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A-T Summer Sonic 2010 interview with Slash FOH & Monitor Engineers

Ken ďPoochĒ Van Druten (FOH) & Kevin ďTaterĒ McCarthy (monitor) handle front-of-house and monitor engineering for Slash at Summer Sonic 2010.

Ken ďPoochĒ Van Druten (FOH) & Kevin ďTaterĒ McCarthy (monitor) handle front-of-house and monitor engineering for Slash at Summer Sonic 2010. Weíre grateful they shared an hour with us in the midst of a busy afternoon in Tokyo.

Audio-Technica: Do you want to introduce yourselves? Weíll start with Pooch.

Ken ďPoochĒ Van Druten: My name is Ken ďPoochĒ Van Druten, Iím the front of house engineer for Slash featuring Myles Kennedy. Today weíre playing the Summer Sonic Festival in Tokyo. The lead singer of the Bíz is joining us for one song.

Audio-Technica: And you are?

Kevin ďTaterĒ McCarthy: I am Kevin ďTaterĒ McCarthy, monitor engineer for Slash.

Audio-Technica: It seems like weíve done this a bunch and it seems like I see you more in Japan than I see you in the Statesóbut howíd you get your nicknames? Thatís something I truly donít know.

Pooch: Really, you donít know the story? Go ahead Tater, you go first.

Tater: I have to start first? Well mineís short for dictator.

Audio-Technica: Thank God you ended up with Tater! And Pooch?

Pooch: Mineís a little bit longer story than that, but it started with Vince Neil from Motley Crue. I was a little bit heavier than I am now. Vince started calling me Big Dog, which evolved into Pooch. Then, right after that tour, I went from doing Motley Crue to working for Whitney Houston. Whitney Houstonís camp loved Pooch, and wouldnít let it go. And there was a time, for a couple of years, where people couldnít make the connection of Pooch or Ken, and, that it was the same person. So I just went with it, whatever.

Tater: You got to go with it.

Pooch: At some point you just got to go okay, canít fight it. Not that I hate it, Iím just saying that at some point your have to accept it and move on.

Audio-Technica: Thatís how you know youíve arrived. Weíve had a relationship with you guys for quite some time. Can each of you like tell us your favorite Audio Technica microphone and why?

Pooch: I think all time favorite for me is the 4050. Itís a microphone that I put in front of anything, and it translates. It is to me the ultimate acoustic to electric transducer. Anything you put the 4050 in front of, it sounds like you are standing there in front of it. Guitars, basses. Iíve used it for percussion, Iíve put it in the weirdest places and it just works. And itís [tough], I mean you can use it to bang in nails. Itís really, really a great microphone. To me the sister of that microphone is also excellent. The 4047. All the large diaphragm microphones that you guys make are fantastic.

Audio-Technica: Cool. Tater?

Tater: Iíd say the same thing, 4050 and 4047.

Pooch: Thatís not true. Which one do you like?

Tater: 450. The side address. I also really like the 3000. I see it used here in Japan a lot and in a lot of other places.

Audio-Technica: Itís kind of another one of those Swiss army knife microphones, with a different flavor than a 4050.

Tater: Exactly. Iíd say the 3000 is my newest favorite, I mean obviously 4050 is unbeatable, but the 3000 is a really nice microphone.

Audio-Technica: Any piece of gear that you feel is indispensable to your job? Like you canít go without it.

Tater: Right now Iíd say that would be the WAVES SoundGrid.

Pooch: What sucks about this is Iím going to sound like a WAVES commercial, but I would have to say that WAVES plug-ins are a piece of gear that I cannot be without. Iím using plug-ins everywhere these days.

Audio-Technica: Thatís kind of an interesting lead-in because I think anyone would consider both of you to be at the top of your game. I mean, you are definitely the ultimate front of house and monitor kind of dynamic duo, to such an extent that Pooch you are now actually repping a company. Not only are you doing the sound thing, but they look to your talents to translate that, to try to get product into the market, and thatís WAVES, right?

Pooch: Yes.

Audio-Technica: So how do you like that as opposed to doing road work? I mean youíre still doing both, so Ė

Pooch: I am, yeah. I like it very much and hereís why: To me it is along with the connection that I have to you guys, to Audio Technica, itís ultimate feedback with the company. Feedback coming from an end user. Literally I can call the guy that designed a specific plug-in, for instance, and say to him okay, yesterday I was using it on guitar, I had this thing happen, and I really didnít like how it sounded, can we try something else to make it better? Usually they respond with a new version in a week or so. As the end user, you canít ask for anything better than that. Tater and I talk about this a lot in regards to Audio Technicaówe feel that same kind of love with Audio Technica, we really do.

Tater: And Iím looking for a job anyway.

Audio-Technica: We actually have some offline discussions on product development, so thatís worked really well. So you guys have worked with the cream of the crop as far as artists. Is there anyone you wish you could work with or youíd love to mix. Tater?

Tater: Thatís a tough one. Iíve done a lot of my favorite people, and they still are my favorite people.

Audio-Technica: Thatís cool that you actually got to mix people that you liked personally. Thatís pretty awesome.

Tater: Including Slash right now, he is a great guy.

Pooch: Oh yeah, it is the ultimate. The situation that weíre in right now is unbelievable. We work for a lot of bands that are great bands, but maybe not necessarily everyone in the band is a super hot musician. The band that weíre working for right now are unbelievable musicians. Not only just Slash, but everybody in the band. And having the pleasure to watch him play every single night, the guitar is a true extension of Slash. Itís not something he plays, itís part of him. And so itís a real pleasure to work for him for sure.

