Engineer Profile – Tom Howat
Touring the world since 1997, Tom Howat has worked primarily as a monitor engineer for bands including Franz Ferdinand, Spiritualized, Motorhead. Morrissey and Paolo Nutini.
How did you get started in the industry
I played drums in my teens and early twenties, recorded my and other friends’ bands, put on little pub/club gigs at college, and helped run a little sound system. Then I started running a local crew and chimping “big” sound systems in and out of venues and trucks. Eventually, I became the Technical Manager at a multi-purpose venue. I left that job for touring with a live sound company, twenty years ago. My first ever “proper” tour was with Motorhead… in at the deep end!
What tours have you worked on?
Over twenty years the list gets lengthy! In no particular order, highlights include Paolo Nutini, Morrissey, Above & Beyond Acoustic, Franz Ferdinand, Robert Plant, Peter Gabriel, Johnny Marr, Beth Orton, Spritualized, Kula Shaker, Motorhead and my current gig, Bryan Ferry.
How did you first hear about Allen & Heath?
Well, given A&H’s pedigree and my own age, their equipment has been around throughout my working life. It was Milky (Morrissey’s FOH engineer) who first showed me the nature and potential of A&H’s digital consoles with his iLive set up.
What’s your mixer of choice and why?
A&H dLive is my first choice because it is fast, sounds great, the functionality is very versatile, and so far, the feature set has covered all my (at times extensive) requirements. You get a lot of I/O, processing and effects in a compact and intuitive package. As a monitor engineer, it is always essential to be able to operate quickly!
How do you see the future of live sound changing?
Now that is the really tricky question. A few off the wall ideas include:
- Ever-more user-customisable console surfaces, where whatever you need is easily put at your fingertips as and when you need it instead of paging through screens / menus / layers. Mixing sound is about listening and taking actions, not about finding the relevant button / fader / screen in your system! A&H’s approach to fader banks and their dLive IP controllers are good examples of steps along this road.
- Concert and live event sound systems may see more developments in beam-steering and similar technologies, which can only help in the ongoing tussle between getting appropriate volume, coverage and tonality for all the audience, versus environmental and social limitations on sound levels away from the event site itself. Imagine what could be achieved with increasingly sophisticated methods of “sound containment”!
- A step change in the technology of RF audio equipment towards digitally multiplexed transmissions using an industry-wide protocol. At present, the available RF spectrum is different wherever you go in the world. Imagine instead one globally-recognised chunk of RF spectrum and a new digital protocol, whereby all you do is turn up and request x number of IEM and y number of radio mics, and off you go!
Although live sound will mostly change in technological ways, there are many aspects to mixing a gig that are perennial and very human!