetings in rehearsals about how best to achieve things, so I don’t like to play to clicks or great swathes of audio from the records. I try to reproduce everything live as live is a different beast. I did all that with White Ladder when we started; we had a CD running that had a few of the noises we couldn’t do, as there were only three of us in the band back in the late ‘90s, so in order to do justice to what we’d just done in the studio, we had to play along with that, and the drummer had that running in his head like a click, and we were playing along with him. But these days I am more interested in the purity of something made honestly, and I like the fact it’s always different: tempos will change and tracks will change depending on the mood, so it’s amazing when you’re tied to a click, how slow it will feel when you’re really adrenalised, and I’ve thought, ‘what’s gone wrong?’ as the track feels about five beats too slow. But it’s just in your head, and then the next day it feels perfect as you’re in a cool and calculated situation, but if you’ve got a crowd behind you and you’ve just played a big number like Please Forgive Me or The One I Love and you’re absolutely firing on all cylinders, it can seem all draggy and slow.
I don’t like to be tied to things; I like it to be real, and that’s the strength of my music – it’s the honesty of it. I’ve experimented with these things; I don’t think they’re inherently wrong, or evil, but I get more of a thrill off making it up live each day, and that’s my philosophy, and I leave Graham in charge, basically. I’ve heard him mix so many good things over the years, and he is such a lovely man and such a thorough professional, so it’s left in his hands. But at times, if I am sensing he is not taking a track ‘out there’ as much as I want him to, we’ll try to get into it together. Which obviously means you have a great trust in him. In the studio, do you have a live backbone, or is it all tracked from the word go?
Not very much of it was done live, no. In a couple of places, yes, but most of time it was me putting down stuff to click. On Birds of the High Arctic, the click starts at one speed, then goes up, up a bit more, drops back, goes up again, and then back a beat and a half. So when I am playing along to the click, I’m not just in time, I’m expressing and moving at the right moments, so we spent a lot of time making it feel natural, and once we had the template and I’d put the rhythm parts down, we could experiment with the sound and then put the vocals on. When there was a full picture there, we would bring the bass and drums in; sometimes they’d cut it together, but basically this was a layering album. My last two were very much live recordings in the studio with no click or anything, but this was me playing a lot of instruments and Andy adding bass and drums and cello after, plus all of his effects. I love to listen to an album front to back, but in today’s easy access world, people often just download one song. Does this mean they can miss the message of the record?
Yes, because the world has changed, and music is consumed in a totally different way now. It’s instant, and the idea of sitting and listening to an album is utterly outmoded, but it’s the way I still think. I choose to present the songs in a sequence that I think unravels a bit like looking at different pictures in a gallery; you see one, then you turn a corner and you see another. The juxtaposition between the imagery of one and the look of another really makes you think. The songs have inter-relationships that tie together creatively and tell stories; there is a theme, and the songs echo into other songs. It’s still the way I consider music, and I listen to albums that way. When I watch my children and other young people, the way they deal with music is completely different now; it’s much faster. It’s a bit like drinking a can of Coke... Pssshhh! I open the thing and then drink it
D A V I D
G R A Y
down before the fizz goes! That’s it. Sitting and listening for an hour is unlikely to take place in today’s generation, so that’s the way it’s gone; I don’t think that means it isn’t important, but personally, I need to complete the body of work. How has your music progressed since the days of your earlier hits, Babylon, Please Forgive Me, and This Year’s Love?
I think this album is the most uplifting poppy thing I have ever done in a way, and I think my voice and writing is getting better, too. White Ladder had a certain magic to it, and I love it dearly, so I can’t put things in descending order of performance, but each record, I try to make the record that’s in my heart, and I’ve succeeded in doing that most of the time, so you know, this is right up there with the best things I’ve ever done, and trying to get it across to the world and get it heard is a battle. There’s a stampede out there... It’s hard to recapture that White Ladder momentum in today’s market, but I am out here playing and getting it out there, and that’s an honest way to get it across. It still adds up to something, but it’s a battle. You’ve got some incredibly cool break beats going on throughout Mutineers...
Yeah, the drummer played his ass off on this record! But yes, the bass and drums put so much into it, which added so much character, and made the record sound so good. That’s the way they played, and it’s right there. The beat on [title track] Mutineers is great, as it goes from half time, to time, and then double time; it’s a great track live for the same reason, as it really gets the crowd going. What would your advice be to any artists out there trying to replicate your success today?
You have to follow your heart, and don’t panic. All this stuff has to have a value at some point. It’s tough to advise, as there are not many options out there to get the money to fund what you do. You might want to put your music in an advert, but that’s not really my taste. That’s the hair shirt that I’m continuing to wear! These days, there are not many cash offers. Do what you have to do that you’re comfortable with, and stick in there. It’s not easy, and it never is; if you’re going to make music, you need to remember that, as there’s a lot of hard work to be done. www.davidgray.com www.dpamicrophones.com www.digico.biz
“ W H E N I A M P L AY I N G ALONG TO THE CLICK, I’M NOT JUST IN TIME, I’M EXPRESSING AND M O V I N G AT T H E R I G H T MOMENTS, SO WE SPENT A LOT OF TIME MAKING IT F E E L N AT U R A L . ”
MILES WORDS PAUL WATSON PHOTOGRAPHY CHRIS MAYES-WRIGHT Renowned mix engineer, Miles Walker, began his musical journey back in high school, where he became adept on the upright bass. In college, he continued to play, but was also drawn to the art of recording music. Thankfully, Berklee had a course that would allow him to hone both these skills, and earn himself a major in music production and engineering, That, in turn, led him down a musical path that has seen him earn Grammys, number one credits, and a reputation as one of the best in his field... “I have always attended school for music, from high school, through college, and beyond,” explains Walker, who now works out of his own facility in Atlanta, GA. “I moved to Nashville after college, and started recording a lot of country music in studios, which was excellent from an engineering standpoint, as country is some of the most challenging music for an engineer to work with. However, musically I wasn’t really fulfilled, as I was born into urban and hip hop because I was also a DJ, so I was always drawn to music made out of Atlanta, and one day I decided I should be making music in the city that I love the music of, so I packed up and moved to Atlanta, and have been here ever since.” According to Miles, the important factors in music production are always the core fundamentals; if you don’t know what those are in the field you’re working, “you’re screwed”. “It’s not so much about understanding analogue versus digital, it’s all about understanding the idea of what you want to do. Pro Tools, for example, was just going be a tape machine at its core, and then it was a way to be a console, a program to edit and create effects from, so it’s about understanding the core of where the technology comes from,” he explains. “Music is a really gilded profession; it’s great to get that foundation background in school, but to take your craft to the next level, you need real world application - sit
underneath someone really great at what you want to do - and I was fortunate to have that myself; I had many engineers I studied under, and they put me in the game.” Today, Walker is “mostly a mix engineer”, but he does occasionally wear his recording hat, especially when working with one of his favourite clients, world-renowned Norwegian production duo, Stargate. “I love to record with Stargate, as I am such a fan of the music they make; there is something awesome about being in the room when the music is being born, which you only get to do as a recording engineer,” he enthuses. “As a mixer, you touch it up, breathe on it, and finish it, but I’ve been really lucky to get my number ones and Grammys with Stargate, working on projects involving Rihanna, Beyoncé, Chris Brown, and Katy Perry. We are really fortunate.” Walker describes himself as “Stargate’s excellent tool in keeping them productive”, because of the duo’s unbelievably prolific work ethic: “They can make a lot of music in a short amount of time, so a lot of times when we work, we will book two studios: I will have the guys set up in one room with keyboards and production kit, and they can work on music, as Mikkel [Storleer Eriksen, one half of the duo] is a good engineer himself, and I can be in the other room recording vocals; that way there’s no down time. “Also, I am able to travel to the artists to
record the songs if the Stargate guys aren’t available. Let’s say the artist was in LA or London, I can travel, record their vocals, and bring it back to Atlanta... I’m like the satellite version of Stargate, if you like – the ‘catch all’!”
