Interview with FOH Engineer Ken “Pooch“ Van Druten – Iron Maiden 2023


In this video from EventElevator, Ken “Pooch” van Druten (FOH Audio Engineer – Justin Bieber • Iron Maiden • Jay‑Z • Whitney Houston • Linkin Park • Kiss) unveils intriguing aspects of his current mixing techniques on the DiGiCo SD7 desk as well as his favorite plug-ins during Iron Maiden’s 2023 “Future Past Tour” in Germany.

Interview with FOH Engineer Ken “Pooch“ Van Druten – Iron Maiden 2023

Video text:

You know it was fantastic to go back to work it really was I missed it very much for you know it was almost two years between the the periods and what was strange for me is it split a tour for us here with Iron Maiden Legacy of the Beast stopped and it was supposed to continue on until 2020 and you know we we didn’t do 20 20 and 2021 and then we resumed the same tour in 2022 so it felt like that tour was five years long you know because of the two years that were in the middle of it but it was really great to get back to work you know and then this tour is an all new brand new tour it’s different than Legacy of the Beast it’s the Future

0:01:00.1 –>
Past tour that is what I love about what I do um you know I was a recording engineer and a producer and I worked in studios in Los Angeles in the late 80s and early 90s and you know you don’t get any feedback in Studio but I fell in love with that you know instant gratification that happens when fans are cheering for something you know when you push a guitar solo and you know fans cheer you had a part in that you know even though it’s the guitar player playing um you know uh you pushing that fader and pushing that solo was part of that so yeah it’s exciting you know I did utilize a lot of time at home um mixing some records and mixing some things and working on some plugins that I’d not used before uh just to you know experiment and then you know I was doing a a podcast and actually several podcasts and and so got into that whole world and and uh you know how the sound

0:02:00.1 –>
of that works um but yeah I mean you know this particular tour when I came back there were a couple of analog pieces that I added to this tour that weren’t there previously on the last tour um one was a Neve Master bus converter and the other one was a Sonic Farm cream liner which is both of those things are Analog Devices that just kind of add a little harmonic Distortion to the whole thing and Transformer sound so taking a digital console processing it through some analog stuff to give it some harmonic Distortion those were kind of what I came back from from the uh from the coronavirus we have on the front end of this we use the Neve rmpd8 mic pres which are basically the same Transformer that’s in Neve desks and then it converts it to Dante and sends a signal to our digital consoles so we are utilizing the front end part of our

0:03:01.8 –>
whole thing here is those Neve mic pres which have nice warm um you know resolution and and great harmonic distortion changing the whole front end of your your you know mix is it changes everything I always say that the fundamentals are important right you know the mic Choice mic placement um and then Mike pre and high pass filtering like those are the four things that can make your mix you know be great or not so great and one of those things is the mic pre front end part of that if you have a bad one of those it’s hard to get around you know there’s there’s several digital mic pres out there that sound very very digital it’s gotten a lot better uh in the last five years let’s say most front end of most professional desks sound pretty good but there’s still some out there that sound pretty you know sound pretty uh digital

0:04:02.6 –>
you know and so it’s nice to have some roundness and some harmonic distortion on the front end part of my mix it’s funny you know I own all the equipment here at front house so I rent it to the band and I bought this desk probably eight or seven or eight years ago and then I upgraded it to the quantum engines so this is actually a Q7 with the SD surface and for me it has all the things that I need a great sounding front end great um you know summing um and uh just endless amounts of tools lots of DSP um uh and I’m very fast on it now that I’ve used it for the last eight years or so so when they added the mustard and the chili processing into the desk which came with the quantum that changed a lot I have probably I’d say I don’t know maybe 40 percent of my

0:05:02.2 –>
channels uh have some sort of mustard processing or chili processing on them the chili is the dynamic processing like a dynamic compressor and then the mustard processing is EQ and high pass filtering which do sound different than the traditional SD channel so you can kind of have both they have a lot more harmonic Distortion and a lot more pleasing Distortion the mustard but there’s some things that I want to be clean and that’s what’s great is having the option to use both you know something that has distortion on it and then another input like keys for example I want those to be totally clean I don’t want any harmonic distortion on the front end of that or on the you know on the the output of that even I want them to be totally clean have some harmonic distortion on bass guitar guitars kick drums snare drum and that kind of thing so yeah totally the the processing that they’ve added here is amazing I tend to stick to the plugins

