Long time RCF user Eric “Ketch” Kelly from Christopher Newport University’s Ferguson Center for the Art is the recipient of the "RCF USA Special Recognition Award" for 2011.
“Ketch Kelly has done a lot of efforts to promote the RCF brand in US and especially the TT+ range. With a lot of experience and always interested in trying out new stuff he is always giving us very valuable feedback on our products and he has been very active in creating new references for RCF and are a respected source to advise which system to work with. We really appreciate his efforts and we would like to honour Ketch for his job by awarding him with the RCF USA Special Recognition Award for 2011”, says John Krupa – Sales Director RCF USA
RCF talks with Ketch Kelly about his entrance into the audio world and he shares some inside experiences.
How did you start to get involved with the audio engineering and sound?
Well, if not trying to blow up stereos as a teenager it would have been after I was drafted and was serving on an Aircraft Carrier then a Nuclear Submarine. The large distributed systems were fascinating. Just after getting out a good friend started touring with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh as a musician. I started as a Roadie and paid attention to the systems we used and to how they worked. Coming from the nuclear Submarine system I liked well-built systems that showed care in construction attention to detail.
What is your main audio background?
As a sound engineer mixing F O H I worked at The Ritz in NYC toured with bands in the 70’s and 80’s Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff in a variety of positions I worked for a Hotel developer and did distributed systems and Large Club systems for both Live and Program music all over the U.S. Here at CNU I am the Audio Engineer and have designed several of our Audio and Video systems in venues across campus. Ferguson Center, Music & Theater Hall, Studio Theater and the Gaines Theater as well as A Student lounge The Crows Nest.
When did you discover the RCF products and what was your first experience with these?
The drivers used in a variety of cabinets and their reputation to perform under demanding use.
Are there any particular things you like about the RCF products and what is your personal experience with these?
Well I often say that we are sound engineers first so how does it sound, today everyone can find measurements that say how great their equipment is. How does it sound! I have headphones that are very accurate but do not sound great for listening they are for reference! The First time we hung the TT31’s was for a show that afternoon, so we really were just taking them as is. The tours engineer looked at me and said, “Buy them”. I had a group of working sound engineers over to take a listen and they all were amazed as we played music we all know well, that we use to check systems out. The depth is what struck me, the images in each of the tracks and the detail sold me! We are a concert hall that sees hundreds of shows with every major speaker line come through our doors. I do not talk down equipment that does not appeal to me because frankly almost all modern speakers are remarkable, so it comes down to how the make you feel! The TT series makes me smile from ear to ear every time I hear them!
As been working with sound and installations for many years, what are your key rules when you are choosing a system to work with?
“There is the new and the known” do not put it in just because it’s the vogue product, balance where you’re dollars are allocated. That said stay current look at new products with an open mind and attention to the fit and finish. Will the company and products be around in the future? Give the best fit for the budget and level of skill the everyday operator will bring to the installation. Make it sound great
You have done several church installations. What do you see as the main challenge when deciding on what types of speakers and systems to use to these kinds of installations?
Not really I installed Pipe organs when I was 17 this let me appreciate the acoustic environment of the spaces. I am working on a Chapel project here on the Campus so it brings its own demands that although common to theater are new. The space needs to be clean with no apparent technologies, but the space will be used by all types of events from acoustic, spoken word to electric so the Steerable arrays seem to be the best for now.
When you do installations in venues, concert halls etc. how do you manage to secure that the systems will exceed a performance that match perfectly to the room?
Well I think headroom first when the budget allows, then I think of what the venue is going to be used for. I also try and think what it will be used for in the possible future. Then it is time to look at what science will tell us of the space. The final thou is let’s say intuition I think often if we listen to ourselves, experience tells you what will work
The RCF TT+ products are having a lot of DSP onboard. What is your experience with DSP in general for these big systems, do you feel that it is a good help to create a perfect listening result?
I like DSP in general but feel there are some parameters that should not be changed such as Cross over points. I like to be able to monitor levels and the condition of the amplifiers and power consumption etc.…. I like to be able to gain shade sometimes remotely.
What do you see as the big difference for the audio systems today compared to what you were working with 5 years back?
