29 September 2015


Interview: Neil Gray

Who are you currently touring with/mixing? 

Tame Impala.

What are some other bands that you have worked with?

Missy Higgins, Eskimo Joe, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Little Birdy, Evermore, Dropkick Murphies, These New Puritans.

How long have you been doing live sound and how did you get started?

Since about 1993, so I guess that makes it over 20 years. I was that guy in the band who did the recordings and was interested in the tech stuff. Then I did the WAAPA course and fell into live sound in-between recording bands. I have done a lot of theatre sound as well, which is really good for getting your mixing chops up.

What is your favourite console and why?

I have been using the Midas digital consoles of late. I really like the Pro2C. It’s compact and has 64 inputs to mix. Not to mention it sounds like the Midas XL8, which was the first digital console to really sound good. But to be honest I use all consoles. It’s more about the driver than it is about the console.

Favourite microphone or any other piece of kit?

This is tricky. I have so many gadgets it’s hard to single one out! I am very keen to see how the new Soundcraft/Universal Audio plug-in box goes. I tried it a while back and that thing sounds ridiculously good.

Most memorable gig or career highlight?

Just recently I mixed a charity event at Kensington Palace in London. The last act of the night was Bon Jovi. He called out to Prince William to come on stage with Taylor Swift and sing a karaoke version of Living On A Prayer. Highlight was Taylor Swift and Price William high-fiving after singing the first chorus! Classic. Not your everyday gig!

Any tips/words of wisdom for someone starting out?

Learn how to do all the aspects of live sound. Flying PAs, tuning rooms, tuning wedges, how to pack a truck well, how to work in a team. Then when you start mixing bands you will understand the signal flow better and this directly translates to your mixes and lets you solve problems quicker.

Describe your mixing setup now, compared to what it was in 1998.

On this tour I have a little Pro2C and an external computer inserting some effects. To be able to do what I am doing now at the same quality in 1998 would have meant racks of effects and a massive mixing console. Having said that, 15 years ago, I was not touring a console but used to carry small racks of outboard that I could fly on planes — now it’s USB sticks and iLoks.

What are three mixing techniques you regularly employ that you’ve learnt in the last 15 years?

Although not a mixing technique, I would hope I’ve learned to hear problems and fix them quicker. Everyone is mad about parallel compression. It works, but it’s not the golden goose. Watch out for latency in digital consoles. I think really it’s still about balance in a mix. I just try and get it so you can hear everything! Forget the rock star roadie. Isn’t that what we’re there to do?

In the last 15 years, what are three pieces of gear or features that have come out and been game changers for you?

There are really quite a few. Take your pick:

Lake Processors — What a genius interface and sound quality, one of  Bruce Jackson’s legacies.

Digital consoles — Show files mean you could finally travel a show without having to travel the weight of a console. It has brought the standard of audio up remarkably on smaller tours that cannot afford to have a truck due to everyone having a rough starting point for their shows — not to be underestimated at a festival. Only now you need a show file for every console because a 15-minute changeover might not be enough time to tick every option!

Switch Mode power supply power amplifiers — This has got to be one of the main changes over the last 15 years. Initially distrusted for their (wrongly) perceived lack of low end, they are now used on all parts of the system due to their power to weight ratio and incredible transient response. So much more power than 15 years ago.

Virtual Soundcheck — Super handy for rehearsing bits of a mix up and generally prepping for a tour.

Line Array — This has been the buzz for the last 15 years. It certainly gives real estate back to video to put up screens! To be honest nearly any PA system that has been designed in the last 15 years is useable out of the box and tonally pretty close.  Takes the fun out of it!

How have your working methods changed over the last 15 years?

Not really sure I am doing anything super different. Although I feel I am better now at what I do because maybe I do less!  


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More for you