Stormzy’s historic Friday night headline slot on the Pyramid Stage was mixed by FOH sound engineer Raphael Williams, a long-time user of HARMAN’s Soundcraft Vi Series of mixing consoles.
To mix the show, Williams used a pair of Soundcraft Vi2000 desks at FOH connected together in Mirror Mode, provided by his own company Bethel Productions. This mode allows the two consoles to constantly push control data to one another, increasing the available number of faders and Vistonics touch screens. Not only did this provide Williams with a surface extension, but also redundancy in the unlikely event of a console failure. “It was not that I needed a back-up, though,” he said, “as these consoles have always been rock solid.”
In addition to the two consoles, he also carried two Soundcraft Realtime Racks, augmenting the consoles’ on-board processing with the full suite of UAD-2 Plug-Ins. Although he says he “not a plug-in crazy person”, using the DSP engines sparingly, his lead vocal insert contains a UAD Precision Channel Strip for its EQ and compressor, running into an SSL 4000 E channel strip. “I use the modelled SSL preamp on that strip to produce a “glassy” sound on the lead vocal. I’m also using a Fairchild 670 Legacy on the drum bus and the dbx 160 plug-in on various guitars, brass and keys.”
Also deployed was a Soundcraft Ui24R digital remote controlled mixer, which acted as a shout system, handling all the communications between FOH and backstage crew and artists, and a pair of JBL LSR708P nearfield speakers for Williams’s FOH reference sound. Additional gear and show crew, headed by FOH systems tech Richard Kemp, were provided by Williams’s “go-to” supplier, SSE Audio Group, headed by my accounts manager Dan Bennett.
Two Soundcraft Vi Stageboxes handled the show’s high channel count of over 100 channels. Requiring more than the 96 DSP input channels available on the Vi2000, Williams was able to improvise by changing the console patch using the Snapshot Recall function — for instance when Chris Martin duetted on ‘Blinded By Your Grace’, bringing his own mic. “So I was able to bring the necessary inputs into the desk on a song by song basis using the Snapshot Recall, as well as utilising the ‘Input 2’ function with Main and Spare Microphone on one channel strip. This really stretched what the console could do.”
Stuart Strachan, application engineer at Hanrman’s UK distributor Sound Technology, commented: “It’s always a pleasure working with Raphael, since he’s always pushing the boundaries to get the maximum results from his gear. It was really good fun working with Raph and Rich during prep and rehearsals to achieve the channel count, mirror mode, recording and redundancy functionality which was needed for this critical gig. Raph’s a VIP, and it’s all part of the Sound Technology service to ensure we can achieve his vision with him.”
Raphael has been working with Stormzy on full production tours since 2017 from the release of (Gang Signs & Prayer album) after getting the call from the artist’s tour manager, Trevor Williams (of Tour Music Live). “I was using a Vi2000 for both monitors and FOH, because I know what sound he likes to hear, and in that way I have full control.” He says that in around 90 per cent of the shows the artist’s monitor sound is delivered from FOH, although Glastonbury was an exception, where we have a great engineer looking after monitors, in Nat Hopking.”