The Glitch Blog #13 – Pre Pro

edIT, Blade and Bike

edIT, Blade and Bike

Good pre-production is arguably the most critical element of a solid tour.

Before the run even starts, pre-production will typically have an entire team dedicated to sorting out all the small details that allow a cohesive show to come together – everything from painstakingly evaluating every technical detail of venues, from hang-points to weight restrictions, thorough testing of all lighting, video and sound, designing and building all the software and hardware that allows a custom show of this caliber to run successfully without unintentional glitches…I could go on for days, it all adds up, and if it doesn’t all add up, there are sure to be major issues when you least want them.

Phase 1 rehearsal studio

Phase 1 rehearsal studio

So the below picture is our rehearsal space at the DPS warehouse in LA.  DPS provides our lighting and has a massive warehouse with space enough to fly all of our lighting and video, as well as build the blade and run the show through as many times as we can before we run out of steam, time or sanity – whichever comes first.

Alien technology or The Blade in the distance?  Could be both...

Phase 2 rehearsal studio – Alien technology or The Blade in the distance? Could be both…

Of course, pre-production is also invaluable for sorting out the most important details of the run, such as “Do we have a custom road-case with an Xbox 360 + monitor as well as a safe for our belongings?”

The answer, of course, is a resounding Yes.

Super-tech Geoff and his custom entertainment roadcase

Super-tech Geoff and his custom entertainment roadcase

On this run we had the honor of doing two shows with Chromeo, at The Greek in Berkeley, and Santa Barbara Bowl in SoCal.  Their audio crew had a roadcase built specifically for a full espresso machine; I forgot to grab a picture, probably because I was too hopped up on caffeine to steadily hold a camera.  But, those were two of the most fun shows we’ve had on this run, due in part to the stunning aesthetics of both venues:

The Greek Theatre - Berkeley, CA

The Greek Theatre – Berkeley, CA

The Greek Theatre - Berkeley, CA

The Greek Theatre – Berkeley, CA

Turning knobs - what's this button do?

Turning all of the knobs

Sound Check

Sound Check

Santa Barbara Bowl - SoCal

Santa Barbara Bowl – SoCal

We also played an incredible festival at The Gorge in George, Washington.  It’s called Sasquatch –

Actual art from the festival - there were about 30 of these guys, all with their own look/personality

Actual art from the festival – there were about 30 of these guys, all with their own look/personality

And I Highly recommend checking it out, as the view is simply stunning:

IMG_20150525_155842073_HDR

IMG_20150525_120048914

The real reason I loved this festival - cooking Bacon and Front of House

The real reason I loved this festival – cooking Bacon at Front of House

IMG_20150526_010501490_HDR

We couldn’t have asked for a better crowd reaction to the show – they went absolutely nuts for the new songs in our set!  Speaking of which, The Glitch Mob just released a new EP featuring these new songs – check it out!

One of the best parts of touring are your days off.  They are few and far between, and usually all you want to do is sleep through the entire day, but I always try to find time to write music in these periods.

Historically it’s been pretty hard to make good music in hotel rooms, but I’ve been using the Sub Pac and GOD DAMN.  It’s like having a festival subwoofer strapped to your back, and because it responds in the same way as a real sub, giving the psycho-acoustic impression that you’re standing in front of one, it’s both extremely gratifying and stupidly fun to write music with (not to mention it won’t piss off the neighbors).  It’s especially good for dialing in the relationship between your kick drum and sub bass.  All I need is my macbook, a MIDI keyboard, small portable speaker and the Sub Pac and I am good to go.

Love at first sound

Love at first sound

Technically the below photo wasn’t taken on a day off, there is actually a bowling alley in the VIP area of one of the venues we played.  For sure, a fun way to connect with the crew and band outside of work.  Boreta specifically was slaying pins like ancient enemies.  Maybe something to do with his super strength?

The Bowling Mob

The Bowling Mob

-Ian

The Glitch Blog #12 – The Return

Imagine – you’re submerged in total darkness. The world around you hides behind a veil of shadows.  But for the occasional flash of sunlight, you’re unable to see ten fingers splayed six inches from the tip of your nose.  Only sound surrounds you; the voices of your companions, speaking in hushed tones, sharp air whistling through cracked windows, the rhythmic stutter and thrum of tracks six feet below.

Your body is in disbelief, hurtling a hundred miles an hour through cores of mountains, surrounded on all sides by stone, wood and metal too dark to see but close enough to smell.  A sensation of floating, the stasis interrupted by an occasional bump in the tracks, rampant rails warped by thousands of travelers over hundreds of trips, spanning decades of slow decay.  You’re thousands of miles from home, tightly buckled into a vehicle within a vehicle.
black

Suddenly a flash of light, white, and shades of green.  Your vision breaks free, wide expansion from negative space like the Big Bang.  As multi-colored spots fade from your eyes, the world around you opens into more densely clustered trees than you’ve ever seen on Earth, and could count no more reliably than countryside stars on a clear summer night.
Switzerland

Alps

Clouds

It’s mid-day in Switzerland and we’re in a white Sprinter van, suspended on the old train car that safely carried us through the polylithic Swiss Alps, strapped to the car as it charges through depths of the mountains.  It’s one of the few ways to access the remote town where the legendary Open Air Gampel music festival is held.

Train car

The only place I could compare the view here would be Lake Tahoe, with its crystal waters and dense green foliage.  This is like if Lake Tahoe were shot on Red cameras and Photoshopped to look like Pandora from Avatar.

Switzerland

Switzerland

That was definitely the most memorable part of our most recent tour through Europe with The Glitch Mob (August 2014).  I know, because when I thought about what I’d actually retained amidst a flurry of flights, sleepless nights, losing my laptop in Scandanavia, and an endless stream of incredible shows and music festivals, that was the first that stood out.

Briefly, the people of Scandanavia (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) are so far the most honest and good-natured people I’ve interacted with.  When I boarded my flight transfer onto a plane in Oslo, it wasn’t until we were up in the air that I reached into my backpack to pull out my laptop and work on a song I’d put at least a hundred hours into.  As my fingers grasped the empty cavity where my nylon laptop-pouch usually sits, my jaw dropped and my face turned fifty shades of white.

