Monitor Engineer, ‘Supa Dave’ Rupsch has worked with a host of high-profile touring acts, including Red Hot Chili Peppers, Katy Perry, My Chemical Romance, Megadeth, Panic! at the Disco, Prince, Sum 41 and Nick Jonas, during his time on the road. Despite his genre spanning collaborations, one through line that connects them is his audio console brand of choice – DiGiCo.
Having toured with the band for just over a year, Rupsch considers himself new to the Red Hot Chili Peppers camp. “This is such an iconic band and they’ve been doing it since the late ’80s,” he enthused. “This is a band that I went to see as a fan and as a ticket buyer. When you really see it up close, they’re greater than the sum of their parts.”
Rupsch says that the challenge with the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ in-ears is making sure the sound doesn’t get ‘cluttered’ – he chooses to play with panning, phasing and mic placement for the in-ears to create a wide and balanced sound for the band.
“It’s very fluid and I’m not prone to using snapshots on this – where I would be with other gigs – because things can change. Especially a band like this that has a catalogue of hundreds of songs – everything is on the table every night, so they could pull out anything. You really want to keep it fluid, be able to move around, get the band to sit well together and hopefully help them feel comfortable on stage.”
Helping Rupsch navigate on-stage challenges are DiGiCo’s range of consoles, which he has been using for the past nine years – mostly alternating between the SD10, SD7 and the SD5. “DiGiCo is the centerpiece of everything that I do,” he said. “I like to try and keep everything as simple as possible and try to keep as many things inside the box as I can, using all internal reverbs and dynamics.”
The Red Hot Chili Peppers recently began using JH Audio JH16v2 in-ears, which Rupsch is happy to report have been working really well for them. In terms of I/Os, Rupsch has a rack of 12 channels of in-ears, which includes spares for everyone on stage.
“The Chili Peppers have a keyboard player that plays on about half of the songs, so we’ve got maybe 16 channels back there. There are eight stereo keyboards, and that’s another nice thing to really add some layers to a band like that. I have some wedges on the stage as well, but they’re really just there for spares or maybe if a guest happens to come out. Josh, the guitarist, would use wedges when I started, but he was curious about in-ears, so we started to move him towards in-ears as well. He ended up liking it and we were able to bring those wedges down and eventually mute them to clean up the stage sound,” he reported.
“We go 96k at monitors,” he continued. “I like to separate some of the monitoring on stage, so the only thing that would be coming to the L-Acoustics ARCS side fills would be the keyboards because they’re all stereo pairs and you get a really nice, wide image.
“The side fills are kicked way off to the side of the stage so you can hear all of the natural amp sounds as you’re walking around the stage, and then hear the keyboards coming away from the outside to help you harmonise and make the stage sound big and separated – especially if you’re singing or playing a solo. You don’t have stereo sources like keyboards coming through a mono wedge or anything like that, in addition to trying to clutter up what you’re actually trying to monitor. So, I try to do little clever things like that. If somebody wasn’t using in-ears, it sounds very natural and they can maintain a performance dynamic.”
I PICKED A DIGICO AND I LIKED IT
Rupsch has been working with Katy Perry since around 2008, following the success of her single, I Kissed a Girl. He was asked to fill in at one of the then rising star’s shows on monitors, a role he’s manned ever since.
“I think the running joke now is I’m still ‘just filling in’,” he laughed. “Katy is a hard worker – she puts in all the time and she deserves every bit of success that she has. I’ve never seen anybody work as hard as she does; she has a great vision. That kind of work ethic is contagious.”
For a touring pop artist like Katy Perry, Rupsch is able to convert his console files and switch between a DiGiCo SD5, SD7 or SD10, depending on what is available locally. In terms of the desks’ screens and the ability to easily lay everything out, he prefers the SD10, although the SD5 and SD7 also contain some of his favourite functionality.
“I really like the extended high-resolution meter bridges on those,” he confirmed. “During rehearsals, we adjust key patches and track levels and all that stuff, massaging all of our sources. Those meters are great because I can tell our Pro Tools guy to bring it down a dB and a half. It’s really handy because you can give somebody a pretty accurate piece of information to go with.”
Naturally, going from Katy Perry to the Red Hot Chili Peppers required a different approach at monitors. “With the band, it’s really a three-piece bandwidth; you have somebody singing, guitar, bass and drums, and somebody singing over the top of that. For monitoring, it was interesting going from something like Katy Perry where you’ve got sometimes eight or 10 people on stage with all kinds of keyboards, multiple guitars and tonnes of layers, to the Chili Peppers, which is the opposite of that.”
To effectively replicate these songs in a live environment, Rupsch works closely with musical directors and a playback team, finding DiGiCo’s software updates to be invaluable: “A few years ago, DiGiCo made it so I could start rerouting groups back into input channels. That was hugely beneficial, because I like mixing a lot of subgroups,” he explained.
Rupsch explained that because most music award shows use DiGiCo, it is easy for him to bring a preset file, even with just a channel. “I’m able to say, ‘here’s her vocal channel and here’s the reverb presets’. So even before I get there, I can send these presets that are all loaded in, and the soundtrack is done in no time. We’re not messing around trying to dial in reverbs or dynamics, so the local guys love it because soundcheck is done 20 minutes early.”
Rupsch believes that his big break in audio was like being “thrown into the fire” and admits that he started out on another brand of console before landing a gig where the band used a DiGiCo SD8.
“It took me a second to figure out my workflow, and then I realised I can put anything where I want – like my fader banks – to make my workflow really, really effective in no time,” he reminisced. “That was when I really fell in love with DiGiCo consoles, and I haven’t looked back since.”
Above all, DiGiCo provides Rupsch with total confidence during a live show. “When it gets to showtime, I don’t want to have to worry about anything getting weird,” he concluded. “I’ve auditioned and rehearsed everything via playback and I know everything is there. It’s just that calming of anxieties that can really help you produce a good show.”
This article originally appeared in issue #261 of TPi, which you can read here.