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 #5 – Coachella

Coachella lived up to every expectation I hoped it would – great performance, huge energy, massive sound, fanatic crowd!  Coachella is one of the world’s biggest music festivals, located near Palm Springs in LA, hosting 200,000 fans and over 180 bands/DJ’s over two weekends.  This year we’re enjoying the sounds of Skrillex, Outkast, Pharrell, Arcade Fire, Netsky (one of my favorite producers), and of course your friends The Glitch Mob!  Those of you who caught their set at the Sahara tent witnessed a piece of history in the making – their full stage setup, The Blade, just after sunset, unsheathed and cutting straight to the heart of why we are all there – to dance with friends and be moved by the energy emanating in waves from the stage.

FOH Perspective

Feel the energy yet?  No?  You will soon!  This pic is from setup, 10 hours before our show

The Sahara Tent holds, aside from about 30,000 people (12,000 if the Fire Marshal asks), special meaning; last year’s Coachella showed my girlfriend and me an amazing time as we camped with good friends and spent the next 3 days dancing in Sahara, where Leannah taught me to shuffle to the beats of Wolfgang Gartner, Benny Benassi, Hardwell and countless others.  I was blown away by the sound and hoped I’d be able to one day drive the system, and perform onstage as Anoctave.  This weekend makes 1 for 2, next year’s goal is to invert my perspective from FOH!

Pictured left:  A farmer's tan, further contrasted by Leannah's non-farmer's tan

Pictured left: The elusive Farmer’s Tan, contrasting brilliantly with Leannah’s non-Farmer’s Tan

I’m finding the best thing that can be done for your career and life is to focus on a goal, allowing it to shape and guide every action of your day, and seek a path in every opportunity that presents itself – techniques I learned from one of my favorite books, Think and Grow Rich, as recommended to me by Steve Nalepa who has helped to shape this tour in many indirect (?) ways.  I owe much to him, The Glitch Mob, and especially PK Sound (thanks Ari!) in helping me to where I am today. In reality, I would be lost in life without the light of so many great inspirations, shedding a path before me.

<Tech Talk>

This first weekend of Coachella was especially momentous for The Glitch Mob and Crew, as it was proof-of-concept that The Blade could be used effectively for large festivals, meaning they are able to put on a full-scale production and performance, as opposed to being limited to a DJ set (which is generally a necessity due to time constraints of moving a large set).

Artists typically have 15-20 minutes after the performer before them finishes their set, to move the entire setup onto the stage simultaneously with the previous set being removed.  During this period of time the sound engineer plays house music (though not always House music) providing an opportunity for artists to setup, while keeping the energy up for the crowd as dance-music shows tend to be lost in silence.

They look like earmuffs, but - alas - they are headphones

Is that an earmuff?  Nope – just the only working side of some recently-busted headphones

While 20 minutes may seem a long time to transition – and in the case of DJ’s who are sharing a similar setup it generally doesn’t take that long – moving an entire set as complex as The Blade, followed by re-checking all the lines, lights, and gizmos that make it tick so that the audience and band have a seamless experience, is a complicated undertaking that can take on many forms.  It isn’t the process of a single person or even a small team, but a series of teams working together in harmony.  Rat Sound provided the sound system for our tent (and indeed, all of Coachella), and did a great job contributing their speed and professionalism to our combined efforts.  I had the opportunity of chatting with Dave Rat, owner of Rat Sound and FOH for one of my favorite bands Red Hot Chili Peppers, and expressed my appreciation for providing a solid system and team (as well as inspiring me to start this Log of Rhythm after reading his blog Roadies in the Midst, legendary to roadies of all shapes and sizes).

</Tech Talk>

This is great news for all you Glitch Mob fans, as it means we will be able to bring the full TGM Experience to festivals around the world!  We are playing many of the major festivals coming up this year, including Lollapalooza, Governor’s Ball, Bonnaroo, Osheaga, and Electric Forest –  and though it has yet to be determined how many will accommodate our full setup, the speed and accuracy this weekend was executed with adds even more of a driving force behind our tour.  And of course, you can catch The Blade at any of our headlining shows this year, we will be playing all across the US and you can see the full tour schedule on The Glitch Mob’s website…if we’re not playing in your town, don’t despair!  We have more shows in the works, details of which will be soon revealed.