0:06:03.8 –>
that I’ve used over the years for a long time um you know my desert island plug-in is an F6 it’s a dynamic EQ um used that on quite a bit on things I tend to like models of older gear um so there there are some great things that waves have built in their own GUI in their own sound and and even some artist stuff like you know Jack Joseph Twigs drums and that kind of thing sounds great but what I’m used to is like an la2a when I used to mix analog and I’ve you know I’ve been mixing for 30 years now I used to have a rack of la2as so I tend to go that way plug-in wise like I like the mod bottles of what’s there so like on guitars I use the CLA 3A which is based on the la3a on vocals than la2a is always on there and then C6 and F6 those are those are

0:07:02.5 –>
my biggies yeah I don’t even remember like how I did things without an F6 or a C6 you know it’s it’s those tools are are pretty invaluable you know the most important input in your in your rack is vocal right you know people go away walk away and if they didn’t hear the vocal all night long and they didn’t um you know it wasn’t intelligible it wasn’t nice sounding that’s those are the people that are going to say oh it didn’t sound very good now you know guitars bass and drums they’re all important right like you need to have impact with all those things but if the vocal isn’t right you’re done um so some one of the major thing that I do that pushes that vocal forward well there’s a couple things um one is uh on the band bus is a F6 and fed to its side chain is the vocal um and then I Notch out certain

0:08:01. –>
frequencies in that that react to the vocal and they’re in mid side which means that it’s only affecting the center of your mix not affecting anything on the outside so everything is panned a little bit guitars and um you know everything Keys you know overheads drums whatever are panned away from the center so creating this pocket in the band bus where it compresses and sometimes it gets down into 9 DB at 1K let’s say with the relatively wide filter but it’s very fast attack very fast release so you don’t hear it if I took the vocal away or muted it in the PA but sent it to that compressor still you would hear it doing things in the guitars and kind of making them squishy but you don’t hear it when the vocal is there it’s making space for that vocal that really punches the vocal forward so sending sending the

0:09:01.5 –>
vocal side chain to a to and mid side to an F6 that’s that’s always been my trick to get vocals over the top the second thing I use is there’s a Neve Master bus processor in there and I really love there’s a little section in it it’s a compressor and a limiter I don’t use it for as a compressor in the limiter the output side of it has this spreading feature where you can select certain frequencies and either push them forward or back or push them wider or narrower and what I do is take my mid frequencies and spread them pretty wide and then I push my low end forward at you it feels that way so that device makes kind of this roundish mix space and with that compressor in the center doing what I just talked about it opens up the space for that vocal and when the vocal is gone all of

0:10:00.4 –>
that gets pushed forward so it’s you’re feeling like impact of band impact of band and then vocal happens and you’re still hearing all the impact of the van but in the center of the PA is all about making the vocal sound great and so between those two things and it’s it’s super fine line with those this is like me spending a lot of time um with you know virtual playback and and those kind of things to to get it right um so uh yeah it’s it’s between those two things that’s really my trick to getting the vocal out front and that’s what I’m doing here it’s a frequency Notch but it’s only in the center of your mix and it’s not affecting other things too much so it’s fast dip so whenever he’s singing It’s dipping a little bit it kind of makes the mix do this a little bit like get wide when he sings and

0:11:00. –>
it’s just an amazing tool for getting the vocal out front for sure we do a fair amount of festivals and where we don’t use get to use RPA so um I do I would say 40 of the time I’m not on my pa um and that’s uh that’s difficult but it just means that you have to have your mix together for all different kinds of situations I’m blessed with an amazing system engineer his name’s Mike Hackman and a great crew chief named named Tim peeling both of those guys get me to what I need they use smart for instance look at the normal Trace that we do every day and force another type of PA to be in that Trace so I have a starting point that sounds similar to this PA this PA the cohesion we have code 12 and co-10 the 12-inch speaker in this lens to guitars this band has three guitar players it’s just a great box for a rock

