Photos by Steve Jennings
Rising to worldwide acclaim in mid-'80s and '90s from the streets of London, The Cult has garnered a strong fan base, who are excited to see the band out on a short trek through the U.S. Despite rumors of “bad blood” between frontman Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy, The Cult has been playing to sold-out crowds. Mix caught up with the band and engineers at the tour's first stop, San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium, in early March.
Front-of-house engineer/production manager
FRONT-OF-HOUSE ENGINEER/PRODUCTION MANAGER ROBERT CARSTEN
Fortunately, front-of-house engineer Robert Carsten can easily multitask, as he handles FOH and production manager duties. And as the show is not carrying production, “you have to overcome a lot of obstacles every day,” Carsten explains.
Bassist Chris Wyse plays through an Ampeg SVT Classic into a Ampeg 8x10 cabinet.
On the console du jour, Carsten runs 29 inputs: 11 for drums, three for bass, six for Duffy's guitar rig, two on acoustic guitar, one for guitarist Mike Dimkitch and four on vocals. “I create a panoramic ‘guitarscape.’ I pan Billy's Marshalls — one left, one center, and one right,” Carsten details. “The Matchless is centered and the Roland is panned hard left and right. The Marshalls supply the grit, Billy's leads are the Marshalls with a lot of the Matchless for punch. The Roland adds the clean, echoed, edge-like rhythms on songs such as ‘Rain’ and ‘She Sells Sanctuary.’
“I've been working with Ian [Astbury] for almost four years now, and mixed FOH for The Doors of the 21st Century (now called Riders on the Storm). I find Ian easy to mix; he has a strong, powerful voice.” Bassist Chris Wyse plays through an Ampeg SVT Classic into an Ampeg 8×10 cabinet. “We use an Ampeg tube DI,” says LaGroe. “I take two direct lines — one pre and one post console — and a Beta 52 on the cabinet. Three bass lines give you a lot of versatility out front, but onstage, I just use the tube channel.”
Vocalist Ian Astbury sings through a Shure SM58, as do the other vocalists (left). Bassist Chris Wyse (middle).
Drummer John Tempesta (right).
MONITOR ENGINEER DARREN LAGROE
Monitor engineer Darren LaGroe says that Astbury is the only member carrying Shure PSM700 in-ear monitors; the other members wear ear plugs. “We've got a Shure Paddle antenna (PA705),” he explains. “I use a 50-foot BNC cable, hide it in the drums and point it right at him. The new HD channels have taken up all the frequencies, so I need to get the antenna as close to Ian as possible.”
Guitarist Mike Dimkitch plays through an Marshall JCM 800 through a
Guitarist Billy Duffy uses Gibson Les Pauls and a Gretsch White Falcon. “They are really loud,” LaGroe says. “Billy's rig alone can get very loud onstage. Getting the backup vocals loud enough takes the most effort since we have new gear every day and they don't use in-ears. Billy has six lines of guitar (three Marshalls, one Matchless and the Roland JC120), so I patch an XLR from one of the aux bus outs into an open channel. I then make a submix to this channel that I use to feed everyone who wants Billy's guitar, so I only have to turn one knob instead of six.
“Ian only takes vocal in his ears and some kick. I also split his mic to two channels so I can have separate control of his gain and EQ for his IEMs.”
Monitor engineer Darren LaGroe (left).
Guitar/bass tech Travis Doering takes care of Chris Wyse and Mike Dimkitch (middle).
Drum tech Owen Goldman (right).
Vocalist Ian Astbury (left) and guitarist Billy Duffy during the set's acoustic segment
Front-of-house engineer Robert Carsten on pulling double-duty as FOH and production manager: "I'm good at multitasking, so working at FOH and being the production manager works out well. The first week of a tour is the most hectic and I do feel split between the two jobs at times. The main thing for me is to come in and get as much of the production work out of the way as I can because when I go to the mixing board, it has to be total concentration. When you are not carrying your own audio pack, you have to overcome a lot of obstacles everyday!"
Guitarist Billy Duffy and his rock star pose
Monitor engineer Darren LaGroe: "They are really loud. Billy's rig alone can get very loud onstage. Getting the backup vocals loud enough takes the most effort since we have new gear every day and they don't use in ears (except Ian). Everyone but Billy wears ear plugs, so I have been mixing with ear plugs, too. I have to if I want to continue to be able to hear! I get everything set up before soundcheck and as soon as the band gets there, in go the plugs.
Vocalist Ian Astbury in a "quieter" moment
"Since Billy has six lines of guitar (three Marshalls, one Matchless and one JC120), I patch an XLR from one of the aux bus outs into an open channel. I then make a submix to this channel that I use to feed everyone (who wants it) Billy's guitar and I only have to turn one knob instead of six. Ian is really easy to work with. He is an extremely strong singer. His preamp settings are usually around 9 and he still gets to +6 on the meter. He only takes vocal in his ears and some kick. I also split his mic to two channels so I can have separate control of his gain and EQ for his IEMs."