Over the years, Dave Rat has authored numerous articles for this website and Live Sound International, most recently “Snake Channel 24” (read it here).
This time, however, Dave is the focus, for living up to his mantra of never going on tour without a project. As he memorably said during a 2009 tour as the front of house engineer for Blink 182, “I always want to come back with something new. If all I come back with is a bunch of hangovers and a wad a cash, I might as well stay home.”
Previously this mantra has manifested itself in things like building an electric go-kart, implementing double hangs of V-DOSC arrays, and creating the experimental “orgasmatron” subwoofer array. This time, currently out with the latest Red Hot Chili Peppers world tour, Dave is hosting audio education seminars at most stops on the tour.
These sessions are open to the pro audio public – all that’s required is online registration (at www.daverat.com) and a minimal fee to help with expenses.
In April, I was invited to attend Dave’s session when the tour came to my home base of Toronto. Unsurprisingly, the session, like his blog posts, videos and articles, was detailed, thoughtful and often hilarious, covering a variety of miscellaneous “sound nerdery” ranging from the effects of thermal and environmental factors on live sound to an in-depth look at his ongoing quest for the “holy grail” of sub configurations.
The format is blissfully simple. Dave sits down for three-plus hours with a small group of audio professionals and shares a digital scrapbook – photos of past tours, his current RHCP setup, as well as diagrams and prediction screen shots of various sub arrays past and present. Further points and discussion are loosely based on the concepts of conflict and harmony.
He doesn’t pull any punches in challenging widely held assumptions and explaining the real world benefits of doing so. Take his opinion of overheads, which, beyond being an eyesore, he says, are essentially room mics placed near the drums that only exasperate attempts to “get rid of the room” in large venues.
Additionally, Dave offered up tips and straightforward solutions to common audio problems, as well as interesting details of his approach to mixing, i.e., setting up his console sideways and working in the dark with only bits of tape as “fader Braille” to guide him during shows.
His passion for the craft is very similar to a musician’s passion for their own, with the difference being that when he encounters a problem, rather than throw his mic at something (or someone) and stomp off stage, he tracks down the trouble as if his life depends on it.
Take his investigation into why the snare heads of RHCP drummer Chad Smith suddenly began blowing out during a run of shows in the EU. The cause: a slight alteration in the shape of the tip of the sticks Chad was using. And yes, Dave had a photo ready at hand to prove it.
Bottom line, he’s never come across a problem on tour he hasn’t been determined to solve. For engineers with their own unanswered questions, the seminar adventure offers up a fine opportunity to get some answers. Beyond that, for sound nerds of any description, or skill level, it’s a great way to truly enjoy an afternoon.
On a side note, for anyone who’s found their attempts to mix a band effectively stymied because of outrageous stage volume, it wouldn’t hurt to bring the offenders along, too. Chances are Dave’s description of the bedside manner he adopts when dealing with challenging musicians might solve the problem then and there.
A list of upcoming dates and a detailed list of topics covered can be found at www.daverat.com. Dave is also taking requests – anyone interested in attending can field a topic and, if possible, he’ll add it into the seminar mix.
Dave with fellow “sound nerds” at the Toronto seminar.
Check out all of Dave’s articles on PSW here.
Based in Toronto, Kevin Young is a freelance music and tech writer, professional musician and composer.