Gorillaz hit the road with DiGiCo

FOH engineer Matt Butcher and monitor engineer Dave Guerin have recently been relying on DiGiCo consoles for the Gorillaz’ huge live shows.

The FOH and monitor consoles – both DiGiCo SD7s – are maxed out, while a SD11B is deployed for the shout system.

“The SD11B is also there for monitoring for the playback and the keys tech,” said Butcher. “He can monitor off the Optoloop rather than the submix of something, so he can see all the individual channels off the Optoloop. Furthermore, we have a [Waves] LV1 which the RF guy uses to monitor all his RF; that’s on a patch from the SD11 to get the channels to him.”

In addition to Albarn, who’s on guitar and grand piano, there is a drummer, a percussionist, a bassist, guitarist, two keys players, six BVs and, for the London show, five ‘hypnotic’ brass, and a five-piece string section. Every show is recorded using 128 inputs and a DiGiGrid MGB running off two MADI streams at 48kHz.

Butcher continued: “It’s the best – and probably only – control surface to do something like this on. The symmetry of the SD7 means you can have a left bank, a right bank, and a bank in the middle; that means you can be doing three things at once. I have instruments on the left, vocals on the right, and mixing VCAs in the middle; then the small faders just as FX keys. We are running eight radio mics, and doubling them up into individual channels for guest artists, so individual artists get their own channel, and you don’t have to worry. Then I keep the automation to some sensible level.”

“The small faders are my output, but other than that, it’s all the same as Matt,” added Guerin, who is running a massive 192 inputs.

“With this sort of sized show, we have to be on top of things,” Butcher explained. “Dave writes the spec, and we all add to it. Rack-wise, we have three SD racks and one [DiGiCo] Orange Box, and that’s got two MADI outs – it is the digital in for the keys and tracks, and sends for record. So we’re patched for that as well.

“I’m also running a Waves SoundGrid package on an external rack, but I love a lot of the internal stuff, too; I love the dynamics and multiband compressor on the SD7, and I am using the Waves stuff for things like distorted snares, a gated fuzzbox with reverbs… basically all the daft stuff! And again, through the course of mixing Gorillaz, we have always had a go at doing some dub stuff to make it exciting, and get more involved in the whole sonic thing.”

Guerin also uses much of the internal processing within the SD7: “I have a couple of Distressors, which are great for limiting vocals, then everything else is coming from the console, and all the FX and processing is great. I’ve got 30 stereo mixes and 20 monos: all the ears are stereo, the sidefills and front wedges are stereo, and you can do BVs left, right, and front, and Damon’s vocal sits in the middle. Everything sounds better in stereo, and it gives him that bit more space, too.”

Gorillaz was formed 20 years ago by Blur frontman, Damon Albarn, and Jamie Hewlett, co-creator of comic book, Tank Girl. Gorillaz’ self-titled debut album, released in 2001, sold three million records and earned them a place in the Guinness book of Records as Most Successful Virtual Band. Gorillaz will hit the road again in March, heading to South America for the next leg of their tour, playing in Mexico, Chile, Colombia, and Brazil; and will play a string of major European festival dates this summer.