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In this episode of Sound Design Live, I talk with North American technical lead for Void Acoustics, Nathan Short. We discuss setting up sound systems for DJs, an alternative to using compressors out of fear, and paying for sound systems with alcohol.
- What are some of the biggest mistakes you see people making who are new to setting up sound systems for DJs?
- Steps to Success with Modern DJ Reinforcement
- No one wants to tell the artist what they can and can’t do. How do I set up a DJ rig so that I can basically let them do whatever they want without destroying the sound system?
- Why are DJ monitor rigs so big and loud?
- “When the sound is right and there’s no distortion, people stay for 2 more drinks and after two years you’ve paid for that sound system.”
- What does “right” mean to you? To customers? What are the most important details I need to get right to help my clients with their end goal (selling alcohol/food, selling tickets)?
- Tell us about the biggest or maybe most painful mistake you’ve made on the job and how you recovered.
- From FB
- Michael Reed: I want to hear how he manages spatial XOVRs of his uncoupled destination sub arrays he puts in bars and clubs.
- Dave Gammon What’s his favorite cut of meat…… 😂
- Zac Chia ask him about the time he sliced his leg setting up Dirtybird Campout.
My job is to help my client make more money.Nathan Short
- All music in this episode by Arulo.
- It comes back down to basic gain structure.
- Tickle the red on the in. Tickle the red on the out. Someone’s going to come up here tonight with a few too many beers in them and play this loud anyway so I might as well do it now and find that reference so I know how loud I can get before the end of the night.
- What I tell them is that if we keep most of our knobs here at noon and you can tickle one red on the input and one red on the output and until then, you’ve got it all. That’s where I start to limit.
- DJs like a floating dance floor so that your feet don’t hurt at the end of a night of dancing.
- They’re not going to know why, but their brains says, “Any time I go there, I have a good time.”
- My job is to help my client make more money.
This transcript was automatically generated. Please let me know if you discover any errors.
I’m Nathan Lively, and today I’m joined by a jack of all trades except lighting. You can find him in corporate boardrooms, dirt festivals, touring metal country and hip hop. Technical lead at Void Acoustics. Nathan Short.
Nathan, welcome to Sound Design Live. Hey, good to be here. So, Nathan, I definitely want to talk to you about how to set up a sound system for a DJ without blowing things up, breaking anything, hurting my equipment. But before I do that, I would love to know what kind of stuff you keep you use for reference tracks. So once you get a sound system set up and you want to kind of get familiar with it, what’s what’s maybe one of the first things you play through it.
So as I’m traveling and I travel a lot, I’m constantly looking out for new music, whether it be D.J. or anything else. This comes from years of being in the in the past I DJed in Chicago for probably 10 years, sports bars, nightclubs all over there was how I supplement my income on the weekends around regular job to and installs and other things. I always I always keep a couple of deejay gigs over the weekend because no. One, if you work at a bar for drinks and that’s how we made it through our twenties without spending all of our money on booze, you know, we always kept a couple of our jobs in bars where that was deejaying and stuff.
I’ve always had an extensive large music collection. I mean, even two thousand five, two thousand four when people were still trying to figure out how to share iPods and stuff, you know, and rip music from each other. I always had, you know, nearly a terabyte of music constantly searching for the new cool stuff to play during my gigs and then constantly looking for archives of really cool old stuff, because I not only didn’t, you know, top 40 and another stuff, but I had a unique thing in Chicago because I came from Missouri and up here, everyone was always trying to do top 40, top 40.
And I was like, well, well, that’s fun. I kind of want to bring the kind of party we used to do in Missouri, which was more like a frat party. So even in the early 2000s, we’d be doing hip hop and then rock and roll and then Southern Rock. And I was like, you know, I’d be looking around these bars. And I’m like, well, there’s a lot of people here that obviously went to Iowa and Nebraska or somewhere else.
I just happened to live in Chicago. Now I’m like, I think there’s room for the good old Midwestern college frat party.
And so we’d be throwing down AC DC in the middle of a hip hop set and people would be going wild and then sweet home Alabama, just sing along. And so even in my travels now I keep Folder’s and I, I use Spotify a lot and then that’s downtown. But there’s the apps that you sit there near the bar and I wonder what that is. It sounds, oh, cool. And I’ll throw that in Spotify playlist to review for later.
So if I just get two or three revolving playlists for one is for corporate trade shows, then I have one. That’s more for the EDM nightclub people. I actually have like when I’m in Asia, I do a lot of traveling in Asia. I have a Chinese market because what they prefer is completely unique. Now tell me about that.
Yeah. So I found out when my last trips I was playing stuff that I like and this and that. And they were getting really weirded out because the bass, the bass they felt was too violent. And that was the word I was getting. And what I had to figure out to tailor that the Asian market needs at the clubs over there was that they don’t like the transient explosiveness that happens at like sixty five and eighty five. When there’s high impact, lots of air moving, they want things more a little over compressed and over rounded.
