Dream Theater FOH engineer Nigel Paul, flanked by guitarist John Petrucci (left) and keyboardist Jordan Rudess.
New York (May 11, 2012)—Dream Theater has been on the road supporting its latest album, A Dramatic Turn Of Events, since last summer. Along for the ride are FOH engineer Nigel Paul and a Clair Global-supplied audio system that includes a Midas Pro9 digital desk.
Paul was an early adopter of the Pro6 when it was introduced in 2008, but for the input-intensive Dream Theater tour, he moved up to the Pro9, which provided him with more I/O capabilities while maintaining the same mix engine. “I’m so glad the Pro9 came out in time for this tour,” he states. “I need every one of the 80 inputs and 8 Aux returns it offers. We use 40 channels for drummer Mike Mangini alone!”
Dream Theater presents a very dynamic show, and Paul takes an active approach to the mix. “This is a very busy show mix-wise and I like to be actively hands-on, so I prefer not to avail myself of the excellent ‘scenes’ features that the console offers,” he says. “I do, however, take the fullest advantage of the POP groups and VCAs to ensure I can have any inputs immediately to hand, in the correct groupings, whenever I need access to them. I appreciate having 10 VCAs instead of the eight found on many other desks, and POP Groups was a very clever Midas idea; infinitely better than the layer approach.”
Paul has the console’s 10 VCAs set up individually as lead vocal, background vocal, guitars, keys, Pro Tools playback, bass, drum kit main, toms/octobans, vocal reverb, and vocal delay. This gives him grouped access to each element of the mix with a single button push. He deploys the six POPulation Groups with a different mindset, geared more towards the show’s functional progression. His current six-pack of POP Groups comprises: all vocals; principal inputs for the acoustic songs; utilities (talkback, pink noise, etc.); all Aux returns; all cymbals and electronic percussion; and show start (CD, iPod, and video playback).
“I use the on-board DSP for most of my effects and dynamics processing, supplemented by just a couple of preferred outboard pieces,” he says. “My analog FOH set-up for Dream Theater used to consist of an XL4 loaded with 12 stereo modules, a 24-channel XL3 sidecar, three racks of dynamics processing and effects, plus a PSU rack. With the Pro9, all I have at FOH is the control surface, one small effects/playback/recording rack, and a work box.” The system’s DL351 and DL451 modular I/O boxes and the DL371 DSP engine are kept on stage, with connection to the Pro9 control surface accomplished via CAT-5e cables.
While Paul likes the desk, turns out he’s not the only one on the tour who feels that way: “The members of Dream Theater are very technically savvy and all about sound quality. Any time one of them has come out to join me for a listen during sound check, they have never failed to comment on how warm and punchy everything sounds. While I’d like to think that my mixing skills have some bearing on this happy state of affairs, it’s also about having the right tools for the job. For me, that’s the Midas Pro Series.”
Having started their 2012 schedule with tours of Europe and the Far East, Dream Theater will be returning to the road with U.S. dates for their “Dramatic Tour of Events” beginning June 15.