If you’ve been to a live gig in Melbourne over the last five years or so chances are, Ryan Scoble was mixing it or had his hand in it. Ryan’s wealth of experience, knowledge and in-depth involvement within the Melbourne music community is nothing short of staggering. For someone who self-confessed to have arrived in the pro audio game “pretty recently,” he’s certainly made deep tracks both in Australia and overseas. Now the Production Manager of both the iconic Cherry Bar in Melbourne’s AC/DC Lane and the new Stay Gold Bandroom located in Brunswick, it’s exhausting just thinking about where Ryan finds the time or the energy in keeping these live music venues in working order, let alone be still actively playing drums in bands, mixing freelance gigs and working at festivals.
In this episode of our series Front of House, Noisegate recently got the opportunity to catch up with Ryan at Stay Gold to talk gear, favourite venues, analogue or digital preferences and the challenges he faces when applying his craft.
What got you started in live sound?
Before I was working full time in audio I used to be heavily involved in hospitality. I used to run bars, live music venues and one of the venues I was running down on the Mornington Peninsula started doing live music. We had a Thursday night which was a “Uni Night”, where we’d have cheap drinks and we wanted to put on something a little livelier. We had a night club upstairs and general pub stuff happening downstairs. There was an in house PA and because I played the drums I’d always been involved in audio to some degree, but definitely not in a professional sense, or even to a point of being able to pretend I knew what I was doing. People could see through that bullshit straight away, [laughs] thinking something like “you don’t know what’s going on”. Anyway, as the guy that was running the venue, I had a responsibility to set all this stuff up and I was constantly frustrated with knowing how bands should sound live, whether it was a band or an acoustic solo artist and how it was supposed to sound but I couldn’t achieve it so I got really into it. I then decided to invest some time to research how to get these things done and using whatever small knowledge that I had from always playing and being around music and I kind of just fell in love with it. I loved interacting with bands, I loved talking about what they were doing, how they were doing it and what they wanted to be doing with their live shows. So, I studied for a little bit, but by that stage, I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to work in a venue that had someone in a position that could teach more. I got a lot out of being at uni and studying but I got even more from being out in the field, putting hands on faders and fortunately for me, I had somebody that was willing to give me that time, so that was good.
What are some of your favourite venues you’ve mixed at?
Stay Gold and Cherry Bar [laughs]. Obviously, you don’t invest so much of yourself into venues that you want to be running in house stuff for, making sure that bands are sounding great, having a great time and the people that buy tickets have a sick time. I definitely can’t excuse the fact that I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t find venues like Stay Gold and Cherry Bar, two of my favourite places to be, and they are. But outside of those, I mixed at Gorilla in Manchester in the United Kingdom which was just awesome, so much fun! In terms of Melbourne venues, I just can’t go past the old HiFi, Max Watts, I think that’s just fantastic. The crew that work there are always on point, really great guys. I’ve been fortunate to mix there a couple of times now and I’ve always had a really great time there. The Corner Hotel. Jimmy Fitzpatrick is one of the best in house production managers I’ve come across. He’s super knowledgeable, super friendly and super helpful, which is really rare actually, which is really surprising.
As the Production Manager of the iconic Cherry Bar and now Stay Gold, can you tell us about the systems you’ve helped install in these venues?
Fortunately, enough when Cherry made a partnership with some new bookers there was an overhaul of the system. A fantastic guy called Lee, who sadly has since passed away, installed a new system in there. He did a lot of work for JPJ Audio, who are pretty iconic in terms of installation and touring work in Australia. Lee was just such a fantastic guy and put in a really great rig in there. So, at Cheery Bar we’ve got two NEXO PS15-R2’s for front-of-house and a couple of Wayloud double eighteen subs underneath. Side fills are Quest QM700’s, fifteen-inch side fills and then up the front for centre fill there’s two QM12MP’s, which are twelve-inch passive boxes. The Front-of-house desk is a Midas M32. When that whole system came in, I came on board as well so I worked with Lee to put everything in place and its fantastic gear for a venue that size.
Here at Stay Gold, we had Drew Tourle and Adam Kaye from GAS Audio Services who did the spec and installation here. So behind me, we’ve got two d&b Audiotechnik V7P’s, there’s two per side for front-of-house and underneath we’ve got two d&b subs. For monitoring we’ve got six Quest QM700’s in pairs, so a pair in the centre, a pair stage left and a pair stage right. Over at the drum fill, we’ve got a Quest QM215FR, which is basically a double fifteen-inch tower with a horn, which gives you that chesty thump that drummers want to feel from their kick drum and all that kind of stuff. So, we’ve got those on stage for speakers but the real power and the sick thing about this venue is that we’ve got a DiGiCo SD11 sitting out front. An absolutely incredible console for this sized venue. We have a capacity of four hundred plus guests of up to around four hundred and fifty. For the size of the room and the capacity, the kind of production capabilities that we’ve got is incredible. Our hope is that we’re going to be filling in this space for a club-sized venue for international touring acts to be able to come through whilst on a festival tour, do a sideshow, sell it out, have a sick time as well as the punters.
