As our week of festival-focused engineer interviews rolls on, AMI spoke with Swedish engineer Oscar Söderlund and quizzed him on his thoughts on the current state of the festival circuit as he looks back over a career of nearly 30 years.
Tell me a bit about your background in live production.
I started doing sound and FOH in 1987, working with local bands from my hometown. I did three years as a apprentice at the local sound company and became their company monitor-man. Then I continued as a freelance engineer for some years before I started my own small company. And have been touring with Swedish artists and bands like Ane Brun, The Hellacopters, The Hives, Miike Snow, The Cardigans and more.
How are/have you been involved in live production for festivals?
Mostly I have shown up as the guest engineer, but it is fun to work the system with a good system tech, to get the system as close as you can to your own preferences. And I always try give input on the performance of the festival sound production, together with thoughts on stage lay-out etcera.
How does the challenge of festivals differ from the challenge of your typical live situation?
On outdoor festivals you sometimes, at the start of the season, miss the response of the room. This is something I've come to realise I use in my mixing. So outdoors you sometimes miss the room, and indoors you long for the big field. Otherwise, a festival is more like a direct broadcast; everything needs to be on the ball.
How important do you think sound quality is to the typical festival audience?
I think todays audiences are very in tune with their sound - all sound gear is getting better. And the level of professional speakers, audio workstations and sound engineers is very high. You now can get your artist/band to sound almost exactly as you want most days.
What is your favourite gear to tackle festivals?
A well balanced mind, good mics and the Waves Puigchild.
How do you think festival sound will evolve in the future?
I think we will see more control over the range and areas the PA will play - more control over the performance of the soundsystem; it's going to be almost Hi-Fi at all public listening areas.