As Scottish rock band Simple Minds embarks on its 47-date Acoustic Live tour of the UK and Europe, Front of House engineer Olivier (Gégé’) Gérard has completely re-worked his live microphone list to capture the acoustic essence of these concerts.
At the heart of the new set-up are a selection of DPA d:screet™ Miniature, d:dicate™ Recording, d:facto™ Vocal and d:vote™ Instrument microphones, each chosen for their audio quality and natural, transparent sound. The fact that they also have great resistance to ‘spill’ and translate so well in the final mix is, says Gégé, a major bonus.
“I’ve been working with Simple Minds since 2012, but this tour is different because the band is playing in an acoustic style,” Gégé explains. “They have worked with the concept and have delivered new life into the songs included on Acoustic, their most recent album. It’s a new energy and a new experience through songs that were worldwide hits when they were originally released. Therefore, from a live point of view, it is quite a challenge.”
To meet this challenge, Gégé decided to stick with the sound of the album which he describes as ‘much more roots and raw’. He needed microphones that could capture the detail and nuances of an acoustic performance so he turned to DPA’s Belgium distributor Amptec – a company he holds in high regard thanks to their extensive product knowledge – for help and advice.
“Amptec’s Pro Audio Sales Manager, Dany Meeuwissen, suggested I try DPA microphones some years ago, but I was in the middle of a tour and I didn’t want to change the mics at that stage because it can have an impact on the monitoring – it is very easy to get the routing out of balance just by changing one small thing,” Gégé says. “However, on this occasion I got Dany to look at my patch and he proposed miking the whole percussion set with DPA. I went for it because I know DPA microphones sound great and because I was going for inconspicuous microphones to complete the idea of the ‘Acoustic’ concept. I also needed superior sound and high SPL handling, which DPA was able to deliver.”
The percussion line up now includes five d:vote™ 4099 Instrument Microphones on toms, hi-hat, snare bottom, chimes and bells; a d:screet™ 4061 Miniature Omnidirectional Microphone on the Cajón; a d:dicate™ 2011A Twin Diaphragm Cardioid Microphone on the bass drum and six d:dicate™ 2011C Compact Cardioid Microphones on the two snares, underheads and gong.
“The first thing that drew my attention was the lack of spill,” Gégé says. “With other microphones I’ve tried, the more mics you open together the more mid-high harshness you get in the mix. When I opened all the DPA percussion mics together, everything was there – I didn’t have to incorporate any EQ because I could clearly hear the source of the sound.”
Gégé adds that with DPA you hear what you get – nothing more, nothing less. “The sound is very transparent and natural,” he says, “and the dynamic is also really amazing as the sound does not disappear if the musician is taking it down. Cherisse (Osei on percussion, who has also worked with Mika, Bryan Ferry and Paloma Faith) uses a bass drum with a punch that is higher than you would expect but the d:dicate™ 2011A really renders it at its best. I also use a Kelly SHU kick drum microphone mounting system on the drum and the gong, and this really takes the sound to another level.”
Gégé is also using four d:facto™ Vocal Microphones – two wireless and two wired – for backing and guest vocalists. These include Sarah Brown, who has previously worked as a backing singer for Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, George Michael and Simply Red.
“The d:facto™ is absolutely great for her because she has very wide range and diversity in her sound,” he explains. “Most microphones would be great when she is giving it, but I would have had to jump on the Highpass when she became smoother and warmer. With the d:facto™, the sound stands in the mix as naturally as the rest of the DPAs.”
Although this is the first time Gégé has used DPA microphones for percussion, he is actually no stranger to the brand and has been using d:vote™ 4099 Instrument Microphones on strings for years.
“I did two tours and an album with a string quartet using d:vote™ 4099s and I’ve also used them on them on string ensembles touring with Hooverphonic and Natalie Merchant,” he says. “Another DPA mic that I have used intensively is the d:screet™ 4091 Omnidirectional Microphone. Twelve years ago, on tour with a Jazz singer, I had that idea of putting an omni mic on top of the bass drum at the drummer’s side. The 4091 looks more like an antenna then an actual mic, so it was very inconspicuous. I heavily compressed it with a smooth attack and a quick release and added the rest of the microphones to fill in. I was very happy with the results; I had a nice balance of all the drums sounds at that spot and the 4091 was easily able to take the loudest sound pressure levels. Now I always use it for “dynamic” drummers, where the dynamic of the drums is tricky on big PAs, because it gives you a steady base where you keep all the detail when it’s well compressed.”
The Simple Minds Acoustic Live tour is currently making its way around Europe and will reach the UK on May 17th. Summing up his experience with DPA, Gégé says: “I am more than happy with the quality and the results. The d:dicate™ 2011C Microphone is amazing – the best snare mic ever, even for loud bands – while the 2011A on the kick drum is great because of its natural sound. Having DPA for the whole percussion set and the vocals helps with the legendary spill because it is no longer a problem leaving some channels open.”
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