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Tour Profile: Primus

For the neophyte at a Primus show, the chant struck up by the band's diehard fans seems disconcerting: “Primus sucks! Primus sucks!” “It just keeps happening and won't go away,” front-of-house engineer Derek Featherstone says with a laugh, from The Fillmore in Denver “The chant dates back to the band's early days.”

For the neophyte at a Primus show, the chant struck up by the band’sdiehard fans seems disconcerting: “Primus sucks! Primussucks!” “It just keeps happening and won’t go away,”front-of-house engineer Derek Featherstone says with a laugh, from TheFillmore in Denver “The chant dates back to the band’s earlydays.”

After several years away doing other projects, Primus —bassist Les Claypool, drummer Tim Alexander and guitarist Larry LaLonde— hit the road again this past fall. They have always recordedtheir live shows for archiving, and this tour is no different. Eachshow is offered for download to fans at www.primuslive.comat $9.95 for an MP3 and $12.95 for a FLAC CD-quality file.

“I am taking the 44 inputs from the band plus two Sennheisershotgun mics onstage for audience and mixing that to 2-tracklive,” Featherstone explains. “The combined 2-track mixgoes through a little left/right compression and is split to two CD-Rsand a DAT. I stagger the CD-Rs so they run continuously; usually, Istart the second one after about 60 minutes. The DAT is a backup. Thenext morning, we FedEx either the CD-R or DAT to Back Office Music inCalifornia where they are prepared for upload. The set list is scannedeach night and e-mailed to Zoltron who prepares the CD artwork andgraphics you can also download.”

Featherstone, who works through Pro Media/UltraSound, has been withPrimus for almost 14 years — “a crazy thought,” hesays. Featherstone is using a Gamble EX56 console, which he’s beenusing with the band on every tour since 1991. “It has incrediblygood mic preamps, a good EQ section and is very flexible because of thepatchbay. It’s a great-sounding console.”

Featherstone keeps a rack of effects handy at FOH. “I have acouple of Eventide H3500s, a TC Electronic M5000 dual-engine unit and aTC 2290. For distorted choruses, there is a Roland SDE2500. I have ahandful of Aphex and borrowed Crane Song compressors, and one UREI LA-3for the kick drum. I also have several Aphex 622 noise gates. Primus isa pretty effects-heavy band. I’ve had most of my effects units for 10years and have [more than 50] presets stored for each song — theidea being that there is a consistency between effects used on therecords and what we reproduce live. On top of that, Tim uses someeffects of his own for the drum solo, and Les uses a fair amount ofeffects processing for loops, distortion and samples.”

Featherstone’s drum miking scheme is pretty extensive. For kick, hehas an Audio-Technica AT2500, a Shure SM57 on snare and AKG 460s on thetwo hi-hats. For the three rack toms and the two floor toms, he employsSennheiser 409s. Featherstone mikes the four Octobans with ATM35s,while the gong bass drum gets an Electro-Voice RE-20. On overheads,there are two Audio-Technica AT4050s, and the ride cymbal gets an AKG460. On guitars, Featherstone has three channels of Shure SM57 on thecabinets. For bass, he uses Countryman DIs, though he doesn’t mikeClaypool’s cabinets.

All vocal mics are Shure SM57s with a Shure 520DX on Claypool’sGreen Bullet harmonica mic for an effects mic. Claypool also has awireless helmet mic on one song. “I think it is a Radio Shackcellular headset microphone with a Shure wireless unit.”

This tour, Primus is using a JBL VerTec line array system. “Wehave a total of 12 VT4880 subs and 20 VT4889 cabinets. We also use someMeyer MSL2s for front- and near-fills. We power the system withLabgruppen amplifiers with XTA processors. For system tuning, we runtwo BSS Soundwebs 9088ii with custom software. This is controlled withan IBM Think Pad and a second Think Pad running SIA Smaart Live Version5.2. Monitor engineer Tom Lyon, system tech Tony Norris and productionmanager Tim ‘Quake’ Mark all share duties in tuning thesystem.”

Lyon is using a Gamble EX68 console. “It’s actually an FOHboard,” he says, “but the old-style patchbay lets you putanything where you want it, so I run the subgroups as aux sends. I’musing a total of two mixes of [Meyer] wedges, two of sidefills and astereo in-ear feed for Tim, who is using Sensaphonics ear monitors. Ilove the sonic quality of the Gamble and that I can route anythinganywhere.”

Lyon has a Yamaha SPX990 for ambient reverbs for the in-ears, butkeeps it light. “Everything else is pretty dry. There is a littlebit of outboard EQ and very few compressors in the monitor system. Ihave to keep it nice and loud to overcome the amps; fortunately, theguys are pretty self-policing about stage volume. We’ve been out for 10days so far and it’s been pretty smooth.”

Candace Horgan is a freelance writer based in the Denverarea.