Red Hot Chili Peppers – Dave Rat FOH Sound Engineer

Live Sound Mixing

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Dave Rat FOH Engineer:

Dave Rat never wanted to be a sound engineer for bands and preferred to design and build loudspeakers – and now he is on the desk most of the time. In addition to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, he also supervised groundbreaking bands such as Rage Against The Machine, Nirvana and Offspring.

Two things immediately catch your eye when you step into Dave Rat’s FoH: the time-honored Midas Heritage 3000 analogue is the first, the second their position: Dave Rat mixes to the side, so the desk is turned 90 degrees.

He wants to have nothing between himself and the band if possible in order to fulfill his personal job definition as best he can: to connect the band with the audience. No desk either.

The sound system comes from L-Acoustics. Dave Rat has also developed speakers for EAW, so he is by no means married to a brand. On the brown wood from France, he appreciates the worldwide availability and the consistency of the material across the loudspeakers.

In the video we get a detailed insight into his siderack and his general way of working. For example, he thinks desk lamps are superfluous because he doesn’t label the channels anyway – “a guitarist can play without looking at his instrument, why shouldn’t I be able to do the same on the desk?”

Red Hot Chili Peppers Sound Engineer – Dave Rat 2016 Set up

Check out these Sound Engineering jokes, puns and memes


0:00:00.1 –>
I’ve worked with quite a few bands over the years with Chili Peppers I’ve chosen to stay with them for many reasons one of them being there honestly and truly good people which is really I really really love them as friends and good people and in addition to that they love to play music and they play well I started with them on blood sugar sex

0:01:00.9 –>
Magik tour in 91 the first gig I remember doing was in Hawaii at a place called Pink’s garage it was probably 300 people in a actual garage with roll-up doors and a whole turbo sound and that’s two of us at EMS for rig in the corner there yeah they’ve gone from clubs large clubs two stadiums I guess big arenas yeah big as it gets I never wanted to be a sound engineer really what I’d like to do is design speaker cabinets and come up with an idea and make it you know be real think of a think of an application and then

0:02:00.9 –>
come up solve the problems one of the time solving complex problems is really what I enjoy doing like fixing the coffee machine and then I would build speakers and rent them out to make money to design and build more so the whole I learned to do sound in order to maintain the rental side of things a bad would hire us or a event would hire so I’d Alert how to I didn’t know how to mix and he had the sound man engineering sound engineering thing is more of a side effect of what I really wanted to do or what I like to do and I like doing this to this one first of all and most importantly if you turn and look the other way look at this we got nothing between me and the band

0:03:01. –>
just barricade so I can during the show I can walk up to the barricade and actually stand as if I’m an audience member rather than being a sound engineer that has this large or electronic surface in front of me I find the console and the equipment to be that’s not the reason I’m here this is the reason I’m here is to connect the artists with the audience and this is the tools and I’m using in order to do so but the primary focus is connecting the artist with the audience so taking the console out from between me and the artist between me and the artist and being able to enjoy or observe the show more as an audience member is really important to me so that’s why I set up sideways I also don’t use any board lights at all I don’t label the console because if I

0:04:00.8 –>
don’t have any light I can’t see the labels anyway and if I can’t remember where things are I wrote the mic chart I know where things are the guitar player can play an instrument without looking at their hands I can mix the show without looking at the board got a Midas H 3000 analog I choose analog big analog console because for several reasons one I’ve been mixing on analog boards for 30 years now I’m probably a relatively decent analog engineer and if I switch to a digital engineering I’d probably be a fairly low level digital mixing engineer and I don’t get paid to be low level so I might as well stick with what I’m good at off to take a pay cut right more seriously switching over would be a

0:05:02.8 –>
exercise or an endeavor which I’d be willing to do if I had significant advantages to be gained from it the I don’t really need more than the input structure I’ve got here I don’t need 64 128 inputs for a four-piece rock band or six pieces that the other two members I like I look at the setup as a like driving a car you’re in the cockpit of the car that’s why I turn off the board lights it’s all dark all you see is the cockpit and then you got your primary focus the artist and the audience is the road in front and the obstacles and I don’t want I don’t want to be distracted by this stuff and I want to be able to see everything at once you know in a car you speedometer you got your odometer you’ve got your car we got all the

