Published July 12, 2022
Do you think your music could sound better?
In this episode:
How Adam started his Live Sound Business
How Adam ended up mixing a show on top of a Himalayan mountain in Nepal
What musicians need to know to sound amazing on stage
Touring with Pete Murray
Surviving the covid shut-downs
Adam Biggs mixing Blues Fest
The fundamentals, and what really counts in live sound
Managing stage volume, and the knock-on effects on the FOH sound
Adam Biggs, mixing a show at the top of the Himalayas mountain range in Nepal:
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Disclaimer: The Production Talk Podcast is independent of (and not related to) my teaching responsibilities at SAE.
Transcript (auto-generated by a robot - please forgive the occasional error):
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Welcome to the Production Talk podcast with me, Yarn, of mixartists.com.au. In this podcast series, we celebrate the modern way of producing music. We want to talk about all things related to songwriting, recording at home and music production. So, if you produce your music at home, this is the place to be.
Please subscribe and recommend this podcast to all your friends.
This is the Production Talk Podcast episode 51.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Welcome back to another episode of the Production Talk podcast. Today, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the country that this interview is recorded on, the proud Arakwal people of the Bundjalong nation and would like to pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: With me today is Mr. Adam Biggs, known as Biggsy of Biggsounds production, an authority in live sound. Welcome, Adam,
Adam Biggs: thank you so much, Jan.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Fantastic to have you today. So we are in a beautiful location here up in, in the Hills, in the hinterland. Thank you for welcoming me to your place.
Adam Biggs: it's a pleasure.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Would you like to first maybe introduce yourself and talk about your career in, in audio.
Adam Biggs: Sure. Oh, oh, the, the, the potted version. So I have a production company, big sounds productions which I have I have been running for. Ooh, 15 years starting from, from very simple, big beginnings, you know, like a, you know, a couple of PA boxes in the back of a, of a Magna sedan. And I, I started out because I was a musician who worked in a music store.
Adam Biggs: Who played music constantly and bought a PA because my band wanted to gig and I had zero concept of any of this stuff. So I just bought some speakers and some microphones and a little desk, and just kind of worked it out and And then friends started saying, Hey, we've got a gig at such and such.
Adam Biggs: Actually my first paid gig as a sound guy was for Jules and Jim Kelly at the the Lismore jazz nights which was an institution in, in Lismore for many, many, many years, and had some incredible artists come through and play. And. And I, I came and did the PA for a friend's band that was playing at that.
Adam Biggs: And and Jill said to me, oh, we, we, we often have people come through that need a PA you know, can we pay you $50 to come? put a PA and I'm like 50 bucks. Sounds great. I just get to go and watch, watch the, the gig for free and get paid 50 bucks. So I So that was my introduction to being a live sound engineer.
Adam Biggs: And I very much appreciate that. What I got out of that gig was not just an opportunity to start doing this at a very basic level, but I. I made the decision very early on where I was surrounded by all these amazing, you know, university lecturers, you know, guys like Jim Kelly and Steve Russell and Greg Lyon.
Adam Biggs: And and, and I, I made the decision very early on to to. Except any and all criticism and suggestion I got from these guys because at the end of the day, they knew what they wanted to hear. Much more than I knew how to deliver it. And so I, I was a sponge. I just basically said, you guys tell me what you want.
Adam Biggs: And I'll aim for that. And so that was, that was the first few years of my, of my work were basically doing that show. And then often sort of shows that sort of came off of that gig, you know, like someone will tour through and do that gig, but then they'd need a PA for a show in Byron or whatever. And And so I, I made a lot of mistakes.
Adam Biggs: I I, I had no training. I just, basically I read a lot. This was this was before it was it was sort of YouTube and things like that. You could go to as a reference. So I did a lot of reading. I did a lot of of picking people's brains and and just a lot of work. I just, I just, I just went out and did a lot of.
Adam Biggs: Gigs and you know, made a lot of cockups. I can, I can vividly describe to you every terrible gig I did in those early days, because I, I think they were great learning opportunities and and I just learnt it almost by feel it was, it was, it was very untrained and very very loose, but. What I felt I got out of that was this, this hyper focus on delivering what the musician wanted, as opposed to what I had as a concept of what a band should sound like.
Adam Biggs: So
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah, right.