Room To Breathe Walker built his own mix room at Silent Sound Studios, Atlanta, which is a recording stable. If there is one thing he finds more helpful than any piece of equipment when it comes to mixing, it’s familiarity. “Having a knowledge of the environment you’re working in is paramount, so knowing your room is everything, and I love the one I work out of; it’s only after that foundation that it gets technical,” he insists. “When I started, there was a lot of analogue going on, so I always did mixes and rough mixes on consoles, and I found it very easy to work like that, mostly because of the headroom. The SSL 4000G is my favourite console of all time, as no matter how hard you push the sounds, they don’t break, even when maxing it out. So it was when I switched over to ‘in the box’, as we were travelling studio to studio, that I struggled the most. “My headroom in my whole stereo buss was getting crushed out, and I didn’t like it, so in my room I incorporated the recallability of working ‘in the box’, but with the analogue nature of working with a stereo buss; I used a series of analogue summing amps, so all my automation is done inside
Pro Tools, but I still have 48-channel full analogue summing scenario where I use three [16-channel] SPL mix streams (summing mixers), all linked up, so I can also be very hands-on. Plus, it gives me that ability to insert analogue kit with incredible ease. Although Walker uses a plethora of outboard kit, he couldn’t work without his favourite plugins: “The thing I love about Waves [plugins] is their attention to detail. For example, the SSL EQ channel is excellent, and what I particularly like is how much they paid attention to modelling the G as well as the E Channel console, as anyone who’s used those will know those two EQs are incredibly different and incredibly great; it’s awesome to have the ability to switch between the two by just pulling it up as a plugin. I love using the G stuff on music and instruments, as I think it’s more aggressive in a good way to really make your sound cut through, but I also love the softness and the smoother curve of the E channel on vocals, when I’m just trying to do something a little more corrective, and less harsh.” According to Walker, the best plugin Waves has ever made is the R Compressor, because to him, it’s sonically neutral. “It’s really nice to have a utilitarian compressor that can do some simple levelling without completely changing the sound,” he states. “A lot of times, I’ll reach for something vintage if I’m trying to create a feel or a colour or texture, but it’s also great to have something simple that I can use to get something under control, and not really change the sonics of how it was recorded, so that’s why I love the Waves R Compressor. “Also, some of these older ones are great, like the Waves de-esser. I use it all the time, and I love it just as much as any dbx de-esser, or anything like that. I have been
happy with some of the more recent models they’ve done with some of the vintage stuff, too, the Abbey Road stuff is all very nice, though that stuff is only going to get called upon when I’m trying to create that feel. But on the whole, I have always been a big fan of the Waves traditional stuff that has been around for a long time. I mean, it’s popular for a reason, right? [smiles]”
Keeping It Real Although Walker says he is not one that likes to scream, “the old way is the best way”, he admits that many of the old ideas are the best ideas, and they can become even better with a touch of modern technology. “For instance, look at the H Compressor from Waves; the fact that they have a release time that can sync with the BPM of a song is just genius; of course, compressors have always existed to have adjustable attack and release times, but to dial it in... Well, it’s just fantastic, especially if you’re creating something rhythmic – and there’s no other easy way of doing it.” I ask Walker what other trends are starting to show in the world of mixing, and he laughs, adding that “world music is being created in very different ways”. Confused, I ask what he means: “As so many of my clients aren’t based here in Atlanta, and they all want to be involved in the final mix, I’ve used Source Elements Source Connect plugin, which I put on my master fader, which allows me to stream my mix up so they can listen to it via a link, in their preferred environment, and in realtime. We then get on the phone or Skype, and I can literally ask, “what do you think of the sound of the kick drum?” and make changes in real time, based on their responses. It’s so much better than sending
“IT’S GREAT TO GET THAT FOUNDATION BACKGROUND IN SCHOOL, BUT TO TAKE YOUR CRAFT TO THE NEXT LEVEL, YOU NEED REAL WORLD APPLICATION.”
mp3s or emails, and everyone is part of the mix. “I finished mixing an entire album for an Australian artist, Guy Sebastian, who is based in Oz, using this same method; lots of his producers were either based in LA or London, and I was bouncing around in realtime, sharing information, talking about updates, streams, whether to put a guitar here or there, and all on different time zones! You know, I’d mixed three albums for that guy, and I only just met him, when he flew to Atlanta for the first time to do a music video with Q Change, a rapper based here. Crazy! That’s the future, and that will become even easier as technology continues to evolve. The opportunity is there to work together, write and create music in different ways, and sharing sessions and audio in realtime is very, very exciting.” www.waves.com www.mixedbymiles.com
S O U N D S O F T H E G A L A X Y WORDS paul watson
Oscar and BAFTA-winning British sound mixer, Simon Hayes, gives us a rare and quite fabulous insight into the meticulous work that goes on behind the scenes during the making of a Hollywood blockbuster. We look at the working relationship between Hayes and Guardians of the Galaxy director, James Gunn, and find out why, against the odds, it is sometimes necessary to get up close and personal with a topless professional wrestler...
SIMON HAYES BAFTA-winning British sound mixer
How did you get involved in Guardians of the Galaxy? This was my first job for Marvel, which I was really excited about... I’d just finished Prometheus with Ridley Scott, so they knew what myself and my team were capable of. Prometheus was a huge special effects movie, and sometimes that can mean it’s very difficult to capture live dialogue, and sometimes the special effects are prioritised above the dialogue; but when you put myself and my team into a difficult environment, we can negotiate with the special effects team, and we can generally get good, useable dialogue. That was particularly important to [director] James Gunn at Marvel, because although Guardians is a huge special effects ‘Space Opera’, as he called it, it is also very much a comedy dialogue film, based around relationships and performances. We were put into a situation where, although it was going to be very tricky to capture the live dialogue, it was absolutely of paramount importance to be able to do so, simply because if you start trying to ADR (Additional Dialogue Recording) performances, which are based around comedy timing, it can come across badly on screen. Thankfully, the cast we had [on Guardians] were really, really good, and they were really up for trying different things on set to get the performance right. If we’d tried to recreate that kind of performance afterwards, I think it would have been detrimental to the film, and James Gunn certainly told me that in our first meeting: he didn’t want to loop any dialogue unless absolutely necessary; and he was looking for someone who was going to fight, and get the dialogue tracks in amongst the special effects that we were going to be shooting. That really impressed me about James, and got me excited about the project. Dialogue in films is a tricky business. What’s your go-to formula, if such a thing exists...? [smiles] It’s always going to be difficult to capture, because filmmaking per se is based around visuals. We were making silent movies years before sound came into the game, so working in audio, we’ve always, if you like, been ‘second class citizens’. But I like to look at us as a reactive force, and we react very fast to situations that arise on set, and we are able to cope with them. So rather than looking at sound in movies as a secondary entity, I like to see it as a complete challenge. The most wonderful thing about recording sound on films is this: everyone has got an opinion on the picture, what the director should be doing, what the DOP [director of photography] should be doing, what colour the walls should be, and what colour the costumes should be, but rarely has anyone got an opinion on the sound, so myself and my team are left to our own devices. Of course, when the director gets into post production, that’s when he starts to look at the sound carefully, but often during the shooting of a film, we do our own thing, and get a lot of creative control. Having said that, James Gunn was very different to a lot of directors that I had worked with in the past, as he already had a sonic signature in his mind for this movie, and that’s a very, very rare thing. He is a meticulous organiser, and a meticulous planner, and when I went in to meet him the first time, he already knew exactly what music he was going to be having in the film, and one of the things that really excited us was that he wanted to be able to use music playback in the movie –
“WE SNAKED A DPA MIC UP HIS HIP, AND UNDERNEATH HIS PEC, SO IT WAS POKING OUT OF A ‘SCAR’ IN HIS SOLAR PLEXUS!” not just putting songs on afterwards to create a mood, but to play songs back while we were shooting, to give the actors the correct atmosphere, and the camera moves the correct timing. There were times when we would literally time camera moves and dolly tracks around the music that we were playing back! To be that organised in advance, and to commit to having that song playing at that particular time, in that particular scene, is very, very rare, and credit to him for that. We were playing back music, dipping it out for dialogue, and bringing it back up to time a camera move, so when he said it was going to be a ‘Space Opera’, he meant it, and that’s the way we shot it. You must have had to forge a good relationship with the cast members, then? Yes, we did, and that relationship is something we pride ourselves on, and which we always start building from day one on any set. On Guardians, we were there for a lot of the screen tests, which is where we met a lot of the cast, during the late costume and hair and make up testing stage, and that was very helpful. We also had an extremely understanding cast on Guardians; they knew that we were shooting three cameras, and they knew that we were going to have to radio mic every single scene regardless. And what was also great was, James Gunn and [DOP] Ben Davis wanted to capture these original performances, and keep them as fresh as possible; they wanted to shoot three cameras, and wanted close-ups, mid shots, and wide shots running all at once. Because of this, there were a lot of times when the boom microphones couldn’t get in close enough, so we decided to reverse our normal workflow. Normally, it’s the booms that are our priority, and the radio mics are our fallback, but on Guardians, we prioritised the radio mics, which were DPA lavaliers mics, simply because they’re hands down the best lavaliers on the market, and for this project, we couldn’t always rely on the booms getting close enough. There are some fantastic scenes in the movie which we shot on two booms using Schoeps mics with Cinela mounts that sound absolutely superb due to the technical ability of my
