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Smashing Pumpkins

by Steve Jennings (Photos & Text) • in
  • October 2018
  • Production Profile
• Created: October 11, 2018
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SMASHING PUMPKINS © Steve Jennings

Shiny and Oh So Bright Tour

Usually, a band times its tour to start as — or just after — a new album comes out, but with the Smashing Pumpkins over the years, we’ve learned to expect the unexpected. So the band’s Shiny and Oh So Bright tour kicked off July 12, 2018 at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, AZ and was due to finish in mid-October after some European dates in London and Bologna, Italy, while the new album — their first together in nearly 20 years — comes out next month, breaking on November 16. (More U.S. shows were added Nov. 28-Dec. 7).

In keeping with the reunion concept, the tour features frontman Billy Corgan (vocals/guitar) with founding members James Iha (guitars) and Jimmy Chamberlin (drums), along with longtime guitarist Jeff Schroeder. The set list for this massive three-plus-hour smorgasbord of material has plenty for fans to take in. We spoke with some of the key tour audio team — FOH engineer Kevin Lemoine, system engineer Clark Thomas and monitor engineer Ed Janiszewski.

At FOH, from left: system engineer Clark Thomas and FOH engineer Kevin Lemoine. Photo by Steve Jennings

‡‡         The FOH Approach

Kevin Lemoine says he was fortunate enough to work with Smashing Pumpkins about four years ago, that he was familiar with the material, and — to a certain extent — Corgan’s golden ears and work ethic, but wasn’t familiar with this current band lineup. “The way they would perform dynamically, or how this current three-guitar complement would sit in a mix. Basically there were a lot of unknowns, but I was definitely familiar with the material.”

With these things in mind, Lemoine wanted to have everything covered, so he put in an initial bid of an Avid S6L, fully loaded along with quite a few external preamps at FOH for a control package. He sent this list in an email to production manager Greg Dean and then immediately thought he should check with Corgan before going any further.

SMASHING PUMPKINS © Steve Jennings

“I didn’t have any contact info for him, so I sent tour manager Doug Goodman a text asking him to ask Corgan if he had a preference between using a very high-end, very modern FOH console, or a very well-maintained, top of the line analog console (my preference). I got a one-word text back within 10 minutes that said ‘analog.’ This one-word text made me really happy to say the least. So I immediately put together a new list that included the Jim Sawyer-rebuilt Midas XL4 that VER owned, along with effects that I know from the recorded material (Eventide Harmonizer, a few very nice reverbs, and a couple of delays), a pretty straight-ahead complement of solid state and tube compressors and a BSS 901. Clark (Thomas, system engineer) and I would look at each other in awe almost daily… “Can you believe how good this sounds?!?!” It really was all about extreme fidelity this go-round. Separation, placement, source sounds, and a good amount of familiarity presented to the audience were so important, and I really was impressed with the way the XL4 did exactly that.”

One of two double-wide outboard racks, this contained a wide assortment of dynamics processors. Photo by Steve Jennings

‡‡         Add a Little Outboard…

In a double-wide rack out at FOH, Lemoine has eight of Empirical Labs Distressors, 10 Summit TLA-100-A limiters, four Drawmer DS-201 dual gates and a BSS 901 II dynamic EQ. The gates are on the drums, but barely used he says, as the drums are tuned so well. “They pretty much stay open all the time except when no one is playing. I’ve got Distressors on each kick input, and one on each snare input. One Distressor on James Iha’s vocal and one on Katie Cole’s vocal. Bass guitar pre and post both see a TLA-100, as do all six guitar channels. Corgan’s vocal gets another TLA-100 and the BSS 901. Last time I did the Pumpkins, we were not carrying anything at FOH, so I got to try a bunch of different outboard. The one that really stuck out was the Summit, so this go-round it was a no-brainer to use.”

