My sound tech and related experience

Since my education has been primarily in geophysics, why do I want to get into audio engineering? For one thing, my education and research in geophysics has involved a lot of acoustical physics and digital signal processing, and I am hoping to eventually apply my theoretical knowledge in such along with my good ear and creativity to improve on existing technology for live music presentation, studio recording techniques, and perhaps even instrument design. That way I can combine my technical know-how with my love of music. For now I wouldn't mind getting a part-time sound tech position. And I do have some sound tech experience as described below.

I have started put in web page links for the bands/artists listed below that are still performing and will add to such later. For some without links you may be able to find hits for them in a google search but it may help to add Vancouver to their name when doing the search to narrow it down, or Calgary for Jenny Allen, or searching for both band name and member name, e.g Deep Julia Shannon Moore. Or add the word band to the band name.

From summer 1991 to fall 1994, with some involvement in 1995, I was a member of the UBC Graduate Student Society Programs Committee and was unoffically (there was no official title) live music coordinator for most of that time. The site had at the start five venues that could be used for live music: The Ballroom, Thea's Lounge (initially called The Fireside Lounge), Koerner's Pub (initially called The Garden Room Bar) inside, Koerner's Pub patio, and The Banquet Room. In late stages the Banquet Room was converted to new Faculty of Grad Studies office and thesis defense space. Sometimes as well unplugged jamming occurred in the Penthouse which occasionally was like an unofficial backstage area, so a sixth venue. The large venues of Ballroom and Banquet Room were used for occasional big dances. Otherwise the Thea's facility was used on Friday nights in the fall and winter terms and Koerner's during the summer when there was summer music, outdoors if the weather was good. The Thea Koerner House Graduate Student Centre is located diagonally across the street from a world class Museum of Anthropology, not far from the clothing optional Wreck Beach, and is on the University of British Columbia campus in Pacific Spirit Park (formerly called The University Endowment Lands).

During that period most of the time I hosted (and phoned people to remind them to show) open mic/jams one Friday a month, with a free beer for each performer, and on other Fridays there were paid headline acts doing two full sets, and sometimes an opening act. Such acts I hired mainly by being impressed with them at downtown clubs and asking them if they wanted a gig, or by being impressed with them at the open mic/jam. Those who impressed me at the open mic/jam would often then get a paid opening spot and then a headline gig. Only very rarely did I book someone just on the basis of a submitted press kit and/or demo and then only when they really bugged me with repeat phone calls (at least two) after the press kit/demo submission. Also since there were paid gigs only 3 or 4 (out of 4 or 5) Fridays a month I didn't give quite as many opening spots or gigs to open mic performers as I would have liked.

The longest such open mic/jam lasted from about 5:30 p.m. (since loads on campus would drink at that time on a Friday) to 1 a.m. (a bit beyond official Thea's Lounge closing time that night but I think their license was valid and the only problem was beyond closing time the bartender had to be paid overtime pay so that rarely happened), and was about one hour of solo acoustic singer/songwriter open mic spots, a one hour celtic session (amplified/on stage in this case), a 1 hour jazz jam, a 1.5 hour blues jam, and two rock bands to close the night, so I was kept busy as host and sound tech that night, and that night I did sound for 40 musicians. The former staff member there who observed me do the most sound over the years was Vancouver bartender Gary Hughes, who is about 50 now.

The usual board I did sound on was an AudioPro 8 channel board which had been purchased from Long and McQuade, which I ran in stereo by patching the monitor feed to an older Traynor board which I used as monitor amp so that the two on board amps could be used for mains left and right instead of mains and monitors (one monitor mix) in mono. I liked having the control of stereo placement. On two occasions (once done by a guest sound tech Nick, I forget his last name [Pamela Tagle of New Music West would know], from the AMS and on one occasion by me) we patched the six channels of the Trainor into one channel of the Audiopro to effectively get 13 channels with less control on six of them. When I did sound we did not have a snake but did have cables long enough so the board was out front in front of the left speaker by a bit plus I of course walked around the room to check out the sound reasonably regularly. I am, in the one time I tried so far, useless at doing sound on a board on stage, however --- leave that to musicians who have to do their own sound, perhaps when I learn a musical instrument I will also learn to do sound on a board behind the mains, on stage. I prefer being out front and being able to sit behind the board and make adjustments as the show is in progress. When out front and on a board that is not completely new to me (i.e. at the bare minimum I have had time to check out the board a bit before the gig) I do quite well, especially with a sound check but often even on the fly such as at the open mic/jam. Unusually, the better the musicians the easier it is. It is also better when I can do a room main and monitor eq at the start to minimize feedback, if not a sound check for each band.

