As hip hop icon Snoop Dogg celebrates his 45th birthday, longtime live sound engineer and friend Dave Aron shares his experiences from 20 years together on the road.
Over the years, Snoop Dogg has extended his reach from being one of most successful rappers of all time to becoming an all-round media and entertainment brand involved in television, film, sports and business. We’ve asked Snoop’s FOH engineer for over two decades, live and studio mixing engineer Dave Aron (Prince, 2 Pac, Sublime), to share a behind-the-scenes look at Snoop’s talent and lifestyle.
Waves: Snoop and you have a professional relationship that has been going on for more than 20 years now. What does it take to build such a strong bond between an artist and an engineer?
Dave Aron: “I think it takes chemistry and trust. You definitely need to just hit it off on a human level. It takes trust that the job that you’re hired for will be done correctly. He needs to trust that his live mix is rocking the crowd. He has to trust that his mixes for albums will translate correctly to the live show. And mostly he has to trust that you have his back. Then I try not to bother him with dumb stuff. Not doing or saying stupid stuff goes a long way. I learned that working with Prince.”
Are the two of you also close in your personal lives?
“We’ve had a close personal relationship for a very long time. When I installed a studio at his house, I would drive out there a lot to work. I'd hang with him, his wife, his kids, and all his friends. I even went over there for thanksgiving dinner some years.”
What appealed to you in Snoop at the start of his solo career?
“I could tell he was very talented and serious about his career. I could see his appeal and that he was going to be big. I figured I couldn’t go wrong working with him. He's a workaholic and I knew he would keep me very busy. Great for me since I’m also a workaholic!”
How did your relationship evolve through the years?
“Unlike most other live mixers, I ride the artist’s bus, not a crew bus. Since we're friends. That leaves lots of miles to get to know people. When we arrive at a hotel, I feel free to go to his room and hang, play XBOX, eat – whatever the move is. I suppose we just built on that”.
What do you like most about Snoop as a person?
“We have a lot of things in common. We find a lot of the same things fun. We are both Steeler fans and he took me to three Steeler Super Bowls and gave me tickets to two Patriot Bowls. It is in his nature to be generous and thoughtful of others. He's proven that time and time again. I also like how comfortable he is with being a celebrity. He's not angry that he’s famous. He knows he’s blessed with fame and acts accordingly. You don’t hear about him punching paparazzi or being rude to fans. I find it refreshing.”
What is special in mixing Snoop’s live concerts?
“I make sure his vocal is over everything. He's the one people have come to see, so I make sure he’s right up front. Then his hype guys and backing tracks are under his vocals. Finally, I fill in the mix with a solid kick and snare coupled with the rest of the band. Bass isn't hard to achieve. Clarity is.”
You've worked with so many great artists, some of whom are already gone. What do you think is the key for Snoop’s longevity at the top?
“He has a love for newer artists, whereas a lot of people his age, with his career and success – sometimes even myself – tend to downplay and criticize them. He embraces them and even does features with them. He also collaborates with the hottest new producers. That keeps him relevant and on top of the music scene. I try to learn from him in that respect. But beyond his music and voice, his persona and smooth character have made him an icon. He’s achieved “household name” status that covers a broad audience, and that's very hard to do.”
Was he helpful in your development of your own studio and educational projects?
“Absolutely. His name brought credibility to my career. With Snoop, 2Pac, Prince, and Sublime’s names attached to my career, people now felt comfortable hiring me for my talent (which I knew I had, but needed others to know). Credits make all the difference in a recording or live sound career. Once Snoop co-signed on my abilities and I had these credits, I was able to educate students with strikes and experience. Lectures and seminars are great when you really know the material.”
What do you wish Snoop for his 45th birthday?
“Have a great day. Thanks for all the years of making records and seeing the world together. It’s been a blast.”
Want to know more about Dave Aron’s work with Snoop Dogg? Check out this video: http://www.waves.com/dave-aron-on-the-road-with-snoop-dogg