Public Image Ltd. is, from left: Scott Firth, John “Johnny Rotten” Lydon, Bruce Firth and Lu Edmonds
Photos: Steve Jennings
Punk is back. After 18 years out of the public eye, Public Image Limited (PiL), fronted by former Sex Pistol John “Johnny Rotten” Lydon, took the stage at San Francisco’s Regency Center Grand Ballroom, just a few days after the tour opened at Club Nokia in L.A. and a performance at Coachella. Fans from the band’s early days intermingled with a younger generation hungry to see just what all the fuss was about. And neither faction was disappointed, as PiL (which includes previous PiL members guitarist Lu Edmonds and drummer Bruce Firth, and newcomer bassist Scott Firth) ripped through classics such as “Disappointed,” “Warrior” and “Rise.”
Front-of-house engineer Walter Jaquiss and monitor engineer Kevin Charnley are no strangers to Lydon’s sound: They mixed the Sex Pistols reunion tour in 2008 and were asked back for this run of shows, which hits club-sized venues. Jaquiss is relying on house-provided racks and stacks (with the rest of the gear provided by Boston-based Scorpio Sound). “As it’s different rigs every day, I’m obviously reliant on the local sound companies for their support and venue knowledge,” Jaquiss says. “Having said that, most systems at this level of touring are pretty well-installed and cover the rooms pretty well. My preferences are either V-DOSC, Adamson or d&b J Series. The only request we have is that the sound company brings in enough subs to supplement what’s already there. [To tune the system], I play a couple of songs that I know from an iPod and listen back to the band from Pro Tools. And I listen to the main vocal mix.”
And that vocal mix is key to the show’s overall sound—the audience came to hear Lydon, after all. Ensuring that Lydon is heard loud and clear over the lows, Jaquiss and Lord chose a Shure U2/4D Radio Beta 58A. “He’s used to it, he’s used to how it sounds, and it suits his voice,” Jaquiss says of the mic. “Also, it’s very loud onstage, which this mic helps with.”
Front-of-house engineer Walter Jaquiss at the D-Show Profile
The tour is carrying four d&b M2s for Lydon (“It’s loud!” Charnley says) on two mixes, as well as in-house side-fills. “I am dealing with excessive stage volume, but I don’t have to rectify it because I’m causing it!” Charnley enthuses. “It was a problem in the UK [tour dates] for the other guys in the band. They found the level of John’s wedges intrusive, to say the least. But now that they’re all on ears, that really isn’t a problem anymore.
“Between these two mixes,” Charnley continues, “John has pretty much everything. It’s important to keep John happy with the thunderous volume he loves while trying to avoid feedback—more likely in the smaller venues, where I really have to ride that fader. In the larger places, it’s not too bad; those M2s really sing if they’ve got the space. John is old-school and he really likes to feel the power of the music. It’s pounding within his zone, but in a good, musical way, and the other guys are protected from any unwanted SPLs by their IEMs.”
Jaquiss is mixing on an Avid D-Show Profile due to its small and compact frame, a necessity when working in these mid-sized venues. “Budget and space are always an issue, especially at this level of touring,” he says. Another space-saving feature of the board is the onboard plug-ins; nary an outboard piece of gear is to be found on this tour. Jaquiss is using all effects, comps and gates from the board, a mix of standard plug-ins supplied in VENUE Pack 2 and a few from Waves and Massey. “The show is on a memory stick and my plug-ins are on an iLok,” Jaquiss adds. “With that, we can fly in and rent the system locally if need be. It also helps that the control surface is so small. In Chicago, we’ve managed to set it up in the mix booth without having to take the house console out.”
To make his mix clean yet powerful, he starts with the sources onstage, “getting the amps and pedals right, choosing the right mics and DIs and then making sure you can hear everything in its place,” Jaquiss explains.
Monitor engineer Kevin Charnley mixes on a Yamaha PM5D, employing mostly onboard effects.
Bruce Firth’s kit is miked with Shure Beta 91A (kick) and Beta 98s (toms); Audix D6 (kick); Audio-Technica AE3000 (snare); Neumann KM105 (snare) and KM184 (hi-hat); and Sterling Audio ST51s (overheads).
A Yamaha PM5D sits at monitor world, and Charnley uses the hall reverb for Lydon as the vocalist likes a lot of reverb in his wedges. “I use a shorter one for the other guys’ backing vocals and a room reverb for the drum—all being employed in the ear mixes,” he explains. “I also split John’s channel: one for his wedge use and one for a compressed channel for the other guys’ ear mixes. I’m not using any outboard effects, but I am using an outboard [Klark Teknik DN370] analog graphic EQ over John’s two wedge mixes to give me a little more musical control.
“The other guys have full band mixes in their individual stereo IEMs,” Charnley continues. “Lu sometimes has a wedge mix [using in-house wedges], just for extra punch from the kick drum. Bruce has a couple of d&b 7s for subs that we carry. Scott was the only one with IEM experience [before this tour], so it feels good to convert some more IEM virgins to the cause.
“This is mainly a set-and-forget operation. I might get one or two slight tweak requests from the band in a two-hour show. If John’s not happy, believe me, he tells me and the whole auditorium! The fact that he doesn’t soundcheck makes for an exciting show.”
Sarah Benzuly is
’s managing editor.