Wichita and 4

Chilly outside but at least it’s wet. Got a short bike ride in to get a weekly planner and it was extra refreshing in near freezing rain.

Yay, production has the venue nice and warm again and all went well. Gonna gopro mixing peppers a few of these last shows, did a test run today and forgot how annoying mixing is with console lights, really tempts one to fiddle more than make changes with distinct purpose.

Four more and it feels good, the end of an awesome journey and the so many unfinished projects and new ideas I am anxious to tackle.

For the sound nerdery topic of the day, let’s chat about marley. Not Bob but rather the floor covering used to skin over stages for rock shows. It’s a thin rubbberish matt that gets rolled out, sometimes with graphics, often just black. It not only provides a smooth surface for performers, consistant traction and a place to mark where all the monitors, risers and stage gear goes, it also can make the stage more forgiving for dancers and jumping around. Just about every major production carries these huge rolls and tapes the seams smooth for each sbow.

For Peppers, there is also a cushion layer underneath to reduce impact. And of course no wonderful and useful things comes purely without its online set of issues and challenges. One of those issues has to do with using a brand new marley. When setting up peppers production back in August, we get the stage all set, all looks good, and when Mark goes to check the vocal mics, snap, static discharge to the lips, owww! 

Turns out, no one is able to walk more than 3 steps and touch a vocal mic or stand without getting zapped.

There is spray called static guard but have not had successful results that last the whole show using it in the past, and odds of finding it in Czech Republic are slim. It’s one of the oscilloscope last minute oh shit moments and the band will be there in a few hours or less. Shocks we pretty George and jumping through mic windscreens as well.

We tried wiping down with water but Shocks came back as soon as it dried. What we needed was to ground the marley but marley is an insulator and not easy to ground. Had we the time, laying a grounded metal mesh underneath would most likely solve the issue. Also, once marley gets a bunch sweat, spit and dirt as well as beat up a bit, the static issue subsides.

What to do that can be done fast? After bit of thought, I suggested and requested some bottles of water and a bunch of table salt from catering. Put the salt in the water, peel up the marley seam and dump the salt water to form a conductive liquid layer between the underside of the marley and the cushion pad. 

We tried one bottle near Anthony’s vocal mic and it was better. So we dumped three more bottles of salt water and stephanie smoothed it the spread it around and no more shocks.

Yogi and Taka feeding some salt water to the marley seam.

I don’t know how many more shows Yogi was dumping salt water before the marley electrostaticaly stabilized, but the shocks never returned.

Lincoln and my last 2

Down to the wire as I will be mixing my 2nd to last Peppers show tonight in Lincoln Nebraska. 

Somehow it seems I should be more she’ll shocked but it just feels the same familiar business as usual way as it has for so long. Perhaps being home will feel odd. 

What does feel odd is that the US has elected one of the most nauseating and selfish rude humans imaginable lead our country. 
My feelings of helpless dismay, anger and disappointment exceed my literary skills by so many order’s of magnitude, I am at a loss for words.

I will make a prediction though; prepare yourselves for war. Not an meandering existing conflict, not a shift in military presence or strategy, but rather a new clear and defined HUGE HEADLINES, scare the shit out of everyone, band together as the nation cowers in fear, war.

I make this prediction based on the observation that Trump has demonstrated a pattern of an insatiable relentless quest for power and that Trump has demonstrated that he will viciously strive to defend holding power at all costs.

Combine that observation with the fact that in the United States, every wartime President has always been re elected since the country began.

My prediction is that in order to absolutely insure his re election and not risk any other outcome, Trump will start a war, regardless of the collateral damage and lives lost.

Agree? Don’t agree? Makes no difference, as thisl post will still be here four years from now and I will either be right or wrong. I hope I am wrong.

On brighter notes: the small and human things make me happy

Just a quick check, anyone out there know if this wiring configuration out front of the Corn Husker Marriott in Lincoln is up to code?

I promised a pic of Jack Irons

And because probably more than anything, gonna miss hanging out with Scotty

And yay, today was Rat swag day with a hoodie, beanie and name embroidered laundry bag

And for good memory sake, started grabbing pics with my tour friends I have had the honor to travel the world with.

