Since 1989 Café Tacvba has been bringing its stylistic diversity to legions of fans, freely mixing rock and with electronic and more exotic instrumentation. During Café Tacvba’s most recent stop in Miami, we had an in-depth conversation with FOH engineer Luis Román (a.k.a “El Valedor”). Román’s career with Café Tacvba spans more than 20 years, both in the studio and on tour. Apart from his work with his credits also include studio sessions and touring with recording artists, including María José OV7.
“Undoubtedly, Avid systems are the best sounding systems and what makes our workflow easier and more effective.”
Román uses VENUE live systems exclusively for mixing Café Tacvba, and we talked with him shortly after soundcheck about mixing Tacvba’s show and how he uses VENUE systems to help bring their music to fans around the world.
How did you first become familiar with VENUE Live Systems?
LR: I’ve been doing this job for quite some time and eventually you find the gear you want through equipment rental companies, the theaters, festivals, etc. I can tell you that the gear that I’m always most attracted to is because of its good sound —I would say that I use VENUE systems primarily for their sound.
What are the advantages of using the VENUE over other systems?
LR: The biggest difference is that for a concert of this magnitude, normally you would need two separate systems, one for the house and one for monitors, like any other system. So you would need an analog split to send the audio to monitors and to FOH. But in this particular case, the stage racks are shared by the two [VENUE | S3L-X] systems and there is no analog split. In other words, the connections from the microphones are made to the three stage racks and both systems, FOH and monitors, see the same inputs with independent levels of gain control. If monitors change levels, it will not affect the house and vice versa. The truth is that their operation is very user friendly and the sound is excellent.
One unique feature of VENUE systems is Virtual Soundcheck, how does that improve your workflow?
LR: It’s a great advantage and a great feature. For starters, you don’t need the band to be physically present on stage. The [Pro Tools] computer is recording the audio from tonight’s show and tomorrow when we set up in the next city we’ll use the audio on that computer to do the soundcheck. I really like the sound of the consoles and their integration with Pro Tools.
LR: How does the band feel about that?
At first it was very strange for them to try to understand the concept of how you’re going to do a soundcheck without them playing. But the system is designed to do just that. After explaining that more in detail to them and after recording the whole show in Pro Tools, we will play back the recording and keep the same gain levels as if the band was playing live. In fact, I had to ask them to play several parts several times, to have more file sources and parameters to choose from.
What about the theatre? Size and parameters will be different…
LR: The sound is what matters. The way the band sounds on stage and is captured on the computer remains the same. The gear is the same, the guys are the same, their instruments are the same— that’s the whole purpose of Virtual Soundcheck. To set FOH according to what’s on the computer, which perfectly matches the performance of the musicians.
Do you usually prepare these systems with the band during rehearsals prior to the tour?
LR: Yes. The keyboardist [“Meme” del Real Díaz] is the one who is most involved in all of the technological issues. They are pretty good as far as delegating responsibilities and sharing the workload between them. Meme is mostly in charge of overseeing the productions, recordings, and the live audio—he is the most technical of them. Later on, together, we decide what’s best for the band and the show, and of course they always take into account my final opinion. And let me repeat this—I’m very persistent! In the end what matters most is the sound.
Can you give us a brief description of the systems being used on tonight’s performance?
LR: Tonight we are using two VENUE | S3L-X systems with two consoles and two engines sharing three Stage 16 remote boxes. Another cool thing about this system is that after the show is over and we go to the hotel, I can hook up just the S3 control surface—sans engine and remote boxes—to my Pro Tools computer and use it to mix my Pro Tools sessions from the gig. The same mixer serves for live mixing at the venue and for mixing the recordings afterwards in the bus or hotel.
“The best advantage of all is that with this type of format [S3L-X] we can now travel with a complete VENUE system wherever we go…. It is extremely easy to transport as well as to set up. As for reliability, I have no complaints—it has never failed us.”
How easy are the VENUE | S3L-X systems to setup?
LR: Super easy. They only require a few Cat5e Ethernet cables and you’re ready to go.
Do you plan on releasing any of this material being recorded this evening?
LR: We don’t know. I’m recording primarily for my Virtual Soundcheck files. I am planning on recording all shows on this tour to be used as data files for my work. And yes, the possibility that any of this material could end up being released commercially is pretty high.
LR: What are the cost advantages to touring with the VENUE | S3L-X system vs. others?
LR: The best advantage of all is that with this type of format [S3L-X] we can now travel with a complete VENUE system wherever we go. The band has already purchased the monitoring system and the space saved is really significant. It is extremely easy to transport as well as to set up. As for reliability, I have no complaints—it has never failed us. During concerts we have beer spilled all the time. It has also rained on it, you name it…and it has not only survived, but worked perfectly. I assure you we are not going to change it for any other [system]. And as I already mentioned before, what matters most to me is the sound!
How has your experience been with getting from Avid and the system providers when using VENUE systems on the road?
LR: Avid’s support is truly unparalleled. For me personally, it has always helped me to have direct support from [Avid Solutions Specialist] Ricardo “Rocoto” Mantini. Wherever I am and whatever time it is, I’ve never had a problem communicating with him, in all my emails, texts and calls. He is always there to answer and resolve any issues. So Avid’s technical support is world class. As far as the audio providers that work with this type of system, they are usually current and up to date on everything, which means that their support is usually very good too.
Do you think VENUE Live Systems are perceived in the market as “the standard”?
LR: I think they absolutely are. What confirms this is that on every tour and traveling all over the world—whether in Latin America, Europe or Asia—we always get VENUE systems in the theaters where we arrive. What better way to prove it!
Are you using VENUE files from other systems with your S3L-X?
LR: Sure. This whole show started on the VENUE | Profile which I then imported into the S3L-X and everything opened without any problems.
Finally, if you had to start over and redesign your system, would you choose VENUE systems?
LR: Absolutely, we are very used to Pro Tools and the ease of switching from studio to live. In preparation for the show, we have everything already prepared with Snapshot—song after song, everything is already EQ’d, mixed etc. As we begin the tour we will be perfecting as we go. Undoubtedly, Avid systems are the best sounding systems and what makes our workflow easier and more effective.