London-born singer/songwriter and composer, Ben Howard, recently toured with his FOH engineer Andy Magee and monitor engineer Niccolo Antonietti both working from Digico SD5 consoles.
Howard released his debut EP 10 years ago, and since then, he has won two BRIT Awards, been nominated for both the Ivor Novello Award and the Mercury Prize and had a number one album. His third album, Noonday Dream, was released in June of last year.
“It’s very much art: 70-minutes of non-stop music, which is never the same twice,” Magee explained. “We’re all on our toes, watching each other do something a bit different every day.”
On tour, Magee and Antonietti worked hard to recreate Howard’s album with as much authenticity as possible. “We have over 85 guitar pedals on stage, which means so many inputs, as numerous players have pedal boards; in one song, a musician might play violin, then switch to keyboards, then something else, so I might have two or three instruments down the same channel during the same song,” Magee laughed. “The band is a nine-piece now, and three of them are multi-instrumentalists. Safe to say, there is a lot going on and, although I’ve been mixing this show since April last year, there are still bits that I am not 100 per cent certain where they are coming from!”
There are 88 channels being utilised on both consoles. “I have four fingers on four faders at the same time, as there are just so many parts to the songs, and squeezing that into a left-right PA is very tough: my hands are constantly moving,” he revealed.
Magee used his first DiGiCO console in 2006: a D5, which he worked on for years; then he moved to the SD7, before settling on the SD5. “One massive bonus with the SD5 is the centre screen; I can see 36 channels, groups or busses at the same time, which is brilliant. Also, almost all of the FX I use comes from within the console; I use six reverbs and a delay. There are so many mics on stage and a lot of ambient noise, so I don’t need to add a lot to it. There’s a lot of content for a left-right mix.”
Antonietti also commented on the SD5: “The usability of the console makes a huge difference to me. There is a lot of programming involved, but I am very happy with what I can achieve on it. The channel routing is amazing, especially with the requirement for shout mics when doing monitors these days. It allows me to do anything I want to, and the macros are the best; there are so many of them, and they’re so easy to work with. Any little changes during a song, I just press a macro and it’s done. I use the Digico multi-band compressor on Ben’s voice as it’s such a dynamic show, and there are often changes within the same song; so I don’t use single compressors on anything, just the multi-bands, which you can have on every channel.”