Mumford & Sons Tour Profile

Jun 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Sarah Benzuly



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Sckotch Ralston Interview

How has it been with no soundcheck?
Fortunately, I’ve been touring with these guys for a while and we’ve done a lot of festivals and shows where we’ve been really pressed for time so it hasn’t been ideal, but it hasn’t really been impossible or too detrimental. We’re also on this tour squeezed in between the other two bands so we’re just “throw and go” as the middle band. But as I said, it is a little more challenging with this band, mixing in this style because there are so many of them. It’s like having two full bands onstage: Two drum kits, 10 people and they’ve usually invited someone, so it’s really 11—so you have to have someone like me who likes to fly by the seat of his pants: no set list, no idea what the first song is going to be. And just make it happen.

The way we’ve been using the console—Avid Profile—we’ve been using snapshots a lot so we can just selectively recall channels between each set. We can build on what’s been happening that particular night because each night things change a little bit. That’s partially why the digital consoles have become so popular: convenience, reliability and size. For the most part, they sound pretty good. This would have been more challenging if we were on an analog console.

How are you accommodating the numerous guests onstage?
We basically have everything on the stage; it’s pretty much live all the time. We have 48 inputs and they’re all there if they’re needed. Someone comes on, picks up something, starts wailing away, we’ll fit him in the mix.

How would you define your mixing style?
I’m using a raw style because there are so many instruments going on at any given time; it’s more of a performance on my part because I have to know what all their parts are for each song and just ride the faders from section to section for each song. Some songs the keyboards need to be featured, some songs the bass and piano have to hold the groove down, some songs the percussionist is playing the hand drums, some songs the accordion is really what adds the flavor to that section of that song—you have to know the songs, know the band. I’ve seen the songs evolve from sounding pretty close to the album to now they’re free-floating little journeys that happen differently every night. It’s been fun to see that develop over time.

I don’t use a lot of compression because I like things to poke out a little bit when someone’s playing a bit harder; it helps the dynamics. Some of the sounds are a little bit trickier to work with. We have an upright piano and the pickups are these magnetic strips that go inside and they all combine into this combiner box and it’s mono. That requires a little compression; I compress the bass and I do the compress Alex [lead vocalist] a little bit because he’s got everything from talking to screaming. I would like to use a little more compression on the vocals. I’ve got nine open vocals mics so I can’t really use much compression.

There are a lot of instruments and musicians onstage. How are you keeping your mix clean?
It’s a challenge to get the mix across and that ties into knowing the songs. With nine vocal mics, I have to know who is singing when and when they’re not singing I try to keep their fader down because they’re usually standing near a drum kit.

I'm carving out little frequency niches for each instrument. If you think of the audio spectrum in a visual sense, you’ve got a canvas to work with. I like to try to make instruments a little peak-y, maybe a little bit more so than I would do in a recording studio and certain frequency ranges just so they have their own space in the stereo spectrum. There’s definitely some overlap that can’t be avoided, but using a combination of panning and EQ, mostly, I’m able to squeeze all the people into two speakers.

It’s been a pleasure working with Chris and Mark; both of those guys are outstanding engineers. What an experience that tour was!

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