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Day 190 - Nov 29- Milan Show 1

I have known Mike Watt perhaps for 25 years. He used to be in a band called the Minutemen that played shows with Black Flag and other SST bands that I recorded and later did PA rentals for in the early eighties. When the Minutemen's Singer/Guitar player, D. Boon, died in 1985, Watt went on to form fiREHOSE, another very cool and legendry punk era band. Anyway, good tunes and good people to be found and now Mike is here with us, awesome!

In his very Fugazi-ish manner, Mike Watt carries on the super cool, drive your own truck, book hundreds of shows a year and creates, lives and plays music in it's purest form.

He has opened for Peppers before and Peppers once again have done as Peppers so often do and have brought in a long time friend and someone they musically and personally greatly admire, as the opening artist,

**** Roadie Observation Segment ****

I know that everyone has often wondered "How do all those roadies keep themselves looking so damn good?" As you know, today's modern roadie is nothing like it's hairy predecessor known as the Hippie roadie. What you may not know is how that evolution occurred or anything about roadie grooming habits, until now that is. Seen here, in an extremely rare photo of roadie Cliff, grooming roadie Joe while both are clearly residing in the natural roadie habitat, also referred to as the gig.

**** End Roadie Observation Segment ****

It is always comforting to feel safe. I especially feel safe when I am guarded, which is why we were all so excited to see these safety monitors with machine guns at the gig. Wow, I can't even begin to tell you how much better I feel now. Whew, all good. You know, you just never know when one of those gun things will come in handy and look!, they seem to be headed towards roadie Rusty.

**** Advanced Sound Nerd Speak ****

Warning! Super sound nerds only, everyone else should skip this section to avoid a brain owie.

So I covered a cool gating trick back on Day 181, now it time for a compressor technique that I find exothermally useful and is another of the secret foundations of mixing a rock show Dave Rat style. As live engineers we live in a spontaneous and real time environment, the less time we waste mucking about with stuff, the more time we have to actually focus on keeping the sound together. Described here is a method that not only will assist you in keeping the band's dynamic levels manageable, but it will also allow you to alter all your compressor thresholds without leaving the center console area. On an analog setup, this means you don't have to go to the outboard rack bend over and try and read the labeling on the knobs. On a digital console, this means that you can avoid sifting through a pile of compressor menus.

The trick is to assign each instrument type (for our purposes vocals are an instrument) to both a VCA and a subgroup. Then bus the subgroups to your L and R or matrix. For example; Take all your vocals and assign them to VCA 1 and also assign them to stereo subgroup 1 or mono subgroups 1 and 2. Then insert a pair of compressors on the vocal subgroups. This is where it gets cool. So now, since a VCA is really just a remote control for the channel faders, when you increase the vocal 'VCA' level it turns up the vocals pre-compressor causing more compression. When you raise the vocal 'group' faders it raises the post compressor vocal level, increasing volume after the compressor. If you raise the VCA while lowering the group faders then you are in effect lowering the threshold's of the compressors without changing the volume and without physically (or mentally in the case of digital boards) leaving the center of the console. Raising the group faders while lowering the VCA in effect raises the compressor thresholds resulting in reduced compression.

Follow me? Ok, so now repeat that same pattern on the guitars in stereo, bass in mono, kick and snare paired together mono, toms in stereo and cymbals in stereo and in this description you would end up with 10 subgroups (4 stereo and 2 mono) and 6 VCA's. You now have full control over pre and post compression levels on every instrument type. Further more, since you are compressing vocals as an overall stereo unit, if one person sings it may just barely compress but when all three singers sing at once, you will get more compression. This means that unlike using channel compression, with subgroup compression your overall vocal level will be more manageable. Same goes with guitars and so on. Pairing up the kick and snare and adding slight compression helps balance the two out a bit, fatten their sound and only ties up a single comp. I personally aim for equal level on kick and snare so the comp'ed pair helps dial that in.

If all that is not enough, check this out! Take your 7th VCA and assign all your inputs to it to make it an 'input master VCA' and then assign all 10 of your compressed subgroups to the 8th VCA making it an 'output master VCA'. This now is the most powerful of all as you can turn up input master VCA 7 and drive all your comps into compression while lowering output master VCA 8 to maintain a constant volume. These two master VCA faders give you the ability to change the over all dynamics of the entire mix similar to what a compressor on the Left and Right bus would do. Except this is better because each instrument group is independently compressed so the instruments are not all pushing each other down in volume.

And the reason this is so cool is that it will bring you one step closer to reaching that goal of being in total control over everything necessary without having to look away from watching what is going on and only moving your hands and remaining relaxed, happy and enjoying the thrill of the show. Hey, wait a minute, that is kind of like driving a race car.

**** End Advanced Sound Nerd Speak ****

Sound Nerds who followed the last section, feel free to skip this part as it is for our non sound nerdery friends.

**** Non Sound Nerd Speak ****

Here is a little guessing game, can anyone guess what this is;

**** End Non Sound Nerd Speak ****

The excited to tell you many secrets,

Dave Rat


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junior on :

wow - had to read that one twice, but once I wrapped my head around the concept, that compression trick is very neat! So do you use any individual channel compression, or just the above setup?

Carole la_kagol on :

Hi Dave, back from Milan, now at home in France. The two shows were amazing. Did you see on the 11.29.2006, the tee-shirts and the jeans trousers which were throw to the stage, and the bra which was throw to John? I guess there were some new visual effects, especially the surfing guy in "Dani California", do you agree? I saw you in the "roodies box" at the end of the show but you were talking to some people so I didn't come to see you. Let me just tell you that the sound was great but a little too powerfull and it hurt even if we were having ear-plugs! Anyway, goog job! Have fun to your next shows, Carole la_kagol.

Anonymous on : unnecessary zoom of a piece of pumpernickel bread?

Anonymous on :

Ciggie-Butts at the beach?

cranksd on :

It's the PCB of my brand new FOH console five seconds after I tried that VCA crap!........Thanks Dave!

hollis on :

wow, that compression technique blows my mind. especially your final send/return groups. I cant wait to try that out at my next show. thank you muchos!

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