My eyes and thoughts searched to disprove the inevitable, but it slowly sunk in that I’d left it on the previous flight.  After two weeks of flying into entirely foreign countries, de-boarding the plane to be taken straight to the venue, setting up for the show, mixing the show, packing everything down and a few short hours of sleep at a hotel before heading to the next plane flight, then rinsing and repeating, somehow I’d left behind the one object that contained hundreds of hours of music and projects I’d invested in over the past two years.

Scandanavia

Why didn’t you have it all backed up, you’re probably wondering.  I did have some, but not all of it, and as any artist knows, the fear of losing creative work you may not be able to recover or recreate can be crippling.

I immediately asked the airline attendant if I could log onto their Wi-fi and submit a lost item ticket.  Within minutes I was scanning the recovered items list, showing numerous iPhones and laptops, but no Macbook Pros.  After landing, I called directly and received the same info.  After 3 days of scanning the “recovered items” list, becoming more and more certain that it was gone forever, I found one reading simply “black and silver laptop”.

After confirming my username and password, I could finally breath easy.  Were the airline attendants not so honest, I wouldn’t be on this laptop writing right now.  True, I’d be on a different one, but down hundreds of hours of progress and out about two thousand bucks.  Instead, I paid $400 to have it shipped back to my house in San Francisco.  I now have a hard drive at home that I can access and transfer files to remotely, my own personal Dropbox.  Please, learn from my mistakes.

Anyway!  A new Glitch Mob EP has just been released (link)!  Highly recommend checking it out, the new songs are everything fans hoped for.

A few choice shots from last year –

Our tour bus picks us up directly from Heathrow Airport in London

Our tour bus picks us up directly from Heathrow Airport in London, to take us to Reading and Leeds music festival

Reading and Leeds in the UK

Reading and Leeds in the UK

Church in Germany

Monlithic church in Germany

Street art in Russia

Street art in Russia

Moscow movie poster

Moscow movie posters.  Reading any dinner menu here was like looking at Hieroglyphics (not the hip-hop group)

dB limits everywhere in Europe restrict how loud sound levels can be.  If you mix above the designated level for a set period of time, the venue or festival will be automatically fined, billed back to the band

dB limits everywhere in Europe restrict how loud sound levels can be. If you mix above the designated level for a set period of time, the venue or festival will be automatically fined, billed back to the band.  As a result, I spend more time looking at this screen than the stage, riding right at 100dB, the maximum level allowed.

Stockholm Sushi

Stockholm Sushi with our Ableton guru Chris from Nerdmatics

Russia

Skate park in Russia – don’t miss your trick or your deck’s going for a swim

Varying state of decay in Russia

Varying states of decay

Stockholm, Sweden

Sunset in Stockholm

Skrillex and Zedd jump around backstage at Dans Dakar

Skrillex and Zedd jump around backstage at Dans Dakar

Turn up on that special edition Heineken at Dans Dakar in Stockholm

Turn up on that special edition Glitch Mob Heineken

Secret garden at the hotel in Sweden - perfect for writing some mid-day tunes

Secret garden at the hotel in Sweden – perfect for writing some mid-day tunes

Cobblestone, everywhere - lots of fun to push gear across!

Cobblestone, everywhere in Sweden – lots of fun to push gear across!

Part of the reason I started this blog was to remember.  Without it, my only reminders are a series of cluttered photos, untagged by geography, comment or context.

That’s partially why I’m picking up where I left off on this blog.  When it came time to re-register the domain name, I was hesitant.  I hadn’t updated in nearly a year.  It’s time consuming.  I wasn’t seeing immediate return and will not clutter my blog with ads.  I was and am so busy writing music that it’s challenging to sit down and gather my thoughts on something that doesn’t feel directly related to furthering my career as a music producer and sound engineer.

However, there are things more important than immediate return and a following a clear path, and one of those is appreciating the present, however trivial it may seem at the time.

The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring the future. In truth all sensation is already memory. 

-Haruki Murakami

As I sit here, on my 29th birthday in my room on floor 3 of the Noya hotel in Dallas, Texas, one day away from our show at the X-Games with Glitch Mob, I consider whether I’d be having a fuller life experience out on the city.  I could be skateboarding the smooth, level pavement that spans the city, enjoying a ball game with friends, or post up in a park somewhere enjoying the sun with my laptop, writing new music inspired by the vibe of the city.

I can do all of that though, and keep this blog updated too, sharing and freezing these fragments of time, for others to experience and appreciate.  My goal moving forward is to expedite the writing process, breaking my posts into smaller pieces, more like Tapas than a series of full-course meals.

So expect to see shorter updates from me, more often.  Even after The Glitch Mob tour ends there’s an ever-shifting evolution of my time in this industry, and I’d like to share and remember every moment.

Even – especially – the trivial ones.

-Ian

The Greek in Berkeley

Sound check at The Greek, Berkeley

The Glitch Blog #11 – Festival season!

Le Festival d’été de Québec mainstage – directly after our setup and soundcheck

edIT takes the Jumbotron by storm (to sound guys, every large LED wall is a Jumbotron)

The dust is rising; millions of dollars in sound, video and lighting are being freighted cross-country to the middle of the desert, a young generation is stocking up on tents and tank-tops, and local electronics stores are mysteriously completely sold out of Glow sticks – it can only mean one thing.  Music festival season is in the air!

These past few weeks, we’ve had the honor of leaving our mark on some of the best festivals this summer in the US and Canada:  EDC, Governor’s Ball, Electric Forest, Coachella, Bonnaroo, What the FestivalBadlands, and Le Festival d’été de Québec (FEQ).

Governor’s Ball opened its gates to tens of thousands of fans on Randall Island, New York City.  Here’s a shot from Front of House, sometimes known as “the best sounding seat in the house”, but only when conditions are ideal…as they were here!  Can you hear it?

The Glitch Mob at Governors Ball

The Glitch Mob at Governors Ball

The view from Manhattan Island

Directly backstage of our stage, the view from Randall Island

Tech tip – the more beat up, the better it sounds

Can you guess how many of these speakers are plugged in? (Hint – not all)

Bonnaroo Bonus – we got to set up The Blade backstage during Lauren Hill’s set, killin us softly with sweet melody:

Backstage with Ms Lauren Hill

In case you were wondering about Lauren Hill’s keyboard player…

Ok, take the capacity of Governor’s Ball, Bonnaroo, Electric Forest – add them together, and you’re still…not even close to the turnout at EDC this year.  EDC hosted the biggest stage ever built in North America, with 130,000 attendees…every night.  That’s right, almost 400,000 heads in one weekend at EDC.