Adam Biggs: I I've carried that through. I've I've always believed it's down to, like, what is this? What is this person trying to. Deliver, you know, it's, it's not my choice. It's not my decision about what they should be. It's it's down to, you know, what are they trying to achieve as a musician? And, and a, a, a very much a focus on music and, and, and.
Adam Biggs: You know, carrying through my love of music into that and going, you know, at the end of the day, it's not about ego. It's not about how big I can make the sub sound. It's not about, you know, it's all that stuff. It's, it's like, you know, is, is that what this band needs, you know?
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: yeah. Right. That's a great attitude to have,
Adam Biggs: Yeah. And I try and con yeah. I try and convey all that to my, to, to the people that work for me as well. Obviously I've got a lot of young people coming through and, and learning with me and yeah, that's that, that's the be all and end all, as far as I'm concerned, you know, it's like, do you love music?
Adam Biggs: Have you got, have you got a good attitude? And everything else I can teach you.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yes. Right? Yeah.
Adam Biggs: Right. Yeah. But. Those two things to me are, are the absolute fundamentals of, of live music is excellent. Yeah.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And then in addition to running your own production company, you've also done some touring work work, I believe.
Adam Biggs: Yeah. So
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: you share some of, of
Adam Biggs: that, that sort of came about through friendships really. It came about through long associations with, with certain people where. You know, I, I I was sort of going in a different direction in my career. I actually, I was sort of on the tail end of a teaching degree and and was, was sort of headed that way.
Adam Biggs: And the, the production thing was just gonna sort of pay the bills on the weekends. And and then I. I had an offer right. As I sort of, I had, I had an offer to take a full-time teaching got job. And then I also had an offer off the back of having done a, an event for the Bentley. Blockade crew.
Adam Biggs: There was a lot of the CSG protests happening in in Northern new south Wales at the time. And I was very heavily involved in that. And so I was, I was doing all these little popup events and some, some major sort of protest events. And one of the people that came along to perform at one of those events was Pete Murray and Pete and I got chatting afterwards and, you know, we just, you know, shared, shared sort of passion for the cause that we were involved in there.
Adam Biggs: And we stayed in touch and and then he had a, an event. He had a, a tour in Western Australia come up where his usual guy couldn't do it. And he said, look, do you wanna come on the road for a little run? And that was, that was. First official tour was, was was with someone who at that point was, was a huge name.
Adam Biggs: So it was . It was definitely in the deep end. So that was sort of that I, I also, through my work in the music shop was, was friends with with John Butler and Danielle Carolina. And Danielle and I had had a really great friendship from her sort of doing a lot of stuff in the Lismore music scene.
Adam Biggs: She went through the Conservatorium in Lismore and Again, you know, so when she started doing the makin shows I sort of was, was involved in that from very early on and, and, and very, you know, very gratefully I've I've stayed involved with with Danielle's stuff. So I'm, I've sort of. Basically worked on every every iteration of her music career since.
Adam Biggs: So I've, I've, I've sort of way two thieves and the current kin spender and bits and pieces. So yeah, so mostly it's friendships, you know, like people, people I've worked with on shows, you know, Ziggy Albert's came and did his first paid gig at the Bruns hotel, you know, You know, went from being a guy busking on the street to, you know, now an international name.
Adam Biggs: And and so again, it's just those friendships that you build up where you, you know, you treat people right, and you respect them and you do the best work you can for them. And you know, it is one of those industries where people have a good memory for that stuff. They, they,
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: it's all about the people it's all about.
Adam Biggs: It's all about the people, you know, and
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I just, you know, have to notice to note that you are sitting in front of me with a Bobby AUT shirt on
Adam Biggs: I am
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: big shout to Bobby who was on the podcast, just a couple of episodes ago.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Absolute legend.
Adam Biggs: and yeah, absolutely. Charles is just one of the nicest people in the business and, and, you know, we, again, you know I, I have looked after a couple of local venues for, for many, many years. And one of which was was the hotel Brunswick. And and I've done a lot of shows with Charles the Bobby OU crew before he was Bobby OU, he was playing drums in Oka and that's, that's where we first met.
Adam Biggs: I did some cheering with Oka. I, I got to know Charles through that. And and so, yeah, we've had a long friendship and Lovely crew just wonderful. So and amazing musicians. So someone who, you know, I I've, I've personally enjoyed the music of my kids have been raised on that music, you know?
