Oscar Söderlund is currently on tour with Ane Brun.
Rob Clark (Allen & Heath MD and self-professed compressor fanatic) caught up with Swedish engineer Oscar Söderlund at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London during Norwegian artist Ane Brun’s "The Great Storm" tour.
Hi Oscar, nice to catch up with you.
Well, nice of you to come and see us. It’s always a pleasure.
What have been your first gigs post-Covid?
Ane Brun at the Øya Festival in Oslo 12th of August. But if we are talking official “no restrictions” gigs, it was Ane Brun at Saint Lukes in Glasgow on the 5th of October.
And what’s next on your schedule after the Shepherd’s Bush show?
Two sold-out shows at Sentrum Scene in Oslo, Norway.
What’s it like to be out on the road again? What’s the same and what’s different?
It’s a very weird feeling, you don’t know whether to trust your instincts. What happened! Maybe that’s how Keith Richards felt after the ’70s! When you’ve lived and breathed live engineering since the 80s it becomes second nature, it’s in your blood. But it’s amazing how a 2-year break in touring affects your routines and structure.
The difference for me is probably that you care more about what you enjoy. It feels like I’m starting from a blank canvas which makes it easier for me to challenge myself and explore more.
Everybody in the business has had some really tough and challenging times, so I’m very grateful and happy that most venues and promoters have survived.
What changes do you predict happening in the touring arena and in venues now artists are getting back on the road?
Hmm, in places it’s still a fairly conservative business and things could just move along in the old tyre tracks. But there’s a new generation coming in, plus more female artists, bands and engineers, so there is good reason to hope that things will move forward. But I think that everybody will enjoy the moment, and people will enjoy live music at venues even more after Covid.
I also think we will see more creative ways of putting on festivals, and more venues will move further into broadcast and streaming.
Improved RTA visibility in dLive V1.9 has improved Söderlund's workflow on the tour.
What’s the current set up?
However, for our post-Covid debut I asked the tour manager if it was ok to use the larger S5000 on the tour which I use to handle both FOH and monitors from the FOH position.
For this tour we also needed to slim down the stage footprint a bit, so we chose a CDM32 MixRack, and we also have a DX168 on stage right for keys, bass and vocals. For Ane’s vocal and guitar, the two drum kits, and wired IEMs, I have a DX32 fully loaded with PRIME cards.
All FX is in-the-box except for a green hardware delay unit that I have used with Ane for the last 10 years.
You mentioned PRIME I/O, how do you decide where to use it? And what’s audibly different?
When you use the PRIME cards, you can push the limits of your mixing even further; there’s more low-end focus; less edgy high-mids; and smoother, more transparent highs. I use it on material where low and high presence are key - bass drums, snares, OH’s, vocals and acoustic guitar.
With 2 percussionists and multiple instruments per band member, how do you manage FOH and monitors on one console?
We have done this since 2008 as Ane and her band want to hear some of the sound processing done at FOH, so we just run the same processed channels to Monitors as FOH and it’s been working fine. However, it’s grown over the years and with over 60 channels and 9 stereo IEM mixes it’s become more complex.
I have started to use some separate monitor channels with more creative AUX pre/post dynamics settings. I think that I have reached nirvana on this tour. [laughter]
The new Source Expander, introduced in dLive V1.9, has quickly become a favourite of Söderlund.
Looking over your shoulder at the S5000, I can see you are using dLive’s new V1.9 firmware. What are the changes with this release that have helped with this tour?
As I said earlier so boldly, I’m challenging myself more. I have tried to use the many new V1.9 features to help me break down old workflows and try new ideas.
The improved RTA is a surprisingly nice feature to have when you are exploring sounds and possible issues. Bus [compressor] is an easy fixer-upper on stereo material, it keeps things in place and makes it sound like it’s the best cigar in the shop. The new South View options with clock and recall information is also appreciated. Source Expander makes a big difference with intelligibility, sometimes between life and deaf! [laughter] And it’s really nice to not have to worry about open BV channels.
And, finally, can you briefly explain what makes you choose dLive over the competition?
Audio quality and feature set. It’s the most stable and versatile touring mixer you can find. When I use dLive the artist is happy, I’m happy, and the audience is happy.