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Iron Maiden “Legacy of the Beast” Tour

Steve Jennings (Photos & Text) • November 2019Production Profile • November 13, 2019

IRON MAIDEN © Steve Jennings

Iron Maiden was formed in 1975 by bassist and primary songwriter Steve Harris. This English heavy metal band has released an impressive 35 albums to date (including studio, live and compilations), and has gone through member changes, but the return of singer Bruce Dickinson in 1999 has undeniably made a huge contribution to this iconic band’s success to this day. With over 100 million albums sold, the Grammy Award-winning band has had their mascot “Eddie,” a fan favorite, accompany them for 40 years as well. The North American leg of the “Legacy of the Beast” tour, which followed a romp through Europe in 2018, kicked off in July and wrapped up in late September before heading to South America. More shows are planned in Australia and the U.K. in 2020.

We spoke with the audio crew — FOH engineer Ken “Pooch” Van Druten, systems engineer Mike Hackman, monitor engineers Kevin “Tater” McCarthy and Steve “Gonzo” Smith, along with guitar techs Eddie Marsh and Sean Brady.

FOH Engineer Ken “Pooch” Van Druten. IRON MAIDEN (AUDIO) © Steve Jennings

‡‡         The FOH View

At the FOH position, Ken “Pooch” Van Druten is using DiGiCo’s flagship Quantum SD7/Waves-enabled console. Van Druten selected the SD7 for its immense flexibility and options. “Its mic pre’s are super transparent, thereby presenting a blank pallet that I can add the ‘salt and pepper’ to the mix using external things like Waves plug-ins, three Bricasti reverbs with M10 remote and a Lexicon PCM96 multi-effects unit. There is also a Neve Master Bus Processor strapped across the mix bus for bus compression, limiting and specific-frequency spreading.”

Van Druten is running a 56-input stage rack using the 32-bit DiGiCo cards. All three DiGiCo consoles used at FOH and monitors share this rack on a optical loop. There is a mini rack at FOH for AES and analog outputs to the Clair Global P.A. system, ins/outs of the analog gear and Smaart.

IRON MAIDEN © Steve Jennings

“The biggest challenge I face in mixing this band is separation between the guitars. All three guitar players have similar sounding tones. Making each one be distinctive and heard is very difficult,” Van Druten notes. “The bass is also a similar tone to the guitars in that it’s not your traditional low-end heavy bass tone that is found with many rock bands. Steve Harris has a very signature bass sound that is the core of the band. You have to get that right in order for the mix to be correct. It shares the same frequency range that the three guitars are in, so effectively there are four guitars to manage, without anything in the mix making sub information. The mix is constantly in flux. It ebbs and flows, and there is not a moment where I am not manipulating some parameter in my mix.”

Van Druten also had some advice for attaining that classic Iron Maiden sound. “The real secret sauce to this band is clarity,” he explains. “This band has been around for 44 years, not only with fans of the band, but people come to this show as fans of individuals in the band. So you have to hear each individual band member within the entirety of the mix in order for the die-hard fans to be happy. I mix this band as a fan, and how I would want to go to a show and have it sound. Sometimes that means certain elements are over the top and maybe a bit overemphasized, but I know I have it right when 60,000-plus fans in the stadium are screaming their heads off and losing their minds for something I am a part of. There is no better feeling.”

IRON MAIDEN (AUDIO) © Steve Jennings

Van Druten adds that Bruce Dickinson is one of the best, if not the best singer he has ever worked with. “He is in tune with his body and knows what it takes night after night to give it all he has. We communicate a lot about how the show was the night before. He always asks what he can do to improve, and what songs were difficult at a previous show. The hardest part for me is capturing all the nuances that make him amazing. He is like an opera singer in that there are so many different parts of his vocal that emanate from his gut, to his chest, to his throat and his head.”

And it’s here that a little technology comes into play. “I use two different plug-ins to smooth out all of those transitions. The Waves C6 is multi-band compression, and the F6 is multi-band EQ. I like both plug-ins working in conjunction with each other to capture all of his dynamic performance. Honestly, everyone is using lots of different boutique microphones these days on singers. In Bruce’s case, our old friend the Shure Beta SM58 sounds amazing. Simplicity at its finest seems to work the best for this band. His mic technique is impeccable, and I don’t have any issues getting him over the top of the very loud stage.”