I think that’s it for this entry, I will leave you with a Family Photo of the Mob taken with their fans at the end of their set in the Sahara Tent – see me at FOH, way back there in the distance?  No?  Take a closer look, you may have to zoom in about 400%, I am the tiny pixel in the middle of the tech tent with a huge grin on my face, wearing a black Cabbie cap and half a set of headphones.

The Glitch Mob at Coachella Week 1

The Glitch Mob at Coachella Week 1

Next up, Coachella weekend 2.0!

Sig5
Ian Hicks – FOH

The Glitch Blog #1 – First two shows

Wow, so much to summarize in one post!  The days are already flying by, and I would like to keep this blog current, so for the sake of efficiency I will try to .zip these two days into one condensed archive.

Our first show was in Portland, Maine, with the band and crew flights touching down a little over 12 hours before load-in.  A brief round of drinks to reunite the team after our 4-day “vacation” between rehearsals and the actual tour, then the majority of us were lights-out before Midnight.

Our bodies are still reeling from the change in time zones, paired with Daylight Savings stealing an hour of our lives just days prior, but everyone manages to make it in time for our Bus call the next morning.  Our first time seeing the bus, and she is beautifully laid out with condo bunks (!) for the crew, a nice area to chill in front and back, and fully stocked with food and drink requests made days earlier.

Me in my natural element - tightly packed living quarters

Me in my natural element – tightly packed living quarters

After a short ride we arrive at the State Theater, reminiscent of The Warfield in San Francisco, and greeted by a pleasant house crew eager to help unload the semi truck with all our gear, packed from end to end with millions of dollars worth of crucial equipment.  The show went surprisingly well for the first day, with over 1600 fans filling the house with energy.  The stage setup, coined The Blade, has finally been unveiled!  I can’t post pictures yet but would imagine that you, the crafty GM fanbase, can find the show on Youtube – while it may not do full justice to the set, you will definitely feel the energy and warm reception the crowd shared through the night.

The following day at House of Blues in Boston proved to be even more successful, as the entire show went off flawlessly to a packed house.  The venue is beautiful with a seasoned and hard-working crew, a giant standing floor of General Admission tickets, and two levels of mezzanine above.  Once the doors open and the floodgates are released, its vibrancy and acoustics transform from cavernous to tight – all in a matter of minutes.

Boston House of Blues

Boston House of Blues

<Tech Talk>
Part of my job is tuning the sound system, and timing the delay between the subwoofers, sidefills, and mains.  Regardless of how you tune the system, the show will be irreparably imbalanced if it isn’t aligned down to the millisecond, due to the physics of different parts of the sound system combining.  I ensure we are perfectly aligned using phase tools found in SMAART, analyzers in Ableton, pink noise generators and oscillators, and most importantly my ears.

SMAART - not for dummies

SMAART – not for dummies

A quick and effective method is to measure the distance between the subs and mains and use that as a starting point for your delay between speakers.  Then play a sine wave with a frequency of the crossover point through the subs and one side of the PA.  Make sure it is the same relative level coming through both sets of speakers.  The sine wave should last about 100ms and loop every second, with a little “snap” on the front and back end (achieved with a -3 sustain envelope and zero release).

Then flip the subs out of phase and adjust the sub delay time until they are at their quietest.  After that point, when you flip the subs back into phase they will be at their most constructive and powerful; this is a good time to tweak the delay by samples (fractions of milliseconds) until they  match up seamlessly, if you used my recommended envelope they will “snap” simultaneously without sounding like the tone is “stretching”.  It’s vital this value is accurate to the millisecond, as one millisecond can make the difference between a terrible sounding show and a great one, the latter being what you are going for!

</Tech Talk>

Today/Yesterday’s Challenge:  The difference between mixing a band through a compact sound system vs. a line array is considerable, and takes some getting used to.  Fortunately by knowing their songs in and out, the band’s energetic performance, paired with analyzation tools such as RTA mics and SMAART, and my ears, the system was hitting in all the right places, pumping between 105dB and 110dB of A-weighted sound pressure levels (in other words, full-bodied and impactful sound without being uncomfortably loud).

Today/Yesterday’s Highlight:  Mixing the band on an Adamson and then Vertec line array with PK Subs were two of the most fun experiences I’ve had behind a console.  The energetic feedback of the audience as they sang along to songs from an album released just weeks ago, and witnessing the full-scale production The Glitch Mob conveyed a sight and sound brimming with good omens.

