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5 Front of the House Engineers You Should Meet

Sound guys for Shinedown, Sick Puppies, Adelitas Way, Blackberry Smoke and Vince Gill share what it takes to make a guitar-driven band shine live

The hours are long, the work is hard, days off are rare and family time is limited. You live in a rolling submarine for months at a stretch, in close proximity to a dozen other guys, eat whatever the catering room prepares—and you can forget about sick leave or benefits. In this economy, chances are you’re also pulling double duty as tour manager. You’re the front of house engineer: the alpha and omega of what the band sounds like onstage. There’s a lot more to FOH than knowing when to turn up or how to run the signal chain. Knowing how to control the mix is key, but you also need people skills and grace under pressure— because there will always be pressure. Five front of house engineers, mixing for five very different artists, spoke to Premier Guitar about the rewards of the gig, the challenges they face, why they do it and what it takes, professionally and personally, to be the best.

Doug Nightwine is tour manager and front of house engineer for Shinedown, and a respected veteran in his field. Joining him is his longtime colleague, guitar tech Galen Henson. The two met 12 years ago when Nightwine was Joe Satriani’s tour manager and Henson was Satriani’s rhythm guitarist. Shinedown is currently performing in arenas and theaters, playing two-hour shows on a three-nights-on, one-night-off schedule.

Kevin Padilla is front of house engineer for Sick Puppies and Hurt, with whom Sick Puppies shared a summer co-headlining tour. When Hurt went on break, Padilla joined Sick Puppies. “It worked out perfectly,” he says. “I went from one tour bus to the next.” Since he began his music career as a guitarist, Padilla understands the instrument’s place in the mix, which is crucial in this case because there are only three musicians onstage and every note has to count.

Shawn Hammer is front of house engineer and tour manager for Adelitas Way, whose selftitled debut was produced by Johnny K. With two guitarists coming from two different schools of rock, Hammer—whose resume includes a year and a half as drum and monitor tech for 10 Years—has the challenge of separation and balance on both sides of the stage, in both arenas and clubs.

Billy Kirk is front of house engineer for Blackberry Smoke, a two-guitar country/ rock/bluegrass/blues band that Dann Huff saw playing in a club and decided to produce before they even had a record deal. Kirk also has a background in monitors, and has worked with Patti LaBelle for the past 11 years, in addition to stints with Eric Benet and Vanessa Williams. When we caught up with Kirk, Blackberry Smoke was on tour with Lynyrd Skynyrd, and preparing for a stunning 22-date back-to-back run of their own in Europe.

Hugh Johnson is in his 21st year as front of house engineer for Vince Gill and is Gill’s production manager. Johnson also taught Live Sound Reinforcement at Belmont University in Nashville. An English major/Broadcasting minor from East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, Johnson credits “the school of hard knocks” for his music industry education.

Doug Nightwine

What’s your background in front of house?

I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. The public school system had a vocational tech program that offered a recording class. I got to spend three hours a day for the whole year in a small studio. I fell in love with it immediately. My teacher had working relationships with techs and engineers who had worked on a lot of the Stax and American Records stuff. He hooked me up with internships with several of the studios in town. I was 17 or 18, and it’s the only thing I’ve been doing ever since.

What does it take for a front of house engineer to earn the trust of his band?

That can be tricky. Fortunately, I have a long career record, so it’s easy for people to check up on me. Then it comes down to the feedback that the band hears from other people. If they talk to fans after the show and they say it sounded great, then you’re good.

Tell us about Shinedown’s equipment, setup and signal chain.

Zach [Myers] uses a two-channel rig: clean and dirty. The dirty is a Diezel Herbert into a pair of Mesa Boogie 4x12s. The clean is an Ashdown 350 bass amp. We wanted a loud, punchy, clean sound that didn’t break up. We have two Shure 57 mics on each amp; it’s the perfect mic for loud rock and roll guitar. I don’t do much, EQ-wise. I high pass to 160Hz and low pass to around 5kHz. That way I can turn it way up and it’s not piercing. I prefer to dull down and turn up so that it doesn’t fight with the vocal. I use Palmer speaker simulators in line with the clean, pan both mics to 10:00 and the clean Palmer to 2:00, add a little bit of delay to align them; about half a foot of delay. You have to play with it because it depends on any number of things. The dirty is panned more to 9:00 and 3:00 or 7:00 and 5:00. Then I bring in the Palmer in the middle and push it up until it fills. The Palmers, in this situation, are a little too bright for me, so I just put a little of that in the middle. If the mics are at 100 percent, it’s 60 to 70 percent added into the middle. The board is a Digidesign Profile rig. The onboard compressor takes a little edge off the top. I don’t use any delay or anything else on the guitars. The key to a loud and in-your-face guitar mix is to take the top and bottom end frequencies off because you don’t need those frequencies at high volume. I run a little bit of support track of strings and piano when he goes to solo, but a little goes a long way and I don’t want to be able to pick that out in the mix.

