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An interview with Sevendust FOH, Andy Meyer -

Equipped with a full complement of Audio-Technica microphones and wireless systems, the Atlanta-based quintet Sevendust is on tour, crisscrossing the U.S. Recently we sat down for an interview with front-of-house engineer Andy Meyer for a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the band’s unmistakable brand of melodic heavy-rock live sound.

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‘A-T microphones are indispensable to our sound.’

Equipped with a full complement of Audio-Technica microphones and wireless systems, the Atlanta-based quintet Sevendust is on tour, crisscrossing the U.S. Recently we sat down for an interview with front-of-house engineer Andy Meyer for a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the band’s unmistakable brand of melodic heavy-rock live sound.

A-T: How did you get involved in the pro audio industry? Do you remember the moment when you knew this was what you wanted to do?

Andy Meyer: I completely fell into it. My family moved to South Carolina from New Jersey in 1976. This was very difficult for me. My passion at the time was ice hockey and it just wasn't the same at that time in the south. I needed a way out. I fell into a group of people that were involved in a local band. I eventually was asked to go on the road by the guys in the band, and I accepted. They taught me how to set up drums, then I began tuning guitars. Eventually I became the LD. I did this for the next few years. The idea of becoming the sound guy did not happen overnight. Over a few years I became more and more frustrated with how the shows sounded.

Eventually opportunity fell into my lap. The sound guy wasn't at a rehearsal we were doing with full PA, and for fun I stepped in. Everyone came up to me after the rehearsal telling me how great it sounded, that started the wheels turning. Over the next year I watched, and learned a whole lot of what not to do. That in itself was an excellent education. Eventually I went to work for another act that had an excellent FOH engineer. I pumped him for knowledge for about six months, then went on to another situation as an FOH engineer.

How did you get this job?
I was mixing a support act on a summer festival tour that Sevendust was headlining, and reacquainted myself with their tour manager. We had met years ago when I mixed a band called Saigon Kick. He let me know that down the road a few months their guy was going back to his primary gig (Godsmack) and that we should keep in touch. I happened to see on Pollstar that Sevendust was going out for a short three-week run, so I gave him a call. A few minutes later he called me back. That was almost four years ago.

What’s your audio chain to make sure the vocals really have presence?
The most important element in the audio chain for me is the T-6100 handheld wireless mic we use. From there I send it directly into a Vintec X73I (@ 300 ohms). This in turn directly feeds the mic pre on the channel fully padded. This particular audio path does utilize both mic pre's. I have listened to arguments over and over about doubling up mic pre's, however the result is sonically superior, and much more stable than any other I have tried. Beyond that, I have the channel strip package in the PM5DRH I am using. I utilize the 276 tube comp, and their parametric EQ in that order. I level LJ's vocal at an 8:1 compression ratio, and do some slight notching with the parametric plugin.

What’s your favorite mix console?
Honestly, I really loved the way an EX 56 (Gamble) sounded. When routing straight to the mix buss this console really sounded great. I also liked XL-3's (Midas) as well as the heritage 3000. As far as digital consoles go, the only real time spent on any of them has been the PM5DRH, and I have spent a great deal of time figuring out how to make this console sonically compete with the aforementioned desks. First, an external word clock is a must. Second, bypassing the Yamaha DA via slot card is the way to go. We lightpipe to an external DA, and that has made all the difference in the world.

What’s your favorite A-T mic?
I love them all, but the freedom the 5000 Series AEW-T6100 gives me in this genre of music is second to none. It has excellent rejection, it is sonically excellent. I don't have to highpass it at all if I don't want to…it simply doesn't dictate to me how it must be managed to get by. It just performs.

Any unusual uses of A-T mics?
Not unusual, just excessive. We use an ATM25 and an AE3000 on the snare top, and an AT4050 on the bottom. Adding the AE3000 was a suggestion by [A-TUS Marketing Director] Gary Boss. I really love the fact that I can give him a scenario, and he will reply through experience what may work and what may not. We also use two AE2500's on the kick (yes 4 inputs). One inside about 3" from the beater, and one outside about 6" inside the sound hole. We also use a combination of 4047's and 4050's on guitar…I could go on and on…

