San Francisco–based rebel rock/funk/metal band Faith No More is once again making waves in the U.S. among its longtime and newly devoted fans. After spending 15 years recording albums, touring, enduring personnel changes, building a loyal worldwide fan base and earning acclaim from the likes of Guns N Roses and Metallica, the band suddenly called it quits in 1998 after a successful tour. Their recorded output and following remained and endured, and then in 2009, FNM—Mike Patton (vocals), Bill Gould (bass), Roddy Bottum (keyboards), Mike Bordin (drums) and Jon Hudson (guitar)—reunited and began touring for three years for enthusiastic audiences abroad.
On the road, band members were inspired to write new songs, and beginning in 2014, they convened in Gould’s studio space in Oakland, Calif., to create Sol Invictus, released on May 19 on Reclamation Recordings. The album project convinced FNM to once again tour the U.S., presenting a distinctive show awash in a sea of white (including gear and crew members in white outfits) and decorative flowers. Mix caught the band in mid-April at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle.
Front-of-house engineer Michael Brennan and monitor engineer Nicco Antonietti have worked in Faith No More’s touring crew since the band reunited in 2009. “I got the job through our production manager, Shaun Kendrick,” Brennan says. “He had toured with the tour manager, Tim Moss. I had worked with Shaun on tours with Mogwai, My Bloody Valentine, Fuck Buttons, and many ATP and Primavera festivals. Here we are six years later and the band has a new record to play and promote.”
At the outset of this U.S. tour, the band members were quoted in the press about how their reunion tours of Europe, Australia and South America of the past few years inspired them to write new songs, record a new album, and tour the U.S. once again. Brennan offers his take on their renewed interest: “They are really enjoying the consistency and excitement of the shows and the positive reaction from the audience. I also think the band’s crew created a positive, professional environment for the band. There were many occasions when they were jamming at soundchecks. These jams develop into parts, and these parts turn into songs [that] end up on a record. They can’t help themselves.”
Brennan says that FNM does not rehearse a show prior to touring. “We have a setup day with the crew before every leg but no band. Nicco and I both use Avid boards [S3L at FOH and Profile at monitors] so we are able to pick up from where we left off. The band are super tight and well rehearsed, so we are all good. We just hit the ground running every time, and the crew always delivers. There has to be a certain kind of chaos in the show. It suits the show.”
The band’s spring dates in the U.S. were supported by Rat Sound in Western cities, and by Eighth Day Sound in Eastern venues. FNM is carrying the two Avid consoles, mic package (supplied by Brennan), d&b audiotechnik stage monitors, and line system, and relying on house-provided P.A. systems, which have included JBL, Meyer Sound and d&b rigs. “I just need to tune each room and its P.A. so it suits FNM,” Brennan says. “When it comes to festivals, it’s mostly [L-Acoustics] V-DOSC or d&b. We just plug in and play. When it comes to our own shows we spec exactly what we want from a local supplier and we provide all the control or we take a company.”
Brennan notes that FNM does not always attend soundchecks, and the console provides a remedy for that. “The S3L system integrates fully with Pro Tools,” he says. “That means that every day I can record my show as a multitrack Pro Tools session. I use pre-recorded shows and tracks in Pro Tools to do a Virtual Soundcheck every day.”
When the show begins, Brennan first checks the band’s vocal mics. “I get them loud and crisp,” he says. “It should only take a second or two to do this. Then I look at input gains: Is anything coming in too hot or too cold? Then I look at sonics, EQ on instruments and what needs to be done to help each part find its place in the mix. This is achieved not only by balancing levels; I use filters, EQ, compression and key inputs to help me control the mix. I like pushing everything to the edge [while] still being in absolute control.”
FNM’s dynamic show requires a very active mix: “One minute they are playing a smooth Boz Scaggs track or a Commodores song, and the next they’re playing some insane tribal rock like ‘We Care a Lot’ or ‘Caffeine’ and then a punk rock track like ‘Introduce Yourself” or ‘Gentle Art,’” Brennan says. “I am a very hands-on mixer. Each song is pretty much a remix; there is no point in the set when I can just sit on the mix. My ears constantly and rapidly scan every instrumental or rhythmical element of the song, and I’m constantly monitoring and adjusting levels parameters in very small ways. On top of that there are quite a few effects cues on [Patton’s] vocal and [Bordin’s] kit.”
Brennan says he appreciates the S3L’s ergonomic design and configurable control surface. “I don’t have to move, yet I have access to every element of my mix. There are 16 channel strips with motorized faders, with six fader banks that give me access to up to 64 mix channels. I am constantly changing effect and processor parameters while fader mixing the band on input faders and output VCAs. The S3L allows me to do this with no workflow problems. The ribbon controller allows me to change FX parameters and fully interact with the show. It makes it easy for me to adjust plug-in settings and reassign encoders while managing high channel counts, aux sends and fader groups.
“For my inputs I use [three] Avid Stage 16 Remote I/O units,” Brennan adds. “They have 16 inputs and eight outputs via one Ethernet cable. Each box gives me 16 mic preamps, eight analog line outputs, and four AES digital inputs, and is placed stage left, in a rack. The system is fully networked via Ethernet AVB, which means I just run two Cat-5e multi-cores from stage to FOH.”
FNM’s microphone selection changes with each tour. Currently, Patton is singing into a Telefunken M80 dynamic mic, introduced for this tour; for Bordin’s drums, Sennheiser e 609s (rack and floor toms), Shure SM81s (cymbals, hi-hat and percussion), SM57 (snare top), e 604 (snare bottom), e 901 and e 602 (kick); on Hudson’s guitar cabinets, Shure Beta 57s and Sennheiser e 606s; and on Gould’s bass cabinet, a Telefunken M80 (newly introduced). Patton also uses a CB radio mic that is plugged into a Korg Kaoss pad for added distortion and delay effects, as well as a pair of full-size megaphones miked with a Shure Beta 98 taped inside and a radio transmitter strapped to the side of each unit. In Patton’s vocal chain, Brennan uses Avid plug-ins for reverbs, distortion, delays, tape flanging and Leslie speaker simulation.
Monitor engineer Nicco Antonietti—who hails from Milan, Italy, and is currently based in London working with sound company Britannia Row—came to Faith No More by way of his work on Patton’s side projects in Italy, including Mondo Cane, Patton’s tour and 2010 album release featuring a band, orchestra and choir, for which Antonietti served as monitor engineer.
Antonietti uses Waves plug-ins with his Avid Profile and a Midas XL42 2-channel mic preamp and 5-band EQ. “I’ve been using the Profile for probably 10 years, since it came out,” he notes. “I never have any issues. It’s a pretty simple setup because it’s a pretty standard rock band: drums [have] probably 12 channels, three channels of bass, four channels of guitar, four channels of keyboards plus four backups, four vocals and an acoustic guitar. So we end up with 40 channels maximum, I think. Everyone has two [d&b M2] wedges, apart from Patton, who has four in the front and two in the back. And the drummer has two J-Subs and two M2s on top of the J-Subs. They’re an easy band to mix onstage because they’re not really demanding to work with as long as they have good power, good sound pressure.”