Looking forward to a relaxing day off tomorrow!

Sig5
Ian Hicks – FOH

The Glitch Blog – Prologue

The Glitch Mob’s  upcoming tour for their new album Love Death Immortality is set to start May 11 2014, bussing from Maine to Miami, performing at world-class venues and Buku Music + Art Project before completing the first leg of the run at Ultra Music Festival.  Soon after is a trip clear across the US, stopping along the way for Coachella in CA, Governer’s Ball in NYC and a highly anticipated string of dates in Europe.

We are in the middle of rehearsals, at the historic Red Studios in Hollywood, home to famous video shoots from Michael Jackson to Seinfeld.  Our practice space is a massive warehouse enclosure, padded walls stretching in every direction blanketed with acoustic dampening material, held up by green-screen printed concrete floors, and a lofty wooden catwalk towering in the rafters above.

Red Studios, Hollywod

Red Studios, Hollywood

I am Glitch Mob’s FOH engineer, tuning and mixing their performance through state-of-the-art sound systems – controlling and balancing the overall mix of the band – translating their music into the analog world, for thousands to feel as a wall of sound vibrates the air and energy around us.

Worth noting is that I have admired and aspired to their work for many, many years.

The band members themselves, edIT, Ooah, and Boreta, are each legends in their own regard, known for pioneering the Beat scene in LA during the early 2000’s, putting Glitch on the map and making it a household name.  Despite massive success they’re humbly down to earth, resonating with good vibes and a strong commitment to memorable performances, conveying all that positivity and more to their fans.

They are icons – possessing an inordinate knack for talent, persistance, and patience – touring with a professional and seasoned crew who bring the combined experience of Visuals, Lighting, Ableton programming, Sound, and Management for Skrillex, Sound Tribe, and Deadmau5 to name just a few.

Their stage/set design, coined “The Blade”, will be revealed in more detail on show night.  Wish I could say more but for now I can say it is a beautiful representative of the performance, supporting an engaging show on multiple levels, and makes my job easier: accenting their massive drums (hint) and lead lines to rumble and resonate an auditorium of fanatic fans.

<Tech Talk>
Their Ableton Live rig is a cause for salivation and salvation – this is the Holy Grail of Ableton setups, charting complex paths that would make a NASA-programmer turned Cartologist’s head spin.  Fronted by Ableton pioneers Matt Davis [namethemachine], Chris Legaspi and Fred Carlton, they are pushing live performances to the next level for Bassnectar, Drake, Linkin Park, 30 Seconds to Mars, and now The Glitch Mob.

Nope!  Not the workstation - just her nametag

Nope! Not the full command station – just her nametag

Partial view of the command station

Partial view of the command station

</Tech Talk>

Today’s challenge:  With rehearsals starting at 6pm, and the band running their set until 6am, our sleeping pattern is a tricky one to shift into; though it  does invoke interesting conversations at 4am, when guards are down and spirits are up.  Topics interpreted through a haze of sleep deprivation draw parallels between producing a song and cooking a feast – instruments treated as ingredients, garnishing and spicing the mix with EQ, blended and balanced to fully access the senses.  Comparing succulents to sound systems – crunchy highs, braised bass, limiting your lettuce – form amorphous definitions that vary between infinite meaning, and none at all.

Today’s highlight:  After listening intently to an advance copy of the album for nearly 2 months, ingraining rhythmic patterns, phrase changes and core elements of the song firmly into my psyche, finally being able to mix the band on a proper sound system.  A more compact representation of the line arrays we will soon be playing through, four PK Sound CX800 subs plus two CX215 tops make for a pretty badass rig, especially when all their drivers are emanating dynamic and well-produced music.

As the tour progresses, I will post updates and pictures here to log an incredible year that is sure to fly by, hopefully making history in the process!

Cast & Crew of The Glitch Mob:
edIT – Band Member
Ooah – Band Member
Boreta – Band Member
Ana Sia – Support Act
Penthouse Penthouse – Support Act
Justin – Tour Manager
Harry – Production Manager/Stage Manager
Martin – Show Designer
Brett – Lighting Director
Chris – Ableton Programmer/Tech
Fred – Ableton Programmer
Matt – Ableton Programmer
Drew – Lighting
Scott – Video
Mike – Audio
Judd – Merch
Randy – Master Semi Driver
Kevin – Management
Ian – FOH

Sig5
Ian Hicks