Gear Blog: Wilco

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.

photo by Kevin Cochran

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.

photo by Kevin Cochran

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.

photo by Kevin Cochran

Monitors mixed with a Digidesign Venue.

photo by Kevin Cochran

Pat Sansone’s guitar world was off of stage left with a collection of Telecasters and acoustics. On the right are Stirratt’s basses.

photo by Kevin Cochran

Sansone’s keyboard setup is a Nord and Korg CX3. The silver keyboard is a Korg M3. Sansone was also responsible for the broadcast mix of Wilco’s episode.

photo by Kevin Cochran

 

photo by Kevin Cochran

Sansone’s guitar pedal board. An A/B pedal switches between a Reeves amplifier and Marshall MK series combo.

photo by Kevin Cochran

Jeff Tweedy’s acoustic pedal board just consists of an Electro Harmonix Holy Grail Reverb, a volume pedal, and the ubiquitous Boss TU-2 tuner.

photo by Kevin Cochran

Tweedy’s electric guitar amps are a Texosound Bernie Colin Cripps and a Vox AC 30 with a Radial Switchbone switcher. Jeff also used a Fender Acoustic amp.

photo by Kevin Cochran

John Stirratt’s bass rig is two Ampeg cabinets fed by a custom head built by Chicago amp maker Tim Schroeder.

photo by Kevin Cochran

Glenn Kotche’s kit. Nice faux wood panel finish and artwork on the kick drum head.

photo by Kevin Cochran

Mikael Jorgensen’s stage right key world includes a Hammond organ and a Nord synth and a variety of special effects.

photo by Kevin Cochran

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.

photo by Kevin Cochran

Nels Cline amp is a Schroeder DB7 head going into a vintage Marshall cabinet. The DB7 was designed with Cline’s input.

photo by Kevin Cochran

Nels’ effects are too many to account for individually. The most interesting ones are the almost mythical Klon Centaur overdrive, Digitech Whammy, and my favorite pedal in the world: the Boss VB-2.

photo by Kevin Cochran

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.

photo by Kevin Cochran

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.

photo by Kevin Cochran

photo by Kevin Cochran

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.