Arriving at venue I was told that our long time drum tech Chris Warren is in the hospital. Pants hooked on a nail inverting and dropping him face first onto a concrete floor while scooting off the stage. Severe injuries, talk of him going home. He is one of the most friendly, lovable and wonderful people I have ever had the honor to meet, let alone be friends with for many years. I am not supposed to cry but my eyes water as I press back the mental image and wish I could erase the event. Chris is part of the family.
Chris at SNL:
The show ran smoothly, it is huge and impressive. And all goes well for me except for the lighting pods that drop in front of the PA system and screw with the sound. Fortunately, I could use the dual PA system to get the sound around them but they sure make things a lot tougher on me when they drop in.
The round things are the aforementioned evil "Pods." And as cool as they look, dropping in like alien ships, they are not my friends.
Normally Pods would have won "Issue of the Day" but with Chris being hurt, it seems silly. Also there will be no highlights today either. Just all the warm wishes and compassion I can send his way and an overwhelming desire for Chris' recovery.
8am, heading over to the market down the street, buy some fresh fruit, the market is awesome, everything you could want, every type of fruit, many I have never seen before, cheeses, fish, meat, chicken heads, all the necessities.
Today everyone will finish with setting up their gear, looming (taping cables together in convenient groupings), labeling, adapting and so on. It is really about making sure it all can go up fast and come down even faster.
**** Issue of the Day - Rotating PA clusters ****
In order to keep the chain motor count down, we went with 2 motors per PA cluster rather than 3. That means we only need sixteen sound motors rather than 24. With 3 motors we can use a delta plate that allows us to rotate the pa a bit after it is flown, with two the heavy speaker cables drooping from the sides tends to spin the clusters and even a few inches of variation in the rigging points can screw things up both sonically and aesthetically. Lee, the Rat Sound crew chief, came up with the idea of using â€œbridging poles.â€ Metal tubes that would connect to the rear of the clusters and keep them aligned, after a bit of trial and error, all good!
Our lead rigger is Fletch. His gig is to get all the points up. That means that humans climb way up in the ceiling, drop ropes, pull up chains and attach the chains to steel ropes wrapped around beams. Many of the points need to be in very precise locations, especially sound. Even a few inches off can screw things up. To adjust the location of the point, various lengths of wire rope are used to triangulate the drop. Translation = mathematical quagmire.
Long day. Gear is in and mostly up and running, a few patches and gremlins left to deal with but it is getting close.
Two PA systems! Dual left and dual right clusters for the mains plus dual side hangs as well. Typically, two sound systems covering the same area is a bad idea. Multiple sound sources in close proximity reproducing the same signal creates comb filtering (bad stuff). One of the big advantages of using a line array system, in the first place, is not having multiple horizontal sources in close proximity and practically eliminating that issue. But I do not have to worry about that, I wont have comb filter issues.
The concept is that there will be two sound systems and each will reproduce different instruments. There is an "outer" and an "inner" system with both covering the same acoustic space. I am currently running about eight feet between the clusters on each side. Additionally, the distance between the clusters will allow me to alter the acoustic source of any instrument or vocal by sliding it from one system to the other. The idea of sliding acoustic source came to me while watching Green Day at Staples Center.
The lights looked awesome, new angles, new looks for every song. The video was clear and looks kept changing and video came from various screens. The pyro jumped from new places each time with impact and surprise and the sound was excellent and song after song, that great sound pounded from the exact same unseen location behind the scrim. I started thinking that all the other crafts have developed motion, surprise, changing source location yet â€œsoundâ€ is still tethered to the 40 year old "stereo" paradigm. Why donâ€™t our speakers move? Why not have the sound come from closer to the band for intimate acoustic songs and explode to bigger, wider speakers for powerful songs?
It is kind of depressing. I live in a world of sound and while all the other show production entities bask in the excitement of diversity, I am relegated to pump what ever I wish through the exact same portals. I have no depth; I can only emulate depth through the use of effects that simulate depth that I jam through my fixed points of sound.
What if sound sources moved during the show? Lights do. Video walls do. Why not sound? While they focus on impact, beauty and intensity; Sound remains trapped in the Grail quest of acoustic perfection in crap acoustics environments.To make matters worse, 'sound' has done a good job of evolving into the budgetary black sheep of the tour production family but itâ€™s only due own our own lack of creativity and presentation.
Video humans make show reels to demonstrate their skills and sell their concepts. Lighting humans make mock ups and beautiful 3D cad drawings to show their ideas and â€˜looks.â€™ Sound, well hmmm, how many speakers do we need to cover the room? Only to have them cut down for budget reasons, rigging weights or truck space. How absurd is it that in an industry built on selling music that sound is so low on the totem pole. How absurd is it that so few rock shows truly sound amazing?
