Articles July - August 2019

Touchwood Automations Invigorates Pune’s Party Scene With CINCO

Named after the Spanish word for 5, Cinco, is Pune’s all-new resto-bar and patisserie that promises to make every experience 5 times better!..... read more

THE PIANO PROJECT

Quickly rising up the ranks as one of India’s best places to live in, the city of Indore has it all – a strong sense of community, impressive infrastructure, and indeed a bustling nightlife..... read more

AHEAD OF THE CURVE

Founded in 1980 in Rutesheim, the company began by introducing Hardy Amps professional bass and guitar amplifiers. After the company burnt down completely in a fire, the company headquarters..... read more

Ahuja Radios - Major Audio Brand Distribution Network

The PALM Sound & Light awards honoured Ahuja Radios – India’s iconic brand since almost 80 years. Recognized by the country’s population as the PA brand delivering affordable technology..... read more

Mukesh Panjwani, MX MDR Technologies Ltd. - Lifetime Contribution to The Pro Audio Industry

The PALM Sound & Light awards honoured Mukesh Panjwani, CEO & Managing Director of MXMDR technologies for spearheading the mass distribution of a massive audio, video and electronic product catalog..... read more

Articles May - June 2019

THE FAMOUS STORY

Armed with a degree in Marketing and Finance and International Business from University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, and Aston University respectively, and after learning the dynamics of the Indian business world at Fanatic Sports and GVK..... read more

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MIX MAGIC

Kenneth ‘Pooch’ Van Druten is the magician who makes Justin Bieber sound the way he does in a live concert. Popularly known as Pooch, he has been touring as FOH engineer with some of the biggest artists like Linkin Park, Whitney Houston, Jay-Z, Eminem, Beastie Boys, Guns N’ Roses, Smashing Pumpkins, and many more. PT caught up with the man, who is today considered as one of the top FOH Engineers in the world to understand more about his craft, the gear he uses to get the perfect mix and insider info on the India leg of the Purpose World Tour.



Winner of Tourguide Magazine Top Dog FOH engineer of the year award - for an amazing 6 times and two-time winner of the FOH magazine Parnelli FOH engineer of the year award, Pooch graduated from Berklee College of Music, Boston and was the recipient of the Music Technology Division Engineering Scholar award - given to one outstanding engineer a year by Berklee staff. The equal parts techie and artist has a rich legacy of 25+ years in the live sound industry. His first job as a Producer / Engineer in Los Angeles gained him three Grammy nominations, and a multitude of Platinum and Gold records.

Pooch has been a musician all his life. Starting with classical piano studies at the age of three and going on to learn woodwinds, guitar, bass, and drums through his teenage years, Pooch was 18 when he graduated from high school and was accepted into Berklee College of Music. “I had every intention of being a performance major, but when I arrived at Berklee I discovered that there were many bass players that were much better than me. I had to swallow my ego and realize that I was never going to make a living as a player. Around the same time, I discovered sound engineering and discovered that I was good at it.” says Pooch.

From here on started Pooch’s journey in sound engineering. After completing graduation with honours, he moved to Los Angeles to start his career as a Producer and Recording Engineer and managed to get involved with many projects. Initially, he thought a career as a recording engineer would be a long and lucrative one for him. However, this all changed after the invitation to mix one of the artists in a live venue. The band was Warrant, and the venue was the “Fabulous FORUM” in Los Angeles.

“I immediately fell in love with the instant gratification of thousands of people screaming for something you are a part of. It still gives me pleasure today. I have never really looked back. That was 1992 and I have been lucky enough to work as a live sound FOH engineer since then,” enthuses Pooch.

Pooch is particularly proud of his stint as engineer for the KISS symphony. “Probably the concert that I am most proud of is the KISS symphony. It was the rock band kiss with a 60 piece orchestra, boys choir, and acoustic instruments. Lots of things going on. Nothing like mixing a 60 piece orchestra close mic’d at 105dBA weighted L-EQ over 10 at FOH.” His other favourites include Guns N’ Roses Rock In Rio 2001 and English heavy metal band Iron Maiden, whom he is mixing these days. Since the beginning of his career, Pooch got opportunities to work in many genres of music. “Most of the engineers get pigeonholed into one type of music and spend most of their career mixing it. Since I began, I have walked this line between pop, rock, and R&B and I really enjoy doing it. I have been very blessed to work in many genres of music.”

