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The Angry Mix

  05/17/10 01:45, by , Categories: Welcome, BFMN Exclusive, Live Sound, Monday Morning Musical Musings, Paul Bourgeois , Tags: blue monsters, blues, gig, mix, music, sound
Paul BourgeoisOk! I’m going to rant and rave and complain about some technical problems the band “The Blue Monsters” has been having. Some people might find it instructive. I just need to get this crap out of my system before I explode.

Just so you understand, the sound man’s job is to set up the levels and actively monitor a gig because the songs keep changing. Sometimes certain instruments have different settings, are stronger in the mix, sometimes the vocals are softer, the dynamics are different. Sometimes there are harmonies. The sound man’s job is not to entertain girls and drink up the musician’s beer. So you are about to bear witness to an actual band problem right now! Enjoy.

Click to see the “technical” problem…

The Blue Monsters

On May 13th we had a gig. I think the band was right on. The way the gig is set up we get paid in free beer, except that Eric and I don’t drink much, so I call up the sound guy, he brings his own equipment and he drinks massive quantities of beer while he mixes while we play. Good deal. Or at least that’s the way it’s supposed to work. I think the sound guy we’d brought with us was not on at all, and that’s a shame really, when you think about it.

Shock G (Gregory E. Humpty Hump Jacobs from Digital Underground) tells the story about how Tupac attacked a sound man once. Afterwards they said to him “Tupac, you can’t attack the sound man. He’s EVERYBODY’s sound man.” Well, I am a teddy bear. I have never and will never attack anyone. I am writing this little statement here, publicly and calm and rationally, because I would like to tear the person concerned apart right now, and that ain’t ever going to happen. Because I am such a nice guy. We have given this person more patience than Pink Floyd ever gave Sid Barrett and now we are just not going to invite him to our gigs anymore. But I do get really emotional and I can scream real loud. That is why I am on stage, because hopefully that emotion can come through musically.

Me, calm and rational? Yeah sure! You would not want to be inside my head right now.

The guy who did our sound is a fine solo musician and I am sure he does a wonderful job setting up his own gigs. On the night of the Monsters’ gig there had been some quiet songs and some louder ones. My harmonica was coming out of my personal amplifier next to me but my vocals were coming out of the house amp so I really didn’t know what was going on vocally. I’d been kissing the mike and shouting into it when I really had to get over the guitar, which was most of the night. That’s not the guitarists responsibility or mine. Monitoring a gig should be active song by song – especially if the sound guy is getting paid, even if it is only beer – to do that. I had asked him once if we could run my vocals through my harp mike. He told me, “No, no, we have to do this just right. A separate mike for everything and mixed just right.” Well, I just found out that there has been a lot of excess equipment on my side, like extra microphones, and there has been very little monitoring on his side. So, what to do?

Two Blue  Monsters

We were about an hour and a half into the gig. We were doing the Hayley Hart song “Rag Doll.” Hayley is a gorgeous, talented woman and a great guitarist singer-songwriter.  Her song “Rag Doll” is a killer blues tune. I love it. I’d lived in Hayley’s house about fifteen or so years ago and she’d kept me awake many an evening with her practice sessions. So this song was very important to me.

During “Rag Doll” I had made the appropriate hand signals – hand to throat and thumb up meaning raise the vocal mike – to the sound guy after I started singing. But he’s chatting with some girl, so he doesn’t notice. Verse and chorus go by and then over the music I say “Can we have a bit up on vocals, please?” Nothing. The girl is apparently fascinating. Another verse and chorus and harp solo go by. Then over the rhythm I am telling the story about how Tupac once attacked his sound man. Pretty amusing for the audience, I guess, but not for me.

After the song I get down on the floor and give him a few words close up to straighten things out and then I am back on stage. I’ve listened to the tape and I was moving really fast. It’s amazing what adrenaline can do. Within twenty seconds I was back on stage and we were onto the next song. The house mix notwithstanding, one thing I am really responsible for is my personal harmonica amplifier. It’s right beside me so I can hear my harmonica and then it is miked into the house system. Well, I’ll tell you something interesting. Partway into the next song the sound guy is on stage with me trying to fiddle with my harp settings. Even if he’s trying to show me he’s paying attention, on stage with me messing with my amplifier settings while I am playing is just not the way to do it.