0:06:00.9 –>
information that you need in order to navigate readily available and with this setup I can stand here I can look down I can see in just a glance I can see what every single channel is doing I can see what the meters are are are on every channel I’ve got all my compressors and gate clustered together and logical groups so I can look at the compressor set and vocal and know what’s in limiting what’s not what’s gating what’s not what I’ve done with a house EQ what the analyzer is doing all that information is instantly of it available to me without scrolling through pages and losing distraction and focus from the primary job which is connecting the artist with the audience here what a kick kick snare snare hat rack floor floor ride overhead overhead second

0:07:01.9 –>
snare kung timbale or no roto tom and do I forget what those guys are roto Tom and kettledrum that brings us up to here which is bass bass bass for guitar lines three vocal lines and a vocoder line so there’s 24 but of this there’s a stereo channel and a stereo channel so there’s 26 inputs is my primary we’ve got another these are effects synthesizer 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 probably another 14 probably thirty eight inputs total coming off the stage that I’m using I try to be very conservative with mic inputs we don’t I don’t like to have a

0:08:02.4 –>
lot of open mics on stage I’d rather have as few as possible very specifically placed one of the biggest issues I run into is room sound getting into the mics and then being reified by these speakers which makes everything sound far away I really want to get an up-close and distinct sound I’ll give you a full runner first of all we’ll start with importance analyzer this is an old DB xrt a1 love this analyzer it’s um it’s got a little problem here I’d fixed it with some tape but it’s the I like it that’s fast I mean this thing is it is one of the few analyzers where what I see and what I hear correlate

0:09:01.8 –>
very well it’s got a 60 DB window so I can see a very wide range dynamic range at any given time the analyzers that have different formats that are narrow and long I feel don’t give inaccurate visual of what’s going on this next thing is a stereo third octave EQ Brooke siren and that’s my main house EQ this is left over from the last one I’ve made these faders on a 3d printer these fader links so that you can control left and right at the same time these two mark 250 and 2.5 K so in the dark without looking I can see that these are actually glow-in-the-dark prints I can’t find the light colored one I can count out and EQ this while watching the band without losing focus on what I’m listening to this is my what I use a system EQ I like to have almost all my

0:10:00.8 –>
akyüz available so it’s my RC p10 so what I’ll do is this EQ here is what I’ll use during the show to compensate for temperature changes people coming and things that occur during the show this is where I put most of the EQ of how I’m tuning the system to sound how I want it to sound and I’m not doing a lot on that so once the show starts oh and a mess with this one yeah the CP 10 is a great sounding EQ by the way it just it’s just very smooth and non intrusive this is a lot more drastic and when you cut something here it’s very audible when you do it here it’s very I don’t know musical sounding uh when subs on an August and became a popular thing in the late 70s early 80s when they first started showing up the tendency was to go from stereo subs on the main PA to

0:11:00.1 –>
mono subs on a single augs sent and I believe that was a huge misstep or error because when you have two sub sources reproducing exactly the same sound it maximizes interference power ally and numerous issues if you can differentiate it you can make the left sub have different sounds going into it than the right sub it will minimize this comb filtering at low frequencies that causes all these problems for us so what I do is I actually run stereo subs on an ox and so this is subwoofer left EQ and then subwoofer right EQ and then I send different things to the subs on the left and right so maybe kick one mic will go to the sub left and kick to Michael go to the sub right bass di will go to sub left and bass dirty di and the mic dirty D I’ll go sub right the mic will go to sub left trying to alter and make sure

0:12:00.3 –>
the same thing isn’t sent to both sub things as much subsets as both as much as possible this here is an analogue crossover and it’s inserted on the subs left and subs right and what this does it gives me an active real-time control over the top frequency the low-pass filter of the subwoofer so I can raise these up and run the subs up high or drop this down so I have a manual control over the transition from the subs to the main PA and I’ll change that from song to song a few times through the set or just tuned at the beginning of the night and these are subwoofer left and subwoofer right compressors I introduce additional compressors and it compresses in addition to the ones that are already in the processors and this is to soften the overload when they really hit the subs hard I might I don’t want them to get as loud as they can and

