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‘There is no scope for failure’: Behind the scenes of Tom Walker’s Europe tour

FOH engineer Mike Platt and monitor engineer Liam Shannon selected a pair of DiGiCo SD10s for the tour

FOH engineer, Mike Platt, has worked with Tom Walker since 2017. In a short space of time, the Scottish artist has secured a 2019 BRIT Award, and his debut album, What A Time To Be Alive, peaked at the top spot in the UK Album Chart. Now, he’s embarked on a tour of Europe and Platt and monitor engineer Liam Shannon selected a pair of DiGiCo SD10s to back him up.

“I have been using DiGiCo for around 10 years now. It’s always been my desk of choice,” explained Platt. “My FOH setup comprises an SD10-24 and an outboard rack with some toys in. I chose the smaller SD10-24 for numerous reasons, but mainly for its size and power. I can easily get it to FOH and get it tipped without it being too much of an event. I also like to mix on one layer, so 24 fader channels make me prioritise the channels that are most important for the show, and they live on the top.”

Platt does the majority of his processing and effects from within the console. “From source,” he said, “Tom probably has the largest dynamic range going: he goes from whispers to blisteringly loud parts. To control this, I go through Channel EQ > Distressor > Channel Compression > Group Dynamic EQ > Group De-esser. Apart from the Distressor, the chain is all inside the box.”

“My job is to make my artist sound great, and for the audience and management not to even think about the tech side of things; there is no scope for failure,” he continued. “I need to have 100 per cent confidence that the gear will work every day, and the way DiGiCo boards are set out is similar to the way my head works.”

Shannon has been Walker’s monitor engineer since May 2018 and described the band as fairly low maintenance with a standard band mix and their own instruments peeking out on top. “I have eight stereo in-ear mixes – Tom’s, five for the band, one guitar tech, and one spare; and three mono mixes – Tom’s wedges, Tom’s vibe board, and a drum sub,” he explained.

Shannon has been operating on DiGiCo for four years now, going from an SD9 to an SD10-24, and most recently to a full-size SD10. “The SD10 has been complemented by an SD-Rack running at 96kHz with full 32-bit I/O card upgrades. The channel strip UI makes perfect sense for how I want to operate, and having independent rotaries for things like every section of the EQ is absolutely necessary for me,” he said.

Praising the 32-bit I/O card upgrade with the SD10, he said: “I could hear the difference immediately in the songs where instrumentation gets incredibly busy and louder; there was more space in the mix – the same mix I’d been using built from the standard I/O cards. There’s one song called ‘Not Giving In’ that has a big drum and bass-style ending that always ended up taking up all the dynamics in the mix. The vocal couldn’t sit above the music without sounding really compressed. I’ve not had that problem since upgrading the cards.”

During a tour, Shannon sets up at least one Snapshot for each song. “The scope functionality for Snapshots on the DiGiCo is so conclusive that I can confidently save channels that I’ll always be changing processing on during a gig, such as the drum kit, whilst recalling different guitar EQs to suit different songs, or dynamics on an acoustic which is fingerpicked in one song, then heavily strummed in another,” he elaborated. “A problem that arose from this, and from us not having a monitor tech on tour, is that I needed to manually trigger each Snapshot, which became tricky if there was a technical issue on stage that I needed to fix, but a song was about to end.”