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Behind Pink Floyd

Interview | Engineers By Mike Lethby
Published September 1994

Touring with Pink Floyd is not, as you might imagine, like a quick gig down the Bull and Gate. There's a tour budget of around £70 million, and the efforts of hundreds of people go into making each concert truly spectacular. In this exclusive, Mike Lethby talks backstage to some of the men who keep the Floyd on the road.

Drinking, talking, eating, checking each other's tans, getting over‑excited, jumpy and elated, they've been queuing in the hot Californian sunshine since early this morning. Thirty minutes' drive from central Los Angeles, thousands upon thousands of cars are beginning to fill the Rose Bowl's giant parking lots six long hours before show time. The hamburger stands are already doing a brisk trade, and amiable security guards sweat beneath their peaked caps as they eye "the kids" gathering at the turnstiles.

"The kids" — it's the guards' stock phrase for their clients, whether they're four or 40 in age — will rush those turnstiles in a human tsunami when doors open at 6.30, run pell‑mell down the long dark tunnels under the high concrete bleachers, spilling out onto this scorched American Football arena to claim their privileged places right down at the front, where only a sturdy barrier and ten feet of Astroturf paced by day‑glo‑vested bodybuilders will stand between them and the band many have travelled hours on LA's crowded freeways to see. Many of this bunch, like their compatriots in dozens of cities across the USA, have forked out up to 50 dollars a ticket; others, slower on the uptake but equally determined not to miss the show, will have paid maybe twice that sum to a tout.

In The Pink

But then, this is Pink Floyd, 1994. Few bands today can equal the drawing power of this trio of late fortysomethings and their younger hired hands, the quintessential force of the late '60s psychedelic 'underground' scene, who have successfully defied both their former colleague and chief songsmith, Roger Waters, and the doom‑filled prophets who dismissed their prospects as bleak‑verging‑on‑pointless after the band's acrimonious split with Waters in the mid‑'80s.

Many would argue that they missed the point. Pink Floyd, even in their headiest days (Dark Side Of The Moon 1973, The Wall 1979), were never a personality‑based outfit. 'Self‑effacing' would be an understatement — interviews were rarer than singles releases, and it was only during and after the split that Waters publicly laid claim to the band's treasure chest of creativity. Today, eight years on, many of their casual fans (judging by the ones I talked to in LA) appear to believe the Gloomy One still spanks plank with the astral travellers from Grantchester Meadows.

What followed Roger Water's departure is rock history: in 1988 a modest, tentative Floyd tour of American indoor arenas swiftly exploded, literally by public demand, into a three‑year, multi‑million‑pound‑grossing world‑wide spectacular — the 'Momentary Lapse Of Reason' tour (with the accompanying live album The Delicate Sound Of Thunder). It was massively successful, both musically and commercially. These geezers who looked and dressed like bank managers could not only still play their stuff with aplomb but could also do so with the enthusiasm of twenty‑year olds.

But even before the time of the split, Floyd, like few other bands in the world, already had a reputation for large‑scale, dramatic, mould‑breaking live shows that transcended considerations of their recorded works. Even those who never bought an album (apart, maybe, from Dark Side), would flock to witness the guaranteed spectacle, the brooding son et lumière that was a Floyd gig. This tradition of leading the way in terms of live performance goes back as far as 1968/69 — even then, they had quadrophonic sound, daring light shows, planes, beds, and pigs diving overhead. You name it, the chances are they did it first, and much of what they offered even then has since become standard fare for big‑budget rock tours. And therein lay a Catch‑22 for 1994's Pink Floyd: how do you outdo your own legend when you've already taken it almost to the max?

As a result, expectations were high last November, when Pink Floyd summoned Europe's press to an official launch of the 1994 World Tour, with Dave Gilmour (vocals, guitars), Nick Mason (drums, percussion) and Rick Wright (keyboards), the three remaining original members, in the spotlight. A measure of the intense interest in the jaunt was the presence of a giant satellite transmitter dish stationed outside — to beam the launch bash live to other journos around the world. (One of the first questions to Gilmour, trivia collectors should note, was to enquire how Syd Barrett was getting on. Dave's dead‑pan reply: "He was fine last time I saw him — but that was in 1982.")