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Adam, what's, what's the highlight of your, your career so far? You know, if you had to name one show or one tour, I guess that's probably hard to say, but
Adam Biggs: oh,
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: if you had to pick one
Adam Biggs: big one.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: in terms of
Adam Biggs: Look in terms of the experience and. The being one of those one in a lifetime things. I, I had the, the, the great opportunity to travel to Nepal with Tony Charles. And I just by. Total coincidence. I was actually on a tour with with mama Ken. We're in far north Queensland on a John Butler tour.
Adam Biggs: And I get a phone call from from these people who ran the Bali spirit Fest to say, Hey, we we've decided we wanna get someone over as a consulting engineer for the spirit Fest, because we've, we've struggled in previous years with local crews, et cetera. And your names come up. And and so I.
Adam Biggs: Basically booked the, you know, booked the travel to to, to Bali to do this festival. And and they said, look, you know, a lot of the acts that are playing you'll know it's wild Marade and, and, and various people that are, I, I have had long associations with. And they said so, you know, that's why your name came up, cuz all these people were like, well, why don't you get Bixie cuz he's, you know, like, and and and Tony, Charles, and they said, look.
Adam Biggs: Probably the only person you won't need to mix. There is Tony because she's bringing someone and and Tony, I had worked with on previous events. And so I got in touch and and said, Hey, I, I don't know if this might save you some money, but I'm gonna be there anyway. And she's like, oh, well, one of the reasons we're bringing someone is because we're going to go from.
Adam Biggs: Bali across to Nepal to Trek up into the mountains and do a show at the top of the, the mountain range. So we're gonna Trek. Whole PA and crew and the whole works film crew, et cetera, through the mountains for 10 days. And and basically do an event at the top of the mountain. And they're like, if you'd be interested in doing that be great.
Adam Biggs: So again, you know, like I, I called my wi I called my wife at the time and I said, So this, this little run over to Bali for a week might turn into a few weeks. How does that feel? And my, my now ex-wife was very gracious and and, and helped me do that and, you know, looked after the kids and did the whole works.
Adam Biggs: So shout out to Ruth and , I
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Got
Adam Biggs: got to go and do this amazing thing where we, we literally. Tracked a PA generators and all up a mountain. And we had a team of sheers who are superhuman and we, we got ourselves a, a little Stick PA from at technologies up in Brisbane, they, they sponsored the, the, the whole thing by like giving us this PA to try take up and some little tiny, little lightweight VA amps and things like that for the band to play through.
Adam Biggs: And And and the, the wonderful people at technical audio group came on board and they sponsored by giving us this very snazzy little QSC touch mix console that had all the preamps and recording facility and the everything in the little touchscreen mixer and Mike's, and the whole works, you know, they were wonderful.
Adam Biggs: They, you know, gave us in ears for the band and like, you know, they were awesome. So, so all these, these came companies came on board with this super light. Low power draw solutions so that we could achieve this because none of that stuff was in place. When I came on board, it was like, literally, like, this is the concept, this is what we're gonna do.
Adam Biggs: I'm like, cool. How are we gonna do it? And they're like, we haven't thought about that yet.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: You'll sort it out.
Adam Biggs: you. Maybe you could come up with some ideas. So, yeah, we, we we had this great, this, this great thing where we we literally lugged this this, this gear up a mountain and, you know, five piece band and and Tony and, and a bunch of A bunch of you know, a video guy and a, and a camera person.
Adam Biggs: And and we literally walked up and down a mountain range to do this to do this event. And I'll flick your, a photo from the, from the top of the mountain, which is kind of the, the pick that has hung around
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Cool. I would love to put that into the
Adam Biggs: Because it, it really is quite something it's like literally sort of standing on top of this mountain at, at six in the morning with clear skies with with Everest, you know, in the background and like, it it's insane. It's just, I can't look at that photo and not just go, how did we do this? You know, it's you know, like literally like hot wiring, You know, power boards onto generators with with my Leatherman, you know, and
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Oh wow.
Adam Biggs: it was, you know, everything was, was shoestring budget and everything was how do we make this work?
Adam Biggs: You know, how do we, how do we carry the least amount of gear to achieve this? Because it, it, you know, it literally comes down to like how many kilos can, can one person carry to walk up a, a muddy slope. For for 10 days, you know, so, you know, it was crazy. It was absolutely crazy, but it was an incredible experience.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Tell us about the show. How did it turn out? It was great.
