COLLECTIVE GAINS: Frogs On Tour
While most live sound engineers operate as completely solo entities, these French sound engineers are pooling their contacts, experience and workloads into a collective, which has seen them rapidly become some of the most in-demand professionals in the European Heavy Metal scene. We caught up with founding member Camille Bechet to discuss Frogs On Tour’s journey and why Midas has and will, be with them every step of the way.
Please tell us about Frogs On Tour, what is it you do and how did you form?
Hi! So, frogs on tour is a live crew collective from France.
We're 4 guys: Tim Bickford , Chris Edritch , Capsule ( our latest member, we're expanding at the moment and more people are going to join soon ) and myself Camille Bechet. We're sound / light engineers who work mostly in the live sound industry, more precisely in the metal / rock music genre, we’ve all known each other for some time now as it is a very small world and have all been working for the same bands at some point. The reason we started Frogs is that the 3 of us reached a point where we were not able to cover the tour offers we were getting and at the same time had holes in our schedules. By "mutualising" our client pool it allows us to organize our schedule way more easily and, most importantly to turn down as few tour offers as possible. It’s also comforting when you can't do a tour with a band you're used to working with, knowing that the person that's going to cover knows his job and is a nice guy to have on tour.
What tours have you been on so far in 2019 and what do you have scheduled for the rest of the year?
Since the start of the year I did a 6 week EU/UK tour with “Palaye Royale” as FOH in January, then jumped on the “Impericon festivals” with “Being As An Ocean” for Mons and then went to Asia for a month with Betraying The Martyrs as FOH engineer , I'm now on the festival run of this summer that will be with Palaye Royale then a death metal band named “Dying Fetus” and probably another tour in August. I also filled in as FOH for one of Chris's band, “Leprous”, and I will cover monitors for 2 shows in august for the new universal project “SKALD”. For the fall I’ve got two headliners tour that haven't been announced yet so I can't really talk about those.
“the bands we work with know that whichever member of the collective is going to work for them is gonna be professional and give them their money’s worth.”
What are the advantages of being in a collective?
There are multiple advantages and I can really feel a difference in my overall satisfaction with how things are run since we started this.
One of the first thing is consistency, we all know and trust each other, we speak the same technical and musical language so we're really on the same page and the bands we work with know that whichever member of the collective is going to work for them is gonna be professional and give them their moneys worth. Bands know that even if they work with a different person from the collective than their " main " technician, there will be communication and work in advance between us to make the transition as smooth as possible so they don't feel like starting from scratch with someone new.
Being able to rely / trust other people in this job is something very comforting.
On a communication level it's also more powerful, it feels more legitimate to build good relationships with Brands as a collective than just as a single person.
How do you market yourselves as a collective?
As we can! None of us are really focused on marketing to begin with. We don't really market ourselves, each of us have their own customers and we're "pooling" the tour offers we get so that we're all as busy as possible. We're experimenting, seeing what works and what doesn't.
“There is an adrenaline kick in live mixing that I absolutely love.“
Who or what inspired you to become a sound engineer? Please talk us through your career progression.
I think like most sound engineers I started as a musician , I fell in love with music as a teenager and I really wanted to make a living out of it so I went to an audio school because I didn’t trust my music skills at that time! I went to the INFA in Paris (https://www.infa-formation.com/) when I was 19 and did a 2-year audio course that was also an apprenticeship so I started working in a PA company at the same time. I was more interested in studio engineering at first but then I fell in love with live music mixing. I then worked for 5 years in the Paris area for events and live shows as a freelancer until I met a metal band from Paris named “As They Burn” that needed a FoH for their European tour at the time. After that I kept getting more tours and I progressively switched to touring full time over a few years.
Live sound is certainly a more pressured environment when compared to studio engineering, with no opportunity for a second take, do you feel that you thrive on the pressure?
It definitely is and I think that is something I actually like, I realised when studying that sitting in a studio listening to the same song for hours wasn't for me at all. There is an adrenaline kick in live mixing that I absolutely love. Pressure is not something that paralyzes me, I think I can say I actually enjoy working in a pressured / stressful context it makes the job more "rewarding" in the end.
