With his trademark top hat and ever-present darkened shades, Slash is indeed the portrait of rock ‘n’ roll iconography. Last year, the master guitar-slinger broke out from beyond the shadows of his past (Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver), with an eponymous solo release and new tour. Slash’s audio arsenal on a roster of tour dates through the spring (some opening for Ozzy Osbourne), will include a DiGiCo SD8 at the hands of longtime audio vet, Martin Walker of Audio Analysts.
With over 30 years of credits spanning EMF, Judas Priest, Whitesnake and many others, Walker is steering the audio course as Production Manager and FOH engineer for the 2011 tour. No stranger to DiGiCo digital desks, he’s logged many hours at the helm of a D5, as well as a few outings more recently on an SD7. For the Slash run, he opted for an SD8 based on quality of sound, ease of use, footprint and price, and was able to conveniently load his SD8 files from 2010 tour dates onto Audio Analysts’ newly acquired SD8.
For the quartet live, Walker’s handling a total of 35 stage inputs – all effects and processing is managed from the console’s internal super FPGA processing. Output-wise, he’s using only a left and right main PA, a separate sub feed and an infill feed. As far as source material, the show intro comes off his iPod and other than that, he says, “it’s straightforward rock and roll from two guitars, bass and drums, and this is a one of the best bands out there!”
Being a straight-ahead rock and roll show, Walker’s running the board in an equally clear-cut manner. “Slash and his band are extremely straightforward and are an absolute joy to mix! Life is easy with them and an SD8; no fancy trickery is needed. I’m running the SD8 at the moment in an analogue style, no snapshots – just busking it song by song. I find this a very easy desk to do that on, although I will be adding snapshots into the way I work over this next leg. There are no great fancy changes from song to song; the band very much rocks out and creates its own space and dynamic. Once I have my sounds together, it’s really a matter of getting the feel and groove of the mix and having some fun. I pretty much get a free hand to do what I like effect-wise and whilst it doesn’t call for too much over the top type effects, there are songs that have room and cry out for nice reverbs and repeating delays.”
Live shows often present challenges with changing situations and venues on a daily/nightly basis. On a date last year, the console succeeded in passing audio after receiving a ‘beer hit’ at a show. “Even though the desk temporarily lost control, it continued to pass audio. It was a little frustrating, but I was more than happy that I got through the end of the show without having to pull the band offstage early due to ‘technical difficulties!'”
With tour dates stretching into the spring and to destinations around the globe, Walker will be no doubt be riding soundly with the SD8. “I feel it is way ahead of most of the other makes of digital consoles, and certainly great value for money. It’s a whole lot of desk for what you actually have to part with financially, whether buying or renting… I started my digital life on a Yamaha PM5D, and whilst I do like that desk, it really isn’t in the same league… Sonically, I think the SD8 is a great console, and is very close to it’s more expensive cousin the SD7. I love the desk and have decided to use it for Judas Priest when they go out later this year… though it will be put through its paces a little more with those guys!”
Above: Martin Walker of Audio Analysts.