Muse Tour Profile

Apr 27, 2010 4:30 PM, By Carolyn Maniaci



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From left: Ted Bible (P.A. tech), Richard Gibson (monitor/RF tech), Paddy Hocken (system engineer), Nigel Pepper (P.A. tech), Marc Carolan (FOH engineer, seated) and Oliver Gross (P.A. tech)

From left: Ted Bible (P.A. tech), Richard Gibson (monitor/RF tech), Paddy Hocken (system engineer), Nigel Pepper (P.A. tech), Marc Carolan (FOH engineer, seated) and Oliver Gross (P.A. tech)

Muse’s music is at once distortion-laden and crystal-clear—they get a big, big sound for a three-piece. (They do tour with the addition of keyboardist Morgan Nichols to fill things out.) When Mix stopped by the tour at Chicago’s United Center, we asked Carolan how he achieves good separation as the band uses distortion on guitar, bass and vocals. Carolan answers: “Using very different mics on each thing supports the character of the individual instruments, making it all gel while defining everything.”

On bass, Wolstenholme plays through two rigs. His “clean” rig is set up with a Beyerdynamic M88 and a DI on the back of the head. For the distorted rig, Carolan places a Shure SM7 about six inches from the cone because the mic handles the grunt of the distortion, even with heavy gain.

Drum miking is in a standard configuration, though Carolan uses a Neumann KM105 for snare bottom. He says it was a happy accident when he discovered that the KM105, although mainly a vocal mic, gives the snare a nice balance between low rattle and high-end ping, and the shape of the mic makes for easy positioning.

Frontman Bellamy designs his own guitars, which are custom-built by Hugh Manson. These masterpieces have lots of built-in effects, which he uses liberally to create the band’s signature sound. And it’s all coming out of one Mills Acoustics cabinet, and Carolan uses a Royer R-122L paired with an sE Electronics Reflexion filter.

As for his mixing, Carolan keeps things simple. On guitar, he keeps the channels mostly flat and applies only a small amount of compression. To ensure good separation, he keeps levels balanced and uses subtle panning to unlock instruments from the center image. In some instances, he pushes the level of a part just above the listener’s comfort level to make it pop out and give dimension to the mix. Within any Muse song, there are several parts and movements with different feels, so he does make heavy use of automation to make it possible to keep the mix dynamic.

As the stage doesn’t have wings, monitor engineer Adam Taylor is situated in a bunker below the stationary riser at stage left. He keeps visual contact with the band via a video monitor; he can also see them through a grille in front of his desk, unless they’re standing directly above him. Taylor keeps their mixes straightforward, working on a Midas H3000 desk paired with a Digidesign Profile, which handles automation and supplies standard delay and reverb onboard.

All musicians use Sennheiser G3 in-ears. Taylor employs a Hanning frequency analyzer to monitor radio bandwidth. Bellamy uses a Dickinson guitar amp (loaded with d&b M12 drivers) for feedback during a couple songs, but Taylor mostly keeps it muted. For bass, a J-SUB hangs inside the lift directly below Wolstenholme’s riser so that he’s standing on top of it and two with custom chrome grilles point straight at him for when he is at stage height. Howard has two L-Acoustics dV-SUBs for low end that he’s been using for years, and these are placed on the back of the drum riser. 

Carolyn Maniaci is a Chicago-based freelance writer.

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