Here’s what the biggest stage in North America looks like, and we played it – directly after sunset!

Mainstage EDC

Photo A – Mainstage EDC

Mainstage EDC

Photo B – Zoomed out

Mainstage EDC

Photo C – Ultra zoomed out – imagine this packed with people, 4 hours later

Backside of the Mainstage

Photo D – Backside of the Mainstage

How's it hangin?

Photo E – How’s it hangin?

<Tech Talk:  Delay Towers>

What you see in the picture directly above (Photo E) is known as a Delay Tower.  In photos B and C, you can see more of them – all the towers with speakers hanging away from the main stage.  These allow the sound field to be carried far beyond the reach of the Stage (the “Main System”) – allowing an indefinite, scaleable method of reaching as many ears as physically possible, as consistently as possible while still following the laws of physics.

For reference, our show at EDC had about 60,000 people watching our show.  It’s easy to lose the scope of that number, so if it helps, think of the city of San Francisco – now take 1/11th of its residents, and put them in front of a ginormous stage in the middle of the desert, surrounded by millions of dollars in production.  That was The Glitch Mob’s performance at EDC.

Now, how do you cover 1/11th of a metropolis with full, even sound?  Cramming them in together like it’s 6pm in a Silicon Valley office elevator is a good start, but we’re going to have to do better than that if we want the audience to have an enjoyable sonic experience.

We’ll do what you did for your college house party, times 1000; put most of the money into the main sound system, and distribute multiple smaller sound systems throughout the living room and kitchen – sorry, mainstage dance area – aimed at strategic locations using complex prediction software (ie not just “wingin it”).

Here’s the key part:  The farther “towers” from the stage need to be “delayed”, in order for the music to lock together cohesively and sound like it is from a single source, covering an absurdly long distance and multiple Delay Towers.

In other words, if everything isn’t delayed properly, it will sound like a bad slapback echo effect is playing continuously along with your favorite DJ or band, throughout the entire set, with utterly no regard to rhythmic delay or BPM.

This is because the tower needs to be delayed in milliseconds according to its distance from the main system.  The speed of electricity is slightly slower than the speed of light (983,571,056 feet per second), whereas the speed of sound (also known as Mach 1) is only 1,116 feet per second (varying with temperature and air density).

The electrical signal coming from the DJ’s mixer will potentially the Main system and Delay Towers at the same time, but by the time the sound from the Main System meets with the sound of the Delay Tower, they are out of sync and sound awful.  The solution?  Insert a delay on your Delay Tower signal, so the two match up.

Not only do Delay Towers need to be delayed – every single speaker and cluster with one source of sound needs to be delayed relative to the farthest driver from the crowd (that is still part of the main system – the one hanging directly in front of the stage).

If it seems like a lot of work…it is.  And worth it for good reason – if everything isn’t lined up perfectly, you will have a concert completely inconsistent from one standing point to the next, sounding anywhere from god awful, to merely terrible.  But get your delays locked in and as if by magic (though far from it), the music will sound locked in and consistent, hitting that much harder!

I have a basic tutorial on aligning and tuning sound systems in a previous entry here.

Anyways, if you take nothing else from this portion of Tech Talk, remember this – when done right, the delay tower can often be the best sounding (or at least realistically accessible) area of the show – and you’ll still have room to dance!

If you have the option of being in front of a delay tower, or smashed between a sweaty audience member and a sweatier audience member (and yet, still being too far away from the stage to enjoy the show) I would pick the delay tower – it will likely sound better too!

</Tech Talk>

A bit more EDC, since it’s so damned beautiful:

Calm before the Storm – Chris and Brett

Here's a shot from our stage's perspective, a few hours before our set

Here’s a shot from our stage’s perspective, a few hours before our set

I also found my true calling this year at EDC, with my new job title:  Canned Music Conductor

I also found my true calling this year at EDC, with my new job title: Canned Music Conductor

Our hotel rooms at The Cosmo - pretty nice!

Our hotel rooms at The Cosmo – pretty nice!

The PK Fam at Infocomm - where we unveiled our groundbreaking new line array, Trinity!

The PK Fam at Infocomm – where we unveiled our groundbreaking new line array, Trinity!

Ok, so enough EDC – what else?  

Answer:  Pants

Good God!  The Keebler elf is streaking through JFK Airport!

Good God!  The Keebler elf is streaking through JFK International!

Always need a nice random Airplane shot

The overhead map view of Final Fantasy 7

Dinner with ma and pa

Dinner with the fam bam

Guys look - is that Craig Robinson?

Guys wait – is that Craig Robinson?

Thanks to the staff at What the Festival for taking care of us, and throwing a kickass show!

Thanks to the staff at What the Festival for taking care of us, and throwing a kickass show!

Electric Forest this year could very well be an entry on its own.  Actually, it will be!  There’s no way I could sum up this experience in a few short sentences, especially since I stayed and camped the entire weekend, and had the time of my life!

Le Festival d’été de Québec will be a hard one to top, and for good reason – this monolithic gathering has been in the running for over 40 years, and just keeps getting bigger – last year saw Stevie Wonder, Guns n Roses, and Tiesto headlining – this year it was Lady Gaga, Journey, and Deadmau5 among others.

The Glitch Mob played directly before Deadmau5 – we all had a blast sticking around for his set after our show, the Mob included!  Here was our stage, at the beginning of the day:

Le Festival d’été de Québec mainstage – A clean slate before setup or soundcheck

Here's a shot of FOH from the stage - see me back there?  Of course not, I'm taking this picture.

Here’s a shot of FOH from the stage – see me back there? You would, if you had eyes like a hawk – and I wasn’t up here, taking this picture…

Robert Delong soundchecking - this guy puts on an incredible performance, super multi-instrumentalist!