Back To The Future

So here we are, on a balmy evening in Pasadena, a few miles north of Hollywood, in a lush valley full of golf courses and tall palm trees. The Rose Bowl here is playing host to two nights of Floyd, a total of around 120,000 people. This is the biggest league of international touring: the giant sun‑baked sports stadia of the USA, accommodating up to 100,000 people (by comparison, Wembley Stadium seats 72,000). The scale of the logistics, in the best Spinal Tap fashion, is suitably awesome. Production Director Robbie Williams, a former co‑director of Britannia Row Productions (once the Floyd's own PA company, now an independent outfit and supplying the PA for this show) presides over an entourage of 150 — and that's not counting management, accountants, local crew and security. Sound crew, lighting crew, stage riggers, backline and instrument technicians, electricians (the production provides all of its own power from Templine's mobile generators), truck drivers, caterers, site co‑ordinators and the numerous others are virtually all based in Britain, like the companies that employ them. Many have worked with the band before — in some cases as far back as the early '70s. The record, as far as I can tell, is held by Peter Wynne Wilson, one of the Floyd's original lighting designers, brought back into the fold to help recreate that authentic 1969 feel for a certain vintage track, of which more later.

The two‑and‑a‑half hour set, which begins just as darkness has fallen, spans virtually the entire lifespan of Pink Floyd, up to 1994's album The Division Bell, which coasted effortlessly into the album charts at Number one in April. Much of the material played here (about a dozen numbers are drawn each night from a rehearsed 'pool' of 20‑odd songs) was familiar from the 'Momentary Lapse...' tour — 'Learning To Fly', 'One Of These Days', 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' (awesome), the best of Dark Side Of The Moon, 'Comfortably Numb', 'Run Like Hell'. No 'Echoes', sadly, but you might be luckier when the show hits London in November.

Also present are Pink Floyd's visual signatures: the giant circular back‑projection screen, the computer‑controlled moving lights and weird and wonderful lighting 'pods' which rise mysteriously at various points during the show, and a stunning metamorphosis of the unfolding mirrorball during 'Momentary Lapse...' — but I won't spoil the surprise. There are lasers, serious lasers, in green and amber. Oh, and yes, there are pigs. Pigs which fly — or rather, which plummet spectacularly to earth. All good Floydian fun. Then there's the sound design, which again features a production concept which Pink Floyd have made their own down the years — quadrophonic sound (see the separate 'Quadrophonia' panel elsewhere in this article).

Floyd Out Front

A glance at the Floyd's exceptionally neat setup shows quite graphically how much live performance technology — especially sound reinforcement hardware — has advanced since this band filled its first Transit van. When Pink Floyd first took to the road, the typical touring sound system amounted to little more than the gear today's local bands might use to play a small bar or club. Standard issue were Vox AC30 and AC50 backline amplifiers and cabinets, which, augmented by WEM (Watkins Electric Music) 4x10 inch speaker columns, would also form the PA system. It was, indeed, with just such a system that the Beatles played their famous final concert at the giant Shea Stadium. You might also have enjoyed the benefits of a small mixing desk — although these were not so common on professional tours until the relatively high‑tech days of 1970/71, when Bill Kelsey marketed his first touring mixers. Bill once recounted the story of how, on a Floyd tour in the early '70s , he pioneered the active DI box; he worked out the circuit, studiously soldered the components onto a small square of circuit board, and taped the whole assembly into an Old Holborn tobacco tin. Today, as you might expect, tobacco tins are not widely in evidence on the Britannia Row Productions' equipment list.

Today, the Pink Floyd PA consists of slender, custom‑built towers either side of the stage dome, on top of which sit curious 'bonnets' — actually pig‑pens, housing the famed inflatable hogs which, eyes blazing ominously, bob and weave high in the air. They also serve a practical purpose — under each porcine belly there is an implausibly small cluster of Turbosound's Flashlight PA cabinets.

Floyd's touring system has been adapted slightly from its original specification for America, in the light of experience. The delay towers were eliminated in favour of a slightly expanded main Flashlight PA. Controlling and powering this, and the on‑stage monitoring system, is a large inventory of Turbosound's dedicated Flashlight system controller racks. There are two Yamaha PM4000 mixing consoles for the main front‑of‑house mix, a PM3000 which serves for quad effects mixing, and a specially‑built Midas XL‑3 desk, which contains a unique quadrophonic panning centre, complete with dual joysticks.

