SMSMS - What do YOU know?
Updated: Jan 23, 2019
Welcome back to the Sound Marketing Short Message Service. In the second installation of #smsms we talk to John, Content Director at Sound Marketing and Rock & Roll bridesmaid, about audio, Abbey Road Studios and lugging PA systems upstairs...
You spend quite a lot of time writing about audio. How come?
- It pays really well, keeps me out of the pub and is endlessly fascinating.
- No. Just the second one.
PA Systems. Do they really sound different?
- Yes they do. Although how they sound can often depend on the competency of the twiddler. An inexperienced twiddler can sometimes obsess so much about getting the bass drum sound better than that which his tutor at college achieved, he forgets about everything else until five minutes before the end of soundcheck. Under those circumstances, PA systems sound like giant bass drums.
But seriously...do they?
- Yes. The PA systems manufactured and distributed by our clients are clearly the best ones. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, having played through every available PA system ever made (including WEM columns) I wouldn’t soil the tips of my fingers writing about second rate ones and secondly, I have heard them in action and been able to get into those concerts free.
How did you come to use all those PA systems?
- As well as being a fingerless-gloved audio scribe, I’ve been singing in bands for almost 40 years.
Do you do ‘Eye of the Tiger’?
- No. Proper bands. I’d rather dine on my own lightly sautéed ears, than not fully express my (arguably) limited creativity. I’ve been in my current band for almost 30 years and amassed the experience of around 1200 gigs in this troupe.
That’s a lot!
What’s the biggest gig you’ve ever done?
- The biggest gig was to the fewest people. It was at the NEC in Birmingham in the big arena. There were about 12 there I think and none of them paid. We were putting a well-known, big, new line array thing through its paces...so it wasn’t really a gig at all. It was a demo. So to properly answer the question...probably a sold out Vredenburg in Utrecht supporting Marillion. We’ve done places like The Forum and Shepherds Bush Empire as well. Reliable bridesmaids, we are.
Is it true you once played a gig in Abbey Road Studios?
- Yes it is. Studio 2. That was a lesson in audio. It was 91 or 92 and we played a famous record label’s staff Xmas party. We were playing 5 pub gigs a week back then and we took our trusty Carlsboro 2 x 12 speakers and 6 channel mixer head in there. In the end everything was on 10 and our drummer was using table legs to hit his kit. Talk about sucking the life out of you. Mind you, I dunno how many other bands have done paid gigs in there! I reckon we’re one of a very few. We got to go up the stairs to the control room, the lot. We also removed a lighting flight-case full of lager and wine at the end.
What’s the best way to achieve great sound?
- Let professional audio people do their jobs. I’m a singer. They don’t ask to come on stage and sing my songs, so I don’t stand next to them telling them what to do with the mid-highs. If the twiddler is bass-drum obsessed, trying to prove something to his former tutor, you’re knackered anyway, so just stand there and enjoy the looks on the faces of the audience as their sternums flap and their jowls wobble in time to the beat...and move on to the next. I’d say most house engineers are excellent - they wouldn’t be there if they weren’t!
What was the most recent gig you did?
- It was at The Bullingdon in Oxford...which came shortly after appearing with Hawkwind at Hard Rock Hell Prog 7. Still got it...
During you career, you must have seen PA systems evolve quite a lot?
- Yes, obviously. I remember bass bins when it took four people to carry them up stairs. Then, in the mid 80s, they got that down to two people and now you can just get any small child off the street to carry them - with parental permission, of course. I worked for a PA company back then, in return for them doing free PAs for my band. It kept me fit and strong. The best rigs nowadays are so light, you have to go to the gym at the end of the day just to keep in shape for doing the garden. It’s harder being a singer, carrying
a rucksack full of cheap booze, than being a roadie...
What is the future of audio?
- I dunno. I’m not Mystic Meg.
Ok, put it another way...do you think the audio industry is in a sufficiently good place now that it will continue to prosper?
- Well, the stuff I write about appears to be doing well. As long as there people seeking psychological redemption through performing or listening to music; as long as there are people who believe in a higher being and others who want to tell them all about it; as long as there are people who want to be educated and people who want to educate them; in fact, as long as people gather together anywhere, for any reason, they are going to want audio. The trick for audio companies is to pay people like me more and more money to tell the masses which audio they need and why. Simple, really.
Where is your next gig?
Thanks you for your time, John. Next time we’d like to talk to you about Events Services Providers.
- Great. I really can’t wait.