And I’d love to share some sound needs stuff but that will have to wait, lots to do and so little time.

Oh, and thank you everyone for helping me with the swamping Scott’s phone and helping me with one last big fun hurrah as this life chapter come to a close.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BPYYn4ZAfrR/
https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10154327006850658&id=549450657
Ok, will try and post tomorrow for the farewell.

DR

Tulsa and 5

Finally a show with some warmth. This cold wave sweeping though the country has been chilling the cities down below the temps the venues are optimized for. Back in the early 90’s when I first realized that stabilizing venue temperature is critical to stabilizing sound quality, I began working with the production manager of whatever band I was touring with to get venue temps dialed in. The goal is to get the venue environment as close to body temp as feasible without cooking people in the upper levels as well as minimizing air movement.

Unfortunately, these two goals are often in conflict, plus combining that with the massive spaces we are dealing with and time frames involved to induce changes and the puzzle can be quite challenging. Not to mention, different each day depending on outside temps and the type and quality of the venue’s HVAC system.

The plan that seems to work best is to run the HVAC in the desired thermal direction with a bit of overshoot until 30 mins before headliner, then shut it down and let the room temp coast as long as possible. If the venue temp starts to get unreasonably warm or unsoundingly cold at some point during the show, fire up the HVAC to compensate.

By ‘overshoot’ I mean, if it’s cold outside, make the venue a bit extra warm such that the cold air falling from the roof does not overchill before show time. Visa versa for hot outside.

The wind from the air handlers can be an issue as well are depending on their location and direction, may significantly alter the sound of the venue in an undesirable way. 

I don’t recall whether it was Houston or Dallas but one of those shows, these huge gusts of cold air kept sweeping through, screwing up the sound. I finally asked Jim to investigate and turns out it was some local venue employees opening a door on an upper level to go outside and smoke. As soon as the door opens, the frigid gusts swept all the way through to another open bay door behind stage.

All in all, the ideal scenario is motionless air that is all the same temperature. If the audience is warm and cold air is falling from the roof, the upper high frequencies will bend upward and away from the audience creating a dull hash sound.  If the air handlers are shooting streams of hot or cold air around, the sound will tend to swish and the EQ of the venue will keep changing differently in different places. Not so much from the wind itself but more so from the fact that the blown Air is a drastically different temperature. Sonically stabilizing a thermally unstable environment is never a complete success.

So, after this long nerded ramble, back to where I started,finally a show with some warmth! The temp last night was awesome, that warm slightly humid still air that basks the entire audience in a common warm soup of music with mesmerizing sparkling lights.

I’ve been starving for a stable room since we landed state side.

Also notice the smooth transition to the subs I now am able to achieve, rather than the sub bump that I used to think was necessary till I mixed on th SS30s. Still trying to understand  more but here is an older curve from December 6 2016 show

And one from November 17th 2016

Good times.

If you want to see the effect of heat upon sound, I made a simple youtube video

bending sound waves with heat

And another short video I put on instagram

fire and sound

Ok, sound need overload. Moving on. So I made a mistake in my last post and my last show is actually the 21st of jan and I head home the 22nd. 5 more shows!

So so surreal, I keep switching between having a huge weight of feeling trapped lifted and a sobering melancholy as I watch this giant machine lumber into the future without me physically onboard but knowing part of my heart will still be woth.

Here is one way the crew keeps things interesting out here:

http://ratsound.com/daveswordpress/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/wp-1484329376300.mpeg

Okey dokey and time for me to wander off to enjoy the sights and sounds of Tulsa Oklahoma 31 degree weather and predicted freezing rain coming.

Though it does not looking overly daunting out there yet

Oh, next blog I will share the solution I came up with to stop the band from getting static shocks to their lips when using a brand new marley. 

