Being chosen as the audio engineer for tours of Ana Belén, Joan Manuel Serrat, Miguel Ríos and Víctor Manuel – four of the greatest artists of music sung in the Spanish language – is no small feat. Although José Luis mentions during our interview that “many other engineers” could also perform the task, the fact is that he was the one chosen not only for the tour, but also charged with recording sound for the official CD and DVD. The tour spanned Spain, Mexico and South America, and in Spain alone summoned more than 500,000 people.
A look at the credits he has gathered during his career, alongside some of the videos circulating on the Net, quickly tell us that José Luis Crespo is a professional who stands out not only for his technical ability but also for his kindness. I was able to prove this firsthand, as Jose Luis was kind enough to answer my messages and questions mid-tour. We spoke about his work on the live performances, which at the time of conducting this interview were taking place in Argentina.
LightSoundJournal: Could you tell us how you became a professional?
José Luis Crestpo: It all started when I was a child. My father and my older brother are engineers (industrial and computing, respectively), my other two brothers, also older than me, they’re musicians. I think I mixed everything. They also took me to a concert of a very small orchestra and we heard a lot of music at home. I once thought about how it might be to record the sensation I felt when I heard the the orchestra live. I began to become interested in the engineering my father was involved with, and by the music of my brothers. So, from the age of 14 I helped my father to fix the amplifiers and mixers of the my brothers’ bands and at the same time I learned some computer science and programming with my older brother. I mixed audio for the my brothers’ bands; recorded with friends; and visited studios, etc…
I studied a little bit of music and whenI finished high school I got into telecommunications engineering. In any case, by then, I was already working in this world; I think it was inevitable. From there, I think I was very lucky. I have met a lot of people who have helped me along the way. Starting with my family and following wonderful artists, producers and musicians who, sometimes without knowing me, trusted me.
LightSoundJournal: How did you get to work on the “El gusto es nuestro” tour?
José Luis Crestpo: Well the truth is, as I mentioned before, I’ve had a lot of luck and help along the way. I had already worked with the artists separately on other tours, recordings, or performances. I had already worked on the 50th anniversary tour with Víctor Manuel and I think the proposal came from his part. I imagine there would be another good group of engineers who could have done the work. The managers made the proposal, and I consider working with a group of artists and musicians like these, on this tour, a luxury. I understand that any engineer would love to be in my place.
LightSoundJournal: How are the FOH, side-sill, front-fill, monitoring tour systems composed?
José Luis Crestpo: All the audio is centralised in an Avid S6L Stage. Due to some different conditions at the beginning of the tour, the chosen console for monitors was an Allen & Heath S7000. It is connected directly via MADI to the S6L, in such a way that we share stage and gain. Although the PA console is the “master of gains” the rehearsals have served to provide a gain that is not touched at any time during the concert, and if necessary both engineers can, via digital TRIM, make a finer or precise adjustment.
The monitoring is done with the Allen & Heath M40 system, so that each musician can make his own mix, while José María Rosillo, who does the monitors, is responsible for the mixes of the 4 singers. All musicians use in ears, and there is an additional side-fill system in case of general failure, although, of course, there are several spare cabinets on stage.
All microphones are from AKG. They sponsor the tour. This allows us to have models in perfect condition at all times, in addition to being able to try out the latest new releases or use live studio microphones.
Throughout Spain we used L-Acoustics K1 and K2. Bruno Trata is responsible for making any adjustments to the system before each sound test. It is a wonderful team, both human and physical. In other countries, depending on the country, we have also worked with L-Acoustics, Meyer Sound and d&b audiotechnik. In any case, we have so far had very good sounding systems.
LightSoundJournal: Do you use external processing?
José Luis Crestpo: The heart of the tour mix, as I mentioned before, is an Avid S6L. We almost premiered it for this tour. It’s a desk with a wonderful sound. You have the feeling of working in the studio, and I do not really use any external processing. I don’t think it is necessary at all. A TC6000 accompanied me on the tour throughout Spain, but the plug-ins that come with the console are enough for practically everything. The only additional software I have is Sonnox for Avid. This provides me with a good de-esser for voices, some auxiliary reverb, and some extra control over transients.
LightSoundJournal: Why did you decide to use the S6L?
José Luis Crestpo: The complexity of the patching of the channel listing required a very versatile and fast console, both in the configuration of the control surface and in the different memories. Of course, the sound is the most important factor, and from my point of view the preamps of the S6L sound extremely good. The process of the signal is top level and the Virtual Soundcheck system is one of the best on the market. The level of quality of processors via plug-ins is very high; I don’t know if it’s possible to ask for more.
LightSoundJournal: How do you perform your job by working with different big artists on scene?
José Luis Crestpo: I have always been very fortunate with the different artists and musicians that I have worked with. I understand that the work of a sound technician should go unnoticed for all the people on the stage. In other words, they should feel full confidence in your work so that they can each focus completely on their contribution. It is good to talk to everyone regarding the different adjustments of their instruments, microphone techniques and distribution on stage, and also about instrument techniques, amplifiers, etc. In the end, we are all at the service of the public, and ensuring that they leave these concerts happy, wanting to repeat the day with the feeling that they have experienced something special. Although 90% of the repertoire may be the same each day, my ambition is to make each and every concert exciting. Every day must be special and we must seek the most spectacular reaction from the public.
LightSoundJournal: Do you use stored presets for each song or show moments?
José Luis Crestpo: Yes, each song has its memory or memories storing mutes, pan, effects and some other levels, eq or compression etc. In a concert of this type I think this is a must.
LightSoundJournal: Do you use soundcheck with pre-recorded tracks, or always with the musicians on stage?
José Luis Crestpo: I use S6L Virtual Soundcheck before the musicians and artists come to the soundcheck, and that gives me an idea of how the venue is going to behave. However, despite this, a soundcheck with musicians is always completed. I think the Avid Virtual Soundcheck system is the best on the market so far.
LightSoundJournal: How does the S6L makes your work easier?
José Luis Crestpo: In my case the choice was fundamental. It’s a desk that lets you to programme events like never before. The sound is also very warm and special. This simplifies everything, and truly is a great help.
LightSoundJournal: Can you tell us how you organise the connections of the different signals that come to the console?
José Luis Crestpo: All signals come to the console from the stage rack. The stage rack, or sometimes the desk, serves the digital output via AES to the room processor. The MADI output stage serves as input source to the monitor console. The audio networks used by the console to power the monitor console are AVB and MADI, so it’s like having a digital splitter.
LightSoundJournal: Did you particularly enjoy any experiences of the project? I’m talking about the difference between live work and studio work.
José Luis Crestpo: My work seems to be exciting on both sides. In the studio, there is always time to “rewind”, to overdub and choose what you want. You can be mixing a single song for two days.
In live situations, there is no option to travel in time. What happens, happens, and you have to think about what happens in each present moment. Sometimes what arrives from this can make a certain performance very special. Every day is a challenge, no matter what environment you are working in.
LightSoundJournal: From your experience, what suggestions could you give to young people who want to work in audio?
José Luis Crestpo: The only thing I can think of is enthusiasm. If you have chosen this job is because you like it, then you will have the most wonderful work in the world. You’re going to have to work hard everyday and train every day. A new technology or technique appears every week. But above all, enjoy it, because it is a wonderful line of work.
Pictures from Avid Spain – “Secretos de estudio” videos series; “El gusto es nuestro” website; “Small Room” studio (José Luis Crespo)
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