0:13:01.6 –>
stop I want them to get fairly loud and slow down a bit this is a processor subprocessor that I’m not using because we lost a cable to it lost the power supply to it I’ll get that running at some point so talk about at some other day sub harmonic synthesizer there’s an old DB X 120 X D s an awesome synthesizer and I use this occasionally throughout the show to highlight some sub harmonics of fleas bass wig spare EQ for outdoor festivals and sides to run delay clusters or other ancillary gear and a there another spare EQ there that replaces the CP 10 for the delays or just a utility delay over here we’ve got my favorite metering system it’s a duros 1200 B and it actually has every led is

0:14:04.8 –>
a single DB of resolution and it overlays not only the average volume but there’s a peak volume at the same time so it gives you a really accurate visual of my left to right levels as well as the differential between the average level in the peak level so the more compression I use as that differential will drop and the less compression it will expand also this got a wonderful feature is it’s got a sum and difference feature where I can hook up to the PFL bus so I can pfl something on the left and something on the right and this will tell me the sum of those two signals and this will tell me the difference of those two signals that helps with trying to like I talked about before send different signal to the left sub and right sub I try and do that with the main P as well I try and send slightly different versions to each side and as

0:15:00.3 –>
few identical things as possible to both so I really exceptional vocals I want everything sent to the left and right to have a significant amount of difference between the signals I use to effects during the show this is the PCM 60 reverb my favorite reverb and this does my snare drum all the toms and all the vocal reverbs as well as I use it as a distortion unit for one or two songs if they play them it’s got a great overloaded sound you can take this unit turn the input up all the way and turn it to dry and just overload this front end turn up the send to it very hot overload the front end it gives a real thick distorted sound fuzz type sound secret trick to using these things if you clip

0:16:00.1 –>
the input when you’re using it on a snare drum that distortion that this thing has that nice fuzzy distortion will add some crunch to the snare drum reverb and give you a much more interesting reverb sound that’s the way you get the right in my opinion that’s how you get these things sounding right this here does all the rest of the effects it’s I like it because I can punch this thing I can punch programs that I want program three enter auto pan or so auto pan or I’d be using during blood sugar sex Magik on the guitar phaser so this will do flanger reverb out vocals stereo flange on vocals phaser I have one big phase effect on a song fuzz higher ground as all my delays for vocals so I’ll just punch in and out various sense I don’t like to have all these effects piled on I think a lot of shows I’ve been to have the engineers get a little more excited about creating

0:17:02.6 –>
their mark on the band and in turn create a distraction from the experience compressors um what I do one thing that I do that is really important to me in the way that I like to mix is I put compressors on all the subgroups and so I use a stereo compressor on the vocal subgroup I’ve chosen this fatso jr. to get some warmth to the sound when the vocals are louder they tend to get a little edgy and softer harder to make out so rather than EQ them duller and then I can’t hear him when he sings soft using this unit with the buss compression compressing and the warp with the warmth set at four I’m able to soften the harshness of the vocals when he sings loud and it does it works really well stereo Bobo subgroup stereo guitar

0:18:00. –>
subgroup and stereo bass subgroup stereo kick snare stereo toms stereo round things made out of metal stereo keyboards and piano and these I believe is I don’t really know what those are doing I forgot I think they’re like cleveo Josh’s second vocal and some one of the keyboard lines and one of the bass lines maybe two of the bass lines but I don’t use those very much so that these I use these DPR 404s Brook sirens because they’re high-density since I’m using 16 comps here I don’t want the rack to be giant I want to be able to look over and see everything and one thing that I do look for in a compressed and a compressor is I want to see that one first led at 1 dB not 3 DB like the BPR 4:02 has that 1 DB so that 3d become 3 DB 3 DB of

0:19:03.5 –>
compression is significant and I if I have 2.5 DB and it’s not lighting up that light that’s audible but not visible and that’s annoying to me this here is on Anthony’s channel dedicated to his vocal this is on josh’s channel dedicated to his main vocal we’ve got two vocal mics for Josh I don’t remember what these are either I’d have to ask Jim haven’t used him in a while okay down here we’ve got gates if top to a stereo gates dn5 10 Clarke technics it’s interesting I like the Clarke for the gates not a big fan of the Brooke siren gates but I like the Brooke siren for the comps not a big fan of the Clarke comps because of the metering on the Clarks stereo gate