two 1st Assistants, who are expert boom operators, but there are also a lot of scenes with extremely low ceilings that are in frame on sets like space ships which we just couldn’t get the booms into. How difficult was it getting everyone miked up, while keeping all the kit out of shot? Well, first of all, we wanted to get the radios working as well as they could possibly be rigged, and onto every cast member. This meant collaborating very early with the costume department, and I have to say that Alexandra Byrne and Dan Grace (costume designer and costume supervisor) were incredible; they met myself and Arthur Fenn (1st Assistant Sound) months in advance, and asked if there was anything they could do to help. Working closely with the costume department at the design stage is pretty unprecedented in the film industry, but something myself and my team always try to do. We then had weekly catch up meetings through the whole pre-production period to discuss costume developments, and how we could hide the mics. It was a real team effort. We managed to get a DPA lavalier mic into a really good position on every cast member, but it wasn’t always easy. With Drax, for instance, who is a character played by professional wrestler, Dave Bautista, he was topless through the whole movie, which presented us with a huge problem. Dave had loads of dialogue, and is an incredible actor, but we didn’t know how we would be able to lavalier him. Then we found out that Dave was having scars put on him by special make up effects, and his burns were to be all over his upper body, so we found that if they adjusted the scar tissue very slightly, we could snake a DPA cable up his hip, and around then underneath his pec, and have it poking out of a ‘scar’ in the middle of his solar plexus! Incredibly, this meant we had a DPA 4071 positioned in the best place you can possibly put a DPA 4071, because it’s designed to go on the chest! If you put a flat microphone, like a DPA 4060, onto someone’s chest, because it has a completely flat response, which of course is what we would normally want, it can actually sound very resonant and too bass-heavy because it has a proximity effect, and any microphone positioned on someone’s chest will have an enhanced bass quality on the vocal. But the 4071 actually has a tipping point on the midrange of the vocal, so you can put it on the chest and it will sound totally natural. Without that, I am pretty sure Dave would have had to have ADRd 90 percent of his dialogue. Incredible stuff! But then you took a slightly different approach again, when miking Chris Pratt, who plays the hero, Star-Lord. Tell us about that... With Chris, we started out with a 4071 on his chest, but we found that his voice actually suited a 4060 better, and we also decided that because he is the hero, we wanted to give his voice an extra punch, so we used a 4060 on him deliberately to enhance the bass in his voice a little, and to give him the quality that we felt a leading man should have. I should point out that this is all about subtlety in microphone choices, not winding up EQ on the set; I am still wanting to give flat recording tracks to the re-recording mixer so he can EQ as he wishes, but what I am also trying to do is find the best microphone for each actor’s voice. It’s subtle differences and small percentages that will be helpful afterwards, and not a hinderance. You also had to get particularly creative when ‘working’ with the CGI characters... Yes, that was a huge part of the creative chain. We have Groot, who plays the big tree, and Rocket the Racoon, both of which are CGI characters in the movie, but of course they both have speaking parts, too. Groot doesn’t say much, just, “I am Groot”, throughout the whole thing, with various levels of emotion [laughs], and he was played by Vin Diesel in the eventual movie, who did a great job. Rocket, however, has a lot to say. He is permanently riffing with dialogue and interjecting, firing out quick exchanges with cast members. But when we first started shooting,
we didn’t know who had been cast as Rocket, so we had this issue: a CGI character who was going to be ad libbing lots of comedy, so how were we going to make him interact with the actors? Thankfully, James Gunn’s brother, Sean, who is a serious character actor, kindly agreed to help us out and play Rocket, but the thing was, was Rocket was going to end up thigh-high to Dave Bautista! A tiny character, that would be painted in using CGI afterwards. So we then had to work out how to get the vocal exchanges between Rocket and the rest of the cast working. What the visual effects team and James Gunn decided to do was to hire a little person. Now, little people do a lot of film making; whenever we have children, like in the Harry Potter movies, or Nanny McPhee, they are always doubled by little adults, so the kids can shoot their scenes, but then when we are lining up and doing camera angles, which takes time, the children can be schooled on set, so they don’t work a whole lot of hours, like adults do. So we hired a little actor to be Rocket, and her role was to be the eyeline for the other actors. It was Sean Gunn’s job to be Rocket’s voice. What James didn’t want to do was have Sean standing just off camera doing all of Rocket’s dialogue, because our five characters would find it so hard actually shooting glances and talking to where he should be if a voice was coming from a different area of the room. To remedy that, we put a DPA radio mic on Sean, and he sat next to James at the back in a dark tent watching HD high-res monitors, and he performed his dialogue with the rest of the cast from there listening to the production sound from the set through Sennheiser HD25 cans, while Arty, our little person, was actually standing in position, providing an eyeline for the actors. We built a small speaker, which we put around her neck, and routed it straight to the DPA microphone that Sean was speaking into, so Sean’s voice would project out of her, so when the actors were talking to Rocket, they were looking at Arty. It was all about making the actors feel comfortable with their performances, and it worked really well. Brilliant... And I guess this also helps build morale, and a kind of camaraderie on set? Oh, absolutely. And I must also mention that there are loads of interjections, which are normally a no-no, because if you have someone off screen overlapping your on-screen dialogue, particularly if they’re a voice that’s going to get completely replaced later, you’re going to run into problems. Although Sean Gunn was a huge part of the creative process, and he really was Rocket on the set, and much of his persona and the emotions that Rocket displays first came through from Sean’s performances, ultimately, his voice was always going to be replaced afterwards, so what we couldn’t have was Sean’s voice overlapping over our main actors’ voices, as that again would lead to ADR, and let’s
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
remember James Gunn’s ethos on this movie was ‘comedy dialogue to be recorded on the set’; he didn’t want to have to ADR it later down the line in a vocal booth. So what Sean brought to the creative table, as well as the performances, was his ability to have fast-paced arguments, and to almost overlap actors, but not quite; if there was an overlap, he would lay off the first two words so that we could get the other actors clean, then he’d come in halfway through a line. His instinct and his timing for doing that was just absolutely incredible, and through the whole shooting process, there wasn’t one occasion where he stepped on any actors’ lines, and if you bear in mind that Rocket is constantly arguing with everyone in the movie, it shows you just how much supreme technical confidence Sean really has. Phenomenal. How much has the advancement in wireless technology improved your overall workflow? I think what we have to do here is go back in time, and it’s quite ironic that a lot of the films that I have become well known for have prioritised radio mics, because I actually came through the school of never relying on them, and never trusting them 100 percent, as they were very sketchy and unreliable. If you look at Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, these are two examples of full movies I did without any rerecorded dialogue, where we didn’t use any radio mics at all, just booms. But times have moved on, and we’re now shooting multi-cameras, and we don’t have the ability or time anymore to shoot with just one camera. On a lot of the movies we make, especially the big Hollywood blockbusters, we are shooting multi-camera, which precludes booms getting into the frame. Luckily, what’s happened at the same time is, as Hollywood has moved more into multi-camera shooting, production sound has also moved with the times, and we’re able to multitrack. Not only that, but the radio equipment that we’re able to use is so much more reliable and advanced than it was. Not only was radio range unreliable ten years ago, but the quality and the timbre of the vocal was so coloured when it came through a radio mic. Something that has changed my world in that respect is Lectrosonics with their superb digital hybrid system; it’s as close to putting the sound through a cable as it possibly could be. It’s not only transparent, but you honestly can’t hear that it’s a radio system, so not only are we getting a rock solid signal, but that signal isn’t at all coloured; and that’s what I am after from a radio system. I am not really a fan of limiters, but there are limiters in the digital hybrid system that I use. Let me explain... Historically, what you would do with radio mics is turn up the gain on the microphone, so during the peaks and dialogue, you’d just touch the limiters; that way, you knew you weren’t going to have any unwanted radio artefacts, and you weren’t going to hear any hiss, by keeping
the signal to noise ratio up on the radio link. Now, I actually turn the Lectrosonics down, so during dialogue passages, the limiter is never ever touched, and it’s testament to the quality of the system that I am able to do that, and actually record with slightly less signal to noise, so I don’t touch the limiters, but I don’t have any unwanted radio artefacts. I can’t hear any hiss whatsoever; it really is a staggeringly good system. And on the mic side of the equation, the DPA capsules can handle extreme SPLs, so you can stick one on an actor’s chest, and that actor can scream as loud as a human being can scream, and not only does the DPA not start to square off, it doesn’t actually even start to sound constrained or compressed at the capsule end. That again is a massive step forward, technology-wise, so when you combine that with a Lectrosonics wireless backbone, it sounds as close to a cable as any radio system I’ve ever heard, with extremely good signal strength. So I can actually now confidently say that this historic dislike of radio mics I’ve had can be put to bed now, as times have moved on; modern electronics have got better, and we’ve got to trust them. It sounds like the same audio combo that you used to capture those wonderful performances on the Les Misérables movie, which you won an Oscar and a BAFTA for... How much did the Les Mis experience prepare you for Guardians? It’s exactly the same, and what’s amazing is, probably without Les Mis, we might not have had the same ethos as we did with Guardians, where we actually decided we could prioritise the radio mics because of the multicamera shooting. Les Mis gave us the confidence to do that. We know the DPAs and the Lectrosonics on Les Mis gave us outstanding results, and what that film was all about was emotion, and those emotions we captured on the set made their way into the movie, and then out of the speakers in the theatre - and you know, every time I went to a Les Mis showing, I heard people crying, and that’s simply because the original performances people could connect with them so much, and feel and hear the emotion of the voice; and that’s really what I am trying to do on all the movies that I record. I am trying to be the link between those original performances that the actors put in on the set, and the cinema-going audience. I want the cinema-goers to hear those original performances the way I do on the movie set, because I think films suffer if not. I’m guessing you’re pretty light on compression and limiting when recording? This is a hot topic with feature film mixers, and everyone has their own
so not only did I have a director who was 100 percent supportive of me capturing original performances, I was also working with one of my best mates, who was just as supportive! It not only makes it fun making the movie, but it also means you get better results.