Just sound more like a car audio sub. A little more polite, a little more. So for them you kind of need to over compression around it a little bit. That’s kind of why they prefer maybe the sound of like a dB to, you know, and pass some very round. It’s very this is what you’re getting. This is what we’re always doing. And they like that polite repetitiveness, OK? You do things that scare them too much and they’re like, oh, that’s aggressive.
You’re wired. Well, so we’re kind of had to tailor a little bit to what they wanted, but a little bit, you know what what we do as well as we acoustics and some of the stuff that I love, we do bring a very dynamic bass sound, so to say back to. I always have a number of Spotify playlists where I’m trying things out and I like to surprise people with new songs. So whether it be something from like defective records or dirty word records, those are two labels that if you want to just throw a pen at the dartboard, you know, they have stuff that just sounds so good because it’s mastered.
So I know for a fact where the stuff for Dirty Bastard, the. London, they have a custom set of old, as I know, the gear goes through and every time you listen to it, you’re just like I just got so rich and powerful and it’s so sweet. Yeah. Yeah. So pretty much anything that Claude Van Stroke to Martin Christian Martin they’re putting out, you can throw up as a reference for. So, you know, OK, well, let’s keep going.
So I just want to check, because I’ve heard stories about people basically funding themselves through college with deejay gigs, but does that really work? So you were able to just like basically do a gig, a weekend, and then that was enough money to pay for college in your life and everything, you know?
So my college story is actually a really funny and crazy one.
I want my freshman year and I played soccer in southern Illinois and I went on pretty much a full ride for Division three soccer. And I got a what they called was a temporary music degree, which was really tailored toward the Christian music market. What I found out when I got there is that I do not operate well in a small town of a thousand people, OK? That’s a that’s a dry county. I got into lots of trouble at that school and I eventually got kicked out of the house.
So I went back to Missouri, took some night courses, and then I met a girl who was moving to Chicago and found out they had a great studio program and live program, went up and interviewed there and then made my way to Chicago and went to Columbia College, had some amazing, amazing mentors, you know, some of them. And, you know, like Jack Alexander Sound Design Live, Jim Nutt was an amazing live teacher and went there for a year.
But while before I got there, my student loans had defaulted within one week. And I was like, well, I’ve been no longer working here. This is two thousand one. And they left her her phone open, but no one took over her pay schedule. So they let me go the first semester they let me go saying that without financial aid. And then they made me stop going. But before they made me stop going, one of my friends who worked there, I found out about a teacher’s aide position.
And so I signed up and started working as a teacher’s aide before they knew I was a student. And I did that for the next three years. And so I’d sit in and audit any classes I wanted. I worked for the school, I worked at graduations, and I kind of scammed my way through the rest of my education by working for the school, and they didn’t know I was a student.
That’s amazing. I did what I have to do to get by. And they actually that actually came up about two years ago. I went in to interview. They wanted me to come back and teach. And when I went in there, the new dean was like, you’re 17 hours away from a degree. And my mentor looked at me and he goes, You asshole. And I was like, all right. I was like, I did what I had to do.
Yeah, I never graduated. OK, cool. And he said, Yeah, keep me on track.
So I know your career has taken all these twists and turns. And I’m just wondering if looking back, you could take us to a point in your life when you felt like maybe you took a hard left turn or something really had to change for you. And so I’m wondering if you could tell us about that and what did what did you decide to do? And just to give you a little bit more information, I have found that with most people there’s some point in their lives when they’re like, OK, I’m not going to be a building manager anymore and I’m going to stop doing this all this work and just focus on audio.
And that may not have been what maybe you went the other direction. But can you think of something like that in your life when you made a decision to really do more of the work that you really love?
I actually have a very defining moment that comes out, and this is where I’ll make a tiny statement. Also, I am I’m a very spiritual person. I personally do believe in God and Jesus. I do not believe in the modern church or dogma. And a couple of years ago, I was digging through a thing that right before I moved to Chicago, I had written down some prayers and I had written a note to myself and God while I was searching these things out, I was in a really dark place in my life.
I was not happy. And the note said, God, please help me find a job in a place where I can be as happy as I am when I’m helping friends, car caraveo or running sound for their fans. I don’t know how to do it. And I was like, put that out there and I found this note. And whether you want to call that self reflection or a prayer, I wrote this down while in a time of turmoil and I found it years later.
I was like I at that time I didn’t know because I came from a small town in Missouri that the possibility of a career in audio was even a thing I worked in. I worked in warehouses and then on the side I would help friends do recordings every now and then. I’d help run some further bands on weekends or at a biker rally. That was the extent of I knew like there was also the venue in town. But I thought that was so far beyond me.
