My Morning Jacket Tour Profile

Feb 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Carolyn Maniaci

BIG SOUNDS, BIGGER VENUES

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Monitor engineer Dave Kissner, FOH engineer Ryan Pickett, production manager Eric Mayers

Monitor engineer Dave Kissner, FOH engineer Ryan Pickett, production manager Eric Mayers
Photos: Paul Natkin

The band's huge onstage sound impacts a lot of sound decisions, especially for Dave Kissner, the band's monitor engineer since 2004. The bandmembers have made attempts at moving into the in-ear-monitor world, but so far only Broemel and bassist Two-Tone Tommy have gotten comfortable using ears. The others like it loud and protect their hearing with -9dB Ultimate Ears earplugs, which presents a little bit of a challenge for monitoring. Past attempts to get the band to dial back their stage volume fell flat, says Kissner. “That's like trying to stop a freight train with a feather pillow. We just let them do what they do, and they appreciate what I can do to let them get as loud as they want onstage. Once you find that sweet spot in the mix, everything falls into place.”

Koster gets one wedge behind him and one on the front corner of his keyboard riser. James hovers over his three wedges, which Kissner mixes with heavily reverbed vocals on the sides and clean in the center. He keeps the vocals out of the sidefills, because otherwise James has a tendency to blow himself out, except in the two songs where he sings falsetto, in which he needs the extra boost from the sidefills to feel his vocals over the band. Drummer Patrick Hallahan, with his long hair backlit like a flaming halo, is flanked by two Clair 12-inch subs along with his two wedges. He likes a “wall of sound” out of his monitors: “Patrick's a powerhouse,” says Kissner. “He gets a full stereo mix behind him because he wants to hear everything, even over his own drums. He gets enough to rock his seat, but not enough to rock him off the riser.”

Broemel and Tommy are both on Sennheiser IEM300 in-ears, but each still gets a full mix in their wedges, both for a better feel and as a backup in case anything happens to the in-ears. Kissner feeds Broemel a little Yamaha SPX-990 reverb on all the vocals in his ears, with a long hall setting dialed up faintly to give him more presence. On a song called “Dondante,” Broemel plays sax, and that trail from the 990 gets him in the mood with a more romantic feel.

Every monitor engineer has to learn to pick up various cues from the band during a performance. Each bandmember has his own special signals for Kissner: “Jim does what I call the ‘pout and point,’ where he pouts his lips and points up or down. Carl moves his fingers like they're a mouth. Mostly, I've gotten very good at reading lips.”

Kissner is using a TC Electronics M1 reverb onstage, where he runs the monitors “like I'm breaking out of jail” through a Midas H3000 console. He believes there's some advantage to the continuity of using the same board as FOH, but more importantly, he and Pickett are both big fans of working in the analog world as much as possible. In overseas situations, where the band doesn't carry any audio equipment except mics, ears, backline amps and effects, they have to take what they can get and often work with digital boards. In that case, Kissner prefers the Yamaha PM5D, but he's much happier with an analog setup. “I like having the controls of analog and being able to tweak something minute without having to make 10,000 moves to accomplish one thing. It takes thought to run sound, but [in digital] it really takes a lot of concentration on the board and not so much on the feel of the music. Analog gives you the freedom to get into the soul of the song.”

This winter takes My Morning Jacket to New Zealand, Australia and Japan. Instead of the full FOH setup they've been using Stateside, they'll be carrying only some outboard gear. Says Mayers, “This is going to be a much different scenario for us. We're going to be on every kind of console imaginable — from 5Ds to Digidesign Profiles — so it will be ‘festival-style’ the whole way. The band plays a lot of festivals, so we're all well-versed in this kind of routine.”


Carolyn Maniaci (nee Engelmann), formerly an assistant editor for Electronic Musician magazine, is now based in Chicago.






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