Robert Delong soundchecking – this guy puts on an incredible performance, super multi-instrumentalist!  That Jumbotron tho

Mighty fine Jumbotron you got there

Mighty fine Jumbotron you got there

This is underneath the mainstage - you could fit a small country under here

Underneath the mainstage, you could fit a small country

Entrance to under the stage

Entrance to under the stage

Secret exit from the stage to the crowd

Secret exit from the stage to the crowd

Ooah takes the big screen

Ooah Jumbotron Takeover Tour

The Glitch Mob

The Glitch Mob gets vaporized

I supremely enjoyed Deadmau5‘s set, he recently dropped his new album While 1<2 which I’ve had on repeat.  The album title refers to programming language, where While 1<2 is a way of expressing “to continuously loop”.

I have limitless respect for artists who like to “do their own thing” rather than getting too caught up in what’s perceived as “hot” these days, and Deadmau5 paves the road with a double-album full of piano breaks and cerebral dance vibes.

I highly recommend checking it out; these days, you simply can’t beat 24 high-quality tracks for only $13 on Beatport.

Deadmau5 from the front

Deadmau5 from FOH

Deadmau5 from the stage

Deadmau5 setup from the stage, after the show

Stay tuned for a full Electric Forest recap – up next is more festival madness to Lollapalooza and Osheaga, followed by a full run of festivals across Europe!

Looking forward to our triumphant return across the pond – hope to see you there!

The Glitch Blog #10 – Prague, Brussels, Berlin, Paris, Europe pt. 2!

An untouched blanket of snow shields the ground below, a layer of armor protecting the purity of what lies beneath...

An untouched blanket of snow shields the ground below, a layer of armor when purity sings…

...until the sky bursts loose, covalent barriers melt away, and scatter like ice from our unclipped wings

…until the sky bursts loose, covalent barriers break truce, and scatter like ice from unclipped wings

One thing they don’t teach you at Sound School (and yes there is such a thing, I graduated from Ex’pression College), is just how much flying and driving you will be doing on tour…and best practices to keep yourself entertained and out of trouble!  Here are a few things I keep busy with to make best use of the free time…

  • Write music on my laptop, using Ableton, my QuNeo and a plethora of plugins.  This is a great way to hammer out ideas without being too critical of your mix right off the bat, it’s always best to work in stages!
  • Reading a book, Non-Fiction during the day (Think and Grow Rich, The 4-hour Work Week, and Blink have changed me for the better)
  • Reading a book, Fiction before bed (Fiction helps to sleep, fuels creativity, and is generally better than a video game for releasing tension, as video games are inherently designed to push-pull tension) – (Game of Thrones, Sandman/anything by Neil Gaiman, Otherland and The Dark Tower are some favorites)
  • Writing this blog!  Keeping a blog is a good way of keeping your sanity, and having some way to remember the times that are flying by faster than the speed of sound…
  • Playing video games on my laptop (I’m a huge fan of the Elder Scrolls games, Mass Effect, Final Fantasy series, A Virus Named Tom which is a fun game I composed the music for)
  • Playing video games on my phone (Android phones, and crafty iPhone users, can download emulators for Genesis, Super NES, and Playstation, so you can replay your entire childhood library!  There are also tons of games on the market…)
  • Jam with other crew members, and exchange tracks to collaborate on
  • Discuss production techniques with crew/band members
  • Eat delicious food

If you have any to add, feel free to comment in the section below! We last left off somewhere near Vienna, Europe:

Loving the graffiti artwork of this city

Canals of Vienna – loving the graffiti murals in this city, politicians probably disagree

Our show in Hamburg was in a venue (Uebel & Gefärhlich), a converted military bunker:

the real deal

The leaning tower of concrete

lower half

Upon arriving and finding the main doors locked, we proceeded to find the nearest open door and climb a few flights of stairs (that became roughly 16 flights of stairs) to the back door:

"neuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu"

“neuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu”

Naturally, the doors at the top were locked also…once we’re finally in though, the view from up top is quite stunning:

Hamburg, Germany

Hamburg, Germany

Soon after, we played at Centralstation in Darmstadt:

The Glitch Mob in Darmstadt, Germany

The Glitch Mob in Darmstadt, Germany

IMG_20140521_145423768

The Central Station of Centralstation

I would especially like to thank one of my new favorite clubs, Roxy, for taking care of us and providing an amazing club atmosphere.  Although we did have to carry the love of our life Kim up and down multiple flights of stairs (see previous entry), it was all worth it to be part of the architecture that has been around longer than any of us have been hogging oxygen.

Roxy is in Prague, capital of Czech Republic and home to some of the best Drum & Bass I’ve experienced. One of my favorite record labels, Hospital Records, who represent favorites Netsky and High Contrast, have thrown many shows there in the past…and it’s in an absolutely gorgeous area of the city:

tiny wings

tiny wings

Can you see what this sculpture is from this angle?

Can you see what this sculpture is from this angle?

Indoors:

Roxy

Roxy – backstage

This building has existed nearly 300 years

This building has existed nearly 300 years

They found my kryptonite - green tea!

They found my kryptonite – green tea!

This was the backstage artist area, AKA the Greenroom

This was the backstage artist area, AKA the Greenroom

How many genres can you pick out?

How many genres can you pick out?

The calm

FOH mixing board is the big glowy one

Our hotel rooms were:

You fancy, huh?

O you fancy huh?

IMG_20140525_235917546

Moment of reflection

It was with some sadness I had to leave, as it was great to see a place still thriving with Drum & Bass.  I will be back soon, and vow to play Roxy personally! For any venues I forgot to mention – thank you!  Everyone took good care of us, and made us feel welcome in their home, I managed to forge a lasting connection with nearly every sound engineer who helped us out…

<Tech Talk>

One rather large thing to remember, for all touring engineers…remember that when you are working with an engineer at their home venue, you are working in their house…which is to say, be respectful and always remember they know the venue 100x better than you do. This is not an approximate number…they have probably mixed the venue at least 100 times, to your 1 time.  They know how the room resonates, where the system bites, and where it doesn’t…all things you will need to learn within the next 8 hours, if you want your mix to sound good!

Treat the house engineer with respect, and as your trusted ears, and they will generally be all the help you need.  Treat them otherwise, and, well…good luck.  I’m sure most of us touring engineers have been house engineers at some point or another.  We all remember what is was like.  Be cool, and the favor will be returned!

