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Indelible Ink

I love my pockets empty except for a cell phone and the omnipotent brightly colored ID tag dangling from my belt loops. The sensation of pure freedom. A single page road map defines my 'must do' events for the day. So grounded and clear the world becomes. The biggest challenge is to try not to lose any physical object that pretends it is important. But what is expended to drop into this reality of unsustainable wanderlust? This world of tour, pure motion of a bus rolling 60 while home slowly rotates with the spin of the earth. Where to plop myself down mentally and at what balance determines happiness or misery. To stay fully immersed in the world of home while my body jumps through all the extra hoops enduring mishaps and chewing through time in order to drag home a paycheck and some stories? Or chose the perception that everyday is beautiful in every way, regardless of how miserable it may appear. There are no problems, just an endless stream of puzzles to solve as each day a brand new city is delivered to feet. When I first quit my job at Hughes Aircraft to rent out small PA systems with a van, I leaped from that cliff into the ethereal structure less world. I remember taking off my wristwatch and crashing it into the ground as I swore off being chained to concept of time. I remember sitting in Mark Mahoney's tattoo studio as I asked him to keep enlarging the photo copy of the rat intended for my forearm. Bigger, bigger, bigger, I wanted the tail of my first tattoo to be visible even when I wear a long sleeve shirt. I wanted to make sure I would never be able to work for anyone offended by it. I wanted it to remind me to be adventurous, curious and to have the endurance to succeed regardless of the obstacles. I wanted it to remind me never to forget that barriers and strings are only as strong as I allow them to be. I realized I am guided by the failsafe wrench-thrower built into my mind. As if a part of me already knows where I am headed and happiness is only felt when the right decisions are made. Wrong turns down paths un-righted cant help but turn sour into depression, anxiety, anger, frustration and finally destructive wrench-throwing irrational actions that break the pattern and hopefully end up forcing a me to change directions.

Well alrighty now how about a bit of soundnerdery fun?

**** Sound Nerd Speak ****

Ok, I have written about grasping a consist ant reference points with headphones, an analyzer and physical settings. I did a video and wrote about my take on what EQ's what in a sound system. Here's something pretty simple that is another piece of the 'get a sound system to sound good' adventure.

There are various ways to EQ a sound system. Voice mic, pink noise, familiar cd, tone sweep, pulse and EQ on the fly. Over the years I have put much thought into the concepts of perception of sound versus tonal balance. Part of the method I use to EQ a system is keeping an eye on tonal balance over time. The tonal balance of a show is constantly changing. Having a readout such as an RTA or spectrograph gives a series of visual snap shot or shots with a history. What is often overlooked and tends to be more relevant is the overall tonal balance averaged of the course of a longer time periods. Our ears are forgiving and enjoy the short time frame tonal diversity yet if certain frequencies are dominate over a longer time frame, it can be undesirable. With short period time averaging of a few seconds or less we see these lines moving around but it is difficult to accurately see the trend of which frequencies are persistently too loud. By using a longer averaging time of 10 seconds or longer, you can tame the readout so it gives a stable read out more similar to what we see when using pink noise. Now with this stable line it becomes much easier to EQ the system with music as a source. Taking this further, if you do some long period averages with your test CD and save the curve when you have a desirable system tuning, you can then display this curve over the live band's real time long term average and keep yourself tonally in check over the course of the show.

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

And may as well share some snapshots.

Finding the show times of the various bands requires a bit of research.

Iron Maiden, gotta love the old school big rock!

So I have decided to try something new for this tour and mix sideways. Mix with my left, band in front and free hand for a drink in the right. Hey drink is far from the board and clear view of the system analyzer, racks and band. All good!

Found a friend!

I must admit, like the Ting Tings

Our mighty drummer

And meet Triggerfinger, rocking show, super cool and one of those groups of people you just instantly like and can hang with.

Alright. just finished Germany show 2, festival three on a K1 rig and the off to Hamburg.

The ever confused,

Dave Rat

Another Terrible Day at the Office

Two hours of sleep and then a bus ride to Pukkelpop in Belgium on the Ocho with Blink. Yes, we are actually on production bus #2 but the core Blink crew refuses to ride on anything but a bus with a #8. Oh and I forgot but I did grab a few shots of the Soundgarden Vic show.

**** Sound Nerd Speak ****

So prepping for Blink we soundies get word of an all new ground support drum riser with two spinning axis, being built. Hmmm, end over end flips of a spinning disk, this should make for some interesting cable runs. We have no idea how many flips or spins, just that it is going to need audio and AC power and if the we lose audio during the drum solo with a spinning drummer doing a solo, well, to say the least, that would be really bad.

