Confession time. My ears don’t work properly. It is an undiagnosed situation, but I ruefully came to this conclusion every time I got access to a graphic equaliser. As a 56 year old, a lifetime of ‘right down the front’ gig going, alongside ten years wearing unlimited ‘Desperate Dans’ in radio studios has taken its toll on my ‘range’.
More Bottom, More Top!
When doing tech runs for stand up gigs, I have noticed that I’m always asking venue sound engineers for the same things. "More bottom, more top!”
My sound check ‘piece’ of choice for years has been a jaunty skip through the lyrics of Ian Dury’s ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful (Part 3)’. Possessing a nasal Thames Estuary alto means that I’m always seeking to balance that out with what I call “roundness” to engineers. If push comes to shove, I’ll call it ‘warmth’ then do a weird wavy thing with my arms. They must hate me. At the top end I always ask to have the high sibilants sharpened up. This is normally the point where I confess to the long suffering sound person that my ears are shitty and it’s their room so they know what works and defer to their judgement. Then finally I come off the SM58 and see what the room has itself. The acoustics in most modern venues and the size of crowds I’m drawing, means that I could probably skip a PA altogether. (Once, I saw Elvis Costello come off mic at a sold out Royal Albert Hall, to sing an entire song. It was, in a word, stunning.) But I do love the possibilities of really using a microphone in stand up performance. Close intimate stuff is even more so, shouting off mic, has a real effect on an audience, the I think the audio dynamics in a spoken word performance have enormous possibilities but are sadly, mostly ignored.
My Favourite Flare Product
As for listening to music today, I do the majority with my trusty FLARE PROS. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been waiting for a brilliant robust headphone speaker unit with a soft ear bud around it. They are the perfect partner for today’s serious portable digital listener. And thanks to FLARE, with enough EQ fiddling it sounds like my shitty ears work properly again. Bless ‘em.
Photography of Phill Jupitus: Andy Hollingworth