DR

New Orleans and 6

New Orleans show was fun and eventful as well. Not only is Trombone Shorty opening but the Rebirth Brass Band joined peppers for an awesome  encore

Encore

Good fun stuff. Jack Irons is also an opener and wow is it great to see him, known Jack for over 30 years, will shoot some pics of him jamming soon, for now just enjoying the watch

So the big news on my front is I will be moving on from mixing peppers. It’s been a long time coming and actually when I first started blogging Roadies in the Midst , I intended that to be my last real tour and had set out to document my last real tour through bloggery posts.

roadies in the midst

If you have been following my posts and interviews for any time now you already know that I never set out to be a sound engineer. I sort of fell into the gig by owning a sound company as well as wanting to test my speaker designs. Never would have dreamed I would end up mixing huge bands in huge places. 

Mixing Peppers has been a wonderful adventure spanning nearly 26 years and now the time has come for me to follow my true passion of designing sound gear and dedicating my life to what started as a tiny punk rock sound company but has also grown beyond my wildest imagination. Who would have ever guessed us little Rats would become an internationally recognized touring sound company with manufacturing, sales and installation divisions, numerous employees. Ha, and now is time to have some fun bumping it up a notch!

So though no one ever knows what the far future will bring, what I do know is my last show mixing Peppers will be Minneapolis on Jan 22nd. 

I truly love Flea, Anthony, Chad, Josh and all my dear and close friends I consider family both on the road now and those that have moved on to other adventures over the years. I am pretty happy to say that I have dedicated significant time documenting touring with Peppers in journals but also have thousands of amazing photos spanning decades of smiles and challenges.

The sound engineer that is coming to replace me I have also known for many years and is of the highest caliber and I look forward to him taking Peppers sound to new and lofty levels. 

So cheers to good times and the excitement of new adventures to come. As tough as it is to say goodbye to the people I love, saying hello to creating my own itineraries supersedes 

And so the countdown begins:

Oh, on the subwoofer front, here is a pic of the SuperSub 30 array under the stage left top plates that extend the stage.

I did some more eq on them during system tuning yesterday and am making further progress on getting them dialed in. One thing we are noticing is that we are seeing better Rejection in the off axis zones than previous array setups of have implemented. Primarily it seems to be related to the reduced resonance at the tuning frequency. There is still much to be learned about them as they are based on the Powersoft M-Force and M-Drive products.

M-Force

These transducers are literally a new technology unlike any other transducer. They are not moving coil in a magnetic field like most loudspeakers. They are not rotary woofers using a fan

 rotary woofer

And they are not ServoDrive subwoofer that use a rotary motor to drive belts attached to opposing cones. 

servodrive

What these are is a flat composite paddle like structure with 4 embedded magmets surrounded by fixed coils such that the paddle moves linearly inward and outward guided by precision bearings. The protruding threaded bolt is them attached to a 30″ diameter cone. 

Being that this is a completely new technology, and though the product has been through 10’s of thousands of hours of rigorous testing it remains unlike traditional designs.

When I leave the tour, the subs may or may not come home with me. That should all get sorted in the next week or and Rat as vendor with open arms will support the clients preferences.

In the mean time, say hello to George, Tyler and Nick, ok, off to find some BBQ in Memphis try and catch up with the sound crew.

DR

American Bus

It’s been a while maybe 3 years or so since Ibe done a US bus ride.roony and open. More social space than the Euro micro lounges. No real hanging for me though. Off to the bunk for some phone work and a bit o blog. 

So another show on the new subs was getting my head around them feeling more free to push a bit. My main concern is maintaining a good sound out front without any side effects that could mess with the band’s performance. Sub bleed on stage can really be an issue and make it hard for them to hear if I’m not careful

As far as mixing, everything came up well, the mains were pretty straight forward with the biggest challenge being that it’s freezing cold outside. The trick of shutting off venue air unfortunately barely warms the room when it’s so cold so the sound tends to be edgy till people get moving . You can just feel the cold air falling from the roof and it makes things a bit unwieldy requiring extra attention to the changing tonality.

Check out the 12 supersub rolling array strapped to the template

Mixing on the SuperSubs is fascinating. The bass sound has less hot spots that swoop through the room on certain notes. I did add a bit of EQ today with a single cut around 50hz..

On the band front, 2nd show had even more momentum than the first, it’s amazing how well they hit the ground running with the high standards themselves and others have established. 

