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Hatt’s off to the monitor engineer

Paul Hatt runs PA hire company CS Audio and has been working monitors since the beginning of his career in music. Paul Watson talks to him about falling back into the industry just after dropping out(!) and the evolution of his role at the side of the stage...

Paul Hatt is managing director of CS Audio, a family run PA company originally set up by his Dad in the 1970s. Hatt fell into the industry after dropping out of college and ended up landing a job with Super Furry Animals, which took him out on the road for several years. Rather than working FOH, Hatt’s forte is at monitor position – a role that, he says, has evolved dramatically over the last decade. Paul Watson reports… CS Audio is a real family affair then? Yeah. My dad was an engineer in the 70s and started a PA company . He worked for lots of different people back in the day, and then a little later on, I decided to study pro audio systems – because I was fascinated by what my Dad did – then, I dropped out and got a job with a band! [Laughs] Which, ironically, is what got you a foot in to the music industry, right? Yes. I met the keyboard player with Super Furry Animals. I’d developed the skills to work FOH and monitors, and I ended up spending four years or so on the road with them. My Dad was more middle-of-the-road, and I was always into the rockier side of things. The tour with Super Furry Animals is how I ended up making many of the contacts I have today. And you’ve stuck with monitors, haven’t you? Never been tempted by FOH? To be honest, I found I got more and more out of doing monitors. Often when people start out in this industry, they’re geared for FOH; and no one wanted to do monitors at the time, so I decided to really work hard at it – and now it’s my forte. How has the role changed over the last ten years? It’s more fun, I can tell you that! But yeah, in-ear monitors have made it all a bit more grown up, I guess. It’s now a more controlled and creative environment – a far cry from a stage full of wedges. I knew I’d always stick with monitors once the system technology really kicked in. As an example of the transition, nine years or so, at the beginning of my stint, I’d have 16 wedges on stage and a huge analogue desk – and towards the end of last year it was a small digital console and a rack of stereo ears instead. That’s a technology shift! It certainly is. Which IEMs do you use? I have always used Ultimate Ears UE5s for moulds, and Sennheiser G2s for years now. It’ll be G3s with the advent of Channel 38, of course. Sennheiser gear is very reliable – the G2s are solid, robust units; and they sound good too. They’re also familiar to everyone. What’s your choice of console? I’ve always been a Soundcraft Vi6 user, and I invested in a Vi1, which is just fantastic. I’m actually hoping to get another soon. I’ve actually used it on all kinds of stuff – a load of bands. And it’s small enogh to get on the trailer with the backline. We used it on a recent Liza Minelli tour, and it had a few good outings at some of this year’s festivals: Glastonbury and The Big Chill, for example. The Vis are the only digital consoles where I’ve genuinely felt that the technology can help you; you’re not tripping over menus, it’s all in front of you, intuitively laid out. I’m also a fan of the mic pre-amps too; they’re much closer to analogue than any other digital desk. The other thing with the Vi1 of course is that it weighs nothing – and it’s sonically pretty much identical to the Vi6. And on the hire side, what kind of clients do you work with? I get a big kick from the hire side, actually. A lot of our niche is classical stuff – we’ve recently worked with Hayley Westenra and Blake. Then there’s been Neil Sedaka, and The Soldiers – we did a show for them at the Royal Albert Hall. And what’s your main PA system? I use Opus gear – always been a fan of it; and I also have a number of KV2 boxes for general purpose. I am in the process of looking at line arrays too – we have a fairly major tour in the new year, but I haven’t made a commitment as yet. Would that be as a replacement to your current system? No, because I don’t believe there’s one box that does everything. Many company clients like to use old school point source boxes, and I think it’s nice to keep something at such a size and method of working. Investing in a line array would be adding to the existing inventory. So what’s your career highlight to date? Good question – there have been too many to mention! Though, I have to say headlining the second stage at Glastonbury with Groove Armada was pretty special. It was an incredible gig and they played brilliantly. Any nightmares along the way? Hmm… Let’s just say I’ve been to a couple of very curious venues in Spain and Italy that will remain unnamed, with particularly dodgy electrics…!