English singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist PJ Harvey (pictured) has been using a Sennheiser super-cardioid MD 431 has her vocal microphone of choice on her summer tour of Europe and the UK.
Her schedule, along with her 9-strong band of musicians, has included appearances at the likes of Glastonbury, London’s Field Day, Primavera Sound, and Rock Werchter to name a few.
Harvey’s Front of House engineer is Howard ‘Head’ Bullivant, who has been working with her since 1990 when he recorded her first demos and co-produced her debut album Dry. Since then, he has worked as producer, engineer or mix engineer on five PJ Harvey albums, plus a number of other live and collaborative albums. He toured as mix engineer on her first tour in 1992 and has been involved in almost all of her live shows since 2003. He has been specifying Sennheiser microphones even longer.
“I originally chose the Sennheiser MD 441 for her vocal simply because it’s a fantastically versatile microphone, great for vocals and just about everything you choose to point it at,” Head explained. “Polly [PJ Harvey] used it on some of the vocal recording on her latest Hope Six Demolition Project album and in rehearsal, so it was always an option for the live shows, but in the end, when the whole PJ Harvey production was set-up with 9 musicians on stage and 23 monitors, we thought that the MD 431 had slightly better rejection, and Polly chose it above the MD 441 to use for the festival shows. This is a show where the audibility of the vocal is crucial. I constantly recommend the MD 431 to other engineers.”
Monitor engineer Magali Couturier commented: “We use the MD 441 as vocal mic because of the sound and the look of the mic. The filter and boost have very nice attributes. We also use the MD 431 because, as Head says, the super-cardioid pattern makes it easier to use in loud environments and with her band.
“We have had a lot of help getting the right mics for our instruments, radio equipment, and IEM equipment. I can’t speak highly enough of the Sennheiser team, they have been extremely helpful and supportive. Our production is not a usual show.”
“I also switched James Blake onto an MD 431 last year for his festival shows,” Head added. “James has a slightly unusual stage set-up changing between two keyboard positions for different songs. This means that one of his monitor wedges is pointing at the mic at any one time. Combined with the dynamic changes of this show - alternating between extremely intimate quiet songs, to heavy dub-step and electronic dance tracks - I found the 431 coped very well with this without compromising vocal quality. Sennheiser 904 & 614 are used on the drum kit.
“Earlier this year I switched Natasha Khan ‘Bat for Lashes’ onto a Sennhieser e935 for her live performances, with keyboard player & backing vocalist Laura Groves also using a e935, as well as the vocals the BFL stage set-up uses 904’s, 604’s and 609’s on guitar amps and drums. I also used Sennhieser 441, 421 & 906 mics during the recording sessions of ‘The Bride’, Natasha’s recently Mercury-nominated album, most of which was mixed at my Ice House Studio in Dorset,” Head concluded.