Steve Pattison is an extremely in demand FOH engineer who has been on tour with Alpahabeat, Ellie Goulding and Glas Vegas over the past 18 months. Wherever he is in the world he will be found with his Allen & Heath R72 digital console, literally, under his arm.
The compact R72 is a 12 faders desk with six layers that provide up to 72 controls strips. All of its processing is done on a touch screen control panel. Pattison is using the companion iDR-48 MixRack, which gives him 48 mic/line inputs and 24 outputs in an 8U frame. Both can be connected over a single Cat5 cable up to 120m in length.
The current Glas Vegas tour has brought Pattison to venues big and small. In fact, the tour began with shows on the Scottish Isles in places that bands of their size would normally never travel. Pattison is using the R72 supplemented by the new IPad app. He explains: “The iPad is generally sat next to the desk, so I am not limited by the console’s layer structure because the iPad provides some key faders that I can grab and tweak at any time. In order to keep it running as smoothly as possible I limit the amount of Wi-Fi I am using by turning off meters so there is less being broadcast. I have also changed to the A channel on the 5GHz frequency range because everyone else is on 2.4GHz, so you get quite a bit of interference.
Pattison has used the desk to its full potential by exploring the best way to use all its available functions. “To me, using only the basic functions of the desk is like having a gym membership and never going. There are a few new features that I am using for this tour. For instance, I am using a gate at 3dB across the bass that turns it down and then, by applying a trigger to the kick drum, I get a 3dB boost when the kick drum is hit. There are a lot of tricks you can use to create a groove and a pulse.”
Working with what Pattison describes as a Phil Spector-ish ‘wall of sound’ means that he is applying numerous effects at FOH, all of which are taken from the R72’s onboard offerings. “I am using loads of reverb and the whole mix is quite ambient. The drummer plays standing up, and some of the old songs don’t have any kick drum. I use the desk’s subharmonic synthesiser to get some good bottom end,” he says. “It has a really nice really LF tone that breathes down to 20Hz, and we get a solid back beat for the song. The effects returns are fully featured so you can gate stuff and tweak channels as you wish.”
With most of the channels pre-programmed, Pattison does not have to do much in the way of tweaking instrument channels from venue to venue, with the major exception of lead singer James Allen’s vocals. “Allen has chosen to use a Sennheiser 441 mic for vocals because, basically, it looks cool,” he explains. “It is really a studio mic for snare drums, not a vocal mic. I have to use a lot of EQ because it is a low gain mic. I usually have the gain for vocals around 10 o’clock but I need to dial the 441 in at about two, which means that I am picking up loads of other things on stage, like the snare drum. I am using lots of EQ and compression and then feeding it to a subgroup with a graphic and a parametric EQ. I even have an EQ for when he talks between songs because it gets a bit muddy. I am also using a big plate reverb and a stereo delay on his vocals. I make use of left and right tap, so it is one delay with two taps. I dial in quarter and eighth notes or quarter and triplets so I can have them tripping over each other and then panning left and right. We have actually been accused of miming because it sounds so much like the record, but that is just me doing my job. Trust me, if he was miming I would be sitting back having a beer,” he laughs.
Adding to the ‘wall of sound’ are seven or eight onboard effects used across the drums, guitars and backup vocals. “I have a huge reverb sound on the drums and a dreamy, washy one for the backup vocals,” Pattison comments. “I also have three effected channels of guitar: one is a pitch-shifted echo, twinkle noise that gets panned around; a second guitar that is panned to one side with a 12 millisecond delay panned to the other side; and his main guitar, so whenever he kicks in the second amp the guitar jumps stereo and his main track punches through the middle.”
With big gigs like Fuji Rock on the tour schedule and a number one song in Sweden, Glas Vegas will be hitting some big stages in the coming year. Pattison assures us that he will be using his compact iLive setup for all the gigs. “The R72 fits anywhere and I can carry it under my arm. If they made an inflatable one I would probably try it out,” he explains. “I am so used to the touch screen that when I use the bigger models with the extra EQ and gate section I rarely use them because it is so easy to just tap through the screens.”