Do you feel the need to have all the latest and greatest equipment, or are you a "This works extremely well ... don't mess with success" sort of guy?
Here we go…Back in the land of analog consoles I had found a combination of tube comps, gates, effects that I liked to use no matter what the act. These all performed exactly like I wanted them to per application. Almost eight months ago I came into this century and began using the 5DRH. This opened up a whole new world to me. I had always wanted delay on input channels. I had always wanted the flexibility these consoles allow you to have. Along with this flexibility comes a giant learning curve. Analog consoles all have a certain "pocket" they like to operate within gain-wise. You always look for it, and always find it. Some analog consoles like to be driven a little harder than others. In the digital world, the same is true. However dynamics are greater, and phase issues become greater because the consoles are so precise. I find that in turn I have to be more precise in how I manage dynamics. This as well as finding combinations of plugins that will emulate the tube gear that we are all used to creates a whole new learning curve. So just when I had gotten to a place where you "don't mess with success"…here we go again.

Are there any particular pieces of gear that you feel are indispensable to your sound (ie: certain mic(s), particular reverb unit, comp unit, etc)?
First and foremost, a great microphone is the most important factor. That's why I cherish the Sevendust / Audio-Technica relationship. As far as gear, there are a few pieces that remain with me…my Vintec X73I (mic pre) my old school dbx-120x ds. Beyond that, there is a brave new world of plugins that are excellent.

Do you have any miking tips or tricks?
Just experiment, and keep an open mind…

How do you maintain the health of your ears?
I pray every day that they hold out for a few more years because I truly love to mix. Beyond the actual show, I try to limit my exposure to any type of loud anything. There have always been OSHA guidelines, and if I'm not mistaken at 104 A weighting you have approximately 80 min before damage occurs…I wish I had known this years ago. An hour into any show you should be settled in enough to put in ear molds that will decrease the dB level per the plug you choose to use (whether it's a 6 dB pad or a 15 dB pad). Who knows how much this would have extended my career.

What would you say is the biggest challenge in mixing? Do you try to make the live performance sound live or recreate the studio feel?
All of the above. I want it to have the energy of a truly great live experience, and the finess of a CD. I recreate all the effects that become a part of every song, and I give the mix the dynamic enhancement that makes for a truly great show.

Do live-sound engineers and studio engineers typically communicate about achieving a certain sound or do you get to do your own thing?
I think that it is your responsibility to learn the music prior to showing up for your first gig, as well as having a good plan in place in order to make this happen. There are going to be certain pieces of gear that you will need to recreate the effects on any given record. Beyond that, communicate with the artist and find out what they expect as well.

What is your compression philosophy during a live show?
The dynamics of the inputs coming at me determine the amount of compression, or limiting, I apply. I like to keep things under control so I can myself dynamically control what's going on. This gives me greater control over the entire mix.

How much influence does the artist have on the mix or do they let you do your own thing?
Every situation is different, just like every artist is different. In this camp, you are given the freedom to do your job, but make no mistake—if you don't do your job, you won't have one. That's why I have always prepared as best as I can for every job I have ever had.

Do you find the touring schedule hard work?
Like anything, it's only as hard as you make it. Being away from home for a very significant amount of time is very difficult for everyone in this business.

What do you do between tours? Work with any other bands?
I have just recently made a conscious decision to enjoy life a lot more than I had been. I'm finding a better balance between work and my home life. Basically you'll find me spending a lot more time having fun with my family, and playing a lot of golf. During this last break I did a couple of studio projects, and I enjoyed it very much.

What mistakes do you see inexperienced sound people making over and over and why... and what would you tell them? Problems with intelligibility of vocals? Any advice for beginners learning the ropes?
First and foremost–learn how to mix. Don't just turn things up and expect it to mix itself. This is exactly why I am such a big fan of properly managed line array systems. They are so transparent and dynamically responsive that you are absolutely forced to mix or else you will lose. Bandwidth management of your individual sources is an absolute must as well. Remember everything has its place.

Sitting around at home ... what albums do you listen to?
I seldom listen to music at home, however the last record I truly sat down and listened to was STP's "Purple." I never had listened to it beyond the occasional song on the radio. I have a great deal of respect for that type of production

What are your hobbies outside of audio?
Well, over the last 13 years or so, I have put a lot of time into playing golf. I try to balance playing time with range time. It is the great escape for me, and I work very hard at being very good. Beyond that, I love to drive my old 'Vette. There is something very special to me about getting into that car and driving very fast. And most importantly just being with my family, they mean the world to me.