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A-T interview with Andrea Carena, Taylor Swift Monitor Engineer

Andrea ďVitoĒ Carena , Monitor Engineer for Taylor Swift, took time to sit down with us for a talk at Summer Sonic 2010 in Tokyo.

Andrea ďVitoĒ Carena , Monitor Engineer for Taylor Swift, took time to sit down with us for a talk at Summer Sonic 2010 in Tokyo.

Audio-Technica: How did you get started in this wacky business called audio engineering?

Vito: That is a crazy story. Probably not crazier than anybody elseís though. I actually wanted to do sound and I went to an audio engineering school in Arizona, the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences. I wanted to be a studio cat, but shortly thereafter I realized that live sound was more interesting to me, especially since the people were also talking about getting paid. So that was appealing. So after that I moved to Nashville to do my internship and it didnít pan out so well to begin with. I spent two years pretty much doing nothing with sound, and then I got my big break when I started working for a barbeque joint in Nashville that had live music.

Audio-Technica: What was that called?

Vito: That was Judge Beans Barbeque.

Audio-Technica: Is it still there?

Vito: Itís still there. They changed locations but itís still there, they still have music, great country acts.

Audio-Technica: So you became the house guy.

Vito: Yeah. I was the guy and also I was bussing tables and pouring beers and drinking beers.

Audio-Technica: So on your road to Taylor Swift we can say that you probably paid your dues.

Vito: I paid my dues and I had a good deal of fun doing so as well.

Audio-Technica: After that, what was your first real break in touring live sound?

Vito: Well, I met the people that would give me a break at Judge Beans when during Fan Fair Vince Gill came by and did a fan club meeting there, a little concert. There I met Everett Lybolt from Sound Image who a couple of weeks later offered me a job flying PA for Toby Keith.

Audio-Technica: Really?

Vito: Yeah, thatís how it worked.

Audio-Technica: Youíre doing the monitors now, have you always been a monitor guy or are you more of a front-of-house guy?

Vito: No, Iím definitely a monitor guy. Iíve always wanted to try the front-of-house thing, I just never had a chance. I find that I would be creative at it, I would be fairly good at it, but Iíve always been put in monitor position.

Audio-Technica: There are definitely different stresses involved with being a monitor guy. Can you explain some of those for people who might want to get in live sound but donít know which direction to take?

Vito: The front-of-house engineer sometimes can have the same amount of stress, itís just different stress, like you say. Being on stage you have the stress of if something is not working on stage youíre the one that has to get on it. The front-of-house engineer doesnít really have to go and try to assess the problem out on stage, itís up to us. Or dealing with the artist themselves. Iíve been fortunateóIíve always worked for very good artists. Personality wise, talent wise. So itís been easy.

Audio-Technica: Who are some more of those artists?

Vito: Iíve done monitors for Colbie Caillat, Keith Anderson, and recently have been put on the Toby Keith tour to help out with monitors as well.

Audio-Technica: How do you find touring in Japan? Have you been in Japan before with any artist?

Vito: I have been in Japan before. The first time with Colbie Caillat. Itís always been a great experience here because everybody is so proficient and so dedicated.

Audio-Technica: So how is it working with Creativeman? You were in Osaka yesterday and now youíre in Tokyo. Was that transition Ė did that work out well?

Vito: The transition was pretty seamless in my opinion. All our gear was here, almost all the same staff was transitioned.

Audio-Technica: Oh thatís great, they kind of came with the gear.

Vito: Yeah, they came with the gear. The gear is familiar, looks the same, so I mean itís been easy.

Audio-Technica: Cool. And then you guys have a pretty quick changeover between bands in this kind of festival situation. How does that compare to doing a regular, where youíre a headlining act?

Vito: Actually this festival seems pretty laidback as far as changeover times. We actually had time to kill yesterday, kind of not knowing what to do before the show. So weíve had much faster changeovers and Iím happy to say this is a relaxed festival and weíre all happy to be here. Theyíre prepared, they planned it well, so weíre happy.

Audio-Technica: Thatís great. Any microphones stand out to you in the Audio-Technica lineup? Any microphones that you particularly like or that youíre using unusually?

