New Order’s World In Motion
June 2012 Issue 154
For a band that was born out of the ashes of Joy Division, Manchester’s New Order have achieved a longevity that band’s starting out today can only dream of. Having announced their return just last year, the group have just completed a short UK tour ahead of a string of festival dates across the world this summer. TPi went behind the scenes in Glasgow show to meet the men and women that get the show on the road, providing an audio offering that is in keeping with one of the world’s most revered bands.
The one thread that runs through the heart of conversations with the crew providing the sound for New Order is almost what you could call, history. Just like the longest standing members of the band Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris and returning Gillian Morris Nee Gilbert, life with New Order has been an on-going concern for sometimes decades, and while confident and professional, there is a relaxed air during a busy set up, perhaps brought on by the fact that they have ‘true faith’ in each other after working alongside each other for years, helping New Order sound as stunning as possible, whether that’s onstage at Glasgow’s O2 Academy, or the main stages at one of the band’s many festival gigs that they will be embarking on this summer.
“They’re very loyal to their crew. Once they like you, you’re in and they look after you,” said Production Manager, Richard ‘Wez’ Wearing, as he explained the bond that exists between the crew, with Wez himself being with the band for 10 years, first as stage manager brought in by Mark Gosling to help out back in 2002, and now PM after Mark emigrated to New Zealand. “I started as a stage hand back in 1989 in Birmingham, and then I moved onto backline and stage sets. My first arena tour was 1993 as a Set Carp with Take That. Their PM then was Mark Gosling so I have known and worked with Mark for many years, and now I stage manage Take That on their stadium tours for my old mate Chris Vaughan and The Production Office and believe it or not, this is very quiet and relaxed compared to that!”
Management involved Wez right from the start, helping to choose venues and what type of show you could put into these venues. Bringing out the audio on the tour was SSE. “Pete Russell, production manager at SSE, is an old friend of mine. He always looks after me.
Also, they’re right round the corner from my house, which is handy especially for borrowing the odd bit of kit for one offs or sometmes longer, and we always get a great price and service from them.
“We choose Hawthorn lighting because Lighting Designer. Andy Liddle, has a good history with Hawthorn, he lives round the corner from them. Although they’ve been on a couple of tours before, this is the first time I’ve properly used them, and again, I like them because of the really personal service. They set up the whole rig in their warehouse and Andy got a couple of days programming and got to go home every night.”
Steve and Gillian own a farm up in the Pennines, which doubles as the band’s rehearsal room. When the gear isn’t out on the road it’s always set up in their studio, and they rehearse whenever they want to. “And then we got the opportunity of the Apollo, for a very reasonable price,” smiled Wez. “So the day before the first show, we went in there, set everything up and had a full day of post production on lights and sound, backline, video and also got the band in. Get everyone together, so everyone knows what they are expected to do, and you get plenty of programming time for everything. So you go into your first show looking as it should do and sounding like it should do, rather than trying to do all that preparation on your first load-in / show day and then opening the doors while you’re still programming.”
THE MIDAS TOUCH
Another long standing member of the team behind New Order is FOH Engineer, Dian Barton, whose story goes almost as far back as the band themselves. “I did a few Joy Division gigs, not as FOH, but I was PA hire,” she said. “Someone from our company has been doing them since 1981; I’ve been doing it since 1993.”
Having used Midas digital desks before, such as the XL8 at a major Hogmanay show in Edinburgh with The Charlatans, she specified the PRO6 as it has a similar layout to the XL8 in a smaller package, with enough channels for the needs of the tour.
Barton said: “Overall I like the PRO6 as it is user friendly, enabling you to mix a busy live gig quickly even doing more than one thing at a time which is lacking on some other digital desks. It also has the trademark sound of a Midas which is the most important element of all.
“I built a file using the offline editor previous to starting the tour using the automation and show files facility, which saves time at the beginning of the tour,” she continued. “I am using 31 inputs from stage, five on-board effects and eight VCA groups. I am also using some outboard: Klark Teknik DN360 EQ inserted over the main L + R outputs for easy accessibility with a Lexicon PCM 70 and D2 also for quick access and two Summit compressors inserted over the main vocals.”
Mixing on the fly, Barton also has praise for some of the on-board features of the desk. “I am only using two of the PRO6’s POPulation groups but they are a brilliant feature and so easy to set up. I am using both on-board gates and compressors which have very good monitoring meters so one can be sure what is happening all the time.”
The microphones picking the sound up on stage were Electro-Voice RE20 on bass drum and Shure SM57 on the snare. Sennheiser 604’s were on the toms, AKG 414’s on the overheads, SM57’s on guitar, a Shure Beta 52 on bass, and Bernard using a Beyerdynamic M88 for vocals.
