With GSL currently in short supply due to its relative infancy, Entec fielded d&b V-Series enclosures for the PA’s side hangs, with two V8s and a pair of V-SUBs (per side) reserved as sidefills.
Gorillaz’ production values have consistently become more complex since 2005’s Demon Days Live, involving many high quality collaborations with choirs and stellar guests. The extension of Albarn’s orchestral ambitions have led to additional textures and layers that, in turn, have laid down greater challenges for the audio department. “It’s always rewarding to come up with the solutions that make it all work on stage,” commented Butcher.
“It is a complicated show with so much going on at any one time. Our core line-up consists of drums, electronic percussion, guitar, bass, two keyboard players, six backing vocalists and Damon who plays piano, guitars and keytar. We also have the five-piece Hypnotic Brass Ensemble with us as well as a five-piece string section, and that combination is a first for us tonight at the O2 [in London]. We’re effectively shoehorning them into the mix because we have pretty much reached the limits of what is possible with an SD7 but, for me, it’s the best control surface for a job of this scale.”
A DiGiCo user since mixing on his first D5 in 2009, Butcher said: “I moved to Midas for a while but I returned to DiGiCo when they launched the SD-Rack, and I’ve remained with the brand ever since. The symmetry of the SD7’s layout – with left and right fader bays, and a master VCA bay in the middle – allows me to do three things simultaneously, and that is what makes it so practical. On the left, I have two layers of band instruments with vocals and guests on the right. Dave’s fader layout is fairly similar for the same practical reasons; we double up eight radio mics into individual artist channels.”
Butcher admitted to being a “big fan” of the SD7’s internal dynamics. The plug-ins he uses include aural exciters on snares, ADT, compressors and four delays with one assigned to replicate a CB radio effect. “Alongside those, I’m also running a Waves SoundGrid package on a laptop for things like live hard autotune effects on vocals for a De La Soul number and ‘Saturnz Barz’, the Popcaan track from Humanz. Waves also comes in handy for de-essers, multi-band effects and a gated fuzz box for snares. We’ve always tried to make things a little more interesting by integrating dub flavours.
“When Gorillaz first toured in 2001, we only had the one album and the band played behind a screen while the visual focus was on [Jamie Hewlett’s] projected animation. We livened things up by using tone generators and I’ve tried to retain that funky element of experimentation with the current show, so I still carry some outboard rack devices like a distressor and a TC Electronic Fireworx, an old favourite that can be awkward to programme but it’s been a great source of unusual effects that come and go. It’s a bit like taking a studio out on the road.”
Due to the nature of the show and its ever-changing roll call of special guests, the input count can differ from one night to the next, however, Butcher reported that “as a guide, I can just about record the show at 48kHz on 128 inputs on a Waves MGB interface via two MADI streams.”
The scale of the production demanded an obsessive level of attention during the planning of the tour and the task of writing the audio system spec fell to Dave Guerin, whose documentation includes accurate info on patching, routing, input numbers and record outputs, for all of the audio team to follow.
At the core of the system are three DiGiCo SD-Racks while a Lenovo Thinkpad drives a DiGiCo Orange Box audio format converter for keyboards and tracks. In total, there are 28 channels of Ableton playback, eight tracks of click for various band members, and eight channels of digital keyboards with other keyboards such as piano, Moog and vocoder running off analogue outputs. “Everything is backed up so that there’s an instant remedy for any individual channel failure,” advised Guerin, whose association with Damon Albarn goes back 22 years.
Like his compadre at FOH, Guerin’s monitor desk choice is also an SD7, however, due to the colossal input count of 133 channels, he specified an SD11i to accommodate the crew’s 20-channel shout system (with d&b E5 speakers for the engineer) and provide separate monitoring for playback and keyboards tech Andy Hamwee.