Andy Jackson: In The Hot Seat

Front‑of‑house engineer Andy Jackson has worked with Pink Floyd in the studio since 1981; he's one of a handful of engineers to have made a successful transition to live mixing work. Although he wasn't on the last Floyd tour, he did go out with Roger Waters on the 'Pros & Cons of Hitchhiking' tour in the early '80s. As he says, this involved "smaller venues but a similar kind of thing. That was my first time mixing live sound — the very first show I did was in front of 16,000 people!

"In some ways, it's actually easier than mixing in clubs, which I've done at various times — just bits and pieces for friends. This is easier, there's more control — if you take an instrument or a vocal out of the PA mix, it's gone, whereas in small clubs you've got the direct sound from the backline and monitors to contend with.

"Working live is a nice change: the whole dynamics are very different. I've got two and a half hours of very intense work and then it's over. And only one take! But then again, the audience doesn't really notice everything, so if there happens to be the occasional scrappy edge in it, it's gone in an instant — it's a different philosophy. I enjoy it — it's a pleasant change. Once every few years, it's quite fun."

The famed inflatable hogs also serve a practical purpose under each porcine belly there is an implausibly small cluster of Turbosound's Flashlight PA cabinets.

Asked whether the Floyd give him feedback about his live mixing, Andy explained: "They get DATs of the show after each night, and if they want specific cues changed, they'll tell me. But having worked with them for 13 years now, they trust me to do what I do. It's a very easy and comfortable working relationship. Dave Gilmour loves playing; he's always in the studio, it's what he loves. If Pink Floyd aren't playing he'll do other projects, charity shows.

"With a tour like this it's not just fun, it's about organisation, doing things right. Yet we don't have a fixed set list — the first half of the show changes every day. The second half can't change, though, because parts of some of the songs are timed to film clips."

Continuing on the subject of working relationships, Andy says: "Fortunately, the whole front‑of‑house team [Andy Jackson, Colin Norfield and Dave Lohr] gets on really well, and there's no egos involved, otherwise it wouldn't have been feasible. Colin mixes the drums and bass channels; I've got all the rest of the band, and Dave Lohr handles all the quad — the mixes, the sends and the quad‑based effects. We're kept pretty busy even with three of us mixing the show: it works out well. It's good having Colin Norfield, because he's such an experienced front‑of‑house engineer in his own right, and there are certain areas that I don't know about, since I don't do that much live work. My strength is really knowing the band, their material, and the way they work. That's why I'm here — I'm their guy. Without Colin, I'd have to start learning stuff that I don't really know anything about very quickly — ringing out the PA if there's any problems, things like that. I could do it, of course, but you need a lot of experience to make it happen quickly. Colin's much more used to spotting problem areas — occasionally, he'll zoom across to me and say, 'something's ringing', and be able to go straight to the right channel on the desk or the system graphic equalisers. I don't necessarily notice it, because I'm not used to listening for things like feedback; it's not a problem I encounter in studio work."

Andy finds the Flashlight system "really good. I'm not the greatest expert, but compared to anything I've heard before it's just such an improvement — it's head and shoulders better. It basically sounds like a decent speaker system rather than lots of aluminium screaming at you. It has a natural sound, which makes life much easier — we're not having to EQ because of the PA, we're EQ'ing for the instruments. And if you look at the EQ racks there's just a bit of compensation for the stadium — otherwise, they're running virtually flat. It's a great system, and it's stunningly small as well. It's difficult to believe you can do a stadium with it. But then, this band suit stadiums more than most, because they play slowly, and they take to echo well — there's a lot of space in the music. Where Pink Floyd once used analogue effects like the Roland Space Echo and the Echoplex, these have been replaced by today's conventional digital reverb and multi‑effects units".

Andy admits that despite his studio background, he's not tempted to join the slow trend towards using desk automation on the road: "There's an inherent time‑basis problem involved in that: what does it run off? I suppose these days people have so many click tracks and sequencers running that you can potentially do it, but this isn't like that. There are some clicks going on, but nothing's running off timecode. There are so many variables — even when you're playing in the same place for ten nights, the atmospheric temperature and humidity can change the sound on each night."

