Linkin Park has started a touring cycle again. This month has been a long and hard process of rehearsals and promotional shows.
The week before rehearsals, I received an email from Mike Shinoda (lead singer and co-producer of Linkin Park) that asked me to contact the recording engineer for the new record, A Thousand Suns. He asked me to speak with him about what plug-ins were used on the record so that I could accurately re-produce the same sounds used on the record, live. “No problem,” I said.
I contacted the engineer, and we discussed what plugs were used as specific effects and also what was used to record the instruments. All good. Armed with my notes, I went to rehearsals. When I arrived at rehearsals, we had a couple of set-up days prior to the band arriving, so I got with the Pro Tools playback tech, and noticed that he was making stems from the original multi-tracks from the record. This allowed me to actually SEE what they used and were doing, and even better, allowed me to copy the exact presets from the multi tracks and carry them to the Venue surface.
This illustrates the lines that have been blurred between live and recording studio, and the actual real-life work flow that happens in live sound now. If you are familiar with the new Linkin Park record, there is a song on the record called "The Catalyst." The primary vocals for this song are heavily effected. I discovered by looking at the original multi tracks, and also talking with the engineer, that the sound was created using the Waves MetaFlanger. Previously, I would have had to listen to the record, and try to re-create the sound used on the record using whatever tools I had, maybe a different plug than the original. But because Waves plugins are being used in both the studio and the live situation, I was able to copy the preset and have an exact match of a VERY important sound.
How cool is that? This allows me to concentrate on more important things like balance, stereo placement, and overall EQ.
Rehearsals started. Let me tell you generally how the workflow goes: I am set up in a different room than the band with some near-field monitors. The band will play a song, and I multitrack the performance using a Pro Tools HD4 system that is attached to the Venue.
After the performance the band will come in to my room and we will discuss sounds and levels, etc. Just like making a record. It is especially rewarding to have a band come in to your room and listen to playback and be happy with something that they just spent two years working on in the studio. They are incredibly more intimate with the songs than you are (and ever will be), and if you can make them happy then you know you are doing your job.
One of the comments made by a band member was that he would like the vocals to be a bit more compressed, like the sound of the record. I agreed, but this is a juggling act that we play as a live sound engineer. If you compress the vocals heavily, when the singer is NOT singing the information that enters the microphone is as loud (if not louder) than the vocal, and can ruin your mix if you are not careful. One solution is to juggle the vocal faders all night long, and hope that the vocalists don't spend the entire night standing next to the drum kit. This is usually not an option when you have 80+ inputs. You just don't have the time and focus to spend on the vocals ALL the time. So the solution for me was to use Waves MaxxVolume. Not only is it a great compressor/leveler/expander, but it also has a little-used gating feature on it that works REALLY well for vocals. I was able to set the threshold of the gate to open with even the littlest of nuances of vocal, yet the gate remains closed (or ducks) even when the vocalist is away from his microphone; it works really well. Give it a shot and try it on your vocals. You would think that a gate would be noticeable on a vocal, but the inherent soft gating is really accurate and, within the context of a mix, does not sound like a gate opening and closing, not to mention that the vocals are kept in check nicely by the compressor/leveler. I am finding myself having to spend less time riding the vocal, which gives me more time to focus on other pieces of the puzzle we call the mix.
So my current vocal path at the moment is Waves DeEsser, MaxxVolume, to a C6 Multiband Compressor. Try this chain and see if you like it as much as I do.
Ken "Pooch" Van Druten
WavesLive Product Specialist