Interview by Mark Ziebarth
The Hamburg locale, having borne many companies’ names in the past, holds roughly 16,000 people. Throughout the years more or less every star, who has made a name for himself in the music scene of the last decades, has performed there. Not many national artists manage to fill it with ease. Among this illustrous group, also counting Grönemeyer, Lindenberg, and Westernhagen, are “Die Fantastischen Vier” – veterans of German rap music.
On January 26th 2017 the “Fantas” stopped by Hamburg to put on the second-to-last show of their current tour.
We were invited to meet with Klaus Scharff, who has been handling FOH duties for “Fanta 4” since 1993, and watch him work his magic.
Klaus, how many inputs do you have to handle?
The desk is receiving 62 input channels in total. 10 of them alone are taken up by the DJ setup at the start of the show. It only features the four “Fantas” and the DJ up front on the runway. The traditional band setup then occupies the remainder of the channels. The guys perform with a five-piece band (drums, percussion, bass, keys, guitars) plus DJ. So there’s a total of ten people on stage.
And as you wouldn’t call this venue an ideal acoustical environment exactly, my PA tech Stefan Holtz had to do his work and cut out a bunch of frequencies, creating a room sound I can build my mix on, despite knowing this place very well.
I have been using various VENUE desks for years, and for “Fanta 4” I opt for the VENUE | S6L with 32 faders and a 144 engine. That way I can access all vital channels on the first layer of the surface and adjust the mix instantly when necessary. For most channels I’m using the S6L’s own internal mic-pres and compressors, the exceptions being kick and snare which I’m running through Midas XL42 pres, and the Fantas’ vocal mics, seeing Aphex Tube 661s, hailed as the world’s fastest compressors. They have proven themselves, make for a very smooth sound, and can almost inaudibly balance even large dynamic differences.
All other EQs, dynamics, and effects are coming from the console and some excellent 3rd party plug-ins. Additionally I use a full Pro Tools HD rig as part of my setup in addition to the console. It serves as a sub mixer receiving four stems (a group of channels sent to a stereo bus), I can then embellish with plug-ins and send back out to the desk. I do this, because Pro Tools can display multiple plug-in windows at once, while the S6L’s own screen will only show one at a time. This setup is ideal for me, as I require direct access to all crucial elements.
The Fanta live drum sound is pretty impressive. Are you triggering samples?
No, no samples at all. Florian (drummer) and I carefully worked out this drum setup. He plays an acoustic drum kit using a sample pad only for certain special effects like a sustaining boom-kick. I’m also receiving four stems labeled “Sampler”. In truth, these signals are coming from a Pro Tools rig operated by And.Ypsilon on stage. It also provides the clicks, a continuous one for the drummer and another one, only ensuring consistent time during breaks, for everyone else. The drummer is always a bit ahead though and I delay the rhythmic sample elements to make for a “live” time feel. That seems to work well.
What is your biggest challenge mixing a Fanta 4 show?
It gets a little tricky when the “Fantas” step out on the runway in front of the PA. The speakers are putting out a whopping 100db. Anticipating and avoiding feedback in these situations is always a challenge. Also, I have to mind the audience and factor them into my mix. If they clap along, I have to bring out the element inciting the clapping. This may take some extreme action. Aside from that, regulating the bass to not run rampage in challenging acoustic environments is also key.
Which plug-ins are you using?
I’m a huge fan of Colin McDowell’s McDSP plug-ins. He has been developing amazing EQ and dynamic plug-ins for a long time and always manages to surprise with great tools. The Brainworks stuff is incredible as well, and let’s not forget Avid’s own ReVibe 2 or the Pro Dyamics plug-ins. I do also use Waves and Sonnox at times. It’s great, that I can use the plug-ins both in the studio and live.
What’s your overall impression of the S6L?
I have been a VENUE user for years. The S6L desk is even more user-friendly than previous models; the transition was a breeze. I was able to simply transfer my old settings and keep going from there. Sound quality too has improved significantly now running at 96 Kilohertz. I have become so used to the VENUE workflow, its numerous storage options, and the plug-ins, I would not want to forgo them anymore. I do however have one wish for the Avid software developers: I would like to be able to show more than one plug-in window at once on the S6L screens, so I can do both, monitor certain sums’ levels at all times