That was that was a level to me. Now, looking at it, it’s a road. And I like those guys to be were so. They’re living it now, and they were so in it, I have the chops to do that, I was just a guy who had to hear it and that get in my friend’s car radio or hook up their own stereo. Enough of that. And then looking at that, in hindsight, I was like, wow, I knew what I was looking for.
I didn’t know how to get there. And I didn’t have anyone to tell me how to get there. I had to figure that out. And so that was going to school and then running into just an amazing amount of talent at that that year, the kids that were going through the program. Now, all of those guys now are stage managers for a lot of the big festivals around huge names that I went to school with. And we all banded together and said, well, we’re going to kick all these old fuddy duddies out.
We’re going to keep each other. We’re going to keep pulling each other up. And so every time one of us got a new job, we’d sneak in two or three of our friends and then he’d get up somewhere and he’d take us along. And now we’re talking about stage managers for Lollapalooza, you know, for some of the main stages, people that tour the world with, I mean, major acts. My old roommate is the chance, the rapper’s front house guy.
They tour the world a lot of our guys and went into huge giant corporate. And we’ve always we always banded together in a matter of ten years. We took over a large portion of the industry in Chicago with our own kind of underground mafia.
You know, we’ve brought in people we trusted and we excluded people that we could trust. And it was really we had a really good run for a good number of years. And now I could pick up the phone. And I’ve got I’ve got friends that work for every major company in the world right now that are close friends.
I feel like it’s important that I know you now. Before it was fun, but now it’s for business. So. So what was the decision? So you you discovered this prayer reflection you’d written down at some point and then you decided what? I’m going to move to Chicago and do this? Well, this was this was finding that out years later, OK? So I hadn’t had that search out there. And then Chicago kind of fell into my lap, whether that was an answer for prayer.
But I remember when this girl that I met told me that she was leaving and going to school in Chicago and I was like almost devastated. We had the summer going on and I really did love her. And all of a sudden, for a week everywhere, I turn to the newspaper, Chicago, the TV commercial on the radio, Chicago. And I’m telling you, I heard it five times a day for like two weeks in a row. And I went, OK, OK, I need to go check this out.
The universe the universe is telling me this is this is the thing to do. And in hindsight, it was it was an answer to either that that great search or that or that was definitely written in the stars that I need to be in Chicago. And then I I took the springboard from there and hustled. So, Nathan, you have set up a lot of sound systems in your day and you’ve helped a lot of people set up sound systems.
So I’m curious, what are some of the mistakes you see people making over and over again? Maybe you could share with us one or two of the most common mistakes you see people making who are new to setting up sound systems for DJs?
Yeah, that becomes a whole different thing. Now, back in the day, it used to be underpowered amps and games on the amplifiers that set open music, getting on an amplifier as as volume and volume.
Right now, they use it as what I was doing game structurally the wrong point of game structure where my brain goes. And nowadays it’s less because you see so many more people using powered speakers. So now there’s so much less thought put into it for the amateur. So you have you have two groups going to have the amateur, you’re going to have the mid level and you’re going to have the extreme, the mid-level. Let’s say you’re going to see DJs at your average house or your average media festival.
You know, they’re going to do what they’re going to do with the limitations. But and then on the big side, we’ve talked about this before, people using compressors and limiters wrong at the game stage between the dB. And that’s pretty much the thing I would focus on is it just comes back to the basic game structure and people not understanding that you can set up to help you succeed instead of just leaving him and guessing and doing well. I don’t know where the game is on my knob because you never took the five minutes to go up to his mixer.
You can plug your phone in or a file from a thumb drive, set a high level and go back to your desk upload. Now, if you take the extra five minutes and do this and understand, OK, well, when he turns up there and there, my console is here. Cool. Instead, what you will see a lot of guys doing, like will send me a signal. Where are you going to play? Well, come on then.
That’s like that’s like twenty dB of guesswork right there. And then you’re hoping he doesn’t turn up later. It’s the same as like what we call that market. And this is when if you’ve ever run down for horn bent trumpet players and trombone players are notorious when you say, hey, all right, let’s get those monitors set, let’s get a level set, play you something like where you’re like, that’s nice. But I know as soon as I turn my head, you’re about to blow my brains across the side of the room and you’re like, give me a show level.
I need to show up for you. And they’re like, why weren’t you like, listen, I’m going to give you all the monitors. I get what I need you to blow that thing like you’ve been warmed up for twenty minutes and then maybe they’ll give you a loud note, but you still never that first note. They’re going to come out of the gate. They’re just going to go, well, they’re going to bury that diaphragm into the back of the magnet, you know, so we call that market and we you can’t go up a horn player to do it, but you can walk up to a big.
Put your own speed and plug your phone in, put a thumb drive in profile, turn the game up nice and spicy, as if you would examine to show level to the red on the integral, the red on the window. Yeah, someone’s going to come up here eventually tonight with the too few, many beers in them. And they’re going to play this loud anyway. So I might as well do it now and find that reference so I know how loud I can get before the end of the night.