“WITH A LECTROSONICS WIRELESS BACKBONE, IT SOUNDS AS CLOSE TO A CABLE AS ANY RADIO SYSTEM I’VE EVER HEARD...” ethos and thought process. Mine is, I don’t like any form of compression, no limiters, and I don’t like to use any EQ at all. What I really pride myself in is being an expert track layer for the post production team. I want to present them with the highest quality, yet rawest sound files possible, and give the dialogue editor and the re-recording mixer a huge amount of flexibility. In post production, they can then try different levels of compression on a scene, or on a performance, and they can audition them in the context of the finished cut and the finished movie, knowing how loud the dialogue is going to be playing against the music, and make their decisions based on that. Recording on the set is a very dynamic time, so you sometimes only get one chance. On Guardians, a lot of the time we’d shoot a rehearsal, do two or three takes with the camera rolling, and that’d be it, we’d move on. And once again, that’s a testament to James Gunn wanting to have a completely fresh performance from the actors, and for things not to get stale. I tend to record at a lower level than most feature sound mixers, and use the full dynamic range of my trusted Audio Developments AD149 analogue mixer, which is still the best tool for the job – nothing in the digital realm comes close to its transparency and performance, which still amazes me, I have to say! I’m not riding the gain a whole lot either, but what I am trying to do – and here’s the key in what I’m trying to do with all the films that I record – is to get extremely good signal to noise ratio; I am trying to get the microphone absolutely as close to the actor as possible, which means I can bring the gain
down, which then means all the background noise on the set is going to come down, so all of the room reverb is going to come down, and so on. The more up front we can get the dialogue, the easier it is for the re-recording mixer to push the music and effects, and that’s really what I am trying to do, give him and the director the ability to push the effects louder in the final mix. It sounds to me like Guardians might be one of your favourite projects to date... Or can that change like the weather? [smiles] Actually this was one of my favourite projects! Most of the movies I end up enjoying the most are ones that are supportive of sound, and with directors that actually want to capture original performances, and James Gunn is most certainly one of those. Another reason I loved doing Guardians was that the DP was one of my best mates, Ben Davis, and we go way back; we started collaborating on Layer Cake, and we also did Stardust and Kick Ass together, and we have also worked together a lot with Matthew Vaughn. And you know, I’ve worked with him so many times and him and his team are very supportive of what me and my time are trying to do with sound, and they very much see it as a team effort. And that’s something which is really valuable, and tangible; you can feel it on the set. What was wonderful was, James Gunn was able to come over to London from America to shoot this movie. He actually assembled a crew that had worked together many times, and we already had a professional shorthand, we were in the zone and ahead of the game, and
With today’s consumer that little more audio-savvy, has the likes of Dolby Atmos been a serious game-changer for cinema-goers? Yes, definitely. We’ve had lots of game-changers visually in the past: HD first, then with 3D, but Dolby Atmos is the first really big gamechanger in cinema audio since Dolby Digital. With Atmos, we can place vocals around the screen in different positions. If we shoot a wide shot, and we’ve got one character in the upper left hand corner of the screen, we can actually place their vocal up there; and if we have someone else in the right hand bottom corner of the screen, we can place their vocal down there, too. That’s something people don’t talk a lot about with Atmos, they talk about the fact that we’ve got different stems coming out of the ceiling, and all around us, which is incredibly exciting, but for me, the big game-changer is being able to place those vocals in different parts of the screen, because before, with a Dolby Digital 7.1 system, we just had a centre speaker, so everyone’s voice was locked to the middle of the screen, but being able to shift those voices around, as we heard in Gravity, which was an outstanding advertisement for what could be achieved with Atmos, that’s really special. Audio is important in film, it’s 50 percent of the story; and if you can’t hear what the actors are saying, and you don’t create a dynamic atmosphere, then the audience are going to come out feeling deflated, like they didn’t get the full movie experience. At the end of the day, people go to the cinema for a dynamic experience, and at least half of that dynamic experience is coming out of the speakers, from the story that the actors are telling, to the sound effects that punctuate that story, to the score that brings the emotions of that story, and I think Dolby Atmos is a fantastic step forward in being able to add to that experience. Finally, and this has no relevance to the interview, but what’s Samuel L. Jackson like to work with? [laughs] He’s very, very cool, and very helpful, actually. I’ll tell you this about Samuel: he can learn eight pages of dialogue, and do them again and again and again, and never put a syllable wrong. Absolutely true! He is just a consummate professional... www.dpamicrophones.com www.lectrosonics.com
10 MINUTES WITH...
JAMES GUNN The acclaimed director and co-writer of the spectacular blockbuster movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, takes some time out of the Californian sunshine to discuss storytelling, music, rhythm, sonic signatures, and Twinkie factories...
You wrote and directed Guardians... How different are those two hats? I don’t see them as very different, as I have always directed movies, since I was a kid, but I started making a living as a screenwriter, and I found it always to be a very frustrating experience to finish a screenplay and hand it off to a director because I really do think of the directing of a film as the final draft of a movie, it really is a part of the storytelling; you’re just writing with images and sounds as opposed to writing with words. The truth is, as a screenwriter, I always saw things visually and heard things through audio, in my head I didn’t see things as words, so as a screenwriter, I really always felt more like a director. I do think that there is a part of me as a director that’s a much harsher filmmaker than me as a screenwriter, I can be a bit more indulgent! And as a director you have to make really harsh reality choices, where you are behind the gun and you don’t have enough time in the day, and you have to cut some lines, or cut a shot, or cut something that you know your screenwriter self thought was the most important thing in the world while I was writing it [smiles]. The soundtrack to Guardians is unreal... Is this down to your love of music in general? Yeah, I love music dearly, and I think I fell in love with music as a young man, and it’s such an important part of filmmaking to me. I don’t think it is for every filmmaker, but it is for me, and music is such a powerful tool we have at our disposal that isn’t always being used as much as it can be. I love using music in my films, and just really relying on it as much as it can be relied on. And from what I understand, you had a real sonic signature in mind before you started, which is pretty unusual for a director... Yeah, I would say that is probably true. In terms of Guardians, where I came from sound-wise and imagewise were the same thing, it was about creating a world that was fantastic and shamelessly over the top, while still being really grounded, and that was true of the sound as well as the pictures, which was really helpful. The other thing that [sound mixer] Simon Hayes was really helpful with, which is the rarer thing I do, is that we’d write with my composer, Tyler Bates, huge sections of the score before we shoot, and Simon would play the score
on set as we were shooting, and that really allows for a marriage of music and film in a way that most movies don’t. We would also play all those songs from the movie on set as well, which is a little bit more common, but to write the score first is extremely rare. But it’s very useful, as the actors understand what the tone is, the cameramen understand what the tone is, and everybody is kind of working in unison. And this was in addition to recording sound in an amazing fashion – I know you’re not a fan of ADR [Automated Dialogue Replacement]... I really hate using it! And in this movie particularly, as it was so fantastic, and it was so over the top, you want to use the real voices there as much as possible to really keep it grounded, and we rarely ever had to use any ADR in the entire movie, because Simon was so good at his job. On top of that he acted as a kind of on set DJ, playing music, whether it was music that was in the movie, he would pick songs to play for the extras in between sets, to keep the energy alive, and we would make up these playlists. He was just helping to control the set through music, and help to control the movie, and everybody being on the same page through that, too. The fact that it’s comedy dialogue as well, must mean it’s even more important to capture that golden performance from the original source... Definitely. So you want to keep everything as real as possible, and for me, I have just always hated ADR, and I can tell in a movie when it’s there. Some people are much better at it than others, actor-wise, but even still, it’s something I try to keep out of the film as much as possible. You had the songs worked out for the scenes in advance, too – the timing, action, and camera moves all around the rhythm... Is this normal?! [smiles] For me, yes! I mean, I have never understood films where they would shoot a montage and not know what the song was they were shooting the montage for, and I’ve done this back to the first movie I directed, Sliver (1996); I would play the songs on set because the rhythms of those songs, where the cuts are, how that works, how long the shots are, how the actors are moving in relation to that music – all those things are very important
in terms of what that particular song is. It’s not like those songs can just be interchanged with any other song, so I find it incredibly important to figure out the music that you’re using before you shoot as much as possible.
outcasts or oddballs or loners or geeks, that’s who I feel for as children and as adults, and that’s who the guardians of the galaxy are, they are those kids. They’re just in the form of aliens and racoons and trees [smiles].