From Studio To Stadium

Andy went on to explain the specifics of transferring his studio experience with Pink Floyd to the world's largest sports stadiums, and with material that frequently involves large numbers of active instrument and microphone channels: "In terms of effects devices, it's actually not so intense live as in the studio. That's simply because you get so much natural reverb for nothing that your basic need for reverb almost disappears. I am using some reverbs, but far fewer than in the studio.

"In some ways, live, I'm using a more controlled system than I'd have in the studio. There's a hell of a lot more gates here than I'd have there — I don't use gates in the studio unless I need to, to sort specific things out. Whereas on stage here, every single drum is gated as a matter of course, to make sure that the signals coming up on my microphone channels are as clean and controlled as they'd be in a studio, perhaps even more so. In recording studios in the 1970s — the era that I grew up in — bands played together in the same room, it was all acoustic stuff with microphones. So with Floyd, the studio process has always had slightly more similarity to working live than with people who've grown up later, who are used to a more controlled overdub environment.

"Approaches to EQ tend to be somewhat different. Live, you start off by getting rid of all the problem frequencies and work with what you're left with. I tend to be rather more additive in the studio; I try to discipline myself to be subtractive, but inevitably end up using additive EQ a lot. In fact, here, a lot of the complication is taken out because the keyboards are sub‑mixed on stage. I get a stereo feed from the stage for those keyboards, and this appears at my desk on one stereo fader, which makes life much easier."

Andy confessed there is a trade‑off trying to keep a sense of dynamic range within the overall mix, especially as he was having to run the show in LA at quite a high level: "As far as the dynamics are concerned, we're 'winging it' on each show — how much headroom we have to play with depends on how noisy the audience are, and on the type of arena we're playing in — they differ quite a lot in size and shape. In this country particularly, you're competing with maybe 60,000 screaming people, so you're working with a relatively narrow dynamic range, certainly a lot less than on an album. And, inevitably, the whole approach is quite theatrical, in as much as when a song starts with just one instrument, I'll bring it in very loud so that it's in your face, rather than on an album where you can let it have its natural dynamics. But Colin [Norfield] and I share the same philosophy, which is that the simpler we can make it, the better we can make it, because we've then got a better chance of getting a decent balance — which is the single most important thing."

No Sync Required

The second half, as we've come to expect from Floyd's live shows, features various film segments back‑projected onto the trademark circular screen. The visuals are all of that curious, surrealist school which first emerged in the films accompanying the 'Dark Side Of The Moon' tour in 1973. Andy surprises me by pointing out that very few of these sequences are synchronised with the music — the expected SMPTE timecode track running on one of the two 16‑track tape machines on the mix riser is conspicuous by its absence: "Only the film at the beginning of 'Money' is timecoded, because it's got synchronised sound; the film for all the other songs are just started by visual cues. Some do, admittedly, involve musicians playing to click tracks so that they time fairly accurately, but it's not absolutely critical because the film doesn't use lip‑sync. In some ways we still like to use some low‑tech solutions, which can be wonderful, because they're fool‑proof! And there are moments in these shows — there always have been — which keep it on the edge, keep it fresh."

One of these moments is surely the show's unexpected opener — the vintage Floyd track mentioned earlier, 'Astronomy Domine', from their very first album, Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. Andy comments: "A lot of people in the USA seem to think Meddle was Pink Floyd's first album, so I can only assume they think it's something off the new album. Actually, when I heard we'd be doing that song, I went back and listened to the first album, and actually it sounds astonishingly good; for the time it was done it's incredibly well recorded. The version they're playing here is an updated one, using '90s technology, but essentially it's still just the four‑piece band. In fact, that was part of the challenge of doing it again live — to have the original band, as much as possible, just getting up and doing it, rather than using great session musicians as a backing band. To play a lot of the material they do need a total of 11 people on stage, but the numbers that they can do as a four‑piece, they do — and it's great!"


From the moment you walk into the arena, there's a sense that something is going to happen tonight. And with some of rock's most experienced production brains at the controls, there's little chance that mere human error will be allowed to puncture the finely‑honed illusion.