In the end, I’m unsure about the moral of this piece. Should we be more responsible for our own sound mixes or should we be more selective about who we get to work with us. I guess both. We are a raw band. That might mean “bad” to some people, but I don’t think so. I’m going to put my vocals through my harp mike from now on so I can hear myself and do my own active mixing by ear. Because I don’t need to depend upon somebody else to mess stuff up for me. I’m perfectly capable of messing things up all on my own.

One Blue Monster

Sweet Home Chicago, Death Letter Blues…  You don’t get any more real or raw than that. As well, we did a bunch of our own songs, like Revenge, Keeping It Simple, and Lost In Shangrila. It is our best live recording yet. We were able to pirate a mono recording of this gig via Eric’s computer mike – because it’s too much, I guess, to ask the sound guy we pay in beer to get us a recording of the gig. We are going to try making those songs available through my Facebook page, including Rag Doll – complete with a rant at a sound technition, just so you guys can judge for yourself. So, if you want to hear some raw emotion and just two people giving it their all on stage, tune in.

This entry was posted by and is filed under Welcome, BFMN Exclusive, Live Sound, Monday Morning Musical Musings, Paul Bourgeois. Tags: blue monsters, blues, gig, mix, music, sound


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Hey Paul- We have all been there. You can never expect for anyone else to have your best interest in mind (especially if your paying him with beer). I have run into this same situation on more than half of the gigs I have done in my local music career over the past 20+ years. I am the drummer in my band, and I can’t tell you how many times I have had to play with no bass and guitar in my monitor. Even on our most recent gig it took half of the first set to get the other two members vocals even with mine in my monitor mix. So what to do? Have a clear idea of how you want your sound before you get on stage. Reference audio of your gigs (or other bands that you dig and find the commonalities that you like and apply it to what your doing. Soundcheck if at all possible and use that time to get things dialed in. More recently I have been carrying around a stage diagram of how my band sets up, complete with where we want monitors to be and what we expect to hear out of them. I introduce myself to the soundman way before the gig and give him the diagram to keep (and hopefully study) before we go on stage. You will find a lot of soundman who will say “Just get up there and start and I will use the first couple of songs to get it dialed in". Don’t let that happen, your first three songs are as important as the last three. The moral here is always remember the 7 P’s; Proper pre production prevents piss poor performance! Your sound is your sound, you know what you want. If you can’t get that out of this soundman, look for another that shares your passion and ear for good sound. And above all else, don’t let his lack of expertise bring you down during a gig!
Keep rockin’ Brother.

05/17/10 @ 11:08
Comment from:


As far as the actual events and the actual sound man, whether he exists or whether it happened at all is all hypothetical. The Blue Monsters is public, so this is all entertainment, you know.

But the principle is the same. In principle, people might become a bit too comfortable with their place, you know, so in the beginning they do a crackerjack job and then one day you find out they are doing very little.

I also did sound for cable tv, you know, in my younger days. You aren’t supposed to take the headphones off and go off for a coffee while a live broadcast is going on. Now that I am on the other side I am not going to - I can’t - accept someone who does that. And friendship gets in the way. It brings in guilt and anger and feelings of being betrayed. All hypothetical, you know.

In terms of sound landscape it’s all very simple. Just vocals, harp and guitar. We have our personal amps and mic into the house system that way. I’m just going to find a setting for harmonica/vocals and use the single mic amp for both so I can hear and modulate the volume by ear by varying mic distance. I had wanted to do this before but had been given some other advice. But I think it’s time to take control and be free finally to control the sound myself. Yeah, there will be a touch of distortion on the voice, but that can be cool. I like to move around on stage with a handheld mic anyway.

We tried Warpigs at the last gig. There’s about eight beats before a single guitar chord and then acapella vocals. That’s eight beats of nothing without drums or tamborine. The audience thought the song was over at the beginning of the second verse. Funny stuff.

05/17/10 @ 22:55
Comment from: geoff Atkins
geoff Atkins

Our sound man has been doing the job for ages.
As he is as deaf as a post he sets the levels by observing the winces on listeners faces.
We love him, cause there is no finer sight than rows of the audience sitting and banging their heads with napkins hanging out their ears.
It looks like an Easter Bunnies Congress.

05/24/10 @ 08:33