A recent interview Jonny (BoomBocs CEO) gave to legendary audio brand, Rupert Neve Designs:
First off, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
My name is Jonny Williams (sometimes known as Famous or J-Fame) and I’m a front of house engineer and production manager. I’m also the CEO of BoomBocs, a British smart speaker company.
What tour are you currently on?
Right now I’m on the Red Hot Chilli Peppers world tour, mixing Thundercat who is supporting.
How did you first get involved in live sound? What do you love about it?
I’ve been a musician from a very young age and also a mega nerd. I bought a small PA to service local bands when I was 15 and just became more interested in the technical side of music. From there I went on to work in venues, study a degree in science and start touring. As much as I love music and playing it, I also love the science behind it. Being able to understanding the relationship between music and science is fascinating for me and also really useful with the line of work I do.
What does the name “Rupert Neve” mean to you?
Well, it means a few things. Obviously he was a pioneer of designing equipment for sculpting sound. His inventions have played a part in creating some of the most well-known musical sounds ever recorded. So much so that even the artists themselves are aware of Rupert Neve and know when their sound has travelled through a Rupert Neve product.
Their sonic characteristics are like no other and so when I use Rupert Neve products, I know I’m going to get the result I want with not a lot of effort.
Also, I used to date Rupert Neve’s great niece. I’d just ordered myself a Portico II Channel and it was sat on my kitchen table in the branded RND box. She came in and asked if that was the same Rupert Neve that did “sound stuff”. As you can imagine, I was quite baffled she knew who Rupert Neve was. When I confirmed it was the same Rupert Neve, she replied “oh, he’s my gran’s brother!” Unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet him and neither did I get a Master Bus Processor for Christmas. Never mind.
How did you first hear about Rupert Neve Designs, and what was the first RND piece you purchased?
Ever since I became interested in sound I’ve known the name, Rupert Neve. I didn’t actually get my own piece of Neve equipment until 2016, when the 5045 was new to the live sound scene. At the time I was mixing a female pop act that had a very loud band and four quiet vocals. I was really struggling with it and had tried all sorts of microphone capsules but it still wasn’t right. Somebody mentioned this new RND unit that could help with feedback and stage spill. I immediately borrowed one and then begged the management to purchase 3 units. Ever since then, I’ve used the 5045 on every single gig with every single artist I’ve done.
Looks like you’re taking a nice selection of key analog gear on this tour – can you walk us through what each piece is being used for?
Thundercat and his band aren’t the quietest of musicians on stage. The main man has a pretty hefty bass rig that is cranked pretty high. The drummer hits hard and there are wedges AND sidefills all throwing sound everywhere. All three of them sing as well so as you can imagine, 5045s are essential. On Thundercat’s vocal I also have a Shelford Channel which I treat like I’m tracking a vocal in a studio. It kind of sets me up for a great sounding vocal even before I’ve done anything to it on the board.
What’s your favorite thing about the Shelford Channel?
It’s 1U for a start! Everything you need to sculpt a sound in a small unit.
I love how easy it is to achieve your desired sound. The difference it makes as you move parameters is always smooth but reactive. I’ve tried other units that are either too subtle or too reactive and it’s been a battle to find the perfect result. The Shelford doesn’t require thinking! You don’t necessarily hear it doing the work (which is good) but you know it’s doing it.
The compressor blend is great for Thunder’s vocal, setting it up nicely for additional processing within the mixing console. I also love the Silk feature. Depending on the environment, I switch between Red and Blue; Red tends to be outdoor shows (such as this stadium tour) and Blue for indoors. Don’t ask me why, I just fiddle in soundcheck to see what sounds better.
How about the 5045?
This is my secret weapon - I never leave home without it. I have no idea what magic RND have put into this thing, but it’s certainly made the world of difference to my mixes. It’s allowed for a much cleaner vocal sound which now easily sits on top of the mix. However, in the case of Thundercat, the vocal is set back a bit more in the mix and caked in FX - this is his sound. The 5045 allows me to get the cleanest of vocal inputs, allowing me to add the FX without adding unwanted reverbs, doublers, delays etc to drums and bass amp spillage. Sometimes it can be hard to make a vocal very wet and have that sit nicely in amongst everything else but with the 5045, I don’t need to worry. I also use it on the drummer’s vocal.
What’s one of your favorite tips or tricks that you’ve learned (or discovered) as a FOH engineer?
Where the 'Solo in Place’ button is and how to turn it off!
You learn to mix as you go. It’s the mistakes that teach you more than anything. Although I have a degree in this, I didn’t learn how to mix by studying theories and taking exams. I learnt by making things feedback, distort, become inaudible etc. Once you sort out the fundamentals of building a mix, you then go on to perfect it. There are so many tips and tricks to pick up along the way; so many that I can’t really pick out anything in particular. I guess if it was a basic tip, it would be to make controlling the mix as easy as possible by bussing stuff and creating VCAs, then putting the main elements into a custom fader bank. For example, my main Thundercat bank has drums (VCA), bass (group), keys (group), normal FX (VCA), weird FX (VCA), big FX (VCA), backing vocals (VCA) and Thunder’s vocals (channel). I then have a master Music buss, master Vocal buss and the PA, controlled by VCAs.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
ALWAYS consider the 5045 as your fundamental piece of outboard gear. There are some plugins out there that are trying to do the same thing but they don’t do it like the RND 5045 does it. It’s a real game changer!
Read the original article here: Jonny Williams / Thundercat / Rupert Neve Designs
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