The quality of horns for smooth reproduction and control, also the power amplifier sections on self-power speakers. I think the TT45 is a great example of these properties it’s on stage and in your face. They display great clarity and control but sound wonderful not a statement I would associate with stage monitors in general loud comes to mind. I remember in the late 70’s a band member wanting more Kick and there was nothing left I mean it was all the way up! So looking at the monitor you could watch it hop with each kick beat so I told him when it hopes that’s the kick. That would not happen with the speakers we use today.
The technology is constantly being improved, what do you see as the next big thing for speaker design or features that could make it easier to be an installer and a sound engineer?
More steerable control digitally to deal with where we do not want power and where we do. Better rigging hardware so that there is less chance of accidents assembling rigs. Perhaps a scanning laser showing the area of coverage not just the point.
When you work with bands, do you experience that they are getting more involved in the actual stage sound and they want to secure that they are sounding close to their sound on their music releases?
Being a house engineer I find that often they are focused on their monitor mix and pay less attention to the house mix. They expect you to get the house right and sometimes you have to push to get the time you need to dial it in.
Today there are a lot of online resources to get new information about gear, installations, new technology etc. What online resources do you use to maintain your knowledge and are you contributing with your own experience to other sound engineers etc.?
I use FOH and SPL websites they are open to a very lively they tend to be good clearing houses of experience with gear and application of knowledge.
Today many people are talking about the challenges in secure that your sound level at concerts and public places are in control and stays at a maximum or average level that is set by the authorities. Do you have any experience with this, and what do you feel about having to work to a set of rules?
I do not think with modern PA’s that you do not need to be as loud as we once did because we can put the power in the seats now with Arrays, DSP and cabinet design and choice. There is a local amphitheatre that you get warned for being too loud and then arrested if you ignore the warning. I have run into engineers that treat contract SPL levels as an excuse to be abusive even push a desk harder and harder when the processing is trying to keep the lid on it. I have been on both sides but come down on the side of common sense if you are driving people out just because you can be that loud clearly your ego is righting the checks. Make it sound great, encompassing and powerful
All sound engineers have their favourite test songs, to mention one could be Donald Fagen’s I.G.Y., what songs are on your test CD?
One Voice – the Wailin’ Jennys
The Hounds of Winter – Sting
Seven Bridges Road (live)- Eagles
Lisztomania – Phoenix
In the Darkest Place – Burt Bacharach & Elvis Costello
Maria Rita 1st album
Jeff Beck Live at Ronnie Scotts
These are a few – I have others Donald Fagen / Steely Dan etc.
When RCF introduced the TT+ system to the market, the product line was designed with many inputs from FOH engineers etc. With your work with TT+ can you recognize things in the products that make it easier to set up and in general to work with compared to other systems?
Yes the recessed switch and connector positions are well thought out. The rigging is pretty good I would like a way to hold the bracket tongues with your fingers clear. They are very easy to find handholds on and the power to weight ratio out of this world
In your perspective what do you think that is important for speaker manufacturer to keep alive and never compromise on?
Musicality if that’s a word, we can make very precise systems but the need soul, heartfelt. There is a point that we must remember we may be technicians but we are also artists in our own right. I have disagreed with some engineers that say we are there only to reproduce exactly what is on stage. I would argue we are to remain true to what is on stage but we must bring all of our selves to each show or just have a computer balance the input gains and send that.
What projects are you working on right now?
The Chapel here at CNU and an upgrade to the Concert Hall system here at Ferguson Center
We just finished our fourth Theater on Campus (with TT25’s and TT45’s) the school has spent $700,000,000 on new facilities in the last 12 years and is working on another $500,000,000 over the coming years. The school is public and only around 5,000 students
What is your “dream band” to be FOH for, and why?
Well I worked with great bands and they all bring something Bob Marley and Peter Tosh were in the dream category and being House engineer Here has allowed be to work with a huge number of artists and engineers. That said I think all sound engineers think their Mix is the best not that we are known to have opinions, no never!
What has been your absolute biggest concert experience as being part of the audience?
I am working most of the shows I see so it would have been a long time ago for big shows in the Woodstock / Watkins Glenn era.