Pronk and Schmitz on 15 years of touring with Anouk

Since the mid 90s, Barney Pronk and Peter Schmitz have been working FOH and monitors respectively for Anouk, Holland’s biggest female artist. Paul Watson caught up with them at Lowlands festival...
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Since the mid 90s, Barney Pronk and Peter Schmitz have been working FOH and monitors respectively for Anouk, Holland’s biggest female artist. Paul Watson caught up with them at Lowlands festival...

Since the mid 90s, Barney Pronk and Peter Schmitz (pictured) have been working FOH and monitors respectively for Anouk, Holland’s biggest female artist. Paul Watson caught up with both engineers backstage at the huge Dutch festival Camping Flight to Lowlands Paradise, located 50 miles outside Amsterdam, where Anouk performed an hour-long set to over 30,000 people on the main Alpha stage… Anouk’s been huge on the Dutch scene for a long time now – and you guys were there at the beginning? PS: Yes – she was very rocky back then, but now I guess pop rock is a little more fitting; she’s getting a bit older now and the music has become a bit softer. Barney [Pronk] has worked with her for 15 years and I have been there for almost 14. I was touring with Lionel Richie and Sinead O’Connor and Anouk stepped in around 1997; that’s where I have been ever since. The huge PA system at Lowlands is a self-contained Ampco rig – similar to the one you guys tour with? BP: Yes. It’s a very convenient system; it’s very well thought through and extremely well engineered actually. What I find really unique about it is that you can do a chilled out jazz festival just as easily as a really heavy rock act with this PA, whereas some other systems are maybe a little more precise and cannot be used as effectively for a full range of bands. How long have you been working with Ampco systems then? PS: It’s been twenty years for me now with Ampco; I guess I am kind of a hobby engineer these days, because I am an account manager as well, you see! So you must have both seen a big change in the equipment over all that time then? PS: Oh yes, it’s changed a lot. From the conventional systems of the past – the old Martin stuff, slowly moving up to the small compact systems and now these huge line array systems. And of course digital consoles also changed things. How is your rig configured? BP: Our PA system in most of the places consists of the big W8Ls – the Longbows line arrays; and we use the WSX318 triple-18” subs. And how many channels are you running? PS: We’re both running 45 channels. I have a lot of in-ears to deal with, plus a load of stage wedges. I ues a Midas Heritage 3000 and Barney [Pronk] is working from a DiGiCo SD7. BP: I use two channels more actually… PS: Yes, because we double up Anouk’s vocal; one channel for the in-ears and one channel for the wedges because we’ve got a different cue setting on it. What kind of outboard are you using on monitors? PS: Well, not much. I am not really into compression; I use a little bit on the bass guitar and on the vocal mix for Anouk, but that’s basically it. I have a couple of reverbs available to brighten the mix up a little, but I go quite easy on it generally. My main focus is the sound of the Midas desk and of course the headroom I am able to get - that’s really why I use a Heritage 3000; a Yamaha PM5D or M7CL just don’t deliver the same warmth in the sound. And at FOH? BP: I use some outboard. I have some vocal pre-amps and I use a BSS 901 and Avalon 737s and 747s. I use an analogue line for Anouk’s vocal and an analogue pre-amp, because I like to have my gain just there - you know? So that, for example, if there’s a major gain change, I can pick it up before it goes into the console and everything is fine again. I have also got some SPL compressors that I can’t get from within the console, so I have to make it happen externally. I prefer not to, because you have to make an insert, but that’s just how it is. Have you found the dB restrictions much of an issue at Lowlands? I know that the noise levels are particularly stringent… PS: During the day it isn’t so much of a problem, but after the last act finishes it becomes a late-night disco for the rest of the crowd, which is when they’re really enforced. BP: They have a very professional noise control at this festival. Event Acoustics designed a whole acoustic measurement system; they can see if something is correlating with the programme material; it’s very well thought out and they also ensure that the SPL at the back is as soft as possible. How many monitor mixes are you [Peter] sending out? PS: 32 mixes including the in-ears and the horn section; I have one spare channel on the whole console! A lot of people in monitor world tend to use a separate digital board for brass sections or orchestras. You find that the Heritage 3000 copes OK? PS: Yes, I have everything on there just fine. I have a 44-channel desk with four stereos on it, and all the 24 aux sends are in full use. I am using eight matrix busses as well, so I am really packed out on it. But it’s Midas; the headroom is the most important thing to me - and I mix dynamically on the faders the whole time. We have wedges on stage just to capture the bottom end. If you’re going to use only in-ears it’s a hi-fi sound, but you’re missing the bottom end; that’s the main reason we’re combining both. OK – so how do you go about miking the horn section? BP: I use DPA 4098s and 4099s; they are just lovely microphones. I can leave the EQ almost flat – and even with all the noise on the stage, the signal is coming in so clean. We used to use the Shure 98s but they didn’t work out well at all; using the DPAs makes it sound so much more professional. What’s Anouk’s preferred vocal mic? BP: It’s a Shure SM57A. We used a lot of mics; in fact, we tried everything! But for her, it’s also about her in-ears - how the sound comes back to her. We found some pretty good wireless mics, but they just didn’t seem to work right. Anouk has such an output that we found it was compounding too much. Do you compress her vocal fairly hard then? Actually, I don’t use a lot of compression on her vocal; just a little, from the [Avalon] 737 - which is actually too slow; I use a Babyface model though, which is a bit faster. Then I use the BSS 901 dynamic EQ; and I have an SPL compressor on the back and then an analogue graphic EQ. Do you use Shure mics on the three backing vocalists? BP: Yes, two are on SM58s and one is on a BETA57A. And what about miking the drum kit? BP: Well, for this kind of show it is important I don’t do any ambient miking because you have so much input from all of the musicians. Because of that, we go close to the kit: some Neumanns on the cymbals and we mic the ride separately. To get separation? BP: Yeah – it’s pretty much close miking; we only play very big venues and you want to have the ride on a separate fader so that when you lift the mix, the cymbals remain separate. She [Anouk] needs everything very separate and very clean; if we were doing smaller gigs then we could do ambient miking - which in my opinion sounds much better - but it’s not possible with this amount of noise on stage. And the rest of the kit? BP: I use a standard combination of a Shure BETA52 and BET91 on the kit, then three mics on the snare: a Shure SM57 and KM140 on top; and then another KM140 on the bottom - I like to be able to make the snare sound different for different songs, so it works well; and then I use Sennheiser 604s on the toms. Do you tend to use the BETA52 to get the punchy kick sound into the IEMs and then take a mix of the 52 and the 91 for out front? BP: Yes. Peter [Schmitz] uses only the signal from the BETA52, and I use mostly the same, with just take a little from the BETA91 also. And how do you mic the guitars and the bass? BP: Well that’s a bit more special! One of the guitar players builds his own guitar amps – which are very good. I mic them with a Shure KSM27 and also a ribbon mic, which I modified with a transformer to make it active, so we could do long cable runs; the impedance is too high for a normal ribbon mic. There’s also a third guitar amp on stage, which I mic with a Beyer Dynamic M88. One of the guitarists switches between two amps during the show; then I use a Beyer 88 for the bass and a DI.



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