A quick look from when I was home

DR

Dave Rat Blog – New Adventures

Well it sure was nice to be home for the holidays, too nice in fact. Leaving home gets harder each time and so very soon all my travels will be purely in my control rather than an emailed itinerary.


In the mean time, the new SDS30 SuperSubs did their first show. A 16 box set up with 8 on each side in cardioid arrays. I kept them very tame for the show as the last thing I want is to overwhelm or distract from the primary goal of connecting the artist with audience.

Over the course of this leg I will slowly open them up in both level and bandwidth doing my best to only make forward steps.

A few aspects of the sound were readily apparent. First is that these subs go low, really low, in fact so low that I had to high pass them as not to overwhelm with frequencies below 30hz. Definitely will need to develop some techniques to manage and harness the extra energy.

Secondly, they are fast, like hard hitting punchy fast. At first this punchy fast sound threw me off and I will need to refine managing that as well. The kick jumps out in ways I have not heard since mixing on horn loaded subs yet without the low frequency limitations and pesky sound peaks that plague those horn designs.  Also the box resonance is so low that either I high-passed above it or its so subdued that it’s a non issue. Beyond messing with the high and low pass filters, I used no external EQ. Typically dialing in sub EQ is one of the more challenging aspects I face in tuning a system.

All that said I wisdom of years of building and testing new systems tells me that initial impressions rarely tell the whole story for better or worse.

It was a busy day and had a lot going on and spaced grabbing pics of the arrays but here they are coming off the truck.

Specs and more details soon. If you want us to email you info as it comes out, he is a link to give us your info.

SDS30 SuperSubs More Info Signup

Cool cool and fun with big loud toys!

Glasgow Show Day

Well hello my little comrade. Happy little guy found a present.

Many years ago I had a pet squirrel named Tibet. She wod follow me around the house, if I tapped my chest she clamor up my leg and hop on my shoulder. Sometimes if I sat on the floor she would run circles around me and roll on her back showing her long scary teeth Acting like she would bite me, but just ever so gentle play bites before leaping in the air and circling again.

Show 2 at o2 London arena went well as well. Second shows always have a bit of an advantage sound wise from the fine tuning of the first night. We actually return for a 3rd night  days and three cities later

My bus avoidance adventures continue and after the gig I stayed back in London for the day off with Kim and up early for a 4 hour show day train ride to Glasgow. 

Since I did not spend my life traveling the world in order to embrace a lack of experiences, guess what I chose for dinner tonight?

Once again the the Brompton makes a spare hour unwasted.

I try and offer a sonic tidbit of advice with each blog post so for for today I will share some insight into getting and maintaining gigs. 

What we are selling as sound sound engineers is not really a perfect show, npr is it technical complexity. The shows will never be perfect, they will only be at most, the best that can be done with the given challenges at hand. Ultimately whether you have a crazy complicated setup that requires tons of work or a simple one that is nearly auto pilot, makes no difference to the audience, the band, management or show reciewers.

What we sell is confidence. Confidence that when the band walks on stage that they do not need to worry that their sound will be delivered. Confidence that best will be done to connect the artists with the audience and to the listener what matters is that they have an experience they can feel. That for those few hours, the world fades away and they can immerse in the moment.

Confidence is built on trust and and held by delivering consistently over time.

And now we are mid set change so it’s time to refocus on mixing a rock show.

DR

London O2 Show 1

Back on tour after an amazing 10 days at home. Surfed nearly every other day between catching up on Rat stuff and remembering there is more to life than go go go.

So I am mixing the Peppers’ o2 show, I come out hot, at 108 and slowly fade down to the 103 A weighted I usually mix at by slowly fading over the first two songs. London, Los Angeles and New York are high pressure gigs. Not so much for me directly but the audiences tend to be more discerning combined with management, band friends and all the heavyweights hovering filled with more angst than I feel. The mix comes up as it has most every show for quite a while now. The instruments are all there and I am focused on tonally compensating for room temp. A few songs in.I turn around and this guy in the FOH mix area looks like he has to tell me the secret of the universe. I walk over and he says, “what’s up with the high hat?” 
I am thinking, “The high hat?” We are doing the O2, the vocals are right on top, the subs are clear, the guitar is on fire, Flea is defined and strong. All the drums churning out with power and this guy is stressing on the high hat like it’s the end of the world. Kashisst Kashisst, the high is crisp, defined and if anything a bit bright. WTF? It’s like the reincarnation of cowbell guy. I figure he is a band friend but damn,  I ask him if his hearing is flawed, how can he not hear? Kind of a bummer, two songs of being a bit self conscience and right back into an awesome show.

