FOH engineer Jon Schumann (Mew, Kent, The Ravonettes, Lykke Li) has been mixing Danish electropop artist/producer MØ on her recent U.S. tour. We met Jon at Coachella to discuss how he mixes the shows with plugins running on his eMotion LV1 live mixer.
Jon, we’re catching you here at Coachella right at the end of MØ’s MEØW Tour, just before you move on to European festival dates. Take us through your setup for this tour.
It’s a very simple, yet flexible system in which both myself and monitor engineer Jeppe Andersson are relying extensively on the eMotion LV1 software mixer and Waves SoundGrid technology.
eMotion LV1 is the backbone of our touring rig. We both run the LV1 on MacMini computers with BootCamp on two 23” touchscreen monitors, a DiGiGrid IOC interface for FOH analog/AES ins and outs, a DiGiGrid MGO MADI-to-SoundGrid interface for stage connectivity, and SoundGrid Extreme servers for plugin processing (including one for redundancy). We used the LV1 for monitors, too, with the monitor system connected through DiGiGrid MGO and MGB interfaces to our extensive MADI backbone.
What’s the main draw of this system for you?
Two things – the sound quality is amazing, and the system is so flexible and light. At front-of-house I’ve managed to get my mixes to sound exactly how I want them, no matter if we’re playing a club or a huge festival like Coachella. We can use the same plugins from the studio, right there on the mixer, and have a consistent sound from venue to venue. We can play for 200 or 75,000 people, and it’s the same setup and almost the same mix – the only thing that changes is how I push it in the PA. This is something I’m really proud that we’ve managed to accomplish.
Other than that, it’s the incredible flexibility. It’s just so lightweight. We’re doing quite a few festivals this summer, and it’s great to be able to pack up our entire small creative ‘office,’ check into the airport, and put it all on the plane to fly with us wherever we go on tour. Even if you’re a smaller band, you can take it with you. You don’t have to be Coldplay to travel with your own rig!
How has it affected the way you work with the band?
It’s completely changed the band’s involvement in the process of creating mixes for themselves; they’re a much bigger part of it now. They’ll suggest different things with plugins, and we’re able to add it into the production on the fly.
Since I’m recording each show on my laptop, after every sound check, the band will come to front-of-house and listen to the show from the previous night on the PA. This gives us the chance to make improvements, do little tweaks, and whatever changes we need as we go along.
At monitors, Jeppe is also using a lot of the Waves plugins to clean up the sound and make customized mixes for the band on stage – they’re super, super-happy with that!
What plugins are you using at Coachella and on the tour? Any new discoveries?
For this tour, the Scheps Omni Channel has become sort of my godsend plugin. I use it on most of my vocal and drum channels. And it’s opened a lot of possibilities for me, especially when I use the plugin’s insert point to insert other plugins within the Omni Channel for my special effects. It just sounds great and helps keep everything under control.
There’s so much diversity in the setlist, too; how do you switch the sonic character so radically between songs?
I use the LV1 to create different scenes and snapshots for each song, so from song to song I can make radically different sound choices. It’s easy for me to paint a completely different picture for each song.
For example, on the drums, we’re using triggers along with the actual kit. I’ll hit the snare with the Smack Attack transient shaper and the Torque drum tone shifter plugins, so I can switch between a big rock sound to a very, very tight snare sound just by changing two presets. I can shift the tone of the snare itself, or the sound coming from the trigger, and blend them as if it were just one sound.
The Smack Attack plugin also lets me dial in attack transients, so that the trigger and the actual snare don’t get in each other’s way. So, for a song where I want that kind of old school 70s snare sound, but I want most of the attack to come from the trigger, I’ll just dial out most of the transients of the real snare and let the transient shine on the triggered sound. With Torque, I can then tune the triggered sound so that it matches the pitch of the real snare. It’s a really creative and super-easy way to tweak the mix from songs that are very electronic-sounding to songs that are very analog and acoustic, or from something big and thundery to something small and tropical.
MØ is a very spontaneous performer – stage diving, crouching down with a mic inches away from the front fills, singing directly in front of the PA; how do you control feedback and stage noise?
The answer is three letters: PSE. With the Primary Source Expander plugin I can clean up her vocals so much because it’s so easy to pinpoint where her primary energy is and weed out all the other stuff, so I won’t get caught with a supercardiod mic in front of the PA that’s out there creating noise pollution. If I didn’t have PSE early on in the vocal chain I’d be in trouble.
PSE also works really well combined with the Scheps Omni Channel. I can use the Scheps Omni to push in some of the preamp’s harmonics without soaking up a lot of the other stuff that’s happening on stage. Sometimes I like to boost a little of the high end, but if I did that in front of any line array without the PSE, I would have all sorts of trouble. So yeah – I’m able to keep MØ’s vocal very, very clear in this spontaneous kind of show, where it could otherwise get messy. But it never does. I manage to keep it very tight with the help of my Waves toolkit.
And that’s what this LV1 setup is basically about. It gives us so much flexibility in controlling all kinds of situations. After we demonstrated the LV1 to MØ, she gave us the go ahead to create this incredibly versatile system that gives us flexibility and the tools needed, so that she can continue to focus on performing without limitations and I can keep doing a show that represents her and her fantastic band the best I can. And that means that the show you see and the sound you hear is the sound of all of us working together for five years. It’s the culmination of all of that work, combined with all the wonderful tools created by Waves.