So what’s keeping you busiest at the moment then, three months into the new role?
Well, I’m hardly in the office – put it that way. I’ve been to several Mixing with Professionals, several VTX training sessions, and have spent maybe six days in total in the office.
So in a sense you’re still on the road, then. Does that help the transition, staying hands-on with the kit?
Yeah, it does. The only thing I do wish Harman would do is get a tour manager on the road, though, like we did on tour, because booking your own flights is a nightmare.
And have you found that you’re missing live gigging, at all?
You know, I was quite scared the other day how much I don’t miss it.
When I was out in Europe recently on a JBL job, I was looking at FOH and the team and thought to myself, “I really don’t envy their job.”
This year’s Frankfurt show was all about new large-format loudspeaker systems, where several new models seemed to really shine, such as VTX and Nexo STM. Does this spell a new approach to loudspeaker design, do you think?
I believe it does. PA systems were traditionally built to be specialized tools – you’d have a PA system that would be really good outdoors on a festival or on a big stadium tour, but maybe not flexible enough to do maybe a theatre tour.
This meant the person who’s buying it has to spend a lot of money because he needs a vast amount of different tools to do different jobs, so typically a sound company will nowadays have four or five different types of PA systems to cater for all their work.
I think the new trend is to try to get that number down, so the individual cabinet does more work, because the margins for the rental companies are not getting any bigger and they’re being forced to spend more money on jobs that don’t really pay back that much just to keep the big jobs.
Moving toward a “light bulb moment.” (click to enlarge)
The VTX system is a lot lighter, smaller, and has a hell of a lot of horsepower; it can do a lot more jobs individually, be it a medium-sized theatre or a big football stadium, or pretty much anything in between.
What has been the biggest hurdle to overcome in making the transition from engineer to corporate employee?
The more I think about it, I’m not sure this job is that different to being on the road. I mean, I still work ridiculously long hours, I travel a lot, and I’m there to solve problems, so in many ways my job hasn’t changed at all. But I guess one thing I’ve already noticed though is that you have to look at stuff with different eyes.
Finally, I know you’re a bit of an ideas man in terms of new products. How long before we see one of those famous Gert Sanner “light bulb moments” come to fruition?
Well you’re right, I do have a few ideas – for example, I still think there are vast improvements to be made in loudspeaker control, be it software, hardware or a bit of both; and I have some ideas about what I think a PA controller should look like. Hopefully someone will build it one day. We’re already talking about it, so you never know…
Paul Watson is the editor for Europe for Live Sound International.