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A Conversation With Gert Sanner—Moving From Front Of House To The Front Office

A change will do you good...

By Paul Watson July 31, 2012

Gert Sanner

Gert Sanner worked for more than 20 years as a system tech and front of house engineer for tours and events ranging from corporate events to large-scale stadium tours, Broadway shows and major UK festivals.

He’s probably most-known for his six-year stint as the house engineer for legendary British rock band Deep Purple.

Earlier this year, however, Sanner decided to “pull back his faders” and accept an offer from Harman to become tour sound market manager for EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa), based at the Potters Bar (UK) manufacturing and training facility.

In his new role with Harman, he’s leading the Soundcraft “Mixing With Professionals” training program where he had already earned high marks as a top instructor, as well as providing certified JBL VTX and Crown VRack training and support, and more.

I recently caught up with him to find out why he made the move, how life is going for him off the road, and more about what he’s doing with Harman.

Paul Watson: What’s it like having a “real job” after all these years?

Gert Sanner: A little different (smiles) … And probably a little harder than I thought, but also quite nice in a way – you know, you get your real weekends; well, if you get one, that is, but it’s pretty cool.

So moving from the comfort of your console, where you’ve been all of your working life, to an alien environment—doesn’t feel at least a little strange?

I think this job came at the right time for me. My last tour with (Deep) Purple was great, but at the time I really thought it wouldn’t get any better than that, and the idea of that part of my life coming to a finish at some point really got me thinking.

An opportunity like this – working with a company like Harman – doesn’t come every day, and I can’t expect people to wait for me, so I found myself weighing up the odds, you know? I could do the live thing with Purple for another three years, but in this new role, it could be another 20, so it made good sense to me.

Mr. Sanner in his previous role behind the board for Deep Purple. (click to enlarge)

You’ve had a strong working relationship with Soundcraft for a number of years now. Did Harman just approach you one day and say, “hey, we might have something for you,” or was there more to it than that?

It was a lot more fun than that, actually (laughs). I was at Frankfurt in 2011 doing a Soundcraft thing – they hired me regularly to do Vi6 demos for those shows because I speak German. Paul (Bauman) showed up with his new (JBL) VTX, and Scott Robbins (Harman group-wide VP of sales) was there, and basically we all got together in the hotel bar one night, and they said: ‘Wouldn’t it be fun if you were working for us?’

And what was your initial response?

“Absolutely no chance!” But, of course, things progressed and I agreed to do the VTX training, then Paul suggested I could teach the training on a free-lance basis. I then realized between that, and my work for Soundcraft, then I’d be spending a lot of time at Harman anyway.

What do you think you’ll be able to offer each brand, respectively?

Well, at the moment it’s very much Soundcraft and JBL, but I’m due to meet with the AKG guys soon. One thing that was very important was that I was a fan of all the brands – that definitely had an impact on me taking the job. My role within Harman includes product training, end-user training, and in return, user feedback – so when I’m out there doing these things and they (customers) tell me things, I filter that down to the relevant people in Harman rather than randomly emailing it off.

Bypassing some of the bureaucracy, so to speak? And I guess your experience on the road makes it easier for an end user to come to you with any issues or questions, too?

Yes to both. Although to be honest, nine out of 10 times there is no issue with the kit, and quite often I can answer the questions there and then. For example, the other day someone asked me, “Why can you not insert eight of the Lexicons into each channel of the Vi6?” Typically in the past, that would have involved an e-mail chain to many people to find out the answer, but I just said “Because it makes no sense!” Job done!

In a language they’ll understand, then?

Absolutely (smiles).

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