Don’t let them see you do anything stupid. You
could come highly recommended and have an
excellent resume. These things help get your
foot in the door. Really, though, the best way is
to do a good job consistently over a period of
time in a number of different situations.
Tell us about some of Blackberry Smoke’s
equipment, setup and signal chain.
We’re making the transition from wedges to
ear monitors, so we’re carrying our own mic
package, a new PreSonus StudioLive 16. 4. 2
mixer, a really powerful little machine, and
some Shure PSM 700 wireless ear monitor
systems for Richard, Paul [Jackson, guitar/
vocals] and Charlie [Starr, lead vocals/guitar],
and Shure PSM 600HW Hardwired systems
for Brit and Brandon [Still, keyboards]. Our
goal is to give them some consistency from
day to day but still be super portable and
musician friendly. The console is a Digidesign
D-Show Profile. All effects, processing and
EQ are on the console. The console feeds
XTA 226 processors, which splits the signal
according to bandwidth to feed the proper
sub, low, mid and high power amps, which
feed the appropriate components in the
speaker cabinets. All the power amps are
Lab.gruppen fP 6400.
Richard plays a Zemaitis BMF-DCPJ Metal
Front Black bass, Fender Jazz Bass Special
Neck with Precision Body with hipshot,
Gibson 1971 Goldtop Les Paul Signature and
1971 Les Paul Recording bass through an
Orange AD 200B amp and Orange OBC 115
and 410 cabs. He uses GHS Flatwound Long
Scale Plus strings, Mogami cables, a Cherub
Metronome and Boss Tuner. Charlie plays a
’ 56 Les Paul Jr., Dan Armstrong Plexi, Fender
B-Bender Telecaster, a Performance Guitars-built (1989) Haggis Custom Tele and a gold
Gibson SG through an Orange Rockerverb
50 head and cabinet. He uses GHS Boomer
medium strings, a Boss Tuner and MXR Phase
45, Dunlop Crybaby and Expandora pedals.
Paul plays a ’ 79 Les Paul Standard, Gibson
Firebird VII and Fender ’ 52 Reissue Telecaster,
using GHS Boomer medium strings, through
an Orange Rockerverb 50 Combo, with Boss
Chromatic Tuner Pedal and Boss EQ Pedal.
What happens when the crowd comes in
and changes the balance?
The balance you get during soundcheck is a
starting point. Obviously, things change after
the audience comes in, but since these variables are also variable from night to night and
place to place, there are no hard and fast “put
knob here” rules. I just try to react to whatever changes have taken place as fast as I can.
Blackberry Smoke. Photo by Steve Bracci.
How much of your job is technical expertise
and how much is knowing and understanding the band?
Both are important. If you have some kind of
musical common ground with the band, they
will probably be more inclined to feel that you
are presenting them to the audience in the
way that they want. But your technical skills
are going to allow you to actually do that,
and that is what will keep you employed.
The audience wants the live show to sound
like the album. How do you accomplish
that and make the mix more dynamic
I think on a good night a live band playing through a nice sound system can sound
better than a CD. The dynamic range of a
band is more than that of a CD, and most
professional sound systems will go louder
and lower than most home and car stereos.
The best way to accomplish this is to pay
attention to every little detail throughout the
entire day, starting with hanging or stacking the system to cover the entire audience
evenly, mic’ing everything properly and so
forth. It’s kind of like painting a wall. The bulk
of the work is in the prep. The actual knob-twiddling is easy if you’ve done a good job
before you get to that point.
What are the challenges that come with
mixing two guitars?
Having two guitars worth of stage volume.
Actually, the Blackberry Smoke guys are all
very conscious and reasonable about their
stage volume. I would say just making sure
that they can both be heard at all times and
that they both occupy their own little space
in the mix, whether it’s a dual lead thing or
one soloing with the other playing a rhythm
part. I try to stick to a less-is-more kind of
mix with Blackberry Smoke—just some basic
dynamics and a little bit of reverb and delay
on the vocals. They’re a rock band. They
don’t need me putting a lot of makeup and
perfume on them.
What does it take to be a good front of
The ability to deliver high-quality audio consistently in all types of situations, and being
able to keep a level head. Understanding at
least a little bit of all the other facets of the
show, such as lighting and video, so that you
can work with them or around them. The
technical ability to get a good mix together
fast is important, but when it’s time to open
the doors, the people are there to see a
show. If you’ve demanded that the mix position be somewhere that makes it hard for
the lighting guys to see the stage, and then
made the band nervous by telling them how
hard your day has been when you see them
in the hallway before the show, you’re probably not a good front of house engineer.