After a couple of weeks in Berlin having fun showing off our pride and joy in the sumptuous S6L and picking the brains of our genius German and Swiss audio chums, we had to pack it all in the van again. Next stop Paris. I got time off for bad behavior and skedaddled to the flughafen whilst Chris and Ansgar shared the driving duties. Parking the van for the weekend at Chris’s roadie retreat in Belgium, Ansgar flew home and Chris put on his weekend clogs. If you’ve just stumbled on this and have no clue what the frequency I’m going on about; the back-story starts here.
Presenting to French Roadie Société
Chris and I reconvened bright and early the next Monday in the plush warehouse/office/rehearsal facility of DuShow quite close to CDG. We were joined for our Paris sojourn by our suave Avid audio colleague Joffrey, Southern Euro sales colleagues Seb and Jean-Gab and our Best Audio partner—somewhat confusingly—also a Seb. I have to be really careful when I’m sending an email to one Seb gossiping about the other that I don’t get my Sebs in a twist. We were also honored by the presence of the head honcho of Avid Audio in EMEA, Tim H.—the only MBA exec I know who gets stuck in and helps load the van! Maybe (and don’t mention it in the boardroom because it’s a secret) it’s because before he got all genius with a spreadsheet and went to exec school he toured as a FOH/monitor engineer. Just shows you can take a roadie, educate him, put him in a good suit and all the rest, but one sniff of a van and some gear to be loaded, instinct kicks in and a microsecond later he’s pushing a flight case up a ramp before you can say “jumpin’ Jack Flash.”
I have to say we were really looking forward to this one. I’ve got some good friends in France and I was looking forward to their input and opinions. I wasn’t disappointed! We all had some intense conversations over the next couple of days. Not that I could understand everything. You see an interesting twist in this week’s roadie-tour hang out was the fact that we had to conduct proceedings in French. Up until this point Chris and I had been tag-teaming the demo/presentation/chat in English with occasional bits of translation by local colleagues. Now, I studied French along with everyone else my age at school, but I grew up in a pretty rough area of Scotland. Schools with windows, rather than wooden boards where there had once been windows, were considered elitist. You can imagine standing up in front of a class of riotous, hormone-crazed, radg-wee-heid-the-ba’s, jeering and baying for blood if you used even a slight French accent whilst subjugating verbs, was a little challenging. So my French extends to mumbling something about the book being on the table and asking what hour it is. Neither of those had come up much in our previous discussions, so in somewhat of a role reversal, I had to leave all the talking up to Chris. French is the second of his myriad tongues and he seemed to hit the spot. There was a lot of nodding over the next couple of days and some of the crème de la crème of French Roadie société passed by plein of interesting ideas and they all gave us a very positive réaction.
Chris flies solo in Sorbolo
Sorry I wasn’t there. I love it there so much as well. Stefano our partner is a close friend but I had a week’s holiday in the Pyrenees with my wife and kids and our close friends A and P and their kids. It was planned long before we even thought of undertaking our mad ten thousand kilometer quest, so Chris was on his own. I had a lovely time though, walking in the mountains, playing guitars with A and generally not talking about mixing desks. Meanwhile, Chris was in Italy flying solo. In an exclusive extract from his collected works he had this to say:
“Robb’s turn to take a well deserved week off from the Tour, so time to call in some help. Jeremy Rodeschini—one of our Live Sound support specialists—happily volunteered to join me for the task of driving the 1,000 km our precious desks had to cover to get to Sorbolo in Italy, the home of our Italian reseller, Audiosales. We started the Tour back in April in the UK followed by the Nordics. All in mild spring temperatures and the humidity one would expect from those regions. Ending up in the southern parts of Europe towards the summer, Jeremy and I puffed our way through the southern part of the French Alps into Italy for the upcoming 2 days of S6L 10k Tour events at Audiosales.”
“Like many other of our live sound partners throughout Europe, the people at Audiosales have become good friends over the years, as well as excellent business partners. They have one of the most beautiful (air-conditioned!) demo rooms out there and the crew is a delight to work with. Alice makes sure that everything runs smoothly from the admin side. Davide is their live sound expert and Stefano manages the place, as one would expect from an Italian Godfather!”
“Since the beginning of the tour I’ve had my road(ie) bike in the back of the van. Granted, so far it had not seen a lot of use except for a couple of short pre-breakfast rides in the Nordics, but when Stefano (owner of Audiosales) saw the bike he suggested we go for a ride after day 1. And so we did …. The plan was to go out for a “short”, “quick” ride while everybody else—the Audiosales and Avid teams—would wait for us to finish before going out to dinner that evening.
“I was soon to find out that Stefano had a 20+ years active competition experience of mountain biking in his legs. I have 20+ years of occasional snooker and darts in the local pub in my legs! We did 60 km, including a climb in the Apennines—needless to say it ended up being a LONG ride. I hereby apologize to everybody who had to wait for us for over 3 hours. And yes, I would definitely do it again because it was one of the nicest rides I have ever done—thanks Stefano!”
Bringing the tour home to Spain
After my vacation in the Pyrenees, I rejoined the 10K Tour for the next stop. After getting out of bed at stupid o’clock and flying to Milan, Chris and I met up with Stefano. He had got out of bed at a ridiculous hour and left his beautiful, sleeping family to bring us the van from Sorbolo and save us a couple of hours driving— thanks again Stefano! So off we set to cross the Alps, a bit of southern France and down into my homeland, Spain. Like Hannibal, but in the opposite direction. Instead of elephants we had two audio beasts with us! One small point of order I have to mention: It seems that van hire companies in Belgium don’t feel the need to put air conditioning in their vans. This I can understand—Chris swears there are a couple of days there when it stops raining and a pale and infirm sun timidly pops its head from behind a cloud just long enough to have you momentarily remove your jumper. Van rental companies seem not to believe him though, so A/C is surplus to requirements in the land that gave us Rene Magritte, Adolphe Sax, Rubens and Audrey Hepburn (no, I didn’t know that one either).