The plan as presented by the creators of the contraption was "just run audio wireless." Hmmm, where would that put me? Run wireless drum mics the entire show? Yuck. Run hardwired and switch to wireless for the drum solo? Yuck.  And what kind of wireless?  We need full 48 volt phantom power for half the mics up there. Start swapping out mics? Oh my, this is bit of a mind knot. Figure out a hardwire solution? But what if it does not work? We wont even get to see the riser till three days before I leave for Soundgarden so we can not count on implementing a hardwired solution.

After a bit of pondering and a call to Showrig who was building the contraption, they agreed to have some extra holes drilled, and I think I have a way to route the cable. Thank you Justin! for the updates and taking care of getting things worked out. Then a custom snake and spare snake, 20 ch mult to tinned bare ends was ordered plus a box with terminal strips and a mult. This would allow the cable to be threaded through openings of unknown dimension and attached without soldering. For the next several weeks Steve Walsh and I brain stormed and waited for the various pieces to arrive.

So here she is in all of her 4000 pounds of glory. It was all about getting the audio working with minimal complexity and high reliability with a big pile of unknowns and little time for errors as the whole shebang shipped to Europe 6 days after we get our hands on it.

The two arms lift, the disc flips end over end and spins at the same time. Since  and audio failure is a show stopper, it's all about redundancy so after some looking around, decided on the cool Sennheiser SKB2000 plug in wireless transmitters. Full 48 volt phantom, lots o channels and they come in little leather pouches that can clip to the cymbal legs. Unfortunately we needed a minimum of 10 and finding 10 of these matched rarities is both really tough and/or really expensive. So we decided to buy them. Oh, and hey, we will be selling most of them as well as the matching receivers after the tour next month so let Daniella know if you are interested. Basically they just plug onto any mic and make it wireless.

Locking in the wireless backup took a pile of weight off. We now had at least something that had a good chance of working assuming we did not get drop outs when the metal riser flips and we don't get crushed by interference in Europe. The AC power backup was easy, just bolt down a UPS unit on the riser and pull power during the solo and let the run off the battery backup for the 6 minute adventure. Here are the 10 wireless transmitters hitting a set of snake tails into the mult of the stage box.

The other parallel mult of the stage box hits a snake and power cable that feeds through the center hole. Turns out we were barely able to fit the 20 channel mult cable after all. It was less than a 1/32 of an inch to spare.

This is the cable drum that Showrig added to the riser for us with a plexiglas bottom. Since the riser splits in half, so does the cable drum. The cable then feeds through a small trough on the left. Note that the drum does not spin and is attached to the outer ring that only flips.

The rotator post which does spin, holds the cable such that it coils and un coils itself.

After traveling down the non spinning trough, the cable enters the axle past the spinning disk and exits the end. The twist caused by flipping can be manually paged by our SSE monitor tech, Perttu. Oh, and I forgot to mention, the riser also drives downstage, turns to one side, backs up and turns again before driving back home again. The final choreography has three spins a few partial rotations and a single flip over. The tour is only 15 shows so we are pretty confident we wont have to change the cable out.

Meanwhile, we also have the 10 wireless redundant channels as a backup in the event the cable gets caught and chewed. The only weak link is that a chewed cable will most likely short out the mic lines but fortunately if we had to, we could risk Perttu's life and have him dash up and pull the hardwire mult except during the flips and spins to save the finally of the solo. And there you have it. I am sure there are plenty of youtube videos getting posted so do a search if you want to see the actual machine in action.

So now we have two shows under our belt.  Both the wired and wireless lines are solid and the wireless does not sound as good but is good enough to get me through if need be.  I have the wired drums on one VCA and the wireless on another VCA. I can slide between the two sets seamlessly.  I actually started bypassing the gates on the wireless toms and snares and adding them in when Travis plays softer parts. And on to other adventures....

It has been a while but we are closer to done on the NL4 Sniffers, here is a shot of the final production first run. Soon soon.

Oh, and while I am nerding it up, here is one for my analog brethren. Here is a significant and almost always overlooked issue I constantly see on Midas and other consoles. Can you spot the issue?

Notice the st aux 7&8 knob lower right. All knobs are turned all the way down bit it has been put on such that it points exactly at infinity while the other three are swept to below infinity. While this ma seem innocuous, it is common, especially when dialling up matrixes and such to set the knobs pointing at "0." Except when the the knob is incorrectly placed on the shaft, it will send at a lower volume level than it should due to not being rotated far enough yet visually looking correct. Now take the cumulative effect of this occurring on an aux send, to a group to left and right and then to a matrix and you can get very audible imbalances. The correct knob placement is for it to point below infinity when turned down all the way.