Beside the mixing position, was a trusty Zoom H4n digital recorder, which took a feed from the desk and recorded from the built-in microphones at the same time, meaning in any listen back you will hear the band and the crowd’s reaction.
ADAPTING THE RIG
From the desk the sound travelled down to the stage on a multicore and got split into the boxes, supplied by a company that also has a history with the band, SSE.
FOH System Tech, Chris Courtney, worked for SSE as a freelancer but now works for the company full time as one of their touring system techs. His partner on the tour is Glen Little, Monitor System Tech working freelance for SSE after a history stretching back over 25 years and involving bands like Metallica, Slipknot and Simply Red.
Although this is the first time either has toured with New Order, they’ve quickly become part of that extended family that extends round the band. “We all work very well together,” Little testified. “I’ve worked with Chris for about eight years now, and it’s good. We keep him out front, where he should be, and I stay onstage. It’s a really good tour and everyone’s really happy.”
The main PA is a favourite of Courtney’s - KARA. “We’re using L-Acoustics KARA, and SP28’s. We were using V-Dosc, but coming here we changed the PA to KARA, due to weight and size issues,” he explained. “A lot of the Academies only have 500kg a side, and V-Dosc is quite heavy so it would mean you get less than four boxes up in the air, which is not ideal. The KARA is good because it’s a great little box to rig, it’s very user friendly.”
In Glasgow, the configuration was left / right - 12 KARA and an SB18 on top in the array, four SB28’s stacked underneath, and three KARA across the front for front fills. Courtney said: “It’s plenty, reaches the top balcony no problem, and we gain shade it so that there’s an extra couple of DB up top just to throws up top.”
“KARA is so compact, but it packs enough power to fill a venue the size of this,” confirmed Little. “The size of the PA in here will fit in one wall of a truck, whereas the V-Dosc we were carrying took up nearly 16 foot, so it’s much more user friendly for the crew!”
THE MONITOR MIX
“When they decided to come back out again, all the same crew came back, including me. It’s like we all just follow each other around,” laughed Monitor Engineer, Gerry Colclough, when talking about the camaraderie atmosphere on the tour. His history with the band includes solo projects like Monaco and Bad Lieutenant. A freelance engineer, he also works with a whole cast of British bands, including the likes of Primal Scream. “I’ve done Primal Scream since 1999. It’s similar with Primal Scream and New Order, they’re old heads and the crews all know each other.”
For onstage monitoring, it was a mix of in-ears and wedges, as Colclough explained. “Bernard moved to in-ears a couple of years ago, and he’s been using them since about 2001. And as the system progressed over the past few years, on this tour now all the bands are on in-ears apart from Phil, the guitar player, who is on wedges. The rest of the band are on Shure PSM-700’s, most of them are on ACR dual drivers.”
Colclough ran four sets of stereo in-ears, with three of the band on radio and Steve, the drummer on hardwire. While guitarist Phil works on wedges, all of the band have wedges in front of them as back up, just in case of any problems. On stage, it was d&b audiotechnik M2 wedges, driven by D12 amps. There were three pairs of wedges going across the front of the stage for the band, one beside the drum and one beside the bass player, with Phil’s wedges stage right.
And the desk he’s using? “It’s a Yamaha PM5D digital desk. I’ve always found that with in-ears it’s better to have a digital desk; it’s just quick reaction stuff. When I run my own shows, I run a scene for every song, I don’t run a single scene, so I can make the minute changes, which, if you do on an analogue board, you need do a lot of moving around. I just find with in-ears a digital board is always better for that.”
With a long list of festivals to hit with New Order this summer, there’s another reason why Gerry specified the PM5D. “It seems to be the desk you get offered all over the world, anywhere you go,” he said. “I went for the PM5D on this because I know I’ll have the 5D on other shows, so it means on those gigs, for the in-ears, it’s the exact same sound every night.”
A FRIENDLY TEAM
A guitar tech in the past, Stage Manager, Damien Foster, has spent 10 years with the band, moving from looking after Bernard to his current role.
His main role is simple, he said. “On the stage, everything up there has got its space and I need to make sure everything is where it needs to be. So I liaise with the band, I liaise with the crew, and I try and help them out if needs be too. Sometimes I’ll put the bones of it in place so that I know we’ve got it right, and I know what the band want, so I help make sure they don’t have any problems.”
He also likes to think there’s something special about the atmosphere on the tour. “We all know each other and we like to keep it friendly, that’s something all the locals have commented on as we’ve passed through,” he smiled.
With a support network of devoted crew like all of the people mentioned in this article, it looks to be an exciting summer ahead for a rejuvenated New Order.
Photography: Mike Burnell (www.iso400.com),
Andrew Robinson, Kevin Cummins
and Joel Perry.