Becoming a symbol of the Italian youth of the ’80s, Italian singer-songwriter and rapper, Lorenzo Cherubini’s (better known as Jovanotti) first studio album, Jovanotti for President, sold over 400,000 copies in Italy, while his song Piove was released for the second season of The Sopranos as an ending credits track.
Still popular to this day, Jovanotti is currently on tour, where his front of house and monitor engineers rely on three SSL Live L550 consoles from Solid State Logic to provide that signature full, analog sound – whilst playing to crowds of 40,000 on sandy beaches.
Jovanotti’s monitor engineer, Massimo Manunza, has been working with the performer since 2007, which he says has been a great experience both artistically and technically. In terms of monitor mixes, Manunza says he and the band couldn’t be happier with the sonics, “It’s such a full sound – and very analogue, which reflects the original [Jovanotti] recordings,” he clarifies. “The coherence of the SSL is extremely impressive.”
Working with three SSL Live L550 consoles (one at front of house, one for monitor mixing, and one as a mirrored/spare desk) and a SuperAnalogue MADI I/O, the front of house and monitor L550s are connected via a passive splitter – galvanically decoupled.
“I use 4 ML32.32 stageboxes connected with a Blacklight II Concentrator and connected to the mixer with fibre, where I use all the inputs and about 90 bus outputs,” Manunza explains. “The front of house L550 has three ML32.32 stageboxes, with a Blacklight II concentrator and fibre. To manage this large amount of I/O, I need to configure the layout in a really intuitive way to avoid wasting time searching for resources, so I created layouts for musicians or types of instruments: drum, percussion, bass, guitars, keyboards, tracks, and so on. The two bay fader tiles at the bottom are for the inputs, and the inclined fader tiles are for the outputs. With my mixer I also manage communications between the various directories. There are 128 inputs, 30 mono aux sends, and 30 stereo aux sends – including effects and services, in addition to 14 VCAs, one PFL and one AFL.”
Manunza has been using the SSL Live L550 from its debut, and states that one of his favorite functions is the ability to modify the signal flow of a single channel to his liking. “Undoubtedly, the analog SSL sound makes the difference, and its EQ helps to modify the sound to your liking even with very small variations,” he explains. “It’s remarkably responsive.”
He is also a big fan of the SSL’s dynamics, describing them as ‘transparent’ while allowing him to find his settings with extreme precision. “The sound is incredible; I can’t do without them,” he enthuses. “In particular, the Delay with All-Pass Filter changes your life. I use the whole section of the internal effects now that the processor’s computing power has been increased.”
Describing his favorite functionality, Manunza highlights the L550’s Flip to Fader. “The part of the Parametric EQ in the effects that I use to equalise the IEMs and wedge / sidefills, and certainly the automations, are what make this show so enjoyable,” he says. “The console is incredible in so many aspects – the sound, first of all – but the software part is now definitely way ahead of the competition.”
Jovanotti’s tour often sees the singer perform on beaches, which could cause issues for some equipment. However, Manunza insists that SSL has more than risen to the challenge:
“The SSL consoles are so reliable, and on this tour we have used them on beaches with dust, salt, sun, wind, humidity and coloured powders – they have never yielded for a single moment. The tour has been an extraordinary success: 17 shows, with about 40,000 people on every beach.”
Pino Pischetola has worked with Jovanotti in the studio since 2005, and has been working with him in a live capacity since 2013. On this tour, the whole idea at front of house is to have a live band that plays Jovanotti hits in between a live DJ set. The goal is to achieve a unique musical flow where there is no distinction between, as Pischetola puts it, ‘the two souls of the show.’
“To achieve this, I’m sending the band mix to Jovanotti’s DJ mixer so he can mix between the live band and the records; I receive his mix and balance it with the vocals,” Pischetola reveals, adding that the artist always takes a great interest in the technical aspects of the show, and the solutions used. “There are also situations where I control the band totally: by using the SSL’s Stems and multiple masters, I can route the band where I want instantly. Also, using Stems for FX send returns is a big advantage compared to using the standard aux route; one channel is enough, and using QUERY, I can easily send the tracks that I want to.
“For this tour I wanted to have an analog approach because there is no fixed set list, and there is also a lot of improvisation; this is the reason I’m doing front of house mixing from the stage, where I have more control of everything that’s happening. I’m not even using scenes or automation. When I switch on the mixer, it’s set up how I left it in the last show, and I go from there. There is a lot of real-time mixing, which is a lot of fun.
Pischetola breaks down his SSL layout in detail: “On fader tile one, I have one layer with the instrument stems, the master send to the DJ mixer, the DJ mixer return, and the vocals; and on another layer I have all the VCAs that control each musician. On fader tile two, there are the layers for all the instruments divided by instrument type, which makes it very quick for me to reach all the band members. Then on fader tile three I have the master outputs and the quad channel which takes these two signals and feeds the PA.”
In fact, the only external device Pischetola uses is a MacBook Pro running MainStage and some samples. “I record the multi-track of each show using MADI, and the stems on my MacBook Pro using Dante; I’ve recorded the whole tour without ever recalling a single scene! That’s 17 three-hour long shows only with live moves.”
This is the fourth tour that Pischetola has done using SSL, and he couldn’t be more comfortable using the console:
“This use of layers and Stems lets me organise the session very easily – even if there are a lot of instruments involved. This time I also used a lot of the internal effects as well. Really, it’s a combination of the sound of the SSL, its processing power, and the signal routing options which make it so fantastic to use. And for people that are used to the SSL EQ and dynamics, like myself, you can achieve things so quickly because the console is so intuitive.”