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Simple Minds ‘Walk Between Worlds’ Tour

by Steve Jennings (Photos & Text) • in
  • December 2018
  • Production Profile
• Created: December 12, 2018

Jim Kerr. SIMPLE MINDS © Steve Jennings

One of the most successful Scottish bands of the 1980’s, Glasgow-based Simple Minds formed in the 1970’s and achieved five albums that charted at number one in the U.K. The band continues a long and lively career, both on the road and with studio albums. The most current is their 2018 release, Walk Between Worlds. We caught their tour with the band performing two sets, including such favorites as “Sanctify Yourself,” “Alive And Kicking,” “Waterfront” and of course, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” — to name a few. We spoke with FOH engineer Olivier Gerard, Monitor engineer Mike Gibbard and audio tech Daniel Ibanez.

Charlie Burchill. SIMPLE MINDS © Steve Jennings

The tour is supported by soundco Britannia Row and is not carrying full production, but is bringing its FOH and monitor rigs and using either venue-supplied sound systems (most of the larger theaters on the itinerary are well-equipped) or renting racks-and-stacks as needed.

FOH engineer Olivier Gerard. Simple Minds 2018 Tour © Steve Jennings

‡‡         The Man at FOH

Olivier Gerard has a 10-year history working with Simple Minds as FOH engineer, and in 2012, he was also asked to mix the band’s live albums and videos. He’s used different consoles over the years on tour. Last year, Solid State Logic asked Gerard if he would be interested in using an L500. “I had some time off, so I went to SSL and tried out the desk with my multi-track recordings, where it happened to be an L200 model in their studio. What struck me the most is the mix bus. I’ve worked with digital desks intensively since 2003. Before that, I used only analog desks. With an analog desk, once the sound check was done and I had my balance right, the show could start and the basic balance would be roughly right for the whole gig, with nuances or following movements of the music manually. Since using digital desks, I have the impression that when you have a balance right, all of a sudden in a particular song, the balance could be totally wrong because it’s a ballad or the elements could be denser. So working with snapshots was nearly a must because it felt like the elasticity of the analog bus disappeared. And to compensate, I would use the snapshots.”

Trying out the L200 with the multi-tracks of the band, Gerard made a basic balance and realized later that working on different effects and reverbs he did not change the balance on the faders. Whatever the song he was playing, it was very stable for all the songs. “It was like having that analog bus elasticity back. It is very difficult to explain, as it’s much more a feeling than something one can measure. That is, for me, the main feature. I must confess I was not very keen on the interface — the touchscreen, with EQs with your finger on a screen. But after using this desk since January 2018, the interface has becomes a natural movement, and often I don’t even look at the numbers as I hear exactly what I am doing instead of reading numbers when dialing a knob. I particularly appreciated the L200’s format, with the faders all in one row.”

Gerard, a musician himself, says a console for him is a tool. “When I mix, I want to let myself go in the same kind of musical state and kind of forget about the technical part. Make your mix the best with the conditions of the day, the venue and different P.A., and this desk has all the precise tools and reliability to achieve that.”

Ged Grimes (Bass) and Gordy Goudie (Keyboards). SIMPLE MINDS © Steve Jennings

Recreating Sounds with DSP

The Simple Minds catalog spans 40 years of different musical styles. Gerard says he works at recreating the sound of the particular era of the song. “I want the listener to recognize and to be transported on the first bar to when he was 17 listening to ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me).’ That is the magic of music. So I use all internal delays, multi-band compressors, choruses of the desk.”

SIMPLE MINDS © Steve Jennings

And Gerard is also a fan of the console’s more garden-variety processing. “The desk’s channel compressors are just brilliant, by the way,” but he has a decent rack of external outboard available as well. “Here I use my usual Bricasti, TC R4000 and my L300 Lexicon, because I know where to get what I want. Those are like the colors I use to decorate the music.” Gerard has a patch of nearly 64 inputs, including comm channels between techs and band. “I usually feed the P.A. with L+R and Sub+Infill. I have a MP3 recorded to tape for all the gigs to be able to track and share with the band and as we work on songs along the way, and I multi-track all the gigs.”