Vito: I donít remember the model number, but thereís a small diaphragm side-address condenser Ė

Audio-Technica: The ATM450.

Vito: Thatís it. Iím a fan of the ATM450. We used it all last tour on snare bottom.

Audio-Technica: Okay, so you kind of tuck it right under.

Vito: Yes. And one of the big advantages is the ability to put it in tight places. Drum kits, where the cymbals might be low or space might be tight, thatís a really good solution to getting into tight spaces. And it sounds good. Itís a little more open and you can actually get some more bottom end definition from a snare than some of the other small diaphragm options, and I hope weíll get to use it on more instruments next tour.

Audio-Technica: You are currently using our 5000 Series wireless. Howís it been working for you?

Vito: The 5000 Series has been working great ever since weíve had it. We havenít had any glitches with the system. Thatís all we can ask. The wireless has been rock solid. I canít remember ever having a problem with it.

Audio-Technica: And you had some custom work done on hers, I think. How many different bodies are you using now?

Vito: We have three colors to match dresses and the set, the mood of the song.

Audio-Technica: Thatís important. So kind of coming up the ranks, you paid your dues and you rocketed right to the top. Any tips you could give some people who are looking to get into the business? Anything they should be doing now to prepare themselves for a future in audio?

Vito: Well the biggest thing is to meet the right people, to be in the right place at the right time. Just like one of my mentors at school, Robert Scovill, saidóyou have to be at the right place at the right time, but first you have to get to the right place. So once youíre there, then you have to wait it out and try to meet as many people as you can. One other thing is, always be nice to everybody--all the musicians. Learn the musiciansí names and just always be accommodating.

Audio-Technica: Right, we find that with some of the baby bands, you just never know who youíre going to meet when you meet an engineer, but when you get to the level that youíre at, everyone is so cool and so nice. So I think that plays a role.

Vito: It should.

Audio-Technica: Is there anything that you canít go on the road without? Any piece of gear or anything you have to take with you?

Vito: Iíve always thought about what I would say if I were asked this question, and I really Ė the most important thing is bring your chops. Bring yourself. I mean Sharpies, flashlight, thatís stuff, but mostly just take a good attitude and take your chops.

Audio-Technica: Any audio gear that you just have to have with you?

Vito: For my job I like to bring my spectrum analyzer whenever I can. Now I donít have it today or here in Japan, but if Iím doing a tour thatís wireless heavy, I like to have a spectrum analyzer. And I wish there were more manufacturers producing more of those (spectrum analyzers), developing better solutions, more handhelds, more things of that nature. Iím thinking, but I canít really think of anything thatís indispensable to me. On this trip to Japan, honestly, all I brought was my flashlight, my Sharpies, and the Audio-Technica mics. Thatís it. And a roll of E tape just in case Clair Brothers didnít have E tape here.

Audio-Technica: Is there any artist that you would like to work with in the future? Like what would be a dream artist youíd love to work with?

Vito: Well first of all, Iíd like to work with all the artists that I have worked with, again. Thereís plenty of them. Iím a big fan of John Mayer, I like some jazz artists such as Diana Krall, thereís quite a few actually, I canít really say.

Audio-Technica: I gotcha. I didnít know if there was like the dream gig.

Vito: Theyíre all dream gigs.

Audio-Technica: Thatís cool. Do you have any superstitions or rituals you do before the gig?

Vito: Well, not necessarily before the gig, but I do have my lucky underpants. My mother gave me these awesome underwear, purple and they got some cool lining, I find that theyíre my lucky charm. When thereís a big show, a big event, I make sure I wear those underwear and itís always worked out.

Audio-Technica: You donít want to buck tradition. Anything else you got on your mind youíd like to tell people about?

Vito: I just want to keep working. Iím having a great time, I want to keep traveling the world and meeting new people, more engineers, more artists.

Audio-Technica: Thatís great. Iíd like to thank you for your support because youíve been a great supporter of Audio Technica so hopefully weíve helped you out there on the road too.

Vito: Yes, definitely. Thank you.