Andy Carrington - On the Road with FKA Twigs and Sonnox
From London's underground clubs to the stages of the world, veteran FOH Engineer Andy Carrington has used just about every piece of gear possible. Working with such bands as The Big Pink, Super Furry Animals, Mac Miller and most recently with super hot FKA Twigs, he's transitioned from analog to fully digital with an Avid S3L console. We caught up with him recently to learn how he uses Sonnox plug-ins to enhance the passion of his live mixes.
How did you get started in the business?
I moved out of Cornwall to London over twenty years ago, where I was involved in the rave scene and specialized in setting up sound systems. I paid my dues in most of the London clubs and live music venues, and from there began touring with bands.
Tell us about the tour you were just on.
I finished up with The Kills in October, and then I went over to the USA to work with FKA Twigs. We did the Jimmy Fallon show, and then did five weeks of sold out shows. I've been utilizing an Avid S3L with Sonnox plug-ins on just about everything!
Which plug-ins are you using?
I'm using the Sonnox Live bundle, which is great as it gives me six Oxford plug-ins to use on the road with Avid live consoles.
Since the whole show is very effects-laden, each song has a different sort of reverb, and with the Oxford Reverb, I can create anything. I start with the presets, which are all clearly labeled and do exactly what they say. I then duplicate and rename them for each song. On the S3L, I've got a short cut function switch so I'm instantly into the plug-in on the touch screen within a split second. I'm constantly working with it with each song. It's just so powerful because of the amount of reverb parameters I've got at my fingertips. It's brilliant, easily my favorite interface for reverb and effects.
What is one of your favorite presets to start with?
'Rich Plate' is a great preset to start with. On one song, the first eight bars have a five-second plus reverb - a super long tail. It's even up to six seconds, if the room that night allows me to get away with it. And then, over the period of the last phrase, I bring it down with my finger to just below three seconds. Because it's so fast and you can get into it so quick, you can constantly dial it in. With an outboard rack you had to scroll through pages - so you'd probably leave it alone more often than not. But now it's just there, I can just make tiny adjustments all the time, which I love.
What else are you using?
I have the Inflator on the mix bus, which I find helps gel everything together. It also makes things pop out. Certain songs are more powerful than others, and then towards the end of the set, you've got the big single. I usually start off with the Input just over 0dB, and the Effect up just a bit. I can build it up and bring it down during the set. Again, it's just so quick, because I can hit the main plug-ins shortcut, and it's there onscreen in front of me. I can make slight adjustments and sometimes when your crowd is really going, I can pump it. It's a great thing to gel the whole mix, but I also use it on the lead vocal. I also use the SuprEsser DS on the vocal.
It's great there's no latency with SuprEsser DS.
Yeah, the SuprEsser DS is just amazing. To begin with Tahliah Barnett (FKA Twigs) has a great voice, but she's also a very accomplished dancer and gives a very physical performance. With the virtual sound check, I can go back through the show and then figure out some characteristics of the songs where I know she's moving. And then I can find the areas I need to focus on with the SuprEsser DS.
How does the virtual soundcheck work?
We record shows to Pro Tools on my laptop. When nobody's around I can go back and review things from the play back. I can play back parts of songs where I can change it around and smooth off certain edges. It's a refining tool that I've never had before, as I don't need the band around.
You're using the EQ as well?
Yes, I use it on the stereo bus to finely notch into mixes. I have a highly gained vocal and a lot of effects in the room, so I've really got to get into certain things. And then of course, there are different rooms, different sounds and different PAs. Especially with the percussive elements of the band, the EQ really helps if I hear something that sounds a bit harsh. Like with snare sounds, I can go in there and take a tiny dip around the area that's bugging me without losing the snap of the actual snare. I'm not losing any power, but I can make very tiny, very accurate changes. I also use the Oxford Dynamics plug-in on the bass because its got quite a wide dynamic range. I can just keep hold of it in a very solid way and add in the Warmth feature, which also helps gel the live bass with the synth one.
Overall though, I have to say the Sonnox plug-ins sound amazing, they're incredibly powerful tools with a vast range of possibilities. The Sonnox Live bundle is a vital part of my touring rig.
Interview and editorial provided by Rich Tozzoli