Tour Profile: Red Hot Chili Peppers

Jan 1, 2004 12:00 PM, By Robert Hanson


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In any successful band's career, there is the subtle yet unmistakable point where the bombast of youth gives itself over to the confident bravado that comes with experience. Unlike many of their peers, the Red Hot Chili Peppers failed to succumb to the evils that derail most bands and evolved into arguably one of the biggest acts in the world. Supporting their latest release, By the Way, and a new greatest hits collection, the group — bassist Flea, guitarist John Frusciante, singer Anthony Kiedis and drummer Chad Smith — embarked on an ambitious 18-month tour with dates in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia. Mix caught up with the tour when it pulled into the Oakland Arena last fall.


According to longtime front-of-house engineer Dave Rat, the band's positive music image and professional demeanor extend into every facet of their endeavors. “I've been working for the Peppers for 14 years now,” Rat says. “I've stopped taking all other bands I've worked for in the past. They're a friendly and cool group of guys, and that flows downhill to the rest of the crew.”

Rat's company, Rat Sound, is also one of the principle vendors for the tour. For this leg of the tour, Rat is mixing from a Midas Heritage H3000 console, running 23 stage inputs, two stereo effects channels and two audience mics. The stage inputs comprise a basic multichannel drum setup: three channels each for bass and guitar, two acoustic guitar mics and three vocal mics. The stage mics include a Shure SM91 on kick, SM98 on snare top, SM57 on snare bottom, SM98s on toms, KSM32 on ride cymbal and overheads, SM98 on bass, SM57 and Beyer M88 on guitar, and Audix OM7s on vocals. The remaining stage inputs, including a drum machine, vocoder, and bass and acoustic guitar channels, are taken DI.

Rat's complement of outboard gear includes a Drawmer 1960, Aphex 622 Expander, Klark Teknik DN514 Quad Gate, BSS DPR-404, two Aphex Exciters, Lexicon PCM60, Eventide H3500, Yamaha SPX990, Klark Teknik DN780 and Tascam DA-38/78/98. “I'm really into minimal everything, very simple setups,” he explains. “I don't buy into the whole idea that expensive tube compressors make the band sound better. For effects, I do all of my drum and vocal reverbs on the PCM60 and everything else on the H3500. There is one song where I use the SDE 3000 for delay.”

The main P.A. comprises two sides of V-DOSC enclosures with an additional center cluster. “We've been pretty successful in getting the V-DOSC worldwide,” Rat continues. “One of the reasons I picked V-DOSC was to try and develop system processing and get everything dialed in and have nothing change no matter where we were in the world. When we came out a year-and-a-half ago, one of the first things I did was get rid of all the cabinets onstage. Lip fills and cabinets stacked on the stage are a total waste of time. They work fine when the room is empty, but as soon as people come in, they don't do anything except blast the people in front. We developed a way of covering the people in the front. It seems obvious in hindsight to put a center cluster up. We started with six dV-DOSC boxes and we've migrated down to four dV-DOSC over time. It really made a huge difference up there.”

During the years, Rat has developed his own approach to sound reinforcement, including moving the main subs off of the stage and stacking them on either side of the stage behind the full-range enclosures. According to Rat, this approach not only improves the audience's line of sight, but also places the subs in a better position acoustically.

“We worked on trying to resolve some of the low-end issues that most people have in venues like this,” says Rat. “Most people will come in and get the low end throughout the floor area and totally disregard subs for the people [who are sitting] hard-left and hard-right. So we really worked on sonic consistency throughout the room and ended up with a fairly nonstandard sub placement. We have a big block of subs hard-left and hard-right at 90 degrees shooting up.

“I run the subs on an aux send,” he continues. “We also do an emulation of the tweeters on another aux send. We lowpass the system, taking everything above 10k out and rolling it off. And then we re-introduce it. We dial up a little kick, hi-hat, overheads, ride, lead vocal and background vocal, which goes back into the BSS Soundweb and that goes from like 12k on up. It gives me tweeters on an aux send. For the most part, I have control of everything above 12k and what goes to it, which takes some of the edge off the system.

“We've really developed a way of approaching a variety of venues and having an extremely high level of consistency,” Rat concludes. “The band hasn't soundchecked since April. I guess that's an excellent compliment for the sound and stage crew that they're able to give the band the confidence they need. It doesn't matter if we're in Costa Rica or Singapore, they walk onstage and everything is set.”


Handling the stage side of the tour is monitor engineer George Squiers, a veteran of tours with The Offspring, Candlebox and Rancid. Like Rat, Squiers is also mixing from a Midas Heritage H3000. While he is taking the majority of the same stage inputs as front of house, he processes and routes many of those sources differently. “With the three guitar channels,” he explains, “I take my two main channels, ‘Y’ them to the in-ears and compress them so that they're flat and balanced. I leave the other two channels wide open so John [Frusciante] can be as dynamic as he wants. He hears actually what he's changing, and the other guys hear a more balanced, compressed level.

“We have three vocalists,” Squiers continues. “I take Anthony, though, and wire him off into different sections because I've got a drum fill to feed, and I've got Anthony and John and so on. What I do is ‘Y’ his channel three times so Anthony has his own EQ'ed vocal channel, Chad has his own Anthony vocal channel that I EQ to the speaker cabinet, and John gets his own Anthony vocal channel. It gives me more options.”

In addition to the standard Audix vocal mics that the band uses, Squiers also keeps a Sony wireless handheld system available for Kiedis. “I have a Sony wireless system with an OM7 capsule on it whenever Anthony feels like running around without a wire. But most of the time, he likes his wire.”

Squiers' rack includes a scant amount of outboard processing. Some of his staple items include BSS compressors and gates, Yamaha SPX990 reverbs, Aphex Dominators and an Aphex compressor on Kiedis' vocal. All of the bandmembers, with the exception of Smith, use Shure PSM 700 wireless IEM systems with custom Ultimate Ear UE-7 three-way drivers. Smith relies on a pair of three-way Rat Trap wedges, a 2×15 sub and two Aura Bass Shakers on the drum throne.

“I've got a couple of Dave's Rat Wedges out in front of Anthony,” Squiers explains. “I just turn the horns off. They're there in case the ears go down, which is pretty unlikely. For the most part, it's so he can feel his vocal and the drums. He was always so used to feeling the punch of his vocal, not just the in-ears. I just let the 15s and the 10s run to warm it up so he can feel the punch.”

Squiers echoes Rat's feelings about working with the band. “They're a great band to work with,” he says. “I wish the tour wasn't ending. It's been a long run, but they're very casual and cool guys. And they're a great band to watch and listen to. I don't ever find myself getting bored behind the desk.”

Robert Hanson is the technical editor of Remix.

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