And so most of times you’ll find people don’t do this and then when they start to get scared, they throw a compressor on it. Oh, I better compress this.
I don’t know what he’s going to do because they have to do it. So that’s how you use a compressor. A wrong is by not setting up the game properly ahead of time and just trying to rely too much on the compressor to save you.
That’s right. When she smashes mushy. OK, I’m safe now. And what have you done? You’ve ruined the dynamics. You’ve made it sound even worse. You know that, because when we know, we know two things are ever going to come in with really amazing files because they’re super pro or they’re going to come in with garbage. So we can’t do something to make it worse. Right. All we can do is try and do things to make it better.
And you’ll see it on like especially when guys would be running hip hop. I’d be in Chicago, I couple to squishy, squishy, squishy. I’m like, why are you killing this? Like, because it sounds like crap. Our friend. Hold on, try this. Instead of using that as this is where it started, I started to get into using progressors as a quick release limiters. I feel like it started with some of those hip hop deejays who would just be absolute pure red.
They just don’t care. They’re there to be loud and do one thing for the embassy and everyone else because they’ve got one job. And that’s to the embassy may find that he doesn’t know. So it’s down to that loyalty thing and they don’t care about you. You don’t get anything else. Track loud. I will speak to my MP. It’s nice to know you, but you are not my boss. This guy up here for my kids. And you have to understand that.
I mean, I see my friends especially with crap out of this. Yeah, we already know his tragic can be weird. He’s got a gun controller. And so you in quick attack, quick, quick release just to catch the big, nasty transient. You know, we’re talking about eight attack, sixteen release and then we’d only have it coming in to our I’m trying to catch three or six dB. That’s anything else. I need to go upstream and put a pad in front of my mind free or line in or I need to put a dye to knock the signal down.
This topic is so important and it’s interesting, I think that both you and Dave Rete discussed some methods at this year’s Lifeson summit for what you can do technically to have a really great relationship with the artist. And so you talk about how you can set up your deejay rig so that basically when the deejay walks up, they’re expecting some sort of limitations from you. So they’re already kind of have an adversarial relationship where they’re like Nathans coming up here. He’s going to tell me to turn it down.
He’s going to tell me all things I can’t do. And so then when you come up and you say, hey, how’s it going? And they say, hey, like, where can I set these knobs? And you’re like, hey, you can turn it all the way up, then it’s like they’re amazed because they’re so used to people telling them all the things they can’t do.
So what I like to do is when I walk up and I say, hey, just to let you know, here’s how it is. And I was like, if we keep most of our jobs here at noon and game and you can take a one read on the input, you can take a one read on the output, and until then, you’ve got it all. That’s where I start to limit. And they go, oh wow, someone’s being honest with me.
I’m like, I’m not going to limit you until it’s there. And that’s just for the system. You’ve got the whole system until then. And I’m like, your monitor. Go ahead and turn it all the way up. That’s all. You you have complete control. If you need more, I’ll try to find it. But you should be surprised. And usually they go, yeah, go ahead. And you know, and it’s you for absolute Armageddon and they usually turn halfway up and oh you’re like, there you go, you know.
So yeah, you just tell them the rules are like, listen, you’ve got it all. But here’s where the limit sets in and I’m here to make you sound as good as possible outside. So if you just take the radical to to we stay there, we’re good. And they’re usually really happy, you know. OK, great.
You get those you get those things that you discover work well with people and then you discover that you can kind of just like repeat them in the right way and like people get it, you know. Yeah.
Yes. So this leads me to the next question from your presentation. It sounds like it was called Steps to Success with modern dB reinforcement. And one of the things you talked about is the question I’ve always had. Why are monitor rigs so big and loud? And the two reasons I remember are actually really straightforward. But yeah. Would you talk about that for a second? Yeah.
So what you’ll find is that is not just to have a performance. They’re not prima donna. These are people who love music, who grew up at the scene, who love the singing and as one of a quorums. We titled that we fool around in your records. These are people who literally want to hug the speakers and to have their experience and teachers come from that world. And so when they play a small club, the small club, you’re in that system, you don’t need it as big of monitors because that base is in the room.
You’re getting pounded from all sides. When it’s a good club, the booth is more near the crowd. So let’s remove ourselves now and go to the bigger stage. You know, remove the person from the crowd. You can’t reach out and touch your crowd. So how do you get that feeling back? So what what’s going to happen in around twenty four thousand five? If we come through with his dB, that’s going to triple 15s and then three or four dB ask what this did?
Is it put a lot of punchy bass on the ground and then it coupled all this massive momentum, high frequency kept them low. So you didn’t have giant stacks, you had everything coming from from low up and him. And because he was such a tall guy and we’re talking he’s six, I believe he always had problems with getting auditors up high enough to get his ears. So if we do the line or a curve from down below, it’s going to hit him no matter what the shortage comes in.
