Mix caught up with Thievery Corporation's front-of-house engineer John “Wedge” Branon when the band stopped at the San Francisco Treasure Island Festival.
How much gear are you carrying?
For the past year, we have been doing nothing but fly dates — headlining a lot of festivals and doing a few of our own shows. As soon as I get production contacts for the shows, I'm on the phone with the sound company.
As far as the P.A., I request a line array system with doubled the amount of sub. The d&b J Series rig sounds amazing, as does the Nexo rig and [Meyer Sound] MILO system. As for consoles, I love the Midas XL4 or Heritage 3000. I prefer analog over digital consoles when mixing Thievery. I want to see everything right in front of me, plus I just love the sound of them. For this show, I'm mixing on a Yamaha PM4000 supplied by Sound on Stage.
Do you have a specific mixing style?
Thievery is a very sub-low dub band. There are a few songs where it's nothing but 20 to 60 Hz, and we want everyone at the show to feel it, so I insist on adding more subs to the rig. I also insist on a minimum of four front-fills so everyone right in the front can hear everything clearly. It's a very loud sonic show!
We have an average of 17 bandmembers. We have Eric and Rob, who are Thievery Corporation, who handle beats, samples and keys, then we have two large percussion setups, a bass player, a sitar/guitar player, two horn players, a violinist, a cellist and then eight singers. Every song in the set is different, as well. I have lots of delays going on for the reggae numbers and more lush sound effects for the lounge chill songs.
For the past 20-plus years, I have mixed nothing but metal bands so coming into the Thievery camp was a complete 180 from what I'm used to. I really enjoy mixing Thievery; it's a challenge that I have never had before.