Although they haven't quite built up to the U2 level of mega popularity, The Cure have slowly buy surely developed into one of the most popular British bands, with rabid followers all over the world, including much of the US. Their recent live album, Show, is part of a three pronged live assault on the planet--simultaneously, they released a live video (which duplicates most of the album) and a second live CD, Paris, which features entirely different material cut at a concert in Paris. Show was recorded over 3 nights at The Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich. (outside of Detroit), with Randy Ezratty engineering in his Effanel remote truck, which is based in New York. The album, produced by Cure leader Robert Smith, captures the magical interaction of the powerful band and their very loud and enthusiastic fans.
-You do so many jobs over the course of a year, Did this one stand out particularly?
- Oh yeah. It was really an extremely satisfying production for us. What happens to us every once in a while that makes a few jobs stand out from the others is the relationships we forge with the key people in a production. In this case, Jon Lemon, their house engineer, was someone we'd worked with when we did The The, which is one of the best bands we've ever recorded. Their monitor engineer, which is the other half of the equation with us, is
Brian Olson, who's Peter Gabriel's monitor engineer, and we've done a million things with him. So you come into a job like that, and your entree is much more confident; you're more welcomed, and you come up on more equal terms. They, in turn, impart that to the band, and even though you've never worked with them, you're made to feel welcome, and your input is solicited, whereas in some cases, we'll be hired by a video production company or something, where we're sort of dragged in and some of the less-mature road crews will treat us like the enemy. We've learned how to deal with that through the years, but a job like this one with The Cure is what we like better.
-Did the fact that this was being shot on film pose any special requirements?
-Yes. One of the more interesting technical things they chose to do was run the entire show - every element connected to the show, including us, sound, lights - off of the generators that were set at 50 cycles so when they took this stuff back to England for editing and for video transfer, you wouldn't have any of the light flickering differences between 50 and 60 [cycles, the American standard]. That's never been done before. It can be done electronically- you can slow things down, change the pitch and all this stuff, but they said, "Screw it, we need so much power for this show anyway, let's just completely disconnect ourselves from shore power and bring in generators and basically set up a European standard, because that's what we're going to take it back and work on." It wasn't a big problem. This was done on a 48-track, and we actually took the machines into external and referenced from a 50 cycle square wave and ran the machines accordingly, as if we were in Europe.
- Do you do any research about a band before you work with them, like seeing a gig before your job?
- Yes. I'm becoming more confident in insisting that. It's really going to save them money in the long run if I come and say hello in advance, take a look at the stage setup, take a look at the split and show up knowing what I'm going to see, so when they're paying all this money, some of my concerns have already been addressed. So I went to Chicago a couple of days before, and I listened to live tapes ant their albums. Its a little arrogant to come in and engineer a show without knowing anything about the group. If the band cares enough to use you as the engineer, you should get to know their music so you can relate to song titles and so you know what to expect. That's important.
-The crowd on the album is really loud in places. Did that pose any problems?
-Not really. I think we probably mike arenas with as many microphones as just about anybody. My theory is that you don't really hear the audience as it's going to be heard on the record until the band is there playing. You can't really do anything with the opening act o speculate. So we put a lot of pairs in different places, so that if there is a problem in the hall or there's one group of people or a guy screaming, it doesn't ruin your audience thing - you just turn it off. We usually have about 12 audience mics out there, of which eight will probably get used. That comes in handy. These days, we usually use six 414s at the house mixing position- four low, all the way around the square, and two way up high for more distant effect. Then we try to get rigging so we can hang four very directional mics straight down over the 10th to 14th row of the audience, and those will usually be something like Neumann 100 series condenser. Then there are generally a couple of shotguns in front-that's more tradition, something people expect to see, though I don't really like it that much.
- When you're in the truck, do you also have access to the FOH mix?
- Absolutely, and we put it on two tracks of the 48 - especially with a mixer as good as Jon. Let's face it, if we lose something, it's there as a reference for effects-very often for delays of slaps, they can pull it real quickly and say "Oh, he was doing that". And if we're doing something that's going out on the air we use it as backup.
-Is there anything special that you or your truck brought to this project that helped make it so smooth and successful?
-Well, one of the things that was employed on this recording-and it's being sought after in our work there days-is our onstage microphone preamps. We have 52 John Hardy M1s, and we put them right onstage next to the input box. A technician watches levels onstage that are in essence going straight to tape. It's been a major breakthrough. I don't like to use superlatives like that, but think about it: you're putting one of the best mic preamps made, onstage in front of that 400 feet of snake; it's mind boggling how good it sounds. Its additional benefit is you have a good engineer sitting there whose only job is to watch mic-re levels. The idea of a remote controlled mic preamps is great and everything, but I prefer having a guy sitting there watching, because when you're in the truck , you're watching 50 different things. So this guy is watching these precision meters and making sure that what goes to tape is the optimum level, and then we can manipulate it further in the truck if we want more or less - we have a gain stage in the truck - but you're dealing with line level throughput. The microphone snake is a very subtly degrading piece of gear; the longer it gets the more degrading it gets, and you just don't notice it until, in essence, you eliminate it by running line level down the snake.