What happens when the crowd comes in and changes the balance?

I tune the PA with Soundgarden’s “Outshined,” Seal’s “Dreaming in Metaphors” and Sting’s “If I Ever Lose My Faith.” Soundgarden is a big, powerful rock track with heavy vocals and guitars. I smooth out the high mids in the PA at the 1.6kHz–3.15kHz range. It can be really harsh, and that’s where Brent’s powerful voice really builds up. Seal gets the bottom end and lowmid stuff balanced. At that point, the Sting track should sound nice and huge and pristine, if I’ve done my job right. Then doors open, the show starts. When the set change into Shinedown comes, I use the Soundgarden track again. I have my reference with the room full and I can hear what’s changed. Mostly, the top end responds consistently. The bottom end can fool you on how it does and doesn’t tighten up.

How does size of venue affect sound?

I’m fortunate enough to get a fairly consistent mix across any sort of PA. There are concessions and compromises you have to make, but the overall sound does not change dramatically. A lot of that is in the experience of having worked with the worst bands, clubs and PA. In those situations, some days you do nothing, some days you EQ the hell out of it, and knowing how bad it can be, you suck it up and get it done.

How much of your job is technical expertise, and how much is knowing and understanding the band?

Certainly, the more familiar you are with the band, the better. You can hear what’s not there and turn up the parts that are missing. It has to be musical. You have to be able to adjust things, leave space around things and listen. I pick out what Eric [Bass] is doing on the bass, and what Barry [Kerch] is doing on the bass drum or hihat. Some people don’t listen musically; they concentrate on one guitar or one bass or one hi-hat. None of those things should be on top unless it’s time... it has to fit with the song and in its own place as well, and you have to make space in the kick drum in the low mid and put a boost from the bass so that the two instruments don’t fight for the same sonic space.

What does it take to be a good front of house engineer?

You need a solid understanding of the gear. That doesn’t mean you need to be able to take it apart and fix it, but that does help. The biggest mistake I see is in gain structure. The idea is you are transferring electrical current into acoustic output. How it goes through the chain is your gain structure. You need proper gain structure because the system protects itself along the way. Push the master fader to zero, the kick drum to zero, push it up, build around, know your limitations, don’t choke yourself in the wrong places. Again, it comes back to listening musically and knowing that your kick drum isn’t the loudest thing in the mix. It’s the foundation, and you build everything else on top of that. Technical knowledge is important, but I’ll take a guy who’s listening musically any day.

Kevin Padilla

What is your background in front of house?

I started out playing guitar in bands. A lot of techs start out that way. Being a tech was a backup plan for my “rock star” goal, and I fell I love with it and never looked back. I believe that to be a tech, you either have it in you or you don’t.

Tell us about Sick Puppies’ equipment, setup and signal chain.

Shim [Shimon Moore, guitar] has a cool setup. He uses a Gibson ES-335, two Marshall 4x12 cabs with Marshall heads, and a Dual Super Lead 100-watt head going stereo through all the pedals. I’m mic’ing the guitar twice for stereo imaging. He also uses a boost pedal. Emma [Anzai, bass] has two 8x10 cabs, with one as a sub and one full range, for a lot of low end and good stage volume. I mic her 8x10 with a Shure Beta 52 and a direct line out of an Avalon U5 DI. It’s a standard, good-sounding DI. I blend the signal between that and an onstage mic for good top and low end, and clarity. I use a Beta 58 for Shim’s vocal and a Beta 87A for Emma’s vocal. I have Shure SM 57s on the guitars. They’ve been around forever; they’re workhorse mics and they sound great. At the board I’m using a Digidesign VENUE Profile console, and it sounds great. It has everything from compression to effects all built in. It’s an awesome console. I’ve been using a compressor plug-in called Smack!. I put it on the stereo bus to tighten it up.

