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

DR blog – Festhalle Frankfurt

Just to give you an idea of what what kind of audio challenges we sometimes face, give a listen to this cable ramp drop

cable ramp drop

Today is the day of the Peppers wrestling match, they brought in a mat, set it up in the middle of the venue, multiple cameras and up on the big screens. 

Match 1 was two of our fabulous caterers Tanya and Vicky

Match 2 was band photog Dave vs guitar tech Ian

Match 3 Lampi Scott vs me, Dave Rat

And match 4 tour Manager assist and guest bass player Sammy vs Flea

Must admit I was nervous but it truly was great fun, here is a clip from Flea’s match on Instagram 

flea vs sammy

And here is a shot of Scott and I

Cool cool, moving on to the bigger picture.

On November 26th 2006 I was in this same room with this same band pondering the same worldly things but from a much safer distance of time and residency.

And it was a bit eerie reading what I wrote a decade ago given the current realities

Roadies in the Midst Blog, Frankfurt, Nov 27 2006.

And may as well take the same pic I did back then.

On the sound front, the new Rat SDS30 SuperSubs are moving through production and the first batch should be landing at the rat shop in a few weeks. 30″ cone, 10,000 watts self powered and should be quite impressive to hear a whole array of them.

This enough for now, time to wander as I am now in Vienna

DR

DR Blog – Hannover and Frankfurt

So the initial shock and disgust of facing the election results is slowly fading into accepting what I already knew about human nature. And not unlike nature nature, Trump is reminiscent of an invasive species like kudzu for which our political system has not yet developed a defence mechanism. 

Personally to help me sleep and do my part, I have arranged monthly donations to the ACLU to help fend off Trump’s stated attacks on civil liberties as well as other organizations that he states his policies intend to undermine. Join me, let’s try and minimize the collateral damage and reverse the process into a better direction.

Moving over to sound world, let’s take a look at the RTA I use to see the sound that the audience hears during the show.

So for me, this photo from the show in Hannover is pretty darn close to what I am looking for. What I seek is a very smooth falling response losing 3 to 5 db per octave as you go up in frequency.

In smaller rooms, the slope is more gentle and in big rooms when I am far away from the PA I look for a steeper slope.

Please note that this is not the response using pink noise. The is the response of the actual band playing measured from a mic at FOH and the RTA is set to “infinity” time averaging.  I then allow it to average over the course of half a song or even several songs.

My goal is to look at the averaged frequency response of the sonic energy that I am exposing the audience to, over time. I really want to avoid exposure to narrow band peaks over any thing beyond short time frames.

There is a bit of a bump in the 1k to 5k region, this is not ideal but since it happens smoothly over several octaves and is just a few db, it is not a major concern.

One of the challenges is that this curve will constantly change with venue temperature, audience size and location. so if you ever watch me mix, you will see me trying to lock in the curve as the show starts and then chase EQ gremlins as they show up throughout the night.

Doing winter shows means we can experience some pretty drastic temp changes, very quickly depending on the roof design and entry and exit door usage.

Did my first and second bus ride of this tour leg getting in and out of Herning Denmark. The train schedules were just too cumbersome. 

I’ve been train to take candidate shots of everyone on the tour and at some point put some posts on each department. What seemed a reasonable plan is proving quite the challenge though.

And some pics while biking around.

Ok, sleep and show tomorrow Frankfurt

DR

DR blog – Cologne

Jumped in the merch van again for the overnight ride from Luxemburg into a bit of a slow one meal day with a short ride around town.

I like it here, nearly always stay out near the Dom. Since we have two days off will save adventuring for tomorrow.

I must admit the election has left me feeling sad and depressed. A helpless frustration and realization that perhaps believing in honesty, integrity and compassion is just for fools as selfish greed and divisiveness is how the real winners roll. Create scapegoats and unify the masses and we are living in animal farm.

Oh well, I don’t like like it and don’t have any belief it will ever cease to be common. I guess at the end of the day I just need to have made the decisions that help me sleep at night with the feeling I did my best to do what’s right.

Ok, enough about my reality, let’s move onto audio. So the second unit in the photo is a Lexicon PCM60. Must have been the late 80’s when I bought the first one. It was a budget buster at the time and was a replacement for this horrible sounding Yamaha R1000 reverb we were using.

As the years past, I have switched to numerous other units but I could never get the sound I was seeking.

In a reverb unit for live, I rarely am looking for a realistic sound as a realistic reverb just puts the instrument in a different room. Rather I am looking to extend the time duration of an instrument or vocal. Yes I want it to sound farther away but really I seek a texture that is different than the room sound. If the reverb is really clean and realistic, I find I need to add a lot for it to be audible or have an impact. Adding a lot if reverb is counter productive for most large live shows.

Rather I want it to be as audience as possible using as little as possible.

In general I use very few effects and for peppers, all effects I do are on just 2 units. A few effects, like the vocoder on By the Way and vocal effect for Monarchy are created on stage by Chris Warren or monitor Mark respectively.