BALANCING ACT


The challenge a FOH faces of course varies depending on not only the genre, but also the artistes themselves. “Each artist comes with their own challenges. Solo artist vs. bands is always tricky. When the marque’ says Justin Bieber, it is ALL about him. Whatever he wants, he gets. There is no question as to who the boss is.” He explains, “When dealing with a band, there are multiple egos and often different opinions that I was an engineer have to negotiate thru. Most of the time I am a psychiatrist more than I am a mixer. The secret to my success is that I can walk into a room full of crazy people and communicate, understand, and negotiate.”

According to Pooch the most challenging experience for him was as front of house for Jay-Z. “Mainly because there is a bunch of inputs. Over 100. There is a live band plus lots of playbacks. Finding space for all the live instruments and some of the playback that is in the same EQ space, as well as stereo balance, is a different balancing act,” says, Pooch.

INDIA CALLING

Pooch’s first visit to India was for Justin Bieber’s Purpose World Tour in the Summer of 2017. “The unique challenge of mixing a solo artist like Justin Bieber is that everyone is coming to hear him. They don’t care about anything else. The crowd wants to hear him while he sings and while he talks in between songs. It’s difficult to get him over the top while he is in front of the PA for most of the show as well,” says Pooch.

A FOH plays a crucial role in engaging the audience in the musical experience and evoking emotions. “My goal in all of my mixes is to deliver a record quality mix with impact. I try to adhere to what the record sounds like as best I can. Everyone knows it and wants the music to sound like it. But I think that I give a little bit more by moving some air in the subrange, and also bring out some parts being played that are less noticeable in the mix in the record to give it that real live feel. Mostly my focus is on vocals and trying to make it sound the best it can, with the most intelligibility.”

Pooch describes his interaction with solo artists as “complex and vast”. For Bieber, Pooch let American music producer, composer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and Bieber’s musical Director - BHarv (Bernard Harvey) be the link between him and Bieber. “I worked very closely with Bharv and he was the conduit to Justin,” says Pooch. He continues, “Another vital requirement on the technical front is to work hand-in-glove with the Monitor Engineer and Systems Tec. For the Purpose India Tour, I was fortunate to have Alex Macleod as my monitor engineer once again. He is amazing. I could not do my job without him. I work very closely with the monitor engineer. We are truly a team. It is best when both the monitor engineer and the FOH engineer are in sync with each other.”

The Sound Set-Up

Justin Bieber India tour called for high production values in terms of great dynamics in venue sound. The superlative set-up and the sound technical for the concert managed by Sound.com, witnessed for the first time in India a 12 a side flown subwoofer rig of S28’s in “Cardioid” augmented with the low-frequency extension from the G28 subs on the floor. “This is what we requested from Sound.com,” says Pooch. “I have used the JBL VTX25 systems extensively (especially with Linkin Park) and knew exactly what was needed for this show. It may seem like a lot of PA system, but when you deploy the system in this manner, you get the best coverage and power. Sound.com was very accommodating and provided exactly what we needed. They were excellent and provided me with all the tools necessary to make the show sound amazing. I was very pleased with the sound aspect of the show in India,” he adds.

For the concert, the venue was deployed with Main PA –VTX V25II in a LR and an outer LR, Amplifiers T12000HD, Flown SUB-VTX S28 on a LR, Ground Subs –VTX G28, Front Fills – VTX V20, Side Fills LR- VT4888, Delay LR & Outer LR – VT4889. Other Gear that Pooch used for the Justin Bieber tour can be found on www.palmtechnology.in - May-June 2017 issue

Sweating it out

The superhot month of May in Mumbai was not at all easy for Pooch. The heat and humidity posed several difficulties. “Oh my goodness, it was so hot. The heat and humidity are very hard on the gear too. We had a couple of computers (Macintosh minis) that just didn’t want to work when the sun was out. A lot of gear really struggle when you have those temperatures. I don’t like it either. I much prefer the cold. I was drinking a lot of water,” he says.

