Home is where the suitcase is…

First published December 2010

Season’s greetings audio pros and philes, with Christmas and the holiday season speeding its way up the motorway that appears to be my life, I have decided to take a moment to stop and reflect. I thought for this month’s column I would share my thoughts and feelings about what it is like to be on tour. I’ve been away from home for a long time now, and when I finally get home it’ll be nearly 2 months since I last put my keys in my front door.

I’ve been touring for what seems like forever, but translated into some form of linear time that we can all understand it must be about 10 years. After these 10 years of constant movement I’ve come to realize that I don’t really feel like I have an actual ‘home’ anymore.

To start to explain how I feel being away from home, I think it’s a good idea to understand what the meaning of ‘home’ is. In my dictionary, under the word ‘home’ there are 5 entries, the first one being the place someone lives. But where do I live?! There is the wonderful house I have with my girlfriend in a beautiful, quite part of Amsterdam; that is home, a lot of my belongings are there. It’s somewhere I go back to after being away. There is the place I come from, where my parents still live; that is still and probably will always be home.

Then there is my lovely, trust worthy, 74 liter, dark and light brown, all terrain, polyester, rough riding, wheelie, Oakley trunk. This comes with me everywhere. It has been home to my clothes, boots, glasses, toiletries and everything else I decide to carry with me from tour to tour, so as far as my personal belongings are concerned, this is their ‘home’. I know that when I get into my hotel room I have my portable home with me, and encased inside are all the creature comforts I could ever want with me. So my sense of home is always pretty close. I suppose, in my head at least, I have 3 homes to choose from depending on my situation and/or state of mind at the time.

I think most of all, ‘home’ is a state of mind, and the motion of going ‘home’ fills me with a mix bag of emotions; Nervousness, excitement, relief, guilt. What do all these emotions have to do with anything? Well, I feel nervous because I’m not that confident in myself that leads to the thoughts that what if my feelings have changed? What if their feelings have changed? Excitement, because I’m going to see my loved ones in physical form and not just through a computer screen. I feel relief because I don’t have to swap beds every other night and share a living space with 12 other people. And then there is guilt, not guilt because I’ve participated in activities that might be seen as uncouth, but because I’ve been away for so long and left everyone else behind to fend for themselves. It’s easy for me these days to block out these feelings when I go away, but as soon as that final journey comes they come flooding back just to make me question who I am and why I do it.

Touring has been made a lot easier these days with the use of technology like Skype and mobile communications, and I do, as we all probably should do, occasionally think back to the early pioneers of this nomadic industry and how they use to survive with only the hotel/venue phone and fax machines. Touring is a way of life, but you are either built for it or you aren’t. I’d like to see myself as one of the great British explores like Cooke or one of the great thinkers like Darwin, who travelled the globe seeking out new gigs and new sounds; To boldly go where no band has gone before. But let’s face facts, I am neither Captain Cooke nor Picard, and my illusions of grandeur are my very own. I do on the other hand have an exuberant passion for the work that I do, and it’s that passion that keeps me remotely sane in a world that can be stuck so far up its own arse it gives itself heart burn.

Touring is a great thing, you don’t have to be some half-wit blond singer from a generic girl band to figure out that, “I like touring because I get to see new places and meet new people”. I love touring for that reason as well, but I think the best thing about touring is seeing my loved ones again, even if it’s just been a week. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the people I work with, the food, the gigs, the changes in season and scenery, but it’s those people back at ‘home’ with all their patience, love and support that really make me feel like my job is worth doing.

May I wish you all the very best over the holiday season; no matter where you might be.

See ya next year

Tundral Flughafen


Snow Covered Road
The tundra sets in…

First Published on the Audio Undone blog in December 2010

Guten Tag Focalites, from the tundra, otherwise known as Basel airport.

I trust you are well, and hope the snow (if you have any) isn’t causing you as many problems as it is me. I’m flying home today, but had to go via London which appears to be closed, so had to reschedule my flight to later on in the day. But that means I have a direct flight back to Amsterdam. So I’m sitting here, brushing up on a little bad German and having a spot of lunch. I’ve just spent the last week with a new artiste called Lauren Pritchard, watch out for her, she has the most wonderful voice.

This last month has been quite exciting for me, with the actual publication of my first book extremely imminent, and getting my first physical copy was very exciting. And to go on top of all of that, my first monthly column came out in Audio Pro International magazine. I’ve had a couple of interviews in the past with Audio Pro, and when they asked me to fill the void in their ‘From the Front’ section, I felt most flattered, it’s normally the people I work with that get all the attention so I still feel like someone has got it wrong and I’ll be found out to be some sort of fraud. But, until that point I’ll be writing once a month about my thoughts, ideas, techniques and other things that go with life on the road.

A lot of people have asked me how I find the time to write on the road. The answer is very easy, when there is a lot of travel involved then there is usually a lot of time wasted either sitting in a plane, train, automobile, or other such modes of transportation that get you from A to B. Or, desperately trying to kill the boredom in your hotel room without going out and spending all the money you have earned from that tour. Writing was something that I evolved to quite naturally, my mum writes, and I’ve always had a love of writing. So I put my computer and my phone to good use when I’m travelling. I have an application on my phone that lets me write whenever I feel the need to, and it uploads it to my cloud folder somewhere in the internether-world, so the actual writing is the easy part.