</Tech Talk>

On a lighter note, here’s some candy – specifically chocolate:

Chocofeast

Chocofeast

Cute local pug:

Definitely not a tourist

Definitely not a tourist

Of course, no trip would be complete without restocking the essentials:

Finally, a candy store everyone is on-board for!

The Glitch Snack

This is our collective luggage; far, far more than should ever need to be kept track of:

and that's not even all of it...

and that’s not even all of it…

Ever heard the term "living out of your suitcase"?

Ever heard the term “living out of your suitcase”?

THE trip

Another day, another destination

Another day, another destination

This is how you sleep on your side with no choice but to use floppy, 2-dimensional pillows

This is how you sleep on your side with no choice but to use floppy, 2-dimensional pillows

Featured at a local pub, the new Bose line array

Featured at a local pub, the new Bose line array

We played some fantastic festivals in France:

A shipyard - crazy location for a festival, but totally works!

A shipyard – crazy location for a festival, but totally works!

Deception

Mystique

Perception

Perception

Uh...innovative?

Uh…innovation?

And the crowd goes

And the crowd goes

This is how everyone looks...

This is how everyone looks…

Until you tell them you're snapping a photo

Until you tell them you’re snapping a photo

More graffiti featuring some of my favorite video game characters

Graffiti featuring some of my favorite video game characters

Thanks France - you know how we get down!

Thanks France – you know how we get down!

La Machine, where we played in Paris

La Machine, where we played in Paris

Paris -> London

Paris -> London

London at HMV Forum

London at HMV Forum

Rooftop view in London

Rooftop view in London

One of my favorite shows, played in London at HMV Forum

One of my favorite shows, played in London at HMV Forum

Our final show of the run, in France

Our final show of the run, in France

I believe this is French framework

I believe this to be French framework

We’ve reached our final destination, the train station we left from on our last day in Europe.  The trip has left us battered and bruised, yet happy and hopeful for future stops, sustained by the opportunity to share the music and positivity that drive The Glitch Mob’s Love Death Immortality tour, world-wide and to your doorstep!

For the closing sentence archiving our first trip as a team to Europe (and employing futuristic technology to stay frozen in time indefinitely), I leave you in a panorama of Somewhere Beautiful, France.

Somewhere, France

Somewhere Beautiful, France

Au revior! Sig5 Ian Hicks – FOH

The Glitch Blog #9 – Euro!

Ok, so this entry is way overdue!  We completed the first Euro tour last week and I’m lucky to have a bit of downtime today to finally log it while still fresh!  This entry could easily become a photo dump; there was an infinite amount of stuff to see and these days I always have my trusty Phomera at my side.

Enjoying some legit Currywurst with the boys!  As seen on the official Glitch Mob Food Blog - The Glitch Nom http://theglitchnom.tumblr.com/

Enjoying some late-night Currywurst with the boys edIT, Ooah and Chris! As seen on the official Glitch Mob Food Blog – The Glitch Nom http://theglitchnom.tumblr.com/

Where to begin?  After a quick layover in France, we touched down in Vienna for our first show the following day.  It was a Sunday, and although I brought a handy US -> Euro power converter, I needed one with 3 prongs for my Macbook charger.  Easy, right?  Nope, it’s Sunday!

Euro travel tip – it’s Sunday, EVERYTHING is closed.  Ok, not quite everything…if you’re looking for a bite to eat, or a hotel to sleep, you’re probably all right.  If you’re looking to buy, hypothetically, a power converter, or toothpaste, or a sweater, you’re probably out of luck.  It must be nice though – a day every week to unwind and truly spend with the fam, friends, and leave the wallet on your dresser at home.

Or hotel room - if that's your thing?

Or hotel room – if that’s your thing?

The responsibilities of a FOH engineer touring locally versus in another country are a bit different.  For starters, I wasn’t traveling with any sound equipment…no speakers, no subs, no console.  The only weapon in my arsenal was my laptop, which does aid in tuning the PA, though for that I rely on my ears and some well-loved tracks more than anything (I don’t recommend tuning a sound system to music you don’t like.  It can only end badly.  Love the music and the system will shine through!).

We did have a road case with In-Ear-Monitors for the band, which keeps things consistent for our boys The Glitch Mob.  Monitors are, arguably, the most crucial element of a live show; if the band can’t hear themselves and coordinate, there is no structure and there is no show.

For about half this run, I was controlling Monitors from Front of House, as well as the house mix.  For those of you new to the game, Front of House (FOH, aka my job) controls what the audience hears – monitors are the means for the performing artists to hear what they, and their bandmates, are playing.  Each band member often has a different “mix” of the show tailored to their specific needs and parts.

Typical FOH Point of View

Typical FOH Point of View – this was at one of our festivals in France

In our case, Ableton automates each mix individually based on at what point we are in the set.  Really amazing stuff, big props to Nerdmatics and [namethemachine] for a killer rig!  She is also known as Kim…

This is Kim.

"Lil" Kim

“Lil” Kim

She’s about 600 pounds.

Backside

Backside

She’s also the “brain” of our entire show, processing and distributing every bit of information The Blade throws at her.

Kim...I am your father

Kim…I am your father

 

She absolutely, positively, most definitely can not be flipped on her side or head, even for a second, ever.  Wheels down is a must at all times.  This made for a very interesting couple Euro shows where there was no elevator, and only stairs, to reach the stage, where she lives nightly.  Over the course of this leg, she was carried down, and then later up, multiple flights of stairs – probably over a hundred in total.  This is quite a task for our crew (5 total for Europe, about half the size of our US crew), but we have a lot to thank the local stagehands for!  Namely, carrying and/or helping to carry our gear.

Here’s a cheers to local stagehands everywhere, especially the ones breaking sweat and busting ace; the under-appreciated and unsung heroes, without whom the world would never see a large-scale concert in full production.  We do appreciate you!  More specifically, our backs appreciate you.  Trust me – before touring, while learning the ropes in San Francisco, I was the house engineer for many venues, and worked with touring acts all the time, hauling their heavy-ass gear from point A to B and then back again. Always remember to show some love, because it’s hard work!

All this talk of Europe and I haven’t even gotten to the first show: a well-known venue in Vienna called Flex.  One interesting characteristic is it’s built right next to a canal that runs through the heart of the city.  You don’t want to take your eyes off any rolling road cases, or you might be fishing your show out of the river.  If you ever see our monitor engineer Goose Dyrrg, ask him about fishing an amp rack out of a river (on a previous tour).

