Fall Out Boy Tour ProfilePOWER-PUNK TOUR SLIMS DOWN 6/01/2009 8:00 AM Eastern
When punk-pop rockers Fall Out Boy hit the road in support of their latest, Folie a Deux, with five other bands (Cobra Starship, All Time Love, Hey Monday, Metro Station and 50 Cent), the band's longtime front-of-house engineer Kyle Chirnside knew he had to cut down his FOH footprint to accommodate mixing all the acts. To do so, Chirnside looked toward Midas' new Pro6, a smaller version of the XL8.
“I'm super-excited about this thing,” he says. “Midas told me about the XL8, their first digital-format console, which is considerably larger than the Pro6. I worked on it a few times and fell in love with the sound. I told the people at Midas I was sold on the desk, but the cost had to be worked out with our production management. With cutting touring costs, the XL8 was not affordable for that tour. When I heard Midas was doing a smaller format of the XL8, the Pro6, I wanted to get in on it right away, and Midas has been awesome about it. I used it first in Australia, then the UK and Europe. In the U.S. now, we have five bands on this tour, and they all go on this desk. It's Linux-based, so I'm not worried about losing our shows. I've been on every digital console possible, and this desk is the easiest to jump on and function, and it has the signature Midas sound.
“Midas took the guy who designed the Heritage Series and XL Series and made him work with digital people so he could show them what the analog desk was doing to transfer it over to the digital domain,” Chirnside continues. “Instead of having a footprint at FOH where I have an XL4 and a [Yamaha] PM5D [for the openers] before, now I'm just using this.”
Though Chirnside did bring some outboard gear, he found he preferred the Pro6's onboard selection. He says that using a TC Electronic D-Two delay as the onboard delay is “a little bit overboard for what I need to use it for. I'd rather just reach over and tap and go. Plus, I always used Distressors before, but then I found these 3-band compressors on the Pro6, so I've been putting those on my vocals instead. They sound really good; you kind of have to mess around with them a bit, so I'm using them instead of Distressors.”
One thing that has changed on this tour is that there are no guitar or bass cabinets onstage. Lead guitarist Joe Trohman is using an Engl amp directly into a Palmer PGA-04 ADIG-LB, while guitarist Patrick Stump uses a Marshall DSL 20000 into the Palmer, and for a clean channel sound a Line 6 POD with a direct out. Bassist Pete Wentz is even more simplified, using one line into a Tech 21 SansAmp pedal and one through a Countryman DI.
“We've been taking away all their crutches since day one,” Chirnside says with a laugh. “It used to be two full stacks onstage, two full bass rigs onstage, full monitor rig, sidefills, no in-ears. Within the last five years, we've taken away one crutch at a time. Now we're sans-everything — no sidefills, no wedges. All the drummer [Andy Hurley] has is a Thumper on his seat. It keeps the stage really quiet.”
Asked about the tonal differences between a DI and the moving coil of a speaker, Chirnside acknowledges that there are a few, but the Palmers come close to simulating an actual speaker. “We went through a lot of different Dis and combinations for the guitars because it's hard to replicate the sound of a speaker moving. Basically, you turn the Palmer up to the wattage of head that you're using and the output is speaker-emulated. It's not like a speaker moving, but it's pretty similar. It gives them confidence because they can get the tone they want without the cabinet.”
With no cabinets onstage, monitor engineer Mike Baehler finds his job a lot easier. “It's all in-ears,” he says. “I have seven stereo mixes through Sennheiser GTs, one mono mix and four effects.” Baehler works on a Yamaha PM5D digital console, running at 24/96 on an external clock, an Apogee Big Ben, which he says gives a wider stereo image and sounds better.
“I have enough faders because I have a lot of stuff I have to do, and it's reliable as hell,” Baehler says of the board. “It's not very fast, but that's okay. I've been using it for a long time and it works. It's not huge, like the 1D, but it works.”
The band also made the switch from Ultimate Ears UE7 models to the UE11s, which Baehler says have a tighter bass. “The bass player loves them. Even me, I'm here two feet from the P.A. and I can tell the definition.”
Meanwhile at FOH, Chirnside mixes in stereo, using the Palmers to double up the signal, and runs without any compressors or gates, trying to make the music imitate what the concertgoer sees the performers doing. “When I first started with them, they were just a punk-rock band and their songs were all one level — all the same guitar tone, all the same everything,” he remembers. “For this album, they've added more dynamics to their songs so I had to adjust to them. The only mics I have onstage are the vocals and the drum kit, so I can get a real clear mix out there.”
All the vocal mics are Shure SM58s. The drum mics include an Audix D6 and Shure SM91 on the kick drum, a Shure Beta 98 on the top and a Shure SM57 on the bottom, and Shure SM137s on the hi-hat, overheads and ride. For the toms, Chirnside still prefers the Audio-Technica AE3000.
Up In the Air
This tour is being heard through a proprietary Clair line array; system tech Dave Coyle (who has worked with Chirnside for four years) is managing the system. The tour is carrying an i-3 system comprising 16 cabinets aside; when Mix caught up with the tour in Denver at The Fillmore, they flew eight per side. Rounding out the rig are 12 Clair BT-218 subs and eight Clair FF-2Hs for front-fills.
Powering the array is a new system from Clair. “We have a new amplifier system called a StakRack so we're using Lab.gruppens, and the Lab.gruppens actually have integrated processing in all of them, so we've eliminated Drive Racks; now, we just have one amplifier handling multiple speakers,” Coyle explains. Coyle tunes the system via Clair iO, and Chirnside will make any final adjustments.
“We're carrying enough to do small arenas and sheds, so you come in and find out what can actually fit in the room,” Coyle explains. “We shoot the room, take all the measurements and enter it into the Clair AlignArray program, and it will help me with the numbers I have to display on the cabinets, and from there on out it's using your ears. You see what the room has to offer and how loud you can actually get it before the room starts to fight back. In the morning, I do all the tuning and I hand Kyle what I consider to be a flat EQ for him to start with, and he'll tweak it from there. Since we're running with five bands, I usually tune the system a little bit bright and sort out what they actually need for the day.”
Sync It Up
For the majority of the tour dates, the musicians are getting a full-on band mix in their ears, but with The Fillmore date, they also got a click track to help with some of the video synching, as they were doing an HD video shoot for an iTunes/Live Nation release this year.
For that, Chirnside turned to a Midas DM9696 recorder. “It basically saves everything to WAC files so you can dump it into Pro Tools later or store it as archives,” he says. “Midas was gracious enough to send it out so we could check it out. It did glitch last night and shut down on us, but we were able to get it back up and we got the rest of the set, so hopefully we'll get everything tonight.
“The band always has me do their live stuff, which is cool. Patrick and Pete say, ‘You've been mixing us for five years; why would we want anyone else doing it?’ I mixed their Live in Phoenix CD/DVD last year and I've done most of the TV performances that weren't live. It's pretty fun; it kind of opens up my venue a little bit. I don't have to worry about super-loud kids screaming; I can sit in a studio and mix a show.”
Candace Horgan is a Denver-based writer.