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

Oh, check this out, Nick Taylor made my day. Imagine getting a message asking me if I would like to go for a surf in the North Sea while I am in Scotland.

Instant YES! So he pics me up at the gig, loans me a suit and board and off we go to some chilly water and waves.

How big? Well, Ronnie Kimball and I have perfected a wave measurement system. The great neutralizer between the whole measure the back of the wave, front of the wave, exaggerations or whatever. All waves are 2-3 ft.and if they are bigger, 2-3 +, and smaller is 2-3 -. Done. So these waves? Well, they were 2-3 +. Oh, and the water is never 'cold,' only some days are just more 'refreshing' than others.

A quick walk through a small 500 year old village filled with miniature houses

And then back to the gig for another terrible day at the world office.

Dave Rat

PS, If I am ever on tour near you and you want to come take me surfing, I am in!

Back Again

Back Again

First Blink 182, now Soundgarden, hey I am the reunion guy! Oh, if you are in to the sound nerdery stuff, I have been pretty good about getting videos up on youtube about various sound world things. I really try and cover subjects or explanation that are off the beaten path. Check out either or if you are into that kind of stuff.

Oh and while I am doing shameless plugs, if you need any sound or video gear, give Daniella or John Karr a shout and they will hook you up.  Rat keeps low sales margins, will gladly give you real world advice and if you ever have any issue with anything we sell ya, we will take care of it and get you dialed in and happy.

Finally the first batch of Rat NL4 Sniffers are coming in next week and though I have not seen the production final, the photos I've seen are really cool.  The web site is still being worked on but to check out the products as they become available take a peek at  

OK, time for some ramblings and adventures

**** Back in the Day ****

Rewind twenty years back to the most grueling non Black Flag tour I have traveled. Three of us across on the bench seat of rented bobtail truck, following the band busses and hauling the monitor rig and FOH drive.

Danzig, Soundgarden, Corrosion of Conformity, Warrior Soul after Boston
07/27/90 Santa Monica Civic, Los Angeles, CA
07/28/90 Warfield Theatre, San Francisco, CA
07/29/90 Wilson Theater, Fresno, CA
07/31/90 Horticultural Center, Salt Lake City, UT
08/01/90 C.I. Sports Complex, Denver, CO
08/03/90 Riviera Theater, Chicago, IL
08/04/90 Central Park Ballroom, Milwaukee, WI
08/05/90 First Avenue Club, Minneapolis, MN
08/07/90 Mississippi Nights, St. Louis, MO
08/08/90 Bogart's, Cincinnati, OH
08/10/90 Latin Quarter, Detroit, MI
08/11/90 Agora, Cleveland, OH
08/12/90 Metropol , Pittsburgh, PA
08/13/90 Concert Hall, Toronto, Canada (cancelled)
08/15/90 Citi/Axis, Boston, MA
08/17/90 Beacon Theatre, New York, NY
08/18/90 Airport Music Hall, Allentown, PA
08/19/90 Trocadero, Philadelphia, PA
08/21/90 Ritchie Coliseum, College Park, MD
08/22/90 The Boathouse, Norfolk, VA
08/24/90 Huger Street Concert Hall, Columbia, SC
08/25/90 Center Stage, Atlanta, GA
08/27/90 Houston, TX
08/28/90 San Antonio, TX
08/29/90 Unicorn, Dallas, TX
08/31/90 Celebrity Theater, Phoenix, AZ
09/01/90 UCSD, San Diego, CA

I was doing monitors and Danzig was easily the worst artist to work with, still to this day, that I have ever encountered. That said, misery in retrospect is always a great story and there were some really memorable times. Us soundies, Brandon, Karrie and I had an ongoing battle with the backline/merch truck. I think Brandon sent me this pic a while back.


I remember threading a bass string through a six pack of empty beer cans and attaching the contraption via another bass string around the exhaust pipe of their truck and then using some gaff tape to hold the cans against the muffler. A few miles out on the freeway at 3 am, the gaff tape melts, the cans drop and drag and bounce and we honk and zoom by with huge smiles.they pull over on a pitch black highway to the mysterious clanging sound.

At another gig they trapped poor Brandon in the back of our truck and sealed the door right after tossing in a brick of firecracker. We heard this banging sound and opened the truck to a huge smoke plume and a human comes coughing out. Tiger balm on their truck seat, an Estes Rocket launcher fuse attached to an M70 attached to the dome light in their truck and on and on the pranks went. Glenn Danzig once took a swing at me mid show, the feisty little fighter he is. And everyday we found endless amusement in the eight foot high drum riser with a giant foam skull that had lights behind the eyes, we called it "Bullwinkle."