The show at Flex was amazing.  Our first of the run and it was ultra sold-out; I’m pretty sure all of the shows on the run sold out, actually.  From what I saw throughout the run, crowds in Europe are very vocal about singing along to the songs – even when there are no words!  To them, a melody is a melody, whether it’s a vocal or synth.  For the most part, their claps were locked into time as well – when the PA was loud enough to overpower them, which it sometimes wasn’t, as they have a 100dB limit on most countries in Europe – it’s the law, fun!  More on that later…

This was taken in Switzerland, not Vienna - but this was a common sign posted nearly everywhere, and who do you think it was directed toward?

This was taken in Switzerland, not Vienna – but this was a common sign posted nearly everywhere, and who do you think it was directed toward?

We even got to patch into their Video Wall, allowing fans to enjoy custom video content not possible on many of the other nights!

Not traveling with sound does carry the advantage of a light pack.  We also weren’t traveling with any lights or video walls – our truck pack was basically just merch and backline (the stage setup/instruments), and of course the lovely Kim.

Thus, our “tour bus” for the Euro run consisted of two Sprinter vans driven by our new friends Matthias and Ollie, representing Captured Live in Germany.  One van drove the gear.  The other van drove everyone, including the band – 9 seats, fully occupied by 18 cheeks.  Everyone got along well, and there was power outlets, which is to me the ultimate game-changer for travel, allowing us to work on music ’round the clock!  I have some great stuff in store, keep an eye on my Soundcloud for upcoming releases!

 

Captured Live!  Great guys!

Captured Live! Great guys!

The View

The View

It was a nice way to see the countryside, though many of the shows were fly-dates and most of the time in the Sprinter was spent sleeping (except our Tour Manager Justin, who even while he slept was still on his laptop advancing shows).

Beastmode

Beastmode

Looks like I will complete the remaining Euro entries in installments – episodes?  If I’d had the time, energy, presence of mind, and WiFi (working, not merely “connected” without actually loading anything – #europroblems) this could have been the entry I made just a few days into the Europe tour.  Expect an update within the next few days with many more pictures, good times, and tales of travel!

Make a wish - see you soon!

See you soon, til then – make a wish!

Sig5
Ian Hicks – FOH

The Glitch Blog #8 – The Warfield and Nokia Live (aka West Coast Rocks)!

These last two shows mark the finale of our second US run, in the two cities The Glitch Mob attributes as their starting points:  LA and my hometown of San Francisco.  Needless to say, the anticipation around these two shows has been brewing for quite some time…and in retrospect, far exceeded everything we’d hoped!

Welcome to The Warfield - please pardon my tweaked neck

Welcome to The Warfield – please pardon my tweaked neck but I think this guy understands

The Warfield, a beautiful and eclectic venue with eccentric history dating back to the Roarin’ 20’s.  It opened as the Loews Warfield in 1922, mainly for Vaudeville shows (they saw legends such as Charlie Chaplin and Louis Armstrong).  Later renamed Fox Warfield, during prohibition an underground tunnel ran across Market St. to an underground Speakeasy (later discovered while building passageways for the BART train).  Supposedly most of the alcohol distributed through the city during the dry spell passed through these walls and under these floors around that time.

Back in the day

Circa 1930 — just kidding (Sabbath fans can breathe again)

Despite heavy restrictions on the sale of alcohol (if you weren’t a San Franciscan apparently), SF remained one of the wettest cities in the country.  A network of tunnels are still accessible from the backstage area, though most of it has been walled-off, sealing off all underground access across Market street forever.

The Warfield - Today (?)

The Warfield – Today (?)

Today, it remains an icon of San Francisco, with incredible acoustics and a welcoming host to a constant cycle of legendary artists.  Many of its production crew also work at The Fox Oakland, what you may consider a “sister club”, and The Regency nearby (all venues Skrillex played recently for the SF Takeover Tour, rocking massive subs provided by PK Sound, the same we’re touring with today!)

The Blade - up close and ?

The Blade – up close and shiny

Martin, the set designer and Brett, our LD

Brett, our LD and Martin, our Set/Lighting/Video director, (presumably) deep in their own conversation of Tech Talk

To me, The Warfield tops them all, winning with a great vibe and good sounding room.  Some of my best friends, also music-collaboration buddies, and my girlfriend all made it out to the show, doubling the level of fun in contributing to The Glitch Mob rocking a sold-out show at one of my favorite venues in the middle of one of my favorite cities!

IMG_20140509_123020358

LA

The following night’s show was equally inspiring, as LA is the current hometown of the Mob and the Mob brought a mob of great minds!  Everyone from their management team at Deckstar, the lead designer of their custom Ableton software, their set/lighting/video designer, and even the ever-inspiring Steve Nalepa, who has touched this tour in more ways than he will probably ever know.

We played a sold-out show to Club Nokia, similar to The Warfield only in that it’s very unique, although in completely different ways.  For one, it had a much newer and modern feel, though Nokia clearly has an extensive history of its own, with artist posters stretching wall-to-wall throughout the backstage area.  One challenge I found interesting is the width of the room versus the depth – it’s really quite wide, as you can probably see:

Club Nokia - LA

Club Nokia – LA

<Tech Talk>

Immediately upon starting sound check, and even earlier while tuning the system before the band even hit the stage (more on that some day), I was walking the room and felt a distinct lack of bass in certain areas of the room.  You may recall on this tour we’re traveling with the CX800 subs, which are massively beefy and possess more than enough punch to hit the back of the room.  Though to obtain an even spread of low end through a room, you will need to use a few tricks regardless of what subs you have, especially for challenging rooms.

Bass is omni-directional, meaning it propagates in all different directions regardless of where the “front” is aiming; whereas your tweeters or “high end” (or Treble as your granny maybe calls it) shoot in the specific direction of where they’re aiming.  However, despite the tendency for bass to be omni, when you have enough of them clustered together they form what is known as a “power lane”, which is basically a massive wall of bass that shoots straight ahead, jello-izing organs of bass-hungry fans.

This is great when you have enough subs to form a literal wall from end-to-end, but what about when you only have enough subs to cover the area directly in front of the stage?

