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40 Years On, Deep Purple And Crew Reunite

COSTA MESA, CA—Deep Purple, part of the triumvirate of U.K. bands— along with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath—that kickstarted hard rock and heavy metal in the early 1970s, recently completed the North American leg of a world tour promoting its 19th studio album, Now What?!

Eschewing in-ears, Ian Gillan and guitarist Steve Morse of Deep Purple hear themselves via HK Audio monitor speakers and L-Acoustics side fills. COSTA MESA, CA—Deep Purple, part of the triumvirate of U.K. bands— along with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath—that kickstarted hard rock and heavy metal in the early 1970s, recently completed the North American leg of a world tour promoting its 19th studio album, Now What?! Buoyed by critical and fan reaction to the new release, which was recorded in Nashville with legendary producer Bob Ezrin, the band—whose members have a reputation as dedicated road warriors—set off on the Now What?! tour in early 2013, also visiting Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Morocco and the UAE.

According to Rob Hodgkinson, who signed on as the band’s monitor engineer 18 years ago following a year with Black Sabbath, Deep Purple don’t tour as much as they used to. “This year we’ll probably do about 15 weeks; it used to be double that,” he reports.

For this latest leg, which included shows in performing arts centers, casinos, county fairs and Hard Rock Live venues, the production brought along its own mixing consoles, monitor rig, backline, lighting and video equipment, using provided main loudspeakers. FOH engineer Tobi Hoff and Hodgkinson, who has also worked with Paul McCartney, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the BBC’s Later…with Jools Holland music show, among others, both elected to use Soundcraft Vi1 consoles, together with HK Audio monitor speakers, all provided by Germany’s TDA Rental. German rental house Satis & Fi supplied the L-Acoustics side fills.

“All the equipment is provided by TDA Rental when we play Europe,” explains Hoff, who worked for 10 years as TDA’s system tech whenever Deep Purple toured Europe before taking over the band’s FOH position two years ago. “So I’ve been at front of house for a couple of hundred shows,” he says.

The engineers share a single Vi1 input rack. “I’m going straight into the internal preamps on this—an analog split, basically,” explains Hodgkinson, who favors Soundcraft but also uses the Yamaha PM5D: “You can find them everywhere, and they’re bomb-proof.”

“The Soundcraft Vi1 is really nice,” agrees Hoff, also noting, “The last two or three tours, I used the Midas Pro series. We just did three weeks in Europe, smaller festivals, and I had a Pro2.” In general, he comments, “There are no big cues, so I can live with a small number of faders.”

Since the Orange County Fairground site is surrounded by residential areas, Hoff’s challenge at Costa Mesa’s Pacific Amphitheatre was the venue’s 100 dB SPL limit. “Germany, France, Switzerland, they all have restrictions, but normally it’s an average over time. It’s maybe 99 dBA over 30 minutes, which is legal in Germany. But here, it’s unweighted. When the band was soundchecking, it was 100 dB unweighted, but 85 dBA. The bass guitar, without the PA on, was above the limit!”

Deep Purple’s monitor engineer for the last 18 years, Rob Hodgkinson uses a Soundcraft Vi1 console at stageside. The monitor mix requires just over 30 inputs, including effects returns and a CD player for walk-on music, says Hodgkinson. “It’s five mixes on stage, two of which are stereo keyboard. No in-ears. And there are no wedges, which means no problems with time domain issues.”

When mixing on the Vi1, “I don’t use the snapshots; I just remember it all,” he says, adding, “It’s a very simple desk to use.” Indeed, he reports, “We beta-tested the Soundcraft Vi6 back in 2007. It was only after three days that I realized there was a manual in the drawer. That says a lot about how easy a console is to use.”

The Vi1 has plenty of DSP, including four Lexicon effects engines, he comments. “I put plenty of reverb on the drums, especially outdoors at shows like this. The hi-hat has plenty of reverb on it, and because of that, you don’t need the hi-hat itself particularly loud.”

In addition to keyboardist Don Airey’s pair of HK Audio speakers, Ian Paice has a drum fill comprising two 18-inch HK subs topped by a pair of the German manufacturer’s mid-high boxes. “There’s a dirty great Lab.gruppen amp on it,” says Hodgkinson. Now discontinued, HK Audio’s double 12-inch with 2-inch compression driver “sounds really, really good for a drum fill,” he says.

“This is the B system,” continues Hodgkinson. “The other stays in Europe— we’ve got a Meyer 700-HP sub and two of the MJF-212s for drum fill, and two of those for keyboards, too.”

The L-Acoustic dV-Dosc side fills are central to Hodgkinson’s monitor mix. “I basically do a big headphone mix; it works really well. With the spread of the dVs, it means that in the keyboard and drum areas, I don’t need to put guitar or vocals. They just catch the tail edge of the side fills. So all [Paice] has is drums, and occasionally a cue, and all [Airey] has is a little guitar for cues sometimes, a bit of drums and keyboards. So you don’t have that horrible spill everywhere, and you tend to end up running it quieter because you’re not fighting everything.”

On arena tours, he continues, “I fly the side fills—either dV-Dosc, VDosc or d&b J8s. If you fly them at the right height, then as you walk towards them, they start shooting over your head, so it doesn’t get any louder, but it all meets up in the middle. You end up with an even spread across the stage. You also fill in the front area of the audience. It’s the zen approach.”

HK Audio (distributed by Korg USA)