Tour Profile: Smashing PumpkinsBILLY CORGAN TAKES A NEW BAND LINEUP ON THE ROAD 12/01/2012 4:00 AM Eastern
Never let it be said that Billy Corgan does what’s expected of him. Halfway through the “Teargarden by Kaleidyscope” project, where the Smashing Pumpkins were releasing songs one at a time over the Internet, Corgan temporarily abandoned it, instead recording the 13-track Oceania, which is part of the “Teargarden” cycle, releasing the full CD in June 2012. The album charted to Number 4 in its first week of release. It was the first full-length album with the reconstituted Pumpkins and the band’s new lineup of guitarist Jeff Schroeder, bassist Nicole Fiorentino and drummer Mike Byrne. The band then hit the road for a full-scale tour, playing mostly midsize arenas. On the tour, the Pumpkins played Oceania in track order before delving into the classics.
Mix caught up with the tour at Denver’s 1st Bank Center, a converted hockey arena-cum-concert venue that holds up to 6,500, depending on the configuration of the stage. Mixing at front of house was veteran sound engineer Jon Lemon, who has been with the Pumpkins on and off for about 17 years. A longtime DiGiCo user, he has upgraded to the SD7 for this tour.
“I had one of the first prototypes of the D5 back in the day, and I have a very good relationship with them,” Lemon says. “I think it has the best sound of all the digital consoles, and now in particular, with this tour and a lot of keyboards and sequencers going on, having the ability to run at 96k has taken it to another level. I have the full Waves package on board; their plug-ins are of the highest quality.” Though Lemon still uses some outboard gear, he has found that with the integration of the Waves Non-Linear Summing mixing console plug-ins, he is not using as much.
“I’ve found that I still sort of need the Manley VoxBox,” he concedes. “That tube and opto thing really helps Billy’s vocal. I started to use Palmer Speaker Simulators on the guitars this year because they used them on the album, but it was still a little bit dead. In combination with the Renaissance Axx, I could get them to liven up quite a bit, but I needed some outboard EQ, so we got a couple of racks of Midas XL41s there, which really helped out, but now with the NLS channel I don’t rely on the XL41s so much.”
For P.A., Lemon turned to Eighth Day Sound, choosing a d&b system. Eighth Day’s Jordan Kolenc has been out on the road with them. “We use J8 cabinets on the main hang, but Jon doesn’t like the J12s for the downfills, so we don’t have them,” explained Kolenc. “Today there are 12 J8s up on each side. On the side, it’s the V8, which is a brand new cabinet from d&b that is kind of a cross between the J-series and the old Q-series line array; we do a maximum of 10. We actually use four Q10s for front fills. The subs are B2s, with six a side in a stacked configuration, but we have set them up on end in a row from the corner of the stage on some occasions. It seems to work best for what we do, but for the last few shows we have done it in a stacked configuration. The power amps are all D12s.”
The sends to the P.A. are at 24/96k with a backup analog run so they can switch over if the first line goes down. Lemon also records each show at 96 kHz in a Pro Tools rig out front. He has a total of 56 inputs, with four of those being audience mics.
Handling monitors is another longtime Pumpkins engineer, John Shearman, who got his start back with U2 on the Boy tour in 1980. Shearman has been working tours for the Pumpkins since Lollapalooza in 1995. Like Lemon, Shearman prefers the DiGiCo desks and mixes on an SD10.
Byrne and Fiorentino switched to in-ear monitors on this tour, while Corgan and Schroeder still prefer wedges. The in-ears are JH11 Pros run through a Shure PSM900. He describes the monitor mixes as standard, though Corgan only gets his vocal, hearing guitar from his amp.
“It’s not even pointing at him on this tour,” laughs Shearman about Corgan’s amp. “I also don’t think it’s as loud as it has been on previous tours, which is great, because it helps with being able to hear his vocal better. Mike [Byrne] has a full mix of everything with the drums on top, and he has Billy’s vocal quite high up. It’s a stereo in-ear mix, so he has everything spread out from left to right. Nicole has her bass on top, drums underneath, and a little guitar and her vocal and Billy’s vocal. Jeff is a wedge mix with kick, snare and hi-hat, his vocal, and occasionally on cues Billy’s guitar or Nicole’s keyboard—just for certain songs. Billy, all he has in his wedges is his vocal. He also has his Mellotron. [In the] sidefills, there’s quite a lot of kick drum, and that’s about it really, so if you stand center stage, where Billy is, you can feel the air movement from the kick drum.”
Assisting Shearman onstage is Eighth Day’s Michael Veres, who helps with the microphone setup and the Palmer simulators. Veres is on his second tour with the Pumpkins.
“The vocal mics are Sennheiser e935s,” Veres said. “They are great-sounding reliable mics that can take a hit from a guitar headstock and keep on working with hardly a scratch or dent. The two guitar amps have Telefunken M80s in front of the guitar cabinets and Palmer PDI-03 Speaker Simulator coming directly off the guitar amps. FOH uses the Palmers almost exclusively, with the M80s as backup.”