Depeche Mode’s sound has been a huge part of the electronic rock landscape since it hit the airwaves in the 1980s, and today, fans continue to amass in their hundreds of thousands to hear them perform.
Led by Production Manager Tony Gittins and touring in support of their 15th studio album of the same name, band members Dave Gahan and Martin Gore bring Memento Mori to the live stage for another world-class feat.
With help from Britannia Row Productions Account Executive, Dave Compton, the touring audio team has specified a plethora of high-end tools including an L-Acoustics K Series PA system, and SSL and Avid control surfaces.
Systems Engineer Terence Hulkes comments: “Depeche Mode are a long-standing client of Brit Row’s, and as their crew, we aim to continue delivering (and improving upon) the standard of equipment and packaging that they have come to expect.
“I trained up through the Brit Row warehouse, so it’s the standard I’ve come to know and have a detailed knowledge of. Brit Row has a fantastic in-house team that are very open to accommodating ideas and changes that the road crew know would be preferable for the client.”
The sound design comprises an L-Acoustics K Series arena / stadium package.
Hulkes continues: “In its arena configuration the arrays fly within 4-5m of each other, and the sales line can go up to 220 degrees. For arenas, we carry a third 270-degree array per side in order to meet the coverage requirements past the downstage edge line.”
The European stadium leg of the tour benefitted from main speaker arrays of L-Acoustics K1 and flown KS28 subs next to the main hangs. KS28 subwoofers were placed on the ground in a 3-high spaced sub arc, no cardioid. Ground fills were L-Acoustics KARA II, and A15s, which gave coverage to the nearfield at the front, with the ever-changing stage heights and PA trim. Further K1 cabinets were utilised for the ground delays.
The system is driven by L-Acoustics LA12X amps throughout, with 2 x P1 processors on the front end, driving AVB to the amplifiers over an optical fibre loop with analogue redundancy. Hulkes uses a software combination of the M1 system in the P1 processors and SMAART.
At FOH, Engineer Jamie Pollock says mixing this tour has been an “honour.”
“To be trusted with translating Depeche Mode’s live sound correctly has been a lot of work as they have a massive catalogue of songs that span over 40 years – and their dedicated fans know every detail of their music!” he says.
Pollock is also a system designer, and as a result, is an expert at calibrating and optimising sound systems. He continues: “I know how to use the system tools available on the software side of the PA and can optimise that to what I’m doing at the console level. Terence does an amazing job at achieving the best possible result in these stadiums.”
Pollock notes that he was unfamiliar with Britannia Row as a service provider prior to this tour.
He expands: “This is my first-time using Brit Row and the standard of equipment and crew has been nothing short of top quality. From the techs to Dave Compton in the office, the attention to detail and service has been amazing.”
Pollock’s FOH spec is hybrid, revolving around the S6L console and analogue outboard gear.
“I’m running two Avid S6L 32D’s at FOH (main and backup) that gain share two Stage 64 racks on stage for analogue inputs. We also have some digital MADI sources on stage, so I use RME MADI routers on the stage end to keep my clock source the same and distribute the MADI inputs to both E6L-192 engines.”
He continues: “I wanted to be able to switch seamlessly between the main and backup console in case of any problems, and the solution I came up with is wonderful when going back and forth between the two.”
Outboard, PA sends, and audience microphones are all patched into a DirectOut Prodigy MC at FOH.
“The Prodigy gets MADI from each engine,” he furthers. “And with the press of a button on an Elgato StreamDeck, I can switch the MADI patch between the two systems. This lets me use all the same outboard gear and processing from the main console to the backup, which has worked flawlessly on this run.”
For analogue processing Pollock opts for Neve 5045 primary source enhancers and Shelford Channels for vocals, GML 8900 dynamic range controller on guitars, Neve Master Buss Processor on samples and loops, Chandler TG1 Limiter on drum room mics, API 2500+ on drums, UBK FATSO on electronic drums and a Dramatic Obsidian on synths.
He also has some Neve 5211 preamps for his Schoeps audience microphones and external effect devices: a Bricasti M7, Eventide H3000 D/SE, Eventide Eclipse and a TC system 6000. In his final mastering stage, he uses a Chandler Curve Bender EQ into a Tube-Tech SMC2B into a Neve Master Buss Converter.
Monitor Engineer Mike Gibbard describes Memento Mori as a ‘complex’ gig due to the amount of channels and FXs being used.
“The fact I’m having to blend a mix of wedges, IEMs, and having to take the PA into account is complex,” he explains.
The surprisingly minimal RF dept has just 12-ways of IEMs and six handhelds, as overseen by Monitor & RF Tech, Alex Hore. The Shure PSM1000s cover the band and crew, plus Gibbard has 16 d&b audiotechnik M2 wedges on stage.
“It’s busy up there. I treat the flown sidefills as if it were a FOH system,” adds Gibbard, whose console of choice is the SSL 550, with 3 ML32-32 stage boxes running 96 channels in and out.
“I chose the SSL desk purely based on how it sounds, nothing comes close to the Mix Buss on it! I love the UAD Racks too, specifically the way the plug-ins sound and the low latency as I run them over MADI duplex.
“I’m pretty much delivering a reference style mix to most of the band, with Dave having a slight jump with his vocal encapsulated in reverb and delay. Our drummer Christian Eigner’s drum mix is heavily processed, with lots of FXs and heavily compressed overheads, creating a ghosted type drum room sound. I also have a pair of Neve headphone amps for Christian and use d&b B6’s for the drum subs. There’s flown d&b KSL for sidefills and SL ground subs,” he adds.
Gibbard has an Antelope OCX HD Master Clock, clocking everything at 96k and two DiGiGrid MGBs handling the multi-tracks, a pair of Universal Audio UAD Live Racks, plus a mixture of onboard features from the SSL for plug-ins.
He details: “The snapshots are triggered from the desk to the UAD, synced via iConnectivity mioXL MIDI interface. I use a mix of UA1176SE and SPL transient designers on the drums, as well as a pair of Chandlers on the front and rear overheads. I’m using sub harmonics on the kick, generated from the SSL and I have an Oxide tape machine for some saturation on the snares and bass, an APi 2500 on the guitar buss, an LA-2A on my comped vocals, and a Manley VoxBox on Dave’s vocal with Korg SDD-3000 for his delay. For Reverb, it’s EMT’s 250s and the Lexicon 224.”
Gibbard has four stereo FX sends coming from FOH in order to obtain a “very specific processed sound” on certain tracks. All Dynamic EQ comes from the SSL, as well as some buss compression that utilises the desk’s onboard G-Series plug-in.
Fascinating and multi-layered, Memento Mori is another hugely successful tour from Depeche Mode, with two million fans having bought tickets to hear the band play in Europe and North America to date. The production will complete its final leg in April 2024, with continued audio support from Britannia Row Productions.