The Black Keys, aka Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, have had a big underground following for over a decade but with the success of 2010’s Grammy awarded Brothers and last year’s wildly successful El Camino, they’re in the midst of their first headlining arena tour across the globe.
The tour is also the first time the Black Keys have had the luxury of carrying their own production gear, which includes a DiGiCo SD10 for FOH and an SD8 at monitors, spec’d by longtime engineer Jason Tarulli and provided by Eighth Day Sound. The console’s flexibility and fidelity have given Tarulli and monitor engineer Fabian Quiroga a much-desired consistency from gig to gig.
“I was originally intrigued the first time I had a chance to get behind a DiGiCo board at a show we did in Cleveland around 2009,” Tarulli recalled. “Unfortunately, at that time, we were not carrying audio production of any kind and I never knew what I was going to get into from day to day. But on that day back in 2009, both the PA and DiGiCo SD7 desk were supplied by Eighth Day Sound (also out of Cleveland), and the tech walked me through some of the features and flexibility of the console. I immediately wanted to see more of this desk. Once we got through the basics and I was able to actually hear my mix through the SD7—paired up with a d&b J-Series rig—I was very, very pleased with how it sounded. It was a welcome moment of clarity in a mess of flavor-of-the-day consoles and PA’s.”
It wasn’t until 2011 that the Black Keys started getting big enough to carry full audio production. When asked what he wanted to carry, Tarulli immediately thought back to that show in Cleveland and began asking colleagues what they thought about the DiGiCo desks.
“I spoke with a few other engineers, including Kevin Madigan, whom I’d met through our tour manager at a festival while he was FOH for the Smashing Pumpkins, as well as Jay Rigby, the monitor engineer for Cage the Elephant. They both said essentially the same thing: ‘Get the DiGiCo desk!’ I got in touch with Owen Orzack at Eighth Day and he invited me up to their HQ and I was able to get some hands-on time with the new SD10.
“There were a few things I wanted to sort out before taking out a desk that I had only used once or twice in the past: I wanted to be familiar and confident with the functionality of the board, I wanted the capability of getting a multitrack recording of each show as well as playback for reference through the console, and I wanted to be able to check out the new Waves rack—all of which I was able to do thanks to the user-friendly and flexible layout of the desk and, of course, once again, all of the helpful people at Eighth Day.”
As they have in the past, guitarist/vocalist Auerbach and drummer/vocalist Carney tour as a four-piece, supported by John Wood on keys, rhythm guitar, percussion, and vocals, and Gus Seyffert on bass, rhythm guitar, and vocals. Tarulli is managing approximately 40 inputs from the stage, including 11 mics on the drum kit, a mic and DI on the bass, and each of the six guitar amps has a mic and a direct box patched between the amp output and speaker. Additionally, there are three vocal mics, one for percussion, and two ambient mics set up stage left and stage right for the multitrack recording.