SMASHING PUMPKINS © Steve Jennings

Lemoine says most bands’ fans are so familiar with the source material, that you want to present it as closely as possible to what they’re used to hearing. “That was one reason for analog here. All of the material performed for this show was recorded analog, and we used a lot of the same microphones from those early recordings as well, such as a Sennheiser 441 on [guitarist] Iha’s rig — the mic they ended up using for the early recordings. And this show is long — three hours and 20 minutes! Analog fatigue, to me, is about half of what a digital rig is. It’s lots of little things, really… like Clark’s designing… he had built basically a voltage regulator that keeps FOH nice and hot… 123 volts and up, and this thing really sings.”

A d&b audiotechnik SL-Series main P.A. proved ideal for the tour. Photo by Steve Jennings

‡‡         All Systems A-OK!                

The audio vendor for Smashing Pumpkins is VER Tour Sound, and working for VER is Clark Thomas, tour system engineer. Thomas says VER bends over backwards to make sure anyone involved is successful. “From the necessities all the way to the ‘luxuries’ of today’s vast majority of gear, we all feel so taken care of knowing VER will supply us with the tools we would prefer to support any production that comes to the table. And it doesn’t stop with the gear. Everyone involved is top-notch at their practice, paving a perfect path for success.”

Lemoine agrees, giving a shout-out to all the VER crew guys who he says “really knocked it outta the park. Crazy long days, long hours everywhere, and they never bat an eye. The GSL rig from d&b audiotechnik is kind of a game changer. It’s incredible, really. Just crisp, absolute fidelity… in your face, and full-range coherency, even at quiet 85 dB… in the 300’s! Crazy! And as long as you have a great system engineer, you really find yourself just mixing rather than fighting a room on top of it. Clark really nailed it, figuring out this d&b GSL rig.”

SMASHING PUMPKINS © Steve Jennings

The P.A. system was chosen by Lemoine for this production, and using the d&b SL-Series ultimately and quite unanimously was a perfect fit, says Thomas: “The analog approach using the XL4 console at the front-end is an amazing complement to all of the aspects in play.” In collaboration with Wigwam/SSE in the U.K., they were able to provide this P.A. system for shows touching U.S., U.K., and E.U. soil.

The main hangs consists of 32 GSL cabinets — 14 GSL8s and two GSL12s per hang. The side hangs consist of 32 J-series (12 J8 and four J12 per hang). Sixteen SL Subs evenly distributed in stacks of two across the front of the stage handle LF requirements. All sources are powered by d&b D80 amplifiers utilizing ArrayProcessing.

SMASHING PUMPKINS © Steve Jennings

For load-in, the crew are ready for line check after about three collective hours worth of work, from the gear being on trailers to being at 100 percent, including a patched stage and RF. This amount of time is sectioned into two parts, due to their rolling stage making its way into place. At load out, all audio is clear of the arena floor, and mostly on trucks within 35 to 45 minutes. They then collect and load the motors making for an average audio load-out in about an hour.

Thomas says the P.A. system has been extremely consistent, in fact, it may be the most consistent he’s encountered. “I believe it’s largely to do with ArrayProcessing. We didn’t make any major physical configuration changes throughout the duration of the tour, other than P.A. cabinet angles tailoring to each venue specifically, and P.A. trim height for the handful of “low-trim” scenarios. Of course, delay times and levels change slightly from day to day, given venue dimensions, coverage area, and motor point concessions… but yeah, all cards were in our favor in terms of consistency.”

In monitorland (L-R): P.A./stage tech Dylan Rohrer, monitor tech Caleb Landmark and monitor engineer Ed Janiszewski. Photo by Steve Jennings

‡‡         On the Monitor Side…

Monitor engineer Ed Janiszewski came into the tour midstream; they were still in rehearsals but all gear choices had been made, mixes were dialed-up, etc. “Being a longtime DiGiCo user, I would have likely chosen a different console, but it was good to spend time with and get to know the Avid S6L. It sounds good and was very reliable. We’re right around 56 input channels. We’re limited by Kevin’s console, er… rather, I should say we ‘benefit’ from the fact that the FOH console is an XL4 and that there’s a cap on the number of inputs,” Janiszewski explains with a wink.

“Output-wise, everyone is on IEM’s, so it’s six stereo IEM mixes for the band then four tech mixes. We have the ability to do a couple of wedge mixes and side fills if necessary. So far the only time it was necessary was in Holmdel, NJ, where seven guest artists were performing with the band. We were prepared for all scenarios — ears/wedges/both/neither!”