Adam Biggs: what we tone now. It was great. We it was, it was not like it wasn't a ticketed show, obviously, because it was it was like literally at a, a viewing point at the top of the range. And we. We got up at 4:00 AM or something like that to drag all of the gear up to the to the, the sort of actual lookout point, which was maybe an hour's walk above the, the place we were staying.
Adam Biggs: And we put everything up, freezing cold, like so cold. And and we, we set everything up and we, we put it all together. And by this point in order to prepare for it, we had done several stops along the way where we had we'd gotten a bit of B roll. So we had gotten, you know, if we found a nice spot, we'd just stop there, set everything up.
Adam Biggs: Play a couple of tunes, you know, like literally, you know, in a, in a paddock or a, you know, the side of a, a cliff or, you know, where there was a little out crop where we could sort of set gear up or, you know, incredible, incredible places. And in the staging village, we'd set up on top of a restaurant and right by this amazing lake.
Adam Biggs: So we had already basically run the show. With everything set up and working out all the, you know, okay, this is gonna work. This is not gonna work. How much power are we drawing? How, how long have we got powerful based on the, you know, fuel consumption, that sort of stuff. Yeah. We had done all of those bits and pieces.
Adam Biggs: We went up, we did the event at the top of the mountain and literally we were just simply playing to the people who were there to look at sunrise as it came up over Everest. You know, that was the, that was the event. And all these people just hanging up going, why is there music here? Like it was, it was wild.
Adam Biggs: It was, it was just one of those things where you could never re. The, the energy and the just the, the sheer,
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: things.
Adam Biggs: the sheer joy of like being in that space and yeah, we're all, you know, gloved up and beanies and multiple layers of jackets and stuff like that until literally the second, when everyone has to start playing and whatever like that cause was so.
Adam Biggs: But it was incredible and, you know, we recorded it and it was great. Some great footage shot, et cetera. So, yeah, so we did that. We came back down the mountain. We went back to went back to the capital city. We flew out back to Bali to do one show before we came home. We landed in Bali and we heard about the earthquake in Nepal.
Adam Biggs: So literally that had happened straight after we flew outta the country, like 12 hours after we flew outta the country, the entire country was decimated. So we still had people on the ground. We had people that had been involved in our crew were still there. And and obviously the sheers and all these people that had helped us.
Adam Biggs: And so it, it then became this whole different thing, you know, coming off the. Coming off this amazing event where we were all just on such a high and like, wow, we've achieved this thing. And, you know, potentially it's like Guinness book sort of level of like highest gig and things like that, which turned out wasn't.
Adam Biggs: But we were on this incredible high and then we got. Home. And we're like looking at the devastation and like literally towns wiped off the map and, and yeah, and just like the capital city in ruins and, and just, you know, an incredible thing to come back to. So literally we pivoted this whole event into fundraising.
Adam Biggs: So we then started doing. Shows with this band. And we did one outta crystal castle outside of bar and bay. For, you know, I think 2000 people or something like that. Fundraising shows and things like that. And many, many other shows with bands like while mom late and whatever donating their time to, to come and play this big fundraisers to try and send some money over to the people who had basically made this thing possible for us.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Wow. So what a story? Life
Adam Biggs: changing, man. It was really
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: yeah. Right.
Adam Biggs: totally changed my perspective on music. It's
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Talk about highs and lows, you know, the For, you know, the last of 10, 15 years, you've been probably one of the driving forces here of the live sun industry in, in the Northern rivers. So at least my perception is that whenever I went to a great show, there was a good chance that you were on the controls most of the
Adam Biggs: Thank you.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So and then suddenly COVID hit and the entire live sun industry came to a grinding
Adam Biggs: grinding
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: How did you survive as a live sound business? You are still here in front of me.
Adam Biggs: Yeah. Yeah.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: still doing what you do, but you know, that must have been a real challenge. How did you get through that?
Adam Biggs: Look the, the, when COVID hit, you know, we, we, we saw it all happen overseas first.
Adam Biggs: Obviously we we saw the thing in China and then then Europe and I was literally on my way we were prepping to leave for an eight week tour in Europe with Ziggy Alberts at that point. And I had literally dropped stuff onto a pallet at the shipping place in Brisbane and was everything was loaded up, you know, guitars and, you know, consoles and everything like that, ready to go.
