Saturday, February 12, 2011

Back to the day job... Sound Engineer on Tour.

This week i'm off... to Europe for a month of gigs with Kim Wilde and her band. I've been working for Kim for about 10 years and i love it. Everyone in the band and crew is brilliant at what they do and we all get on great. I'm often told off for having too much fun when i'm working... and it's easy to see why. We just move from city to city.. doing amazing shows and drinking quite a lot.

There's a lot that goes into a tour like this, but my 'end' of it all is fairly simple thanks to the PA company we're using who are supplying all my equipment. For the technically minded among you, i'm using a L'Acoustic dv-DOSC Line Array with a Yamaha PM5D-RH at front of house. I'm also using an Avalon VT-737 mic amp and my Macbook Pro running Mainstage for all my effects via a new Motu Ultralite Mk3. There...that wasn't too bad huh?

Quite a bad photo of the PM5D channel panel

So what does my job entail when it comes down to it? Well, in a tour situation, i usually get up around 11am and stagger off the tour bus looking for coffee.  Once i've woken up, i then head into the venue to make use of the showers and get myself ready for the day. My first job is to check how the PA crew are getting on with rigging the system. They'll be pretty self-sufficient and won't really need me to get involved very often, although i will have to make the odd judgement call over where to hang the PA or where i want my desk putting. Around 1pm, the PA should be almost ready for me to start testing it. I'll usually play a bunch of tunes that i know really well from my iTunes just to see how the PA sounds in that particular venue. I haven't compiled a new test playlist yet, but last years consisted of:

The Prodigy - Omen
Leftfield - Dusted
Dr Dre' Ft Tupac - California Love
AIR - All I Need
SpearHead/Michael Franti - Oh My God
Massive Attack - Tear Drop

Once i've heard snippets from all those tunes over the PA, i know what if anything needs tweaking to get it sounding right.

Once this is done, i'll set up my effects on my Mac and help with the mic'ing up of the band stuff...or just go for another coffee.

At some point, usually around 3pm, Daz and Basti, the 2 backline guys (Daz is also the stage manager) will help me check through the mix by playing the various instruments. Assuming the mix recalled ok from the previous night, it should only need tweaking.

At about 4pm, the band will be up on stage, ready to start playing through the tracks for a proper soundcheck. This is when i'll do most of my tweaking and wandering around the venue making sure we don't have any dead spots. Once the soundcheck is all done, i hit save (again) and leave the desk until the show. At this point we usually have some food and a couple of drinks to loosen the mood a bit, ready for the show.

The show is the best bit... i don't get nervous at all... but i do get a big adrenaline rush everytime. I'm different to most engineers in that i get right into it... i'm usually jumping up and down or rocking my head away over the desk.. i love it.. and it helps me keep time for tapping in my beat-matched delays. I concentrate a lot when i'm working and rarely talk to anyone apart from Kim's manager Nick who often pops over to FOH for a look from my point of view and a chat.  It's not that i'm not chatty, but i listen to all the words...all the time.. it's how i know where i am in the song and where my next FX cue is coming up. Some of these songs i have been mixing for 10 years, so it' easy to relax a bit more, but i still don't like to take my eyes off the stage.

The tour bus we had last time... it was big.

So, once the gig is done i pack my Mac up which usually takes about 5 mins and then i head backstage to see Kim and the band. I always make a point of having a chat with Kim to make sure she was happy with everything.. there's an on-going joke where she always asks 'How did it sound tonight?' and i always reply 'Fantastic!' or 'The best yet!'....  obviously, after all this time, she is suspicious that if it's so good every night, did it used to be shit when i started? Or do i really keep getting better? Or am i just protecting my job? I know the answer...

Then it's just a case of supervising the loading of the truck..(a bit) and drinking as much free beer as possible before getting on the bus to head to the next city...  the bus doesn't curtail the partying fact it's a real party-bus... we're often to be found doing the conga around the bus at 5am....  it must be said, it's not a bad job.

I'll try to post some pics and update on my progress as we travel about...

S x


  1. ohh i didn't know Kim has such tallented & handsome sound engineer :) when i googled u -said you were a DJ? One thing Kim is missing from new album "Come out" few good remixes maybe you can remix few songs darling :) give it a go.

  2. There's a handsome and talented engineer? That can't be... that's my job! So Google's been saying i'm a DJ huh? Well, i have dabbled in DJ'ing in the past and i played one in 'Shoot The DJ', but i'm a sound engineer and a film maker i'm afraid.

    Remixing Kim's album? I think the label have it covered... wouldn't mind having a go though.. :-)

  3. The sound Engineering career is really an interesting and enjoyment job as this post said was very nice to read.