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Massive Attack - use of effects
Old 26th September 2016
Massive Attack - use of effects

Hi Robb,

Pleasure to have you around, thanks for doing this Q&A!

I'd like to ask you about the use of effects with Massive Attack. Are they handled on your end with the use of outboard racks and plug-ins on the console, done by the band on stage or a mixture of both? Can you tell us a bit about which pieces of gear (or software if that's the case) is being used for all those amazing effects?

PS: were you engineering for them back in 2011 when they toured Brazil?

Old 26th September 2016
Special Guest
robballan's Avatar
🎧 5 years
FX etc.

Hi Diogo_c
Great to be invited to do this. There's nothing I like better than talking to my peer group about all things live sound, whether its the back lounge of a bus, in a seminar or in virtual lounge like this. I'm raising a virtual glass.
So first 2011, no I didn't do that show. I actually had a break from touring between 2006 and 2014. I worked full time for Avid, got back in to playing myself and spent a bit more time with my family. Every touring engineer knows how hard it is to balance touring/family life. Anyway the last gig I did in Brazil was with Coldplay in 2006 in Sao Paulo, I remember it well because it was the time of carnival and I had a fantastic night out there. I first worked with MA in 2005 and picked it up again in 2014.
So the other part of your question. MA have two drummers, one acoustic one mainly electronic. The electronic drummer, plays all the samples triggered from his pads not only percussion sounds. one has the scratches from a vinyl record! Some of those sounds are heavily affected. Everything else I do at FOH. I have no external fx. i work with plugins within the S6L, It has 200 slots and I can trigger them from snapshots with precision from the code. I use the Avid plugins that come with the desk and also a bunch from Sonnox, McDSP and Flux. The whole show runs from LTC which i pick up as an audio stream in my stage box. I bring it in to the desk as an audio channel then use direct out top of channel from that channel to the LTC input in the S6L. This means when I run my virtual soundcheck the LTC is recorded as an audio track in Protools. I can then use this workflow to fine tune my snapshots. I trigger many of the FX automatically from the code. I also work "old school" and spin them in dub style to maintain spontaneity.
Reverbs: I use Revibe on Drums and vocals I also love the Sonnox Oxford reverb.
I also insert plugins across these returns on occasion. For example the snare sound on Angel has a plate reverb with a sans amp inserted to 're-amp' it and make it punchy and dirty and then a mooger fooger flanger to make it shift up and down in frequency slowly so that each hit has a slightly different timbre. I also gate a huge hall reverb. Its a bit over the top but when the acoustic snare kicks in on that song for the first time I want it to be a 'moment.' I've seen people duck at shows when they get a slap from the first snare beat.
Delays: I program from the BPM of the song. I tend to have a short delay and a longer delay for each song for the vocals.Often 16ths for the short and bar or half bar for the long. The short one pretty much mixed into the background so the vocal sits in the mix and the longer one I either spin in from the aux send or push the return fader to bring out words or syllables. Think of love you, "love you, love you" - in the chorus of the same song. These delays and reverbs are fed back to monitor engineer so he can send them to the band and they can feed off/work with what I'm doing with the FX at FOH. I will always use stereo returns on my delays. I sometimes offset them just a few ms to create a stereo image, I'll also have different amounts of feedback on L and R returns so that the tails of the delays appear to move across the stereo image. ..Blimey long answer, hope that was the kind of thing you were interested in. cheers
Old 29th September 2016
Mastering Moderator
Riccardo's Avatar
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Hello Robb,
thanks for sharing your workflow and experience with us. Since Diogo mentioned effects and you mentioned drums and vocals would you mind sharing info on how the guitar sound is set up live?

I saw MA at Brixton between Mezzanine and 100th Window circa 2005 and this last February again at Brixton and I'm sure things have changed since then or is it just a different rig?

Old 8th October 2016
Gear Head
🎧 15 years
I thought Del Naja used some sort of gadget at his mic position to do live effects, is that not the case?
Old 19th October 2016
Special Guest
robballan's Avatar
🎧 5 years
yes new amp simulator.
Robert used to have a kaoss pad but now he just has a space echo for his voice and vocoder.

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