Interview with Niccolò Antonietti, Monitoring Engineer of Faith No More

2015 is an important year for all the fans of Faith No More: their new record “Sol Invictus” has just been released and, what’s more, Mike Patton and the rest of the band are touring like never before, with a long list of concerts all over the world. These dates also include festivals, where musicians must have a crew of specialized and fast-moving technicians, who are also able to deal with difficult situations, with stage changeover right at the last second. One of these technicians is Niccolò Antonietti, who has, since 2011, been the official monitor engineer for one of the most interesting American  rock bands, playing a strange mix of metal, new wave, funk, punk hardcore and soul, which, after many years, still lights up the audience.

Niccolò Antonietti_4 How did you decide that this is was the job for you?

Niccolò Antonietti: I started to do this job in 2000. I graduated from the SAE Technology College in Milan as an audio technician and I started to work for a club in Milan called Binario Zero. I also worked with some Italian service companies, first with Sonique and then with Mr. X, which handles most of the shows of international artists in Italy. In 2011, I had the chance to work as monitor engineer for Mike Patton’s parallel project “Mondo Cane”. I must have done a good job because after the concert Mike Patton asked me if I wanted to work with them till the end of the tour as their official monitor engineer. From then on it was like a snowball effect. Mike Patton asked me to work with Faith No More and then with Tomahawk, and then, with the help of their sound engineer, I also started to work with Primal Scream. I then decided to move across to London and work here. Do you work more as monitor engineer or as FOH sound engineer?

Niccolò Antonietti: Let’s say that most of the important jobs that I have done are as monitor engineer. In this section when you start to do a certain job, you often continue to do it. [laughing] Anyway, I’ve also worked as FOH sound engineer: in 2013 for a European tour with “A Tribe Called Quest”, an American hip hop band, as well as for other smaller events. I read that you also worked as FOH sound engineer for Tom Jones…

Niccolò Antonietti: That’s right. I took over for a friend of mine, Matteo Cifelli, as sound engineer, but just for a few dates so I don’t go around saying that I was sound engineer for Tom Jones. In any case it was a really interesting experience. But when you are asked to work as FOH are you happy to do it?

Niccolò Antonietti: Of course. No problem at all. If I can handle 20 mixes on the stage, handling one for the FOH is not so hard. [laughing] This year Faith No More have a really intense tour …

Niccolò Antonietti: Yes. We started in February. In the first part we were in Japan, then as headliners with Soundgarden, we toured Australia with Soundwave, a touring festival that stops in the most important cities. From there we went over to New Zealand for a festival and then we went to the States for a month: west and east coast, including Canada. We’re now here in Europe for a month, and then we’ve got three weeks off, followed by the southern states of the US. We’ve also got a date at Madison Square Garden. In September we’re off to South America for a month and then we stop!

Faith No More_Sol Invictus
: Faith No More haven’t had such a long tour for quite a while, is it also to promote the new album “Sol Invictus?”

Niccolò Antonietti: Since I started working with the band we’ve always had some concerts in South America and Europe, but they have always been mini tours of two weeks at the most, maybe to seem new and ‘fresh’. On those dates, the lineup was always about “old” songs. In any case, this year’s tour started before the album came out. Now that it has been released, it’s going really well, and has been voted album of the year by Metal Hammer. Analogic or digital console for monitoring?

Niccolò Antonietti: Let’s say that now you need to know how to work with all types of consoles. For this tour, considering that I already had a show ready on an AVID Profile, I kept this console. I like the way it works and it’s reliable. This situation is not such a big deal, there are five musicians on stage, and I’ve got 48 channels on the input board. There are 11 sends on the stage, including sidefill, drum subs. In any case, Profile is always an excellent choice. As I said before, it always allows you to do a good job. How much equipment do you take around with you when you play at festivals?

Niccolò Antonietti: We tour with quite a lot of stuff so that we are as independent as possible, which means that we only need a minimum part of integration from the on-site production guys. We bring the most important things like monitors and microphones.