Anyway, for as much as Danzig was comic humor with a bad attitude, Soundgarden was pure heavy intense power and awesome to watch and cool people. We got on great with COC and Warrior Soul. After the tour we all went our separate ways, Rat Sound was really not very big at the time and Soundgarden took off and went with Showco for sound for the next twenty years.

So here I am two decades later doing front of house rather than monitors and mixing one of the early bands that took a chance and took a little punk rock sound company on tour with them.

**** Sound Nerd Speak ****

Sound Tip!

Ok, all you soundies should know that when setting up your main PA if you put all the subs stage center, you get pretty much an omni pattern or a fairly even coverage left to right but it tends to over sub woof the band. With newer cardioid setups you can reduce the 'band kill' a bit but still having the band 3 feet from subs that are trying to shoot low end hundreds of feet is bound to cause issues.

Here is a plot of two low sources spaced about 18"

So we space our main PA subs out and put a pile stage left and a pile stage right. This gets the subs father from the band but gives us a a power alley down the middle and reduces the low end off to the sides. While practical, their are several undesirable side effects like the creation of a power alley and diminishing low end off to the sides. If you have been following this blog you will know it is something I have spent much time on.

Ok, now check this out! First the good news; here is one of those rare things in our sound world that is super easy, has no real negative side effects and improves the quality of what we are trying to achieve. That bad news? All you front of house engineers do not get to enjoy it because it is a stage monitor tip. Think about the coverage pattern of two spaced subs, hot in the center, quieter off to the sides, where would that be useful?

How about drum fill? Rather than stacking two subs directly behind the drummer, what is you spaced those two subs apart and put one on either side? Then your sub response would look more like the plot below:

Now, with the drummer in the perfect hot spot. and the rear lobe fairly harmlessly behind the drummer, we now get a bit less bleed into the drums and less bleed to other parts of the stage. Pretty much you would be intentionally creating a power alley just for the drummer. Want to take the concept further? Use three subs. One behind the drummer and one to each side. Either physically place them equidistant from the drummer or if space behind is an issue, use time delay on the rear sub so all three subs are timed to hit the drummer at the same time.

The cool part about the triple setup is it creates a perfectly timed focal point of low end on the drummer but the low end tapers off as you get further down stage as well, reducing the drum sub level heard by the singer.

The effect of this is not overly dramatic but it is audible, usable and another useful tool to add to your sound tool box.

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

I am actually in Scotland right now, out with Blink 182 doing production rehearsals. I will try and get caught up on more of the Soundgarden adventure and will have plenty on Blink to come as well, but for now, how about some pictures?

I actually have quite a bit to do mixing soundgarden so I did not really have a chance to shoot show pics without screwing a cue, but here is the pre show Vic Theater

So though I do not do it often anymore, this Soundgarden gig was just myself as a sound engineer and every bit of gear was supplied by other vendors. For the monitor rig and FOH drive, I had the great pleasure of working with Carlson Audio. They did a wonderful job and best of all I had the honor of long time friend Allan Bagley as my FOH tech. Thank you Allan!

Whenever possible I try and carry extra subs. Even if I just use them as an effect, having a bit of nitro boost never hurts. For Soundgarden at Lollapalooza I pondered this for a bit, hmmm, what can I do that is kind of cool and unique? Hmmm, oh I know, what about giving some quad 21" subs a try? A few phone calls and Hello Cleveland! Thank you Ryan McCauley and all for making this happen.

How were they? Well, keep in mind the Clair I5 rig had 24 subs already which worked quite well. I used the McCauley's as Infra-Subs and eight of these 500 pound monsters, each on its own 14000 watt Lab Gruppen, put up a solid match for SPL and definitely hit some lower frequencies. Ooooh, I love playing with big toys!

Here is a shot from stage of FOH mix during the wee hours of our 7 am line check load in.

And back the other way

I watched a bit of Wolfmother and that is about all I got around to shooting

And to try and end up in the current time frame, this is my sound world for the Blink 182 non-festival gigs. Notice the compact XL4. Other than a couple of Rat racks, this one is all SSE gear from the UK.

Ok, off to go sort out some crazy mechanical spinning drum riser. Let me ask you this. How do you run a snake to a spinning turntable drum riser that flips end over end? Hmmm, good question and Steve Walsh and I are knee deep in unraveling this conundrum. Will let ya know as soon as we figure it out and also know if it works :)

Dave Rat