0:12:02.5 –>
and roll band and and I you know I actually use it on my pop acts that I do as well you know I do a rap artist named Travis Scott and we use the same thing we just add more subs and it’s just a really really great linear box you know when I’m looking for out of a PA is um from 200 all the way out to 16k let’s say I want it to be linear and let me be the guy that does the mix that changes things within that I don’t necessarily if you’re looking at a smart Trace I don’t want it to be like this you know which are a lot of presets you know they set it like this you know I want it to be this I want to be linear me control the high end and it makes sense to me at coming from being a studio guy right you know near field monitors I want these to be big giant near Fields that’s what I want and just recently I would say in the last

0:13:00.5 –>
six to seven years we’ve gotten to that point where the speakers are really giant you know near field monitors and so I’ve kind of come full circle uh as an engineer you know coming back to what I started with um so it’s been great one of the guitar players switched this year uh to a fractal so we’re kind of coming up in the uh in the equipment World um but yes most of their stuff is older things um even the guy that’s using the fractal is still putting it through a marshall amp so um uh so yes older technology um but great sounding you know what’s coming off the stage is fantastic I just have to make it louder you know uh which which I do the hardest thing about this band is that there is three guitar players that all share the same frequency range um they all play strats they all play through Marshalls they all have that tone you know that that is known for a Stratton a marshall so how do you make

0:14:02. –>
that distinctly you know how do you hear each individual guy and what I do is place them where they are on stage so Davey who’s on stage left or sorry stays right you know he’s pretty panned left then Adrian’s kind of in the middle and Yannick is panned pretty far right that’s the normal sitting place where they are when they solo I have snapshots that bring them to the center uh when they’re done soiling they go back to their spot but keeping them in these three spots really makes it so that you can definitely hear all three guys who can pick them out in the mix and you know we don’t we the side hangs are a flip of the left and right so that the people over here on this side still get Davey even though he’s you know playing over there so that’s how we get around that the hard panning of that well that’s always the question is like

0:15:00.7 –>
well if you hard pan things you know I mean when I say hard pan I’m talking like nine o’clock right like nine nine thirty and and 2 30 you know is is where I place guitars um but you know if we didn’t have that side hanging you know uh that was flipped left and right you would lose a little bit if you were sitting over here from Davey so um that’s why we do that that’s a really great question because they do go from you know 1982 song to a 2022 song you know and they are very different sounding records um what I try to capture is the essence of the song right um so I do thin out some things when they play some of the older songs that are in the 80s I make them a little bit thinner because that’s how the record sounds compared to now not much um it’s my interpretation live

0:16:01.5 –>
interpretation of the record but you have to capture the things you know I’m a fan of Iron Maiden So I listened to those records when I was a kid you know um 1982 you know I was 14 years old and so I you know listened to those records and I know them intensely and I also know what parts of those things fans enjoy and so if it’s a guitar solo for instance you know it’s iconic Adrian guitar solo um you know I make sure that that is big proud and loud you know and it may not sound exactly like the record but it has the essence of the record and therefore you know able to um make the fans happy you know but it is a fine line trying to walk that you know between then and now you know uh it’s tough um you know there are uh nine Toms um and so that’s nine open microphones

0:17:01.5 –>
you know all pointing at stuff you know at each other pointing at symbols you know all those kind of things so um what I did when I showed up um to mix this band in 2018 was put Triggers on all of the toms and the triggers are actually triggering the opening of gates they don’t trigger any sounds the actual sound is the real Acoustic sound of the drummer of the drum itself of the Tom itself um so the the trigger itself is just triggering the opening of a gate um and what that does is kind of keep all those Toms closed so all those microphones are not open um until it’s actually struck and by having the trigger it actually is a lot cleaner than trying to use a gate and even trying to use um you know some high pass and low pass filtering on the gate to try to find the center of that a trigger seems to work better than that it just it it only

