Jon Sword: feeling good at FOH

Jon Sword has been FOH engineer for The Feeling since 2005; and is now an integral part of their ‘extended family’. Sword talks to Paul Watson about downsizing at FOH for the band's latest club tour, and reveals some of his dynamic mixing techniques...
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Jon Sword has been FOH engineer for UK pop act The Feeling since 2005; and is now an integral part of their ‘extended family’. Sword talks to Paul Watson about taking a Soundcraft Vi1 out with the band for the first time on a small club tour in preparation for later in the year when The Feeling will embark on a major tour promoting their new album… So, The Feeling are back on the road…How are things going? Bloody brilliant matey! It’s been a joy so far. They’ve got a load of amazing new material that’s very interactive to mix; and the little club tour at the moment has been a great way to prepare for the big stuff later in the year. They want to go in slick from the start this time round rather than learn the songs as they go. You’ve downsized from the Vi6 I see? Yeah, on this tour I’ve got a [Soundcraft] Vi1, which I am using on FOH, and I’ve got it set up with the in-ears running from it as well, so any small venue we just switch it on and bang – you know what I mean? I’m in a very lucky position with Soundcraft, who have been great to me, so I was able to approach Dave Neal and say ‘look, any chance of taking one out’ because I just knew it would make the tour; and he obliged, and it’s just unreal man, seriously, we’re going into venues and blowing it apart… I know your hands fly all over the console when you mix; are you finding switching from page to page on the Vi1 a hindrance when mixing these smaller shows? Not that much changes to be honest; I just use the VCAs so I can have the whole band being run on one page and I don’t really need to go to an awful lot else so it’s quite a relaxed gig on the input side of things. You get into a routine, and the band have so much to say about how they want things to sound that it makes it a real pleasure to work with them, and I just move about the board without thinking too much, really. You were there from the beginning back in 2005 and you’ve been there ever since; and you’re also their tour manager… Yeah. They had just got their first album deal when I got offered the gig in October 2005. I remember the first soundcheck in The Barfly and thinking ‘where have you been all my life?’ and they thought ‘where have you been all ours?’ [Laughs] and we absolutely gelled perfectly. It just went on from there really; I have been very lucky. You’re not a huge fan of compression in the live environment – why is that? On the whole gig, I only compress bass guitar and Dan’s [Gillespie-Sells, lead singer] voice. It’s just to hold him back really, so he can ride front or back on the mic. All the amplifiers are pointing backwards on stage too, so the sound is easily manageable. I am able to maintain the big block harmonies no problem, so if there’s no need for extra compression, then why bother? I see…Dan uses a Neumann for lead vocals, doesn’t he? Yeah, the radio version of the Neumann KK105; and it works perfectly for him; it just maintains his sound. It’s a thin sound if you listen to it individually, and he has quite a low velvety tone to his voice, but we take all of that out. We can often roll off as high as 400Hz, and if you heard him talk through that it’d sound silly [Laughs] but as soon as he sings into it, it sits perfectly with the texture of the band; absolutely beautiful. I guess you’re fairly light on effects also then, are you? Yeah, dark long reverbs on the drums, a little bit of plate reverb on the vocals, then a tap-delay basically; that’s about it. What happens next then – after the small club tour? Will you continue using the Vi1? When it comes to the bigger shows, I really want the Vi6 out there, because it’s been a good friend to me, and it really is just ‘the one’. There is something to be said to having a lot more area on one page too. But I have been unbelievably blown away by the Vi1 and the speed that it works. Walking into these little clubs and getting a sound like that? Fair play, I tell you…



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