The Never-Ending Mix

in Production Profile
When you are mixing and recording each night’s show, there’s not a lot of time for anything else.

The clock has just clicked over to 9:17 p.m. and Ken Van Druten is at all-faders-go in the front-of-house position at Arco Arena in Sacramento, Calif. Linkin Park has just hit the stage for the band’s final North American show, and everybody is looking forward to a two-month break. Well, everybody except for Van Druten, who is better known by his nickname “Pooch.”

“Tomorrow, I’m flying to Australia to do four shows with Kiss,” Pooch says with a laugh. “Then I’m going to mix Scars on Broadway, which is System of a Down without Serj [Tankian, the band’s singer], at Coachella.”

No break? “Well, there will probably be three weeks in there somewhere,” he answers. Is the pace by design? “Um… I love to work and I’m super lucky in the sense that my phone doesn’t stop ringing and I have a hard time saying no.”

Of course, that’s nothing new for Pooch since he has spent the past dozen or more years bouncing between gigs with Kiss, Limp Bizkit, Beastie Boys, Kid Rock and dozens of other top touring acts. In fact, it was during a Summer Sanitarium tour featuring Metallica, Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park when he first met the band.

Pulling Double Duty

The pace of Linkin Park’s Minutes to Midnight World Tour, which opened in January of 2007 and has dates running through New Year’s 2009, has been tough on both band and crew. Planes, busses and semis have taken them across the States, into Canada, through Europe, down to Australia, and even into China, where Linkin Park played the first ever stadium show in the Communist country.

More than the dates, Pooch is worn a bit because he’s pulling double duty — mixing the live show from FOH and then mixing a live release available for fans that purchase a digital download code at the show.

While that’s a lot of Linkin Park, even for a hardcore fan, Pooch has not yet tired of the gig. “They’ve become one of my favorite clients,” he remarks. “They are really down to earth guys, very organized — each band member has a specific role that they play. So, I don’t have six guys coming in here [during the mixing for the releases] saying, ‘Hey, turn the guitar up. Turn the drums down.’ It’s one guy who is the liaison and that’s Mike Shinoda. He’s the producer of the bunch.”

In fact, Pooch has been relatively free to work his mixing magic since the beginning of the tour. He established that credibility thanks to the collection of Digidesign gear — a Venue D-Profile console, a Pro Tools HD|3 rig and dozens of plug-ins — and the ability to give the band a Virtual Soundcheck.

Virtual Soundcheck

 “The band got to hear themselves after their first sound check that I ever did with them. That’s unusual for any band and especially for Mike Shinoda to be able to come over and listen to individual things, that’s unheard of,” Pooch reports. “There was some discussion about where he thought things should be and we made some changes and went from there. But they haven’t said anything since. They let me do my job and that’s cool. I’ve had lots of bands that don’t let me do my job. There’s a fair amount of trust.”

Not only did the Virtual Sound check enable the band to feel comfortable with Pooch’s work, it confirmed their choice in PAs. “It’s all Adamson,” he states, “and when they heard that Virtual Soundcheck, they heard it through the Adamson stuff. They thought it was amazing and I had to agree with them. It’s a great sounding PA and we are utilizing almost every box that Adamson makes.”

Pooch might not be exaggerating since the PA’s main clusters boast 12 Y18s with four Y10s under the hang. Six flown T21 subs per side as well as two in fill clusters made of four SpekTrix enclosures flank those arrays. Side clusters include 16 Y10s and eight SpekTrix fill out the delay sideline. Bottom end is boosted with four T21s that are stacked on each side of the stage, and four SX18s (a mix from monitors) are put on the stage to give the band a taste of what fans are hearing.

