I’m not gonna lie to you, the last few weeks have been amazing! Not only as an engineer, but also a fan of music. I am currently getting a chance to work with one of the most talented music people of our generation, Butch Vig.
Take it away Brad...
This is Garbage!
I’m not gonna lie to you, the last few weeks have been amazing! Not only as an engineer, but also a fan of music. I am currently getting a chance to work with one of the most talented music people of our generation, Butch Vig. The man just won a truck load of Grammy’s this year for producing the Foo Fighters Album, Wasting Light. To put the icing on this cake, I am also working alongside Billy Bush, one of the most talented engineers in the music business who’s credits include Muse, Korn, Beck, Garbage, Foster The People, M83!. Billy is in charge of the technical aspects of the tour, making sure the band and the technology are working seamlessly. To say that I had a few butterflies is an understatement. Regardless, I have to put all that aside as I have job to do for a very discerning audience, all of you out there.
Preparation for this tour has been quite a painless affair by most standards as I have had a solid month of rehearsals with the band in preparation for the first show. Believe it or not, this doesn’t usually happen, as most of the time I have a day or maybe just a line check with the back-line techs and never even see the band until the curtain falls. That would normally be the entire production rehearsal for me, and when that happens its smile and dial. As a complete luxury, I actually have my console completely dialed in for every song before we even play a note in a venue. Like every other tour, no matter how big or small, month of rehearsal or hour of rehearsal, proper planning is the only way to make it through on time and on budget. My first job is to figure out what equipment I need in order to do my job, and the main item is the console.
For this tour, as with almost every other tour, the console of choice is the AVID Venue. Unlike most other tours, the setup the band is using is quite unique, as there are only a few microphones on stage and a bunch of line inputs. This actually makes my job a bit easier as there are less hot mic’s on stage, meaning fewer things that can go wrong.
The full equipment list for the tour is as follows:
- Avid VENUE Profile
- Dolby Lake I/O
- PC tablet running Smaart
- Apple Mac Pro running Protools 9 HD
- Adam A8x reference monitors
- Waves Live, SSL, API, CLA, C6
- SPL Transient Designer
- Cranesong Phoenix
- Audio-Technica 4050’s for overheads
- Earthworks DP30/C for snare top
- Shure Beta 91 for kick drum
- Earthworks WL40V capsule on a Shure UR-2D wireless transmitter
One of the many great things about being in my position is the access to certain things not always attainable at your local music shop. I’ve had the pleasure of using Earthworks microphones on past tours and was really set to use their DP30/C on the snare drum, but after meeting with Bill Norton and Kim Hilton from Earthworks they offered to let us try out a new, unreleased, microphone capsule for Shirley’s vocal mic. Oh wow! Needless to say, Bill and the team at Earthworks will have to wait until the end of this tour to get back their prototype.
My console of choice is the AVID VENUE, as it has all of the capabilities that make me look good and allow me to consistently deliver a great show to you, the audience. First of all, it utilizes the same plug-ins you use in your normal Pro Tools system in the studio, meaning that we can bring the settings of an EQ or Compressor directly from the album mix. Also, it allows us to hook up directly to a computer running Pro Tools software and record everything. By everything, I mean everything, every rehearsal, every soundcheck, every show! This is amazing for the band as they can instantly hear back what they just performed in case they want to tweak something in the song or arrangement. Also, from the engineer’s point of view, it allows me to run what’s called Virtual Souncheck and play back the session through the VENUE so I can make adjustments to the mix. Also, this goes hand in hand with the ability to store various settings in snapshot’s. I can have a completely different routing configuration for all the instruments and mic’s on stage for each song. This could mean a different setting on my dynamics chain, or fx sends, or even completely different plug-ins with each song.
This is all really possible due to the fact that we have spent about a month working all of these kinks out and preparing for a world tour.
By the end of week 3, we were up to 27 songs. We have been rehearsing every day, the band is sounding great, my mixes I think are also sounding good. It’s always a bit nerve racking having a multi time Grammy winning musician, engineer, producer, is listening to his work you’re tinkering with, no matter how many years I’ve been doing this. But, a huge sigh of relief came today when a band member came in and said “sounds good, sounds like the record”.
For now, it's back to our secret hide-out to finish preparing for what will surely turn out to be a night of pure sonic bliss. I hope to see some of you on the road these coming months. By the time you read this we will be well underway and if any of you want to catch us in action, go to www.garbage.com for tour dates and information, or check out the band on twitter, facebook, and all the usual social interweb hangouts.