Professional Sound - August 2022 - Page 29

I line check . We ’ ve been doing this so long together , not just Pugs and I , but with the members of the band , we just don ’ t soundcheck anymore . We do a very quick line check to make sure our levels are right and our lines are clean , and we ’ re done around 1:30 p . m . depending on how long we had to wait for lights .”
Part of what makes any Dierks Bentley show run smoothly is the ease and comfort with which Tatter and McDermott work together . The PK Sound system on this trek has been beneficial for Tatter in his onstage position as well .
“ I like the PK system because Pugs can control it so precisely ,” says Tatter . “ If I need more bass on the stage , more thump , he can give it to me most days and if he ’ s hurting me , he can get it off me most days .”
Something Tatter notes he and McDermott have to be careful with is feedback , as Bentley spends almost as much time out on the thrust as he does in his A position onstage . He says the PK Sound system has been optimal as far as this goes .
“ It ’ s a cross Pugs has to bear , feedback-wise ,” he says . “ But if [ Bentley ] is feeding back , of course , it ’ s going to me too . And he can steer that PK — he can really pinpoint without screwing himself and the audience . He can get those burners off me very easily , and very precisely , if we ’ re having one of those days . And you can ’ t do that with any other PA . That ’ s one of the reasons I really like it [ from a monitors perspective ], especially an in-ear guy .”
Both FOH and monitors on this tour are using Avid Venue S6L digital mixing consoles , with McDermott using the S6L-24C , the smaller version with only one touchscreen , and Tatter using the S6L-24D , the larger format with three touchscreens . Both have switched to 24-channel desks over the 32-channel models they favoured for previous runs .
“ Before COVID , we planned on going and doing a club tour with the Hot Country Knights , which is the alter ego band that Dierks has got . Look it up — you ’ ll laugh . You ’ ll wonder , ‘ Why do they want to do that ?’ I ’ ve been asking that for years ,” laughs McDermott . “ So , we trimmed down to the smaller consoles to try to take up less space , and I kind of liked the 24-channel console . It takes up less space and I ’ m able to do everything I can possibly think to do with it . So , I ’ m happy with that .”
Also at front of house , McDermott uses a Rupert Neve Designs Shelford Channel , an XTA Electronics D2 stereo dynamic EQ , and a Neve Portico 5045 Primary Source Enhancer — something he says every sound engineer should have .
“ It is an incredibly accurate and incredibly magic ninja vocal gate ,” he says . “ You kill all the noise ; you kill cymbal noise , you kill PA noise , you kill all kinds of stuff in your vocal . And how does it work ? I have no idea .”
In terms of mics , McDermott says Bentley ’ s vocal mic — a Shure Beta 58 — can ’ t be beat for his purposes .
“ I still don ’ t think that there is a vocal mic out there that does what a Beta 58 does ,” he attests . “ Is it the best-sounding microphone from a clinical standpoint ? No . But it is by far the best microphone for being on a loud stage , behind a loud PA , or in front of a loud PA on a thrust .”
In the past year , Bentley ’ s guitar players have switched from amplifier cabinets to Fractal Audio Axe-FX systems , something McDermott is pleased about . While there are still some loudspeakers onstage , the absence of guitar cabinets makes McDermott better able to do his job , though making the change wasn ’ t a snap decision for anyone . “ They were hesitant ,” he says of the guitarists . “ These are all old-school attitude Nashville guys . I love the sound of a guitar amp , and honestly , I was hesitant .”
McDermott could go on listing all the different pieces of gear that make up Dierks ’ Bentley ’ s show , and he does , even taking the time to list each drum mic and its position , but Tatter likes to keep his own operation as simple as he can , saying he doesn ’ t need all the ‘ bells and whistles ’ younger engineers use to get his job done . For him , the S6L does plenty enough , and though he ’ s had to adapt to major changes to the live audio sector in his 35 years working in it , he lives by the motto that change is bad and strives to keep everything he possibly can the same .
Perhaps it ’ s in part thanks to their shared background in rock music that McDermott and Tatter work so well together . For both , working with Bentley meant having to make changes to their approaches to achieve a different type of sound , energy , and feel than at a rock or a hip-hop show .
“ With bands like Korn or Jay-Z and Kanye , it ’ s more about the pounding than worrying ‘ does it sound pristine ?’” says Tatter . “ Probably not , but it ’ s fucking loud , and it ’ s not going to feed back , and that ’ s the challenge .”
At this point in their careers , both McDermott and Tatter value personal relationships , both working relationships and friendships in the industry . For Tatter , the sign that a show went perfectly is that nobody talks about it afterwards — if his colleagues are asking how his bike ride went , or chatting about their kids , rather than about what went right and wrong in that night ’ s performance , he couldn ’ t be happier .
“ That ’ s when I know I was as good as I needed to be that day , when we don ’ t talk about how it went ,” he says . “ Because that means it was okay .”
McDermott believes getting along is a key component to working well together , and his friendships with the band , the rest of his crew , and the PK Sound team are beneficial on a personal and professional level . “ This business is too hard to have adversaries or enemies ,” he says . “ I don ’ t want to work with people that I don ’ t like and care for . I realized early on in my career that the live entertainment business , not just touring , it ’ s not about who you are and what you know , it ’ s not about your resume , it ’ s about who knows you , right ? If you make good impressions with people , they will recommend you .”
With McDermott in his 17 th year with Bentley and Tatter in his 11 th , both know this is a lifetime role for them , and at least one of them doesn ’ t see himself ever taking on another full-time role .
“ I think this is my swan song ,” says Tatter . “ I don ’ t think I ’ ll be getting another job after this . I ’ m 60 years old and I want to go out as a Dierks Bentley guy .”
Manus Hopkins is the Assistant Editor of Professional Sound .
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