Production manager Stumpy, the band’s sound engineers and the team at Entec reflect on how they worked together to make Editors’ 2018 tour one to remember.

Fronted by Tom Smith, a lead singer famously blessed with the largest vocal range of any contemporary artist, Editors could rightfully be described as a classic workhorse band with a relentless commitment to the live scene. Stronger and more confident than ever, and with Entec’s staunch audio support on tap throughout, the band – featuring Smith’s fellow co-founders Russell Leetch and Ed Lay, plus Justin Lockey and Elliott Williams – hit a purple patch in 2018 with the spring release of Violence, their latest long player, coinciding with the start of nine solid months of touring, amounting to no less than 102 shows.

Difficult to categorise, Editors’ broad music catalogue was represented onstage by a dynamic, career-spanning set that blended old classics like ‘Munich’, ‘Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors’ and ‘An End Has A Start’ with the more recent ‘Sugar’, ‘Darkness At The Door’ and ‘Nothingness’, winning new fans every night as well as satisfying the faithful.

At the helm of the band’s production is Stumpy (a.k.a. Fraser McAvoy), who works closely with tour manager Mark ‘Maccum’ Williams. Stumpy came into the Editors camp as PM just over two years ago following a long spell with acts including Skunk Anansie, Marillion and Wet Wet Wet. After his first year, he put the production supply out for tender, as he explained: “I wanted to change a few things, and bringing Entec in was one of the big moves for me. Jonny Clark [Entec’s head of sound] was very helpful in shaping and pricing a package that would work for us on several counts. I was happy about that because they’ve been my preferred audio supplier for more than 20 years.

“The standard of Entec’s service has always been second to none. The relationship I had with Dick Hayes was great and the way Jonny has picked up the mantle has been superb. Their independent structure allows them to be more instantly responsive and you’re treated in a warm and respectful manner. They do everything the correct way and nothing is ever too much trouble. For instance, during our last week in Europe, we had some of the band’s own DI boxes go down. I made a phone call to Jonny at 4pm and at 9.30 the next morning, three new DIs promptly arrived. That’s what real support is all about.”

With 14 compelling years behind them, Editors’ working preferences are long established. Entec’s practical role, meanwhile, was all about providing the most comfortable solutions for the audio team. “We spent a lot of time investigating how best to simplify this touring system,” said Jonny. “Much of our focus was on how we packaged the equipment to fit neatly into the available truck space and enable the quickest load-in and load-out, keeping Stumpy and the guys happy. Being able to accommodate FOH and monitors within a 13U double-wide rack at either end was a small victory. It was a neat set-up that occupied a very small footprint onstage and gave us half the amount of lids to store – a minor detail that becomes a big deal in tight confines.”

KICKING OFF

Editors’ year began in February with rehearsals at Robannas studio in Birmingham, in preparation for a handful of launch shows for Violence in early March, in Warsaw, Birmingham, Manchester, Rome and London. With barely enough time to catch their breath, the band and their core crew of 10 returned to Europe for a full-scale spring tour, followed by a trek to the USA and Mexico. By the summer, Editors were immersing themselves in the festival scene, playing 27 dates at events ranging from Werchter’s TW Classic, PinkPop and Zürich OpenAir, to Coventry’s Godiva Festival and British Summer Time in Hyde Park (with The Cure).

Sandwiched in between the latter run and the year’s final series of concerts in Europe was a 14-date autumn tour of the UK and Ireland, for which Entec despatched Peter Eltringham as a system tech. Up to this point, Entec’s package had consisted of a line system, monitor control and mics, however, it was now expanded to include an d&b J-Series line array, comprising 20 J8 loudspeakers, four J12s and eight J-SUBs (12 at Brixton Academy) with 18 D80 amplifiers.

Said Peter: “As we normally do, we looked at the venue data before arriving at each gig to get an idea of how many boxes to take off the truck in the morning, and then go and measure the room ourselves because the plan is never the same as the building you’re faced with!

“We used ArrayProcessing everywhere we put PA and trim everything using d&b’s ArrayCalc and R1 remote control software. It gave us a lot of headroom which is so important for clarity. It’s nice to be able to sit Tom Smith’s great voice on top of the mix and that combination of ArrayProcessing and J-Series can give you such an intelligible yet powerful result.

“The boxes weren’t really working that hard at any of the shows, not because it wasn’t a loud show but simply because we installed the correct amount of boxes and designed for a very even coverage. That always gives the FOH engineer the confidence that what they are hearing mirrors the audience experience.”