Adam Biggs: Everything was, you know, all our production forwards were done. We were ready to go. And we were like watching this stuff happen in Europe. And and it literally was just watching the dominoes fall and, and we were sort of, you know, the tour manager and myself were sort of looking at going, okay, well, look.
Adam Biggs: If Germany goes, we're done. You know, we, we can't, we can't make this tool work without Germany. This is not just the shows, but the transit points, et cetera, et cetera. And so you know, and had conversations with Ziggy and he was saying, look, it's not just about whether or not we can make the tool work.
Adam Biggs: It's people are getting really sick over there. You know, are you, you know, I had a brand new baby. He's like, you know, are you. Still prepared to go. And so there was big conversations around that. And at that point, no one knew this was gonna be an Australian problem. Like we, you know, we, we literally, we did all of this stuff.
Adam Biggs: We prepped all this tour and then like, literally we canceled the, the day before we flew out. Because it was just clear that, you know, once, once Germany went down, it's like, okay, cool. Everyone's closing their borders. We can't go. I had other friends who were already there and you know, and on other shows and, and were, were desperately trying to fly out, you know, cuz they, they re recognized that things were gonna get really bad.
Adam Biggs: And and so, yeah, so I, we literally canceled, you know, eight weeks of touring. And then. Within the week after that, you know, negotiating cancellation fees and all that sort of funding games within the week we started hearing about it coming into Australia and the speed at which everything stopped was. like, I mean, obviously worldwide in every industry, but in the music industry, we literally saw 12 months of cancellations in a day. You know, we had venues that just said, we're not doing this. We, you know, we can't do this. So we, we literally just saw our entire slate, wiped, clean every show we had booked for the foresee future disappear overnight.
Adam Biggs: And no idea when it was coming back, you know, like, like it, it felt very end of days it was like, you know, like every, everyone, it was just like, what's gonna happen. So, so yeah, we're sitting at home and we're like, oh, okay, well I guess I guess we're not working for the foreseeable. I had full-time staff.
Adam Biggs: I had, you know, obviously people who were relying on things, I, you know, had all the various financial commitments that go with running a business. And and so we were sort of like, oh, how are we gonna do this? We we pivoted into doing a few bits and pieces of, you know, streaming events and you know, like bits and pieces like that, where we would sort of be supplying equipment to people doing, you know, online.
Adam Biggs: Concerts and bits and pieces like that. You know, I spoke to my accountant and we, we sort of, kind of came up with a all bit strategy for sort of rejigging things while we weren't very flat. Thankfully job keep came up and, and saved all our butts. Yeah, basically the whole industry went on job keep immediately,
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: pretty much. Yeah.
Adam Biggs: You know, and.
Adam Biggs: And it was, it was brutal. It was really hard. A lot of friends really struggled with their mental health. I certainly did. You know, that sense of everything you've worked towards just disappearing overnight and having no control over it. That was, that was, that was a huge deal, you know, and a lot of young people in the industry sort of looking at going well, is.
Adam Biggs: Is this how it is, you know, like, is this just what this industry will be? You know, no, no sense of, of planning for things. No sense of, of being able to sort of work towards. Hm goals because everything would just be stopped.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: A lot of businesses, you know, live
Adam Biggs: of business went to the wall,
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: went out of business, but you
Adam Biggs: you were still here.
Adam Biggs: I, I was very lucky. I, I I've always had the approach that I don't like to owe people money. So any, any, any Anything that I wanna buy. And I mean, I'm a gear hound. I mean, the, the amount of crap I own is just ridiculous. But my attitude's always been, I, I won't buy it unless I know I can pay for it without any income coming in.
Adam Biggs: And and so that was kind of, that saved me really, cuz I didn't have a lot of debt. And and you know, yeah, for quite a few months there, I was out building fences on the property here and you know, just, just doing you know, the, the bulk of the childcare and doing all those sorts of things.
Adam Biggs: And, and it was awesome, honestly, you know, like first time in my adult life where I was off the road and I was, you know, didn't have to be out ging late at night. I, I could just stay at home and focus on the kids and enjoy playing some music, which. You know, a novelty. So look in honesty. I. I think for as many people as COVID was tough, there are a lot of people who actually, you know, needed that, you know, it was a great opportunity to step back and go, what do I actually want to do in this industry?
Adam Biggs: You know, what do I, what do I wanna achieve? What am
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: to reflect.
Adam Biggs: time to reflect? Yeah, absolutely. And and I think the people who are still in it are the people who took that time and, and thought long and hard about what it was they want from. And for some people it was to get out. And, and I totally respect that.