IRON MAIDEN © Steve Jennings

Van Druten’s Waves plug-in toolbox includes C6, F6, Primary Source Expander, CLA-76, CLA-3A, SSL G-Master Bus, SSL E-Channel, Vocal Rider, H-Verb, R-Bass, Vitamin, dbx 160, LoAir, Torque, R-Verb, H-Delay and the API-2500. Bruce’s vocal chain is PSE, CLA-1176 Blacky, C6 and F6. “I use the C6 for a lot of bus compression. It really is a mastering tool that works well to smooth out any sort of EQ abnormality from song to song on output busses. I use LoAir to manufacture a bit of sub information that doesn’t exist in the bass guitar and the kick drum. It is really subtle, but in the overall picture makes a huge difference. SSL G-Master Buss is used on the main and parallel drum bus.”

Miking is mostly conventional with a few surprises. The kick has an internal SM91 boundary mic and a Beta 52. Snare top is a Telefunken M81; snare bottom is an SM57. The hi-hat and ride are DPA 2011C’s. Overheads are Mojave Audio FET 201’s and the nine toms are all clip-on DPA 4099’s. Guitar amp mics include Shure SM7 and SM57, TUL and Sennheiser.

Systems Engineer Mike Hackman. IRON MAIDEN © Steve Jennings

‡‡         All Systems Go!

When Van Druten came onboard two years ago, he selected what he thought would be the best P.A. system for this band. “It was an easy choice. I have almost exclusively used Clair Global’s Cohesion speaker series since 2017. It’s a truly amazing system for clarity, tonality, headroom and impact. I’ve used it on Jay-Z and Travis Scott, which require lots of sub information. I’ve used it on Michael McDonald and Alanis Morissette, and they both have an older audience that wants the clarity, but not the volume. For Iron Maiden specifically, I chose the CO-12 because it’s a 12” line array that lends really well to the guitars, while still giving the punch to the drums and bass.”

IRON MAIDEN (AUDIO) © Steve Jennings

The sound company providing the main P.A. racks and stacks is Clair Global, as systems engineer Mike Hackman explains, adding that the band own a lot of their monitor speakers and stage equipment. Servicing for this along with additional gear and amplification is provided by ML Executives (Dartford, U.K.) who have worked with the band for many years.

In terms of the Clair Cohesion System, “we use 16 CO12 cabinets per side for the main hang, 16 CO10 for the side hang with a further four CO10 for a rear hang to cover the upper rear corners, Hackman says. “The subs are Clair CP218. We fly three behind each main hang and then stack a further six per side on the ground left and right. For the larger outdoor shows, we increase the number of flown subs to six per side. We have three CO10 cabinets stacked on top of the subs left and right and four L-Acoustics ARCS acting as a vocal fill at the front of the stage. Finally we have four Clair CP6 for general front fill as and when needed.”

IRON MAIDEN (AUDIO) © Steve Jennings

Hackman has good experiences with the Clair rig. “Clair has made this system very easy and intuitive to work with. The prediction software is easy to use and provides accurate information. If you get your job right with that in the morning, the tuning process is more a case of the usual time alignment, followed by a few minor tweaks here and there. We apply very little EQ to the system overall. The phase and frequency response of the both the CO12 and the smaller CO10 cabinets are astonishingly similar, which makes integrating the various zones of the system a lot easier. The system is also compact, it’s light — we can fly it using 1-ton motors rather than 2T — so riggers love it and it packs a lot of punch for a relatively small package. The CP218 sub bass are particularly impressive. Nine subs a side doesn’t sound much for a heavy metal band, but the majority of the time we have them turned down.”

The system is run on Lake/Lab.gruppen PLM amplifiers, so control is kept within the Lake controller environment. At FOH, Hackman has a couple of laptops for system control (one hardwire, one wireless) and a Smaart computer. “We run the system via Dante with analog backup and so I have two Lake LM44’s basically acting as a Dante converter to the system and providing additional delay and analog outputs when required.” A Lectrosonics RF system used for an analyzer mic rounds out the FOH system kit.

“Pooch and I have a very similar philosophy on how the rig should sound and perform and so it makes the working environment very easy,” Hackman explains. “It’s very important to us that everyone gets to have the same experience from an audio perspective and Pooch allows me the time to achieve that. We make a good team in that regard.”

Monitor Engineer Kevin “Tater” McCarthy. IRON MAIDEN (AUDIO) © Steve Jennings

‡‡         Over in Monitorworld

“DiGiCo is my preferred console,” says monitor engineer Kevin “Tater” McCarthy. “I really love this SD7. I just switched to Quantum and that puts Klang on board. That is big for me. I have been a huge Klang user for a while now, and it is a tool that really takes it over the top for me.”