Keys setups for Charlie Burchill and Gordy Goudie look remarkable simple, yet pack a substantial punch. Simple Minds 2018 Tour © Steve Jennings

Gerard says he uses the Empirical Lab’s Distressor and the BSS 901 as his lead vocal channel. “Jim Kerr has a very particular microphone technique where I have to change the parameters of the compression nearly every song. He cups the mic, or sings on the side of the mic… it changes from song to song, so having those at hand is essential to me. The Tube-Tech multi-band compressor is another a must for me. The bass lines in Simple Minds music are vital and often are the main character or motor of the song. In most of the venues the lows and the sub are the main issue. With the Tube-Tech, I can alter the crosspoints and use different compression rates on different frequency bands — it works really well. The bass channel is routed first in a Distressor to make it very stable, then into the Tube-Tech.”

SIMPLE MINDS © Steve Jennings

Drums are also given detailed handling. “The snare channel has an SPL Transpressor, a compressor with a Transient Designer incorporated. It sounds the closer to the UREI 1178 I would use in the studio. I have inserted an Aphex Channel, which I use to flatten the snare sound to recreate the big 80’s snares. I use an Avalon [VT-747vt] as a compressor on the mains using the side-chain filter to keep tight control of the P.A. horns. The TK-lizer [TK Audio EQ] is used on all the keyboard parts and pads to open up the sounds with the M-S filter, which is really nice. Simple Minds music is very busy sometimes, and this helps me to create a wall of sound without having to pile up one sound above the other. The reverbs are my usual suspects. I’d love a 480 and AMS, but they are not road-proof, so I use the Bricasti M7 on the vocals and the TC R4000 for the drum sounds. The Lexicon L300 is the best hall reverb I know after the 480 for toms and deep long reverbs.”

Drummer Cherisse Osei’s monster kit has a lot of inputs to keep track of. Simple Minds 2018 Tour © Steve Jennings

Gerard has studied a lot the original versions to get what is articulating the song, how it is built, how it functions. “Music is a very natural, but very intellectual process. In a song, every little detail, even not consciously put, there has a function. So with this band, we worked a lot during rehearsal to get things right. It’s crucial, and what I’m passionate about. The microphones are very important to me as well. I discovered the DPA 2011, and it’s a phenomenal mic, which I use on the snares and the underheads. I use the d:facto mic heads on vocals except for Jim, where I use Shure Beta 58 heads.”

Drum tech Derek Paterson. Simple Minds 2018 Tour © Steve Jennings

Dedication, passion and the understanding of music, is key, says Gerard. “I’m lucky to be taught by great people, I studied and listened and I am still listening every day to understand better.”

Monitor engineer Mike Gibbard (left) and audio tech Daniel Ibanez. Simple Minds 2018 Tour © Steve Jennings

‡‡         The Monitor View

Mike Gibbard is mixing monitors on a SSL L500 Plus, and notes that, along with the great sound from the board, the attack he gets on the preamp is “outrageous,” adding that “the fact I can send groups (stems) to auxes has given me so much more in terms of what I can do as a monitor engineer. I can now parallel process and give each band member a different sound based on their preference,” calling that “amazing — like mixing in the studio, and no other live console out there can do that.” Another thing Gibbard likes is the new Transfer Function Analyser Tool (added in the console’s new v4.7 software release), which measures the delay from same source multiple inputs. This allows him to accurately time-align, say, two mics on the kick and snare, and also time the electronic triggers.

SIMPLE MINDS © Steve Jennings

Gibbard is currently running nine onboard reverbs, a TC M4000 and two onboard delays. He’s also using the SSL G Series Bus compressors over drums, bass and guitars. “I also have dynamic EQ on the vocals with a de-esser on Jim’s vocal, and I’m using the transient shapers on the kick and snares.”

In terms of IEM hardware, “we have a mixture of Sennheiser gear,” notes Gibbard. Ten channels of Sennheiser SR2050 transmitters take care of the band and crew’s in-ears, four channels of Digital 6000 series with DPA capsules for vocal mics and eight channels of EM 2050 for wireless guitars. He is also using two channels of Shure Axiom for Jim vocals with the Beta 58 capsule.