What happens when the crowd comes in and changes the balance?

The console has individual channels, so we can mix down. No matter the size of the venue or the crowd, you’re always going to have reflective surfaces: hardwood or cement. The crowd always changes the sound, usually for the better because they soak up the room reverb and tighten up the room. The more you do this, the more comfortable you get with the situation, and no matter how much you do this, there’s always going to be a technical problem at some point. It’s a fact of life and it happens to everybody. With experience, you learn to be calm, focused, and you know what needs to be done in the shortest amount of time. There’s no second-guessing. You just make it happen. You know how to pull channels up on the fly. You have 15 minutes to do a set change and line checks. You get comfortable.

How does size of venue affect sound?

Stage volume is really important. A lot of guitarists think they have to be on 11 for their guitar to sound good. That was in the old days. Now there’s a sweet spot you can get to with volume, but you don’t need to be as loud as you can. In a smaller room, you can get good levels onstage and not kill the people in the front row. It can be too loud even without a PA. In smaller venues, guitarists should use lower stage volume and make it up in the monitors so they don’t injure people with their guitar signals. That actually makes the band’s overall mix much better.

How much of your job is technical expertise, and how much is knowing and understanding the band?

Technical knowledge is a big part because it definitely changes the way you do a mix, and you have to know how to EQ everything. But if you’re mixing a band you’ve never heard of and don’t know their sound, it might make you want to add, for example, a lot of attack to a kick, like a metal band. If it’s country, that’s not going to work. Knowing the dynamics of when to get loud, the mic techniques—a lot of little things you might think aren’t really important actually are.

Do you control the entire mix?

It’s all in my hands. The band has a Yamaha 01V onstage for in-ear monitors, so they have monitor control. They also use wedges.

What does it take for a front of house engineer to earn the trust of his band?

It takes being with them long enough, and talking with them after the shows. They hear things from onstage that you don’t. There’s a level of comfort that can only be reached with time. You also get feedback from the fans, who say, “It sounded great,” or “This is too loud.” That feedback matters.

In some rooms, every band sounds horrible. The audience walks out complaining that the band “needs a new sound guy.” It all falls on you.

Yes, in some places it does, because a lot of times the sound of the actual room is the last thing that club owners think about. They have concrete or tin walls and roofing, or they didn’t spend a lot on a PA. That’s always the last thing they think about, ironically. You work with terrible PAs and the worst possible rooms. I’ve toured for eight years, and there’s almost never a perfect situation. Most clubs don’t sound good. You have to work through it and learn tricks along the way. You do your best, but there’s only so much you can do with the potential of the room you’re working with.

What does it take to be a good front of house engineer?

That’s a really good question. I think knowing sometimes when less is more, knowing that it’s not always about adding. It’s about subtracting what you don’t want, for example, stage volume: knowing when to back down and balance instead of turning up. Also, having a good gain structure. We just did nine shows in a row, and on our off day today, we’re doing an acoustic show and then driving 700 miles to the next city. There are no sick days, insurance or 401ks on tour. You’d make better money and have more benefits working at Home Depot. You really have to love this to do this.

Shawn Hammer

What is your background in front of house?

I studied music theory at Youngstown State in Ohio and was playing in bands. By default, I was always taking care of the sound. I started recording my band, then I began working in a studio, and then doing house sound at Forward Hall in Erie, Pennsylvania. That was my first front of house job. I did monitors and front of house, and I was the only guy, so I took care of all the technical aspects for every band. When I first worked there, there were more instruments onstage than I could ever have imagined— horns, organs, vintage keyboards—and any challenge that you can imagine was thrown at me.

Adelitas Way is a two-guitar band, with Chris Iorio playing lead and Keith Wallen playing rhythm. Tell us about the equipment, setup and signal chain.

Keith has an amazing Soldano HR-50 with a Marshall vintage 30 cab. He’s got a couple of Les Pauls, and his tone is great and easy to work with. Chris plays an EVH 5150 with EVH 5150 cabs. He’s more high-gain and out there, and his leads stick out. Both guys use Dean Markley medium-gauge strings. When I mix, I try not to do much EQ. I roll off a little top end to make room for Rick [DeJesus, vocals] and the bottom end so it isn’t muddy. I fix things here and there, but I keep it simple. Keith’s chain is straightforward: tuner to amp, no frills. Chris uses a TC Electronic delay pedal, a chorus pedal and a wah for his solos. Chris is a more ’80s-style guitarist who was raised on Van Halen and Guns N’ Roses. Keith is a straight-up, modern rock and roll guitarist; no frills, just solid rhythm and background vocals. Derek [Johnston] is endorsed by Spector, and he is now playing a new NSJ2R bass that has improved our sound dramatically. He’s running it through an Ampeg rig, a classic 8x10 and SVT-3Pro he’d like to upgrade. We’ll work on that as we go. The guys don’t do much as far as effects, and I only use compression out front, especially in this situation where we have the Digidesign Pro Tools rig.