Guess what? It’s going to get the shortage, too. They didn’t have to start reinventing the wheel just for him to come on. Painkillers got less. And then the video and lighting guys realized, oh, look, there’s no fat that’s in the way of my own lighting show. And so this became the de facto standard. And people were like, why do you need all that horsepower? That’s not the way Linera works. Well, the does the gospel of guide is not a traditional itinerate element.
It is it is a web shape in a slot. It does different things that it’s more like a hi fi device in my mind. I mean, people say, oh, they’re your medicine, your kids not going to couple. Well, guess what? This serves a purpose, and it actually sounds good when you doing it. I’m worried about horsepower and the reason these guys want that horsepower, because now you remove them from the crowd and they need to get that feeling back, that close connectivity.
So the smart guys put in their 30 in our reduction hearing protection devices and they crank it and crank it because they want the low bid viscosity to be modulating their chest. They want those cell blows to be blowing their legs around to have the feeling of being in the crowd and being assaulted by the P.A. while they’re removed from their crowd in the P.A. And so it’s all about what we call a body feel. They do it to get their body in the game, to get loosened up, to feel part of the music, and then they put in if they’re smart.
And most of the guys that I work with, our superstar, are very aware that the hearing protection goes in because I don’t need all that power in IMiDs. I want all that power in the low mids lows to shake my body and get my brain that endorphins in the same space as my crowd is. OK, so, Nathan, one of my favorite quotes from your presentation and from the entire life sounds I something I wrote it down and I actually quoted it later during my presentation at the end of the summit.
Is this you said when the sound is right and there’s no distortion, people stay for two more drinks. And after two years, you’ve paid for that sound system. And I just love that you I think you said you came up, you figure this out with someone else, but you just kind of have figured out the dollars to dB average for installing sound systems and what that can do for your business and also connecting it with what your clients or customers want, which is oftentimes sell more alcohol, sell more food, sell more tickets.
And so you’re connecting sound quality with their business success. And so the follow up I wanted to ask you about this idea is what does right mean to you and to your customers? What are the most important details that you feel like you need to get right to help your clients with their end goal, whatever that is, selling alcohol, food, tickets, that kind of stuff? Yeah.
So this came about as hanging out at a super trendy nightclub in Chicago where my friends would work. And one of my friends there, a couple was a bartender and the other friend, she was a cocktail and cocktail server for some of the high dollar bottle service stuff. We’re talking, you know, back in the late mid 20s, these are people who would take home six grand at night. We’re talking about kind of nightclub super high end, super high volume, really great at the time and had a function, one sound system in it, which was supposed to be top of the line.
And what they noticed about this particular venue is there were mains that were pointed right at the bar and there were some behind the bar pointed right at your point of sale. And so you’d be going to try and order a drink. And you’re just absolutely screaming at the bartender to try and get a drink. And then my buddy would complain about. So this thing started slowly sitting. And I’m like, well, you don’t need to put speakers there because that’s where we’re taking in revenue.
He was complaining about his ears and I got him some special ear plugs. I think all the bartenders started wearing the atomistic research because they’re cheap. They go in and they just lower everything in a high five way. And you can actually in a loud, nasty bar, hear people talking easier because it cuts down the extraneous bouncing around noise. And I got them hooked on that. And I started thinking about, you know, I’m like, you know, someday I’m going to be designing the big clubs.
This is not a mistake I’m going to make. I’m not going to point about it at the bar where the money is exchanging, where the commerce is taking place, what they’re not charging at the door for these large nightclubs. They’re making their money on booze. So if I don’t help the bar so oose they’re not going to buy speakers of lights, which is where I make my money or the new fancy DJ gear. This has I have to make the owner money and then the owner will be happy and spend money with me, you know.
So I started looking at the mistakes that were being made and then I started researching. How did the classic discos do it, how did you do for Zanzibar and all these amazing places you heard of in New York? You know, how could we find the old material somehow? This just laid out where they did and did not put delays where they did and did not put Phil speakers or their methods. These are the guys that invented it. And I started looking about how how high power was on the dance floor.
And sometimes they didn’t do any of the ladies at all. You want to dance with the dance floor, you want to talk, you go to the bar. And so I started looking at every aspect of this. And then one of the cool things we got into over at Columbia College, Chicago is as part of the aesthetics of live sound, you know, we get into acoustics and psychoacoustics. There are no courses on that. And while I didn’t get to take the courses, I did buy the book.
And I said and I got my friends took the course and I started studying as much as I could, because as we know, you go into a noisy, loud restaurant. It doesn’t have soundproofing anywhere and you’re trying to talk to someone. It’s a miserable experience. Loud, noisy restaurants are horrible. We want to be calm. I want to have nice with you. I don’t want my voice heard at the end of the night. I’m just trained to listen to you.
