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

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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

Six strategies to help you break into Live Sound

Live sound has come a long way since the 70’s – when it was only just becoming practical to balance the dynamics of a band on a massive system – and continues to evolve as the years go by.  The age-old battle is nearly over as analog gives way to digital, sound engineers are seeing a paradigm shift toward being perceived as “friendly”, and tiny monitors seated directly in the ears of performers are now an industry standard.

Fortunately, one thing will never change:  beyond technical prowess, the biggest role in entering this industry is played by personality and networking.  Here are six simple strategies for breaking into a competitive yet steady and highly rewarding line of work:

1.  Connect with the head sound engineer of the venue

The head sound engineer has the means to bring you into the fold; talking to whoever is behind the console is a good way to find out who the head engineer is.  The bar or general manager may also point you in the right direction.  Find out the next time the head engineer will be in and come back, start up a casual conversation, and try to lock in a night to shadow.   Most sound engineers are very friendly when they feel they are talking to someone who appreciates sound.

A good time to approach is sometimes between soundcheck and the show, and especially after the show during strike (wrapping cables onstage can be a lonely task – if you know how, offer to help).  Don’t just drop off a resume and leave.  Don’t just drop off a resume and leave.  They will maybe never call without first meeting you, and a successful career in live sound starts with positive interactions.  They will definitely keep in touch if you make a good first impression, and follow up every week or two with an offer to shadow!

me with Dave Chappelle

The Head Engineer of Yoshi’s SF brought me into the fold after graduation, this picture was taken two years later working with Dave Chappelle

2.  Shadow as many venues as possible

Shadowing is the easiest and most non-threatening way to get a foot in the door and a feel for the flow of the venue.  It often entails working a night or two for free, following the sound engineer and getting a feel for the flow of the venue; it’s the only way to show the head engineer your work ethic, and completely worth the resulting spot on his “Panic List”:  his call list of engineers who know the system when a shift needs to be covered and none of the regulars are available (happens more often than you’d think).  Once you pull off a night working solo, you will likely be moved to the top of the list and soon become a regular.

The most efficient way to get steady work, is by working.  It’s the best way to show your personal and technical skills, prove why you are desirable to have on-board, and get good referrals from bands and other engineers.  Once you’re in the cycle, the momentum will carry itself.

Fractal Enlightenment

Fractal Enlightenment

3.  Be personable with artists

Not only are they the ones who will pass along to management how great of a job you did, your work will be infinitely easier and more enjoyable when you are connecting with artists.  If you’ve ever practiced an instrument you will sympathize with where they’re coming from, and they will return the vibe.  If you don’t play or sing, I strongly recommend making an effort, as it will unlock a whole new level of enjoyment, patience, understanding, and appreciation for their craft and yours.

You can’t EQ an uncomfortable performance to sound good.  Artists need to feel welcome in communicating with you openly about monitors and other needs, so you can get a good source performance and focus on building an amazing sound.  When band members feel comfortable onstage, it shines through in their playing, making your mix worlds better without touching a knob.

kickin it with the mighty Souls of Mischief on Hiero Day

Good vibes make for good work!

4.  Don’t turn down work…ever

Even the worst, most punishing shows can lead to the best of opportunities.  To get consistent work and pay your rent sans student loans, you will need to build reliance with venue(s) or a sound company.  The most reliable way is to work as many gigs as possible, often at the expense of sleep and leisure time (don’t worry, by the time you’re “in”, you won’t miss it).

The ultimate goal is to be at the top of their list when an engineer is needed; be responsive to SOS emails and phone calls, that open slot will fill quickly.  During shows, you will need to be on point, punctual and friendly, with a solid knowledge of your craft.

The glorious life of a sound engineer

The glorious life of a sound engineer

5.  Have a nice business card…but don’t rely on it

How many times have you given out a business card and sat by the phone, waiting for the tone that never rang?  Most people who are busy and working won’t have time to follow up on a piece of cardboard given the night before, crumpled in a corner of their wallet, from a face they blearily remember.  In contrast, a brief follow-up email or phone call the next day will set you soaring above the competition.

A business card is to show you are serious and professional…that’s it.  I usually wait to give out (or even mention) my card until I have theirs, or at least an email address/phone number.  “Oh, by the way, here’s my card” is a comfortable way to end a conversation after you have their contact info, also setting the stage for future contact.  Bonus points if your card looks good – it’s easier than ever these days with Photoshop, and more than worth every penny for the cost of design and/or printing.

Tasteofink.com will help you design, and make great cards at a great price!

Tasteofink.com will help with your design, and make high-quality cards at a great price!

6.  Keep your eyes and ears open for a Sensei (and become one)

You reinforce known knowledge through doing and teaching.  You gain new knowledge by observing and listening.  They are equally important, and jumping at every opportunity to do either will rocket you up the right path.  If you’re lucky enough to meet someone knowledgeable who is willing to share information, ask every question you can possibly think of.

If someone asks you questions and you have enough of an understanding to answer, do so as thoroughly as possible.  Even if you can’t, try.  You will learn very quickly which chapters in your mental encyclopedia are strongest, and which need work, refining until you’re an audio Jedi – able to summon willpower when needed, and become an unstoppable machine during shows.

A good sensei helps guide his students

A good instructor offers guidance to his students

Lastly…

Live Sound is one of the very few professions where, if you do everything right, the night can be a total win/win for everyone in the venue (and beyond).  Having a show go off smoothly where fans, artists and management leave the night fulfilled and energized, is one of the greatest and most inspiring feelings in the world.

These strategies will help you find work, achieve victory on a nightly basis, and grow exponentially as the scale and scope of your shows increase.  Please feel free to email me any questions you have, technical or otherwise – now, during, or after shows, and I will do my best to help as quickly as possible: 8@anoctaveproductions.com.

I look forward to hearing from you, best of luck, remember to have fun and enjoy the music – it’s why we’re in this industry!

Doing sound for my favorite band, The Glitch Mob - I couldn't ask for a better job in the world!

I couldn’t ask for a better job in the world – doing sound for my favorite band!

Sig5
Ian Hicks – FOH