HOPEWELL JUNCTION, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 2010: Iconic indie-rock band Modest Mouse gained its near-legendary status just outside of pop music’s burning spotlight with a series of convention-breaking albums and a rigorous touring schedule that exposed its music to new fans. Despite selling over three million albums to date, the band is still very much in control of its creative destiny, and Modest Mouse concerts have taken on a mystique that draws hundreds of thousands to arenas and festivals during every tour. The band’s production manager and FOH engineer Philip Harvey (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs) fights to balance the tortuous logistics of his first job with the aesthetic rewards of his second job. He counts on Metric Halo’s SpectraFoo audio analysis software to quickly dial in the right balance at soundcheck and to diagnose any real-time problems during the show. He utilizes a Metric Halo ULN-8 interface, integrated with
a Soundcraft Vi6 console, both to provide live effects and to commit each night’s performance to a hard drive archive.
Harvey travels with an Earthworks TC30K omni-directional measurement-grade microphone and SpectraFoo audio analysis software. Despite its multitude of measurement functions, he uses SpectraFoo primarily for its “bread-and-butter” real-time frequency analyzer. “I switched to SpectraFoo from another popular analysis software when I had the opportunity to try them head to head,” Harvey explained. “SpectraFoo regularly revealed peaks that the other one missed. After setting up and tuning the system, I keep SpectraFoo up during the show to quickly identify any frequency aberrations.”
Harvey mixes Modest Mouse on a Soundcraft Vi6 large-frame digital console. Noteworthy for its intuitive interface, the Vi6 also provides easy digital aux sends and insert points with AES/EBU connections, which Harvey uses to patch in a Metric Halo ULN-8 FireWire interface. Rare in the domain of portable interfaces, the ULN-8 packs a powerful and comprehensive DSP package. With Modest Mouse, Harvey uses Metric Halo’s TransientControl, dynamics processor for drums and a distortion macro for select moments on Isaac Brock’s lead vocals. Such demanding live use would be impossible with most interfaces, which incur obvious and audible delay. The TransientControl delivers all the processing Harvey requires with less than a millisecond of latency even at low sample rates. This is key for connecting to many live digital consoles that run at 44.1 or 48kHz.
Part of the package Harvey offers to his high-profile clients is complete show archives. “I figure, they’ll never play this show again,” he says. “Why not take up a few hundred megabytes and archive it? With the ULN-8, I can reliably offer that service without distracting me from my other important tasks.” He records with a spaced pair of omni-directional Schoeps MK2S condensers at the FOH position along with the mix left & right output from the Soundcraft. He uses SpectraFoo during soundcheck to pinpoint the delay between those signals and then uses the ULN-8’s DSP to delay the direct outs back to meet the microphones.
“I’m really quite spoiled by the ULN-8,” he said. “I’ve tried a number of other popular interfaces and am immediately struck by their limitations. The ULN-8 does whatever I need it to do, and it does it exceptionally well. It has the best sounding preamps, the lowest latency, and the most analog-sounding processing. And it’s still just one rack space.” That small size was an asset during the recording of The White Stripes’ new DVD, Under Great White Northern Lights, which took the duo (and Harvey) on a tour of obscure venues in Canada. Harvey used a small rack of five Metric Halo interfaces (including both ULN-8s and 2882s) to record forty tracks at each show for subsequent mixdown.
ABOUT METRIC HALO Based in New York’s Hudson Valley, Metric Halo provides the world with high-resolution metering, analysis, recording and processing solutions with award-winning software and future-proof hardware. www.mhlabs.com
PHOTO CAPTION Recording and FOH engineer Philip Harvey recently completed his tour with Modest Mouse using both Metric Halo’s SpectraFoo and ULN-8 interface.