Musician and guitar virtuoso Dweezil Zappa chooses the eMotion LV1 live mixer from Waves Audio for recording and live-mixing his album Live in the Moment II, which highlights extemporaneous live guitar solos from his years on tour, along with rare demos and instrumental tracks recorded in the studio. He has also grown to rely on the LV1 as an essential, ubiquitous everyday tool for live front of house and monitor mixes, reference recordings, downloadable complete shows and more.
Zappa comments, “When I started using the Waves eMotion LV1 system for my tour, there was an immediate improvement to the individual mixes that the band had in their in-ear monitors. This translated into more consistency and better performances by all of the musicians on stage. When you are really comfortable with your own mix, it makes every aspect of the music performance better.
“The front of house experience for the audience improved drastically as well, since with the LV1 there were so many great plugins now available to control, shape and enhance the sound. The major change in the whole tour production was the stereo reference recordings of the shows. The power and flexibility of the LV1 system made it possible to overcome the typical issue that plague standard front of house ref-mixes, meaning that when things that are too loud on-stage they tend to sound too quiet in the ref mix.”
He adds, “Having access to all of Waves’ plugins inside the LV1, coupled with the LV1’s amazingly flexible routing matrix, made it possible to get a record-quality balance for the reference mix on a nightly basis. We were seriously getting results that are finished-record-quality and ready to be sent to mastering. This is also largely due to the fact that our front of house engineer, Eran Ben Zur, is very good at what he does, and his gain structure is always spot-on as well. This makes it possible for me to have consistency and easy access to post-production alterations if I feel like it.
“All this is incredible, because it allows me to release a lot more material, without having to go into the studio to mix it. I will now be able to upload shows to my website, 24 hours after the show, and make them available to the fans. The LV1 system not only makes stuff sound better, it also creates solutions to problems we typically encounter during live shows, as well as creating opportunities for swift conversion of content, making it a total game changer for live production.”
Zappa notes, about the sound-consistency issues resulting from recording in venues of different types and sizes, “I had an idea in my head about how it would all sound when it was sequenced together and mastered, and it turned out to be a pretty easy process. Most of the mixes on the album are unadulterated front of house mixes. On some occasions we did open up sessions and adjust the balance for certain instruments, especially on nights where the performance was great, but unfortunately, the recording suffered from a technical problem, like a bad cable causing random distortion or low levels. All in all, I think everything fits together cohesively. The same drum kit, same mics, same mic pre’s and same settings definitely helped. Another thing that helps is the interstitial transitions between songs. They act as palate-cleansers between tracks and help to set up new audio environments when necessary.”
The team’s approach to live-mixing the material originally composed and recorded by Frank Zappa leaves no stone unturned. Zappa notes, “We start with some intel on where the original albums may have been recorded and what gear was used at that time. So, for example, if we are playing a song from Joe’s Garage, I happen to know that the studio where it was recorded had an API console. We love to get all of the details we can into the audio path, so we try to build the foundation of the sound with emulations of the typical gear of the time: dbx 160 compression, 1176s, API and Neve etc. With the eMotion LV1 snapshots, it’s possible to change all of the audio paths for every instrumental every time we play a new song. It’s amazing. And, Eran just gets great drum sounds and they keep getting better.”
Live engineer Eran Ben Zur uses the Waves Tracks Live multitrack recording software, directly from the mic pre’s. The L/R recording comes from the outputs from the LV1 master L/R, following his master bus where he uses Waves plugins like the NLS Non-Linear Summer, SSL G-Master Buss Compressor, J37 Tape and L2 Ultramaximizer.
Ben Zur remarks, “I have been using the eMotion LV1 live mixer since it first came out in early 2016. Using the LV1 enables us to craft the sonic experience according to Dweezil’s vision. Before the tour, Dweezil sent me a set list and references for each song, so I could listen to the original versions and reference how each song will be played in the show. During rehearsals, I multitrack-recorded every song and then played it back through the LV1 and remixed it. It’s easier to do it like that because I can stop and play any section of the song, multiple times, until I get the result I’m looking for.”
Zur continues, “I’m using a variety of Waves plugins in order to get the sound as close to the original as possible, capturing the vibe and the general sound from the era that the [original Frank Zappa] songs were recorded. This is especially important for the drum sound, since we’re using just one drum kit on stage, but the sound of the drums needs to change from song to song: plugins like Waves Torque were crucial in helping me do that. But it’s also important for guitars and for vocal effects, which were a big thing in Frank’s music. I created a snapshot for each song, while still leaving room for some effects (mainly delays) to manually punch in and out when needed.”
Zappa summarizes: “The great thing about the eMotion LV1 is that it is as flexible as it is powerful. It provides all of the tools an audio engineer could possibly want or need for sound enhancement, creativity and, most importantly for live sound, problem-solving. Not only is it great at handling the front of house mix, but with the LV1, our in-ear monitor mix has access to all of the plugins as well. It’s amazing to have access to dynamic tools that can protect our hearing and enhance our mix at the same time. An example of that would be multi-band compression and expansion that is targeting harsh high-frequency peaks and low-level sound imbalances in the keyboard bus. Every musician monitors things at a slightly different level, and this setup benefits all of us by reducing the gain when necessary and leaving the bus untouched when the threshold has not been triggered. So, we get the benefit of protection from harsh frequencies directly in our ears and automatic gain increases for low level sounds.
“The main thing that this system has allowed me to do is to have the confidence that we will have great sound in our in-ear mixes, which really increases our ability to perform the music. The fact that I can also capture multi-track audio and stereo references that are studio-quality makes this system an absolute requirement for my tour.”