The human brain is powerful DSP when we’re in a noisy environment that DSP engages to decipher what the person across from us is saying to get those words across. It’s trying to look at your lips moving and match that up with some sort of algorithm in our head that’s filtering extraneous things out to get communication across. And so I started thinking about why were all these little things with the disco so important? They don’t follow them now. Why do they have little floating dance floors?
And you read an article and it was important to the deejays that the guest dancing on the dance floor that floated and moved so their feet wouldn’t hurt. At the end of the night, you dance on concrete, your feet hurt. I was like, why were they so? Concerned about this because they want people dancing. I was like, OK, so they don’t want their feet hurt, that’s causing pain, that’s causing a negative performance and stuff to be released in our body pain messages.
Cool. So we get that out. Let’s do the same thing with the audio. And if we don’t have harsh mid range and everything, sweet and high fine and everything’s balanced in the right way or people’s brains are going to release stress chemicals. And then I started looking into studies about this. If you’re in a noisy, nasty environment, your brain’s releasing stress chemicals because it’ll work if we eliminate the need for the brain to make that. And you’re sitting there just talking normally, that would be an uncomfortable way.
Your brain is only going to release endorphins from having a good time. If we don’t sell you alcohol and you have more endorphins and then you go dancing, you have more endorphins. What we’re doing is we’re giving you an entire cornucopia of legal high. You are literally floating on cloud nine because we know about Norbert and norepinephrine dopamine and serotonin, and we want those things flooding out. While you’re having a good time, I want it as much as I can keep your brain from engaging high level of thought, any amount of stress or any amount of pain, then what we’re left with is a natural high for everyone.
And what that turns into is people are going to stay longer, they’re going to dance longer, they’re going to feel comfortable, they’re not going to know exactly why, but they’re going you know, every time I go there, I have such a good time. And then their brain associates that have Lova and response with I like going there, I’m happy they’re about happy with this other club. I don’t know why it’s nicer. They have a nicer sound system, something else.
But every time I go here to my favorite place, I’m comfortable. I’m happy. People I’m with have a good time. I leave in my ears. Don’t hurt to. What we’ve done is we’ve given them a complete stress free experience and we noticed that the turnover that started happening is everyone to stay longer, dance longer, are more drinks. And over the course of the year, our clients started making much more money and we would then sit down and talk about this like, hey, we’re not going to point fingers at your point.
So I know you think speakers go over here. Guess what?
They don’t you know, I’m not going to tell you how to run your bar. Don’t tell me how to run myself. I’m going to help you make more money, you know? And so we’d be like we started doing very specific things. No speakers ever pointed at point of sale. If they are, they’re going to be so low and so tailored, they’re nearly invisible. You’re not going to think they’re on the curve is going to be for maximum vocal intelligibility between the person handing over the money and taking the money.
And that’s very important because we need to make our clients money, but we also need to put our best foot forward. And it just so happens, it’s the same thing. My best job is also going to make my client more money. So that’s that is that summed up as concisely as I can.
And so you have some of these specific things, but it sounds like you’re very good at reading the room. And and so it’s hard to generalize because it’s whatever you think the room needs and the client needs to to get the job done and to get the results that they won. It’s not like you have a template that you follow every time. No.
And I’m sure that if I wanted to make some sort of complicated Excel spreadsheet that could be done or as part of some larger SRM, other factors taken in. But it’s really about common sense. We’re not going to put big face by the front door to annoy the neighbors. You know, we’re not going to point fingers at our point of sale. There are there are zones like the bathrooms. The bathrooms don’t need to be blaring.
These are common sense things that you walk into some place and you’re just like, oh, my God, no one stepped in here and like, gone to take a piece of mind and realize six and a half inch finger on maximum overdrive.
Wow. That’s not comfortable. Let’s let’s fix these things. It’s the niceties. It comes back to the aesthetics of the situation. So. Yeah, well, Nathan, you’ve done so many cool things in your career so far, and besides getting kicked out of school, I would love if you would share with us maybe one of the most painful, biggest mistakes that you’ve made on the job in your own mind. And then what after what happened afterwards, how you recovered?
So the I was I was thinking about that because you had asked me to think about that. And I’ve been quite lucky to not have a lot of major, major mistakes in my career. But there is one that really stands out. And I was in Japan and we were launching Incubus in Japan. For Japan is the first time ultra music festival went to Japan as they had started to branch out around the world, and I hope it was in a number of Asian countries and would work its way around the world, even South America back to Miami.
Miami being the kick off every year as one of the world’s largest electronic music festivals. So we go over to do ultra Japan with my incredibly, incredibly awesome Japanese counterparts. These guys are just the absolute, most amazing bunch of guys. They’re footies, they’re personable. They’re they’re like family. So we set up and we’re doing everything all day. And it was a very, very famous club outside of Tokyo with an insane and I’m talking insane amount of loud.
