Greg Nelson has been mixing FOH for Pearl Jam since 2004 and Incubus since 1997. An early adopter of VENUE systems, Nelson took the new S6L out for Pearl Jam’s 2016 tour. Most recently, Nelson was mixing FOH for Temple of the Dog, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the band’s sole album. Consisting of Chris Cornell and Pearl Jam members (minus Eddie Vedder), the tour was the first time that the band has properly toured. I caught up with Nelson to talk about his experiences with the new S6L system.
DH: I know that you took S6L pretty early—what has your experience been like with the system so far?
GN: It’s been fantastic. I have one minor issue with the desk because I’m old and don’t like to change my ways—that my fader bank changes aren’t immediately to the left of me [like on the Profile]. Now they’re above me in the master section. That has been my only complaint with the desk. I mean that’s it.
When I first brought it [S6L] up to rehearsals I had been on an SD5, so I had them sitting side by side at the arena for a few days of rehearsals. I basically mixed one day on the S6L and mixed another day on the SD5. There was an audible difference, at least to me and the rest of the sound crew. Going forward into the tour I still kept the SD5 with us for about two weeks just in case something happened, knowing it [S6L] was such a new desk. I was prepared for some things to happen, and I accept that any new console that comes out, that’s what happens to early adopters. So I wanted to keep it just in case something dramatically crashed on it and I could just pull out the SD5 and keep going and be OK. But nothing really dramatic ever happened. The response I got from people who weren’t already in the audio department, like people on the crew and backline guys and management and stuff like, were coming out and telling me that it sounded better than it ever had. Two weeks in I just sent the SD5 back, and that was in April. I’ve just been using S6L ever since and it’s been great.
DH: What plug-ins have you been running on the S6L?
GN: I’ve just been using some of the McDSP stuff, other than all the Avid plug-ins that it comes with. On Ed’s vocal, I used to use the Waves CLA. That worked great and I loved it, so I tried to find a substitute and what finally ended up working better and got me the most gain before feedback and everything else was just the onboard compressor. I just used that, and I threw [Cranesong] Phoenix on it through and the [McDSP] De-esser, and there you go. I got a big fat giant vocal.
There’s also Plugin Alliance and everything that they make—I haven’t messed around with any of that yet, but I’m going to check that out, because it looks like a lot of interesting, really cool stuff.
DH: Having been on the SD5 now for the last few years with Pearl Jam, how did you approach setting up the show on S6L? What was the process there?
GN: I started completely from scratch. I thought about using an old [VENUE] file, but at that point, my last show file was from 2012, and a bunch of stuff had changed since then. Guitar amps had changed and they moved stuff around. So it really wasn’t going to be an accurate fit. So I just said, “Screw it”, and went to Rat [Sound] and set everything up and then sat there for a day and built a show file. They [Pearl Jam] record all their shows, so I just had their archive send me a show, and just played it back [via Virtual Soundcheck] and basically built a basic file there. So when I rolled into the first day of rehearsal, I was kind of ready. We were in rehearsals for a week, so I was able to tweak that for five days. And if you need more time than that to get your show up, something’s wrong.
DH: Do you use that Virtual Soundcheck workflow a lot with the band when you’re in production rehearsals?
GN: Definitely. While they’re rehearsing I’ll just be mixing, and then when they leave, I’ll sit there for another couple hours and tweak some more in headphones. Just to get all the little tiny crap—that I’m the only one that’s ever going to hear—settled in, and then move on the next day. Once I get on tour, I’ll maybe do that the first couple days, and then once I feel it’s dialed in, I won’t mess with it too much.