Keep in mind there is no right or wrong with effects, just choices that have a higher probability of giving you the outcome you desire. I’m just sharing what works for me.

So, the PCM60 has 4 room sizes, 4 decay times, a plate or room option and a low and high cut option all on mechanical buttons.

I find that I can get every verb sound I desire from a short sharp gated sound to a long dreamy wash just by punching a few buttons. Plus, a quick glance tells me exactly where I am set.

The real secret to the PCM60 though is in the input section. I discovered this year’s later when using a PCM90 that had a PCM60 emulator setting. Try as a may I could never get the sound I was looking for. Finally after going back to an actual PCM60, I discovered the secret.

The input section on a PCM60 when driven hard into clip has the most wonderful thick distorted sound when overloaded. Turns out that the reverb sound I crave is created when the snare or toms clip the input adding a crunch to the drum sound being sent to the reverb.

The reverb sound created can be altered by how much i overload the input and I can create the big thick crunchy verbs and add them back to the mix at very low levels. This allows me to get the sound I want without losing the clear, up close and personal sound I try and deliver to the audience.

Cool cool, that’s enough for now, a few pics and gonna publish without proof reading again, so please forgive any errors.

The open road, at night in the dark

DR

Luxembourg Show Day

 

“Never ever forget that no matter how good or bad it is, it can always get worse.” That is the happy thought that keeps running through my mind. A friend asked me today “What do we do? I have never felt more alienated, the country will be controlled by people that hate me, what do I tell my kids? There must be something smart I can do, I don’t know what to do.” And I am so sad to say I just don’t know either, other than support the ACLU and organizations dedicated to fighting for our rights. What I do know is that the more active and unified people are, the higher probability they will get the outcome they desire. In the meantime regardless of which side of the equation you are on, people voted to break the system so hang on tight because a broken system is painful, rough and miserable ride for everyone.

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Moving on happier places, I made it back to the bike shop in Amsterdam and met Vincent who turned out to super cool. Not only did I hang out for several hours at the shop 2 days in a row, I bought a brand new Brompton 6 speed black edition and he and some friends came and hung out with me at the show. Meeting wonderful people really does make everything a bit better.

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Oh, anyone is curious about following my bike adventures, my profile name on the Strava App is cryptically Dave Rat. And before we get into some sound stuff, here are few pics riding from Luxembourg hotel to gig.

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And at near freezing out I stop to warm my hands almost magically a little friend comes for a visit to offer a furry assist

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I done 80 miles since monday and this how I roll

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I stopped again to take a pic and my friend here lays down and shows me how he rolls

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And on that note lets talk sound.

So here is a photo of three older pieces of gear that I rely heavily upon and I know of no alternatives that work nearly as well.  I will start with the top unit, the Dorrough 1200 today and cover the other two soon.

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The Dorrough is a stereo metering unit with 40 LEDs, a 1db resolution and master attenuator offering a 100db range.  Additionally, the meters simultaneously show averaged and peak audio levels. Having this extremely accurate metering on my stereo cue bus allows me not only match left and right levels but also the difference between the peak and average levels allows me to see how much compression is effecting what ever I solo.

Another feature I rely upon is the sum/difference setting.  In this mode the left meter indicated the sum of the stereo signal I have cue’d and the right meter shows the difference between the signals. This is a powerful tool for determining if two mics mic’ing the same source are in or out of polarity. Also, the meter will help indicate how different two signals are. When two signals are identical, the sum meter reads a high level and the difference meter shows little to no level.  In order to reduce comb-filtering and increase stereo imaging, I try to send different signals to the left side and right side of the PA whenever possible, using the 1200 helps me optimize that goal.

OK, will cover why I really really like the PCM60 and H3500 in some future posts.

Oh, does anyone know what this thing is?  I passed it on the way to the gig pretty much in the middle of nowhere Luxembourg.

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DR blog -Amstredam 1

Hopped in the merch van after Antwerp for a short drive to Amsterdam. I was planning on buying a new Brompton, taking a train to The Hague and Clint Vicky and I riding 40 miles back to Amsterdam. Unfortunately, most bike shops are closed on Mondays. Would be nice to upgrade as the one I have now I bought used and for the amount of riding I am doing, really needs an overhaul. Plus I’d like to switch from a 3 to 6 speed version.

Touring with Chili Peppers is pretty good stuff as far as touring goes. Never more than 2 shows in a row and lots of back to back shows in the same city. So we are here for 4 days before heading to Luxembourg. 

Ya know, doing sound is easy, getting a good sound is harder, getting a good sound consistently in a wide variety of big echoey venues is a real challenge. And making everyone always happy is a pipe dream.

My methods to attempt happiness success is all about triangulating numerous factors. First I am looking for even coverage throughout the venue and honestly I entrust that to long time FOH tech Jim Lockyer currently working with Radek from Highlite, our Euro sound vendor. 