My first 'call sheet' appeared under my door last night. Forty six humans listed plus Scott and Grier. First call time is 6:30 am, I am listed at 11:30am. The Rat sound crew on this tour consists of three system techs (Lee the crew chief, Manny and Neil), Nick the Fly as FOH tech and Daniel as monitor tech. The five of them are responsible for keeping this beast of a PA system set up on time and in the right spots, loaded out fast and running smooth. On monitors we have Mark with and at front of house, hey, it's me! Mark and I are the ones who pretty much spend the tour breaking the things that the techs try and keep running. Seven humans dedicated to noise.
Lobby call is now a 1/2 hour away, must find coffee.
The bed-glue sensation that comes with jet lag is not like any other form of exhaustion. Heavy bloodless limbs sinking into the bed, head stuffed with molasses drenched cotton balls. Thick dreary mud.
It's puzzling to think about how the body knows, its not dehydration, must of drank 6 bottles of water, no alcohol in weeks. I don't take drugs, rarely even aspirin and no go on the sleep aids. I maintained my eating pattern so the only thing I can think of is the sedentary process of over-sitting or the air pressure changes of flight does something screwy to my body. In any case, going to try and break out of the muck and do some swimming. No desire to play jet lag games.
**** Highlight of the Day - The Beach ****
Back from the beach with Scott and his wife Anna and it was awesome!. Reluctantly agreed to a 5 Euro massage from one of many people offering various things in the sun. Talk about amazing! Who would of knew, it ended up being 45 minutes of bliss for 20 Euro. This rules!
**** Issue of the Day - Ear Molds ****
We have a new monitor engineer on this run (9th in as many years) and with the change came a rush order for In Ear molds to match the band's type. These things are little speakers like the ones that come with an iPod except they are custom fit to each human. It would not be good to start a tour with a mon engineer that has unmatched molds, shipping Fed Ex to Europe risks unacceptable import/customs delays.
The Sound System
The PA for this tour is really cool! And I sure hope it all works as planned. Like the last Peppers tour I will be using a V-Dosc system again but this time it will be quite unique. Last November I was in Mexico on the most dreamy holiday when the email came. There is to be a phone conference ASAP with Peter (Band Management), Bill (Production Manager), Grier (Video and Set Designer) and myself to discuss the plans and concepts for the upcoming tour. It must be special, new and fresh, Peter asked us all "what can be done to push production to the next level and and make this tour extraordinary?".
Like a dream come true, to design a sound system that is new and exciting, I told him I would work on my part of the equation. It needs to be something that sounds great and is not a one-shot-wonder effect. Quadraphonic is too limited and only applies to audience within the quad coverage field plus it pulls focus away from the stage. I want something that benefits all that attend. The band changes their set every night so having a 'song based effect' would not apply either. Furthermore, Peppers' free form spontaneity requires a high level of flexibility.
**** Sound Nerd Speak ****
The idea that evolved was based on knowledge I acquired designing the MicroWedge monitors. I had done quite a bit of research and was able to recreate and prove that speaker have reduced clarity as you increase the complexity of the signal sent to them. It is fairly easy to demonstrate, just listen to a vocal mic through two speakers at a mid to high volume and then add in a 50 hz tone at high volume. It blurs the vocals. Now use two speakers with the vocal in one and the tone in the other and the vocal will stay clear. There are several issues but I believe the main one has to do with the speaker efficiency while the voice coil is centered in the gap. The speaker is less efficient when the voice coil is at its extremes, the 50 hz tone reduces the time that the voice coil is centered. Some monitor engineers run separate instrument and vocal wedges for this reason. What if I applied that setup on a grand scale? Two PA's!
**** End Sound Nerd Speak ****
Here are some pics from our production days at the Forum in LA
We are also doing some cool stuff with the subs and I will cover that on another day.
Also it is very important to notice the blow up doll that they use to focus lights.
The Gathering is like animal critters arriving at the watering hole. Waves of familiar and soon to be familiar humans flood the hotel as each arriving flight dumps off new ones. Production is first to arrive. I sat next to Big Daddy, whom I met 20 years ago. We had a blast catching up on old times and Danzig/Soundgarden tour in 1990 we did together and it remains a constant source of funny stories. Who would have known that Danzig's body guard, Jessie James, would end up on TV married to Sandra Bollock!
I find 'our people' just wandering the street, searching for food or beer or just wandering then clustering and wandering some more. It is our new stomping ground. Lighting, riggers, sound and tomorrow we get backline techs. When all is said and done, there will be 50 or so crew from across the globe all here for a common goal. To build us a killer rock show!
Barcelona seems to have an amazingly high quantity of street artists that stand really still and each has some unique presentation, some are better than others.
