Photos: Steve Jennings
If you thought that true hard metal was slowly ebbing away with the onslaught of radio-friendly rock/pop, you need only attend an Avenged Sevenfold (A7X) show. Once the first guitar riff blasts through the P.A., you’ll find yourself raising the devil horns and thanking the guitar gods. You should also shout a raucous “rawk” to front-of-house engineer Dave Nicholls and monitor engineer Bruce Danz, who deftly translate the band’s hard-rocking latest release, Nightmare, to arenas around the world, including the San Jose, Calif., gig at HP Pavilion, where Mix caught up with the act.
Nicholls and Danz are no strangers to the hard-rocking world, as Nicholls previously mixed Slipknot and Danz worked with Marilyn Manson. Both agree that this type of music informs their mix, primarily focusing on gain. “It’s all in the gain structure,” confirms Nicholls. “Get that right, and it’ll pretty much mix itself. I learned how to mix the songs by emphasizing the ‘big bits.’ And more than anything the knobs say, listen.”
Rat Sound is providing all gear for this tour, including Nicholls’ Midas Pro 6 FOH console (with Rapide controller, which provides up to 36 KT graphic EQs; all effects are onboard except an XTA D2 dynamic EQ and a Waves Maxx Bass BCL) and Danz’s Yamaha PM5D RH, using all onboard effects except for an external word clock on the console to clock it at 96k. “Doing [the clocking] just seems to warm up the sound a bit and free up the console processing to deal with audio faster,” says Danz.
According to Nicholls, Rat Sound has a long-standing relationship with the band, and Nicholls, too, has been using the sound company’s services for previous tours such as Slipknot and Stone Sour. “On various tours, they always provide what I ask for and even go beyond the call to find certain equipment that is not so readily available,” Nicholls says. “So I was more than happy to use Rat’s K1 system with the mind-numbing SB28 subs.” The full P.A. complement included 12 V-DOSC K1s per side, six Kara downfills per side, 12 V-DOSC per side for side hangs, 12 SB28s subs per side and eight additional Karas for front-fills.
Front-of-house engineer Dave Nicholls (left) and monitor engineer Bruce Danz at the Midas Pro 6 FOH board.
While it may be thumping in the arena, onstage, things are a bit quieter, as the band is on in-ears (Shure PSM900 IEM systems with JH Audio JH16s ear monitors), and iso cabs for the guitars and bass are off-stage. “The only mics onstage are the vocals and the drum kit, which is truly an engineer’s dream gig to mix at both ends of the snake,” Danz says. “These days, wireless frequencies can be tough, but in general we have not had too many issues. We use about 12 different frequencies in monitor world with the in-ears and wireless mics, and another 12 for the backline guys and their guitar rigs, which isn’t a whole lot of RF, but some days, depending on the area, can be tricky. Our industry really needs to get together and lobby for some bandwidth dedicated for our specific use, but that’s a whole different discussion.”
The majority of mics onstage are Audix D Series, which were new to Nicholls, but he loves the sound of them placed on snare and toms, a D6 and 91 in the kick drum. Additional mics include AT4033s for the two hi-hats, a 4041 for ride and AT4040s for the overheads. “Guitars, as always for me, are 4050s,” Nicholls says. “Bruce was already using a 4050 plus a 57 as requested by their previous engineer. We both agreed instantly to change the 57 to a 4050, which gave us far better control of the low frequencies in the guitar tones. We also had some iso cabinets built to make sure we kept the ambient noise off the guitar mics.”
All in all, the engineers are enthusiastic about working with the band and look forward to more touring gigs with them. “It’s nice to see a band bring a big arena rock show to the fans,” says Danz. “They take me back to my youth in some ways and remind me of my faves like Kiss, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.”