At the core of DJ Shadow’s recent world tour was a bank of Focusrite Liquid Channels, all controlled by master of live sound Suneil Pusari.
“I like to try new things when I’m mixing,” says Pusari, one of the UK’s leading live sound engineers. “You need to keep challenging yourself and try taking things to a new level; otherwise, this job would get dull very fast. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but you have to go there and then, after that, keep going.”
This philosophy has helped Pusari overcome many challenges in his 12 years of live-sound work, but this latest tour was his biggest challenge yet: transferring the sound of the mighty DJ Shadow to the live arena.
“I’ve always been a fan of DJ shadow,” Pusari says. “He is such a pioneer, and I have always been impressed by his ability to constantly change and develop, so when I was approached to come with him on a world tour, I was more than ready to commit. I had spent the last few years working with bands, so I was really happy to be able to go back into doing dance-based music. I spent many years doing drum ‘n’ bass and Asian dance, so the idea of being able to excite and scare people with subbass again was a welcome return! Having an audience that likes to dance is a wonderful thing.”
Pusari had previously worked with Focusrite’s Liquid Channels on tour with Athlete, so he already knew what they had to offer. “I found them to be great over the final mix, giving me the freedom to choose what color to give to my mix on either certain tracks or sections of the show,” he says. Pusari quickly realized that this quality would come in handy with the new challenges of the DJ Shadow live show.
“With DJ Shadow, I really needed flexibility in terms of controlling compression and the overall color of his tracks,” he says. “During a live Shadow set, [DJ Shadow] incorporates and mixes up material that he has recorded over a period that spans 12 years, so you get some of his new hip-hop tracks, which are very clean and subby, mixed in with beats or tracks from [Shadow’s classic album] Endtroducing, which is warm and analog. As you can imagine, the actual tracks have very different production values. I used four Liquid Channels to help me master the program that he sends me to try and get a more coherent sound over the whole show.
“The overall result, using the Liquid Channels, was something I was very happy with,” Pusari continues. “They made it far easier and definitely a more accurate a way of working. The ability to store settings and programs meant that I was not only able to change compressor simulations but also set the functions specifically for each track. I could tailor attack and release times, compression and EQ for certain beats or sounds. By changing compressor emulations, I could choose the coloration of how each track sounded and, by manipulating the settings, I could control tone and space in the mix.
“When I think of how I achieved so many changes in terms of compressors and settings, I am just amazed,” he continues. “I don’t think there is actually a viable way without having banks of different old-school compressors all rooted to different groups, and that just wouldn’t work in the live situation. Changes have to be instantaneous, as fast as switching or recalling a scene.”