Photo: C. Taylor Crothers 2006
Bluesman Taj Mahal is currently out touring with drummer Kester Smith and bassist Bill Rich; handling all system requirements is FOH engineer Rich Vink, who relies mostly on house gear, but carries a few choice mics and a smattering of outboard.
How much does your mixing change because you're relying on house systems?
The rate of change keeps me limber. Touring is a balance of known and unknown quantities. The band has been working together for some 30 years in various configurations and they bring a compelling “true north” to the proceedings. I'm familiar with most of the gear and venues — trips to Cuba and some off-brand digital desks aside. With all the different rental gear we see, I have a great day with a line array rig, where the tom-toms don't sound like cardboard.
What is your mic setup?
For Taj's vocal, the Neumann 105 fits like a glove right from the get-go. All the “slither and croak” in Taj's voice comes through crystal-clear and being able to work two feet off the mic is liberating for a singer who's playing guitar at the same time.
Are you working with a monitor engineer?
No. The low-maintenance/subtle approach this band thrives on can be a bit elusive to a systems guy coming in out of the cold, so the band prefers when I can do [everything] from FOH. When the channel EQ or insert — compression, in my case — affects the send going to the monitors, I may split the input signal at FOH so I can have separate channel strips for things like kick drum or lead vocal.
When you're not on the road, where can we find you?
Outdoors, on or around water, or working on my own musical outlet, Bluegill, with my esteemed colleague, J. Bradley.