Guardians is surely a much bigger project to undertake; how much have you evolved as a director since you started out? Well, practice makes perfect, right? [smiles] Sliver was a difficult thing, because you never know what you don’t know, but on your first movie, you really don’t know what you don’t know, and I was very aware of that on my first film, that there were things I was going to learn that I didn’t know about – and you just learn through practice. I’m much more technically proficient now, I know a lot more about everything from actors to the cameras to the sound, what you need and how you need to balance those things, but really, the thing I have grown to understand more is the audience, and myself, you know? I’ve learned more of what I’m good at, and what I’m not so good at, and more what parts of myself speak to an audience, and what are considered odd, so when you make a big movie like Guardians, you really are wanting to speak to as many people in the world as possible, and have them hear you, and have them feel for those characters and have a good time, get away from their lives, and feel closer to the people they walk out of the theatre with. So it is a form of communication; learning film is like learning a language, and the further I go on in my career, the more I understand how exactly to speak to an audience.
And thankfully, there’s going to be plenty more of all of the above, as the sequel is now confirmed! Can you tell me anything about what that might have in store for us? Yeah, I’ve got the story all bested out, I know what’s happening, I know who the main characters are, and we’re going to get to know some characters that we met in the first movie, we’ll get to know some of them a little bit more, and we’re gonna meet a couple of new characters, but we’re going to basically continue on a journey among this group of friends who, in a way, with the structure of Guardians, are more like a family, and it’s about the ins and outs of their family life and how that works, how they interact with the outside world... We just have lots of spaceships and explosions in between those dramatic, funny moments!
That’s a nice analogy... You said recently that Guardians was “a movie for the geeks, and those that didn’t fit in”. Were you one of those guys, once? Yeah, I was definitely an odd kid. I grew up in a place called Manchester, Missouri, which is a very habitual, small town outside of St. Louis, and I was an unusual kid in a place where you were pressured to be normal, and fit in, and that was a lonely experience for me, especially in the first 13 years of my life. I think things got a little better when I went to high school, because I went to a high school in the city, where kids were from all over, and I found more likeminded souls. But my first 13 years of life were definitely difficult, and at times very lonely, and those are my people, the people that feel as if they’re
Great to hear! Finally, can you share any weird, wonderful, funny, or downright bizarre moments on set with us... Or are there too many to count? [laughs] I am always so terrified on set to recall anything like that, so nothing is ever that comical for me! The only comical moments and also the memorable moments I guess, are with the friends I spend time on set with; I became very close with [the lead in Guardians] Chris Pratt over the course of the movie, and most of the fun times I remember involve goofing around with him between shots. But movies are funny... I heard once when I was a kid, Madeline Kahn say that twinkies are really fun to eat, but that doesn’t mean it’s really fun to work in a Twinkies factory. I think movies are sort of the same thing: it’s really fun to go and see a movie, but I’m not sure how much fun it is to make one! There are moments of joy, and there are moments of euphoria, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it fun... [laughs]. Follow James on Twitter @jamesgunn Marvel’s Gaurdians of The Galaxy is available NOW on Blu-ray
TA L K A B O U T WORDS PAUL WATSON
October 2014 saw the AES show return to Los Angeles for the first time in over a decade – and what a return it was. A show that surpassed all expectation, and boasted more exhibitors than ever before, also benefitted from a totally regenerated downtown area. It’s a breath of fresh air (literally) staying within Nokia’s LA Live complex, which has transformed that once gloomy neighbourhood into a self-contained, pedestrianised strip of classy restaurants and bars complemented by some swanky hotels – and it’s only a 10 minute stroll from the convention centre. Headliner grabs 10 minutes with AES new recruit, Graham Kirk, to find out more about the audio show that everyone’s talking about...
ES 2013 IN NEW YORK WAS A REAL STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION, BUT IT LOOKS LIKE HERE IN LA, YOU’VE REALLY TAKEN IT TO ANOTHER LEVEL... I think New York was the catalyst for change, and that was mostly brought about by the fact that it was the first good run up they’d had with Bob Moses at the helm, and then they also brought on Robbie Clyne and Clyne Media for marketing, who does the same job for many high profile manufacturers, as well as The Recording Academy. AND IS ALSO AN AES PARTNER, RIGHT? Yeah, we’ve had what we call a strategic partnership with the Producers and Engineers (P&E) Wing for a while, but because of the links and ties with Robbie and his associate, Lisa Roy, we’ve worked more closely together on marketing efforts, and put on some great events at the show to entice more of the artists and producers. GETTING MORE OF THE CREATIVE INVOLVED, WHICH CERTAINLY SHOWS WHEN YOU WALK THE FLOOR... That’s right. I mean, if you look at the Waves stand, for example, they’ve brought in a load of their own guys as well, such as Andrew Scheps, Chris Lord-Alge, and so on. The more this kind of thing happens, the more we can entice serious recording artists and sound engineers to the show that aren’t just going to go to the technical program, they’re going to go and hit the floor as well; and once people start to get recognised, it definitely creates a buzz. YOU’VE ATTRACTED MANY OF THE MAJOR PLAYERS FROM THE RECORDING WORLD HERE. WHAT WAS YOUR STRATEGY? We have the majority of the brands and manufacturers from the pro-audio recording side of the business, but it could always be bigger. Having said that, the beauty of this is, it’s a show that’s focused on audio. The reason that some shows are bigger, such as NAMM or NAB, is that they also incorporate other elements – in NAMM’s case, there’s a lot of MI; and at NAB, it’s video, transmitters, and so on. If you were to take that stuff away, there would certainly be a lot less audio at both those events than there is here. It’s similar with InfoComm - OK, there is live sound there, but there isn’t a dedicated live sound show in the US at the minute, and that’s why the live sound guys and visitors are at InfoComm. IS THIS WHY YOU’VE REINTRODUCED LIVE MANUFACTURERS TO AES THIS YEAR? Although the AES demographic in the last three years has been predominantly recording, it’s an aim of mine to increase the live sound element, because actually, live is the third highest demographic. Look at DiGiCo, for example: they are here because it’s a great foundation for them to attract people and build on the back of what’s becoming a very successful and highly thought of show, and
they’ve been doing their DiGiCo console live training here, holding their own academy. Yamaha have been doing the same, as well. It’s something we’re proud of, and we are going to take further for the next show [in New York, next year]. Also, they can participate in our Live Sound Expos, presentations, and panels as well, because we try to envelop everyone as much as possible to ensure we can get a good balance of all their tech guys and end users. YOUR NUMBERS ARE WELL UP ON LAST YEAR, TOO, WHICH IS SOME ACHIEVEMENT... Exhibitor-wise, it’s the highest it’s been in eight years, and it’s by far the strongest West Coast AES show we’ve had for 10 years, so yes, we’re very pleased... But we want to keep doing better! The LA Live area of downtown has been well and truly redeveloped, and that’s a big bonus for us; and LA is also a great base and a very active centre for live sound. We’ve got a centre of concentration for everything that the AES offers: sound for picture, the post production guys who are based up in Hollywood and Burbank; and of course the broadcast guys, who are just up the road with all the major studios. YOUR AISLES ARE SO MOBBED OUT, AND IT LOOKS LIKE YOU’RE APPEALING TO A WIDE RANGE OF LA’S CREATIVE COMMUNITY. HOW WILL YOU EVOLVE THE SHOW BETWEEN NOW AND NEW YORK 2015? Well, what we don’t want to do is create a ‘mass mess’. The next aim is to hone the side of the technical program, which this year was our biggest ever, to make sure it fulfils everybody’s needs. As far as the exhibition side, we want to keep it on the growth level that we’ve achieved for 2014, plus increase the broadcast audio and the live sound in that. We’ve now got the home recording stuff going on with the Project Studio Expo, which is accessible to everybody; and all the distributors that are exhibiting here from the West Coast, we’d like to replicate that success with those on the East Coast. DO YOU HAVE A CALL TO ARMS YOU’D LIKE TO LEAVE US WITH? [laughs] I do, as it happens! This is a shout-out to manufacturers, exhibitors and distributors: we have all wanted the AES to succeed and grow. It provides a great training, education, and standards background which is fundamental to the industry, and it’s a non-profit organisation,
which is very unusual for a show in this industry. We’ve turned things around in our approach, and what we’re aiming for at the AES is a younger demographic, a newer audience, and a wider reaching audience, by making things accessible like the Project Studio Expo, the Live Sound Expo, a High Resolution Audio series, and several other programs that people can gain access to that they couldn’t before. We’re really committing ourselves to try and deliver things to people that they’ve never had before, and get more people on the show floor as well, so what we need is the manufacturers and distributors to do the same for us, and see that things are growing again. The AES is fully committed to them, and we’d like support back; we want to see manufacturers engaging on the show floor, getting them new custom and new business, and we know we can provide it for them. It’d be great to see them all there again in NYC, taking advantage of what is now one of the only growing shows in our industry. If it’s about audio, it’s at AES. www.aes.org
42 HEA D L INER
M O DULA R M US IC TO MY E A RS Headliner talks to Lady Gaga’s FOH engineer, Chris Rabold, about his recent visit to NEXO’s Headquarters in Paris to listen to the manufacturer’s new M28 loudspeaker, the final piece of the STM jigsaw.
was Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben that once said, “with great power comes great responsibility”, which leads me to believe that those clever folk at Nexo must be real Spiderman fans. M28 is not only a force in itself, it’s also the key ingredient which completes the manufacturer’s new-look STM system, one which is now ticking all the boxes. It may have been some time coming, but, according to Gaga’s FOH mainstay, Chris Rabold, it’s been worth the wait. So what was STM missing, and how has the company successfully addressed those issues? “When I first jumped on it, it was okay, but it definitely had some deficiencies,” Rabold admits, adding that it’s got ‘better and better’ ever since. “But the other day, when I listened to the full system, I was like, “holy shit, now we’re talking!” The [main box] M46 in combination with the new M28 has got me really excited. When Nexo first put it out, it was super, super HiFi, with a really bright extended top end... But they listened, and they added presets and made some tweaks, and now it has that really flat, but not at all ‘hyped’ sound. It’s a real transformation.” Rabold is so impressed with the changes, in fact, that he is going to take out a huge STM system on the next Kenny Chesney tour in the US and Canada. Rehearsals begin in February 2015, arena dates follow in March, and stadium shows beckon come May time. “It will be a massive STM rig out there with Kenny, and Nexo has also increased some of the headroom that’s available, so when I get in stadiums and I just want to push it, I can, without worrying about limiters or anything like that, and the voicing is also that little more neutral,” he adds. “It’s still incredibly clean, clear, and totally free of distortion, and for me, that is super exciting. Even though I left STM in a good place, here I am one year later, and it sounds way better now that they’ve really opened the system up.”
BOX CLEVER In addition to reviewing STM as a complete system, Rabold was keen to check out M28, STM’s cherry on top, in its own right. Historically, “smaller boxers have always been underwhelming” to Rabold... until this one. “I was expecting M28 to be just another smaller box, because everybody makes one now, you know? They all do a job, and fill a niche that’s needed, but I don’t have a box of that sort of size in any PA that I really care for. I expected something adequate that would do downfills on a main hang, delays, and some 270 hangs that are what we call ‘out of reachers’,” he explains. “But when they turned it on, it was definitely another ‘holy shit!’ moment, because it just sounded phenomenal. It was coupled with subs, the S19s, and I was genuinely blown away at how smooth it was. I then asked them to turn the subs off, which they did, and what really made me happy was, M28 on its own had a really nice tone and punch to it, whereas with a lot of the smaller boxes below 200Hz, the low end is not very musical at all. That was another huge plus point for me. I was then given the bombshell that you could hang about 18 M28 boxes on a one tonne point, which is insane! I would love to hear that configuration in a theatre, and pair the M28s with some subs, because I think they would absolutely blow the doors off!” According to Rabold, many main speakers and their respective smaller offerings can be a bit of a mismatch, sonically, but again, that’s not the case at all with STM. “Sometimes when you get systems that have a smaller box that pairs with the bigger box - as a downfill, for example - the voicing is dissimilar, and you almost have to EQ them separately, which can be a real pain,” Rabold says. “But tonally, M46 and M28 are so similar that the array sounds the same all the way down, so you could actually EQ it as one; you wouldn’t be colouring one box different to the other, and that’s
STM SETUP FOR DAVID GUETTA
very rare in modern PA systems. A lot of people’s smaller boxes are not voiced the same, and that was my big concern; even if M28 was going to sound great on its own, I didn’t want to pair it with M46 if they didn’t sound alike, but it was anything but that. The whole rig is definitely interchangeable now; it’s such a neat concept, and it’s great to see it finally come to fruition.”
“STM NOW HAS THAT REALLY FLAT, BUT NOT AT ALL 'HYPED' SOUND. IT'S A REAL TRANSFORMATION.”
COUNTRY ROAD STM’s debut tour as a complete system will take place with one of the world’s most renowned country songwriters, however Rabold is certain that due to the many system tweaks, it will also work seamlessly across any musical genre: “At first, I wasn’t convinced it would work for all types of music, because of the headroom. Sonically, I think it can do anything, but the question was always whether it could take all the abuse! But considering its storming performances at a recent hip hop festival in the Stade de France, and on some very heavy rock shows during festival season, I would feel comfortable diving into any musical scenario with STM. “A guy like Kenny [Chesney] just kind of has it; it’s a neat show, and he is one of the top touring acts in the US for a reason. It’s also really cool to see the emergence of country as a popular genre in the UK and Europe now, too. There are superb breakthrough country artists like Kacey Musgraves, who opened the whole of Kenny’s last tour for us, and it’s amazing to see cities like Oslo and Stockholm selling out shows for country acts, too. I think it’s because country has a lot of great players using great kit, and that is what I like to see. The standard of musicianship in country music is and always has been of the highest order, and there are a lot of great country songwriters, so it kind of makes sense to me that it should move into the mainstream, as I am sure STM will. I can’t wait to get into rehearsals with the full system next year and see what it can really do.” www.nexo.fr www.kennychesney.com
CHRIS RABOLD LISTENING TO M28 AT NEXO’S HQ IN PARIS
“I WAS THEN GIVEN THE BOMBSHELL THAT YOU COULD HANG ABOUT 18 OF THESE M28 BOXES ON A ONE TONNE POINT, WHICH IS INSANE!”
ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES WORDS paul watson Sonic Vista Studios owner, Henry Sarmiento, has been pushing the boundaries with Roland’s new and uber-cool AIRA range, a line of digital products based on the manufacturer’s classic analogue kit but with a real modern twist: drum machines, bass synths, and plenty more. To say his results have been impressive is a major understatement; ‘stunning’ is a word he prefers to use when describing AIRA, and whether it’s EDM, dance music, hip hop, or none of the above, Sarmiento is willing to bet there’s likely a place for it in anyone’s box of audio tricks, be it in the studio, or out on the road. Headliner investigates...
Tell me about the AIRA range, and what it’s done for you at Sonic Vista? Well, it’s pretty special, put it that way! A lot of time and research has gone into the release of AIRA, which is essentially the next stage of the 808, the 909, and the 303, in its correct form. You can’t release something that isn’t better than the original piece, and there has been a lot of excitement here to see what it was going to sound like. I have always been a Roland fan and user, but there are so many more possibilities using AIRA than the original pieces, and the more you experiment with it, the more potential you find. Roland has made products that suit the hip hop genre in the past, but now that EDM and dance music is so big, there is so much more potential coverage than just a niche of a genre of music. If a musician uses it, it’s likely they’ll understand more than someone just pushing the buttons, but it doesn’t mean the button pusher won’t come up with something great, too, that’s the cool thing. AIRA is designed for anyone doing music of any kind; okay, the baseline is very much electronic, and you’re not going to be using it in jazz... [pauses for thought] But then again, you never know! If these products get into the hands of any talented person then you never know what could happen. And that is special. Can you give me some examples? Well, take the TB-3. I don’t even think Roland knew that you could even use it like I used it! I have it dialled in as an external effects processor into Pro Tools all the time, just like I would with my TC Electronics reverb, and it works phenomenally well. I even plugged the [TR-8] drum machine into the VT-3, and made the craziest drum sound ever. Jamie [Franklin, Artist Relations at Roland] was so amazed by the results, he tweeted that it was the best drum sound he had ever heard. He was all, “what the hell are you doing, dude?!” It’s amazing what you can achieve just by experimenting with AIRA. So it’s a real multi-tool, which I guess goes hand in hand with your approach to audio... [smiles] Yes, I definitely don’t like to play by the rules in audio, and I’ve always said, Sonic Vista incorporates everything under the musical sun. I believe in two kinds of music: good and bad; and the whole thing is about having the ability to understand every area of the process, and tune into the talent of each person. So yes, AIRA is a true multi-tool, and fits in seamlessly into my studio environment. It’s all about experimentation, and leading rather than following the typical thing: tweak it out, add your own flavour, and you’ll find the
“AIRA IS A TRUE MULTI-TOOL, AND FITS SEAMLESSLY INTO MY STUDIO ENVIRONMENT; I’M INSTANTLY IN THE ZONE WHEN WORKING WITH IT.” possibilities are endless; and since the AIRA range is so tactile, you’re instantly in the zone when working with it. Once you hit play, you cannot stop; it goes on forever. It’s an incredible unit for studio work, and an incredible unit for live performances. It’s very ‘in your face’ too, isn’t it? You can’t miss it on stage... Exactly. You want to look at it, and as I always say, you can see it better on a dark stage. In the past, it’s been very hard to use stuff during a live performance, but this way, you know your road map, and it’s very easy, as the lights are always shining. In my studio, AIRA is always plugged in. I am looking forward to using it for some songwriting sessions in the near future, and I’m already using the VT-3 on production projects, and mixing projects. It all depends on the song, so in that way, it’s a bit like a kitchen, you add the spices you need, and I can tell you that this is one very spicy unit, right here! What other specifics about AIRA really surprised you? Well, the main function of this thing is not only its great sound, but its ability to change any parameter in a split second. I had a guy in last night who is a pop/rock guy, and we’re making a song for a fashion show in Monaco. He is a cool musician from New York, and doesn’t hang in dance world. He spots AIRA, asks what it is, and I tell him it’s a cool drum machine, offer him a pair of headphones, and tell him to jam out with it. He says it’s not really his style, but in 15 minutes, I can’t get him off the thing! He could immediately see how AIRA could work for him. You have to just get creative, and AIRA lets you do that. That was the most incredible of examples, actually. The speed of changing parameters is so fast. It’s not about waiting to get the right sound or stopping your process of completion, because having many banks of menus to change stuff really slows you up. Studios need quick results, and the AIRA range is all about quick results, and getting in the zone. You are instantly in the moment of making change and getting a result. The biggest thing is, you’re instantly tactile, you’re hands-on, and things are changing fast, so I would recommend you record everything you do with this piece of kit, as whatever is in your head, you
