The Pixies have incorporated a d&b audiotechnik PA system as part of their US tour itinerary.
Florida-based production company LMG had already confirmed the lighting element of the tour, which ultimately led to their handling of sound. LMG’s Craig Mitchell, who handles touring sales, explained: "We had already confirmed the LED video and lighting parts of the tour. When I learned the band's preference was for a d&b audiotechnik PA system, I suggested we provide sound as well."
While LMG have built up a renowned reputation in the corporate market, they aren’t quite as well known in the touring circuit. Pixies production manager Simon Foster was happy with the route of using the same company for both sound and lighting, yet was also aware that it isn’t just the equipment that determines such decisions.
"I wasn’t familiar with LMG before the last Pixies US tour," said the band's long time house engineer Ray Furze. "When Simon mentioned they had a d&b J-Series system and were interested in doing the whole package, I had to do a lot of asking around. Specifically I made many calls to Craig to check they could supply all our specification, and if they had crew who were experienced and competent at rigging and tech-ing the system."
Although Furze has mixed for the Pixies since they first found fame in the late 1980's, he is based in the UK, so the need for thorough investigation was paramount. "This is not always an easy task at a distance and although in the end all the boxes were ticked, I was still a bit apprehensive; with little production time when we arrived at the first show we didn't have a lot of room for things not to be right."
Mitchell took Furze’s questions into consideration, as he commented: "Ray obviously knew the J-Series inside out and was very clear in describing his goals. He was taking the band into small and large theatres, and small arenas; whatever the venue he wanted to achieve that intimate Pixies sound."
Furze added: "The gear and cabling supplied was immaculate and the two LMG Touring techs Andy Vickery and Dave Kuhn, were well on the ball and were used to working with the J-Series."
Furze was particularly complimentary about Vickery's skills with the system. "Mixing a tight four piece band has to be one of the most satisfying jobs for any engineer, everything they play has its place in the mix. The Pixies have solid drums and a distinctive bass sound that has very little in the way of sub frequencies (unusual these days); both guitars play quite separate parts so it is easy to distinguish between them and both vocalists have very strong voices. Andy is very very competent with J-Series and also has a lot of experience with most major systems. He has picked up on how I like the system to sound, how I work, and I have complete confidence in him."
While few would categorise the Pixies as a hi-fi band, their sound is distinct and requires attention. "They have a very dynamic alternative rock sound," said Furze. "What I am aiming for is a great club gig sound in venues that range from larger clubs holding one to two thousand people through theatres, arenas, even festivals for seventy thousand: quite a big variation in acoustics. The d&b J system although capable of producing a very hi-fi sound, has been my system of choice with all types of act since it came out and I have had excellent and consistently great results in a huge variety of venues around the world. EQ wise in most cases I end up with just one or two notches to deal with room resonances. There is no getting away from the fact that this is a loud band but people are a lot more tolerant of volume if it is well balanced through the spectrum. I find the J loudspeakers to be particularly smooth in the high mid range, a range that can be very unpleasant and harsh with some other systems."