Monitor engineer Kevin “Tater” McCarthy has worked with a slew of leading artists like Linkin Park, Phil Collins, and Eric Clapton. In this interview, he tells us how Waves has become an integral part of his setup on the current Slash tour.
What have you been working on recently?
In addition to Slash: Godsmack, Dead by Sunrise and Linkin Park.
How did you get started in audio engineering?
In school I played bass in a band, but I got more caught up in the audio side of things, since we were constantly upgrading our sound system. I then went to work for Showco from 1987 to 1997, and have been an independent since then.
Have you ever mixed FOH?
I have never really mixed FOH, just a couple of times for Alice Cooper, when the FOH engineer could not do the shows. I prefer mixing monitors. These are two very different very jobs these days.
What’s your main goal when doing a monitor mix?
Consistency really is the main goal, always remembering you are mixing for them and their needs, not yours. Many bands I work for do not sound check, and they do not want any surprises when they hit the stage.
When did you make the move from analog to digital?
In 2005, I switched from a Midas Heritage 3000 to a Yamaha PM5D-RH on a Judas Priest tour, though to this day the Harrisons are my favorite analog desks. I will still use analog if the job requires it, but the Yamaha PM5D-RH / DSP5D is my console of choice.
What differences are there between analog and digital?
Many, but there are a lot of reasons that go into choosing. Audio is not the only factor. It is harder and harder to use analog desks these days because of the amount of “scenes” that these bands are requiring—not only level changes but input and output patching changes
What’s your current setup
Yamaha PM5D-RH and DSP5D, Apogee Big Ben, 2 Waves WSG-Y16 cards, 2 Waves SoundGrid One servers.
I actually have two MultiRack set ups. One is a fly rig with a server, switch and cardholder in one 4-space rack, for which I use my laptop as the control. The other is an 8-space rack for touring with two servers, switch, Mac Mini, and 2-space drawer where I keep the screen. Both are very small packages, considering the power of adding Waves to your system.
What advantages are there to using plugins vs. the processors that come with the desk?
Though the Yamaha desk processors are very good, I am not a big fan of going out of the desk and inserting an analog unit. So being able to add the plugins to a digital desk is like being able to use new rack gear on an analog desk, which brings in a whole new world of sounds.
Is latency ever a problem?
Great question. Latency is one big reason that I do not like to insert analog equipment on digital desks. I have had no latency issues at all.
When did you discover Waves?
Before I started using them, I had known about Waves long through Ken "Pooch" Van Druten, as he had been using them for a while. Pooch is the one who, at Slash rehearsals, showed up with the MultiRack prototype, servers, and cards, and said, “Here you go.” I have yet to do a show without it.
You’ve worked on many projects with Pooch. What are the benefits of working with the same FOH and Monitor team?
Yes, we have done Ted Nugent, Puddle Of Mudd, Kid Rock, Dead by Sunrise, and Linkin Park together. The main benefit is really just knowing how we each operate and what to expect. I have always been a firm believer that a good on stage monitor mix comes from also having a consistent FOH sound. He delivers that all the time. But really just knowing each other moves when it comes to tuning, line checks and even microphone selection is a plus.
What are your favorite Waves plugins?
SSL G-Master Buss Compressor, L2 Ultramaximizer, C4 Multiband Compressor. I only use the plugins on my outputs to my in ear mixes. I use them in the chain of L2, C4, then the SSL-G. I set the L2 a little different depending on the mix. With the C4, I pretty much have a standard setting for all my mixes. Then I top it off with the SSL-G for a finishing touch.
What is your Waves “secret weapon”?
Right now, on this tour it’s Vocal Rider for Slash's clean tone. He plays his clean tone very dynamic, so it helps me keep the levels even.
What advice could you give to a young monitor engineer who wants to move to digital?
I think all young monitor engineers are already digital; I feel like I’m the one trying to catch up. The younger guys have grown up, or went to school with this stuff. Us older guys are like cavemen looking at rocket ships when it comes to new technology.