The pairing of Marilyn Manson and Hole was surrounded by controversy from the get-go. Unofficially dubbed the “Beautiful Monsters” tour by Hole bassist Melissa Auf der Maur, the package set out on a 40-city journey, only to “crash and burn.” Nine shows into the tour, Hole announced their departure, then Manson injured his ankle so severely that several shows were canceled. Mix caught the sixth and seventh shows at the Cow Palace in San Francisco and the Arco Arena in Sacramento, Calif., before all hell broke loose.
THE DOPE SHOWMarilyn Manson put on a spectacle. The stage set included a cross made of televisions, which was set on fire, and a huge, flashing “DRUGS” sign. Pseudo-Fascist iconography was draped behind a priest’s pulpit-nose-thumbing that infuriates ultra-conservatives but appeals to the band’s young, freaky followers. Fueling its controversial imagery, the band generates a roaring blend of industrial rock, with a nod to glam and a snide take on goth.
Front of house engineer Brad Madix has been with Marilyn Manson since the band’s October theater tour and has worked with Electrotec and its Crown-powered V-DOSC speaker system for a long time. “The V-DOSC software makes for an easy transition,” says Madix. “The bump up to arenas changes the lighting and stage show more than the sound.” Each day Madix and system tech Jim Staniforth use range-finding binoculars to measure the venue. Then they plug the dimensions into the V-DOSC spreadsheet in order to pinpoint exact coverage angles and determine the numbers of cabinets to be flown. The side arrays, flown six to eight deep depending on the venue, are used to help produce a stereo image for people seated on the sides of the arena.
“Because the V-DOSC system is pretty predictable about how its going to throw into the room, we can decide if we’re going to go ten-deep or 12-deep,” explains Madix. “We play with the angles before we even start putting it up.” Madix also uses Metric Halo’s Spectrafoo and EAW SMAART Pro software packages for acoustic measurements.
The Marilyn Manson show feels and looks chaotic, but Madix stresses that this is one of the few bands he’s worked with who didn’t need help getting their live sound together. “They know what they want,” says Madix. “They give me carte blanche as far as how I accomplish it, but when we talked about how something should sound, it’s about how it came off on the record.”
The 35 inputs from the stage are routed to a Midas XL4 console at FOH, which Madix selected because he loves the EQ and because its scene recall function allows him to change effects sends and routing easily during the show. Many of the band inputs are dedicated to Manson’s arsenal of mics: an Audio-Technica headset (73a mic through a ATN T75 transmitter) he uses while skittering around stage on very tall stilts and crutches, a Shure wireless Beta 58 and a slew of wired Shure Beta 58s, which he regularly destroys during the show. Monitor mixer Maxie Williams has a collection of damaged mics that have been split open or sport exploded capsules. “Manson respects me enough to not throw the wireless into the crowd,” says Williams, who acknowledges Shure for keeping the tour stocked with replacements.
Even when he’s not trying to kill the mic, Manson’s vocals can be a challenge. “Because the vocals are often distorted and/or covered with some strange effect, I have to be really careful to keep the high end of the vocal mic clear so that the untreated vocal has a bandwidth that can cut through,” says Madix. “Also, I have to pay attention to the low-midrange in the vocal, because low-mids tend to get pretty cloudy in arenas. I limit the vocal using a UREI 1178 and then I use a BSS901 dynamic equalizer, which allows his voice to be bright without getting too abrasive and ducks out the low-midrange when it tries to pop out. Also, I use a BBE Sonic Maximizer across the vocal subgroup, which helps the vocal and the vocal effects cut through.”
Vocal mics aren’t the only ones that get smashed. The entire stage is at risk, and it’s common for the band to trash everything at the end of a set. Because of this, both bass and guitar go through Hughes and Kettner DIs only. Madix “stereo-izes” John 5’s heavily effected, mono guitar signal by running it through a Harmonizer.
