Top FOH engineer Pete Keppler has mixed tours for music’s biggest icons, from David Bowie to ZZ Top. Keppler talks about his unconventional setup, and using Waves tools for legendary ex-Talking Heads frontman David Byrne’s American Utopia Tour and live show at Coachella 2018.
Commenting on his setup, Keppler said: “I have a DiGiCo SD10 console out front, and I share head amps with John Chadwick, our monitor engineer, who’s using an SD5. We’re running roughly 48 inputs of wireless, another twenty or so wired inputs (from keyboard interfaces, guitar amp modelers, etc.) and then John runs 16 outputs of RF in-ears. It’s an RF challenge for sure, but we’re using Shure’s new Axient Digital system for the input side, and fortunately it reduces the need for bandwidth substantially. For outboard processing, I run Waves plugins via MultiRack, a Mac mini, a 20-inch touch screen, and a SoundGrid Extreme Server.”
About reducing stage noise, feedback, and proximity issues, Keppler added: “All those issues are being amazingly well handled by the Waves F6 Dynamic EQ plugin. I’m using the six bands of the F6 to really make the most of all the gain I have available on the vocals. I’m not always a fan of permanent EQ on my sound sources, particularly vocals. On this tour I’ve developed what I call a ‘free gain’ approach to EQing. I have F6 plugin inserted via MultiRack on all the vocals. In addition to using the plugin as a more standard dynamic EQ, I set one of the bands to act as a mid and high frequency gate, in order to control spill from the drums and percussion into the vocal mics.
"Basically, I use this band of the F6 to turn down all the frequencies above 500-600 Hz quite significantly when the vocalist isn’t singing. I use a second channel on the SD10 to send a very filtered version of the same vocal to the external key of this band on F6, thereby opening those frequencies only when the vocalist is singing. The ‘free gain’ term (which I’m sure I’ve ‘borrowed’ from someone else!) really applies more to the effects I use on some songs, but F6 really allows me to retain and use the gain that was originally present at the mic in the first place… It only turns down the frequencies I want it to when I want it to, with the added benefit of being able to really effectively control spill, thanks to the ability to externally sidechain each band.”