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A Busy Place: An Exclusive Look At Sound For The Current Radiohead Tour
The sound team details the audio approach for live shows that always offer surprises
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Another new addition this time out is a Boss RE-20 foot pedal, offering the “analog” echo effects of the original Roland RE-201 Space Echo.

The RE-20, a tap input pedal, allows delay time to be set by fist, with longer delay times than the original RE-201. A mode selector knob offers 12 placements.

“Plug-ins are great, but the downside on this desk is that the accessibility to them isn’t fantastic, so just having something in front of you that’s an accessible delay, and to do some dubbing with as well, has worked out well,” Warren explains.

“It was inspired by guys I’ve seen from opening acts who were bringing in a guitar pedal board because they were doing club gigs, and sometimes it’s just best to have something you know and how it works, and how to get the sound you want out of it.”

“The learning curve was about 10 minutes – get me one in and a stereo return, and I’ll turn off what I don’t need and slap something through it to come up with some brilliant noises,” he adds. “At the end of the day it’s all about getting your hands on the stuff when you need it. It’s all well and good to have a rack full of beautiful looking things, but if you can’t do what you need them to do at the time, they’re not worth it.”

Good At What They Do

Levels during sound check are about 3 to 4 dB below show levels. “During the show I’ve always tried to keep it at a decent level,” Warren says. “We’ve been to festivals where you have people who seem to mix so loud, where it isn’t happening unless it’s moving your internal organs. When I started working with Radiohead, they were one of the bands that were sufficiently good at what they were doing, and playing interesting stuff that you didn’t have to have stupidly loud, because people actually wanted to hear it clearly, such as what all three guitars were doing.”

A partial view of some of the stage mic’ing. (click to enlarge)

He also enjoys great lines of communication with the band. “If you listen to some of the sounds on their own, they may not all sound fantastic, but I’ll try to clean them up, and just as I’m doing it, Thom (lead singer Thom Yorke, lead vocals, guitar, piano) will say, ‘no, this is supposed to be really dirty and really horrible.’

“Even on some of their records, there can be a song with a really terrible drum sound, but it’s what creates the whole mood for what that song feels like,” he continues. “So live, they will sometimes go for the intentional ‘messing up a bit.’

“I’ve reminded them from the start that I’ve got Pro Tools, so they can come out to the house and listen to stuff, especially because there’s a load of new songs coming out from the new record, and even newer material they’re working on in rehearsals, so I’m well aware that my first guess of what something is supposed to sound like might be barking up the wrong tree.”

“Thom will sometimes give a quick direction at the start of the song – within the first eight bars or so – saying something like ‘as long as the drums are loud, this one will work,’ but it gives you an idea of the direction you’re headed.”

Source: Live Sound International

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