can execute immediately, and you don’t want to lose any of those magical ideas! I bet life can get hectic working on so many projects. But then again, you are in Ibiza, so... [smiles] Sonic Vista Studios is never hectic, because hectic is a word of stress. It’s active, and looking at this summer and these summer months, it was... [pauses] extremely active [laughs]. We’ve had non-stop, multiple things happening all the time. I mean, right now I’m spending most of my time mixing and mastering for different clients around the globe, and then we have some cool songwriting sessions coming in, so that should be a lot of fun. Around Christmas, we can relax, but other than that, there is always something to do, but that’s how we like it here. www.sonicvistastudios.com www.roland.com/aira
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H A R M O N Y
WORDS PAUL WATSON
Eleven years ago to the day [of this interview], Celia Chavez made the brave decision to leave her hometown of Seattle to pursue her musical dream in The Big Apple. A budding songwriter in the making, she’d studied piano from a tender age, sung in choirs, and spent ages perfecting three-part harmonies in echoey high school stairwells, but it was during the mid-2000s where she started to climb the real rungs of her musical ladder. In 2007, she made another big move, this time to Los Angeles where, after battling several periods of ‘feast or famine’, she’s seen her career catapult in quite dramatic fashion. In February 2014, a quirky and rather unplanned video interview helped get her a dream role as feature vocalist for Enrique Inglesias, and when she’s not duetting with the global superstar on the big stage, you’ll likely find her strumming away on her guitar in the tour bus, or working on her new album in the studio. Before she heads back downtown to the Staples Center for tonight’s double-header show [with Enrique and Pitbull], Chavez finds some time to talk to me. As I arrive at the spectacular rooftop setting of LA’s very rock and roll Standard Hotel, the bubbly artist greets me with a big smile, and hands me a copy of her uber-cool homemade five track EP, White Flag Blue Sky.
have different sets for Latin America, the US, and Europe, because Enrique releases different singles in different regions,” Chavez explains, adding that there is a much greater English speaking demographic here in LA, and a more Spanish vibe in Miami. “This double-header tour with Enrique and Pitbull is pretty unique, as their respective shows are very different, but they also collaborate, which is really cool. One of the songs we're rehearsing today is a song off Enrique's new record, and Pitbull emcees on it; they're both Miami guys, so good friends, and it's an interesting mix.” Chavez started working with Enrique in February 2014, when he was prepping for his Sex and Love record, eventually released at the end of March, and was on the lookout for a new singer. “It was a daunting process, auditioning for this role. Some of Enrique's band members have been here for 12 years, so I am very much the new kid, and I had to dovetail right in there, right away,” Chavez recalls, with a smile. “I had to meet the band leader first, and sing for him, and that included singing in Spanish, too. Beforehand, I had sent in a video of me performing live, and that was from one of my little solo shows! I had done a benefit in December , performing a bunch of David Bowie songs, and although it was just a little fundraiser where all of us donated our time, that video was one of the things that got me this gig. You never know how important those little shows are going to be!”
Chavez knew from a very young age that she wanted to follow a musical path, and it was her mother who put her through piano lessons and then got her singing in the choir at high school, which she continued through college. “Music was always part of my education, and has always been what I've done the most naturally. I remember singing with my friends in the hallways, practising threepart harmony; it was an old school, so the stairwells really echoed, which was great,” reflects Chavez, adding that this 'organic' part of the educational process has perhaps been
“I SPENT SEVERAL YEARS STRUGGLING, AND DURING THIS P E R I O D , I T WA S R E A L LY A C A S E O F F E A S T O R FA M I N E . ” the most important in setting her in good stead as a professional. Chavez did take one brief detour into the corporate world, and shelved the music for several years, but in 2003, after answering an ad in the paper, she decided to “quit the 9-5 thing”, and dive head first into the music biz. “I'd started singing in the studio a bit in Seattle, doing a little commercial work, and then I saw an ad in the paper for a composers meeting, and thought maybe I could try and make a living out of that,” she explains. “And
actually, that got me back into it; I ended up collaborating with a film composer in that group who needed someone who could write lyrics for a title song and sing. I got the job, and I then decided to pursue music professionally. I moved to New York City, and just dived in! I took risks, started answering a lot of ads, just to get out into the city. I would sing for cover bands for a few bucks a night - anything where there might be a little exposure. I then started to meet other musicians, and began handing out my demo to people, and that got me my first little tour with an artist signed to Hollywood Records. I gained valuable travel experience, and was getting paid to travel and sing, which was really something, and it kind of went from there.” This period saw Chavez do a lot of commercial work in New York, and even complete her first solo record, but in 2007, she decided it was time to try her luck in Los Angeles, a city which initially proved to be hugely challenging, but eventually took her to a very happy place: “I spent several years struggling, and during this period, it was really a case of feast or famine. Eventually, I got up to promo tour level with P!nk, which was huge for me, and then I got to sing with Julia Fordham for a few years, which was a serious experience, as her voice is so singular. I remember the first time I went to rehearsals with Julia, and her voice came back at me in the monitor. I got chills, and freaked out a little [laughs]. “I learned that when doing backup vocals, you have to try and sit with that voice, and take a step back from the artist you're working with. You have to complement it with your own voice, which is where the art comes into it. As a feature for any major artist, I have to adapt to each. The difference between an artist and a good backing singer is getting a balance between being fab and performing in a big way, but also being invisible. You have to serve the song and the artist that you work for, and give up your ego, and become the harmony part to this other person. Working with Julia required a real change of tone, even though my role for her was the high part, so I guess it was okay if I sounded a little different, but it was at this point that I realised I had a gift for blending vocals, and that actually it is fun to disappear into someone else's voice, for some reason!” Jump to present day, and Enrique. Chavez and the rest of the team have built a very strong relationship with monitor engineer, Eddie Caipo, who she cites as super-important not only in generating her monitor mix, but as someone she can trust at all times.
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“Eddie is so good at what he does, and is always checking up on us; we just got new in-ear monitors, so it's a bit of a transition, but he’s so conscientious, and wants to do the best job he possibly can. Without him, nothing would run as smoothly,” she insists. “Singers always need a good mix, and we can't do the job if we can't hear what we're singing. Also, as the production for Enrique is so vast, that can also cause potential complications. For example, there is a stage behind FOH, and the delay can make it feel almost like some songs are behind the beat, so our packs have to be working, our mix has to be good, and we can't afford to have that disoriented delay. And part of that is talking to the engineers. Eddie told me right off that I needed to be closefield on the mic, as when I first started, I was positioned right between the drums and the percussion, so that is now part of my technique. You can always tell which mic is mine, it's the one with lipstick all over it, and believe me, you can't get it off!” But it's not all about backing vocals... Chavez is a very talented artist in her own right, and somehow still finds the time to work regularly on her new solo album, which is coming soon: “The theme for the new record is basically a song cycle, looking at some of the willful ignorance that you assume when you're in love, and then awakening from that. It’s full of minimalistic guitars, voice, and percussion. My rhythm section is Butch Norton and David Sutton, who are in the touring band for Lucinda Williams, so I've also got great musical mentor support when I need it, which really helps.”
“DOING BACKUP V O C A L S , Y O U H AV E TO TRY AND SIT W I T H T H AT V O I C E , A N D TA K E A S T E P BACK STEP FROM THE ARTIST YOU’RE WORKING WITH.”
ather than talk about the negatives in the music industry, Chavez prefers to look at the true positives within the business, despite the fact that it can be hard to bear at times: “I have a lot of friends who are constantly 'playing each other the tape', and we have lots of ups and downs, and don't always know when the next paycheck is coming, but hopefully we can all be comfortable being resigned to the fact that being a musician is like being a soldier: you have to do a lot of work that will probably go unrewarded for a long time, but deep down, you know why you want to do it. And actually, music pays more than anything else I have done when I can get the work, but when I can't get the work, it's scary! And it's taken me 11 years to do a gig like this [with Enrique], so it's important to be patient, as you don't know when the opportunities come, or in what form.”
