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A conversation with Dave “Big Shirt” Nicholls, FOH for Stone Sour

Known as “Big Shirt,” Dave Nichols works as front-of-house engineer for both Stone Sour and Slipknot. We sat down with him for an interview at Summer Sonic 2006.

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Known as “Big Shirt,” Dave Nicholls works as front-of-house engineer for both Stone Sour and Slipknot. We sat down with him for an interview at Summer Sonic 2006.

A-T: Can you talk about the differences mixing the two bands, Stone Sour and Slipknot?

Dave “Big Shirt” Nicholls: Well, it’s a world of a difference, really. Of course Stone Sour has less members and less inputs.

Obviously Stone Sour isn’t as hard on the equipment.
No, of course not. There are a few people with Slipknot who are throwing things around, you know—microphones, and bats… Slipknot’s a lot more involved to get it up and running. But the bands are great players, are they give me great inputs, and of course all the A-T mics we use reproduce all the sounds great. With 56 inputs [Slipknot] compared to like 29 inputs [Stone Sour], I’m not as busy with Stone Sour as I am with Slipknot. But it’s still fun to do.

What is your favorite A-T microphone?
The AT4050. Absolutely. They just capture the guitar tones perfectly. They reproduce the low end, they reproduce the high end, they reproduce the mid-range. I can't do a gig anymore without a 4050. I wouldn't want to use anything else, to be honest with you.

How did you get into the business?
I used to play in a band—guitar was my main instrument, and I played drums and piano. The band I was in kind of finished; another friend was playing in his band, and I started helping him carry his gear around. I went into a studio and I ended up the helping the guy that ran the studio, and ended up working at the studio being the tape operator. Long story short, I was supporting a band in 1990—after three days they fired their engineer and insisted that I mix them. That was basically the start. I never went home for three years after that.

Where is home?
Birmingham, England. I’m a long way from home now.

Are you enjoying Japan?
Oh, I love Japan. I always love Japan. I love the food. The people are so polite and so proper, if that’s the right word.

Do you have any miking tips or tricks to share?
It depends on the band, really. Center of the cone for guitar mics for me. I always find, if I’m not using an iso cabinet for the guitar, then center of the cone. I always double mic a guitar, it doesn't matter band or what venue. In the states we use an iso cabinet, with two 4050s, one on the center and one just off the center of the cone.

How do you maintain the health of your ears?
I try to get rid of the frequencies that you don't want to hear, if you know what I mean. I’ve had a couple of tests over the last 5 years, and for my age it's fine. I haven’t got any more damage than the average person who works in a noisy environment anywhere. With my wife it’s different, but that’s selective hearing.

Any engineers whose work you particularly admire?
Big Mick Hughes, absolutely.

Why is that?
He says I’m better than he is, but that’s just because I play instruments and Mick doesn’t. But you know he really could hear a pin drop, that man. He’s an amazing engineer. He has an amazing thought process when it comes to sound. If I could be half as good a Big Mick then I would be happy. Absolutely.

A thought process when it comes to sound?
Just the way he thinks of a microphone technique, the microphone to use. Brilliant. He thinks of things that baffle me. I’m biased, he’s a good friend. But I’ve heard him do some stunning things with the most god-awful PAs.

You’ve worked with Audio-Technica with Slipknot and Stone Sour. How do you feel the relationship with A-T has gone over the years?
The first time I ever encountered an A-T mic was in ‘96 when I was working for Corrosion of Conformity. We were opening for Metallica—I’ve known Big Mick probably 25-26 years. He was using 4050s, and he basically said, ‘You need to try this.’ And then I tried it. I loved it, you know. One day, Joel Singer [now an A-T consultant, Joel Singer was an A-T market director when he first met “Big Shirt”] was taking pictures of my guitar cabs with the mics on them. I said, ‘Hey, you can’t do that.’ He said, ‘I can, that’s my mic.’ That’s how I got in touch with using A-T. Now, I use A-T on every tour I do. I would never ever call anybody else. Over the 10 years I’ve used Audio-Technica mics, I’ve always had excellent service from them, they’re always friendly, all the help is—brilliant is the word that comes to mind.