All Access: Radiohead

Nov 1, 2003 12:00 PM, By Heather Johnson


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Electro-rock quintet Radiohead kicked off the U.S. leg of their tour this summer in support of their latest album, Hail to the Thief, and subsequently sold out nearly every amphitheater and arena on their itinerary. A mesmerizing light and video display provided a futuristic backdrop as the British band sailed through nearly 25 songs from their six-album catalog, barely taking a breath in between. While Radiohead and opening act Supergrass prepared for their Mountain View, Calif., date at Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mix talked with their core live sound team about one of the hottest tours of the year. New York's Firehouse Productions supplied consoles, the monitoring system, microphones and processing for this tour, while L.A.-based AudioTek provided the P.A. and amplification.

Front of house engineer Jim Warren mixed Radiohead's ever-evolving postmodern rock on a Soundcraft Series Five console and used a Soundcraft Spirit 324 submixer for effects returns. Warren says that the digital Spirit 324 works well with the MIDI aspects of the 56-channel analog desk. Radiohead's longtime engineer uses minimal outboard gear, keeping a TC Electronic M1 and M1XL nearby for vocal effects, an SDE3000 for occasional delay and a Vocoder for additional vocal manipulations. He runs bass guitar through a Tech21 SansAmp, and uses the Line 6 POD Pro for vocal distortion.

Warren miked all vocals with Shure Beta 87As, and used Shure MC50Bs for acoustic piano and Glockenspeil, Audio-Technica mics for guitar, Sennheiser 504s and a Shure Beta 98 on the drums, and an Audix OM3 for guitarist Jonny Greenwood's amp.

System designer and P.A. guru Florent Bernard chose an L'Acoustics V-DOSC P.A. system with a total of 40 V-DOSC cabinets, six dV-DOSC cabinets and 12 ARC loudspeakers. The system also includes 12 AudioTek CSW-218 subs a side: eight flown and four on the floor. “If you fly the subs, you won't blast the people in the front row with a lot of low end,” Bernard says. QSC 4.0 and 9.0 power amps, a QSC controller and XTA DP-226 processors round out the package, controlled with the aid of a rackmounted PC and a wireless tablet PC.

Monitor engineer Graham Lees manned an expanded 56-input Midas Heritage 3000 for seemingly obvious reasons. “It's an analog desk, and they're an analog band,” Lees says simply. The band uses three additional fixed keyboard positions, which Lees cues into place at different times, “another reason for using an analog board,” he adds.

Lead vocalist Thom Yorke, drummer Phil Selway and guitarist Ed O'Brien use Firehouse 6500 custom-mold in-ear monitors, with Shure PSM700 Series beltpacks. “But they use wedges at the same time,” Lees says. “They actually use the in-ears for what they don't want to hear.” The Greenwood brothers rely solely on Firehouse's custom FP12 and FP15 wedges at a low volume. “It's pure quality rather than quantity,” Lees says.

Lees' outboard rack includes BSS compressors, XTA D2s for vocal EQ and a Lexicon PCM 70 reverb. Monitor coordinator Clive Goodwin monitors amplifiers and crossovers on a laptop equipped with Audio Core software, and also operates a custom-designed, computer-driven radio frequency-scanning system.

Regarding working with such a versatile band as Radiohead, Bernard says simply, “Every day's different.” And with a dry wit, Warren adds, “Yet every day's the same.”

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