Photos: Candace Horgan
Although they have shared the stage together numerous times during the course of their 10-year marriage, last year marked the first time that guitar wizards Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi recorded an album together, Revelator. They assembled the 11-piece Tedeschi Trucks Band for the project and hit the road in the spring; in October, over the course of 21 days and 14 shows, they recorded material for their first live album.
Engineering the show are Marty Wall at front of house and Bobby Tis at monitors. Mix caught up with them at Denver’s The Fillmore in November, where they relied on rental gear, including Midas analog boards. We spoke with them about the process for the live recording dates, where they were manning 54 inputs.
“Our input list was two pages long,” says Wall with a laugh, who has been with Trucks since 1998, doing everything from mixing to driving the RV. For those gigs, he manned a DiGiCo D5. “They sound fantastic,” he says. “Once you get to use them, they are very friendly. The EQs are some of the best out there.” Wall also used Purple Audio 1176s on Trucks’ guitar and Tedeschi’s vocals.
“It was pretty insane,” adds Tis, a 10-year veteran of sound engineering. “Normally, we just do close-miking of drums and single mics on the kicks and snare for the live stuff. When we were doing the recording run, we were able to expand upon that: [mike] bottom snares, dual kick drum miking, extra guitar lines, extra room lines. [On] both kick drums, we had a 421 kind of deep inside and a D-12 in the resonant head to give it that ‘oomph.’ We were using SM57s top and bottom of the snare; I love 57s for that. We had 451s on the hi-hats, Neumann KM184s on the overheads and E-V 635As, these old dynamic omni capsule mics that we were using, under the rides. Really, they became sort of an interesting, Motown-y kit sound because of the omni capsule under the ride. We had some Sennheiser clip-on-style 904s on all the toms.” Tis worked on a DiGiCo SD8, employing multiband compressors on his house monitor mix. “It’s got that great clarity of an analog preamp, even though you are working on a digital surface.”
Adds Wall: “I like compression, especially once I started using digital consoles.” Concurs Tis: “With an 11-piece band, compression becomes important because you kind of have to hold things in the right place. Then again, it’s live and you don’t want to take away from the dynamics, so it’s kid gloves with the compressors.”
Front-of-house engineer Marty Wall (left) and monitor engineer Bobby Tis
For the recording of the live album, Tis’ old company, SK Systems on Long Island, provided the DiGiCo consoles and monitor setup. Sonic Circus of Vermont outfitted them with a high-end rack of preamps from Millennia, API, Rupert Neve Designs and Brent Averill Engineering.
“We were getting some great analog sounds before we even got into our consoles,” Tis says. “From our DiGiCo desk at monitors, we went MADI out to a JoeCo BBR64 MADI recorder. Over two pieces of BNC, we were able to do 64 tracks in both directions, which allows for virtual soundchecking and playing back the tracks for reference. It writes data at 80 MBPS over USB 2, so it’s not doing anything special. It seemed so terrifying to take a device out that was going to write over USB, but once we got it up and running, I was happy as hell, and it did not fail even once. We recorded at 48/24. In my opinion, 24-bit is really where it’s at. Sample rate is sample rate; we did 48 to be video-ready, but it was all about being 24-bit.”
In mixing the band, Wall went with the less-is-more approach. “Having two drummers is interesting, and they are both lead so I can shade the drums to the left and right a little bit,” he explains. “The keyboards are stereo, and guitars are panned out sometimes, but not always. In a room like tonight, once we get a bunch of people in here, it’s going to be fine. I’ll have some freedom. I want it to be loud and powerful, but not too powerful. It’s really tasteful.”
Adds Tis about his monitor mixes, “The bandmembers tend to mix themselves. They’re very dynamic. They’re purists, and that’s kind of where we’re coming from. We’re trying to represent them from an engineering standpoint and be purists as well.”