Duran Duran Tours Planet Earth
By Clive Young 01.17.2012
Since its release a year ago, Duran Duran’s latest album, All You Need Is Now, has revitalized the group, returning the band to the lush, defining sound of its 1982 breakthrough, Rio. Given the act’s insistence on keeping up musically with the times, the look backwards was unexpected yet also unsurprising; with so many young indie acts now plying those same Rioesque waters, modern sounds have come around full circle to the band’s forte.
With that in mind, Duran Duran is supporting the new album with a world tour, and finished up its most recent U.S. leg in November with the help of Highland Heights, OH-based Eighth Day Sound. Along for the journey are longtime engineers Andrew “Snake” Newton at the FOH desk and Charlie “Chopper” Bradley, tackling monitors at stageside.
Each mix position sports an Avid Venue Profile desk, and the number of inputs coming off the stage depends on what country they’re playing. “In the U.S., we’re running 56, so we run a 48-channel stage box and then have some Focusrite preamps so we can bump on to the analog line-ins to add various bits and pieces when we need to. For the English arena tour, on some of the shows, we’ve got a string section and a horn section, so then we get two stage boxes and we’re up to the 60s.”
Snake chimed in, “It grew to 76 at one point, and that’s when it starts to become a bit silly trying to source that sort of equipment in Southeast Asia and South America. We’d need two double-stagebox systems with five DSPs each and people would be going “Hmmmmm, well….”
Once they get their hands on Avid desks, however, the two engineers make ample use of plug-ins to recreate the signature sounds of the effectheavy band’s early ’80s hits. Achieving vintage analog effects with modern plug-ins takes some patient tweaking, it turns out. “The hardest one is the Harmonizer,” said Snake. “They’ve got heavy dollops of the old H910 on the first records—really glitchy, shifty stuff. There’s a TC Electronic plug-in called the Harmony4 which sounds just like the old, glitchy Eventide—I can hear it stepping the notes, all the rest of it; it’s funny.”
Other plug-ins from Sonnox Oxford, Waves, Brainworx and Eventide round out the selections at the FOH position, and a TC Electronic DBMax outboard unit is used as well for “de-essing, de-squeaking, de-squawking and just general household daily use.” Over at the monitor mix position, Chopper leans on McDSP plug-ins and a selection of TC Electronic offerings, including its Tube Tech CL 1B plug in and VSS3 Stereo Source Reverb.
“Oh yeah—we’re plugged in to the hilt,” laughed Snake. “If you listen to the drum sound on the first album compared to the fourth album, the first album’s like a pudgy disco sound—there’s no reverb on anything, really. And then you get to the point where they’ve discovered the Lexicon 480 and if you listen to the intro of “A View To A Kill,” there’s more reverb than snare and kick and toms. They’re just big things and gated reverb, and if you don’t do that, it doesn’t sound like the song anymore because there’s a lot of that signature stuff. Occasionally, I’ve made a mistake in the set list and advanced into the wrong song—and the difference sometimes is just astonishing. You quickly go, ‘Oh my God, this is absolutely appalling!’”
Over at stageside, Chopper oversees a range of mixes for personal monitors, having long ago led the band away from wedges—or as he jokingly refers to them, “the speakery things that we don’t speak of.” When he first began working with the band in the early 2000s, original guitarist Andy Taylor “had two Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifiers on full blast and everybody on wedges and ears. Now it’s all ears; we have a small sub for Roger [Taylor, drummer] and that’s it.” The personal monitor systems in question are based around Sennheiser G3 transmitter packs feeding Ultimate Ears UE 11 Pros. “The 11s sound amazing,” he said, “and the new Sennheiser G3 stuff, it’s really nice. They’re amazing how they sound so smooth.”
As for miking, the stage is littered with a variety of different models from an equally diverse selection of manufacturers. “It’s just a mixture of all the usual stuff,” said Chopper. “We don’t stick to one brand; we just use whatever we think is best for each application. So there’s Shure Beta 58 radio mics, 56s on guitars and snare drums, AKG 414s on overheads. Nothing mad, nothing crazy— I don’t see any point in getting some crazy, expensive ribbon microphone and…” Snake jumped in, “…and then it gets dropped when you’re in South America and your whole show goes to hell as a result. A 57 or a 56 is going to sound great on the guitar cabinet, so unless there’s something wrong with the sound that you’re hearing, why do you need something that’s radically different and usually hideously expensive? And un-replaceable when it goes wrong on the road?”
While the mic choices may have been traditional, the PA on the U.S. tour was anything but, as it was the first stateside voyage for Adamson Systems’ new Energia E15 PA, currently being beta-tested by a network of sound companies around the globe. The system was overseen by house engineer Kyle Walsh, who was in charge of the daily system design, installation and alignment. Typically, the system went up with 14 boxes a side in arenas and eight in theaters.
“I’m unequivocally loving it,” Snake said forthrightly. “It’s definitely got the Hi-Fi, but I think it’s got the added bonus of being able to do big rock noise. When Eighth Day rang me up and said, ‘Do you want to take this out?’ I was quite pleased because I’ve always been a fan of a rig with 15s in it. I’ve not heard it in a really long, 25,000-seat room yet, but so far, it seems to me to be on a par with [the L-Acoustics K-1 system Beta-tested by Snake for three months last year] in the high end, but the low mid feels punchier to me. Comparing systems for this band, the Adamson would be better because I really think there’s more guts in the 15s. With the low mid, if you want the snare to slap you in the chest, it’ll do that quite happily.”
With any engineer, there would naturally be some trepidation about taking out a brandnew system on its maiden voyage while it’s still being brought up to speed, but Snake felt the risk had paid off. “It’s a beast, really nice,” he said. “It’s consistent, linear as hell and you don’t get any nasty surprises. It doesn’t sound like the coils are getting hot and crapping out halfway through the show; certain other boxes, you start pushing them and halfway through the show, the whole tonality of the rig shifts. You go, ‘Hmm, this is really starting to be quite abrasive now and I haven’t done anything.’ You start pulling out the high-mid and mid, and it still sounds abrasive, and you’re still hacking away at it. With this thing, we set it in the first two numbers and pretty much don’t touch it for the duration of the show—to the point where it’s so predictable that I can put my ear defenders in for periods of time; pretty unusual for a front of house guy.”
While the current Duran Duran album has been out for a year now, the tour shows no signs of stopping. “We’ll be rolling through to next summer—a Duran tour is usually a year and a half,” said Chopper. Snake explained, “After all, they’re popular everywhere, so there’s nowhere we don’t go; it’s not the U.S. and England and that’s it. No, it’s three trips to America, a couple blasts around Europe, Hong Kong, Asia. With these guys, it’s a worldwide audience.”
Eighth Day Sound
(Highland Heights, OH)
Andrew “Snake” Newton
Charlie “Chopper” Bradley
Avid Venue Profile
Avid Venue Profile
Adamson E15; Spectrix; d&b Audiotechnik J Sub, B2
d&b Audiotechnik C Series
Sennheiser G3; Ultimate Ears UE 11
TC Electronic DB Max; Sonnox Oxford, Waves, Brainworx, Eventide, TC Electronic Harmony4 plug-ins
TC Electronic Tube Tech CL 1B plug in, VSS3 Stereo Source Reverb
Radial DIs; Shure; AKG
Courtesy Pro Sound News
Duran Duran Tours Planet Earth