Much of the tone for the show is set by the classic vintage opening track mentioned earlier. During pre‑tour rehearsals, Dave Gilmour hit on the idea of opening the show with a number last performed live around two decades ago. And what a coup. With the huge stage dome filled with a deep blue swirling oil‑slide projection, the band blast into a demented 'Astronomy Domine', the crashing minor chords descending darkly behind Gilmour's declamation of that archetypal early‑Floyd lyrical muse — 1969‑style outer space acid, dramatically revitalised and, yes, digitally remastered live and direct. 'Astronomy Domine', recorded live earlier this year, is now the B‑side of the Floyd's recent single release. Dust off that axe, Eugene...

Keyboards: Floyd Goes Digital With Kurzweil

Pink Floyd's original keyboardist Rick Wright is joined on this tour by Jon Carin. Both players' keyboard rigs are digitally‑simplified, physically slimmed‑down setups, in which many classic Floyd sounds have been sampled and occasionally sequenced.

Keyboard technician Andy Ledbetter served the band on the 'Momentary Lapse Of Reason' tour; in between, he's also worked with Level 42, Paul McCartney, Genesis and Mike Oldfield. Talking to me three hours before show time, he mutters, understandably distracted: "This system has just completely and utterly crashed!"

On Jon's keyboard rig, Andy says: "We're using two Kurzweil K2000 racks and keyboards to carry all the samples; all have 64MB of memory and most are full to bursting point. We mix their outputs down through two Yamaha DMP7s. Jon wants to change to Mackies, but since the DMP7s work, and we haven't any spare time, we're not planning big changes."

The DMP7s, he explains, are not running under MIDI command (as is often the case when these digital mixing workhorses are used in professional live performance), so there are no sequencer patch changes calling up pre‑set mix/mute/effects configurations on the DMP7 via MIDI for each song or song part. Instead, the DMP7s simply serve as conveniently compact, dependable sub‑mixers, configured in production rehearsals for the balance of each group of instruments. "We don't use any MIDI cues, because in the Kurzweils every separate sound has its own output and volume control." Effects are also supplied by the Kurzweils, as Andy explains: "We could actually do away with the sub‑mixers altogether, and use a straight DI out from each Kurzweil output. But since we're mixing them down into a left/right feed, this is the easiest way to keep everything balanced. Then it's just a main left/right feed to the 'house' [the front‑of‑house consoles], plus two individual Quad feeds containing special effects, which also go to the house for the Quad PA effects sends." (See quad sound engineer Dave Lohr's comments in the separate 'Quadrophonia' panel).

Where necessary, Andy continues, the show runs from Roland MC50 sequencers: "Obviously, a lot of the studio stuff is fairly complex. So backings and timing tracks tend to be run from the sequencer. We feed a standard 'click' across the stage where necessary, using an RX11 whose pattern is set from the MC50. It's a very wide stage, so keeping a sync between different members of the band is very difficult. Jon runs his MC50s on songs which have a central sequence — roughly 30 per cent of the show. All that stuff used to have to be on backing tapes. In fact, many of the original special effects that were done on analogue multitrack have been moved onto the newer formats, because it's a lot easier to run them from samplers."

Rick Wright has a more conventional rig, including a real Hammond organ and another Kurzweil rack, which produces Fender Rhodes, grand piano and other 'conventional' sounds. Andy notes: "It's a lot easier than trying to carry the real things around, and the sounds are very high quality". However, he feels the trend of using samples to replace the original instruments should stop short of the Hammond: "The Hammond produces a great and irreplaceable sound — samples don't cut it, they can't match the distortion or dynamics of a Hammond when it's played by a good Hammond player. So you've got to stick with a real Hammond".

Besides the Hammond and the Kurzweil rack, Rick also uses a single K2000 keyboard for his lead parts and various samples. Leslie cabinets are placed behind Jon's keyboard rig for his Hammond samples, with another in Rick's setup immediately downstage. Jon provides Hammond parts as required when Rick is busy with other instruments. Another Leslie is miked up under the stage to provide an extra degree of separation in the house mix, since the mics on the two keyboardists' own Leslies inevitably also pick up ambient sound from the wedge monitors. Both musicians use JBL monitors and amplifiers.