Stage tech Colin Woodward, who assumed the system tech role outside of the UK, believed that simplicity was often the best policy: “Entec’s line systems are designed to enable an easy set-up, ensuring that the whole stage is ready in no time, and there’s a lot to be said for their approach. As for the J-Series, it worked exceptionally well every day, although many of us have come to expect nothing less, and Pete’s help and know-how was a key asset.”

UNCONVENTIONAL

The mere sight of FOH engineer Adam Pendse’s compact workstation and its absence of hardware faders and pots aroused an assortment of curious, confused and downright befuddled responses from technically-minded passers-by. Rather than take the conventional route, Adam, a self-confessed “computer nerd”, chose to custom-build his own mixing solution, based around the Waves eMotion LV1 live mixer and four monitor screens.

“There have been a lot of raised eyebrows this year because this kind of thing hasn’t been seen too often in the wild!” Adam laughed, “but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it starts to catch on sooner than later.”

Doesn’t it feel strange to mix a show without actual faders? “It’s certainly different, but I’ve used computer interfaces as part of my set up for a long time, so it wasn’t quite the stretch that it may seem. I’m accessing all the controls – mutes, hot keys and fader banks – via touchscreen. The monitor screens give me an incredible amount of visual information and I’m able to organise everything precisely as I want it to appear.

“The great thing about this arrangement is the amount of freedom that its modularity offers me. It takes up little truck space and I can scale it to suit circumstances. On the final European leg, I was touring with the full four-screen configuration; when we hit the festivals, I split the screens between A and B rigs, and it’s also possible to reduce it to a laptop and a Peli case if necessary, which is perfect if you’re travelling light.”

While Peter Eltringham found Adam’s control choice fascinating, he also noted the practical challenges of touring with an as-yet widely used system. He said: “At the moment, there are very few engineers at this level who can offer Adam experienced advice about the LV1 if he’s looking for tips, but we were always around to help, suggest new ideas and swap things around. Although Adam was liaising directly with Waves throughout the year, we were another point of call for technical support and we would all work together to resolve any issue that arose. It was that spirit of teamwork that helped towards a successful tour.”

Peter added: “Working with that system represented a huge learning curve for all of us and as the year progressed, not only did the set-up become increasingly secure, we also gained a lot of practical knowledge that will be useful to pass on to future users.”

Now starting his fifth year with the band, Adam continued: “This system deliberately has a small footprint. We had a BNC multicore from Entec and I took a MADI split from [monitor engineer] Chris Barton’s SD-Rack to get my inputs from the stage. Along with a bunch of channels that I generated at FOH, I was playing with just over 60 channels, which meant I was using the LV1 fairly close to its maximum capability.”

Whilst not every engineer will happily gain share with his colleague, the solid trust between Adam and Chris meant that they were in a position to require just one SD-Rack, thereby reducing the footprint onstage and saving money that could be spent elsewhere in the production. “If they had gone with separate SD-Racks, they would have needed a split system,” observed Peter. “Fortunately, from a budget perspective, their choice was perfectly workable and they have good two-way communication so that whenever Adam needed an increase in dB, Chris would set the gains higher and just trim them back for himself at his end.”

Waves’ SoundGrid technology is naturally one of the LV1’s big selling points. The broad spectrum of high quality onboard plug-ins – particularly the C6 multi-band compressor and the SSL G-Master buss compressor – is a significant asset for Adam, although he insisted that he is never too far away from the analogue domain. “I tend to carry a small selection of outboard devices, such as a Mäag EQ4M [mastering EQ] and a Smart Research C2 compressor which are both outstanding units that cover my main left/right output. I have an analogue chain over Tom’s vocal which consists of Neve’s 5045 Primary Source Enhancer, a clever gate for minimising stage spill, which goes into a Portico II channel strip.”

MIKED UP

Tom Smith’s choice of microphone has been the focus of much scrutiny owing to his voice almost qualifying as a freak of nature. Four years ago, musicnotes.com conducted a survey of contemporary singers including Bruce Dickinson, Matt Bellamy, Bono and Chris Martin, documenting their highest and lowest recorded notes. Tom topped the list by a long way with an impressive range of 4.75 octaves, from D3 to B7.

It was one of the reasons that encouraged Adam to make a savvy change during the last week of the European tour in December. “Before I started with Editors, the band were already using Sennheiser vocal mics and although they had become accustomed to their sound, I felt that Tom’s e945 – whilst being a very good mic – wasn’t doing everything we needed. I’d used the Telefunken M80 before with an American artist and thought it would be a better fit for Tom’s exceptional range, because of its very wide frequency response and high SPL capability. Entec were able to dispatch an M80 upon request and the considerable difference it made will serve us well into the future.”