Adam Biggs: I think there's a lot of people who, who looked at and went, you know what? This is not for me. Personally for me, what it came down to was I don't wanna spend as much time away on the road because that doesn't serve me at this point in my life. So I, I think everyone. Had their own stuff. And, and, and one of the great things that came out of, of COVID was the conversations with other people in the industry, because we were all in the same boat.
Adam Biggs: Everyone was in exactly the same position. And so. There were a lot of people reaching out and saying, Hey, how are you going? You know, what do you need? Are you, are you safe? Are you, are, you are coping? So in that sense, you know, the, it was, it was wonderful to see. Within the industry that the level of compassion and empathy and support that people gave each other you know, and, and, and really sort of were there for each other.
Adam Biggs: So I think, I think as hard as it was on everyone's mental health, I think it was, it was crucial for a lot of people that everyone was in that same position. And so we all got to support each other.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: yeah, yeah. That's really good to
Adam Biggs: Yeah.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: And then over the last couple of months, I guess it's picked up again and, you know, first it started a bit and then it went back down, but lately it's been kicking,
Adam Biggs: has been crazy.
Adam Biggs: I mean, like we,
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I saw you on the controlled zone at blues Fest from a distance. Yeah. You wouldn't have seen me.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: I was on the crowd dancing, but
Adam Biggs: five five bands I did at boo first or something. Yeah, so I, I had I had a few great shows that we we did, I did Caravan's sun and they had been supporting cat empire in that tour. And and so I did Caravan's sun right before the final ever cat empire show.
Adam Biggs: So I got to mix this great band and mojo stage on the first night and huge crowd and amazing energy. I saw that show and. Killer killer. So, you know, we, we got to do that. And and then you know, I got to pack up my console and then hang out at front of house with my 16 year old son and watch the last ever cat empire show, you know, like, you know, man, you know, those sort of moments of what, what you do it for, you know,
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: yeah. Yeah. It was a big bang. Yeah. Yeah, exactly.
Adam Biggs: that sort of thing where you can just, you know, you
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So many of the musicians I know are at the moment completely booked. They, they are booked so well, live gigs are backed with the bang. And now
Adam Biggs: huge.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: where, you know, some of the lives sound operators have gone outta business, and there seems to be a demand for operators.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Is that right?
Adam Biggs: Absolutely. There is a, there's a anyone who would like a job. Yeah, honestly it is really, really hard to get staff at the moment because as with every industry People people have have, have just made these decisions during COVID of where they are safest.
Adam Biggs: And, and for a lot of people safe means regular income. And and so a lot of people left the industry. So, you know, some of the best engineers I know are now working in like it, because the reality is is that they know that that will still be there if another outbreak hits, you know? And so they're just, they're just gone.
Adam Biggs: They're outta the industry.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So I guess quite a few bands find themselves in a situation where they have to do at least the smaller events by themselves and may not have an engineer. What advice and tips would you have for bands who need to mix themselves in smaller
Adam Biggs: Mm look, I, I, I get asked a lot, like from musicians going, you know what, what's the, what's the basics, you know, what's the, where do I start? You know? And, and I, I literally had my good friend Luke for seller over yesterday, yesterday, the day before and going through. Reagan set up and, and because he's one of those guys, he's, he's someone who, in the majority of the events he plays, he's looking after himself.
Adam Biggs: And and we went through his setup and we looked at some stuff around gain structure, and we looked at some stuff around power and cabling and just like fundamentals, like stuff that you think, oh yeah. You know that because you've been doing it forever. And this is not the throw shade on Luke.
Adam Biggs: It's, it's a, it's a commonality with a lot of musicians is that playing music is not. Really a technical brain pursuit. So when you are playing music, you are not thinking about the technology. And so it's, it's really hard to do both of those things. It's really hard to be the engineer and the musician, because they are fundamentally different parts of your yes, your, your brain, you know,
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: would almost say that it routes each other out. In some ways you can't do
Adam Biggs: really tricky. So, so so you know, that, just that thing of just being able to go through with someone and say, well, we'll prepare, you know, like you, you need to know what you're coming into. You need to know what gear is available to you. You need to know. What the minimum requirements for your setup are.
