OK , crikey, where to begin? Well, if you read any of my last missives on Avid Blogs, you’ll remember that I was taking time off from the day job to travel around the world mixing Massive Attack with the small and perfectly formed VENUE | S3L system. The thing I couldn’t tell you (though I wanted to really, really badly—industrial secrets and all that, you know), was that we were also working on the large, awesomely-formed and insanely powerful VENUE | S6L—the big, bad brother of the S3L. If you locked a Euphonix System 5 in a room with a VENUE | D-Show and let nature take its course, after the appropriate amount of time you’d have the genetically enhanced, super offspring that is the S6L. There are three different flavours of surface and two of the engine, any two of which can be combined with one or more I/O racks to meet your particular needs and edification (you can find details on the VENUE | S6L system here).
What I’m going to write about in this series is the mad tour that me and my cohort, Chris Lambrechts, have embarked upon. We have two S6L prototypes in the back of a van, and we are going to spend the next two months driving them around Europe old school, showing their overwhelming beauty and general genius to our chums, old and new.
For roadies by roadies
I think I might have mentioned before how part of the touring life is about forming amazingly strong bonds with the people you tour with. I have rock and roll brothers that I trust (and have trusted) with my life: Davo, the two Deptfords, Cato, JDB, Davey C, and a whole bunch more. One of the great things about this tour is that it is by roadies for roadies. That’s right—how many times have I heard some wit in the back lounge remark with the loquacious authority of an Oscar Wilde that “touring would be great without the band and the audience getting in the way,” and everyone laughs, smiles, or nods sagely depending on how many times they’ve heard it before. Well chums, we’ve cracked it—this is actually that tour! We’re going to call it the “S6L 10K tour” because, well, that’s how far we have to drive and what we have in the back of the van. Original what? Chris is driving now actually. We’ve just got off the ferry in Denmark and I have my trusty lappy propped on my knee tapping away with two fingers. The best thing is I get to see as many of my comrades in black t-shirts from throughout the years as possible whilst leaning on the highly engineered armrest of the S6L.
UK Tour Stops
Last week we kicked off in the UK. Three days consecutively at SSE, Wigwam, and then John Henry’s for HD Pro Audio. Man, I saw so many old friends and newer ones I could scarcely believe it. Like we say, it’s a small world but I’d hate to mike it up. Rolly, who I toured with either end of the Manic’s multicore and who now runs a US company’s London wing; Madders of Pink and Sade fame; my dear friend and gentleman scholar, Huw, who helped me get my head around stadium gigs when I was still new (mixing the support while he mixed Oasis).
There was Danny from Elbow, Chicky from Prince, roadie royalty in the form of Big Mick, top West End sound designers, and a load more other chums too numerous to mention here for fear it would all get a bit lovey. I have to say though, they were all pretty blown away with the S6L’s that we brought along. I’m talking seasoned, leathery, old cynical roadies here—grinning and shaking their heads in surprise and delight. I haven’t been so proud since I played “Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll” in a band with my two sons on bass and drums at my 50th birthday party.
Next-gen VENUE To-do List
You see, I’ve been involved in this project since it was a just a to-do list on a whiteboard at Avid HQ San Francisco. We had ten years of feedback on the VENUE line of consoles ingrained in our minds and we were totally focused on answering every criticism, request, and romantic notion with this new generation. As ever, my colleague Robert Scovill and myself represented the wizened roadie demographic in a small team led by Sheldon Radford, and we were joined slightly later (after he got the S3L out the door) by Al McKinna, Greg Kopchinski, and recent recruit Ryan John (who I’d first ran into at a festival in Iceland of all places). There is of course a giant team of brilliant engineers, software and hardware, who use their huge brains to make our ideas and wildest notions a reality.
We started by writing with a sharpie on huge sheets of paper. It had items such as:
- 23 screws to get into the old FOH rack—never again—thumbscrews only! (the new engine only requires four)
- Never want to be asked about bus count number ever again—let’s make it a huge number, even for smallest engine
- Insane plug-in power
- Confidence headphone amp in stage box
- Best ever Pro Tools integration
- Instant muscle memory so brain can mix
- Loads of screens for visual feedback and navigation
- Festival friendly
- True gain sharing
- Etc., etc.
We had really listened to everything our peer group had constructively and gently told us (honestly, roadies never whine or moan do they!!), and we wanted to incorporate it all. We wanted to take our beloved Profile and build from there to the limits of our imagination and the global Avid technological abilities.
Well brothers and sisters in audio adventures, I’ll be dropping the odd note periodically from the road to bring you up to date on our various tour stops and share more thoughts on S6L or come and check out our tour to see for yourselves how close we got to our ambitions.