Lancaster, PA (November 1, 2022)—Longtime live sound engineer Dave Skaff died Saturday, October 29, at the age of 63. Over the last four decades, Skaff rose from the Pennsylvania club scene to eventually tour the world with some of the biggest names in music, leaving an indelible mark on those around him not only with his mixing skills but also his upbeat, positive personality.
Skaff first broke into live sound via the early 1980s mid-Atlantic club circuit, most noticeably with regional act Jack of Diamonds. He connected with Lititz, PA-based Clair Brothers Audio (now Clair Global) in 1983, where he quickly made a name for himself as a dependable pro who could engineer, troubleshoot systems and tackle other demands on the turn of a dime—such as in 1983, when he drove an emergency truckload of gear to New York City on short notice for an up-and-coming rock band, U2. Skaff would get behind the monitor desk for the Irish rockers two years later and hold down that position on most of the band’s tours for the next three decades.
A rising behind-the-scenes star, in 1985, Skaff tackled the role of system engineer on one of the highest-profile music events ever—Live Aid. As part of Clair’s audio team onsite for the Philadelphia concert, Skaff helped the production continue onward, later telling Pro Sound News in 2020 that the historic nature of the event didn’t hit him until Andy King, an old friend from his Jack of Diamonds days, took the stage to start the show: “He ended up in The Hooters and now they were opening up Live Aid—so the two of us, standing on stage right before it started, was like kind of a ‘pinch yourself’ moment; it was pretty cool.”
However, it was all in a day’s work for Skaff, who could count a stint with Queen as his first major tour with Clair. Equally comfortable behind the FOH or monitor desk, he worked with top names in pop in the ensuing decades, mixing house for the likes of Alicia Keys, Paul Simon, Barbra Streisand and Shania Twain. Those skills could come in handy at award shows, too, as he mixed Jewel, Ricky Martin and Madonna at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards show.
U2 was hardly Skaff’s only monitor gig, however, as he handled Led Zeppelin’s monitor mixes at its legendary 2007 reunion show in London, as well as stageside mixing duties on tours with the Steve Miller Band, Yes, R.E.M., Robert Plant, Bruce Springsteen and numerous later-day runs with Bon Jovi.
While he initially worked his way up to senior staff engineer at Clair, he left to join Digidesign (now Avid) as a live sound product specialist in 2006, a role he held before becoming a design/mixing consultant with his own DWS Audio Corp in 2009, and then returning to Clair Global in 2011 as chief audio systems engineer, becoming a key part of Clair Global’s engineering design and tour support teams.
An affable, creative man with a can-do attitude and a genuine love of the work, Dave Skaff was truly one of a kind (and one of our favorite pros to interview). He will be missed.