Tour Profile: Tool

Apr 1, 2014 9:00 AM, Photos By Steve Jennings // Text By Matt Gallagher

Audio That Supports Raw Power, Tight Arrangements, Dramatic Visual Effects


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photo of Tool

Tool at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco in March 2014

Although lead vocalist Keenan literally eschews the spotlight and positions himself in an unlit space on the drum riser to stage left of Carey’s drum set, fans expect to hear and understand the song lyrics, and the nuances of his vocal performance. Hopkinson says that Keenan recently began using a Telefunken M80 and that his vocal channel is “quite effected in places—some modulation, some harmonizing, some delays, a small amount of compression through the Avalon 737sp. His vocal is supposed to kind of sit in with the music, not always stand out above. It can be extremely difficult in particularly ambient halls to get [Keenan’s vocals] above the band’s level.

“All guitar channels are summed through a pair of groups at FOH and fed through a pair of dbx 160A [compressor/limiters] just to keep a hand on them,” Hopkinson says. Guitar and bass cabinets are miked with Heil PR 40s and PR 30s, with a Heil PR-31BW on Jones’ Marshall cabinet. Carey’s massive drum set sees SM57s (snare and rack toms), PR 40s (floor toms), Beta 91A and PR 48 mounted inside the kick drums; overheads/cymbals take AKG 414s and 451s, and Audio-Technica AT4050s.

photo of Beau Alexander

Monitor engineer Beau Alexander mixes on a DiGiCo SD7.

Monitor engineer Beau Alexander joined Tool in 2006, just prior to the release of the band’s 10,000 Days album, as an independent engineer following five years working for Clair Brothers. “For this tour we are carrying a DiGiCo SD7 console with d&b wedges and side fills,” Alexander says. “Maynard is currently the only person on ears and he is using JH Audio earpieces with Sennheiser G3 transmitters. For Danny we have a left and a right stack of two d&b Q subs and a single top. Justin has two d&b M2s in front of him and one J-Sub with a single J8 top to the left of him. Adam has three d&b M2s in front of him and a J-Sub with a single J8 top to the right of him.

“Each band member likes to hear a mix of everything going on,” Alexander continues. “Each song may vary a little: a little more of this, little more of that, depending on what they are playing. I mix everyone who is on wedges pre fader and mix the in-ears post fader on the VCAs. We are using an onboard reverb and two bass chorus [effects] for some vocal effects.”

How do you deal with the stage volume and crowd noise? “We make it louder,” Alexander replies. “Ha. Our stage volume is pretty substantial. We all do a great job of working together.”

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