Monitor man Chris Barton agreed that the mic swap has paid in dividends. He said: “We’re definitely getting more level and less spill from the new mic. I enjoyed the fact that when Tom wasn’t on the mic, I wasn’t having to lower the fader to prevent cymbal spill like I was forced to do with the e945. Having such a belting voice, Tom often pulls away from the mic when he’s really going for it and the M80 gives us a happy medium when it comes to proximity effects. It’s the first time I’ve used an M80 and it’s been a pleasant surprise overall. If it works for Adam and it keeps the singer happy, it’s a win-win situation.”

Elsewhere, Entec provided models such as Neumann KM184s, DPA’s d:vote 4099s for Ed Lay’s toms and snare drum, and DPA d:dicate ST4011A mics for his cymbals.

VERSATILITY

When Chris Barton was offered the monitor engineer position in the summer of 2015, he received some sage advice from a friend with previous Editors’ crew experience. “He told me I’d be mad to not accept the job, that I’d like the guys and their music, and that I’d be kept very, very busy. He wasn’t wrong!”

Along with four d&b V-SUB sidefills, Chris’s kit choices from Entec’s warehouse included a DiGiCo SD10 console. “Moving to an SD10 at the start of the year was one of my better decisions. Its matrix option is excellent, offering a helpful solution for shout systems, because you can structure an extremely versatile network quite simply. Obviously, it’s good to use a desk that you can find anywhere in the world but it’s how it all plugs together and how easily any problems are handled that counts. That’s the human side of it, which Entec are very good at delivering.”

Using Sennheiser G3 wireless systems for in-ear monitoring, each of Editors’ five band members has a stereo IEM mix, while Chris also creates three stereo mixes for technicians and the sidefills, as well as outputting to a thumper for drummer Ed Lay.

“I generally take a simple approach to mixing and don’t bother with pre-programmed scenes – just level changes and mutes,” Chris commented. “Around 80% of the band’s material requires an element of playback support, so I’m dropping click tracks in and out for them. Ed constantly has a click in his ears but the other members are very selective about when they want to hear it.”

 

MEMORABLE

The UK tour began on October 7th at Southampton’s Guildhall and all was going swimmingly until five days later when Tom Smith was suddenly struck down by a bad cold prior to the show at Aberdeen’s Beach Ballroom. “It’s not a gig you regularly see on tour itineraries but I think that was part of the attraction,” noted Peter Eltringham. “It might have been one of the tour’s most memorable gigs had it gone ahead but Tom was struggling at soundcheck and the tough decision was made to cancel rather than compromise the remaining dates.

“We were gutted because it looked and sounded so good, considering the restraints posed by the room. With weight loading being a problem there, we couldn’t fly anything so we used a ground-stacked design with four tops per side and it worked a treat. Fortunately, Tom was back on form the next day for the show at Barrowlands in Glasgow, which was really bouncing.”

Another of Peter’s favourite moments from the UK tour was playing the Belfast’s Ulster Hall. He said: “The great thing about our system choice was that its flexibility catered for a whole world of scenarios. Ulster Hall is a lovely venue that poses a few challenges due to its general shape of the room and the flying points made it difficult to get the PA hangs where we wanted them but this was where ArrayProcessing really earned its keep – it could analyse the situation and make adjustments to suit. It’s very rewarding when you can turn a situation around like that and this was definitely one of Editors’ best sounding shows.”

“Fortunately, out of the whole year, I can’t remember one stinker!” claimed Chris. “Editors are particularly big in Holland and Belgium, and they sold out in minutes, so gigs like the Tivoli in Utrecht are perfect gigs for them but, to be fair, the band went down a storm everywhere. A week after we played British Summer Time in Hyde Park, the TW Classic festival at Werchter was another huge moment, not least because the band helped to curate the bill as well as headline, and they really rose to the occasion.”

Entec was proud to lend its expertise and support to Editors throughout 2018 alongside fellow tour suppliers Siyan (lighting), Beat The Street (band and crew bussing), Fly By Night (trucking), Global Motion (freight) and Popcorn (catering).

With spring dates already confirmed, 2019 may well shape up to be another substantial year for Editors. Jonny Clark commented: “Working with Editors has been a very rewarding experience for Entec. Folding Adam’s Waves LV1 into the rest of the system pushed some boundaries all round and liaising with Stumpy is a real pleasure. He’s a very affable guy to deal with and long may that relationship continue. The tour contributed to an incredibly busy year for us and this year appears to be following the same pattern, with a wide range of projects already confirmed.”

Photography © Tony Wooliscroft, Coventry City Council and Entec Sound & Light