The LIVE SOUND MIXING
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Metal for Melbourne
All Rights Reserved. ©1996 Duncan R Fry
The gig was called Metal for Melbourne - a celebration of Heavy Metal music from eight bands who would have won prizes as Spinal Tap clones, but in this case they werent intending to be funny! I made sure I packed my ear plugs for this one!
What is it with metal bands? A bigger bunch of prima donnas would be hard to find. There were eight bands on, and none of them had anybody to mix for them, so I was it. That was OK - Ill do most things for a dollar unless it involves chickens and axle grease - but when we set up the gig up in the afternoon each band came up to me and said "Weve got to have a sound check."
Soundcheck my ass. I wasnt having any of it. I mean, the rules for these types of gigs are quite simple: You come on stage, you play, you get off stage. That's it. Sound checks are a luxury that you can't afford - anyway they each just wanted an opportunity to rehearse and prance around in front of the other bands to show how good they thought they were. I wasnt having a bar of it.
"Why do you need a soundcheck?" I asked.
"Oh, weve just got to, thats all."
I tried to be tactful.
"Look, there just wont be time. If you all have a sound check youll end up starting the show about three hours late." My reasoning fell on deaf ears. I might as well have been talking to the effects rack for all the good it did.
"What, no soundcheck? Shit what are we going to do?"
"Dont worry, I said Itll be good and loud from the first note, and everything will be OK. Right?"
"Oh no, no soundcheck, oh shit..." and they would all shrug their shoulders, sigh heavily and look at each other, implying I was the worst bastard left unhung.
One of the guitarists called me up onto the stage, and gestured at his Marshall quad box.
"Youve only got one microphone on it" he said, pointing at the single 57 aimed at one of the upper speakers.
"Yes, thats right, one microphone," I agreed.
"But I need two microphones so it will be in stereo!" he said.
Talk about a little knowledge being a dangerous thing.
"So if I put four mics on it youd have quad sound, is that right?" I asked, but my sarcasm went Whoosh straight over his head. His eyes lit up.
"Jeez, do you reckon you could? Shit, that would sound unreal, eh!" Smiling to myself I put another mic on the same speaker, draped the lead around the back of the cabinet and just curled it up next to the stage box.
I learned a lot about drummers at this show. Drummers cop a fair amount of unwarranted humour at their expense from many people in the music industry, but all I can say is that in the case of these eight bands it was completely justified.
They all had the obligatory double kit, with a forest of cymbals and rows of toms; except for one lone drummer who apologised to me for only having a single kick drum! As he shuffled off hanging his head in shame, the rest of the band came over and told me that they were getting rid of him and getting a drummer with a real kit!
However, watching all these guys set up, I noticed that it didnt matter how many drums they all had, during a song they would only play one kick drum and the snare. The only time they ever hit any of the other drums was as a flourish and roll and the end of each song. Why? Because if they rolled around the toms during a song they would come back in at least half a beat behind! No superstars of tomorrow amongst this lot!
The show was to be introduced by Beastly Barry, a huge guy dressed up as a heavy metal Viking. Big fur jacket, pants and boots, horns sticking out everywhere, plus a couple of sets of chromed exhaust extractors sprouting from his armpits. He was also loaded for action with firecrackers up his sleeves.
The plan was simple. He would stand behind the curtains, be introduced over the PA, the curtains would open and he would stand there, backlit with arms upraised, and set off the crackers to get the show rolling. It was a good dramatic concept, as concepts go. And naturally it was doomed to failure!
Anyway, Beastly Barry got himself all set up behind the curtains, ready to go.
The house lights went down.
"And now, ladies and gentlemen... went the announcer in his best mid Pacific baritone -"Beastly Barry!"
Beastly Barry whispered to me.
"OK mate, open the curtains now!" So, I yanked on the rope and the curtains swirled and opened. Unfortunately, one of the horns on Beastly Barrys head or one of his extractors got caught in the curtains and he started to get dragged across the stage, yelling "Hey - shit - stop - hey - shit - I'm fuckin' caught - stop!"
As he started to topple over, he threw his arms in the air to try to regain his balance. This set off the firecrackers up his sleeves, shooting sparks on to his beard and fur, which immediately started to smoulder.
"Shit - Im fuckin' on fire" he yelled, waving his arms around and thumping himself to stop the sparks from spreading, which only had the effect of setting off more firecrackers in his face as he did so.
"Fuck - shit" he kept yelling as he whirled around on stage, crashing into the first band who were set up on stage waiting to start! As he tried to get up he found he was caught up in the band's drum kit, and staggered to his feet with a couple of cymbal stands added to his original collection of hardware.
God knows what it looked like to the audience. Silhouetted against the light, leaping around with bits of drum kit tangled up in his hardware, and sparks flying out of his sleeves, he must have looked like an electric Attila the Hun with his fingers stuck in a power socket!
Finally he disentangled himself from the curtains and the drumkit, and staggered off backstage, still yelling out Fuck - shit".
The audience stood there like stunned mullets, not knowing what was going on, and then one by one they started clapping and cheering until the whole place was in uproar, yelling and stamping their feet and calling out "More - more!"
We put the drumkit back together, and after a minute or so Beastly Barry came back on stage, beard dripping with water. He thrust an arm in the air, gave the 3 fingered clenched fist salute, grabbed a mic and yelled "METAAAAAL!" The audience responded with a cheer, the band ground into action - the show had started.
This story first appeared in Connections magazine