Monitor engineer for Snow Patrol and Rita Ora, Co-Director of Production & Touring Ltd
This month Jack Kenyon (dLive Product Specialist) catches up with Jamie Hickey for a chat about his recent projects, the impact of Covid and what comes next.
Hey Jamie, great to speak to you. It's been a challenging couple of years for the live sound industry. How has it affected you?
It’s been tough - that’s putting it mildly! But there have been some positives to it.
The complete loss of everything we had planned for 2020 forced us to take stock and decide what we want to do long term. We were lucky enough to have some work come in from existing clients, but we also picked up work from avenues that we’d not been down before. This gave us opportunities to collaborate with new people, reconnect with old friends; and carry on doing the work that we all love. As a result, we’ve invested wisely and doubled down our efforts to make sure that P&T continues to be a trusted resource for years to come.
What was your first show ‘back’ post-March 20?
We were quite fortunate in that we didn’t fully shut down throughout 2020. The first few months were pretty terrifying of course, but as TV and film crews gradually started up again, we found ourselves packing a van and heading off into the “new normal”.
Our client Declan McKenna was in the unenviable position of releasing his album, Zeros, just as lockdown hit. With promo delayed indefinitely, he chose to record a full-band, fully live performance of the single “Be an astronaut”. We tracked it using our SQ-6’s and DX168’s on location at an abandoned mansion in London. New normal indeed.. As well as his music video, we also did a pre-record for "The Late Late Show with James Corden” and full album livestream from Lafayette, both captured using SQ-6/DX168 and mixed by Declan’s FoH engineer, Matt Hill. The album reached number 2 in the UK charts - so we’re totally taking credit for helping get it there! [laughter] We’ve since gone on to supply Declan McKenna with an audio package for festivals such as Latitude, Reading, Leeds, TRNSMT and a UK headline tour.
We heard you had an interesting project with Deutsche Grammophon in Birmingham, what did that involve?
In November 2020, we were tasked with recording the City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) for a series of On Demand digital concerts.
The concerts took place at Birmingham Symphony Hall and were filmed without an audience in attendance. What made it even more bizarre was that the orchestra themselves had to be socially distanced on stage. This meant cutting down the number of musicians to be able to comply with the 2m rule.
We were initially concerned that the recordings would sound a little lacklustre or empty due to the shedding of 25% of the Orchestra. However, we couldn’t have been more wrong! Having called upon the services of long-time dLive user and renowned classical engineer Ian Barfoot, we managed to produce a soundscape that was rich in tone and bursting with detail. The standard of recording was so high that Deutsche Grammophon asked to release one of the pieces on a compilation called “The British Project”. Since then, we have recorded 2 more full albums for DG, on-site at Symphony Hall, due for release in 2022.
High praise indeed! So how did dLive fit into your approach for these sessions?
The secret weapon through all of this was PRIME Input cards - they’re absolutely brilliant! We had a DX32 Expander with 32 PRIME Inputs that we used for all of the key elements of the capture. In addition, we had 2 x DX168’s, a DM48 Mixrack and an S3000 Surface.
The whole system was excellent, pretty straightforward to configure and the S3000 was very at home being a “Studio Desk”. Using the A/B/C/D input option meant that we could instantly flip from record to playback mode. This helped produce a really fast workflow, meaning the conductor and musicians could quickly and easily listen back after each take. In the recording environment, I think that there’s nothing worse than delays caused by “technical issues” or “let me just reconfigure the blah blah”. Our sessions were all hassle-free, meaning there was more time to focus on the quality of performance.
A lot of the rental stock at P&T is Allen & Heath, what attracted you to the A&H range?
The main thing for us is scalability and compatibility.
Our inventory contains Qu’s, SQ’s, dLive’s, ME’s, DM’s, DX’s and AR’s - pretty much all of which are either compatible or interchangeable with each other. This gives us incredible scope to work within a client’s budget, without really having to compromise on their I/O needs. We can put together a system that suits the needs of the show, keeps the pencil pushers happy and still sounds great!
You’ve had a lot of very cool clients recently. Have any of these required an interesting system design?
For our recent tour with Biig Piig we supplied FoH engineer Matt Gush with a C1500, DM0, 3 x DX168’s and 3 x ME-1’s. This gave him 48 inputs from stage and monitoring for the band in a super-compact format. With Dante at FOH and SuperMADI at stage, VSC and Broadcast feeds were all covered too.
It’s stuff like this that we’re actively pushing to deliver. We’re not trying to compete with the big production and rental houses - they have that nailed down and they do it really well. We want to give maximum bang-for-buck, whilst minimising the weight and case count. Mike Taylor [P&T Co-Director] and I have been touring engineers for a loooooong time, so we know the sort of things that can grate on a day-to-day. With so much flexibility across the A&H range, we can mitigate the faff and design our systems in novel and interesting ways.
And when you're not designing systems, what do you like about mixing on a dLive?
The dLive interface is easy to navigate and the onboard processing is excellent. I’m a huge fan of both the OptTronik compressor and the Dyn8 processor - they’re all over my showfiles. Special mention to the side chain filters on the gates…oh and the NEQ12 output parametric.
What does the future look like for yourself and P&T?
If the order book is anything to go by, it’s gonna be a busy year ahead. We have tours and festivals booked right up until the end of 2022, with some amazing artists due to deliver their music with the help of our A&H rigs!
We hope to keep that momentum going into 2023 and beyond and continue to grow our inventory and client base.