How do you like the VENUE Profile?

It’s great! My mix is ready, and Smack! is an amazing plug-in. The compressor is an emulator of a distressor, which is a favorite of mine in the studio, and now I can use it on the guitars, vocals, bass, kick, snare, everything. I don’t have to do much during soundcheck. My settings are saved and I’m ready to go. On a tour like this, with four bands [Cycle of Pain, Adelitas Way, Sick Puppies, Shinedown], all the compressor and gain are usually taken over by the headliner. With Pro Tools, everyone has enough to use. I prefer analog, and the knobs and changing things immediately, but I got acclimated to this and it’s almost as fast as an analog system.

What about mics?

I’m using a Sennheiser e902 on the kick, e604s on the toms, classic Shure SM57s on the snare and guitars, SM81s on overheads and hat, and SM58s on vocals.

What are the challenges of mixing a two-guitar band?

Having two guitars can make things more cluttered, and it’s harder to find space for everyone. There’s also more competition to keep the vocals out front. The leads are out there with the vocals, and the rhythm guitar I keep with the bass and drums to keep the music moving. Keith and Derek are on stage left, Chris is stage right, Trevor [Stafford, drums] is in the middle and Rick is everywhere. I advise the band. They change the volume levels to their comfort. Unless you carry wedges, you’re not going to guarantee the same sound every night. I try to give each guy his own mix. I want it to sound as full as possible onstage, but a bit more aggressive live than on the CD. I definitely help push that.

How much of your job is technical expertise, and how much is knowing and understanding the band?

It’s definitely a balance, but technical knowledge is more important. Knowing the band and their music puts the polish on the whole thing to make it accurate, but you can’t get that far without at least the basic technical knowledge.

In some rooms, every band sounds horrible. The audience walks out complaining that the band “needs a new sound guy.” It all falls on you.

When you have those sound systems, there’s nothing you can do. You make what you can out of it and you get around it in ways, such as only pushing what you need through the PA and using the PA for sound reinforcement and not clutter. The room has a lot to do with it as well. If it has a lot of reflection and noise, it’s challenging. At the same time, it can be fun to pull it off. It’s definitely rewarding when you walk into a bad venue and terrible PA and at the end of the night you think, it kind of sounded good! We’ve been spoiled on the Shinedown tour. After this, it’s back to whatever house console there is, and sometimes the challenges are so great that you ask yourself, “Why are we doing this?” But in some places, the small dives, you find amazing old gear and it’s exciting just to see it; to see a vintage console or a vintage effects unit. I know it sounds strange, but those challenges are my favorite part of the job. I enjoy troubleshooting, and it’s a main skill in this job. That and crisis management: finding the problem and fixing it quickly.

What does it take to be a good front of house engineer?

Patience and a good ear. Recognizing a problem when it happens, catching it before the crowd notices it, and remembering that you can always do better.

Billy Kirk

What is your background in front of house?

I have been interested in live sound since I saw the front of house engineer for the band that was playing at my high school prom and decided he had the coolest job ever. I moved to Atlanta in 1987 to pursue the goal of getting the coolest job ever. I met Richard [Turner, bass/vocals] and Brit [Turner, drums] shortly after that. Since then, I’ve mixed the bands they were in, and Richard and I have become business partners in our own audio production company, Fly By Night Audio Inc., so I’ve really been working with Blackberry Smoke even before that was their name.

What does it take for a front of house engineer to earn the trust of his band?

Don’t let them see you do anything stupid. You could come highly recommended and have an excellent resume. These things help get your foot in the door. Really, though, the best way is to do a good job consistently over a period of time in a number of different situations.

Tell us about some of Blackberry Smoke’s equipment, setup and signal chain.

