Digico plays key role in Montreux Jazz Festival

This year’s Montreux Jazz Festival once again saw Digico make a key contribution to proceedings, with 20 of its consoles put to work during the event.

Since 1967, the Montreux Jazz Festival has drawn a wide range of performers and is nowadays one of the most iconic European music events. Although jazz is still at its core, these days the festival now offers fans of every genre a unique live experience.

Swiss production company Skynight has sourced and managed the audio requirements for the 12 venues since 2009, the same year that Digico became one of the festival’s sponsors. In 2011 no less than 20 of the company’s consoles were used, with SD7s at both FOH and monitors in the festival’s two biggest venues; the 4,000 capacity Stravinsky Auditorium and 2,500 seated Miles Davis Hall.

“Because of the variety of performers over the 16 days of the festival, it is very important that we choose equipment that the majority of audio engineers want,” said the festival’s head of audio Eddie Broquet.

“We had to find a new supplier of consoles for the 2009 festival and I felt that Digico offered the best quality. [Festival founder] Claude Nobs wants the best products, the best sound quality and the best performance for the artists, so choosing Digico was straightforward.”

As well as the four SD7s, SD8s were in use in the MDH Club, Le Petit Palais, Jazz Hub and B4, Montreux Jazz Café and the outdoor Parc Vernex. DiGiCo supplied an SD8 for engineer training and programming purposes, while SD10 and SD11 consoles were also in use.

Digico staff worked three shifts of six days each, so that two technical engineers were always on hand for any of the sound engineers. Their base was a room deep within the bowels of Montreux’s Music and Convention Centre, where an SD7, SD8 and SD11 were set up to allow any of the engineers to familiarise themselves with the technology prior to the evening’s performance.

Dave Bigg was on DiGiCo’s second six-day shift together with James ‘Digger’ Bradley. “Once the Skynight engineers have been fully trained, we are on hand for the artists’ engineers,” said Dave.

“However, we also get calls from the general crews and outside broadcast engineers who want to come and have a go on the consoles when they’re free. It’s a great festival for that. They get a feel for the consoles during times when they’re not busy. Normally, getting hold of engineers and organising demos for them is impossible, as they are usually on tour or away during the summer months.”

The biggest challenge is the sheer variety of performers, as well as the relentless schedule, meaning that there is no time for full soundchecks between acts. “We need consoles that can easily handle many styles of music and also be readily set up how different engineers like to work,” commented Bernard Natier, who was looking after FOH in the Stravinsky Hall. “The SD7 is very easy to work with as the user interface is really clear and is excellent for the people who don’t necessarily like digital desks. They found it has exactly the same feeling as analogue and had absolutely no problems with using it.”

Wilo Simean was working with the artists’ monitor engineers in the Stravinski Hall. “Professional monitor engineers who haven’t used an SD7 before generally take about 10 minutes to organise themselves on it. You can see them becoming more confident and more fluid in no time at all. I’m simply here to help them get the most out of the desk,” he said.

Ziggy Marley’s FoH engineer Errol Brown is a dyed-in-the-wool analogue user, but was at ease very quickly during Marley’s set. By the end of the performance his face bore a wide grin as he bent down and kissed the SD7.

Chaka Khan’s FOH engineer Anthony Jeffries was equally as happy, adding, “I really enjoyed using the SD7 and was very impressed at how easy it was to get a show together quickly.”

The last word went to Claude Nobs, who was just as positive, saying, “The introduction of FPGA design and the benefits it has brought engineers is very impressive. DiGiCo are front runners in this change in audio processing and it was a great result for the Festival that they chose to become part of our sponsorship programme.”