Do you have any tips for aspiring Live Sound engineers on how to deal with the added pressure that live sound brings?
The most important advice I think is to be 100% comfortable on a technical level. If you know all your signal flows and all the processing, you're doing from the source to the PA then whatever issue you're going through you'll be able to handle. Being organized and in control is the way I deal with the pressure that you encounter live. If you're not comfortable with your patch or the sound board you use and you start having issues that’s when it can turn into a nightmare. Always try to get all the "unknown" factors out of the way and be as prepared as you can. If I’m not touring my own mixing desk I always build a show file as solid as I can before the actual events and get in touch with the house technicians to be aware of all the factors that I am going to have to deal with once at the venue. Put simply; I think preparation is key.
“I'd rather have the same mixing desk everyday than have different boards and having to work between different show files all the time.”
Which do you prefer FoH or monitors and why?
I think I prefer FoH over Monitors. Both jobs have their positives, when doing monitors I love the proximity with the artists and the sources that you get, but at FoH I feel more involved "musically" in the show which is the part I really love.
“on festivals I honestly couldn't go back to using house boards in a 20 minutes for line checks situation”
We saw in your recent promotional video that you have been using the Midas M32 on recent tours – why was the M32 your console of choice and in what capacity have you been using it?
We purchased an M32+DL32 in December because we really think that consistency is a very important factor in live audio. I'd rather have the same mixing desk everyday than have different boards and having to work between different show files all the time. Working the same show everyday allows me to get much deeper and add finesse into the mix, rather than having to build from scratch every day. Even for the artist; consistency allows for way faster and more efficient soundchecks and that is something that is really appreciated, as we usually do monitors from FOH. On club tours they get the same mix every day, that sounds pretty obvious but it really makes a difference. And on festivals I honestly couldn't go back to using house boards in a 20 minutes for line checks situation, I feel like I can offer a good mix and not just be fighting with the clock and doing my mix on the first song. We wanted a board that sounded good, that was reliable and that we actually enjoyed using and were familiar with and the M32 seemed to be the best choice. The moderate size and weight also allows us to pack it in any trailer we encounter and to move it easily which is an important point for us as we often deal with difficult load-in situations and small FoH booths. After 6 month of touring with it, we're 100% happy with and are now already thinking of upgrading our tour kit with more Midas products.
What was your first experience engineering with Midas Consoles products and what were your first impressions?
I have a very clear memory of my first Midas experience, that’s the day I started my apprenticeship in France. The PA company I was working for had a Midas Sienna 480 and when I saw it I was just like “wow , what is this huge beast " but at this time I was absolutely green and didn’t really have an ear or an appreciation for audio gear like I do now. I then encountered Midas boards on the road, I've always been a huge fan of the H3000 and even know when I run into one I sometime use it over my touring board, it’s one of the few exceptions I will make! My first real touring experience with Midas was Warped Tour 2016, the festival was touring Pro2 on both the stages I mixed (I was working for two artists for this event; “The Word Alive” and “I See Stars”) and I fell in love with the sound of the board. I learned on analogue and I loved the layout and ergonomics, they are just so logical for me.
Do frogs On Tour members have any standard/shared working configurations or methods?
We don’t really have any solid "Protocols" but by working regularly together we tend to organize ourselves in the same way. It also depends on the band and the configuration we're touring. For example with “Being As An Ocean” where Tim is on FoH and I'm on Mons we do have a standard Day / Task organisation that just fell into place naturally after a few shows. One thing I really enjoy when it comes to touring with the same people is that I see ways of working I wouldn't have thought of by myself and I think we take the best in the other people’s work flow to improve our own. I can definitely say that I have learned a lot since we started the collective but it is still all very fresh , we had the idea less than 2 years ago and have been actively touring together for less than a year so we all feel that there is still a lot of room for improvement.
Do Frogs On Tour members ever share M32 show files?
Yes we do! We also build our files together when we're on the same tour.
This must be very helpful in the sense that if one of you cannot make an event that another member can cover you, simply open up your show files and be good to go?
More or Less! Personally, I know I really like to have the board configured my way so I'm not a fan of starting from someone else's show as I don’t feel I have as much "control", but for example I covered one of Chris' bands the other day and I used his scene as a comparative to build mine, I also imported via libraries some of his settings! At the end I had a board built in my "way" with most of Chris’ mix on it.
