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‘Drum and bass is a vital art form’: behind the scenes at Hospitality in the Park

Production Hire provided PAs and lighting for north London drum and bass festival Hospitality in the Park this summer. Simon Duff went to meet the team to find out how they did it...

2017 is the second year Hospital Records and their events brand Hospitality have put on the Hospitality in the Park event. Both years have sold out 10,000 tickets well in advance. In the drum and bass game now for 21 years, Hospital has been home to some of the genre’s top acts, including Netsky, Danny Byrd, Camo & Krooked, and High Contrast.

The Finsbury Park site featured six large festival tents, with stages of varying sizes and smaller outdoor breakout stages. For the main and largest stage, Hospitality, a performance by Roni Size, celebrated the 20th anniversary of his iconic New Forms album. It featured his groundbreaking new audio visual live show, combining live instruments and and state of the art production and 3D effect projection mapping. Size is taking this one man show through 2017, as well as DJing at clubs and other festivals across the globe. Other acts on the main stage included The London Elektricity Big Band, Danny Byrd, Nu Logic, S.P.Y. and Fred V & Grafix.

Production Hire, as they did in 2016, provided all PA and lighting, with audio featuring an array of L-Acoustics and Martin Audio PA, Avid D-Show Profile, Yamaha PM5D and Midas M32 consoles. Responsible for system design on all stages and mixing FOH sound in Hospitality was Bart de Wit, from Production Hire. An expert in festival sound, his other notable mix and design clients includes Creamfields, as well as mix work for Jamie Cullum, Holiday on Ice and system design for Hospitality in the Park 2016.

The PA rig for the Hospitality stage consisted of an L-Acoustics main L/R hang with system design carried out by de Wit on L-Acoustics Soundvison. The L/R hang comprised of 16 L-Acoustics K2, eight per side. Ground stacked subs were twelve L-Acoustics SB28. 

Two L-Acoustics Arcs were used for infill, all driven by 14 L-Acoustics LA8 amps. For stage monitors, the side fill consisted of two Martin Audio WS218X and four L-Acoustics Arcs driven by three Labgruppen PLM2000Q amps. Wedges comprised of 14 Turbosound TFM 560 plus two Turbosound TQ425 driven by six XTA DP224 plus six Full Fat Audio FFA 6004 amps. RF systems deployed included five Sennheiser EW300s G3 IEM mics and four Shure UR4D with UR2 Handhelds fitted with Beta58 capsules.

For FOH mix, an Avid D-Show Profile was used running at 48kHz. Output wise from the Profile to the PA, de Wit opted for L/R, sub and fill outputs sent via Labgruppen LM 44 processing over AES. de Wit explains what he likes about the Profile: “It’s ease of use on an event like this is vital, it really is festival friendly. We have quite a few guest engineers mixing and if they have not used the desk before it really is easy for them to get up and running immediately. Other desks take a bit more time. My favourite reverb on the desk is ReVibe, although I have not had to use it much on HITP. At monitor world mix engineer Jonathan Shaw worked on a Yamaha PM5D-RH V2. Working alongside me as FOH engineer and stage tech was Nico Royan.”

In terms of compression, de Wit explains how he worked at HITP: “For this festival I don’t need to do too much of that. As I am mainly working with DJs and MCs a lot of the source material is already compressed. One of the main things for me is to contain the overall level so I am using the Waves C6 multi-band compressor to take the harshness out of the mix. The multi-band is very useful to keep MCs sitting well in the mix; not pulling out loads but really finding those difficult frequencies and compressing those.”

A notable change for the Hospitality 2017 tent was the use of large drapes hung from the tent’s ceiling in order to lower the overall height of the interior, thus significantly improving the acoustics. de Wit adds: “Sonically it has been a big help and taken away a bit of the harsh frequencies and clatter. Mixing the FOH sound for Roni Size at HIPT was Dave Swallow. He’s a great engineer. His mixes are always solid. I have done a lot of work with him and I have come to expect nothing less than a great mix from him every time.”

Turning to the onstage synth set up, Dave Amso is Roni Size’s stage tech, studio engineer and keyboard player with Reprazent (Size’s live band). He has worked with Roni Size for 25 years, having joined as studio and live tech just after the release of New Forms then working on Size’s second album In The Mode.

Amso has his own studio set-up, running Logic 9.1 and vintage analogue outboard including Urei 1176 and an SSL Mix bus compressor, from which he produces under the name of D Product for Full Cycle Records, Size’s own record label, as well as working as a DJ.

Amso explains the stage set up for Roni Size at Hospitality in the Park: “We are running two Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol 61 keyboards as our MIDI controllers, triggering samples and driving Kontakt samplers on our laptops, working live. There are a couple of Pioneer CDJ 900 decks and effects units going on as well. The show is a combination of live samples and a few loops playing back. But pretty much everything is 100% live. All the samples are played live. If Roni stops playing the music will stop.”

The original New Forms album production recording included the use of Roland 760 samplers, Atari sequencing and ADAT recording.
For archive purposes, as well as for the new one man shows, Size and Amso needed to go back to those original samples in order to transfer them into Pro Tools, in order to be able to work with the sounds and carry out a full digital multitrack archive. Amso also had to re-build a Syquest drive in order to get back to the original Roland 760 album sounds.

For the live show, a Titan Prism Sound Card and a Focusrite Saffire FireWire audio interface is used to send 12 channels from stage to the FOH mix, including kick drums, snares, hi hats, FX, sub bass, top bass, synths and vocals. A complete back up system is also run as the timecode used to synchronise the light box from where Size performs. Size uses his own IEMS, custom made by ACS Custom Moulds.

New Forms has recently been remastered for a 2017 vinyl edition by Stuart Hawkes at Metropolis Mastering for a mid November 2017 release. Amso concludes: “For me, drum and bass is still here, in good shape and a vital art form. It has evolved and gone back. The sound now is almost a new evolved sound. It went for a while to high production values, and now it seems to have come back to where it was using breaks and gritty, more original sounding samples. That is the sound I like, rather than highly polished clinical production.”