When it comes to monitors, the band is using both Ultimate Ears and Sensaphonics personal monitors. “Chester (lead singer) is on Sensaphonics and everybody else is on Ultimate Ears except for the guitar player who uses only wedges — he is the guy that wears ear plugs and gun muffs to protect his ears,” Pooch reports. The band is also using 16 Adamson M15s. In addition to performance, Pooch has been sold on Adamson’s commitment to service. “It’s unbelievable. Unlike every other vendor, I could call Jesse Adamson on his cell phone at two in the morning and tell him that we need to fix something. That kind of interaction is really cool and I have to say, after traveling the world using different companies that have Adamson, it seems to be the same everywhere we go. That’s unusual, too. You can’t ask for anything more.” Lab.gruppen fP7000 and fP10000 amplifiers, along with XTA 448 processors, power the system. “There’s a lot of technology,” Pooch reports. “One of the coolest things that I’m proud of out there is that from the conversion at my stage racks all the way back to amplifiers prior to speakers, it’s all in AES digital.”

Touring the World
Because the band toured the world, Pooch has run across some “interesting” situations. “The gear is pretty subpar compared to what you’d find elsewhere in the world,” he reports. “We did a show and when they first fired up the PA, which was V-DOSC, one of the sides sounded totally different than the other side. They were trying to sell it to me like, ‘Oh, no, it’s fine. That’s normal.’ Finally, after doing a bunch of [turning knobs] and saying, ‘Hear this? Hear this? Not the same.’ They did whatever they did and fixed it.”
One of the ways he’s insured that his workspace remains consistent is by purchasing his own Profile console and Pro Tools recording rig. “I’ve always been a Pro Tools guy and I got into the whole Digi console thing,” he explains of his choice of gear. “It was like, ‘I love this console and I love the stuff. I get it, I get the plug-ins, I own a bunch of the plug-ins already, so why not just buy it and rent it to the band? I can sell myself as an engineer who comes with his own stuff. Why wouldn’t you want someone who has his own gear?’ It’s worked out pretty well, and if it’s your gear you keep it up nice.”

And, yes, he realizes it was a major purchase. “You’re buying a house,” he admits with a laugh. “Honestly, I saw this as an opportunity. This thing [the Linkin Park tour] was going to go two years, so I thought I could pay a significant amount of it off with this gig.”

A Balancing Act
The Profile and Pro Tools rig is part of the system that makes the recording and mixing of each show possible. In addition to the HD|3 rig that’s recording 60 tracks of audio to a pair of FireWire hard drives, the show is also being recorded on a pair of Tascam X48s for insurance. The FireWire drives are backed up and a week or so after the show Pooch starts working on the mix.

Thanks to Pro Tools, he’s able to fix and edit some of the band’s performances. “If they played a section that was really out that night, we’ll take a piece from another verse and move it,” he explains. “We’ll never use a song from a different show or even a track from a different show and import it. If they didn’t play it somewhere in that song, then we don’t use it. There have been a lot of discussions of whether or not we should fix something and it always comes back to leaving it alone. We really try to make it feel like you’re standing there at the show because that’s what these kids want to buy.”

Balancing the two responsibilities, as well as the tour’s width and breadth, has been a challenge for Pooch. “In a lot of ways out there [during the show] is harder to deal with because you could be giving the greatest left/right in the world, but then you’re competing with the room,” he says. “So, you have to make concessions in your mix for what the room is doing that evening that you don’t have to give in [the studio]. But, things are a bit more microscopic in here and it’s not as forgiving.”

Sound Company:Audio Analysts/Atomic Pro Audio
FOH Engineer: Ken “Pooch” Van Druten
Monitor Engineer: Kevin “Tater “ McCarthy
Assistant Monitor Engineer: Paul White
Crew Chief: John “Boo” Bruey
System Engineer: Brett Stec, Evan McElhinney
PA Technician: Rick Procopio, John Brotherton

House Console: 2 x Digidesign Profile systems 96 input
Monitor Console: 2 x Yamaha PM5D
House Speakers: Adamson Y 18, Y 10, T 21 subs, Spektrix
Monitor Speakers: Adamson M15, SX 18, AA 2 x 18-inch subs
PMS: Sennheiser ew 300 g2 series, Ultimate Ears and Sensaphonics
House Amplifiers: Lab.gruppen, XTA Processors
Monitor Amplifiers: Lab.gruppen, Adamson Processors
Hardwire Mics: Audio Technica, Shure, Audix
Wireless Mics: Audio Technica (Linkin Park)
FOH Equipment: Dolby Lake Processors, Tascam CD Burner, Yamaha O1V