0:20:02.2 –>
nothing too special about it this is kick kick snare snare and then I went to the quad version for a rack floor floor snare – and one of these is a tip one of these is the kettle drum and some other bits on a roto Tom again I don’t really mess with those too much this one’s not being used all right that’s the O and then we got a stereo recorder we record everything to sd card just a reference but there’s another console back there with Jason that records multitrack for everything sound system for this tour I’m doing the same almost exactly the same as last two or I’ve got a L acoustics k1 rig what have we change mainly we went from k1 and last year we had DV das Corcyra

0:21:04.8 –>
underneath Kara underneath the k1 and this tour we’ve gone to k2 so main k1 bananas k2 underneath k2 side hangs and then Kara as our secondary side hangs three hangs per side no Center cluster this tour because we have a new dynamic moving lighting rig that Scott put together so we’ve switched that to a couple of arcs on each side behind the PA shooting towards the middle one of the advantages is this dynamic lighting rig because it actually is a narrower width than last time so the main clusters are closer together which helped me out and I was able to get away without the center cluster and cover from the arcs in that middle area and having the arcs there is kind of nice because now they’re at the same time rather than in a different time frame than the main clusters subwoofers we’ve got KS 2822 blocks at

0:22:07.9 –>
12 on each side underneath some aluminum stage platform so they actually act as stage extension / risers so that the band can go out on them and then we’ve got four sets of three across the front another 12 across the front totaling 36 KS 28 I can’t tell you how many of the other boxes I got there forgot with the subs I’m trying to create two single point sources rather than a blurry line you know having these time these simulated arcs time delayed arcs to cover a room it creates this like indefinite sub location and I much rather have control over I want to be

0:23:00.5 –>
able to put something sub left put something sub right have distinct sources and then deal with the challenge of minimizing the interaction between the two either by offsetting volume to one side and having the other side a bit louder of the same signal or altering the signals between or both and then and so what we’ve done is set up a cardioid or not cardioid array and n fly array with the three subs stacked up pointing backwards as our primary zero millisecond source and then three arrays set up in a arc in front or modified arc in front that are time delayed to project the sound forward this also gives me control by altering the time delays of those front-facing subs to alter the dispersion and get more energy to the sides or to focus more energy forward depending on the shape of the room it’s a little awkward having it’s a

0:24:00.2 –>
little awkward having 3 subs pointed backwards maybe 5 feet from the monitor engineer he’s literally looking at the front of a stack of 618 but because of the NFI array the volume levels they are manageable this also gives me the ability to minimize the amount of sub on stage we’ve got four stacks of three set up in cardioid or in fire l acoustic setup with the subs reversed every one of three super versatile the clusters and those are turned down in volume and timed in such a way so that they mainly just fill in the front middle area without being too destructive to the far field or somewhat helpful in the far field and also cancel out some of the sub sound on stage in the front and center for anthony because too much low end on stage is an issue with almost every band I’ve worked with the reason I

0:25:00.2 –>
chose a logistics there’s a lot of good rigs out there I’ve mixed on just about every major large format sound system at a festival or an arena the one of the what I’m looking for in a sound system especially while on tour is worldwide consistency I want to be able to have as little as few variables as I possibly can and I want to establish that baseline as soon as possible l acoustics systems not only are available on all the continents and accessible in almost every medium to major market but also the product line consistency I keep you get a a Kara rig or k2 k1 or V das rig the sound of those various systems is more similar than any

0:26:02.6 –>
other vendor that I’ve worked with so my whole mixing setup and style is based on first taking what the artist is doing working with the text and getting the exact same sound to come offstage everyday like a CD just playing a CD I’ve got nearly identical sounds coming into these I almost never change any of the e cues and the channels they get set up in the first few days a tour and they just stay the gain stay the eq stay everything stays is what comes out of this console is the same every day within very minor fluctuation so then it comes into the sound system the sound system sounds the same every day because it’s built into the processor the main variables are the venue and the temperature of the venue those are the things that are changing the venue’s changing from show to show or city to city and then the once we get into a

0:27:01.3 –>
city the temperature of the venue is changing throughout the night actively for me those those are the two main things as far as the system is concerned Jim and the erotic will come in I’ll tune the system they’ll set the delay times to make sure that the various arrays are working together well and have minimum amounts of Oh timing issues where they overlap and they’ll address any major anomalies that they measure in the system response but not a lot very very minor changes in the processor because I I really want to see everything here I will this EQ here stays relatively the same I the filters stay almost the same I might if a venues low mid heavy I’ll drop you know down a couple of these all kind of alter those preset settings almost all of my work is

