By Clive Young
New York, NY (November 28, 2005)--Brian Setzer has taken on many roles over the years, from point man for Rockabilly revivalists The Stray Cats, to Swing impresario with the Brian Setzer Orchestra (BSO). These days, however, he's something akin to a musical Santa Claus, making the rounds every holiday season to spread cheer and good tidings, not to mention soaring guitar solos and jaunty big band blasts, on the BSO's annual Christmas Extravaganza tour.
Keeping all that on-stage energy focused is FOH engineer, Jon Ostrin, working with control gear from Schubert Systems Group (N. Hollywood, CA). "I take into account Brian's approach, which is that it's really a three-piece rockabilly band--the drums, upright bass and his guitar," said Ostrin, who mixes the show on a Yamaha PM5000. "I'm taking that three-piece band and making that an entity as the core of the mix."
Ostrin spent the summer of 2004 mixing Van Halen--essentially a power trio and a singer--but mixing Setzer's core three-piece band is a different effort altogether, he explained: "You don't go for that same kick drum sound you would with a rock band; you want more of the thud and the punch from the kick, and let the bass define the notes because they're doing a lot of stuff together."
That interaction, he noted, is key to the band's sound: "Starting with the drums, it's a double kick, rack tom and two floor toms. Bernie Dressel, the drummer, is really into that room sound drum kit and the rockabilly sound. Then there's another thing I had to learn, which is that in Rockabilly, the slap attack of an upright bass is really a key element. We have two pickups on it, so I take a stereo cable, splitting them so that I get each pickup on a separate input and then I take a combined output of both. I also have the output of the amplifier and an output of a combiner he has, plus a separate line for the slap, so I've got plenty of options to get the power of the upright."
For guitar enthusiasts, however, all that's mere window-dressing to the main attraction--Setzer's sizzling fret runs. Ostrin uses standard Shure SM57 and KSM32s to capture the guitars, and SM58s for the vocals. "I always keep Brian's guitar in context because he's just an amazing player," said Ostrin. "Overall, I don't have a lot of effects. I have a delay on his vocals--the old Elvis delay, a 170-175 millisecond little slap. I've got an Eventide H3000 Harmonizer for the girls and the background vocals, little bit of verb on the drums if I need it, little bit on his voice, and that's it."
Currently barnstorming across the U.S. through December 23, the Christmas Extravaganza offers up Stray Cats chestnuts and BSO standards mixed in with holiday favorites, including a ya-gotta-hear-it-to-believe-it rendition of "The Nutcracker Suite." For Ostrin, however, it's an opportunity to help spread a little cheer: "My aim is to take that big band sound and really make you feel it--not like a hard rock concert, but to where it gets you up on your feet and dancing!"
For the full version of this article, see the December issue of Pro Sound News.
Schubert Systems Group
By Clive Young