These guys ride bikes with their skeleton friends
and some cowboys
and my favorite was just too realistic to even describe
Â I almost failed the jet lag battle and passed out, fortunately to be saved by a phone call. Never nap on a trans-euro flight landing day. Stay awake till after midnight at least, or you will pay the price for many days.
Let's see, I am 43, we tour this year, we tour next year, if past experience is an indicator, I will be 45 when the tour ends and my daughters will be 12. Hmmm, that is kind of scary. Yikes!
This where I fall into "why am I here mode." Well, it's not out of need, Rat world is doing well and the challenges there keep me happy and financially stable enough. More cities? I have seen enough, I have a back log list of places I want to revisit, when I am not working, too long to ever fulfill. Ultimately the answer of whether the adventure is worth the sacrifice will unravel itself with my personal happiness as the barometer.
I do know that these are 'my people.' I feel a welcome-ness and depth of belonging that I experience in no other group of humans. At home, I enjoy a relatively solitary existence. Family, a few friends I see on occasion, peaceful, focused and wrapped in projects that I seek out to solve. But here I feel like I glow. I know this world. Strangely familiar cities and wires and knobs and endless streams of puzzles that appear in the form of broken things need fixing. The creation of sonic landscapes. This is the forest I know like the back of my hand and these are my people.
I wake up out of a jet fly haze to the sound of an upset voice. Something about a missing wallet. All her money, passport, credit cardsÂ in said wallet haveÂ disappeared on the plane, while flying! Yikes, talk about a bummer. To make matters worse, immigration was on the jet way and she was trapped in the nether world. Not allowed into the country and yet has to leave the plane, flying alone on business, ouch. Just before security I turned around went back and handed her a fifty English pound note (about $90 us dollars). She told me thank you but she was ok, they will surely give her some $. IÂ insistedÂ she take it and gave her my email address as she promised to pay it back. I received an email the next day that she had ended up needing the $ for a cab to the hotelÂ after all. Who would have guessed it was a bank holiday and they cleared her into the country but gave her nothing.
They found her wallet on the plane sometime later, money was gone.Â I lose enough things in my travels, where having some credits in the "help me out department" can't be bad. That was at the plane change in Paris.
Starting up a major tour is kind of a big deal. Having already completed 3 weeks of Euro promotional dates doing TV, radio and small gigs. In the US there was Saturday Night Live
some small shows, a NASCAR event
and some web broadcasts.
Crunching a band of this caliber into small and awkward venues
is quite the challenge and can be frustrating. Doing the real deal with 13 trucks, full sized stages, proper loading areas and all our gear will actually be easier in many ways once the initial dust settles.
Sound, lights, video, rigging, barricade, catering, busses, trucks, dressing room and accounting departments all get to meet each other and figure out how to interface safely and efficiently. It pretty mind boggling to see it all come together. The time has come for The Gathering.
The order of business is #1 -Communication, #2 - Battle JetÂ Lag, #3 - Keep Battling Jet Lag.
CommunicationÂ with the Homeland. Intentional communication with the Homeland, not the in advertant communication with Homeland Security that I guess is a given at this point. So, the plan is to buy a local SIM card for my spare unlocked GSM cell phone, in each country. I will then give out my Skype #, which is a Los Angeles 213 # to all that need to reach me. As I arrive in each country, I set Skype to forward to my cell/SIM cardÂ # for that country. The end result is; one phone #, worldwide, that rings on my spare cell phone. Since all the phones over here are free incoming minutes if you use them in their own countryÂ and the Skype forwarding charges are relatively low, I now can be reached easily and inexpensivelyÂ via a single US phone # worldwide and I can monitor the costs by watching the Skype account charges. Sure beats the $1 a minute they charge to use my US cell overseas.Â For outgoing calls, I will use Skype in my hotel room for long chats. The cool thing to do there is get a blue tooth ear piece so you are not attached to the computer when you talk.
I am dropping my twin daughters off with their mom in Boston. She does monitors for Pearl Jam and will have the girls out with her for the next 11 days while I head overseas with Chili Peppers. Pearl Jam are magic people, I feel like they are my extended family and the rush of quick catching up since I saw them not 3 weeks ago in New York is wonderful. The whole camp, band, crew, management, the music, all is magic! Oh, and to make things even more heart warming, they play their song "Rats" during sound check.
Don't know if it was a coincidence or intentional but it makes me happy either way. I remember that day that we got a call at the Rat Shop from Pearl Jam for a graphic of our Rat Sticker. We had no idea it would end up in the CD sleeve next to a song, Rats.
Tears hurt. The euphoria of seeing Pearl Jam family comes crashing down as my daughter Samantha's eyes well up with tears and she clamp hugs me with all her might, pleading me not to go. It hurts a lot and her sister Maddie holds strong but I can see and feel her swallowing the sadness I miss them already. It hurts and I don't feel lucky anymore.