Tony Freire has been working with audio for a long time. For several years he worked as an audio engineer in his studies, and for almost 20 years he has been behind the console for Argentina’s power rock bands. Since 2013, he has been in charge of the live sound of Carajo, the Argentinean power trio.
In parallel, Tony works on the commercial representation of important audio brands such as FBT, XTA, Funktion One, Litec (to name but a few) through his company DA Profesional (www.daprofesional.com) and the development of audio products with its Magic Eye Technologies brand. In this interview, he gives us his vision about his work as a live sound engineer.
LightSoundJournal: It is almost of unanimous opinion amongst Carajo’s fans, both in forums and publications on social media sites, that the power and sound quality of each show is exceptional. How is that sound built?
Tony Freire: First, with a band that sounds powerful and tight like Carajo do. Starting from that premise, I can summarise the process of how the sound generated by the band reaches the audience in three elements. The first element is the sound equipment – from the first microphone to the last speaker, through cables, mixer, processors, more cables, more processors and amplifiers. Secondly, the Engineer, who through his senses uses the equipment to assemble and transmit what is generated by the source, in the most faithful way possible. Finally, and for me, the most crucial element of the three, the Environment – from the stage to the last edge of the venue where the show will take place. As an engineer, I think that the best way to contribute to the construction of that sound begins with working from the stage with the band, looking for the best balance between instruments, and acheiving the best sound that each of the musicians can give. Next, I prepare the equipment, making every check possible. This includes checking power, grounding, cables in poor condition or inverted polarity – right through to the alignment and equalisation of the system. All of these steps are equally essential, so that the Engineer can do his or her job much more efficiently. And at the end of the chain, we must deal with the environment where, in general, we cannot modify conditions. Here, we must work as much as possible on polishing the source and the equipment, so that the environment can have as little detrimental effect as possible.
LightSoundJournal: How many channels do you currently use for guitar and bass? Was this scheme changed throughout the time of your work with the band, or has it remained the same?
Tony Freire: Normally we have 6 guitar channels and 2 for the bass. We have two microphones for the guitar amp with distorted sound, 2 lines for a Kemper (also with distortion) and finally 2 microphones for a second guitar amp with clean audio. For the bass I take a clean signal and one with distortion, passed through 2 DI’s. However, depending on the condition of the show we can use 2 channels for guitar and 1 for the bass, if necessary. In general, if we travel abroad, we reduce the rider as much as possible, since we cannot take heads, boxes and even the complete sets of pedals for the band.
LightSoundJournal: How do you work with the drums?
Tony Freire: I try to have as clean a sound as possible, without resonance. It goes without saying that Andrés has a powerful sound, one that is very impressive. We have a fluid relationship to adjust the sound and tuning of his instrument. Technically, the situation is quite simple. We take our microphones to the shows, which gives us the possibility to generate a homogeneous audio pickup and add only a trigger channel for the kick drum. The rest is pretty standard – some compressors, some gates and EQ. I prefer to emphasise the work on the adjustment of the instrument and equipment rather than the processing.
LightSoundJournal: Do you use any kind of special processing for vocals considering the energetic context of the music?
Tony Freire: I use compression through 2 channels; one very compressed and equalised to give enough level to have achieve good volume and detail. The second is more loose, designed to give presence and dynamics. Think of this as a kind of parallel compression, but I also work on the EQs of both channels. A DeEsser helps me out a lot of the time. I also use a short delay to duplicate the vocal and give it a bit of depth.
LightSoundJournal: What kind of processing do you apply on each channel and on the output bus?
Tony Freire: EQ and compression on all channels. On the output bus I like to insert a multiband compressor to control the overall dynamics of the mix.
LightSoundJournal: Do you participate during the production stage, deciding how things will sound? In other words, do the musicians consult you on the sonic qualities of their live performance? Does the band play an active roll in the live sound, or do they leave it completely in your hands?
Tony Freire: I usually listen to the final stage of mixing and pre-mastering, before finally listening to the final record for many hours. If there is something that we have to adjust for the live situation, we talk about it and we will make the necessary changes – such as sequences, where we have to correct details so that they adapt as well as possible to an environment that couldn’t be further from a mixing room in a recording studio. The contributions and suggestions in the case of a band like Carajo always make sense; they are clear about the audio they want, they print it on their discs and we try to take this to live situations, taking care of the details, but at the same time marking that particular feeling of listening through a sound system at a considerably high level of pressure.
LightSoundJournal: Could you describe the sound system?
Tony Freire: Carajo uses their own monitoring system – in-ear for the three musicians – and with their own set of mics and stands. Therefore we only ask for console, cables and PA. We do not have requirements regarding PA brands and/or consoles; basically asking for a tri-amplified system, reinforced by subs and providing an SPL and coverage that complies with the necessary conditions for the show. I also always ask for a front-fill system and a system processor to be able to align the equipment – this is a determining factor. In many shows we do not use a monitoring mixer, so we use the main PA for these mixes. I have no brand requirement with respect to the console; it’s just a part of the process. obviously there are differences between consoles of different price levels, but I really get along well with all of them. Of course, I do prefer those with fast and “friendly” control interfaces.
LightSoundJournal: Which part of your work is most important in creating high-quality live sound?
Tony Freire: From the technical side, I consider it essential that the sound equipment, regardless of brand, type and quantity, must be aligned and correctly assembled, as much as possible. When it comes to really important shows or festivals, we almost always have a System-Tech to take care of this. I spend as much time on these things – check the alignment, gain, state of the components, and position of the system, of course considering the limited time that you have to do this. On the other hand, I believe the artistic side, always keeping in mind what the artist wants to express in their shows and working to achieve it. Obviously, everything is polished as you spend more time with a band, but it also helps me to listen to the discs periodically to refresh the songs.
LightSoundJournal: How do you keep yourself updated with all things audio?
Tony Freire: Today we have a lot of information at our fingertips. You can read techniques on everything… placing microphones, recording, mixing, aligning and adjusting a sound system. And this is not to mention constant bombardment of new types of equipment and developments. Through my activities as a representative of some audio brands in Argentina, I have the opportunity to travel several times a year to participate in exhibitions and conventions – keeping myself up to date wherever possible.
LightSoundJournal: What advice could you give to someone who wants to work as a sound tech for a band?
Tony Freire: Do not tire of searching, reading, learning, trying, re-testing, listening, asking, hearing and trying. It is a team effort – one where musicians, technicians, lighting designers, set designers, etc. all collaborate together for the same cause. They enjoy their work no matter how hard it is and, above all, they are respectful and humble. This, above anything else, opens doors in my opinion.
I want to thank Augusto Morrandino, from Latam Stage (www.latamstage.com) for his help in completing this interview.
Light Sound Journal
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