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The Right Action: Franz Ferdinand on tour with A&H iLive

Franz Ferdinand embarked on a worldwide tour in March with PAs and consoles supplied by Wigwam Acoustics. Simon Duff caught up with the audio crew.

Four albums into their career, indie disco mainstays Franz Ferdinand set off in support of their fourth album, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, with a d&b audiotechnik J-Series PA, Allen & Heath iLive console and, for FOH, an Avid Profile. Tom Howat is the band’s monitor engineer, having joined the Franz Ferdinand setup in August last year after their previous engineer decided to come off the road. “They are great band to work with,” comments Howat. “There is plenty of technical awareness between them and a clear and succinct knowledge of their own requirements, and they want to enjoy every show and crowd as much as they can.”

The 2014 tour begun in the UK, taking in a range of medium-sized venues and academies, before moving to Europe and North America – then in the throes of a busy festival season. Howat is using an Allen & Heath iLive system with an iDR10 mix rack, i112 surface and PL10 accessory controller. “I came across the iLive systems while working for Morrissey over the past couple of years,” he explains. “The iLive system is snappy and responsive. The ‘networking’ side of it is powerful and, when coupled with the flexible nature of the surface and their approach to scene storage, it makes for a very versatile environment. Of course, it sounds great, too!”

For monitor requirements, the four-piece use a combination of IEM and wedges: drummer Paul Thomson uses a hard-wired IEM; Bob Hardy, on bass, and Alex Kapranos, on guitar and vocals, favour both IEM and wedges; while guitarist and keyboardist Nick McCarthy goes for wedges only. In total, Howat creates six wedge mixes, five stereo RF IEM mixes and one stereo hardwired IEM mix, three effects sends and two mixes for FOH and monitors. Howat’s approach to mixing for the band is manual-based, but he does make some use of some scene recalls to redeploy fader assignments on the iLive surface, thereby bringing channels up in front of him as needed. “This saves me from digging into layers too often and keeps the manual approach flowing,” he says.

Both band and crew like to keep things fluid, creative and not always fixed to a preset show list, which keeps Howat on his toes and requires his console to be both flexible and intuitive. The iLive meets his needs. “Yesterday, the group pulled a new song out of the hat, which involved plenty of swapping around and band members changing roles – Alex on keys, Nick on lead vox, etc. – so I put a partial scene together quickly during sound check, and it all did as I thought it might. I also restructured the system to include a further stereo aux mix. Nick looks like he might try some IEM on our next jaunt, so after a judicious ‘store all’ and a DSP redeploy, reload of the ‘store all’ scene it all came back as expected with only a tiny bit of tinkering needed. Very good!”

For wedges, Howat likes to use double 12-inch LF drivers plus a centre-mounted HF driver, and currently uses d&b audiotechnik M2s. For IEM, he specifies Sennheiser SR2050s or G3s. The band has some kind words for the iLive: “Sounds great from where I’m standing!” says Kapranos. And from Hardy? “Looks great too!”

Mixing at FOH is Michael Parker, who has clocked well over 1,000 gigs with the band. He mixes on an Avid Profile, a console with which he has been touring since 2006. He notes: “I can still do my best show with it. The plugins are the thing for me – there is some pretty specific stuff that I couldn’t do on another board as easily. We have a passive split that sends the signal to my Profile stage rack and Tom’s iLive rack – four BNCs down to me.”

Wigwam Acoustics supplied a d&b audiotechnik J-Series PA – 24 boxes in total – 20 d&b V-Series and eight Q-Series subs. For the British academies, Parker used in-house systems and no J-Series, with just the Qs positioned in strategic areas for filling in any coverage dead spots. He notes: “When we have our full PA, it’s a great time. The other days are more challenging, but I think we’ve managed to get a good result every time – most of the academies these days have a decent spec – although we have replaced the main stacks a couple of times so far.”

Other key audio crew include PA techs Pete Seddon and Sid Rogerson. Howat is also keen to thank Wigwam Acoustics, and Wigwam’s Geoff Muir in particular: “He has been very supportive of me in terms of using the iLive and also provides exceptionally good service.”

Throughout the summer festival season, Franz Ferdinand will tour with just control at FOH and Howat taking a reduced monitor setup. “I am devising a way of doing the show on an i80 surface,” Howat concludes. “This would make the monitor-world footprint even more compact, which will be handy on festival stages – both for our own group and for other folk, resident monitor systems and other guest desks. We will also have a ‘B’-rig on the road for part of the summer due to logistics, so compactness will help in that regard.”

(Simon Duff)