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A-T interview with FOH engineer Mo Russell

We caught up with Mo Russell—whose FOH experience includes Shadows Fall, Kitty, Hawthorne Heights, Poison the Well, and Damageplan—on a busy afternoon at 2006 Summer Sonic.

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We caught up with Mo Russell—whose FOH experience includes Shadows Fall, Kitty, Hawthorne Heights, Poison the Well, and Damageplan—on a busy afternoon at 2006 Summer Sonic.

Audio-Technica: How did you get in the business?

Mo Russell: I went to school [Full Sail] and had a friend who was a drum tech for Kitty, the metal all-girl group. In 2001, I ended up going out and doing monitors for them, and I’ve been out on the road ever since.

What has your experience been with Audio-Technica microphones?
Great. Easy, less EQing. I like them on both sides of the stage, whether I’m out front or on monitors. In particular the vocals. They just cut so well. I don’t have to touch them. Just turn it up, that’s all you have to do. I like that.

Another thing I really like about the Audio-Technica mics is that pretty much the entire line, you could put it on anything if you wanted to. They’re real versatile. I could use four different Audio-Technica mics on a snare drum and be happy with all of them. You know what I mean?

Any A-T microphones particularly stand out for you?
I love the AE4100 for vocals. It’s simple, I know, but I love it. I think it sounds great. And I love the AE2500 on guitars.

What do you like about it?
I like it because everybody uses the dynamic and the condenser on guitars, and with the AE2500 they’re perfectly phase-aligned. You never have to worry about phase, so your tone’s always right there and up front. I definitely like them.

Any other equipment that you work with that stands out?
I like the TC Electronics. Clair Brothers has always been really good—they’ve always taken great care of me. I love the TC effects units; the D-Two is definitely the delay for me. The M-One, you can do anything with it. If you’re stuck, you can have just one M-One and be all right, get through a show. I love the Empirical Distressor, I’d put it on every channel if I could.

What bands have you worked with?
Shadows Fall, Kitty, Hawthorne Heights, Poison the Well, Damageplan. That’s pretty much the big ones I’ve done.

One thing I like to do with my bands, I tell them, I just turn you up, I’m not going to fix you. I’m not going to bend over backwards trying to make something that’s not going to happen. I turn them up. That’s what I do. It’s up to them to have good tones and tune the drums right. Once you have that there, all I have to do is turn it up.

What’s your impression of Japan?
It’s real cool, I like it. I’ve hardly been here, but everybody’s super nice. It’s so organized, you know what I mean? The day was so easy; it could have been a total nightmare, because of how big the festival is and all the bands coming through. They had everything I’d emailed in advance, everything was right there ready and waiting. So it was easy.

It seems like you have had a good ride so far. Do you have any advice to someone starting out?
Just keep your ears and eyes open. Pay attention, and try to learn something from everyone. Everyone has something to offer—just figure out what it is and incorporate it into your style. Be there constantly and seeing what’s going on, what everybody’s doing. Pick up a little from this person and a little from that person.

There are a lot of engineers out there. The ones that succeed seem to be the most reasonable, level-headed, and easy to work with.
I try to be. You have to be flexible.

How did you get started in music?
When I was a kid I used to play drums. I went to a high school that didn’t have a music program, so I ended up picking up bass because I was tired of playing drums by myself. I was into Metallica, of course, listening to And Justice For All, and I’m wondering where’s the bass, I wanted to hear more bass. Well, who does that? Who’s in charge of making sure I can hear the bass? I saw Bob Rock and Randy Staub making the Blackout videos, [and I realized] that’s what I want to do—I want to be that guy. So I set out to do it, and here I am

What’s it like being on the road all the time? Does that get to you?
Yeah, it gets a little old for sure. Not being in one spot for more than two days. But it’s exciting. I’ve always wanted to travel and I’ve always loved music, and now I’m getting paid to do both those things, so I can’t really complain. You know what I mean? I’m very lucky. This is exactly what I want to do and I’m doing it. It’s awesome.