Photo: Graham Images
Decidedly analog. No backing tracks. No vocal tuning. Twenty-eight inputs for the band, a few more for orchestra. Ten fingers on 10 faders. Not too loud. Just a great rock ’n’ roll mix for a great rock ’n’ roll band—Cheap Trick playing Dream Police at L.A.’s Greek Theater.
It’s been quite a year for the Rockford, Ill., rockers. Following a terrifying stage collapse in Ottawa this summer, they regrouped, and with the support of their community—and the good folks at Chandler Limited, Midas, Fishman, Shure and many others—they were back on the road in two days, culminating in this fall’s series of Dream Police shows, first in L.A., then weekends in October in Milwaukee.
“They’re just a really great straight-up rock band,” says Detroit native Bill Kozy, FOH engineer for the band. “The parts are all there. Great arrangements, a classic full sound. Loud, but not too loud. Clean and separate. The band is partial to an analog sound, so I just hit the front end of the Midas hard and everything sits in its place. I’m in a very fortunate situation.”
Well, it’s a bit more difficult than simply getting out of the way. Kozy and his orchestra FOH partner, Mark Gustafson, are active mixers and each stand at a Midas Heritage 3000, with Kozy feeding stems (vocal, band, effects) for Gustafson to blend with video cues, orchestra and choir before hitting the JBL VerTec (house-provided) array. They complement each other, with the goal of “embellishing” a rock show that has “great arrangements.” They each push the preamps hard, for the color and the attitude. They are also each big proponents of the crunch and color they get from Chandler Limited gear, particularly on the low end for adding definition and clearing out spaces where cellos can sometimes bump into bass.
“These players in L.A. were amazing,” Gustafson says, referring to the 18-piece string and horn section. “As much as the orchestra is playing dynamically, they are used to pianissimo being a little bit quieter. So I push them when the band is quiet and dial down when the band pushes. I have a Chandler Limited Zener compressor and an extended TG1 with sidechain features that add the right color without getting pump-y in the orchestra.”
FOH engineer Mark Gustafson
FOH engineer Bill Kozy
Monitor engineer Tim Franquist
Kozy, at the same time, carves out a low end for the orchestra to sit in. “Tom Petersson’s bass is the signature tone of the band,” he says. “It’s huge, with distorted grind on top and it holds down the fort with this piano string attack. One channel is his SansSamp with the Bellari RP583 across it, and the other two inputs are on his three Orange stacks. The phase picture is most important, and I send all three inputs into a mono audio group, then compress with the Chandler Limited Germanium. It holds everything together without sacrificing the attack or fidelity.”
Bun E. Carlos is currently not touring, so Rick Nielsen’s son, Daxx, sits in on drums. It’s the same miking scheme with an unusual combo in the kick, developed by monitor engineer Tim Franquist. “It started as an emergency,” Franquist says. “A dual-element failed, so we had an extra KSM 137 that I taped to an SM57. Phase-reverse one of them and EQ accordingly. I add 60 Hz on the 57 and cut some 250, as well as 3.5k and 10k. I highpass the KSM 137 to 100 Hz and mix them together. I really like it and it has become our kick mic of choice. It’s very natural-sounding, sounds just like the drum.” FOH and monitors put a TG1 across the drums.
Still, all three mixers realize that the distinctive Robin Zander vocal and Rick Nielsen’s riffy-melodic guitar have to cut through and drive the show. Zander’s vocal into an Shure 58 is run through a modified Bellari RP583 for the presence and grind into a dbx 160 for the musicality, with an occasional use of “an ancient REX 50 for a little vocal spread and tap delay. His voice is still amazing.” Nielsen runs two discrete amps live, Fender Deluxe Reverbs heavily modded in the ’70s, one as a live cabinet and one in an iso box.
Franquist, also from Detroit, has five in-ear mixes, four wedge mixes, stereo sidefills, four orchestra and eight Hotspots. Zander is on his own Sennheiser 2000 wireless system, all earbuds, with a Summit DCL-200 on the channel. The rest of the band is on a Shure PSM900 wireless system. Nielsen is one ear plus wedges and sidefills. Pedersson likes mostly drums and vocal, all wedges. A Chandler Limited TG1 is used lightly across the drum mix.