CELIA ON WARMING UP “I am pretty lazy, and that’s because I sing during the day. I use my voice a lot while I’m on tour, so I’ll start doing trills, and a lot of humming, to get that feeling in my facial mask of where the sound is, and where the vibration is. The nice thing is, I am singing a lot of Spanish with Enrique, and it’s all forward in your mouth, whereas in English, it’s halfway back in your mouth.”
CRANE SONG INSIGNA WORDS Nick Mitchell
“A N Y T H I N G DAV E H I L L D E S I G N S I S T H E V E RY B E ST I N I TS C L A S S , A N D Q U I C K LY B EC O M E S A B E N C H M A R K F O R OT H E R S TO F O L LO W … ” When Dave Hill releases a new product, the world of professional audio takes note. Dave has been at the forefront of innovative, exceptionally high-class, beautifully crafted audio processors for the past twenty years, and he shows no sign of slowing down. The last few product releases, including the 500 series Falcon, Syren, and the updated Avocet II, have proven that anything Mr Hill designs is the very best in its class, and quickly becomes a benchmark for other designers and manufacturers to follow. I have just got my hands on a prototype of his new 500 series EQ, the Insigna. Here’s what I made of it... The Insigna is a quality three-band audiophile EQ, similar, certainly in the high frequencies, to what you expect from the flagship IBIS stereo parametric: a very smooth and clear definition, which is entirely musical, and not in any way clinical. The AIR frequency especially, works a treat. The midrange was a little unexpected, based upon my experience with the IBIS, in that the valve/tube stage works and reacts differently with the EQ frequencies chosen. I asked Dave about this, and he said more harmonics are created by the valve stage, which in turn reacts differently according to how you sculpt your sound.
The unit also includes high quality HPFs and LPFs, which are at 24dB slopes. These are very useful and quite rare, as there are not many 500 series EQs available with filters as well as threeband valve EQ. Whilst the low mid was excellent sounding, and able to give weight without appearing muddy, the low end was not quite as exciting. Although it does sound very musical, it could be that, due to the valve harmonic nature, I found it slightly trickier to get it to sound as tight and modern as the IBIS, or even some alternative 500 series units like the Rupert Neve Designs 551 or A-Designs EM-PEQ. This may or may not be a good thing, as not everybody wants a modern sound, and there’s nothing unacceptable about it, but there are other EQs I’d reach for, for the low end. All in all, though, there is a great array of flexible and musical processing in one 500 series unit. In lesser hands, it’d be cluttered and difficult to use, but as a Dave Hill creation, it’s all beautifully laid out and a pleasure to work with. Highly recommended! www.cranesong.com www.kmraudio.com
M E D I A PA R T N E R S H I P
BEHIND THE SCENES
Headliner is proud to announce a new media partnership with Behind the Scenes, a charity which was set up to provide financial assistance to entertainment technology professionals in times of crisis. The model is simple: individuals and organisations contribute money to the charity, and Behind the Scenes provides grants to help its colleagues through emergency situations.
ehind the Scenes has a very wide remit. Anyone who has been in the entertainment technology industry for at least five years, who resides or or primarily works in the UK, may apply for a grant; and immediate family members may also qualify for financial assistance. And these applicants can be from any walk of technological life, be it behind the console or the camera, on the tour bus or under the tour bus, working backstage in a theatre or coiling cable at the O2 Arena, or if you’re an employee of a company that manufacturers or supplies entertainment technology products and/or services. Essentially, this fantastic charity exists solely to aid those who work behind the scenes, not on the big stage, and we at Headliner think it’s something to talk about. Grants are tailored to each individual’s needs, but as an example, might be used for
Y 2014 BTS AUTUMN GOLF DA
“H OLD ON , HO W MA NY UN DE R PA R.. ?!”
basic living costs such as rent or mortgage and utilities, perhaps some medical related expenses, transportation, retraining – the list is long. Since issuing its first grant in early 2006, Behind the Scenes in North America has provided over $500,000USD to its colleagues in need, many of which have brought hope to people in their darkest hours. Medialease invited me onto their fourball for the fantastically entertaining Behind the Scenes Golf Day in the UK back in October, and despite the fact that we didn’t even nearly win, and it was pissing down with rain for the most part, the unity and support shown from a range of top companies in the biz was so great to see... Oh, and the fact that I was the only player to have a caddy also helped... A big thank you to Haley Wynne at Stage Technologies Ltd for [occasionally] carrying my bag throughout the back nine...!
SHOW THEM THE MONEY! Behind the Scenes will begin granting in the UK in 2015, as soon as sufficient funds have been raised, so let’s get behind these guys NOW and make it happen ASAP! The simplest way of making a donation (we think) is by sending your Christmas cards via CardAid this year. How? Simple, go to www.cardaid.co.uk and customise your own cards... And when you do, please use Behind the Scenes’ registered charity number: 1,159,168. This is a brilliant charity that supports a super-important industry, so let’s get involved! For more information about Behind the Scenes, or to make a donation, email email@example.com. www.behindthescenescharity.org
GRUMPY OLD ROADIE “HOW WOULD THEY FEEL IF THE BRITS ACTUALLY BOYCOTTED THE GERMAN MARKET AND STARVED THEM OF ENTERTAINMENT?”
ell I was really surprised to see how well she’s actually done now. We’ve not seen much of her since her heyday in the ‘90s (or was it the ‘80s?) when, on her popular TV show, she asked the now famous question of Debbie McGee: “What first attracted you to the millionaire, Paul Daniels?” I was as surprised as you lot probably were to see that Mrs Merton has gone on to become the German chancellor. She’s changed a lot from how I remember her on TV - a different handbag style, and she’s put on a few pounds - but yes, it’s definitely her! Her German is pretty authentic now as well, and she seems to have been accepted by her new adopted country enough for them to vote her into power. So I was shocked to see how she’s treating us Brits over the EU membership thing. Only last Sunday she was stamping her little size five foot about not changing the EU membership rules. Apparently, it’s okay for anyone from within the Union to come over here to the UK (including Scotland, I might add), look for a job and claim benefit, and maybe even get a job but still claim top-up benefit. I don’t want to sound like a UKIP voter, but where the fuck does the money come from? I thought that we were short of money? And money will be even tighter when ‘Das Union’ forces us to pay the 2bn Euro top-up contribution for doing so well over the last 15 years. Does Mrs Merton (ok, there’s been a slight Germanic name change as well) actually think that we’ll just roll over and do as the Europeans/Germans say? We can fight back, Godammit! How would they feel if we, the Brits, and leaders in the world of artistic license and touring acts, actually boycotted the German market and starved them of entertainment? No more Bootleg Beatles on tap, or James Blunt. No, they’d be left with their home grown rubbish like James Last and his famous German marching songs band and Lederhosen and the Wiener Schnitzels (they’ve never done too well outside of their home country which is why chances are, you’ll not have heard of them). There would be revolution on the Reeperbahn, and it would be grim. Mrs M would have to take refuge in her bunker in Berlin. I sincerely believe that we (can I include Dublin here?) lead the World in home grown entertainment that continues to enthrall everyone on the planet. And whilst we’ve got that trump card, no-one will want to upset us, ex-TV presenter or not.
Made in Denmark
to be heard The DPA d:vote 4099 Instrument Microphones covers the entire orchestra, providing highly directional, truly natural sound and high gain before feedback. DPA has designed ingenious mounting accessories to sit gently and securely on your instrument.
w w w. d p a m i c r o p h o n e s . c o m / d vo t e
W W W. R O C K A G A I N S T T R A F F I C K I N G . O R G ROCK AGAINST TRAFFICKING (RAT) IS A GLOBAL CAMPAIGN USING THE POWER OF MUSIC AND WORLD-RENOWNED M U S I C A L A R T I S T S C O M B I N E D W I T H A C O M P R E H E N S I V E S E T O F C A P A B I L I T I E S D E L I V E R E D T H R O U G H P A R T N E R O R G A N I S A T I O N S T O A C H I E V E M A X I M U M I M P A C T I N B U I L D I N G A W A R E N E S S A N D P R O V I D I N G RESOURCES THAT HELP STOP THE SCOURGE OF SLAVERY AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING (S&HT). TOGETHER, THEY ARE USING THEIR CELEBRITY STATUS & TALENTS TO IMPROVE PUBLIC AWARENESS OF THE ISSUE WORLDWIDE AND RAISE F I N A N C I A L R E S O U R C E S T H R O U G H T H E I R E F F O R T S V I A D O N A T I O N S , ALBUM SALES, CONCERTS, SPECIAL EVENTS, MERCHANDISE, AND MORE.
Headliner Issue #7 Featuring David Gray