You might not recognize Dave Williams, but chances are your ears are familiar with his work. This Australian native has been on tour with La Dispute for three years and has also worked with Title Fight, Deer Tick, Balance & Composure, Defater, TouchÃ© AmorÃ©, Pianos Become The Teeth and just about every other major underground punk band. .
What makes Williams special is the fact that he uses studio equipment called Universal Audio Apollo in live situations. Although it is not specifically designed for this use (especially in the large venues in which it operates with La Dispute), its main strengths are the extreme portability and the fact that the integrated digital plug-ins offer it much more. flexibility than analog cards. It’s basically like having studio sound no matter how shitty the club is.
We caught up with Williams to talk about how the Universal Audio Apollo works, how it handles on the road, and what the future holds for live sound. If you don’t believe us, discover La Dispute live this spring during their headlining tour of their new album, The House’s rooms this spring. Your ears will thank you.
Noisey: Could you tell us a little bit about the Universal Audio Apollo and what exactly it does in non-audiophile language?
Dave Williams: The Apollo is a piece of equipment that basically allows me to manipulate eight audio channels and make each channel sound better than before. It is usually found in recording studios or people’s home studios; I’m not sure anyone else is using it like me. The creators of Universal Audio are particularly good at creating plug-ins (the part that enhances the audio) that accurately models the sound of vintage recording equipment and the Apollo provides the platform where this can be done. in a live environment. In the same way that I can turn a knob on a mixer to enhance the sound of a guitar during a live performance, I can turn the virtual “knobs” on the Apollo to make this guitar sound as if it went through a recording console from the seventies or vintage compressor from the sixties.
What made you decide to start using it live?
The first time I took the Apollo on tour was late last year. The band I was working with used a lot of different reverbs and delays on their record, which really improves what they do musically, so trying to reproduce that in a live setting would be difficult to say the least. After some research, I realized that the best way to add that vibe to the show would be to use my Apollo. This would allow me to pre-program a bunch of reverbs and delays that I could change quite easily during the show.
I was a little hesitant at first because I don’t know of anyone else who does this, but the worst-case scenario, if it failed, would only deal with some diminishing effects, which is not a hindrance. After seeing how reliable he was, I had no hesitation in taking him out on tour with Deer Tick. It was super reliable, gave me great consistent sounds, and helped reduce soundcheck time. That’s great news with a band like Deer Tick that has a 32-channel entry list and you load up a bunch of keyboards, a Hammond organ, and a Leslie speaker at every show.
What are the advantages of the Apollo over a typical live sound setup?
The most important part of live sound is being able to get a band’s performance to translate into the audience in the room. For me that largely means eliminating as many variables as possible in each show so that I can focus on the music. Just as a band takes their own drums and amps everywhere, I like to take my own mics and processors to control everything. The Apollo helped reduce my effects rack from something that required two people to lift it above shoulder height safely, to just one analog compressor (Empirical Labs Distressor) and l ‘Apollo, so my setup is compact and can fly with me in Europe and Australia.
I learned to make records in a studio that had a nice Neve analog recording console from the 1970s. It’s actually very similar to the Studio 4 set where La Dispute recorded their new album with Will Yip. A card like this will never see the road, but the Apollo has plugins that model the sound of these cards quite accurately, as well as loads of other classic studio gear that sound better than anything in a room setup. typical concert. While I really doubt anyone in the audience would think, âOh, this guitar sounds like it’s going through a Neve EQ and a Fairchild compressor,â the enhanced sound really helps to more effectively translate what the band is doing on. scene – and I know most people should enjoy it.
Do you think technology is going to allow better sound during live performances in the future?
Absoutely. In the world of sound systems alone, speaker technology is constantly evolving to deliver clearer sound and cover more audiences than ever before; there are even programs that people are now using so that they can simulate sound coverage in a room so they know where to place the speakers to make it sound the best it can be. I think digital technology is in its infancy and plugins like those produced by Universal Audio and Waves will continue to push the boundaries to improve the sound of mixes.
To a certain extent, what I am doing is not new. Many larger tours use their own digital consoles and are able to save entire shows with different settings for each song; some of them even let you run third-party plugins that can model vintage hardware similar to what the Apollo does. I guess the Apollo is just a niche where I want to have consistent, quality sound, without having to carry around an entire mixer.
Were you nervous using it live for the first time?
Not really. Like I said I started using it for reverbs so it took a couple of stepping stones to use it where I put it right into key channels like drums or guitars. This next tour of La Dispute will allow me to use it for the first time on the lead vocals. There’s nothing to hide if a lead vocals drop, so maybe I’ll be a little nervous for this first show. Who knows?
Speaking of which, La Dispute is pretty aggressive live. Are there concerns about blowing up the equipment?
Last November, the Apollo was sitting in the trailer of a group I had just toured with, The Reason, and they hit a patch of black ice and slid off the road where the trailer overturned. I wasn’t involved but the band and the Apollo both survived, so I think it’s a pretty solid unit. In fact, I’m more worried about a drunken asshole spilling his beer on it while he’s living at the soundboard with me than anything La Dispute can do.