“being able to have different eq/comp settings is just a lifesaver for small tours”
You recently worked on a sold out 11,000 capacity show and in your words you “pushed the capacity of the M32 to its limits” Please tell us more about this show, your stage inputs and set up etc
So this was during the Impericon Festivals with “Being As An Ocean”. We had an M32 with 20ish channels from stage and monitors with wedges and in ears to run. Initially we were going to go with the M32 for FoH and house boards for monitors, but at pre-production we tried splitting some channels to have separate FoH and Monitors channel and running the wedges and in ears from the DL32 that were on stage. We had 3 cat 5 lines running (A, B, and the wifi router) this way we had the router on stage and then handled monitors with a Computer and an iPad controlling the same board that was used for FoH. We gave it a try and it was flawless! So we used this configuration on the whole run. As we were touring with our own in-ear kit, I only had to get the Amps line from the outputs of the DL32 every day and to tune the wedges and we had our show ready to go! That made the whole tour a lot easier for monitors, the mixes where the same everyday, we were able to virtual soundcheck both FoH and monitors, it wasn't the first festival tour with this band and they definitely noticed a big improvement sound wise. It was much more comfortable than having to build 4 wedges mixes and 4 in ear mixes during a 20/30 minute changeover with a different board every day, so a better result and less stress every day! At the end of the day, between the inputs channels, split channels, outputs for FoH and outputs for monitors, FX rack for the FoH mix, monitors and talkback channels we used pretty much every channel / output / FX slot on the board and every physical input / output on the DL32!
What is your favourite effect on the M32?
Definitely the Ultimo comp, if I have to keep one thing on all my shows it’s one of those on the drum group.
Do you have any pro tricks or tips that you can share?
For the setup I was talking about, splitting channels between FoH and Mons if they're both handled by the same board and tech, being able to have different eq/comp settings is just a lifesaver for small tours that can't afford to have two different boards/engineers it's a game changer and it's so easy to do with Midas Consoles boards.
“I started on analogue boards and the quality and flexibility of last generation digital soundboards gave us a level of control and precision that is now insane. “
What is the most important non-audio equipment item that you need when on tour?
My Leatherman multi-tool! Saved the day so many times.
What do you feel is biggest advancement in Live Sound technology during your career – what helps your day to day work the most?
I started on analogue boards and the quality and flexibility of last generation digital soundboards gave us a level of control and precision that is now insane. Virtual soundchecks, integrated effects emulations (like the ultimo comp and transient designers on the M32) and digital routing options are for me the most powerful innovations since I started working.
“Dealing with the unexpected…. it plays on every level on a human or technical context.“
Where would you like to see the next technological advancement?
It's hard to say, different brands are pushing in different directions and everything is pretty interesting! I'd say more cross compatibility in the stage box / boards systems! Being able to use any stage box/board combination would be pretty amazing but I don’t think it will ever happen. I've always been super reticent to bring a computer in my audio chain for stability issues so a board with a lot of "in the box" plug-ins and a flexible insert setup would definitely be very appealing to me as I really don’t want to bring waves via Soundgrid or integration, but I love using plug-ins.
What is the most challenging part of your work as a touring sound engineer?
Dealing with the unexpected. Working in different places with different gear and different people, there is always something unexpected happening and managing those events are a huge part of our job, being flexible and adaptable is critical when it comes to that. That can go from a piece of gear breaking last minute, an issue with the bus or the plane that leads to you arriving just before the show, communications issue with the local crew, it plays on every level on a human or technical context.
What has been the most challenging gig that you have worked on and why (you don’t have to name names)?
I've been touring most of my career with metal acts and when I started working with “Palaye Royale” which is a more rock / retro sounding band I had to "re-learn" everything I knew about sound since all my mental reflexes weren't working anymore. The sources, the actual mix, having a loud stage volume forced me to totally change my approach. That was challenging but also a very rich experience and I think working with different kind of music is very important to keep an open mind about mixing.
Check Out Frogs On Tour In Action
Find out more about Frogs On Tour by following them on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/frogsontour/
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