They’ve been designed by Jim Thorpe and each of these Red Cluster’s had to Tadgh fifteens a tad 10 and then it’s had four inch compression driver with a couple of bullets and the crown arms were set in them. And I think there’s something like thirty eight of these in two concentric rings on trust. It goes up and down. And then they had a house very dark. And I think that 10 elements inside of Dask and then a few weird configurations of.
That in-house guys were not super happy that we then come in with our to what looks like little compared to that room stacks of incubus and a little center cluster. So I’ve got my tools. We want to go out 15 or 12 or six and a half and we fire it up and they’re pretty happy. And the guy on stage is like more and more and more. And I’m like, cool, cool, cool. We got a little headroom, little headroom and all of a sudden all the hyman’s are gone.
I’m looking around, we stop to stop and I’m out at front of house and I can already smell, oh, now I knew what had happened. So I run up and the guys are climbing over the speakers and they’re sniffing like, guys, guys, guys, the production people are watching here. Stop, stop. Let’s go have a sidebar. And I look and I said, what happened? What happened? What happened? I noticed the lights dimmed while this would happened.
And at that time, this was before everyone could afford power. Something really serious was was good, but didn’t sound as good yet as a lot of the other stuff over Japan, their voltage runs at about one hundred and five. That’s all they have. And so the guys have gotten custom modified Chinese lab group. It’s made for their rig at the time and they were very, very good. We know a lot of people use those sandwiches and see views now, and they’re incredibly well made at the time.
These are some of the first really very well-made ones with the cost of running about one hundred five bolts. And the guys are like, oh yeah, we have brownouts here all the time now.
And I when it was found out during soundcheck and it cooked every single time made and high frequency device in a brand new customers, I didn’t know that could happen.
That’s terrifying. Yes.
Which is why we soon after this we had moved over to a complete power soft thing simply because of the amount of precise limiting you could do. You know, before it was the Wild, Wild West. Well, what’s your what’s your DP? We had an tbsp, but not everyone wanted that. They wanted that. They wanted this. A lot of my early work with Boyd was simply gaining consistency between different things. So I tell everyone, we’re taking a break.
I go to the house, guys. And I said, and this is this is the point where the Japanese mindset is coming on. I’m getting the looks of death.
I need you to take the sword out, cut yourself up and commit Harry Carry right now, sword.
And I’m being looked at like a piece of trash. And I said, could we please could I send out a matrix left and right into your house for you? That’s great. No, no, no. I’m not asking for your entire ring. We’ll use my subs mids and close up to my twelve. I only want to use your high gifted tonight. We have to have a solution. The show starts in a couple of hours. The guy said, OK, they drag this rack out the front of house, they stick to dB.
That’s one sixty’s on my matrix. The guy cranked it down a little bit hard. They have a guy sit there and he sits there for the next twelve hours. He traded out with one guy. This is my babysitter of shame. So I go back out, I dial in the delay real quick and it turns out it takes six Vidor’s kind of elements to keep up with our incubus. That’s what we like. Yep. Just turn on fixed up timeline and to my to my stack, read up on my bass and then we’ll just use your hands and eyes.
Well, it sounded fantastic, but the show went well. And because I was so ashamed of what had happened, I sat there and I only took like one pee break that whole night. I sat there and next for twelve hours, I think my hand will not leave. This will not have any more problems. This will be a perfect show that other stupid little kids sat next to me and was my babies that look at me every time I got loud, every time his compressor started with dB like, are you going to get this?
I was like, Yeah, I get it. I get it, man.
And I love that I have to work. Hopefully he didn’t speak English. So the two of you couldn’t actually talk. You just had to look at this.
This is pretty much what’s happened. I think they asked me a number of times that night, do you want to take a break? You want to go somewhere you don’t need to stand. You know, you’re just like I said, no, you’re going to make this right. And I have I earned their respect, OK, by standing there for the next twelve hours and just solid on my face. I’m going to take a break. We’ll be right back in five minutes.
I was back in five minutes. I was standing there. I didn’t stop watching the stage. And I just I took my licks. I had to pay for all of that because it was my mistake. And I had gone to one of the owners at the time and he gave me this bill back. And I was like, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. I’m like, we understand retail and factory pricing.
I’m like, I’m asking was a personal one time favor, can I get manufacturer pricing? Things cost because it’s coming out of my own pocket. And then I shipped the stuff to the guys with my apologies. And I said, and so they got an entire new set of different devices were there. And that’s the I did that. Right. That’s an amazing story. Just to give people some context and also just for me to confirm, like you keep mentioning, you mentioned power soft a few times in that story.
And I think the reason is because power soft amps has some very more advanced power tracking on the inside. So when the AQ’s coming in, it can really track and make sure that everything’s OK and protect the. That and the output limiting, so the absolute rock solid voltage limiting on the output of those amplifiers, you know, used to have a lab group in Sydney, and here’s what I’ll say. The reason I moved away from my screen experience is the favorite power.