Andy comments, a little wistfully: "The setup's not actually that big on this tour — the days of the mega keyboard rig are gone, really." But he reacts to the suggestion that the newer technology has surely made the lives of keyboard players and their technicians easier on tour: "It has not made it particularly easier! We're now into 64Mb sample saves; back‑ups are a lot more difficult, and the machines take longer to start up. A power failure during a gig means you've got a major problem, because it can take five minutes to get all these machines back up and on‑line again... We're running off the hard drives in the machines, with back‑ups to SyQuests as well, because there's a lot of dust and dirt around here. Failures are inevitable when you're playing in these situations, with this heat, 70 mph winds, and rain. These devices aren't designed to withstand the elements, and it's a very long and arduous task keeping them working. Unfortunately, it's just far too complicated to run every keyboard and sequencer system in duplicate. You have to face the fact that sometimes things will go wrong, and so you've got to be prepared to work around these failures. If you've got good musicians, that's fine. This show could run without sequencers quite happily; all they do is make things more musically correct and enable the concert to work more smoothly.

"Jon does most of his own programming up here, and I help him a bit. A lot of the older samplers from the last tour were on Emax standard, and needed to be brought forward, so I did the transfers on those. We ended up hunting around for someone with a Mark 1 Emax that still worked," he laughs, "and hadn't been put in a skip. That was a bit difficult, and then, having found one, it became a case of 'Does anyone remember how it works?' I was on a floor in somebody's room in downtown LA with three guys and a manual, going, 'Are you sure it works like that?' But we got it going in the end, and did the transfers.

"The Kurzweils are good; they've been very reliable. The file management system software is going to be updated in the summer — that's probably the one weak point at the moment. Their sound though, with sampling and synthesis in one machine, is brilliant, very full. I'm really impressed, and I think the players like the keyboard action too. You modify your style to suit the action of the keyboard you're playing: it's fine to chase around after the world's best‑weighted keyboard, but when you're playing under stage conditions that are like being on the front of a North Sea trawler, it's more down to keeping the rain out of your kit than what the action is like!"

There have been water‑related problems, and so each section of the band is on a separate 'trip' [safety circuit breaker]. Normally Rick, being at the front, is the first to get seriously wet. "But water in the instruments isn't the major problem — it gets into the electrics on the stage floor first, so trying to keep all the connectors dry is the big thing. When the winds and rain come in at 70 mph, you do eventually get to a point where it's not practical to go on."

The Lair Of The Monitor

Chief monitor engineer Seth Goldman first worked with the Floyd in 1971, and has mixed their monitors since the 1973 'Dark Side Of The Moon' tour, but, he says, this job fell to him largely by accident. He responds energetically to the suggestion that he must have seen a lot of changes in the available technology since his first outing with the group: "I've seen loads of stuff! The original Pink Floyd monitoring system involved taking a 'Y' split off each vocal mic, and routing it through an Hamp; they'd have an individual level control in a small box in front of them. We took the PA horns and spewed them across the stage for the band sound. There was the whole bunch of us — we'd put up the stage and PA, watch the show, and throw it into the U‑Haul truck afterwards. When they began to need a full monitor rig, they said: 'Seth, this has got your name all over it'. Probably because nobody else wanted the job!".

Britannia Row's two monitoring systems comprise traditional floor wedges and in‑ear monitors. Some of the band use one or the other, and some use both. Control is via two VCA‑linked Midas XL‑3 consoles, on which Seth is aided and abetted by Alan Bradshaw. The 'main' console serves as the overall VCA controller, and carries all the vocals, keyboards, guitars and FX returns. The second XL‑3 takes care of both drum kits. Says Seth: "Some of the channels are doubled‑up, and I'm mixing down some of the keyboards from the 'main' console — and this desk also forms the master console for the in‑ear systems.

"For Dave Gilmour there's two vocal channels. The first one is his own channel, which we set here. He also controls the level onstage with an external VCA, which we had custom‑made for him. His other vocal channel is one I mix down for the band, with a different equalisation curve — so I can build him up when he's singing a little bit lower, and cut through with the EQ when the need arises.

"Rick Wright has two vocal channels, one on each of his keyboards. Jon Caren and John Renwick each have a vocal, and there are two backing vocals. All of these are on floor monitors. Nick Mason, however, has a floor wedge plus an in‑ear system; Dick Parry [saxophonist of Floydian legend] uses in‑ears exclusively, whilst Gary Wallis [percussion] has in‑ears and a 3‑way sidefill next to him for extra kick."

