By Live Sound Staff MOVING FORWARD Greg Price discusses mixing Tool and a whole lot more. WHILE GREG PRICE has long been recognized as a top front of house engineer in a career spanning almost 40 years, he’s just as entrenched in the world of recording, and in fact has blazed a particularly impressive trail in live music recording. “I treat it all the same,” he notes. “The sound that I produce in a recording studio that you listen to on your couch is the same sound I strive to deliver in your favorite arena.” For instance, Price’s mix and recording (in 5.1 surround) for Black Sabbath’s CD/ DVD Live... Gathered in Their Masses, where he also served as the tour’s FOH engineer, has been the subject of widespread acclaim since its release in 2013. The sonic quality presented in that box set is illustrative of his unique vision and talent, and it also serves as a reminder of why he teamed up a few years ago with another top veteran FOH engineer, Brad Madix (noted for his work with Rush and many others), to create Diablo Digital, which develops and provides turnkey recording systems for live sound applications. As Price and Madix state on Orinda, CA-based Diablo Digital’s website, “We understand the special demands of live audio and the importance of high-quality and reliable audio capture and playback because we have about 60 years of live audio engineering experience between us. We’ve found that having the ability to play back recorded tracks has allowed us both to improve as engineers, even after all of these years.” RECENT VENTURE In late June, Price finished up a 6-week tour with Tool, the multiple-Grammy honored quartet (vocalist Maynard James Keenan, guitarist Adam Jones, drummer Danny Carey and bassist Justin Chancellor) that presents an ever-evolving sonic landscape ranging from heavy metal to alternative metal, progressive rock to psychedelic rock, and a lot of stops in between. It was his first tour with the band and the latest high-profile artist to join a live engineering resume that includes Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath, Kiss, Aerosmith, Van Halen, Rage Against The Machine, Limp Bizkit, Velvet Revolver and Foo Fighters. Work with such pop-oriented acts such as Christina Aguilera and the Cheetah Girls further highlights his versatility. Clair Global provided a main PA for Tool fronted by Cohesion CO-12 line arrays, while VER Tour Sound delivered the monitor rig. Price manned an Avid VENUE | S6L digital mixing system, including an S6L-24D control surface (24 + 2 faders, 64 assignable knobs, integrated master touch screen and dual integrated channel touch modules) joined by an E6L-144 engine (144 processing channels, 64 mix buses). It wasn’t his first time out with the S6L, however, as he had taken one of the first units out with Black Sabbath on the road beginning in August 2015. And in fact, he’s been a VENUE user since the platform made it’s debut more than a decade ago, switching over from a Midas XL4 analog desk that had been his preference for years. “I’d experienced digital consoles in recording studios already and understood the potential, so as soon as they started coming out for live, I was enthusiastic,” Price explains. “Not all of them were perfect, and it wasn’t really until Avid released the Profile (in 2005) that I felt that there was a desk that everyone could use, plus it interfaced with Pro Tools seamlessly and elegantly for the recording aspect. So for me it was a slam dunk.” Upon his first experience with the S6L with Black Sabbath, he notes, “I immediately realized that this is something very special.” Following that 2-year stint on the road, the band returned to the place where it all started for them in the 1970s, AIR Studios in London, established by legendary engineer/producer George Martin, to do some recording work with Price. They worked in the facility’s Studio 2, where the same S6L that had joined them on the road was deployed for mixing and recording rather than the room’s 80-channel SSL 8000G desk. “That’s my mode of operation. I want a machine that can take me to all of those places, that can handle everything,” he says. “Every band that I mix live, I also want to make a record with them. And the record starts right when they’re on tour. Band members come and sit with me at FOH and play their tracks back to them. I treat it no differently than if we were all in their recording studio.” GETTING INTO DETAIL Price mixed and managed 64 inputs on tour with Tool, with lead vocalist Maynard James Keenan on an Audix OM6 microphone, instruments captured by a variety of mics from Shure, Heil Sound, AKG and Audio-Technica, and numerous direct feeds, most via Radial J48 DI boxes. Al so noted for his innovative approaches with plugins, Price utilized an Everything Pack from McDSP on this outing, exclusively. It includes all of the company’s tools, including equalizers, compressors, virtual tape machines, multi-band dynamic processors, reverbs, de-essers, and more. They’re available in both HD v6 (AAX DSP/Native, AU, VST) and Native v6 (AAX Native, AU, VST) formats. “It’s unbelievable in terms of some of the products that McDSP has, and how they can help engineers in the landscape of audio,” Price states. “I give them a lot of the credit for the sounds everyone heard from Tool on this tour.” Specifically he cites the 6020 EQ, 6030 compressor and 6050 channel strip applied on guitars, bass and electronic drums, as well as AE400/AE600 active EQ on vocals, toms and VoxBox. Meanwhile, the multifaceted Channel G (dynamics, EQ, and a combination of both) helped in lending an “analog” signature where desired. This sonic capability comes full circle back to Price’s primary reason for utilizing the S6L: the way it sounds. “I’ve never had a console be this transparent and have this much depth, whether vertical, horizontal or the stereo bus. It’s unbelievable,” he says. “The 3D depth of the stereo bus on this console is just ungodly. I’d put it up against anything on the market in a blind listening test.” He also cites the console’s Layouts capability, which in a nutshell facilitates a high degree of customization. He provides an example: “Say you have 24 faders in the center section of the board. You can make those faders anything that you want, whether they’re inputs, outputs, aux sends, matrixes, stereo buses, VCAs – you name it, it can all be in front of you. It’s also song-by-song recallable.” What this translates to is that in the heat of the live mix, he’s able to work through the show’s set list and completely reconfigure the console on every song within moments. pretty much instantaneously. MOVING FORWARD Price is quick to note that there’s a plethora of quality choices on the market when it comes to digital consoles, and that Digital Diablo is happy to implement it’s approach with all of them, but another “separator” in his world is the S6L’s workflow. “Let’s face it,” he states. “Everyone’s workflow is their own personal approach, but on this console, from live to recording, it’s seamless. I mean, the transport for Pro Tools is right in front of your VCA faders.” In fact, he implemented a new Diablo Digital development on the tour, the X Mac Pro Server AVB@128, a Pro Tools recorder for the S6L that delivers 128 tracks of recording via AVB (Audio Video Bridging) networking. “It’s new and it’s exciting, and is poised to grow with the S6L platform of higher track count recording on the AVB network,” he notes. After four decades one might think Price would consider slowing down, but it’s just the opposite as he stays in constant action as an engineer, building Digital Diablo, and also lending his time to educational endeavors as well as consulting with manufacturers. “I give Avid a lot of credit for helping me extend my career, both in terms of the technology as well as their help, support, education and understanding,” he concludes. “They’ve definitely played a big role in my work, as well as the work of so many techs and engineers.”
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