“Wouldn’t it be cool if someone built a little black box that we could connect an iPad to and do our own mixes onstage?” Little did Roger Hodgson, the voice of Supertramp and composer of the band’s biggest hits, realize when he made this wish out loud that just such a box would be handed to him in short order.
Hodgson and his current band, which includes multi-instrumentalist Aaron MacDonald, Kevin Adamson on keyboards, bassist David J. Carpenter, and drummer Bryan Head, are currently crossing the globe as part of the ongoing Breakfast in America world tour. They’ve been hailed as making timeless Hodgson classics like “Give a Little Bit,” “Dreamer,” and “The Logical Song” sound better than when they first climbed the charts years ago.
Exceptionally melodic and fluid onstage, and capable of routinely dispensing complex orchestrations, the band had been listening to its own personal mixes with a 16-channel system until recently. “There are limitations with only 16 channels,” says Howard Heckers, Hodgson’s front of house engineer. “Everyone is pretty much going to be listening to the same things in one fashion or another. That’s why at the beginning of this year we had hopes of discovering a new system that would provide us with a broader aural palette.
“We thought if we could double our capacity, there would be more choices available,” he continues. “Everyone wouldn’t necessarily have to use all 32 channels, but we could provide seven or eight channels of drums, for example, and let everyone pick what they wanted. Improving our fidelity along the way was anticipated by all as well.”
Musician Aaron Macdonald’s iPad with personal monitor control is immediately accessible in front of him.
Stemming from a chance meeting in an Air Canada lounge between band members Adamson and MacDonald and Bill Coons of Contact Distribution, the road to meeting Heckers’ 32-channel, high-fidelity personal monitoring goals, as well as Hodgson’s own iPad vision, was to be paved.
Via Coons, who represents Pennsylvania-based Pivitec in the Canadian market, a meeting was arranged between Heckers and Pivitec’s Tom Knesel.
Pivitec had just introduced a 32-channel personal monitor mixing system based around Ethernet AVB protocols.
Engineer Howard Hecker (left) and stage tech Wim Daans showing the system’s iPad control interface.
After Knesel showed Heckers a demo system one night backstage using components including an e16i input module, e32 mixer, and an iPad running the company’s V2Mix Pro app, his interest ratcheted up. He went and got Hodgson. handed the frontman the iPad, and simply said, “This could be your monitor mixer.”
“Fantastic,” Hodgson replied. “Can you leave this here with us? We’ll buy it.”