The sound itself always fascinated me. I guess I've been interested in it ever since I discovered that once properly recorded or synthesized it may be transformed into virtually anything. Being a fan of Queen I also realised that live sound of the band wouldn't be so cool at all unless being treated right on its way from the mics and amps to the speakers. Thus, audio mixing, regardless studio or live (despite being two completely different processes) turns out to be pure art.
Trying to make some sense in countless pictures on my PC's HDD I suddenly found the photos from the end of last year's August, which gave me a push to tell you about one interesting day in my life.
When I got to know Alexander Nezvinskiy, one of the best live audio engineers in Ukraine, I got used to annoy him regularly with different "how"-questions about sound, mics, cables and other technical audio stuff when I happened to meet him at the shows in which "Seagull" (Chaika) was taking part. During one of those concerts (at the Odessa Opera House) I joined Sasha at his place in the right middle part of the hall for another "watch and ask" right after my job on stage was finished. To my pleasure he said there would be a huge open concert at Deribasovskaya next Sunday and in case I wanted I could come and watch how the real work's done.
Of course I decided to go! "But I will be really busy, so, no questions during the show!" - warned me Nezvinskiy.
Sunday, the 29th of August 2010
I overslept. It was 9.20 at the clock. The soundcheck was scheduled for 9 a.m. and although it was raining crazily I rushed to Deribasovskaya being unable to avoid feeling that I was missing something important. Even though I live only about 5 minutes from Deribasovskaya my shoes were full of water while I hadn't even made a half of the way. I found Sasha standing next to a closest café hiding from the rain: "Man, you should've called me first. You see what's going on?.. I arrived to Odessa at 5 a.m. and I've been here since 7 but we weren't able to do anything because of the rain! So, you better go home and I'll call you if something happens." An so I did...
I think it was raining for a few hours more and as impatient as I was, I called To Nezvinskiy and asked what was going on. "It's nothing, I'll call you myself." All right... I think I even fell asleep listening to the rain.
The phone rang: "You may come in about half an hour. We're beginning to do things..."
Upon arrival to the place I found Alexander pissed off. Even though all of the equipment was covered while it was raining the 48-channel mixing console got so wet so that it turned inoperable. While another console was on its way I went out to get some coffee. When I got back a "fresh" console was in its place while Sasha, quite in a hurry, was hooking up the mics, the compressors, the gates and all the essentials. I found out that there would be no soundcheck as the concert was already way to late. "This is all completely ****ed up but at least you see what might happen sometimes" - said Nezvinskiy. However, some procedures were unable to avoid. For example, some time was spent to tune up the drum set properly. There were different bands performing but they would all use the same drum set.
The concert began. "There were no time to set up the mics properly and I am gonna do it on the way, so, first few songs might be a complete ****" - A. N. There were different bands and ensembles performing (by the way, it was a festival of klezmer music), from 2 to 8-10 people on stage. It was clear that some of them were not used to play on stage as Nezvinskiy was forced to use talkback routed to stage monitors to tell the musicians not to get far from the mics. "Of course, when somebody gets just a little farther I can have it solved with the fader but I can't overdo it. We won't get good sound but quite likely to get a feedback. So I don't care, I will be telling them to get closer every time they spoil it. It's also impossible to work without a good stage-man. During the concert he does all the work placing the mics for the different bands and also he's the only one who can save the situation if somebody gets way too far from the mic during performance. Because, you know, I cannot shout while they are playing." - A. N. Some musicians (basically only dancers and some singers) used a prerecorded accompaniment track (either on MD or CD) but when it became clear that a CD deck also got quite a bit of rain the laptop (which was used to wirelessly control the crossovers) was used as a CD player.
"When you have about 15-20 live channels used simultaneously and one of them is spoiling the mix it might be hard to detect which one requires an adjustment. So, we should always use a solo switch which will allow us to hear only a selected channel in the headphones without interrupting the actual master mix of the performance. This way I can find the unsatisfying within seconds."
It was getting dark but it was all right if not for the fact that it began raining again. We had to immediately cover the stage-facing part of the console and the work went on...
I said many thanks to Alexander Nezvinskiy for this experience. A. N.: "Well, I cannot rate my work too high today as I let one major feedback slip in... However, we might consider it normal for such a show."