All Access: Massive Attack

Dec 1, 2006 12:00 PM, Photos and Text by Steve Jennings


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Complete with a smoke-filled stage and pulsing LED lighting behind the band, the sold-out crowd at the Greek Theater (Berkeley, Calif.) for trip-hop threesome Massive Attack reveled in the band's return to live performances, having “retired” from the scene for almost four years. Mix caught up with the tour's engineers, Richard “Basil” Ferneley (front of house) and Danny Stead (monitors) moments before the late-September show.

Front-of-house engineer Richard “Basil” Ferneley is working on a Digidesign VENUE board, which he inherited from engineer Rob Allen, who had mixed the show up until the American leg. “This is my first time on the Digidesign console,” Ferneley says. “The plug-ins are all very good, which means that we don't need to carry any outboard gear. The only rack gear I have is a CD player for walk-in music! We are also carrying another CD for recording and a Pro Tools rig to multitrack record every show.”

With not much in the way of outboard racks to pack in the truck, the tour is maintaining its slim profile by not carrying a P.A. “This can be a pain as you don't always get exactly what you want,” Ferneley continues, “but for the Berkeley show today, we have an [L-Acoustics] V-DOSC system. We have nine a side, plus six subs a side.

“This has proved to be a very challenging job,” he continues. “There are some very quiet vocals to deal with, mostly spoken-word level, and on some shows up to six different vocalists. There is a huge dynamic to the show, and with all the different vocalists, a digital console has proved itself invaluable.”

Also sticking with onboard effects, monitor engineer Danny Stead is on a DiGiCo D5 Live, which he calls “the best console I’ve ever used; the band and I think it sounds great.”

The band and techs are on IEMs: RF is Sennheiser G2s, three hard-wired packs of Shure and Shure E5 ear pieces (apart from two sets of UltraEars). “This is the best bunch of people I’ve ever worked with,” Stead enthuses. “I’ve been on tour with these guys since May, and we’re like a big family.”

Keyboardist Arden Hart (above right) is tech’d by Marcus Lindsay (lower right). Hart uses a Korg Triton (original with Moss DSP option), Moog Source, Korg Micro, Yamaha P300 piano and a custom-made theremin. All the keyboards are linked to a Yamaha 01V digital mixer, and then mixed to a stereo pair. There is also one extra output from the mixer for cueing a vocalist. This is routed within a saved scene memory and recalled with a MIDI program change message. Hart also sings a couple of backing parts.

Drummer Damon Reece’s vintage kit is miked with Shure SM91/Beta 52 (kick), SM57 (snare) and SM98s (toms); and Audio-Technica 4050 (hi-hat/overheads).

Andrew Small’s Yamaha kit has the same setup as Reece’s, except that there is a Sennheiser mic in the kick.

Bassist Winston Blisset also plays some keyboards, including an Edirol PCR-M80 MIDI controller.

Guitarist Angelo Bruschini

Vocalist Robert Del Naja (aka, 3D)

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