Sound Technology UK visits Post Malone’s FOH Engineer Joe Hellow and talks Symphony I/O MkII Soundgrid
“It’s been a ride ever since because he’s an amazing person to work for. Very human, very passionate, someone that I want to go the distance for, go the extra mile for.”
How did you come to work sound for Post Malone?
I’ve been working with Post Malone for about a year now, right before Coachella last year. How I got started with him? Basically, I did one show in the summer where he didn’t have an engineer and he performed the crap out of the show at this festival. He was such high energy and I said to myself this is someone that I want to work for.
I put it on a Google Doc, he was top of the list. So a couple of months before Coachella and I said ‘which artists do I want to try to get in with and work for’ and he was on the top of that list. All of a sudden I got a call out of the blue from Dennis Danneels, who’s the production manager who I’ve worked with for a lot of shows and that was that it was history.
It happened and it’s been a ride ever since because he’s an amazing person to work for. Very human, very passionate, someone that I want to go the distance for, go the extra mile for, you know. That’s important cos if you’re not excited about each show, then I feel like there’s no point being here, you know. I’m anxious before every show. So that’s kinda how we met and how this manifested altogether out of luck or what have you.
What’s your setup for the tour and how does Symphony I/O MkII Soundgrid integrate into it?
I’m using the DiGiCo SD10. I noticed there was a little brittleness on the conversion going from different impedance, and going mic level when it should be line and using XLRs and having the desk convert it. Nothing against the DiGiCo, it’s just the way it is. I have to have my rack gear, I would try for an SD7 which you could change to line but I couldn’t get it every show.
I talked to Carl [Himmelman] from Apogee and I fell in love with the company. I talked to those guys on the phone and they were very responsive. He explained to me how it works and I’m like okay that makes sense. I’m gonna try it before 2019 so I can tour with it. It was very easy to understand.
Very simple setup but oh my goodness what a difference! What a difference in sound, what a difference in clarity, what a difference in conversion, jitter, it’s magical. I noticed a night and day difference between the old school way I was doing to the new school beautiful way of doing it. So yeah, it’s just magical.
What would you say is your favorite feature on the Symphony?
The Soft Limiters that are in each channel – I love them, just in case. Even though I’ve clipped them, they’ve sounded cool anyway. With the desk, I’m running 96khz and this can keep up with it at 96k stable, and soft limiters for Joe, guys like me who like to SEND IT!
How does this all tie together with Waves SoundGrid?
So in order to get this into the network of the DiGiCo, I have to download the driver, go to SoundGrid inventory, I have to select the Symphony as Device 2. Normally you would have Device 1 as the DiGiCo SD and the Multirack, so those go together. I use the clock from the DiGiCo and then all I have to do is go to SoundGrid connections and create a Soundgrid connection. You can use 64 channels with those ethernet lines, I’m using 8 for Symphony and the rest are 1-56 of Waves plugins that I can potentially use. I’ve got 2 extreme servers and they’re really cool… I like them a lot… And once you do that you’re done – you’re going ethernet into the switch that’s connected to the desk and then the computer and you’re locked in.
If anything were to go wrong or fail at a show, do you have a backup?
I have some fail-safes built in. The Symphony has never ever had an issue, but if the power gets cut or if something happens with that ethernet line or something gets messed up I have a button on my desk that deactivates everything that I’m using besides the desk and puts some dynamics in there. It doesn’t do the same job obviously because that’s why we use this gear. Volume-wise we won’t know a difference but I’ll just hear depth being lost.
“It’s important when tuning a room to not ‘tuna fish.’ That’s all I’ve got to say on that. You can’t go crazy with trying to tune a room, you have to trust your instincts.”
What’s your method for Soundchecking different arenas?
I record every show and I play it back so the artist doesn’t have to show up for soundchecks, we do it for him because he’s a busy guy. I’ll play him through my speakers the night before, and then I’ll play it through the PA and tune the room accordingly.
I see the room as a speaker box. I grew up watching my dad tune speakers. I even started a small little thing with him at the studio doing installations of subs in cars and stuff. I learned a lot in that respect, tuning a box, tuning a speaker and that’s how I look at each room.
The only variance is bodies and insulation. So the insulation that we put in the box isn’t there. So I have to guess what that insulation, those human baffles, are going to do to the room to absorb certain frequencies. I’ve pretty well got it dialed in for arenas and you know there’s a slight difference in every venue because of the shape. You can do a lot with guesstimation. It’s important when tuning a room to not ‘tuna fish.’ That’s all I’ve got to say on that. You can’t go crazy with trying to tune a room, you have to trust your instincts.
Production manager Dennis Daneels stops by…
Joe: This is Dennis – he’s our production manager, he lets me do a lot of stuff.
Dennis: Yeah –
Joe: He let me bring a lot of subs on this tour and a lot of PA you know…
Dennis:– He means I put up with a lot of stuff!
Joe: Not everyone understands what it takes to have a linear sound to the audience and he does. He has a heavy background in every department which makes it very convenient for the workers because he gets it. He lets us do our gig but he can oversee it in a well way because he’s versed in it which is very important. And that’s why I love working with this camp and I love Dennis! (put that all in).
Dennis: Put that all in there
Joe: Yeah really good guy though, really good guy.
What are your plans for 2019?
I’m going to South America for Lollapalooza with Posty, I’m just doing Posty and then like, I’m doing very little for other artists right now. I’m going to do the sound design for Migos for their next tour. When I’m at home I’m trying to remix and master for their live show along with final mixes for people for the studio. I can’t spend too much time because I have a family. But at the end of the day, I do want to help artists get their sound.
My priority is Posty you know, that’s my main priority and other than that we’re waiting to do another US tour. I’m not sure when that’s going to be announced or when it’s happening, but we have enough shows to stay busy with.
Anything else you’d like to say?
@joehellow on Instagram and if anybody has a question, I’ve really studied this and put it into practical use and I’m willing to help because of Apogee…
*BANG* – one of the pyrotechnics lets off a firework.
… ohh, break the mic, that was 136db! Um.. Apogee has supported me and I’m willing to put it forward if anybody needs some help from a practical engineer that’s out there using this gear, I’m willing to help as well. We can make this thing happen and help people, cos it’s a really good product and I believe in it.
Thanks again to Joe Hellow and the rest of the Posty Co. Crew for having us!
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