We’re making the transition from wedges to ear monitors, so we’re carrying our own mic package, a new PreSonus StudioLive 16.4.2 mixer, a really powerful little machine, and some Shure PSM 700 wireless ear monitor systems for Richard, Paul [Jackson, guitar/ vocals] and Charlie [Starr, lead vocals/guitar], and Shure PSM 600HW Hardwired systems for Brit and Brandon [Still, keyboards]. Our goal is to give them some consistency from day to day but still be super portable and musician friendly. The console is a Digidesign D-Show Profile. All effects, processing and EQ are on the console. The console feeds XTA 226 processors, which splits the signal according to bandwidth to feed the proper sub, low, mid and high power amps, which feed the appropriate components in the speaker cabinets. All the power amps are Lab.gruppen fP 6400.

Richard plays a Zemaitis BMF-DCPJ Metal Front Black bass, Fender Jazz Bass Special Neck with Precision Body with hipshot, Gibson 1971 Goldtop Les Paul Signature and 1971 Les Paul Recording bass through an Orange AD 200B amp and Orange OBC 115 and 410 cabs. He uses GHS Flatwound Long Scale Plus strings, Mogami cables, a Cherub Metronome and Boss Tuner. Charlie plays a ’56 Les Paul Jr., Dan Armstrong Plexi, Fender B-Bender Telecaster, a Performance Guitarsbuilt (1989) Haggis Custom Tele and a gold Gibson SG through an Orange Rockerverb 50 head and cabinet. He uses GHS Boomer medium strings, a Boss Tuner and MXR Phase 45, Dunlop Crybaby and Expandora pedals. Paul plays a ’79 Les Paul Standard, Gibson Firebird VII and Fender ’52 Reissue Telecaster, using GHS Boomer medium strings, through an Orange Rockerverb 50 Combo, with Boss Chromatic Tuner Pedal and Boss EQ Pedal.

What happens when the crowd comes in and changes the balance?

The balance you get during soundcheck is a starting point. Obviously, things change after the audience comes in, but since these variables are also variable from night to night and place to place, there are no hard and fast “put knob here” rules. I just try to react to whatever changes have taken place as fast as I can.

How much of your job is technical expertise and how much is knowing and understanding the band?

Both are important. If you have some kind of musical common ground with the band, they will probably be more inclined to feel that you are presenting them to the audience in the way that they want. But your technical skills are going to allow you to actually do that, and that is what will keep you employed.

The audience wants the live show to sound like the album. How do you accomplish that and make the mix more dynamic and powerful?

I think on a good night a live band playing through a nice sound system can sound better than a CD. The dynamic range of a band is more than that of a CD, and most professional sound systems will go louder and lower than most home and car stereos. The best way to accomplish this is to pay attention to every little detail throughout the entire day, starting with hanging or stacking the system to cover the entire audience evenly, mic’ing everything properly and so forth. It’s kind of like painting a wall. The bulk of the work is in the prep. The actual knob-twiddling is easy if you’ve done a good job before you get to that point.

What are the challenges that come with mixing two guitars?

Having two guitars worth of stage volume. Actually, the Blackberry Smoke guys are all very conscious and reasonable about their stage volume. I would say just making sure that they can both be heard at all times and that they both occupy their own little space in the mix, whether it’s a dual lead thing or one soloing with the other playing a rhythm part. I try to stick to a less-is-more kind of mix with Blackberry Smoke—just some basic dynamics and a little bit of reverb and delay on the vocals. They’re a rock band. They don’t need me putting a lot of makeup and perfume on them.

What does it take to be a good front of house engineer?

The ability to deliver high-quality audio consistently in all types of situations, and being able to keep a level head. Understanding at least a little bit of all the other facets of the show, such as lighting and video, so that you can work with them or around them. The technical ability to get a good mix together fast is important, but when it’s time to open the doors, the people are there to see a show. If you’ve demanded that the mix position be somewhere that makes it hard for the lighting guys to see the stage, and then made the band nervous by telling them how hard your day has been when you see them in the hallway before the show, you’re probably not a good front of house engineer.

Hugh Johnson

What does Vince Gill need from his front of house engineer?

Vince is not alone in his perception of what the front of house should do, but he is in the minority of guys who have very little say about what I do. He trusts me completely. Early on in our relationship he got a lot of feedback from producers and management that I was doing what needed to be done. I get very few complaints. He does meet-and-greets after the shows and always gets good reports of how good it sounds, so he’s never asked me to do anything other than what I do, and over the years that hasn’t changed. He has a somewhat different relationship with our monitor engineer, Sam Parker. Vince has more interactive comments with Sam because of the nature of the monitor mix. As front of house engineer, my primary duty is to be the conduit from band to audience in most all situations. My job is to deliver what the band is playing, and hopefully to do that in a way that is as consistent as possible throughout the room, so that the people in the front row aren’t blasted and the people in the back row are able to hear.