Fortunately we were now in my part of the world. The sun drenched, Mediterranean fringed, beating heart of Europe. Unfortunately it was 30 degrees centigrade in a van built for Belgian weather conditions. It would be like giving a van to my Finnish brethren in January without a heater. On the outside the world was beautiful: mountains, rivers, and the like—everywhere you looked a pretty postcard. On the inside the world was reduced to a sweaty roadie hell, like a sauna without the birch twigs or the possibility of exiting. I’m pretty sure I didn’t complain too much though, maybe like a T.V. presenter without a hot meal, or a pop star actually paying for something. You’d better check with Chris.
The next day we set up in the offices of SeeSound, our Spanish distributor. Alex and Nacho had everything ready and in couple of hours we were done. We had the luxury of an evening off and some fabulous food in Sitges, the little seaside town where I live. The next day it was my turn to do all the talking (honestly, when is it not?). I talked for two days solid in my comedy-accent Spanish. When things are a little dull here at Casa Roadie, one of my kids will ask me to say something in Spanish as my answer is guaranteed to get the whole household laughing. Apparently I have the worst Spanish accent ever, like Fawlty Towers’ Manuel in reverse. Still, managed to get through a couple of days of mixing-desk-chat in my roadie-Spanglish.
We had some great guys drop by, top theatre designers Roc Mateu and Fabio Amantini in Barcelona and Javier Isequilla in Madrid. The world of the theatre designer/operator is very different to the one where I learned my chops. However, over the last few years I’ve been busy quizzing everyone I know about the workflows, audio needs, and problems they face everyday. I’ve sat with all these guys and watched them work, and learned a whole new way to think about mixing and would like to thank them for their generosity in sharing their craft. I also have to mention Gareth Owen in this respect—a great friend of ours who has always been included early in our thinking and has some inspirational ideas.
We’ve already had some orders for big national theatres all over Europe for the S6L and I truly believe we have some great solutions specific to theatre workflows, born of conversations we’ve had here and in the US with our theatre colleagues. Had some absolutely wonderful freelance engineers pass by as well: Pedro Gonzalez in Barna, Michael Martin, Virgilio Fernandez, and Jose Maria Rosillo in Madrid. Guys I’ve known for years, they were full of enthusiasm and had some great feedback to give us for the project. I must mention my great friend Jose Dalama who came by to check out the S6L even though it was his birthday!! We brought along an especial S6L cake for him and after a typical lengthy, well-oiled lunch, we ate it washed down by some lovely cava and sang him compleanos feliz. Always a joy to see you Dalama, you don’t look a day over forty, like me! You’ll see him behind an S6L soon at some huge gig.
Crossing the desert
To get the desk from Barcelona to Madrid, Alex and Nacho volunteered to drive. It’s straight across the “Los Monegros” desert. Makes the drive that Chris and I just finished seem like a cool breeze. I’d told them the van had no air-conditioning but they didn’t believe me. They thought I was winding them up. Me? As if! The more I insisted I was telling the truth, the more I sounded like I was teasing them. They didn’t actually know it had no A/C until we’d finished loading the van and they jumped in the front and spent ten minutes looking for the ‘AC on’ button. Check out their photos! The next day after “Dalama’s S6L birthday party”, in a studio owned by the equivalent of the PRS, Chris and I had to do the return leg back across the plains. Blimey, can’t write any more about sweaty roadies, but oh my days!
Then we were done.
Just like that.
For the love of audio
10,000 km, 11 countries, 14 cities—and most importantly—more than 500 sound engineers came to check out our S6L tour. I’m not going to get sentimental, but thank you my Euro audio family, everyone—that was awesome. Had some of the best conversations ever, not just about desks, which reconfirmed what I’ve always known: our industry is full of lovely, witty, dedicated enthusiasts who just love sound. Chris and I do too. We get in the van after talking audio all day to talk more audio all the way to the next destination (occasionally though, Chris will talk about bikes or I’ll talk about guitars). Then we’ll get on con-calls to talk more audio with the S6L team: Robert Scovill, my American brother-from-another-mother; Ryan John, our brilliant new member; Al McKinna, product manager (and soon to be bridegroom); and Sheldon Radford, our team “captain”.
Like everyone we’ve met on this tour, audio is our obsession. Our passionate belief and design goal for the S6L is that it will be our community’s best-ever tool. It will enable us to do the thing we all get out of bed for—make the thing we all eat and breathe and discuss endlessly, better. The S6L will let us mix sound in a new way, so that the musicians and artists we work with sound better than they ever have in a live situation, so they connect with their audience in ever more powerful and meaningful ways. I’m dying to mix a show on this bad boy and I can’t wait until the next Massive Attack tour to mix my favorite band on it—I know so many of you are as well. We’re working on the final tweaks and adjustments to workflows with lots of your ideas incorporated. First production batch will arrive in the autumn. It’s been a long journey. See you at a gig or festival soon.
Special thanks to our partners who organized the events locally, provided the space, the catering, and the enthusiasm.
Ingo and his team who make sure that all the random bits of video Chris and I shoot get organized and edited into something coherent. Derk and Ben for editing my roadie ramblings into something resembling sentences.
Finally, thanks to Tim H. and Tim C. who approved this roadie madness in the first place.