This is what happens when you work 15 hour days for weeks on end, and then sit for two minutes while the pro tools session loads…

BY Ken “Pooch” Van Druten

Sorry, all, for my absence.  The last three months for me have been seven days a week, 14 hours a day.  It started in March with passing the torch to a new production manager for Alter Bridge, as I was leaving that camp for Linkin Park.  Of course Tim “Quake” Mark did an outstanding job of taking over for me with AB, and in a seamless process, AB continued on tour with out me.  It’s always nerve racking when when someone takes over for you.  Especially when it is a client that I hold close to my heart, and truly am a fan of.  If you haven’t had a chance to go see Alter Bridge – do yourself a favor.  When I first heard them, I said, WHY don’t I know about this band?  They are amazing.  True talents, and amazing guys to boot.

I flew straight from rehearsals with AB to setting up for Linkin Park.  We were scheduled for three weeks of rehearsals, which sounds like a LOT, but you would be mistaken.  We have taken Linkin Park to a new level, and with that process we upgraded and changed EVERYTHING.  

First lets start with the audio department.  The past  – profile and Pro tools at FOH, PM5D at monitors.  The future – We upgraded ALL of our gear.  A Waves enabled Digico SD7 at monitors AND FOH with optocore sharing of stage racks.  96K.  128 inputs, 56 monitor outs, plus AES and FOH analog outputs for drive at stage racks.  Also an SD mini rack at FOH to handle AES ins and outs of outboard gear, etc.  A huge system that all has to talk to each other.  FOH has 6 Mac Mini I7’s, and  two I7 Waves extreme servers.  A gigantic amount of DSP processing at FOH in order to keep everything in the digital realm right up until speakers.  

Monitors has equally an amazing amount of processing.  Both Tater and I are using Nuendo live as a DAW for virtual playback and archive.  He, too, has two I7 Waves extreme servers in monitors for the Waves enabled SD7.   Back to FOH we have three Bricasti reverbs, three Lake LM44’s for matrix’ing, Smaart, etc.  Everything is clocked off of the Antelope trinity and 10M.   Just looking at this list makes me dizzy.  Simply interconnecting all of this gear and getting it to talk to each other is an information technology nightmare.  I’m not a sound guy anymore – I’m an IT support technician.  When it all works it’s amazing – but you can start to see why three weeks is not enough time to trouble shoot all of it… And, the change in audio is only the tip of the iceberg. (BTW – Chris “Cookie” Hoff, and Vic Wagner helped to design my whole new system and deserve all the props.  Months were spent in design and implementation – they are amazing).

At the same time, we decided to change EVERYTHING in Backline Land.  (in retrospect……., not a great decision, – there is a reason that people phase things in).  Traditionally Linkin Park has had playback tracks played by a pro tools rig that is controlled by a technician on the side of the stage.   This has all been upgraded to using Ableton Live as a platform that is networked together and provides all the information for program changes to keyboards, drum pads, guitar rigs, etc.  Essentially it is a giant brain that controls everything.  There are “stations” located in several places onstage that can control and manipulate the playback and live signals coming from all instruments.  A great creative tool, in theory. An IT nightmare in reality.  

Much of the three weeks was spent just getting gear to talk to each other.  The band was still able to rehearse their parts, but we (the crew) would spend hours and hours after the band rehearsal, just getting the gear to work on the section of the set that the band wanted to work on the next day.  Sometimes we couldn’t get anything to talk to each other until 4am for a 9am rehearsal.  Not much sleep makes for a grumpy crew, and we were starting to reach the end of our patience by the last couple of days.  On the LAST day of rehearsals, we managed to make it all the way thru the set, without any equipment crashes.  Hooray!!!!

But then we took it all apart and put it back together.  

You spend the entire rehearsal period building a house, and then you have to tear it down, hoping that you can rebuild the house in a different place.  Our first show was in Tucson, AZ at a radio festival.  NOT the best place to test our experiment—but we managed to load in and got it all to talk to each other.  The first show was not without problems, but all in all we pulled it off.  I joked that I couldn’t wait to go on tour, so I could get some sleep.  HA.

I am sitting in the VIrgin Atlantic lounge at LAX as I write this today, waiting to board VS8 to Heathrow, where we connect to Lisbon, Portugal via TAP airlines.  Rock in Rio in Lisbon is our first big festival.  All the gear that we set up in rehearsals is flying to Lisbon to meet us.  I hope that the guys that are loading all our gear on to the plane, and then thru customs, and then on to a truck in Portugal, and then on to the gig, don’t drop, or tip anything over.  ALL that work for nothing……  HA.  But this is the life we have chosen.  Nobody said it was gonna be easy.  Everyone would do it, if it were.

Flight just got called – and we are off.  I hope you get a chance to come to an LP show this summer.  All of the changes we have made have stepped up the overall experience of a Linkin Park show.  In the end – it was worth it.  But it sure was a long and windy road………