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All Access: The Roots

Hip hop/rap masterminds The Roots have taken a more approach than their artistic counterparts using live instruments onstage and in the studio. Building

Hip hop/rap masterminds The Roots have taken a more “band” approach than their artistic counterparts — using live instruments onstage and in the studio. Building their arsenal from two turntables and a microphone to a full-sized rig, The Roots’ live affair has kept their fans groovin’ and entertained. Mix caught up with the seven-piece (who are touring with Floetry and Mishka) in mid-June on their stop at San Francisco’s Grand Ballroom — the former site of the historic Avalon Ballroom. Living Colour’s guitarist Vernon Reid also sat in.

Supplying the majority of the tour’s rig is LA Sound and Lighting (Cleveland). However, according to front-of-house mixer Artless Poole Jr., “The P.A. is usually house-provided, but when there is none, we have an EAW 850 rig with five top boxes per side stacked three side-by-side and two on top of them with four subs per side.”

Poole mixes on a Midas Heritage 3000 with 40 inputs and eight stereo outputs. “For rack gear, I’m using dbx 160A compressors, Drawmer DS201 dual gates, four Yamaha SPX-990, TC Electronic D2 and 2290, and an Eventide H3000 SE,” he says, but adding, “I never do a show without at least three Yamaha SPX-990s and an Eventide H3000.”

Poole definitely finds the job of FOH mixing rewarding. “Working with The Roots has been a dream come true for me. I was a huge fan [of the band] when I was in college,” Poole says. “It’s definitely been a great learning experience for me because, although they’re considered a hip hop band, they cross just about any boundary of every genre of music there is.”

The keyboard setup (above, left) is shared by The Roots and Floetry. Kamal of The Roots only uses a Fender Rhodes and a Korg Triton; Floetry has two keys players using a Yamaha Motif, two Tritons and the Rhodes. The Mackie mixer on the floor submixes the keys used by Floetry keyboardist/guitar player Ray Ray, who also uses the pedal board for effects.

“I’m using a Yamaha PM4000 console,” monitor engineer Michael Mulé says. Actually, I’m in love with the DiGiCo D5, but due to budget constraints on this tour, I have the 4KM, which I’m quite happy to use. With the onboard parametrics for the outputs, I don’t have a rack of graphics taking up space, giving me more room to dance. I’m using very little rack gear: Aphex comps for the main vocals; Drawmer gates for the kick and snares; and a BSS four-banger compressor for the bass channels and whatever I feel needs it that day.”

There are no in-ears on this show. “It’s definitely old-school and loud,” he says. “Everyone is on wedges: D&B M2s for floor wedges, two D&B C7 subs with two Max 15s for the drum-fill, and two C4 subs and a C4 top for the sidefills provided by Eighth Day Sound. I have been impressed by the D&B line and their ability to keep the same characteristics, however loud or soft.”

Other than a Yamaha Subkick, the mics are all Shure: Beta 52 on kick, Beta 57As on top snares, standard SM57s on the bottom, SM81 on the hats, SM98s on the toms and the new KSM condensers on overheads.