Adam Biggs: If you're playing in a full band and you are playing in a stadium, then there's a very different level of minimum requirement to, if you are a full band playing in a room to 25 people. So you need to understand and stand and, and really understand your sound. Really understand what needs to be.
Adam Biggs: Presented in your sound so that you can then look at it and go, okay, well, actually our minimum requirements is vocal needs to be heard. The guitars are loud enough. The bass and drums are loud enough. You know, the keyboards might need to run through the PA, but it's, it's really about understanding those fundamentals because.
Adam Biggs: It doesn't matter how big the get gig gets the fundamentals don't change, you know, you've still gotta know, okay, what do we need in order to present a balanced mix, you know, and a balanced mix can be as simple as turning around to the guitar player and saying, you need to come down a little, it doesn't necessarily need to be a technical solution.
Adam Biggs: Yes. So that starts
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: starts on stage with the volume on stage.
Adam Biggs: starts and stops on stage as far as I'm concerned. It's and that's whether you are mixing yourself or you are working with an engineer or you are, you are in a, a big production. It's it's so much about the source. And yeah, so that's, I don't think that changes.
Adam Biggs: I think realistically, whether you are putting a single vocal mic up through a single speaker so that the, the vocalist can be heard in a small. Or whether you are doing a house concert and literally doing it acoustic or the fundamentals don't change. It doesn't matter what the technology is. Yeah.
Adam Biggs: It's about delivering the sound that you have in your head as a, a band or as a soloist or as a, whatever, an electronic act or whatever it is you are it's about going well, what, what do I need to deliver that to the audience in the way I intend it? You know, I, my, my attitude has always been, even on small PA shows is that I want to deliver a sound that feels like a big sound like, you know, it's you know, like a big sound
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: no pun intended.
Adam Biggs: it, it, it literally is one of those things where I, you know, if I've got a, a couple of boxes on sticks and, and a basic console, I want people to feel like they're standing in front of, you know, amphitheater stage getting like the best possible delivery of sound. It almost doesn't matter how much PA there is.
Adam Biggs: It's like you can deliver that as long as you are thinking about what it is the band's trying to deliver, you know, like, you know, I worked with that's a great Queensland band, electric lemonade and sort, you know, seven, eight piece funk outfit. He's super high energy. You know, great interactions on stage.
Adam Biggs: They listen to each other. And that was my show on Sunday night at the Bruns, and like literally vocal PA with a couple of subs, you know, it was very simple setup. But to me, it's like, okay, cool. Are, are the horns balancing out with the keys player? Are, is, are the vocals popping as there like energy, there is the, you know, the is do the drums feel big and like, you know, present and you know, is everything, is everything taking up its own space, you know?
Adam Biggs: Like, and, and you can do that on any size PA you know, the bigger, the PA obviously the more fun you can have and the more you can deliver to more people. It doesn't matter. It really doesn't matter how big the PA is, because if you can't get all of that working together, a terrible mix on a big PA just sounds like a terrible mix.
Adam Biggs: Yeah. So yeah. It's yeah, I think, I think at the end of the day, it's, it's, it's not about how much money is spent on gear. It's not about how much gear you're carrying into the venue. It's it's about like, what, what do you need to make that work?
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Yeah, that's a good point. Very rarely do I run into a show where I think, oh, they don't have enough gear. It's most of the time, it's the exact opposite that. A lot more gear present than actually needed for the event.
Adam Biggs: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So what is it in, in, in your life that makes, makes it harder for you to pull a good sound?
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: You know, when you work with musicians, what MIS common mistakes do you see where people probably unintentionally, I guess do things that make it harder for you to pull a good sound.
Adam Biggs: Look, I guess it's different for different things. So Volume is probably the first thing that I'd talk about. There's, there's this sense particularly as you get into bigger stages and bigger acts, there's this sense that it's not working unless it's working loud.
Adam Biggs: And, you know, the amount of bands you, you get up on stage and you're like singing up and it's like, it's quite simple in a way, be just like acoustic or whatever. And people are like, oh, I need more, more guitar in the fallback. Or I need, you know, like when you make the vocal like really loud or this, that, and the other.
Adam Biggs: And it's, it's so counterproductive, like incredibly counterproductive because the, the louder things. The, the less control you have, you know, it's like,
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: Can you explain on that?
Adam Biggs: Yeah.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: know, why is that?
Adam Biggs: so, you know, like let's, let's look at it from a band perspective. So we've got a, you know, four piece band we've got, you know, guitar based drums and a vocal.
