All Access: Massive Attack

Aug 5, 2010 12:41 PM, Photos and Text By Steve Jennings

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Electronic/trip-hoppers Massive Attacks—vocalists Robert “3D” Del Naja and Grant “Daddy G” Marshall—are out on a worldwide tour to support their latest, Heligoland, bringing along a stellar lineup of musicians and backing vocalists. Mix caught up with the ensemble during a two-night stand at the Warfield Theater (San Francisco).

Front-of-house engineer Dave Bracey is mixing on a DiGiCo SD7, saying, “If you take into account its sound quality and engineer-friendly functionality, overall it is the best digital console. I will probably only stop using the SD7 when DiGiCo supersedes it, as no other manu-facturer has come close yet. Yes, I am a fan.”

Bracey uses seven FX engines onboard and the following outboard gear: Waves Maxx BCL, Yamaha SPX990, TC Electronic FireWorx and M6000, dbx 120x and SansAmp PSA-1.

Front-of-house engineer Dave Bracey

Front-of-house engineer Dave Bracey

All the singers are using Sennheiser 935 microphones, including vocalist Debbie Miller.

According to audio system engineer Ali Viles, Massive Attack is touring with an audio control package from UK-based Wigwam Acoustics. For the U.S. dates, the package is augmented with a d&b sub and front-fill package from Firehouse Productions (N.Y.).

“In North America, we played a diverse selection of venues, most of which had in-house P.A.s,” adds Viles. “We toured a package of 12 d&b B2 subs and some d&b Q7 front-fills. This enabled us to keep a consistency with the low end of the show, something very important to the ‘Massive Attack’ sound. Touring with our own front-fill package allowed us to be in complete control of the audio along the front edge of the stage, letting us give the audience a true stereo image of the soundscape of the show, even at this close proximity.”

Bracey tunes the room/P.A. with SIM time and phase alignment and then the rest by ear with a little help from Spectrafoo.

According to drum tech Nick Sizer, Damon Reece’s Ludwig Vistalite kit (stage-left) is miked with Shure Beta 52 (kick); Sennheiser 901 (kick), e 904 (toms) and e 905 (snare); AKG C 414 (overheads); and Neumann KM140s (hi-hats, percussion, ride).

At stage-right is Julien Brown, whose electronic kit is miked with Neumann KM140s for overheads, hi-hat and ride.

Guitarist Angelo Bruschini uses a Matchless Independent combo amplifier miked with a Shure SM57 and an AKG C 414 B.

John Baggott’s main controller is a Korg Triton with a GEM S3 as a second controller. The audio from the Triton and S3 are fed directly to a Yamaha 01V. “Also,” says keyboard tech Hew Williams, “a Moog Voyager and a Hammond XB2 on top of a Rhodes 73. Audio from these three are fed via various guitar effect pedals into a Twin in an isolation case after passing through the Yamaha.” A Roland UM-880 takes care of most of the MIDI routing. In the rear of the rack is a MOTU 828 mkII and a MacBook running Main Stage used for most of the string sounds. A Roland Space Echo RE201 is on an aux send from the 01V and can be used to effect any of the sounds during the show.

Monitor engineer Rod Matheson

Monitor engineer Rod Matheson

According to guitar/bass tech Sharon “Bamo” Bampton, bassist Winston Blissett uses a 4x10 Mesa Boogie bass cab and a Mesa Boogie M-Pulse 600 amplifier.

Monitor engineer Rod Matheson is also mixing on a DiGiCo board—a D5 running Version 4 software, using all onboard effects.

All bandmembers are on in-ears, using Aviom for the three stationary backline musicians, with custom cabling and beltpacks (drummers Damon Reece and Julien Brown, and keyboardist John Baggott) and 12 systems of Sennheiser G2 IEMs for the singers, musicians and crew. “I’m using a Sennheiser WSM [Wireless System Manager] networking system for fast frequency sorting,” Matheson explains. “All principal ear molds are Ultimate UE11s.”






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