Profound Sound

by Debi Moen
in Regional Slants
Memphis Beale Street Music Festival is a regular Profound Sound client. Photo courtesy Sierra Hotel Images
Memphis Beale Street Music Festival is a regular Profound Sound client. Photo courtesy Sierra Hotel Images

Keeping Local Music Loud and Clear in Memphis

There’s no shortage of music in Memphis. And where there’s live music, there’s a sound reinforcement company. Profound Sound has helped keep the local music plugged in and playing loud and clear for the past 27 years. Owner William Floyd founded the full-service sound reinforcement company in January 1991. He now shares operating duties with his main employee, Joe Brown, and hires extra support when needed. The company also rents backline and small systems.

Though Profound Sound keeps a busy calendar of projects all year, they’re just now coming off one of their annual marathons of music events. One of the biggest is a month-long frenzy of back-to-back festivals that comprise “Memphis in May.” This includes the three-day Beale Street Music Fest with a blues tent during the first week; followed the second week by the World Championship BBQ Cooking Fest with a main stage. Then the 901Fest, a “celebration of all things Memphis.”

“We do everything during Memphis in May,” Floyd says. “I’m the only local provider.” Other gigs coming up include the Hill Country Picnic, a two-day blues festival in Holly Springs (northern Mississippi), which Profound Sound has serviced since its inception 11 years ago.

Besides other projects such as Zoo Rendezvous, Chickapalooza, Burgerfest Sunday, Blues on the Bluff, Elvis Impersonator Week and Hometown Throwdown, there’s a tattoo convention with Rev. Horton Heat performing while arms were being inked. Profound Sound is not only a community resource, but a go-to when it comes to live events.

And Floyd does a lot of it with his 1992 Penske truck. And with that, come the stories.

The Profound Sound team working a ‘Sun’s Out, Guns Out Day’ show. From left, William Floyd, Joe Brown and monitor guy Will Odom.

‡‡         A Lucky Load-Out Survivor Story

“The last weekend in May, I did all four stages of a festival. We knew a big storm was coming in. We had a production meeting about the impending weather plan, but later, it was said it wouldn’t hit till midnight. I knew I would be loaded and out of there by then, so load-out was going as originally planned. The main stage was loaded in the truck by 10:15 p.m., and the other three stages packed up with no issues. Time to go home.

“Well, as I shut the door to the Penske and put her in drive, I saw the tent in front of me lift 500 pound concrete blocks into the air, and then a Porta John flew by. My crew and I powered out of there, dodging Porta Johns, bike racks, tent parts and garbage receptacles of all shapes and sizes. We could see tree branches snapping all around us. It was surreal — especially when toilet paper wrapped around my side mirrors and windshield. Only casualties of the month were the North and South Gate speakers.”

Later, Floyd said he watched the news and a police camera video shows the origin of the 500-pound blocks — it was a granite monument, the Tom Lee obelisk, blown over and broken into chunks. “In the video you can see my Penske truck rolling by! People asked, ‘Why didn’t the truck blow over?’ I had it packed full and weighed down. I was happy to be alive. We had 90 m.p.h. winds! Everyone was without power in Memphis for a week — and that’s how summer festivals are!”

Back to basics - no fancy offices here.

‡‡         A Player’s Passion for Live Sound

Floyd’s story about his company’s beginnings may sound familiar to other regional sound companies’ origins.

Like many careers in the audio industry, it usually begins with a passion for music. Floyd, a drummer, moved from New Orleans to Memphis in 1988 to finish his studies at Memphis State, pursuing a degree in studio recording. But two years later, with his degree in hand, “I realized I didn’t want to do recording,” he says. His passion was playing live.

“That’s my joke: being a drummer you are used to picking up a lot of stuff and putting it into trucks.” So it made sense to keep putting equipment into trucks but make it more of a business.

His first big break was at Memphis’ New Daisy Theatre, a 1,000-seat venue on Beale Street that was the place to hear national acts. “In the ‘90s, the New Daisy was the only place to play in Memphis. I did live sound and was engineer — I supplied the P.A., so the owner rented from me, and I handled all the production advances. I was there at every show — more than I wanted to be.”

After 24 years, he says, “with three to four national acts a week, I built up quite a resume. I have an unbelievable list of acts I worked with: everyone from Nirvana to Bob Dylan.”

He’s moved on since then. He was recently the sound engineer for the NBA Memphis Grizzlies pro basketball team during their season games at the FedEx Forum. He now currently works with PSAV at Memphis’ 2,100-seat Cannon Center for the Performing Arts. He also points out that he’s a card-carrying member of IATSE Local 69.

And while he’s amped up his workload, he’s amped up his inventory.

A Yamaha PM5D is among the console inventory in regular use.

‡‡         A Profound Supply of Gear

Floyd describes the gear he’s got. “I use a lot of Turbosound. My main speaker inventory consists of Turbosound Q-light THL 4’s and 2’s. I also still have a lot of the old TMS4’s and some TSE cabinets. My latest purchase, however, was eight EAW 12-inch Micro Wedges to go with the four 15-inch Micro Wedges that I had.”

Floyd also purchased the sound system from the AT&T Center in Houston, comprised of 82 QSC amps, 32 JBL double-18 subs and two 18-wheelers full of the large horn-loaded tops and the six 15-inch low mids. “So that’s been keeping me busy, repurposing and selling those.”

His mic supply consists mainly of Sennheiser and Shure. “I’m a sucker for the classic Sennheiser 409s, 441s, 421s. I don’t own wireless lavaliers, but I do have access to them through my job at the Cannon Center. I also have some classic RE-20s and SM7s.”

Floyd admits his preference in sound gear does not always meet what the touring production riders are needing when they come to town, so he’s willing to make a few changes. But not without advising people to listen to the gear before they make snap judgments.

“People look at me like I’m talking French! They say, ‘What is Turbosound? Don’t you have a line array?’ People think they need to call another company because they want a line array. So line arrays will be my next big purchase to fulfill riders. I’m trying to find the best deal and what I like.”

He adds that he was burned a bit by the “whole wireless thing.” He explains, “I had to sell off wireless mics because of the frequency bandwidth change. We all bought new stuff, and the wireless mic thing changed again.” But he can obtain them from other sources, if requested.

When it comes to mixing consoles, he says, “I have old Midas XL3s; if I could haul them around, I would. I grew up with XL3s and analog desks. Some of the best sounding concerts I saw were in the 80s — old Showco boxes and Clair 4s; that’s what I grew up with.”

Floyd emphasizes that while the industry today tends to focus more on the latest technology, he believes “it’s got more to do with the people behind the buttons than the speakers in the air.” He could go into a longer discussion about that.

But back to the music. Over all these years, Floyd continues to play drums. He used to tour in the ‘90s with a band called Big Ass Truck, and later the band toured with the North Mississippi All Stars. Floyd was FOH engineer for both.

His main employee, Joe Brown, is also FOH engineer with the band Lucero, whose sound is described as “a synthesis of soul, rock, and country that is distinctly Memphisian.” So Brown is sometimes on the road as well.

It all comes back to the music. And sound. And everything that entails.

“I love audio,” Floyd says. “I started playing in bands again after 20 years, so when I can squeeze in a gig, I play with a cover band and an original band called La Pistola,” he adds.

“So I was almost retired, and now I’m not,” Floyd adds with a laugh.

Profound Sound