McCarthy is mixing Bruce Dickinson, Janick Gers, Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, and Nicko McBrain, with Steve “Gonzo” Smith mixing for Steve Harris. “Bruce and Nicko are on conventional wedges, and Adrian, Dave and Janick are on both wedges and IEM’s. Mixing IM, they are really straight-up rock mixes for each member. There are lots of cues, though. I grew up listening to this music, so the cues all came pretty natural.”

Bruce Dickinson sings with a Shure Beta 58 with a Shure Axient Wireless system. “There is a total of four microphones for him that run thru a Mike Hill switcher,” says McCarthy. “He has a main and spare handheld, and a main and spare that are on a stand. Hardwired vocals are Shure Beta 58’s also.”

IRON MAIDEN © Steve Jennings

There are plenty of conventional wedges onstage, but all three six-string guitar players are on Jerry Harvey Audio Roxanne and Lola IEM’s with Shure PSM1000 transmitters and P10R+ receivers. Bruce Dickinson’s main downstage wedges are manufactured by EML Belgium. Steve Harris’ wedges are band-owned double-15 Turbosound TMS-3s, which they’ve used for many years. “The Turbosound wedges in front of them are just for a little feel. ‘Gonzo’ [Steve Smith] controls the two pairs per side, and I control a set of L-Acoustics ARCS per side sandwiched in between the sets of TMS-3’s. These are for Bruce’s vocal. I also have d&b M2’s and M4’s all around and under the set for Bruce. Drum monitors are a stereo HK Audio and sub system.

“I’ve learned a lot since being with them,” Tater says. “The band does not sound check, so I really have to work with all the backline guys to help me with adjustments. They really are the key to my success. We run a song and a half after line check and we make adjustments at that time. We are playing arenas, some sheds and stadiums, so that’s really where the adjustment need to be made to give them a consistent sound. “Gonzo” has mixed this whole band for years. I really, really respect that. He really gave me lots of help, not just mixing-wise. He gave me a good understanding of the band and how they operate. I really like having him by my side.”

Monitor Engineer Steve “Gonzo” Smith. IRON MAIDEN (AUDIO) © Steve Jennings

The band did not always have two monitor engineers, according to Steve “Gonzo” Smith, who was the sole engineer in monitorworld from ‘97 up until the end of the 2012 tour. “I then had to take medical leave and was replaced by Michael Mule, (who sadly, later passed away) and Tater then took over. I also moved to Canada in 2013 and took some time away from the band. I rejoined the band in 2016 and now look after bassist Steve Harris.”

The wedges for bassist Steve Harris. IRON MAIDEN (AUDIO) © Steve Jennings

Gonzo has been a DiGiCo user for quite a few years now; his first DiGiCo board was a D5 and he then went onto the larger SD7. “Two monitor consoles on stage required a lot of space, so we got the smaller SD12 desk for me. It’s a great console, very user friendly, which I like, great EQ and great sound. When I original worked with the band it was just Adrian Smith on in-ears and the rest of the band were on wedges and drum fill only. Now the two other guitar players are now on in-ears, and the DiGiCo software is much better than it was in the early days. It’s good to be back amongst friends and family of the Maiden band and Killer Krew. Steve Harris has a basic wedge mix, drums and vocal. Then we have the side fills ‘band mix’ which is like an FOH mix but on stage monitoring which I do guitar solo cues for Steve. Kevin [Tater] deals with the rest of the band and he’s an excellent monitor engineer who does a fantastic job for the band. Hats off to him, a job well done! We also have a brilliant FOH engineer with Pooch!”

SL guitar tech Eddie Marsh. IRON MAIDEN (AUDIO) © Steve Jennings

‡‡         Guitar Sounds? It’s Complicated…

Stage left guitar tech Eddie Marsh is backline and guitar technician for Janick Gers. Gers has used the same basic style rig for many years now. “We are currently using Voodoo Lab ground Control Pro plus, the CGX audio switching system to control all patch changes that I’m doing during the show. Janick also has a bespoke Pete Cornish switcher made to his specification with EQ and various effects like Tube Screamer, boosts, etc. We’re using the Shure Axient wireless system, which is new to us this time around, and I have to say it’s been faultless for me this on the U.S. leg of the tour. The main part of Janick’s rig is all about the Marshalls, we have two JFX units along with JMP1 preamps and the Marshall 9200 power amps. Everything is pretty standard stuff, apart from the power amps, which have been tweaked. We double each Marshall in the rig as backups in case anything goes down during a show. We also have various external guitar pedals, like boosts and an Echoplex.”