Vince has always had very good bands. Some of them have been with us since the beginning. They’re all studio-quality players and they give me the ultimate gift every night of great sounds and not having to do a lot of polishing. Other than that, the biggest challenge is tuning the PA. Sound Image supplies our equipment and is the best sound company in the world, in my opinion. We carry our monitors, monitor board, front of house console, microphones, stands, cables, etc., but we depend on the venue or promoter to supply racks and stacks—the PA and amplifiers— to our specifications. I tune the PA so that it lines up with what I want the band to sound like, and I don’t have to adjust every single input on the console every day.

Tell us about his equipment, setup and signal chain.

Sam and I both mix on Digidesign Profiles, a great digital console that provides us with an almost unlimited amount of resources. From a sophisticated snapshot feature to plug-ins that emulate some of the best studio-quality rack gear on the planet, and great sounding preamps, these consoles have just about everything needed to mix, without using any outboard gear. We have had a Shure microphone endorsement for about 15 years and exclusively use their products…. I recently began using the KSM313 [ribbon microphone] on Vince’s guitar amps in conjunction with a standard SM57, and wow, what a great combo. Great low end with just enough bite, and very little EQ.

As far as blending the guitars together—our steel player, Russ Pahl, also plays electric, our acoustic player, Jeff White, also does background vocals, and our rhythm guitarist, Tom Britt, is also a soloist—they take care of a lot of that. I can only manipulate the sound of what they’re playing, so I make sure they fit together. It’s not unlike any instrument: they all have to fit. The method I’ve learned over 35 years of mixing is to take certain frequencies out of one instrument because another instrument needs that range. You weave frequencies together and find separation in the sounds so that tones don’t overlap.

The other thing that’s very important about guitar sounds in particular is mic selection and placements. I find the right mic and the right spot on the cone and move things very little after I find the sweet spot. For example, on most guitar speakers, the most air is moving near the outside edge of the speaker cone; to be more specific, the most low end comes from the outside edge of the cone. Generally speaking, the closer you get to the middle of the speaker, the thinner the tone. Since most guitar players—at least ours do—stand with their guitar amps on the floor, pointed toward the backs of their legs, their tone tends to be thinner than you would want in the PA. So I always go for a spot right on the outside edge of the cone, get the warmth I am looking for, and have to take less of the high-mids out of the channel EQ. For a few years now, my favorite guitar amp mic is the Shure KSM32, but I am quickly moving to the new KSM313/SM57 combo.

I’m very specific about mic placement, as it is one of the most important parts of the job. Our crew is very good about duplicating what I’m looking for every day. That also goes for drums, the Leslie cabinet connected to the B3, everything. Vince doesn’t use 100-watt amps much anymore. He uses Fender Deluxe, Rivera, Goodsell and 65Amps. His choices are mostly based on the venue. His stage volume has come down considerably over the years. It’s different when you have to fill up an arena. We did an acoustic tour in 2008 and they all played very quietly onstage. He really enjoyed the lower volume.

Vince plays hard, especially the electric stuff, and that’s why you see him change guitars on just about every song—he plays hard enough that he plays them until they are out of tune. Our guitar tech, Benny Garcia, is tuning all night. Vince has an arsenal of guitars at home. But on the road he carries probably six electrics: Fender Strats and Teles, Gibson 335s and Les Pauls, and a couple of custom jobs, and four or five acoustics: Martin 000s and Gibson J-200s. His main guitars are a ’53 Tele and a ’64 Strat. He has a couple with alternate tunings.

What does it take to be a good front of house engineer?

The answer sounds overly simple: good ears. Not necessarily good hearing, although that is important, but knowing how to put sounds together, being able to take what the band gives you and make it work for the audience in the environment in which you’re playing. With Vince, I’ve always got a great band to work with, so that is seldom a problem. Acoustical challenges are always a part of the job, and being able to deal with that on a daily basis and being consistent with your tuning is very important. Being able to take the left and right brain functions, the art and technical sides of mixing, and making them work together—that’s what it takes.