Global Sound –
Electronic Musicians Need Sound Checks Too!
Sound checks are essential when playing live, even for the electronic musician. Electronic musical instruments do not need tuning, compared to the standard rock band, but the way the sound is presented to the crowd must be professionally set up and tested.
Each club you play will have a different PA system that need to be adjusted to your personal onstage overal sound. For example, if the speakers are sounding too bass, that can distort the whole balance of the show. If you are not lucky enough to take your own sound guy on the road with you, you are at the mercy of the “in-house” tech crew. The quality of these tech guys can range enormously and even country-to-country. Here is a tongue-in-cheek list of my experiences with global in-house sound technicians:
1) UK – these guys are often bitter failed musicians or ex bar staff. The band is their enemy, they just want to finish the sound check in the quickest possible time and get back down the pub with their mates. They will try to fob you off with stories of how the sound will be different when the crowd arrives – so there is no point in tweaking it to perfection. More often than not you’ll be playing with other acts, so your the gear will be moved around onstage, meaning knobs will be accidentally twiddled and settings lost in the process. You’ll have to go out into the audience and hunt for him 10 minutes before the show – that is if he turns up at all!
2) Netherlands – stoners, but do know their job, best let them get on with it and you’ll be OK. Belgium – the forerunners of techno music in Europe, they know their stuff and can get you a good sound if you have the patience to deal the s..l..o..w speed at which they get it together.
3) France – To be a sound tech in France you have to take exams! They know all the technical stuff but have had no experience of working in a live environment. They can get too into details, try to prove you wrong, and most likely you’ll be stuck at the club until the doors open and miss dinner.
4) Spain – This lazy lot seem agreeable at first meeting, all smiles and nothing is too much trouble; but they don’t know what they are doing, and you have to keep and eye on them. Even if they can speak English, they’ll prefer not to bother. Plus when it comes to the time of your performance, they are unlikely to be around until half way though your set. Sitting in the dressing room watching the clock wondering whether to go on or not is nerve-racking to say the least!
5) Germans – these guys are rock solid, they know their stuff and are very disciplined in getting the show together. I have found the German club’s sound systems are generally the best for electronic music
6) USA – you are not the star here – they are! Big headed with no real passion for their job or helping you get a good sound, maybe they expect a tip?
7) Japan – very reliable, helpful and technically sound. They’ll dedicate themselves to you and you’ll be treated like the star you are. My best shows have always been in Japan as they make sure you are happy with the sound and allow you enough time, so you are happy with the result.
If you have done a good sound check, you’ll feel confident to play a good gig, this all helps the vibe of the night. The audience will pick up on your magic and react in your favour. A bad, rushed, sound check never works, you’ll be anxious and stressed before you hit the stage and feel embarrassed as soon as you get onstage in case the mic feeds back or the PA is rattling or too shrill.
Once you are on stage there is not much you can do but pray someone is out there to fix any sound issues that happen throughout your performance. If you get the chance and can afford their fee, taking along your own experienced sound guy, who as a bonus knows his way around a lighting desk will be worth his/her weight in gold. Even if you are electronic musician, many things can go wrong, it’s not just a case of a broken guitar string!
I’m Oly (aka Mr.No) from the techno-duo band Motor: [http://www.din9.com/] I have been involved with electronic music for 10 years. Before that had a busy career in a variety of famous, semi-famous, and totally obscure UK indie bands. Read my blog about the lowdown and high times of being on the road and in the studio, plus my personal opinion of the electronic dance music industry here: [http://www.impactmusik.com/]
Thanks for reading!