Niccolò Antonietti_5 How do you manage the stage?

Niccolò Antonietti: There are basically two of us: I work with another Italian guy called Alessio Martino, who takes care of stage management. In Italy, the two most important people with regards to stage management are Toni Soddu and Alessio Martino. We needed someone to give me a hand, and who could work as stage manager so we contacted him. We had already worked with him on the Tomahawk tour, and everybody was pleased with the way he worked, so we decided to call him for this tour as well. I think that working at festivals must be really stressful, right?

Niccolò Antonietti: We did “Download” in Donington (UK) last week, where we had only half an hour for stage changeover, with 10 minutes taken up to changeover from the previous group. This year we had a completely white stage, including white carpeting, so another ten minutes were for stage set-up, and so in the remaining ten minutes you need people on the stage that know what they’re doing. What about microphones, are you using a standard set up or is there anything particular to mention?

Niccolò Antonietti: It’s all quite normal for drums, bass and guitars. We got the usual 13/14 channels, two for the kick drum (Sennheiser 901 and 902), two for snare (Shure SM 57 and Sennheiser 604), one charleston (Shure SM81), three toms (Sennheiser 604), four overheads (Shure SM81) as well as a microphone for the rim of the snare (Sennheiser 604). Alongside the D.I., we have also put a SM 57 on the bass guitar amplifier, and a mix of Sennheiser 604, 609 and Shure Beta 57 on the guitars. The keyboard player, bass player and guitar player use Shure SM 58 for the backing vocals. What does Mike Patton use for lead vocals?

Niccolò Antonietti: Mike Patton uses a Telefunken M80, and we also have a spare just in case. He also uses a CB microphone that is connected to a KaosPad for particular effects. What type of systems are you using on the stage, in ear or traditional wedges?

Niccolò Antonietti: We don’t have any in-ear monitors. We are using about 15 M2 monitors from d&b audiotechnik on the stage, six for Mike Patton alone, four at the front and two at the back. We also have drum fill and two left/right side fills.

FNM EUROPE 2015_Stageplan_720pix

As you can see, the monitoring of the band is really old school:

Drums: Mike Bordin -> 2 x d&b Jsub + 2 d&b M2
Bass: Billy Gould -> 2 x d&b M2 downstage + 1 x d&b M2 upstage mix
Guitar: John Hudson -> 2 X d&b M2
Keys: Roddy Buttom ->2 X d&b M2
Vox: Mike Patton 4 x d&b M2 downstage + 2 d&b M2 back mix The Telefunken M80 is very open on high frequency, almost like a condenser. Don’t you have problems on the stage with six M2 just for vocals?

Niccolò Antonietti: I have to say that we work very well with M80s, we also use them in all Patton’s other projects and is also pleased with the results. One of the things I like about the M80 is that even if it’s dynamic, it still has a good bass frequency response, and is well defined on the other frequencies too. I use a pre eq Midas XL42 for vocals, and I do most of the cutting there, then I use a 7-band, full parametric eq on vocals and one on the outputs, if other cuts are needed. Apart from that, are you using any other outboards on the stage, or do you do everything with the Profile?

Niccolò Antonietti: I don’t use any other outboards, being “endorsed by Waves”, I use a H COMP on kick drum, snare and bass, and a c6 on the master of the drumfill. How is Mike Patton on the stage with regards to monitoring? Is he really demanding? And what about the rest of the band?

Niccolò Antonietti: They’re all perfectionist in their own way, the drummer wants a lot of bass drum and wants to hear a lot of low frequencies, and this is why I use 2 j sub, while to give the right kick to the low frequencies, I use a 40hz oscillator triggered by the bass drum in channel. The rest of the band has quite a complete mix of everything, obviously each with his own instrument a little in the forefront. Mike has a quite a high voice volume on stage, and I have to follow him for most of the concerts, especially when he closes the mic capsule with his hand and sings 2 cm from the monitors.



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