As Pink Floyd have never been renowned for wild Jackson/Jagger‑style stage romping, the in‑ear monitors are there for clarity, not acrobatics. Seth: "The less clutter our monitors put out on stage under the canopy, the easier it is for the boys out front to get a nice, clean sound. With less bleed from amplified licks and snares rolling around and going into the mics, they can get a clearer sound on drums and vocals."

Seth proudly notes that "Dave's guitar is the loudest thing on stage. You can walk through different areas of the stage and hear different instruments quite plainly — and you can be up there while they're playing and have a conversation! The monitoring I'm doing is really more to enhance any sound that they're hearing from the PA — Andy [Jackson] is not obtrusive to me, and I'm not obtrusive to him — we're trying to work together to get a clear sound, without stepping on each other's toes.

"Both sets of keyboards are mixed down on stage — they each have their set‑ups pretty much under control — and they're sent to me in left/right stereo, but I'm not doing any stereo mixes on stage — it only confuses the issue for me. The two acoustics are Tim and Dave's guitars, and there are three channels for Dave and Tim's stereo, mixed down to mono."

Down at one end of the main console is what Seth calls "a unique opportunity for the band to speak to me whenever they want!" Each vocal microphone position is furnished with a footswitch which, when pressed, takes that mic out of the PA and routes it instead to a special monitor speaker next to Seth's ear.

"We've got 20 gates and 18 limiters, mainly for the drum kits. Very little else needs to be gated; we're not driving much power. They're all BSS, it's like a BSS store up here — we love them, and they love us! The vocals go into the monitors dry — I could add reverb, but there's enough ambience under this roof, so the vocals cut through nicely enough without any help."

On the subject of changes to the monitor engineer's job, he continues: "The technology has advanced. There's now a lot of innovative products that have made my job a lot easier — and a lot of them have come from companies like BSS listening to what we have to say."


Pink Floyd started live quad sound right back in 1967 (at their 'Games For May' concert at Alexandra Palace) and haven't looked back since. Of course, where you might think of quad sound in terms of two extra speakers on your hi‑fi, quad in a stadium requires the construction of three extra PA wings and the carting of all the speakers, amplifiers, and so on up 100‑plus feet of stadium terracing. Still, with a tour production budget not unadjacent to £70 million, what's a little bit of rock climbing between friends?

Front‑of‑house engineer Andy Jackson explained the live quad setup in more detail. "The main (front) PA is conceptually the front point of the quad system, and the quad output is delayed so that the four points of the quad arrive at the centre of the stadium at the same time. If you've got an effect that's in both the main PA and quad simultaneously, it comes out of the main PA later than from the quad stacks." He laughs: "Got all that?

"So the front quad point is created as a separate mono mix through the main PA. We'd originally talked about having a separate front quad stack suspended from a crane directly behind the stage dome. They've done it before but with this stage the practicalities were ridiculous... it just wasn't worth the effort."

Dave Lohr is the Floyd's man with four ears. He mixes and routes all the quadrophonic effects, some emanating from onstage (guitar and keyboard pans, that sort of thing), and special effects like the cash registers ('Money'), and helicopters ('Wish You Were Here'). These are sent around the surround system through a combination of auto‑panners, routed through the PM3000's auxilliary busses, and the special Midas XL‑3's twin joysticks.

The rear delay stack is time–delayed in order to appear in time with the front PA at the centre of the stadium; Lexicon PCM70 reverb units provide special reverb patches for the quad stacks. Dave Lohr adds: "I can also feed the quad effects aux bus to Andy Jackson's left and right PA sends, so that any effects intended for the quad system can be sent instead to the main PA, in the event that the quad system should fail for any reason — it's there just for emergency backup, and for a few shows where we can't use the quad system."

More feeds from Dave's desks return to the stage carrying monitor mixes of the quad tapes and effects, allowing the band to hear those effects in their own wedge monitors. "They listen for particular segments of the tapes and they'll vamp until they hear those certain sections and then come back in". Dave also went into more detail about one of the most impressive effects: "In 'Wish You Were Here' there's a 'radio' effect that merges into the sound of a helicopter. I feed the radio signal to the auto‑panner, and when the helicopter comes in, I grab the joystick and pan it around."