Commenting on the infrastructure for this tour he says, “It seemed like the infrastructure of the concert area itself was lacking. Not enough maintained restrooms, not enough dressing room space, not enough catering choices. The staging seemed a little dangerous as well. I was glad that I was at FOH. The safety standards need to be raised. Human life is precious, and no one should get hurt at a concert,” he cautions.

TECHNOLOGY – BOON OR BANE?

“ABSOLUTELY a boon,” exclaims Pooch. “ With the amazing advances in technology in the last 20 years, I can be way more creative and really get things to sound like you are sitting in front of some near fields, when in actuality you are sitting in a soccer stadium. I have always wanted every seat in the house to sound the same, and we are approaching actually achieving this. That is really exciting.”

Talking about the evolution of technology down the years, he says, “As a studio engineer, he I watched the digital age come to fruition. I remember the first Mitsubishi X850 32 track digital tape machine being wheeled into the studio that I worked at in 1992. We all stood around it, not really knowing what to do with it. The first attempts at digital audio in the studio were really bad. The technology was not ready in my opinion and the sound of records suffered. The same thing happened in live sound 10 years later. The technology just didn’t sound great at first. Just now in the last five years, I think that the tool and convenience of digital audio has come into its own and the result of what you can achieve is amazing. The fact that I can have 300 parameter changes happen in a snapshot, allow me to achieve whatever I can dream up in my head. It opens the doors of creativity, and the end-result are some amazing sounding shows. In fact, I stand by the statement that there should not be ANY bad sounding shows out there (at this level). If there are – it is the fault of the engineer, not the gear.”

NEW AGE CONSOLES

There is no denying that the live sound industry is in the midst of the golden age of digital live sound. This also presents a new set of challenges to aspiring engineers. “I think the main challenge currently is that there is a lot of computing power to get a good sounding result. With plugins and outboard computers, networking, etc. Sometimes I am having to network (and clock) 6 different computers together. This is a hard thing to do without failure. I tell young up and coming engineers to learn networking and RF if they want to keep working in this business. These are the things that are always in need of good people,” says Pooch.

Explaining what he would ideally like to see in new age digital consoles, he says, “I would like to see some of the tasks normally offloaded to plugins to become better on digital consoles. Multiband EQ and compression for example. We are starting to see some console manufactures making leaps and bounds in this area. Plugins will always be needed, but can now be focused on super specific tasks. Also – I think that artificial reverbs are the hardest thing to make sound fantastic. They are very DSP intensive. I think as technology makes faster, more powerful processers, I would like to see great sounding, high-end reverb show up on the console themselves.”

SOUND ADVICE

“NEVER GIVE UP and hard work is the key to this front of house career. Push yourself to be the very best you can be and it will be get noticed with time. While talking about his initial days, Pooch mentioned, “I had to work very hard early on in my career. I didn’t make a good wage until several years into my career. Learning how to get along with people is also an essential part of this career. This business is not so much about talent as an engineer, but how one is interacting with other people. Hone your skills and be good at what you do but study the psychology of humans and how to best advance your career by being the best at communication and giving people what they want. If you become the guy or girl that is the hardest working, easiest to get along with, a talented engineer, there is room for you in this business. If you don’t push yourself to be the best, there are too many people that will take your spot. Network with everyone that you can,” he asserts.

Addressing the young live sound engineers in India, he says, “If you want to work with American bands, you should move to America and work with one of the many national touring companies. This is a word of mouth business. If you are good and working with the right people, your name will quickly be known. There are lots of different ways to keep working in this business. If you want to work and have work for many years to come. Learn RF and networking. Be skilled at both of these things and there will always be work. Use this as the platform to jump off into mixing,” he concludes.

 


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