Drummer Ginger’s two kicks are miked with Shure SM91s, and Madix uses a Ddrum trigger clamped onto each rim to trigger a big low-end (50 to 60Hz) sample for the house mix. A pair of Audio-Technica 23HEs pick up the snare top, with AT4053s on the snare bottom, hi-hat and ride. Shure SM98s are used on the toms and AT4050’s for overheads. “I actually get a lot of sound out of the overheads-more than a lot of bands I’ve worked with,” comments Madix.
The keyboardist, Pogo, runs his instruments through an onstage mixer. According to Madix, Pogo has put much time and effort into programming, including some very dramatic stereo panning. “I simply take the output of his mixer direct and insert Aphex Dominators on the left and right to really define the dynamic range of the keyboard parts,” says Madix. “Regardless of the sound he plays, or the level that comes out of the mixer, I can sit his parts right in the mix.
“The entire band is distorted,” Madix continues. “You have to find a place to stick everything in the mix so they don’t wipe each other out. At some points, it’s supposed to sound like one big thing, but you still need to define the beginning of one and the ending of another. [I try to] find places in the bass where it’ll react to EQ in the midrange, some 1k to punch up the bass, maybe pull some of that out of the guitar and put something a bit higher on the guitar so that it cuts through.”
FLIP THE BIRD MEANS TURN IT UPWilliams has mixed monitors for Marilyn Manson for five years. “It’s been interesting,” he admits. “As Manson says, ‘It’s been a long, hard road out of hell.'” As Manson’s popularity has increased, so has the number of inputs. Williams was using a Midas XL3 console for the theater tour last year, so, for the move to arenas, he upgraded from a 16-channel expander to a 24. He has gone from eight mixes to 16 and is now trying to find one more output and input.
A new addition to Williams’ effects rack for this tour is a TC Electronic Finalizer. “It’s everything built in that you could ever ask for,” says Williams, who uses it to replace four or five rackspaces worth of EQs and compressors. “It’s on Manson,” he says. “Same thing for Ginger’s ears.”
Since the MTV music awards, Manson and drummer Ginger have been using Ultimate Ears UE5 Pros in-ear monitors fed by a Shure PSN600 transmitter/receiver. But the band is very keen on low end and is not yet ready to give up the custom-designed Electrotec wedges, which feature JBL components and are all Crown- powered. Ginger gets a double-18 subwoofer and a shaker for his drum throne. In addition to the flown V-DOSC sidefills, there are 18 subwoofers on deck.
Williams says that in-ear monitors make his job a lot easier. “Manson now has everybody in his ears except background vocals, whereas in the clubs I may’ve had just vocals in the floor wedge with guitar. Now Manson’s hearing a lot of everything-drums, guitars, D88 left and right-and I run a mono SPX900 reverb and a 5565 mono delay on him. He’s not much into reverb, so I just dampen his vocal a little so he doesn’t sound like he’s in a little box by himself. We get along a lot better now.”
AROUND THE HOLE STAGEThough Hole’s stage setup is Spartan compared to Marilyn Manson’s, their sound is full-on. FOH mixer Jacques Von Lunen strives to blend Hole’s post-punk rock/L.A. pop mood swings into a powerful squall. Courtney Love’s petulant attitude, whisper-to-scream singing style and occasional aggro guitar strumming attract a lot of media attention and teen fandom, but the wall of sound can be attributed to founding member Eric Erlandson’s guitar playing and songwriting abilities.
Erlandson plays through two true stereo pairs onstage-one set by Mesa Boogie, the other by Matchless-and all four cabinets are miked with Sennheiser 409s. Erlandson controls his two racks of various effects with his own switching system, so Von Lunen concentrates on adjusting overall EQs and levels in the more reverberant rooms. “I don’t do anything else to the signal,” he says. “I assign the four mics to one VCA master so I can change the balance of the whole guitar sound to the rest of the band from song to song.”