After the show I went and hunted down high hat guy, turns out he was nice enough, I guess he got a bit excited with having an opinion of perceived importance. To bad it wasn’t more cowbell he wanted..

And while we are at the rock show, we have BabyMetal opening and it is delightful. White faced demons and toy doll pony tails in catering can’t help but make everyone smile. This is the way like should always be.

The tour bike adventures continue with a refreshing 13 miles after the gig through the streets of London  such a wonderful contrast to loud music and the thrill of the gig to fly down dark streets icy cool air and the feeling of freedom.

As far as sound tidbit of the day, I guess I will finish off my 3 key pieces of gear. I covered the Dorrough 1200B and the PCM60.

Edit
So let’s cover the eventide H3500. I like this unit because it not only can cover all my dedicated effect patches but also because I can punch the programs in directly on the keypad.  I the 3500 for the vocal delays on Sir Psycho and Higher Ground, the guitar pan for Blood Sugar, the phaser effect on Dani California, some vocal flange for Under the Bridge, vocal reverb flange for Could Have Lied and a few other patches I can’t think of at the moment.

By using just one unit for all the non PCM60 effects, it keeps the mix clean and defined and prevents piling a bunch of messy crap on to the band. I pretty muc focus on being an absolute minimalist. My job is to connect the artist with the audience.  Not to distract.

Cool cool and now I must mix London o2 #2

DR

DR Blog, Here They Come! 

It’s been nearly 2 years in development, from the four prototype versions I hand built in my garage, transferring my handcrafted designs to 3D data to bringing the contract manufacturer up to speed. The environmental tests, cosmetics, covers, caster plate designs and finally the first batch is enroute. 

Soon will have spec sheets and more info.

I actually have been developing this specific subwoofer design concept for over 12 years now and here is a picture of a 15″ version that I use as my home stereo subwoofer.

They have come a long way and when we release more info it should explain why this specific design offers some distinct advantages

Happy Thanksgiving and I am so happy the be home for 10 days.

Yay C-street surfing, yay family, yay pups yay Rat family, yay friends.  Not necessarily in that exact order but yay all!

DR

DR Blog – Vienna and Home

Last show of euro arena leg 4 and the wrestling matches have rejuvenated a bit of the old comraderie from years past. I have been spending more time around the dressing room the last few days with my long time friends. I tend to run fairly isolated from the tour and the Trump election had pushed me further into being a hermit.

It’s now 2 am and just back at the hotel with 5 hours to my plane takes off, it’s all about being really good at setting alarms and timing finesse.

We said goodbye to Deerhoof and pick up Babymetal as the new opener on the next run early December.

So here I lay not as tired as I wish I was with my ears slightly ringing as they do. . Plus I have the added bonus of a bunch of new aches from wrestling.  I must admit I kind of enjoy the feeling of being human and taking some hits from exposure. Otherwise things would get boring much quicker.

Speaking of ears ringing, many people ask me how I deal with ear protection.

My strategy has evolved over the years from reckless bombardment to moderating. Years ago when mixing Rage Against the Machine, my ears hurt and I had not yet developed a strategy to hold a mix together and reduce my exposure at high volumes. 

As wisdom grows worked out a strategy wherein I triangulate the tonal balance of the sound. I use the RTA for a visual reference, the knob settings as a mechanical reference my ears as an auditory reference for the first few songs and a few other times during the show. The rest of the time I use some 20db soft silicon ear plugs I got custom molded from JH Audio that work really well for me. I put them in, let my ears adjust to the lower level and mix most of the show that way.

Ok, should try and sleep. good night

DR

Oh, found the boiler room