With their mash-up of ‘80s synth pop and contemporary alt-rock, The Killers continue the’ momentum on 2009’s international jaunt in promotion of Day & Age, the band’s third outing.
James Gebhard has enjoyed a lengthy tenure with the band as FOH engineer (and for a time, production manager), stretching back to the “early’“days in 2004 when they headlined club dates and played ensemble radio promo fests.
Gebhard, who has also mixed for tours with The Strokes, The Vines, Ladytron, and Stiff Little Fingers, among others, was determined to carry a DiGiCo digital console on The Killers’ ‘09 tour as he had on their previous tours, and with The Strokes since 2003.
With the availability of the SD7—provided by Eighth Day Sound—he was able to step up into the new desk for the band’s escalated input needs. Engineer Clarke LePlante is also carrying a DiGiCo D5 for handling the group’s monitors.
“I loved the DiGiCo D5 so much, but last year, [DiGiCo Managing Director] James Gordon wouldn’t stop twisting my arm about the SD7,” Gebhard recalled. “I managed to free up some time and headed down to DiGiCo’s main HQ in south London. I took some multitrack recordings along to see how it stood up. To say I was impressed would be an understatement! After playing around on the board for an hour or so, I then jumped on a trusty D5 and it just cemented how amazing the SD7 was.”
Gebhard says he found the SD7’s sonic quality ‘simply amazing.’ “I can’t believe how it sounds, even compared to the D5—which I love. The biggest difference I’ve found is on the low-end; it almost molds it into a three-dimensional image. Its clarity is second to none.”
During rehearsals, Gebhard and backline tech/engineer, Matt Breunig, spent a good bit of time putting the console through its paces and exploring the depth of its features.
“Whilst messing about doing crazy things, we ended up running Brandon’s vocal with like -40 threshold 20:1 compression ratio and enough gain to bring it back up,” Gebhard explained. “Neither of us could believe how smooth the compressor was and how little it colorized the sound.
“I’ve always used a BSS DPR901 equalizer with Brandon’s vocals as he loves to cup the mic for that harsh sound. But when that’s amplified out front, it can get a little out of control sometimes, so I use the dynamic EQ to help compress set frequencies to try and smooth his voice out. Having that built into the console, and having it sound even better than a 901…I would say these are the most amazing features of the desk at this point.”
Eighth Day’s Technologist Specialist, Jason Kirschnick, concurs. “It’s always a pleasure to field the most leading-edge technology—which has been DiGiCo’s—for several years. The implementation of multi-band dynamic EQ and compression on the SD7— on all channels, auxes, groups, and matrix simultaneously—puts it miles ahead of anything out on the market.”
With the band’s burgeoning input list on the current tour, Gebhard was tasked with managing a minimum of 76, not including effects returns, audience mics, and the like. “There’s a crazy thing with The Killers,” he mused. “They tend to double the amount of inputs on every album. On ‘Hot Fuzz’ there was 23 to start with, and by the end of it, we were around 27. ‘Sam’s Town’ came in around 47, and at current, ‘Day and Age’ sits at 76 off-stage.
“Channel-wise, there’s like 12 drum channels, a percussion section, sax, keyboards for days, three guitar rigs (as in three different rigs for three different people playing different guitars), seven vocals (excluding spares), and a bunch of other bits and bobs.”
Gebhard also makes handy use of the SD7’s recording capabilities for virtual sound checks. Along with an RME MADI interface, he’s got two record machines on duty—an ADK-supplied system and his own Mac Pro running Logic—to multitrack the shows for archival purposes and possible use in the future.