TECH TALK WITH ROGER LYONS AND LANCE REYNOLDS
As Alt-J ready up for the release of their latest album “Relaxer”, they have been making their home here at Sensible Music over the last couple of months running through pre-production for a busy summer of beguiling audiences with their distinct “Folktronica” sound around the country.
In the safe and experienced hands of the likes of Roger Lyons and Lance Reynolds, you can be rest assured that the unique voice of the band is translated faithfully from studio to stage, this is reflected by the meticulous and highly efficient rigs for keys, guitar and drums.
Roger Lyons is an experienced MIDI and Keyboard Tech working with bands such as the Kaiser Chiefs, Ultravox and New Order. The rig Roger has set up for the band is one that he uses often, based around 2 Mac Minis (both in the main and the back-up rig) which run Digital Performer and Mainstage respectively.
“I use mainstage for about half of Gus’s keys, there is no other program I can think of that gives me the flexibility I need for routing and instrument hosting”. Roger will multi-sample sounds from Alt-J’s records for playback in Kontakt, and any other sounds will either be coming from Gus’s Nord on stage, mainly used for piano sounds and strings, or from virtual instrument and synth libraries hosted in mainstage.
The other Mac Mini is running digital performer which is playing back various SFX throughout the show sparingly, as most of the effects are triggered by Thom on an SPD “If Thom has a hand free he always wants to be hitting something, this is great because he can trigger most of the SFX and one shots from the SPD, which I would have sampled directly from the records”.
Digital performer is also running SMPTE for the light show, the whole show is synchronised by timecode “Digital Performer was the natural choice for this because as you reach the end of each cue, the DAW will wait until triggered via a MIDI controller on stage by Gus before running the next cue”.
GUITAR AND BASS
Both the guitar and the Bass rigs are centred around the revolutionary Kemper profiling amps, this has allowed the band to achieve the range of tones they have across their records to faithful accuracy.
Lance Reynolds recalls on first using the Kemper “its funny, without changing anything, the model would not be exactly the same every time”. One of the models used a lot on the set is of an AC30, or CA30 as it’s called on the Kemper, “I used a recording from a previous show where we used an AC30 and profiled that through the Kemper, then I used the DI from the same recording back through the Kemper to hear how it sounded in the mix, and made all my tweaks and adjustments from that point to really dial in on the correct tone”.
One of the tips Lance imparts to me is that if you are going for a multi mic’d or multi amp sound then don’t use multiple Kempers, get the multi sound you want and feed that into a mixer and back into the Kemper, that way you will have the tone you want out of one profile model.
The Avid S6L is Lance's desk of choice for FOH “it’s the next generation of FOH mixers, you can program the S6L to have whatever kind of layout you want, so it makes your workflow super adaptable and efficient It sounds far better than the profile, I use all the stock Avid plug ins and no outboard now”.
Lance likes using the multiband compressor on the vocals – specifically a couple of key phrases where there is a lot low mid build up usually in quieter parts of the set “I could do it with EQ but I’d rather have something that’s reactive and dynamic so it breathes with the performance”.
“This is all yours” defined the sound of the summer of 2014 for me, and I emplore you to go and catch them live http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/AltJ-tickets/artist/1684909, you can find them at the London 02 on the 16th of June.
Alt-J are one of the few bands that make a coherent album that takes you on a journey from beginning to end and isn’t just an assortment of attempts at a single. The latest offering “Relaxer” does not disappoint and will surely cement their name in the culture of our small island over the years to come. I for one and looking forward to hearing out the rest of their journey.