Second I am looking a smooth frequency response as measured by a spectrum analyzer as well as my ears. Probably the most overlooked but critical factor that ruins mixes in big venues is room resonance. Find it and EQ the shit out of it to get rid of it. Usually for the 18,000 to 25,000 capacity arenas, room resonance is in the 120hz to 180hz range.

I use a headphone reference as well, by listening to the mix in headphone and the the hearing the room, its fairly easy to pick out frequencies that the room or system is reproducing unevenly.

Meanwhile I pay close attention to room temperature while Narci, our production manager works with each venues to try and thermal consistancy from show to show.one thing we shoot for is to turn of all temperature control and air handlers 30 mins before Peppers. This allows the room to stabilize. Then once we have some songs in, narci adjusts as needed to keep people from overheating.

For the Antwerp gig we started out with a warm room with a bit of a dull overall sound. As it got hotter from all the humans, the air conditioning ran for a bit and the sound got more crisp and clearer. As the outside temp dropped it seemed to hold the cooler temp and reached a stable balance. The general rule is that the more stable and consistent the temp is, the more stable and consultant the sound will be.  Also tracking these temp changes and making sure to compensate on the house EQ rather than destroying the channel EQs is important.

Simultaneously, of course I am paying attention to make sure all the instrument levels are balanced so everyone can hear everything as clearly as possible. With Chili Peppers, every sound you hear is being created in real time by either someone on stage on an occasional effect from me.

Over the longer term I pay attention to comments from friends of the band, band managers, personal friends, concert reviews and occasionally even sound from YouTube videos of people holding up their iPhone at various locations within the venue.I know I will never get perfect sound, what I shoot for is great sound, or at minimum, better sound than anyone else is getting in that venue.

Ok, picture time: awkwardly low human to case on ramp ratio

Sometimes we experience catastrophic to failures that can have severe impacts on our ability to rock a gig.  Here you can see monitor Mark and power Tom fixing the wall wart adapter for the dressing room stereo


Touring would be a bit more challenging is we moved sound systems using the bike trailer option. 

Ok well, woke up this morning and as I read the news my life slippes backwards to high school. The lunch table cliches of people I neither like nor talk to, the jocks versus nerds versus hippies versus punkers. Surrounded by the feeling dread at the thought of my future life sitting behind a desk and following the presupposed paths of acceptable success. 

And I realize the collapsing illusion that anything has changed is purely a result of successfully isolating myself from the same people I dreaded back then. 

I don’t know a simple word to describe how I feel. Some combination of sad and numb yet a familiar head shaking comfort and resolve.

Oh well, it could be worse, it can always be worse.

Antwerp

As with most things in my life I try not to fret about things beyond my control while doing my best to optimize the outcome. SPL limitations come in a wide variety of flavors. a weighted rules tend to protect people’s hearing while C weighted limits are more effective at monitoring the low frequency sounds neighbors complain about.

Today we have a 100db A weighted over 60 minutes as described in the letter below:

______________________________

Name : …………………………………….

Declare that I have read the dB limit regulations at the           SPORTPALEIS ANTWERP

And, I declare, in my capacity as : 

(jobtitle) …………………………………………..to 

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS

that the artist and soundcrew I respresent, will comply to these rules :

dB Limits :

To prevent hearing damage, the maximum sound level is set to maximum:

Leq = 100 dB(A), measured over a period of 60 minutes at FOH.

This will be monitored closely, and logged.  All bands must stay within those limits.  

Please work with us on this one, because any violation of this rule can cost us a substantial fine, which we would bill you for,  and can cause us to lose our license to promote shows in this country.  

Earplugs are available in the Production office, and are distributed for free in the foyer.

Thank you very much for your cooperation !

Signature : …………………………………………

______________________________

Seems pretty straight forward, and unfortunately I prefer to mix at 103A weighted. Let’s look a bit deeper into this. 

I believe this limit is a national rule for Belgium not just a local or venue induced restriction. The restriction is annoying but not as unreasonable as it could be, so let’s look at optimizing to deliver the most exciting show possible without violating the rules.

It mentions the the max spl and time frame but does not mention whether the 60 minutes has specific start and end times, resetting every hour or whether it is a rolling 60 minute window. I have encountered both types but unfortunately this is a rolling window.

If it was a resetting window, I would try and get control over the start time. Ideally starting the monitoring 15 mins before show to have some of the quiter set change averaged into the first window. Then the second window would have the encore break averaged in and end like 10 mins after the show is over.

Another option would be to move FOH farther away, which would allow an increase in overall venue level.

This will be a bit tight so and once I see the set list I will figured out a volume strategy. Start the show loud, find some songs to pull back on, some to boost and making sure I have enough headroom left to ramp up for the pre and post encore finale’s.

And beyond gig life a bit of a rainy few miles biking to the gig from the hotel and this truck cluster looked cool. This isn’t all of them as there are a few more near the buses.

Look where they put the follow spot ops.

Ok, so the show went well, I did feel a bit pinched on sound levels as I navigated and did my best to maximise.

Ok, we’ll this is as close as I could get to the 100db limit

So gonna hope a ride in the merch van again, off to Amsterdam day off.