Rival Sons FOH Audio Mix Engineer Neil McDonald

neil mcdonald rival sons

In this video interview from Sweetwater, we talk to Neil McDonald the FOH audio engineer for US rock band Rival Sons. Neil talks about the console he uses, his outboard gear, Ipad control and using the Universal Audio Apollo Twin.

Video text:

hi I’m Mitch Gallagher from Sweetwater

we are coming to you from the Clyde

theater here in Fort Wayne Indiana

there’s a concert tonight featuring

Rival Sons Neil McDonald is here with us

front of house for the band it’s great

to have you here well cheers great happy

yeah you’re over to Sweetwater yesterday

we were it was quite an impressive

building I really enjoyed myself that

was good to go there and Tink around

with all the stuff yeah a few toys to

check out right Auditors exactly can you

back away from them yeah we’ll talk

about that in a second there your new

rig but so tell us a little bit about

what what goes on tell us about a day in

the life you guys are traveling with

your own consoles how does the whole

thing kind of work out well we come in

we get in at 10 load in at 11 and then

we bring all the gear in they bring my

console out here we tip it and then we

proceed to wire and then we go through

and do a line check pretty much and then

we do sound check right that’s it easy

right easy always today a little bit

difficult yeah I had a few uh technical

difficulties today is 50 and a CAT5

issue but we fixed it yeah well let’s

see you’re the master right you figure

all that stuff out I try to be yeah

that’s that’s awesome that’s awesome so

it has to be an advantage to be able to

travel with your own console 100 it

makes your life easier just to be able

to have something to work with uh on a

daily basis so you can build it and then

do your virtual sound check and it’s

it’s it’s definitely an advantage to be

traveling with your own console right

right so you’ve got guitar based drums

lead vocal with the band Yes how many uh

how many lines are you bringing and

keyboards yeah sorry 48 48 lines yes

from the stage yes yeah 48. and how do

you manage all that

well you know it’s uh you know you go

through sections I just go through

sections so vocals uh background vocals

bass guitars Keys drums and then the

effects okay that’s how I sort of manage

it so it’s sections right that’s it

right right 48 seems like a lot Until

you realize there’s two guitar cabinets

each with two mics and you’ve got uh yes

coming in and all the drum mics our

surface is full we’re running 56

channels so all the all the back of all

the returns all the effects and certain

different inserts we have to include

there’s there’s ambient mics there’s

six channels of Ambience and uh

a couple other things we have effects

returns intro returns loops and stuff

like that sure for intros right all adds

up to a lot of channels it does add up

to a channel yeah yeah right right so I

see a couple of pieces of rack gear

behind you there what uh what are you

using the the rack gear for uh this is

Jay’s vocal channel so I have a dynamic

EQ for his input and then I have a

distressor for his output it just helps

smoothen it out without having to do too

much drastic eqa vocal depending to

where his range is I can have it still

sounding nice and fat and full right

nice everything else pretty much taking

place in the console yeah pretty much

yeah everything in the console is uh you

know here so all your facts


and then there’s another

Dynamic EQ that’s a digital one for a j

spare vocal just because of rack’s time

I don’t have enough space to carry

multiple rack pieces right right that’s

it makes for a compact rig so most of

the places you go into the PA is pretty

much all set up it’s all ready to go

racks and stacks are always supplied we

try to get a CAT5 cable to multiple Cat5

cables brought so we don’t have to run

them and that’s it so we we bring just

control and everything else is provided

for us nice nice lets you travel much

lighter much much lighter it’s a busting

trailer it’s not a truck so you want to

try to be as compact as possible and

this is even bigger than normally

normally I’d only have a pro 2C but this

is a Pro 2 so I have the extra eight

faders nice it’s a little confusing


just only comes up with the drums I

still don’t fill it out see I’m always

like left hand is input right hand is

output for me oh there you go right I

noticed you wandering around with the

not wandering around you or purposefully

yeah with your with your iPad as well

yeah I love the iPad because this has

this stuff called mix extender I think

it’s called and I use this just to

control my Center fills because I have

multiple uh I got front fills I have

guitar fills because we have a ISO boxes

on stage I try to try to keep the same

sensation as like an old school concert

where the guitar is ripping people’s

heads off in the front but I try to

control it so that’s what I really

mainly use this for is just to check the

zones so I can walk up and attenuate it

to where I think is comfortable right