I installed the first Katende in North America. We got the first one off the boat that was not a demo piece. And I put it in a nightclub probably back in two thousand and five or six. Ten dB was brand new. We didn’t know much about it. We’re like, what do you mean? We need to hook up 30 to 40? It doesn’t care. And my electrician was like, that’s insane. Don’t do that. I’m like this.
I’m telling you, this is the best stuff. And we put it on some old our axes at this club. It just beat the everloving beat him to within an inch of their life. And those drivers blew I put it in at the time of being hundreds live even better and we beat them up with that thing. But because I could dial in that voltage limit, the output of that thing was it’s a whole new world. And what we found out over time is this came from moving manorial boxes for a company you’d have lab group in on the set of these Martin audio subs.
And at the end of the night, the driver doors were just so hot. And then we switched over to power, soft on a few of them. And at the end of the night, the priority was to just be warm and doing some some comparisons back and forth. And part of it was a function of the power off to deliver its transient voltage so quickly. And I started looking at how the old MAPP group and their TV and to me with the fractions of a microsecond, but the TV waveform versus the abs, the precision impulse of the power stuff that we’re talking fractions of a microsecond that over the course of the evening led to twenty or thirty degrees that the boys call long term.
And every time I use power soft, I had just as much bass and what might not have been as warm or as high five. But what we’re actually taking that into is trying to smear. That’s what our brain was quite it’s warm and fuzzy now. It’s theory. And what we’re talking we’re talking. They’re both very good amps. I’m not talking down about any company. It’s about how the driver is held for absolute microseconds at the top and bottom of the platform that’s being reproduced.
Our soft is a little more precise, but people called it cold. Guess what? It had more power. I’m going to go for more power and I’m going to make up for your lack of warmth with something in my pre stage attitude and something else, I’m going to want that power and that voltage delivery. And I’ve seen that this comes back to that. We want to protect our Vojtko from heat keeps the enemy if we can deliver voltage while keeping the long term heat down the arms heat, we’re going to have less glue failure, less component failure, better transducer.
I’m going to lose my soft parts before I lose my coil. That’s what we want.
Yeah, that makes sense to me. Let’s keep the art on the artist side and let’s keep the sound system linear and keep the science on the side and said, yeah, you know, and that’s why we just came down to it.
You know, I would make those choices. I still love Loubriel, but I love the way it sounds. But for me, long term and a sound system, if I want a system that’s a problem, that’s going to be power top for me simply because it’s we have less heat. And I’m going to argue with me somewhere, but I will track it down to personal experience and we microseconds in the way that it produces its waveform versus the absolute almost clinical peak, the peak that the power itself does.
It’s those microseconds that lead to 20 or 50 degrees.
Well, Nathan, I know you’ve got to take out soon because you’ve got a demo there in Houston, Texas, where you’re doing an install. But let’s knock out a couple of these Facebook questions before you go. So Dave Gamon says, what’s his favorite cut of meat? I have a New York strip guy. All right, he says, ask him about the time he sliced his legs, setting up Dirty Bird camps.
Yeah, so this is a good story, being a big, large man who has spent many, many years on his feet doing production. I’m getting to the point where I’ve got a few varicose veins on on my lower cats.
And we were out in the high desert outside of L.A. somewhere to get out. It is night three or something. And it has been absolute crusty, dry there where the legs are all blotchy and skin’s dry and we’re not showering like we should run out. It’s the middle of the night. And I walk past the case and the case had a little snag on the metal that literally catches my varicose veins and just goes so sorry, the tiniest.
I’m telling you, it is the tiniest micro millimeter pinprick you’ve ever seen in your life. But because it’s down near my ankle, this thing shoots blood like four feet and just straight out and everyone’s like screaming, I’ve got my hand over it and I am just hemorrhaging live right there. And they take me away on a thing. They wrap me up and the ladies like what’s already skipped over. Let me look at this. I’m like, don’t touch it.
She touches it and it literally took off. It’s all over her.
And she’s like, I’ve never seen this before. Well, that was funny videos online. This is what happens when you take a varicose veins, wrap it up, but it heals.
Yes, as well, I’m sorry, we have to end on that note now. So, Nathan, where’s the best place for people to follow your work?
As much as I can post on things I do on Facebook and just make sure you’ll find me wrapped up in it.
Yeah, that’s about it. I feel like this wasn’t long enough. Now, this is great.
We got all the main things I wanted to ask you. I got all my questions, my personal questions answered. And that’s all that’s important. Yeah, but no, we’ll have you back and do another one in the future. I should have mentioned if people are interested, like Sound Design Live 2020, dot Sound Design Live dot com is where you can go. If you want to watch Nathan’s entire presentation that he gave, which is really great. But we even ran out of time there.
And you know, there’s just always there’s always more to talk about. So all we can do is like keep getting together and, you know, getting into more conversations.
So thank you.