This is where having a digital console or nice processor comes in real handy.  By splitting up your sub wall into multiple “zones”, and setting a small delay (very short and precise – think Milliseconds or fractions thereof) on the outer subs, your “wall” becomes an “arc” that will spread more to the outside edges of the room and break free from the confines of a straight line or lane.

Note that you will be sacrificing some of the power in your center lane, but making a system or room sound good is all about sacrficing tactfully, as according to the laws of physics you will never work under the conditions of a perfect sounding system and room – not on this planet and in our lifetime, in any case; best to embrace it and have a little fun!

Okay, so if you want to try it for yourself, let’s say that you have a wall of 16 subs, which will probably look something like this:

Wall of Sound

Whoops sorry, wrong pic!  Let’s try again:

IMG_7863

(16) PK CX800’s – dual-18 direct radiators

Great, so you have your sub wall.  It’s 16 subs total (each loaded with two 18″ drivers), stacked double tall.  Each sub is 4 feet long so your wall is about 32 feet wide.  However, the venue you’re playing tonight is 50 feet wide.  You’re tuning the system and everything sounds fine in the center of the room, but once you’re well outside the 32 foot radius, toward the outer edges of the room you’re missing a lot of low end.

The next step is to split your subs into 2 zones, from your processor or digital console.  The center subs (8 total) will be one zone.  The subs to the outside (4 per side) will be the second zone, connected to each other but independent of the center cluster.

It’s actually pretty easy from here.  Start with about a half-millisecond of delay on the second zone.  Typically between .5 and 1.5 milliseconds of delay will “arc” the throw of your subs and still maintain a cohesive sound before the center starts to collapse.  For a greater degree of control, you can split your subs into more Zones, and gradually increase the delay times as you move farther from the center…try moving in .5 millisecond increments, the best bet is to walk the room a bunch or use a sub-calculator to really lock it in.  You could also create the technique without a digital delay by physically staggering your sub placements, with the outside subs placed behind the inner subs in a “stepping” pattern.

</Tech Talk>

Once the subs were filling the room nicely, the PA felt right throughout the room and we were show ready.  I had a great dinner with Zach from SubPac (really kickass “Bass Vest” that is exactly what it sounds like, it’s responsive down to 5hz and great for producers!) and got back in time to see the Penthouse Penthouse guys have a great set, and the amazing Ana Sia who has another set coming up at Lightning in a Bottle!

The show was incredible.  It’s hard for me to go into more detail as during shows all I’m basically focusing on is dialing in that extra couple percent to really set things over the top.  As Zach put it that night I was pretty deep “in the Matrix” so hopefully some vibe of the excitement that night is translating!  The Mob killed it in front of thousands of their fans and friends, I can’t think of a better way to end our second leg of an increasingly incredible tour.

The following day I had the honor of going to my friend Alluxe‘s birthday party on the beach near Malibu, a breathtaking lookout with a medley of Ableton-heads to match.  I made some new friends including a talented DJ who goes by Codiac (check out his radio show called SUBduction, spinning vinyl every Monday night 6-9p on Sub.fm) and Jordan from DoLab (anyone going to Lightning in a Bottle this year?)!

Here’s a few shots of the view we shared while nerding out for hours on end:

El Matador Beach - LA for A

El Matador Beach – LA

Alluxe's birthday party at El Matador Beach

Alluxe’s birthday party at El Matador Beach

Over the course of this weekend, and the past few shows in particular, I’ve had the opportunity of meeting with some great minds.  They got me thinking…

<Producer’s Corner>

I’ve been seeing a pattern unfold that I wanted to share with producers, in particular those who are in a period of growth.  On your path to success, on a weekly or even daily basis, you will be meeting people who possess the knowledge and ability to further your career.  They may be in management, promoting, booking, labels, or even producers themselves.

If I may offer a suggestion, before trying to push or “sell” your music to them/get booked/get signed etc., simply ask questions and listen closely to what they have to say.   They are going to be much more forthcoming with advice and information to someone who is inquiring and honestly trying to grow and learn, than someone who is looking to get signed and blow up overnight.

It is infinitely more important to the longevity of your career to build genuine relationships with people in higher, equal or lower places than you, than it is to make something happen immediately.

Of course, don’t be afraid to let them know who you are, what you do, and where you’re trying to go.  Convey all these things with confidence and a gleam in your eye and it will speak worlds about your goals and ambition, as well as an encouraging indicator that you are worthy of advice and help.

However, don’t ask for hand-outs.  If you truly have something to offer, at that particular point in time, they will know intuitively.  The urge to be on-par with those in high places is natural for those with any skillset, including music production.  Sometimes when you meet those elevated individuals it’s tempting to “push” for help, and that will be the first thing to scare them off.  If you really want to get ahead in your career, focus on being genuine and engaging, you will quickly start to see the world unfold!

</Producer’s Corner>

That’s about it for this entry, I wanted to part with a picture I shot in my hotel room, that encapsulates pretty well what life on tour is all about…

Life on the road

Life on the road

If this were an “I Spy” game, I would probably try and get you to spot:  A radio for communication during shows, an Audio interface, a bluetooth speaker, two Keith McMillan MIDI controllers, discarded wallet, discarded hat, cloth bag for a 2TB Hard Drive, razor, and package containing a CD with a show recording.  Put them all together, and you get a busy yet happy Producer/Sound Engineer…

Our next leg takes us through Europe!  I will be posting about our Euradventures very soon so keep an eye out, feel free to sign up for my email list at the bottom of the page (“Follow”) if you’d like to stay posted!

Sig5
Ian Hicks – FOH

The Glitch Blog #7 – Double night in Denver

Denver marks the beginning of the second leg of our tour, post-Coachella and pre-Europe, spanning most of the West Coast (the band posted a free mix of West Coast Rocks, featured in their live set and one of my favorite tracks!).  The next couple weeks see us through Denver, Seattle, Boise, Vancouver, Portland and Eugene, Reno, LA and my home city – San Francisco!

Colorado is home to the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre and a myriad of famous musicians, notably Earth Wind & Fire, Pretty Lights, and Big Gigantic.  It’s also the hometown of our Tour Manager Justin (who you may remember barely escaping the Jumbonaut of ‘Chella); he used to work at The Fillmore so I bet it’s somewhat of a homecoming.