Audio-Technica: Awesome. So Iíve heard from everyone, and you guys included, that like the real pleasure of doing your gig is itís such an immediate response. Itís not like recording an album where you can go back and fix things, so thatís kind of the rush of it. Whatís the least favorite part of your gig thatís a chore that you have to do? What do you hate about either monitor or front of house work?

Pooch: Being away from my family for so long, I mean thatís really it. Weíve been lucky enough to work ourselves into a position with getting to work with amazing people. But along with that comes being away from home for ten months out of the year. And weíre getting older now, Tater and I.

Audio-Technica: Well you donít look it.

Pooch: Iím not that young kid 20-year-old that could go out and drink all night, and then wake up and do it again. To me itís like I get up in the morning and bones are creaking, I wipe the sleep away from my eyes and say: Iím in Jakarta, Indonesia, what am I doing here?

Audio-Technica: Howís the Summer Sonic crew been to work with? Youíve come from Osaka to here, the transition.

Tater: So far so good.

Pooch: We always look forward to coming to Japan. It is, and always has been, a place where they take special pride in making sure that they provide good services for us as engineers. And especially since we just came from doing a bunch of other dates around the world, you come to Japan and everythingís right, you donít have to worry about it. As long as you do your advance and tell them what you need, you show up and itís done.

Tater: And for a festival this size, itís impressive.

Pooch: Something to be said, for sure.

Audio-Technica: So give me a horror story from the road. Any like memorably bad gigs you guys Ė thereís not one that bubbles to the surface?

Tater: No. We are so good we never have those. [laughs]

Pooch: Wow. I wish that was true.

Audio-Technica: No funny road stories?

Pooch: Horror-wise, there are always those bad shows. We are our worst critics, and Iím sure that our worst show for most people is a pretty good show for the audience. Iíve had several situations where Iím just standing at the console going oh my God, I donít know how to fix it. Mostly due to equipment stuff. We were just in Europe with Slash, and playing bomb shelters in the Czech republic. The equipment there is stuff thatís been beat up. So halfway through the show half of the PA dies, or lines go bad during the show. Those are the kind of shows I lose sleep over.

Audio-Technica: Right, definitely out of your hands.

Pooch: Yeah.

Audio-Technica: The frequencies always.

Pooch: Yes, frequencies Ė

Audio-Technica: Donít we know it.

Tater: Daily.

Audio-Technica: Itís everyoneís favorite.

Pooch: Yeah, I mean Iím not a monitor guy. Thank God Iíve got Tater around, because the shit that happens over there in monitor world every single dayÖ Sometimes weíve got about two choices and one of them sucks.

Audio-Technica: Right, yeah weíve talked about that before. How you guys are perfectly suited for each of your individual gigs. Like you [Tater] love the monitor thing and youíve liked honed that to a craft, which is completely different than your work [Pooch].

Pooch: I hate that end of the snake. Itís too close to the pop stars.

Audio-Technica: Neither of you wants the other personís job. Which is interesting, because you see a lot of people flip-flop. But you guys have honed your craft. We definitely appreciate you believing in the product and hanging with us, and obviously anything we can do in the future, we look forward to the future with you guys.

Pooch: Absolutely.

Tater: We definitely appreciate the support.

Pooch: Yeah, for sure. Regardless of what the product is, this is a people business. You can talk to me all day long about how you think this product is better, or whatever, but if I have to call somebody up from Jakarta, Indonesia and say hey, your shitís broken and their answer is - Canít help you dude, see you in two weeks when you get back to the states.Ē That does me no good. Am I going to say to my artist sorry dude, two weeks youíll have that fixed?

Audio-Technica: The reality is itís all a matter of degrees too. Are there other mic companies that make good mics?

Pooch: Of course.

Audio-Technica: Sure there are. Did I say that?

Pooch: Yes there are other manufacturersí microphones out there, but nothing parallels the service we receive from Audio Technica.

Audio-Technica: But the reality is Ė we certainly appreciate it and the fact that you recognize that.

Tater: I have to go make sure I un-jinx myself.

Audio-Technica: We have our writer make little teaser questions, and one of them is, do you have any superstitions or traveling rituals.

Tater: I couldnít even go through my superstition list. Unless you have a couple more hours to talk?

Pooch: You know what makes Tater the best monitor engineer in the world is what other people would consider a fault. He is the most OCD person Iíve ever met in my entire life.

Audio-Technica: No way. Do you like bring things? Just the way everythingís labeled?

Pooch: Everything is in its place, and if one thing is a little askew, heíll come back from catering and know it instantly.

Tater: Thatís how I know someoneís moved it. If I come back and itís a different way I got to recheck it.

Audio-Technica: Wow, thatís awesome.

Pooch: That is what makes him good at what he does. How do people get away with just turning stuff on and doing a show without walking frequencies, and generally not even listening to the wireless before they put a band onstageÖ

Tater: They do it all the time, they get away with it.

Pooch: Eventually it will get them.

Audio-Technica: It does. And thatís why your bad gig is someone elseís good gig. You know what I mean?

Tater: Yeah.

Audio-Technica: Thatís the reality.

Pooch: You watch these guys come over and flop a wireless rack on, turn it all on, and just hand the singer a mic. I see that happen and think to myself, ďwhat are they doing?Ē Wow, I hope that works.

Audio-Technica: It bites them all the time.

Pooch: Thanks.