Flying high on the success of their long-overdue self-titled album, Pearl Jam is on the road, hitting stadiums along the U.S. Mix caught up with the band’s longtime monitor engineer, Karrie Keyes.
You’ve been engineering for Pearl Jam for the past 15 years. What kind of changes have you seen along the way?
As technology changed, problems were solved. It has been an ongoing process between myself, the band and [sound company] Rat Sound. The only changes management ever requested was to lower or fly the sidefills for sight lines. Flying sidefills for Pearl Jam was not an option because of very specific individual mixes in zones. So we opted for the sidefills laying on their sides, like large wedges. Our road manager, Smitty, tech’ed for me for about six, seven years. I now have Peter Baigent, who is a wonderful tech.
What kind of board are you using?
We are using a Midas Heritage — we love it. Our attempts at using a digital console did not work out because of sound quality and the visual aspect; it just added another three to four seconds to mixing. My job is to watch the band, not a screen.
When we spoke to you on the last Pearl Jam tour, you were using a custom Rat Sound monitor system.
Although the entire band is using Future Sonics in-ear systems with the Sennheiser G2, we still use wedges for Ed and sidefills for warmth and instrumentation. Eddie [Vedder] only uses one ear for his vocal; we augment the vocal with Rat S Wedges that are loaded with TAD drivers on the 2-inch. He uses Rat Radian MicroWedges for his guitar and kick and snare. We use the sidefills for all other instrumentation. Both Matt [Cameron, drummer] and Jeff [Ament, bassist] use Rat MicroSubs to augment their low end. The only processing we use are two [Lexicon] PCM-60s and a BSS compressor. Ed’s vocal runs through a Speck Version 5 preamp.