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Snow Patrol tours latest album with SSL L550 console

Matt West is the FOH engineer for the tour

Matt West at FOH. Photo by Bradley Quinn.

Snow Patrol recently set off on a UK tour – which included two performances at London’s Royal Albert Hall – for their latest album, Reworked, using an SSL L550 console.

The Northern Irish-Scottish rock band formed in 1994 and Reworked is their eighth studio album. It celebrates their 25th anniversary with reimagined old tracks as well as three new songs.

Matt West, the tour’s FOH engineer, commented: “It’s a 14-piece band and a very open, live stage; the band has reworked songs to a certain extent, so it’s a new take, with new instruments on already fantastic songs. Everyone’s got a vocal mic, and the guys are all on in-ears, as we’re keeping things as quiet as possible on stage.”

West was happy with the choice of SSL’s L550 console for the tour. “I knew if SSL was going to put out a live range of consoles, they would capture the trust of the old school analogue vibe. Once upon a time, you’d do everything you could just to save up to buy one preamp and record everything through it,” he said. “So I looked at what SSL was doing, saw that the L550 had a big screen and big buttons, and being a big-fingered person, little buttons are ineffective for me, so it looked very interesting straight away. I spent a few days just mixing on the board, and I just kind of fell in love with it.”

West appreciates that he doesn’t need to add any plugins when using the SSL console. “I see lots of people using plugins and bringing all these external things to add to supplement digital desks, but I don’t do anything with the L550 other than what’s onboard, and that’s what I love about it,” he added. “It does everything that I need, and the recent SSL software updates have made it even faster to navigate through internally. It just sounds fantastic.”

Back in the days of analogue, West was always a fan of subgroups, so the SSL Stem functionality works well for him. “Being an analogue person, I still refer to them as groups, but the SSL Stems work great. I’ll always pair up my kick drums then compress the group just to get some nice closeness; and I’m also using Stems for the strings, the brass, and the acoustic guitars, as there are a lot of them. I simply go in and slap the SSL Buss Compressor across the stereo – it does everything I need it to do, it’s beautiful, and keeps everyone gelled together. There are so many backing vocals on this tour that I’ve separated all of those out too, letting [lead singer] Gary [Lightbody] exist on his own. I’ve pulled the backing vocals into one Stem, which I’ve found has opened up the mix quite a lot.”

As for EQ, West continued: “I’ve really got to be able to get in there and nail down some frequencies to be able to try and get the level before they’re going to feedback. You can obviously only turn things up so loud to get strings dynamic enough to sit above a decent level band, so you need to be able to get into your EQs and look really closely.

“I can hear what I’m doing without any issues whatsoever, whereas with some other consoles, you can find you’re trying to find a frequency, so you punch it up, flip it backwards and forwards, and you’ve almost got to add 15dB to hear what the EQ is doing. With the SSL, you can just do it straight away via the screen; throw it up and move it up and down again, and there it is.”