Love made the transition to a Shure wireless on this tour, singing into a Beta 58A capsule. Bassist Auf der Maur just switched from an Audix OM5 to OM6 vocal mic, and Von Lunen is pleased with the improved off-axis rejection. Both vocal inputs are run through Summit mic pre’s, Klark Teknik EQs and Antares Autotune automatic pitch correction devices. “It’s just great because, unless you’re the most seasoned performer, you’re never going to be pitch-perfect,” explains Von Lunen. “You know, bad room sound, running around and all that. With Autotune that problem’s solved.”
According to Von Lunen, visuals are important for Hole, and the band “don’t want the stage looking like a music store.” All but four mics are mounted, and there are no high-flying drum overheads-the pair of AKG 414s are only three or four inches from the cymbals, almost pointing at drummer Samantha Maloney. “It would be nice to have a pair up high,” says Von Lunen, “but this configuration is great for eliminating spill from guitar amps.” A Shure B52 gathers the body of the kick drum, and an SM91 adds in a “silky top end.” Around the kit there’s a Beta 57A on snare, AKG 451 on hi- hat and 460 on the ride cymbal. After some A/B’ing, von Lunen switched from Sennheiser 504s to Audix D4s on the toms. “For this kit, at least, it works great,” he says. “The toms are really present; you can hear them through a wall of guitars.”
Love’s guitar setup is rock-simple, says von Lunen-one effects pedal and a Boogie amp and cabinet, miked offstage. Auf der Maur plays her bass through an SVT810 cab and a reissue of the old Ampeg B15, powered by Ampeg SVTs. Von Lunen loved the sound of the B15 and tried miking it, but had to crank the mic so high it picked up everything else onstage. He reverted to a combination of Countryman DI and a D112 on the 8×10 cab, which help the bass cut right through.
IN-EAR MISSIONARYAutotune may help the vocals out front, but monitor mixer Michael Prowda gets them going in the right direction by weaning the group away from wedges and into in-ears. Love, Auf der Maur and Maloney are all on Ultimate Ear UE5s, though each still relies a bit on wedges, mostly for “feel.” Erlandson sticks with a couple of wedges and the sidefills, which include three V-DOSC cabinets plus three Electrotec single-18s per side.
Prowda experimented with different outboard gear, adding a Summit mic pre and Tube-Tech tube compressor for Love’s vocals. “The Summit is cool,” he says. “It has this little overdrive function where if she’s screaming it distorts a little bit and gives the illusion of loudness.” The 40 inputs on the Midas XL3 are all in use, thanks to audience mics and several stereo effects returns. Prowda’s station mirrors Marilyn Manson’s. “The outputs from my Midas that go to the sidefills and wedges have to get to the amp racks onstage left,” he explains. “The most expedient way of doing this is to go through Maxie’s console via the Group Sub ins. I have Maxie bypass his graphic EQs on those mixes and am able to be independent of his EQ settings.”
YOU TAKE THE LOW ROAD, I’LL TAKE THE LOW-MID ROADAt FOH, Von Lunen’s Midas XL3 sits next to Madix’s XL4. Von Lunen is using 25 inputs from the stage and seven stereo returns. The effects are “standard stuff,” says Von Lunen-Lexicon 480, TC 2290, two Yamaha REV5s, a Yamaha SPX90 for some distortion patches, 12 BSS compressors and eight Drawmer gates.
At show number six, Von Lunen was still getting used to the V-DOSC system. “I’m liking it a lot better than at the beginning,” he admits. “I am impressed with the control of it, the pattern; there’s no reflections from the roof, and that by itself is really nice. It definitely takes a different approach. You have to be very careful about EQ and phasing and things being panned a certain way. It’s really important, and sometimes it’s hard to keep track of during a fairly wild live show.”
When the lights went down in the boxy arenas, the engineers rose to the challenge. Both bands sounded good enough to get the goth/indie-dressed kids dancing and singing along, at least when the two camps weren’t trading insults and hand gestures. Too bad the rest of the country won’t get to experience the uneasy yin-yang of Hole and Marilyn Manson.