0:28:03.3 –>
done here during the show for the venue like and also bubble the familiarity with the venue I can walk into a venue I know just from them moving cases around the frequencies I’m hearing resonate I can look at the size of a room like this and see that we’re going to add a resonance in like the 160 to 180 125 to 180 region probably about 160 for a room of this size when they get bigger that frequency drops when they get smaller it raises up and I can see it’s fairly soft and not hearing a lot of reflection so I’m not going to have as much issue in this 2.5 2k to 4k region that I would in a harder sounding room almost all the venues were sold out with chilli peppers so that softens the absorption of the with the people gives me a good baseline



0:00:00.1 –>
you’ve seen hundreds of thousands of front of house engineers of system techs from probably the beginning of their career to the middle of their career yeah what are some of the most common mistakes those people are making what are some of the indicators of success that you see in those people the early mistakes the early uh stumbling blocks that some engineers never escaped from is almost identical to the stumbling blocks that some people never escaped from of someone learning to drive a car and you don’t necessarily need to escape from them but when someone you know that is excited about driving um really into cars when they get their first car you’re riding with the 16 year old dude every screen light is the beginning of the race and every red light is a screeching stop right it says how fast can i go every

0:01:00.4 –>
opportunity to step on the gas well that’s pretty much the young sound i would i don’t want to be just not everyone but there’s definitely a group where it’s the excitement of the kick drum is the excitement of the gas pedal and early young engineers you can tell them because the k it’s it’s basically a kick drum with filler instruments around it and some vocals hidden back in the back there and then the other inexperience is inconsistency with a young engineer will definitely not have every show will sound different so getting the mix and balance is one thing and getting the mix consistent another so an experience a world-class engineer will have those two things mastered they’ll have to mix and balance determining what balance is it different for every band a different for many many factors and but having an imbalance for that

0:02:00 –>
scenario that situation that application and the other is that they’ll have consistency worldwide consistency no matter where you put this engineer um he can or she can make that band sound very similar and grab the specific sound they’re looking for for that album or for that song along with that it’s like somebody learn drinking for the first time too you know you get someone who’s early on they drink they drink way too much and they get a huge hangover and they screw everything up that’s like you know again young inexperienced and maybe the experience engineers like or the experience experienced sound human is it’s okay that kick drum power may be there in the system and that base energy and that volume may be there but they don’t have to have it turned on all the time in your face they might give you a little taste of it right at the beginning of the show and then the song a certain song might come in they give you another taste of something else and then

0:03:00.2 –>
later on in the show they give you a bit more and then for the encore they give it all to you so you got this build up it’s like a good book where you you lay the stage and then you build it up to a crescendo or a culmination um having that patience and that foresight to look through the entire show and build a volume strategy a frequency strategy and anticipation being able to do that with respect to sound limits with respect to the age of the audience the type of artist that you’re working for the desires of the management the desires of the band and your personal preference triangulating all that into a consistent mix that’s where the real experience is yeah yeah i think that you’re dead on with the car example because honestly you don’t have control of that car in the beginning it’s like you know a stop sign okay we’re on the highway now i got to get there and in my experience that’s how mixing my first few shows was especially in the 15-minute

0:04:00 –>
changeover 15-minute sound check situation that you’re in in the beginning right you’re just trying to put fires out essentially like what is that something feeding back you know that that bass sounds terrible and so you’re not really thinking long term through the set you’re just thinking right now i’ve got to get this to sound okay over time right you can get it to sound okay not only that but you can plan ahead and hold something back you don’t have to make it as good as you can right now that’s the key is to be able to have so much do you have enough experience to plan ahead and as a young engineer learning that as early as possible learning that how much energy do i have available how much gas do i have my car how much power is available how am i going to use it to you know drive down a residential street or am i going to wait until i got to pass a car or somebody you know i get on the freeway using things in the right place and time is wise and helpful

Other Engineers

Behind the Live Sound of Coldplay with Daniel Green

Mixing Maroon 5 with Jim Ebdon