Cymbals were under- and over-miked, with a pair of Neumann U87s above the drum kit. Photo by Steve Jennings

Janiszewski is generally not a big user of plug-ins. Especially with these players, he says, it’s about giving them an unembellished and consistent experience. “Now, the use of plug-ins doesn’t preclude consistency, but in this case there is very little EQ and very little dynamic processing going on and really nothing that can’t be handled by the onboard channel strip processing. Plug-ins can be used sparingly, and I tend towards a workflow that involves using the onboard processing as much as possible, especially if that means I don’t have to look at a different monitor display and figure out how the parameters are mapped to the encoders. But in the moment, I want the shortest path with the fewest button presses; for monitors, even milliseconds can make a big difference.”

Janiszewski notes that, from his perspective, the P.A. was a non-issue from day to day, that the off-access rejection is incredible and effect on monitor world and onstage is negligible. The low-end in monitor world was actually quite pleasant he says, just enough to feel but never overbearing.

Billy Corgan is using a Sennheiser SKM5200 vocal mic through an API 3124+ preamp. All band members use IEM’s. Most use Jerry Harvey Audio Roxannes, while two are listening to UE 18’s, so no wedges, and no side fills. Drum mics are mostly DPA’s, with a Beta 91 in the kick, an AKG C451 on hi-hat and U87’s for overheads. These were all in place when Janiszewski arrived. “Kevin (Lemoine) made excellent choices regarding microphones and when I arrived, I was able to focus my attention on the band, their mixes and learning the show,” notes Janiszewski.

Some 16 ground-stacked d&b SL-SUB cabinets provided the LF punch. Photo by Steve Jennings

‡‡         Teamwork Pays Off

“I can’t say enough good things about the audio crew. This was the first time I had worked with any of them. In fact the entire crew (lighting and video included) are pleasant, professional and helpful. This audio crew is on-point and there is a definite team mentality with successful shows being the top priority. (Monitor tech) Caleb Landmark was instrumental in getting me up to speed with both the gig and the console. His knowledge, input and observations made my job much easier and I owe him many beers.”

Isolated backstage, Billy Corgan’s guitar cab was captured by a Sennheiser MD-421 and a Shure SM57. Photo by Steve Jennings

Smashing PumpkinsShiny and Oh So Bright Tour

AUDIO CREW

Sound Company: VER Tour Sound

FOH Engineer: Kevin Lemoine

System Engineer: Clark Thomas

Monitor Engineer: Ed Janiszewski

Monitor Tech: Caleb Landmark

P.A./Stage Tech: Dylan Rohrer

Tour Manager: Doug Goodman

Production Manager: Greg Dean

P.A. SYSTEM

Mains: (30) d&b audiotechnik GSL8s (14/side); (4) GSL12s (2/side);

Side Hangs: (30) d&b audiotechnik J8s (12 side); (8) J12s (4/side)

Subwoofers: (16) d&b SL — ground stacked

Amplifiers: d&b D80 amps

FOH GEAR

FOH Console: Midas XL4

Outboard: (8) Empirical Labs Distressors, (10) Summit TLA-100A tube limiters, (4) DS-201 Drawmer dual gates, BSS 901 II dynamic EQ, Eventide H-3000 D/SE UltraHarmonizer, (3) TC Electronic TC 2290 delays, (3) Bricasti M7 reverbs

P.A. Drive: d&b ArrayProcessing software

 

MON GEAR

Monitor Console: Avid S6L

Outboard: API 3124+ preamp

Monitors/Sidefills: None

IEMs: Jerry Harvey Audio Roxannes, Ultimate Ears UE18s

Vocal Mics: Sennheiser SKM5200

Instrument Mics (partial): DPA (drums), Shure Beta 91(kick), AKG C451 (hi-hat), Neumann U87s (overheads), SM57/Sennheiser 441 (guitar amp)

 

More 2018 Smashing Pumpkins tour photos by Steve Jennings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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