For most of the time I was purely a volunteer but got a bit of free beer, and in the late stages I got $50 for sound, hosting and booking, but mostly for doing setup and teardown of the gear and doing the sound. I do not and never have had my own gear.

Some of the musicians/singers/bands I have done sound for (not that they hired me, I was the host, booker, sound tech, and sometimes posterer, and sometimes designer of the poster) at paid gigs and/or open mic/jams are:

Some I have booked but not done sound (some of the above fall into this category for some of the [generally large room] gigs as well but not all their gigs booked by me, e.g. Stoaters, Paperboys, Great Purple Earth Band, Dishpig, and Kootenay Loop) for include:

Some others who played there who I did not book but was in attendance:

There were a few more rock bands who came to my open mic/jam that I will try to remember the names of and add to the first list above later.

Some I have taught some sound teching to include:

Since it was a campus venue with limited budget and no cover (except for rare big dances) the most I paid per person was, in 1991--1994, $200 for two solo sets, and less than that for solo acts just starting out and without a CD or tape, and as low as $100 for a solo act just doing non-traditional covers. Even for big dances the bands may have only gotten as much as $200 per member.

A fair number of the above artists/bands I first heard play at The Railway Club where I was a member (sponsored by bartender Natasha) from I think 1989 until I guess the end of August 1996 (I left Vancouver on Dec. 14, 1995 but my membership did not expire until the end of August 1996.). Some (e.g. I think Colleen Eccleston) I first heard play at The W.I.S.E. (Wales Ireland Scotland and England) Hall. Some just showed up at my open mic/jam. Some I heard elsewhere first.

Though I have done some sound for rock bands, electric blues, and jazz, I have a bit more experience so far with celtic, bluegrass, folk and acoustic blues acts. Some celtic and British bands and artists I have heard live which have honed my ears other than the ones listed above include many Newfoundland artists, also Paddy Keenan, Eamonn Dillon, Rory MacLeod, June Tabor and Oysterband, Oysterband, The House Band, Battlefield Band, Tannahill Weavers, Spirit of the West, Clambake, Alain Stivell, The Clansmen, De Dannan, Andy M. Stewart and Manus Lunny, Danu, 3 of Four Men and a Dog, early Altan, early Capercaillie, Old Blind Dogs, Shane MacGowan and The Popes, Alias Ron Kavana Band, Christy Moore, Luka Bloom, Uisce Beatha, The Mahones, Alasdair Fraser, Martin Hayes and Randall Bayes, Sharon Shannon Band, Plethyn, Pennou Skoulm, Milladoira (that may be spelled wrong, a Galician band), Sileas, Weddings-Parties-Anything, The Fureys, Seamus Creagh, Kevin Burke, Christian Lemaitre, Johnny Cunningham, John Fitzpatrick, Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick, The Watersons, Jiggery Pokery, Tempest, I think Boiled in Lead (but maybe I just have a CD of theirs) and probably more I have forgotten. Oh, Sarah McLachlan, who toured with The Chieftains in 1995 and cowrote a song with Seamus Egan probably late 1994, has some celtic influences and has sculpted my ears and I have heard her live eight times since and including 1989.

I mentioned above that Tammy, John and Slavek preferred to move into the mic to boost their solos but that is not true of everyone and I often would boost solos from the board though nowadays I would clear that with the artist(s) first. I also used the pan button to stereo position the musicians on the stage, and used the effects button to adjust the effects from song to song, depending on the pace and mood of the song. Of course nowadays I would clear that with the artist(s) too and also check whether they wanted effects at all and if they did whether they wanted them just in the mains or also in the monitors. Also one compliment I received once from Jake de Villiers (then of the bluegrass band Kootenay Loop) was that the monitor sound was just as good as at major festivals (but that was an outdoor gig with no back wall).

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