Passing through a hub of talent is always inspiring; this show is particularly significant to me because our mixing console has been upgraded, allowing for additional channel inputs (meaning more control over the house mix, and a better mix for the audience) and this marks the first day of its integration!

My new-new setup the Digico SD9 (with fellow FOH Warrior Brett, our LD)

FOH Tech-world Left:  My new-new setup of the Digico SD9 – Right: the Hog of my fellow FOH Warrior, Brett our LD

<Tech Talk>

Digico boards are known for having a very clean sound, stability and ease of navigation.  We’re now traveling with the Digico SD9 for FOH, and the Digico SD11 for Monitors.  From their setup onstage, edIT and the guys are sending me stems of their individual instruments, as well as different elements of the track (kick, snare, bass, etc.) to give more control over the sound coming through the speakers.  This allows for a more balanced end-result, and a more impactful feeling for fans.

The FOH (or Front-of-House) console is used by the FOH engineer to control and balance the overall mix coming from the band, and distributing it through the speakers that are directed toward the audience.  The monitor board, run by our engineer Mike aka “Goose Dyrrg” (say the word “Dog” but pitch shift the ending down like stopping a record player), controls the levels of what the band hears onstage, as well as the blend of vocal mics and music in their In-Ear-Monitors.  You may have also seen Goose Dyrrg onstage during a show, changing out drums while The Glitch Mob rocks out.

TGM "Rocking Out" - none have successfully photographed Goose Dyrrg as he changes a drum-head, ninja-like

TGM “Rocking Out” – none have successfully photographed Goose Dyrrg as he changes a drum-head, ninja-like

Photo cred to Nick Cahill for the shot above, this guy takes some of the most amazing photos I’ve seen!  He’s on Instagram, if your eyes are into candy.

</Tech Talk>

If you’ve ever been to a show that sounds “bad”, it can’t always be attributed directly to the FOH engineer as there are dozens of variables that contribute to the sound of a show.  Some include PA placement, tuning, source material coming from the stage, neighborhood noise restrictions, standing in a certain place of the room where the PA doesn’t cover, guitar and bass players with their amps turned up to 11, act of God, etc.

Lucky for me, the ultra well-produced stems of The Glitch Mob have no problem resonating this room from top to bottom, emanating good vibes and an even spread of frequencies.  Both nights went off without a hitch and I couldn’t be more appreciative of working with a great crew!  Admittedly, a flawless show doesn’t make for the most enthralling story, but in this case I’ll gladly make the trade.

#GlitchCrew

Speaking of the crew, I did want to go a little more into detail of the individual components that make this clock glitch (er–tick).  Given your recent enlightenment of the responsibilities of Mike (Goose Dyrrrrg), he is a fitting intro:

The Goose - or as the French would say, L'oie

L’oie Majestueux  – as the French would say, “The Majestic Goose”

Ready to hear Mike’s story?

It begins buried beneath the depths of a snow-covered bunker, in the icy midst of Chicago’s Blizzard of the Century.  A fully-bearded baby is born, microphone clenched firmly in fist…

Actually, better to take his bio’s word for it:

Gilt Trip is multi-genre underground bass music persona created by Mike Vonasten and Jessica Weichert. Together they pounded pavement and dance floors in the Chicagoland area, bringing dubstep, drumstep, juke and trap to the elated ears of dance enthusiasts. They quickly gained a reputation for being all killer no filler.

In 2011 they signed onto Bikini Sounds and Floorkiller Records with their first major release, “Feel So High by Danky Cigale and Mykel Mars (Gilt Trip RMX),” which charted on Beatport, Track It Down and Juno.  Soon after, they relocated to the beautiful Bay Area to open NO SALAD Studios and NO SALAD Records.

Gilt Trip and NO SALAD Records released their first EP titled “Jaunty By Nature EP” on April 4th, 2013. “Jaunty By Nature EP” is a freestyle multi-genre trip with elements of dubstep, drumstep, trap and juke. With immense amounts of praise by musical critics and fans alike, “Jaunty By Nature EP” went to 17 on the Juno Electronic Charts and continued to be in the top 100 for two weeks.

Gilt Trip is currently finishing up a deep dubstep EP titled “Dubbed Vibrations” and will be releasing singles in support of the EP by mid summer.

Mike is also former FOH for Insane Clown Posse, Monitor engineer for Hank Williams III and Dennis DeYoung.  Recently trimmed up to accommodate for the West Coast weather, now sporting only a semi-beard, Mike and his beard remain nonetheless valuable members of the team.

Though I wish I had more time, a quick shout-out will suffice for the other great shows we played this tour.  Here are a few choice shots from the past few shows:

Fearless Ableton tech Christopher, before an unfortunate atomic disassembly by our LD's Death Beams

Fearless Ableton tech Christopher, before an unfortunate atomic disassembly by our LD’s Death Beams

20140429_175442_Richtone(HDR)

Photo cred Scotty Delancey – http://www.instagram.com/scottdelancey

Merch-master Judd rocking the booth in SLC

Merch-master Judd rocking the booth in SLC

...Atomic disassembly by our LD's Death Beams

…Atomic disassembly by our LD’s Death Beams

Dome in Vancouver, I can only imagine this is some sort of escape pod in case of a US invasion?

Dome in Vancouver, I can only imagine this is some sort of escape pod in case of a US invasion?

The Commodore - Vancouver

The Commodore – Vancouver

Such Purple!

Such Purple!

The Glitch Hawk - as prepared by edIT

The Glitch Hawk – as prepared by edIT

Over the shoulder shot at The Knitting Factory Boise - photo cred Nicholas Cahill!  www.instagram.com/nicholascahill

Over the shoulder shot at The Knitting Factory Boise – photo cred Nicholas Cahill! http://www.instagram.com/nicholascahill

Over the shoulder shot at The Knitting Factory Boise - photo cred Nicholas Cahill!  www.instagram.com/nicholascahill

Over the shoulder shot at The Knitting Factory Boise – photo cred Nicholas Cahill! http://www.instagram.com/nicholascahill

Next entry will follow our shows in LA and my favorite venue – The Warfield in San Francisco!  Next stop Europe…à bientôt!

Sig5
Ian Hicks – FOH