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Mayall Pride - Yamaha Consoles Enjoy a UK Beano with Blues Legend John Mayall

Nov,2011

In a career spanning over half a century, blues legend John Mayall has helped to define an entire genre of British music. October/November 2011 has seen the tireless 78-year old undertake a 25 date UK tour, with a pair of Yamaha digital mixing consoles ensuring that the sound has Room to Move.

Arguably most famous for the 1966 album Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton - or, as most refer to it, the Beano album - Mayall has worked with many of the biggest names in the business. His distinctive vocals, harmonica, guitar and keyboard-playing continue to inspire new generations of musicians such as Oli Brown, a young blues guitarist / vocalist whose band is the support act on this tour.

Supplied by Weymouth-based Atlantic Audio, the front of house sound for both bands is mixed on a Yamaha M7CL-48, with an LS9-32 at the monitor position. In between his duties of being Mayall’s manager, tour manager and backline tech, Claude Taylor - fondly referred to as ‘Grandad’ by the rest of the crew - somehow finds time to be front of house engineer as well. Sharing the M7CL with Mark ‘Scooby’ Widdowson, who is system tech and FOH engineer for the Oli Brown band, it soon becomes apparent that multi-tasking is the order of the day.

“Mark and Dan (Parry, monitor engineer) are really good,” says Claude. “Mark sets everything up while I run round, put the bands in their hotels and so on. Dan does monitors for both bands, we all help each other out.”

Many of Mayall’s live shows use house systems, so Claude regularly has to mix on whatever console is available. However on this tour the gear travelled with them, so it was an opportunity to specify his desk of choice.

“I’ve used the M7CL before in various venues and I liked it, so I was happy to specify it for this tour,” he says. “It’s good for me because you have all the advantages of a digital console, but I have to mix the show on the fly because of John’s unorthodox style of grabbing the microphone and singing through the harmonica. You're riding the faders every song, often it’s virtually every couple of lines - you've got it up for the vocals, you've got it down again for the harp and then back up again.”

“John will bring everybody down and then he'll throw solos out. Or all of a sudden you could get a drum solo or a bass solo and you never know when they're coming, there's no set pattern. It all happens in a split second and we never have a set list. It’s the way John’s operated for decades and you have to react quickly, but the M7CL is very good for mixing like that.

“Another advantage is that I can have everything on the same page. I haven't got time to skip to another page and alter something quickly and then switch back, because I’m constantly having to ride John’s faders. The knobs also mean that I can quickly tweak a frequency - a high out or a high mid out and then bring it back in,” he adds, noting with a smile, “Plus it's got a screen that I can see. Being the wrong side of 60 I can’t see some of these little screens, but I can see this one alright.”

The only outboard Claude is using is an Avalon VT-737SP valve preamp on Mayall’s vocal mic and a BSS FCS-966 stereo graphic EQ. “Because of the way it works with John, I like to be able to push something in or take something out as necessary, so the Avalon is very useful for quick adjustments. As well as riding the faders, I’m always tweaking that,” he says. “Similarly, with any digital desk I like to have a set of grab graphics for the room.

“The onboard EQs and effects on the M7CL are very good. I don't use much reverb for John, there's just a little bit on the snare and a little on the guitar, that's about it.”

With two trios to work with, in monitor world Dan has three mixes for each act, all on wedges. “It’s a straightforward setup,” he says. “The only slightly odd mix is John’s - he doesn't have the wedge facing him, he has it facing out into the audience with just his piano in it. So that’s really loud with lots of high frequencies. It can cause a bit of an issue with slapback off the rear wall in the bigger venues, but it’s not a major problem.”

The LS9 is perfect for this kind of setup, something which Dan recognises. ”Out of all the desks I've used on monitors, I do like the LS9. I like the fact that the 31 band graphics on it are all in front of you. You can get round it very quickly by just using the buttons for the mixes,” he says.

He is also one of the many engineers using Yamaha’s StageMix iPad app to help set up the monitor system, allowing very quick and easy adjustment from anywhere in the auditorium.

“I saw an engineer at Reading Festival use it and thought it was really, really good. She didn't move more than two feet away from her front of house desk, she was just lying back in her chair using it. I thought it was a very good idea to get an iPad and try it, especially with this tour coming up,” he says.

“I think StageMix is brilliant. I can wander around the stage with it and get the monitor mixes sorted pretty much straight away. What I generally use it for is the vocals - I go through and EQ to the room, so I stand there talking into the mic and just re-EQ the wedge with the graphics. It’s much better than having a person stood by the desk and shouting over to them, or having to run backwards and forwards, which is what I used to have to do. Of course you can also sit the iPad on the LS9 and use StageMix, which I do quite often.”

After a hectic schedule which has seen shows played at almost a complete A-Z (Aberdeen to York) of UK towns and cities, the tour winds up on 18th November, before heading off for dates in Canada and a major show in Jakarta to round off the year. Despite the unpredictability of Mayall’s live show - or perhaps because of it - the atmosphere among the crew is noticeably relaxed.

“All we know is that Room to Move will be in there somewhere every night,” says Claude. “Other than that, we're on our own. He calls it out, the band hope they remember it and what key it's in, while I hope I remember what may - or may not - happen next. Where's the solo here? What's he doing? And we take it like that.”

Despite the intense schedule, the Yamaha consoles have played their part in staying reliable throughout, with just one minor incident of ‘road wear’ encountered.

“One of the knobs got broken on the M7CL, so I took it to Wayne Powell at Yamaha to be fixed,” says Scooby. “It came back with all the faders arranged in a smiley face. I thought that was a nice touch.”

Data

Products M7CL-48

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