The Gear Blog is a behind-the-scenes look at the instruments and equipment that graces the Austin City Limits’ stage. Our Audio Engineer Kevin Cochran goes in-depth to give our audiophiles their fix.
All sound engineers will eventually fall into one of two categories of temperament after a certain amount of time within the business. The type A that will occasionally succumb to stress at some point and become…difficult to deal with. And the type B who has seen it all, knows that there are worse problems in the world than a noisy line or a wrong patch, and just deals with it like a jujitsu move. I’ve learned the value of grace under pressure from Wilco’s long time front of house engineer, Stan Doty.
Stan is my favorite engineer to work with at any ACL shoot. Period. He has run front of house sound for all three of Wilco’s ACL tapings and once Guided By Voices (one of my all time favorite episodes). Not to lay it on too thick, but the way he carries himself under pressure is something I’ve tried to emulate, especially since moving to our new digs.
Stan used a Midas Heritage 3000 console for Wilco’s mix. There have been plenty of pictures of those in past blogs, so let’s just look at the outboard gear that he brought along this time.
For vocals Stan puts Jeff Tweedy and John Stirratt through a dual channel Summit Audio tube compressor… usually. At the time of the taping, one channel was acting up and John’s vocal was put through a dbx compressor at the bottom of the rack. See, jujitsu. Acoustic guitars, piano, and keys are processed through BSS DPR-402 and 404 compressors; drums, bass, and effects are sent to dbx 1066 gate/comps.
The FOH (front of house) mix is sent through four Klark Teknik equalizers. The top two are the stereo left and right mix that are also split to the side fill stereo speakers. “F” stands for front fills (smaller speakers on stage that usually just have vocals and lead instruments sent to them) and “S” is for subwoofers. At the bottom of the rack are T.C. Electonics D Two and a 2290 delay followed by a pair of Yamaha SPX-990s.
Monitors mixed with a Digidesign Venue.
Pat Sansone’s guitar world was off of stage left with a collection of Telecasters and acoustics. On the right are Stirratt’s basses.
Glenn Kotche’s kit. Nice faux wood panel finish and artwork on the kick drum head.
Mikael Jorgensen’s stage right key world includes a Hammond organ and a Nord synth and a variety of special effects.
A wonderfully out of focus picture of Tweedy’s guitar pedal board. For some reason, everything relating to Jeff’s equipment was out of focus that day.
Nels Cline amp is a Schroeder DB7 head going into a vintage Marshall cabinet. The DB7 was designed with Cline’s input.
Nels Cline’s talent as a musician is that he can jump into noisy avant-garde cacophony or incredibly restrained, understated playing with equal proficiency. That’s very rare and demonstrates not only skill but taste. For the more noisy, outlandish adventures, Nels has this table to his right with a smattering of glass slides, Electro-Harmonix delays and effects, and a Korg Kaos pad.
Hmm… another out of focus picture. Tweedys acoustics are a collection of Martins and
Gibsons, one of which produced a special buzz that made me think we’d blown a speaker. Stan notified me that this happens all the time. For electrics, Tweedy mainly uses Gibson SGs including his own signature model. I love that finish.
Nels is mainly known for playing a well worn vintage Fender Jazzmaster once belonging
to Mike Watt. Watt even carved his name into the guitar and it still bears his mark. Cline would sometimes switch between a Telecaster and double neck Jerry Jones with 6-string and 12-string necks.
However, the special guest of the show (other than Nick Lowe) was Duane Allman’s gold Les Paul guitar on loan from Georgia’s Music Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, I couldn’t snap a picture of this one before the show. Thanks to Charlie Richards for the link.
This show was the last taping in our new studio for season 37. It was a grueling year with a high learning curve and having a band like Wilco, who has been a great friend of Austin City Limits, was a nice end to a tough season. Getting to work with a fantastic road crew like Wilco’s made the season finale all the sweeter (and easier). I’ll talk about the historic studio 6A and the new place in future posts.