0:18:01.2 –>
opens when you strike that Tom um and so that alone eliminated nine microphones right off the bat which is great because now I can build you know kick snare hat and overheads um uh to be the focus of the kit and when the toms come in they’re big loud and proud because I can turn the microphone up now that I’ve I’ve you know eliminated them in the general playing time um but um you know they are set pretty loose though you know there are definitely moments where he’ll hit a Tom and it’ll open the gate next to the the next Tom next to it um and that is so that when he plays dynamically you know when he’s when he’s really whacking it or he’s just barely touching it I want that gate to open I want it to be to feel good with Dynamics you know you can’t just have the gate only open when it’s when he’s really whacking it

0:19:00.4 –>
um and so that too takes a lot of time a lot of finesse with virtual playback um spending hours you know listening to the same Tom roll over and over just you know try and fine-tuning little little uh little things to get it to sound good so um the other thing is my choice you know for all the drums um my overheads are a big part of my drum sound and those are the Mojave 201 fets there’s just I can’t it’s it’s hard to describe I tell Engineers all the time it’s like um something about that microphone it’s the the it captures the drum kit it captures the symbols it captures all the stuff that I want and doesn’t make it harsh or any of those things uh which you know I I like 414s but they tend to be a little bit harsh with you know symbols and that kind of stuff so anyway I’ve found with the Mojave um it just you know I can I can capture the whole drum kit in that overhead sense

0:20:01. –>
um so yeah that’s drums I’ve worked with this same monitor engineer for the last 20 years we’ve done probably 15 or 20 bands together major bands um we’re kind of like an old married couple uh his name’s Kevin Tater McCarthy and he’s amazing monitor engineer we are um we are so in sync with each other we don’t even talk to each other during the day we we know when this when he’s gonna check his monitors he knows when I’m gonna check my stuff we we just function like that we function like like a couple honestly um you know we know what the other one is going to do um and uh you know it’s a really great experience uh to keep working with him so we do things we share racks so there’s only one stage rack up there um we make decisions together about microphones and their placement um so it is it is not a separate thing

0:21:01.3 –>
we are definitely working together as a team I think each guy has a different thing you know the guitar players are all on ears so they have their own mix um you know the uh you know Steve Harris is uh the only guy that doesn’t like wear earplugs or anything so much of the stage is set for his mix um uh Bruce uh wears earplugs always has so that he can hear you know his chest and his his his gut from the inside so he wears earplugs uh and then uh with loud wedges uh with his vocal loud wedges um and he’s done that for you know since he’s been in the band uh and it works well for him so yeah other than that I’m not too sure about what’s going on out there I’m not a I’m not a monitor guy this band treats me with great respect um with great honor with great um teamwork when we do rehearsals we spend up to a month in rehearsals

0:22:01.5 –>
sometimes three weeks three to four weeks of rehearsals before every leg every year there’s lots of collaboration and I love it they come in they say oh you know I like that Park can you make it you know brighter you can make it you know whatever so there’s this um back and forth and respect between each other that is hard to find that’s a hard thing to find with with bands um so you know I’ve said this before on other interviews you know I’ll be I’ll stay here as long as they’ll have me um they’re they treat me with great respect and I love mixing them there’s moments that I’m transported back to being 15 years old um you know in my bedroom listening to an Iron Maiden record you know I’m sitting here mixing going man you know this is I am blessed to be in this situation to work with a band that I was a fan of when I was a kid um you know I’ve had an amazing life we did a YouTube channel called Pooch and

0:23:00.6 –>
Ray bold so go search that in YouTube um it’s during the coveted times me and another from the house engineer named Chris raybold um started having video conferences and we we basically we just taped them and threw them up there and said see if people would enjoy and it’s kind of turned into a thing it’s been it’s been really great some people have said that they’ve really enjoyed it so if you haven’t found that yet go find that we did another thing called wrong end of the snake which was Tater and I uh that’s another YouTube thing uh interviewing stars like we interviewed Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park and uh that was another kind of project during the times I got a master class if you’re into that you know you can just search for you know Pooch and master class and find that and then you know I constantly love giving back to the community so check out my Instagram check out my Facebook I try to post things there as much as I can.

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