Adam Biggs: So you've got a vocal. And that, that to some point is a fixed volume, you know? So as someone, when they're singing can sing to a certain volume comfortably and with their, within their range and their dynamic ability. So to a degree that's a fixed volume. So as an engineer, what we're doing is we're putting a microphone in front of that fixed volume and we're adding gain to a point where we can then amplify that into PA.
Adam Biggs: So it it's, it's a, it's very similar to recording, but. There's an interaction that you don't have when you're recording, when you're working live, there's an interaction between what you are adding and gain to that microphone. And how much that interplays with fallback, Wes interplay the PA out front interplays with the room, reflecting the PA yes.
Adam Biggs: All of those things. So yeah, so you've, you've. You've got hard limits. You've got hard limits for where you can take that vocal.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: So you're saying they're straight offs, you know, it's not just only an advantage of gaining it up, but from a certain volume you get disadvantages,
Adam Biggs: a hundred percent.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: spill into other
Adam Biggs: Absolutely. So, yeah,
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: PA feeding back into the microphone, blurring
Adam Biggs: Yeah. So if we think about like a vocal as being like, obviously a fairly key thing, you know, for the majority of bands, the vocal is the focus.
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: yes.
Adam Biggs: You people want to hear the lyrics, they wanna understand, they wanna feel that emotion traveling. And if you've got a drama sitting behind a singer, Like, you know, using all of their, their gym chops to like hit that snare at 110 DB on every single stroke.
Adam Biggs: And, you know, you've got a guitar player who's just bought, then you you
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: stack Marsha
Adam Biggs: stack marshal, you know, the, the, the, the, the B cabs, the whole works and, and a bass player who's competing with that by, you know, they've now got their 2000 wat head and, you know, like couple of four, 10 cabs, There's just, there's, there's so much volume, so much volume, so much power in those instruments that you will never ever compete with with a single vocal. if you try to gain it up,
Jan 'Yarn' Muths: what, what do you get?
Adam Biggs: So to me, I, I, I. I, I always try and explain it to my staff and I'm I'm training and whatever like that. I always tend to treat it as you know, you look at a channel strip on a console and the first thing up the top below where you plug the microphone in is a gain control.
Adam Biggs: Now to me, the way I explained to my crew, the gain control is the ears of the console. Now, the more you turn up that gain control, the more you hear, the more you are ex you are bringing into your ears. So if you can keep your gain nice and low. And appropriate for the, the, the volume that the person is, is singing at.
Adam Biggs: And, and obviously between songs is speaking out and things. If you can set the gain structure in such a way so that you are sort of, you know, you're not going into. You're not, you're not pushing it into the red, but you're also not like sitting way below unity gain. So you, you sort of, you know, you're trying to find a nice midpoint there, so that it's, it sounds nice.
Adam Biggs: It sounds rich Richards. They've got a bit of movement they can sort of get in and out off the microphone and, and, and use their own dynamics to, to sort of work the tone. Yeah. So cool. You've got that happening. You've you've said that up really nicely. Now the thing is, if you've. A singer that is really, really getting smashed by a hugely loud LA balance stage.
Adam Biggs: They're gonna have to. Hearing themselves more. So they're gonna need one of two things. You're either gonna have to turn the gain up on the microphone so that there's more sensitivity in the mic so that you can then push more back towards them in the fall back. Or you're gonna have to like turn the gain down.
Adam Biggs: So it's not hearing quite as wide as spill, you know, like, you know, the lower, the gain on the microphone, the less it's gonna be picking up your guitar players staying right next to you playing, you know, 95 DB or whatever. That's the huge trade off, you know, and in the live sound world, that's the difference between a good show and a, and a very mediocre show is how much everyone's prepared to work together.
Adam Biggs: Yeah. To deliver. The band as a show, not, not their particular element of that. So, you know, I know I'm, I'm picking on guitarist. I, I am a guitar player. I totally appreciate the, the, the joy of having a nice loud amp behind you. So yeah, it's, it's that thing of going well. Okay. Well, if, if I need to turn the gain down on the vocal mic so that it's not hearing quite so much spill off the guitar amp, now I've working at a sub optimum.
Adam Biggs: Position with the vocal itself that singer might have to like lean into the mic more and, and be, be really chewing that mic in order to be able to hear themselves in the fallback. That, that one that rapidly decreases my dynamic range because they, th