The hardest part is coming up with things that people want to read. I have my own opinions on how things should be and sound, but why is that going to be relevant to other people? I think that if you can take yourself away from a situation and try to look at it from another angle, everything always looks different. If I don’t like something, I’ll rant about it on paper, then put it to one side for a couple of days. When I re-address the issue I had whilst being calmer, it is much easier to see it from the other side. I like to be honest, and like to think properly about the things I’m writing about, and I understand most of all that when I commit my words to paper I have opened myself up for comment and criticism but ultimately what I like to think is, if I do write this am I opening my own eyes further, or opening someone else’s eyes. If I can’t make people think, it’s not worth writing about.

How Loud is too Loud, Part 1

First Published on the Audio Undone Website, November 2010

I was fortunate enough last month to be asked to head out to Berlin to meet up with the chaps from Underworld. We were to play Berlin’s newly erected O2 World arena. It’s a big old place (a capacity of 17,000), but actually the sound of the room wasn’t too bad considering it’s a bloody great airline hanger with a bit of decoration. The show was called ‘We Are One’, which has something to do with Paul Van Dyk who I thought was Dutch but turns out he is actually from Berlin.

The PA was a Nexo GeoD system, which some of you may know is a line array type of system. I,am not the worlds biggest fan of line array, but I’m there to do a job so I’ll always do it the best I can. On the other hand, we did have an XL3 at FOH, and some nice little toys in the outboard rack that really did set us up for a good show.

Initially, we ran the sound up and it appeared to be what can only be described as rubbish. The typical bite you get from these PAs that I was expecting, just wasn’t there. For a big hall like that, with a full dance floor, the system would really need to have that harshness to cut though later, but would be softened when the audience was there. The sound was very flat and uninspiring, no real clarity in the mids, and basically no low mids which meant that the drive of the sound wasn’t really there. On the bright side there was, loads of sub. Well, when I say loads of sub, it was all in the middle and not a lot at the sides.

Where do you start at getting this right?  We played around with the graphic for a while to see what exactly we were missing, then went to ask what EQ they had over the whole system. Now, when I saw the EQ for the whole system I was horrified. There was a massive scoop over the entire top-end, and another scoop over the top of the other one at about 4-5kHz, reducing it to next to nothing. This is where all the harshness had gone.

The reason behind this was that the audience was going to be in the venue for about 10 hours. Which is an awfully long time to be exposed to a constant noise level. The engineers needed to decrease the exposure to high frequencies for the length of time, but in doing so sacrificed the sound of the whole system. The noise limit had been set at 99dBA over 30 mins, which is ok, but in the world of dance music is fairly quiet. You could take a stroll down the road to any of the other Berliner clubs and find systems pushing 110-115dBA for exactly the same period of time.

So my question is, how loud is too loud?

Morning all




It was a little under a week ago since I wondered down the stairs of my Istanbul hotel in search of some morning sustenance. I sat down and dug into a rather unappetising piece of bread with an egg on top, I heard the news about Steve Jobs.

What a year, first my friend Jock, then Amy (who incidentally is being played out of the airplane PA system as I type), and now Steve Jobs. I never knew Steve, nor do I know anyone that ever knew him. But he has nevertheless been an intrinsic part of my life for many years now. He has been the face, as we all know, of a corporation who championed design, usability and most importantly for me, the creative industries.

Whenever you see a computer on stage; it’s an Apple. Whenever you see a computer backstage; it’s an Apple. If you ever come across anyone using anything other than an Apple, there is always tension in the air as both parties tries to convince each other of the corporate evilness of each brand; nothing quite gets tempers flared like a techno-fight, as if your entire soul has its own survival depending on the outcome.

I have been engrossed in the world of Apple for many years now. I’ve had some variation of a MacBook for many years, and when the first incarnation of the very first iPhone came out, I just had to have one. This quickly got swapped out for a blackberry, as it really didn’t do what I needed it to, BB just had the edge. But, as my upgrade came round, I decided to try the iPhone 4. My life became seemingly wireless at the point. “It just works” was the phrase I heard so many times while watching the WWDC (WorldWide Developers Conference). I would sit in various hotel rooms around the globe, late at night, illuminated only by the light from the screen I was staring into, in desperate bid to keep up with the ever increasing curve that is Apple. And in my eyes, “it just works”.

The public view of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates couldn’t be more different; Jobs being somewhat of a hippy, connected to his inner-self and the people and environment around him. While Gates seems to be some kind of recluse, Gollum like character, hiding away on his private island lair guarding his money in some kind of obsessive, demonic evil way. Lawsuits being fired by the briefcased cannons of shiny shoe wearing, tie straightening militia in the turrets of each company building, in a bid to gain the edge.

The tributes that Gates had for Jobs seemed to be of deep loss, and utter sadness. This doesn’t sound like a man at odds with a rival, more like a man who has lost a friend. The two men were trying to change the world for the better, but got caught up in a shit storm of gossip, media madness, and personal opinions about their products, rather than the people who they really are. Is it possible to be the head of two rival companies, yet be insightful enough to be friends away from work?

Who knows where Apple will go from here. I hope this isn’t the beginning of the end. But I have faith in the innovation of wo/mankind, especially in these hours of financial darkness.

I applaud you Mr Jobs. You created an environment that changed the way the world composes music and brought studio sound and techniques into the live arena. You connected the touring industry to our families on the other side of the planet, and relieved the tediousness of long distance travel (and that really horrible bit between soundcheck and show) with apps we didn’t even know were missing from our lives. You joined the dots between technology, lifestyle, and creativity.

Thank you for your hard work, dedication, philosophy and enlightenment.

All the best,
Just another apple user x