 

SR guitar tech Sean Brady. IRON MAIDEN (AUDIO) © Steve Jennings

Stage right guitar tech Sean Brady looks after Adrian Smith, having been his tech for the last 16+ years. “Over that time, as the type of equipment evolved, we have found different ways to make it easier for Adrian to do what he needs to during the show. The basis for his sound has always been Marshall amplification and cabinets, using Celestion speakers, with a Shure wireless system. At the moment, we’re using Marshall JVM 410H heads, as they are very versatile with four channels and three voices per channel. They are also MIDI controllable, which gives Adrian a lot of options during the show.”

RF for guitar has also evolved, Brady notes. “We’ve just brought in the new Shure Axient wireless system on this leg of the tour and are very happy with the sound and its ease of use. We use the Dunlop remote rack Wah unit to allow Adrian to have a remote Wah pedal out on stage without having to send the signal down 120 feet of cable but still having that great Dunlop Wah sound! For the last eight years or so we have been using a Voodoo Lab GCX audio switcher and Ground Control Pro MIDI pedalboard. This lets Adrian control various stomp boxes in his rack, his JVM heads and his Lexicon FX unit, using the pedalboard out on stage and allows me to do the same from a second board I have by his rack. The GCX gives a good transparent audio signal and gives us a versatile option for the different stomp boxes and FX loops he needs. At the moment, he’s using a Boss CH1 Super Chorus, Boss CS3 compressor/sustainer, Ibanez Tube Screamers and a DigiTech Eric Clapton ‘Crossroads’ pedal. His main FX unit for different delays is the Lexicon MX300. We have used Lexicon for the last 10 years and it gives him a lot of flexibility with his delay sounds and the control of them through his MIDI pedalboard.”

Bruce Dickinson’s wedges. IRON MAIDEN (AUDIO) © Steve Jennings

‡‡         Teamwork, Teamwork

“This band is truly a joy to work for,” beams Van Druten. “They are respectful and treat me as a colleague with equal input, instead of just an employee. The crew are phenomenal; most have worked for this band for longer than 10 years, which speaks volumes as to what the work environment is. The fans are absolutely amazing. Some of them are bringing a third-generation of family to the shows and introducing them to a 44-year-old legacy act. Working for this band is one of the most rewarding of my career, and I will stay here as long as they will have me.”

 

Iron Maiden “Legacy of the Beast” Tour

IRON MAIDEN (AUDIO) © Steve Jennings

CREW

Sound Company: Clair Global; ML Executives

FOH Engineer: Ken “Pooch” Van Druten

Monitor Engineers: Kevin “Tater” McCarthy, Steve “Gonzo” Smith

Systems Engineer: Mike Hackman

Guitar Techs: Eddie Marsh, Adrian Smith

IRON MAIDEN © Steve Jennings

P.A. GEAR

Mains: (32) Clair Cohesion CO12,16/side; (32) Clair CO10 side hangs, 16/side; (4) CO10 rear hang

Subs: (18) Clair CP218, 6 flown/12 ground

Fills: Clair C010, CP16

Amps: Lab.gruppen

IRON MAIDEN © Steve Jennings

FOH GEAR

FOH Console: DiGiCo SD7 Quantum with 32-bit cards

Outboard Gear: (3) Bricasti reverbs with M10 remote; Lexicon PCM96 multi-effects; Neve Master Bus Processor

Plug-ins: Waves C6, F6, Primary Source Expander, CLA-76, CLA-3A, SSL G-Master Bus, SSL E-Channel, Vocal Rider, H-Verb, R-Bass, Vitamin, dbx 160, LoAir, Torque, R-Verb, H-Delay, API-2500

System Drive: (2) Lake LM44s; Rational Acoustics Smaart; Lectrosonics RF with analyzer mic

 

MON GEAR

Monitor Consoles: DiGiCo SD7 with KLANG processing, SD12

Wedges: Turbosound TMS-3s, d&b audiotechnik M2s, M3s

Stage Fills: L-Acoustics ARCS

IEM Earpieces: Jerry Harvey Audio Roxanne and Lola

IEM Hardware: Shure PSM1000 transmitters, P10R+ receivers

RF Mics: Shure Axient

Mics: Vocals — Shure, DPA, Telefunken, Mojave Audio, TUL, Sennheiser

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