Although a quartet of classically trained cellists playing heavy metal seems a most unlikely phenomenon to take the musical world by storm, since 1993 Finnish band Apocalyptica has been gaining an ever-growing fan base by doing precisely that.
With new album Worlds Collide just released, the band has now set off on a major two-year world tour, with a DiGiCo D5 console at front of house and a D1 at monitors. The band’s FOH engineer, Michael Bauer (pictured), has been a DiGiCo user since 2003 when, with no real training, he did his first show on a DiGiCo console with the Leningrad Cowboys.
“The show was in Norway and after a quick introduction by the sound guy, I started working with the console. Within half-an-hour, I felt comfortable, which was surprising as it was the first time I had used a digital desk and I was feeling a bit nervous!” says Bauer. “For me, the console’s analog-style worksurface really helped that.”
Bauer is also the regular FOH engineer for German industrial metallers Rammstein and it was with this band that he became a regular DiGiCo user. “A month before Rammstein set out on their 2004 Reise Reise tour, we had been discussing what console to use,” he says. “It was an easy decision to go digital because I ended up with 73 inputs at FOH; if I’d used analog that would have meant two consoles and a lot of hassle!
“We compared several possible desks and the winner was clearly the DiGiCo D5. It had more headroom, better dynamics and was by far the easiest to use. We also recorded the sound for the DVD of that tour via MADI, although I don’t use the recording facility for soundchecking. It’s just my personal preference to soundcheck with the backline guys.”
The Apocalyptica tour is playing a range of club and theater-sized venues, ranging from 700 to 5,000 capacity, using an L-Acoustics dV-DOSC P.A. with Dolby Lake processing for the initial Central European leg of the tour. “For the rest of the tour, we will have local P.A.s, therefore the ability to store mix and EQ settings on the DiGiCo consoles is a really helpful tool,” he adds.
“It isn’t a particularly complex show; we have just 22 inputs, plus returns,” he says. “But the cellos are also prone to feeding back, of course. They have them set up with a mic and a piezo pickup each, and the ‘sharpness’ of the D5's input EQs really helps to prevent feedback. Carefully set, the EQ band is very narrow and the cut is almost inaudible. I’m also using the parametric EQs on every output, which are very helpful.”
Bauer is also carrying 16 channels of D-TuBe preamps, whose sound dovetails seamlessly with the D5’s EQs to give him the combination of analog sound and digital quality/versatility that he needs.
“The D5 is excellent all-round,” he says. “It takes 15 minutes to set it up and another 15 to take it down—and that’s not hurrying! And the technical support is excellent. Stefan Matthias at DiGiCo’s German distributor Atlantic Audio is a genius technician. The support of Atlantic is definitely the best I have ever had.”