yeah yeah how’d you get started uh same

problem stories most guys a band and

nobody knew how to figure out uh the

sound system and then once I started

figuring out this sound system I sort of

like that more than I did playing drums

in the band so uh then I just went from

there from there to there and next you

know I’m here at the Clyde here at the

Clyde yeah exactly so how long have you

been with Rival Sons

12 years now okay

around the world a few times yeah yeah

kind of few places with the band I had

to yeah I’m sure people wonder how do

you get that job how do you end up the

front of house for for Rival Sons do you

submit a resume

most people it’s Word of Mouth yeah it

was myself and the drummer uh went back

we were working with an Atlantic artist

named Joe firstman and that’s where I

started with Miley and really it was uh

I was coming through in one venue and a

Miley saw me and he said he’d been

trying to get a hold of me for a long

time and I guess you know phone numbers

changed blah blah blah blah and then we

ran into each other and it was what oh

you’re here I’ve been trying to get a

hold of you and then I mixed their first

show at the House of Blues on Sunset in

Hollywood and then I just finished doing

a a

singer-songwriter for five years so it

was a welcoming thing to be able to turn

volume up because it was singer

songwriter for five years and it was

like you know sensitive so it was nice

it did it was correct

then ever since then we’ve it’s been a

love affair right right that’s awesome

that’s awesome I mean you get to know

the band they get to know you you guys

get kind of a workflow for how you do

things that’s got to make it easier it

is yeah we’re like brothers we’ve been

in this for 12 years Molly and I it’s

even longer than that so imagine almost

20 years Miley and I’ve been working

with each other right yeah that’s great

yeah so you mentioned it when we were

just getting started but you’ve added a

new wrinkle into the rig here you picked

up an Apollo twin yes universal audio so

what is the idea with adding that into

what you’re doing well this is going to

be mainly used for post we have two two

approaches to this I have

this little zoom camera thing and uh I

take two tracks off my console and then

two tracks off the microphone and then

that’s gonna be coming back like a

session here and that’s something that

we potentially might be doing with

merchandise where we’re gonna quickly

mix it and then potentially with a QR

code or something along those lines sell

it to the audience sure so whatever and

then the other one is we multi-track

and then I take the multi-track bring it

into the Luna and then I can send stems

for the uh artists mainly Jay and Scott

where they can review and pre uh uh

Overlook the performance from the night

before to see what’s going on I’m gonna

review the way the show went exactly if

there’s something that they want to

tweak and that’s the stems of the basics

of vocals drum space blah blah blah and

then I then on the other stuff I will

track 48 tracks and we have a library so

that we do have a show that we feel is

beyond epic or something that we can

review back or come back to and maybe

make a record so that’s what it is right

now and then the Luna is the platform

that we’re using now for post okay and

then this thing is amazing yeah the twin

the twin yeah yeah it’s the twin quad

and I think we’ll eventually get a

satellite with that and then it’s

unbelievable like how you can literally

finish this show so I can finish this

then I can go back to the bus with my

cans and listen to it and do any tweaks

and then present it to the band right

away and if there’s something that we

have to tweak boom and every one of

these guys have a Luna so we can send

files back and forth to each other oh

great really cool yeah that’s awesome it

is awesome I guess you could also do a

virtual sound check you could route

tracks back and forth that way as well

yes so yeah yeah that adds a lot of

capability into the rig isn’t it it does

you know it’s if there’s something if I

had a problem or if there’s something

wasn’t sitting right and I want to go

back I just come out here with my

headphones without disturbing anybody

and I can review and boom boom Going

Back and tweak it it’s usually symbols

and something you know just standing out

that you don’t want to stand out and I

come back and I could just tweak it a

little bit without bugging everybody but

having a PA blast you know right right

well that’s awesome well congratulations

on adding that into the rig oh no I’m

super stoked to really use that to this

potential I’m really excited about that

that’s all awesome yeah man thanks so

much for giving us a tour of the the rig

and telling us how things work pleasure

to meet you pleasure to meet you and I’m

looking forward to the show it’s going

to be fun it’s gonna be an awesome show

right on Cheers and thank you for

joining us at the Clyde theater in Fort

Wayne I’m Mitch Gallagher from


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