Jim Kerr. SIMPLE MINDS © Steve Jennings

The guitar systems are very complicated, says Gibbard. “There’s a whole load of program changes to both stations that are keyed from ablation via the drums. We don’t use any amps anymore, and just use the Two Notes Torpedos and Tech-21 SansAmps, which I’m a massive fan of. The modeling you can do on them is incredible.”

Keyboard setup for Charlie Burchill. Simple Minds 2018 Tour © Steve Jennings

Most of the band members use the latest Ultimate Ears 18’s IEMs. “I’ve always liked them and find them to be the most natural-sounding. Charlie’s on a pair d&b audiotechnik M2’s for stereo — I don’t think he’ll ever go on IEMs, as he uses the wedges for his feedback on the guitar, whereas Ged (bass) has an in-ear mix as well as a single M2 wedge with a drum and bass mix for vibes. I send Cherisse (drums) a hardwire mix, and we use a Porter & Davies butt kicker. She submixes her own click and the electronic drums through a Mackie 1202 VLZ4. We’ve built the drum rack to include the stage patch, and it incorporates the amp for the butt kicker.”

Both guitarists — Charlie (lead) and Gordy (acoustic) — also play Arturia keyboards, with Gordy accompanied with a Roland A-88 as well. Gibbard says the Arturias are absolute beasts and are a great fit for the Simple Minds sound.

Audio crew, (L-R): Daniel Ibanez (audio tech), Olivier Gerard (FOH engineer), Mike Gibbard (monitor engineer) and Glen Thomson (production manager). Simple Minds 2018 Tour © Steve Jennings

‡‡         Tech: All in the Details

Audio tech Daniel Ibanez says he makes sure that Gerard and Gibbard have all their audio equipment in place, “then they pretty much look after themselves,” he notes. After checking power, Ibanez then starts the process of connecting things such as the mics on the drums and making sure the stage keeps that clean, open look. During the show, Ibanez acts as the band and Mike’s eyes and ears at monitors, should they need anything. “I feel very fortunate to be working with such nice crew people, and the band are great! We are like a little family.”

The audio package supplied by Britannia Row has been “second to none,” says Gibbard. “A big shout out to them for everything they’ve done for us. We have a great team here and everyone’s on the same page.”

 

Simple Minds Walk Between Worlds Tour

THE BAND

Vocals: Jim Kerr

Charlie Burchill (Guitars)

Ged Grimes (Bass)

Cherisse Osei (Drums)

Gordy Goudie (Guitar & Keys)

Sarah Brown (Background Vocals)

CREW

Sound Company: Britannia Row

FOH Engineer: Olivier Gerard

Monitor Engineer: Mike Gibbard

Audio Tech: Daniel Ibanez

Production Manager: Glen Thomson

Drum Tech: Derek “Dell Boy” Paterson

P.A. GEAR

Main P.A.: Venue-supplied

System Drive: Apex Intelli-X2 48

FOH GEAR

FOH Console: SSL L200

Outboard: Aphex Channel, SPL Transpressor, (2) Empirical Labs Distressors,

Tube-Tech MMC-1A, BSS DPR-901, Avalon 747vt, TK Audio TK-lizer, Bricasti M7, TC Electronic R4000, Lexicon M300

MON GEAR

Monitor Console: SSL 500, Mackie 1202 VLZ drum monitor submixer

Monitors: (6) d&b audiotechnik M2 wedges, Porter and Davies butt kicker

Outboard Gear: TC Electronic M4000

IEM Hardware: Sennheiser SR 2050xp for IEM (10 channels)

IEM Earpieces: Ultimate Ears Model 18’s

Wireless Mics: Sennheiser System Digital em6000 with DPA d:facto capsules; Shure Guitar DI: Two Notes Torpedos, Tech-21 SansAmps

Axient Digital AD4D with Beta 58a capsules

Bass DI: Manley Tube Direct Interface

 

More Simple Minds 2018 tour photos by Steve Jennings:

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