There are many things that people ask me about my work, however, amidst all the star-struck banter, not very many people ever ask how much work went into what I do. The truth is “A Metric Ton” of work went into being here today.
Being Prepared To Throw Away The Plan
Oh sure, the usual things like education, hard work, etc... can all be tossed around, but truly the greatest skill you can only acquire is the ability to throw away the plan and adapt to the situation. Think of it like this, if you play guitar, you can play any brand of guitar, so as an engineer you have to be just as versatile when things don’t go according to plan. There is always an ideal we would all like to have in our work, life or whatever, but the reality is that it doesn’t always go the way we really want. This mentality is especially true when you are the engineer for a live event. The best laid plans can go awry in the blink of an eye and what will make you successful is how you handle these changes.
During rehearsals, and for the U.S. leg of the Garbage tour, I knew I would be using an AVID Venue system and I spent a lot of time configuring the system with all of the components I knew we would need for the tour. Another thing I am really happy I planned for was to record all of the rehearsals as this allowed me to do several things. First, I was able to rehearse my performance. Not only did the band use rehearsal time to fine tune their performance but I was able to do the same thing, allowing me a greater sense of knowing what is going on during the songs, just like the band. From a technical standpoint I was able to play back each of the rehearsal performances I recorded into Pro Tools via the VENUE system. This is something known as Virtual Soundcheck, it allowed me the ability to further refine settings for each song and setup my Snapshots on the console to remember those setting. It’s very much like automation in Pro Tools in that Snapshots remember your setting and you can quickly flip between them.
By having the entire rehearsal multi-tracked, this allowed the band to put up all the rehearsal footage on their youtube channel: http://youtu.be/8D1PCQteutE
While they were at it, I was asked to mix the songs for the videos. This meant that I had to flip back into Mix Engineer mode and delve into Pro Tools to mix, talk about unexpected. To say it was an honor to be asked by Butch Vig and Billy Bush to mix the songs would be an understatement.
There are several other things that came up along the way that required a tweak to any plans I might have had. The open air acoustic performance had a totally different dynamic that in rehearsals or on stage. Because we had all rehearsed our parts so much in preparation, it only required a small tweak to pull off successfully.
We had tracked three songs for Yahoo that needed to be mixed while we’re on the road and I’ve got to find time in the day to do this. These tracks need to be done since we are flying to the UK for a handful of shows and I won’t have the Pro Tools rig on this run.
I get to the KROQ show at around 11AM an I go straight to FOH to deal with my show file and make sure all plugins came up. This is when I find that the console software had been upgraded and some of plugins didn’t like that. After about and hour and a half of downloading and installing new drivers and plugin software everything is working. Now I’ve got to listen to the PA and deal with line check, all the while knowing that my time is running out to get the mixes done for Yahoo. Now it’s 2:30PM and the show time is 3:45PM. I head back to the truck to start mixing. Being that I had set up snapshots for each song on the Venue System, I was able to load the Pro Tools tracks and apply the settings to the session. Another challenge was just being able to hear properly. The truck was parked at the back of the stage and the noise was deafening.
There was no way I was going to be able to mix on monitors so I pull out my trusty Sony MDR-7506 headphones and get to work.
At 3:35 I get the last track done and exported onto the USB stick. I get to FOH with 5 minutes to spare before the show starts! The show goes well and truck gets loaded, we’re in the van on the way to the airport for our departure to the UK. Billy did some mastering to the tracks on his laptop while at 40,000 feet and they went up on the Yahoo site.
After the first set of UK gigs, we fly back to NYC to perform on The Jimmy Fallon Show and a sold out show at Webster Hall, which will be streamed live on MTVHIVE.com. My mix from the console is used for the feed since there is way too much going on to be done on the fly. We are also prepping to go back to Europe for some big music festivals that will keep us busy for a while. I’m sure we’ll have a few challenges along the way.
There is no way to plan for everything, you just have to trust your ability to know your part. Just like the band knows their parts and can perform on any stage, as an engineer you have to be just as versatile and ready to perform.