As for the restaurant at the front of the venue, which is called Spitfire, I got in four JBL EON610’s. I’d heard them before but since that last time, they’ve actually done a new release on the build itself and these things just sound phenomenal. The coverage is great for that sized restaurant having those four speakers in four corners of the venue spreading out the sound is going to mean that everybody in the restaurant is going to able to experience some really nice ambient tunes. But I think the thing that really made me realize that these are the right speakers is the controllability. I don’t have to buy external controls, hardware controls or any kind of DSP or processing and take up valuable bar space by having to put in an EQ, compressor or anything like that. I can literally, via Bluetooth, control every element of it. And in a super reflective space like that being able to individually go to each speaker and for example take a bit of 2.5 kHz out because it’s a little washy and all that kind of stuff, is super, super helpful.
Talking about the venue specs as well, this size of venue to have its own dedicated side of stage monitors is unheard of. We’ve got an Allen & Heath SQ6 sitting back there and we’re running it at 96kHz. I think that desk has only been out for about twelve months or a bit longer, it’s sick. It’s great for running monitors and we can run our monitors at 96kHz, that’s pretty cool.
What are some of the biggest challenges/most enjoyable things about being a live sound engineer?
Band parents [laughs]. It’s so funny because I remember when I was younger in my career and when you’re starting out, you are literally just starting out. You tend to try everything you can to do your job in a professional way but at the end of the day you can’t deny the fact you’re not as experienced as other people might be or as other people would expect you to be and the people that would expect you to be the most are definitely parents of the bands. If you’re working with artists that are really young, still learning their stagecraft and trying really hard, in a smaller capacity venue like Cherry Bar, which on Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s have live music but they’re not big bands that are booking and selling out shows or are on festival lineups, these are young bands that are trying their hand at their craft, their passion and want to try and start doing it. So, it kind of makes sense that their parents will be there as well. And there are other challenges like dealing with higher-profile artists that are a little bit needy, that’s difficult. To globalize that statement a little bit more, one of the biggest challenges is pleasing everyone. To the point of pleasing the venue that you’re operating out of, pleasing a tour manager, pleasing a friend or a parent of the band and most importantly, pleasing the people that are coming to a show that has paid money. That’s the biggest pressure.
On the most enjoyable things in when someone in the crowd, that you don’t know at all comes up to you and says “thanks so much, that sounded amazing, I had a great time.”, that’s rad! Cause that’s the kind of adulation that a fan would save for the guys on stage, the people that are playing and performing. If they’ve performed, put on a great show and they’ve done everything they can to entertain their crowd then, of course, a fan’s going to go up to them and say “thank you so much, that meant so much to me, I had a great time, thank you.” But for someone to turn around and say that to someone that’s meant to be invisible, man that’s so nice! You don’t do it for the adulation or the congratulations or the “oh my god you’re so good”, you do it for more than that but it’s really, really great when that does happen, that’s a thumbs up.
Do you have a preference of digital or analogue?
I could get geeky and say “I like analogue because you can do certain things you wouldn’t always be able to get away with on a digital desk”. For example, I mixed a show for Reside at Last Chance Rock & Roll Bar and they’ve got a little Allen & Heath 16 channel desk analogue desk there and I brought in a two-channel gate and compressor just so I could gate out the kick and snare. I knew I was going to get that gain channel on the kick and snare, take that gain and turn it all the way up. Because on an analogue desk I can crunch the absolute hell out of something that’s really transient like a kick and a snare and get good, crunchy, warm tone out of it and then I could just gate it if it was causing any kind of issues with the system in terms of feedback or anything like that. So, I like analogue desks sometimes for that but I’m going to have to say, as a thirty-year-old engineer working in 2019, digital. I have to say one hundred percent digital. It’s so convenient, you have so many options on each different channel to be able to craft what you need each channel to be, to better influence the whole mix.
And lastly, what have you, Ryan Scoble got coming up?
Obviously, coming into this time of year it’s really busy for venues and for festivals and all that kind of stuff. So, I’m going to be focusing my attention on establishing Stay Gold as a fantastic venue to experience live music and to engage in it. Because of the kind of bands we’re booking, these are touring level bands that probably have their own techs onboard with them. So, whether it be front-of-house, lighting or monitors, it doesn’t matter, my focus is going to be making this venue reputable and be seen as one of the best venues for touring artists coming to Melbourne. I want people around the world to say “we did this show at the place called Stay Gold in Melbourne, the system was sick, the venue was sick, the in-house guy was lovely, he got everything done for us”. I want this place to have that kind of rep.
Things I’ve got coming up. I think I’m doing the Rainbow Serpent Festival band stage, I’m looking after either front-of-house or monitors for that. I’ve still got to sort that out but I’ll be there. I’m also doing a stage for St Kilda Festival. I’ve got a bit of freelance coming up too, working with a band whose singer is my oldest and best friend, we’ve known each other since we were in grade two. When we first started discovering this crazy, weird thing that makes you feel things called music, it was together. He sings for a band called Hollow World so I’ll be mixing their show which will be a European fundraiser tour show then he’ll be heading off and doing their tour, so that’ll be cool. There’re a few other things scattered around but those are the things I’m most looking forward to.
Thank you so much for hanging out Ryan!
Thanks man [laughs], good to chat.
Song featured in video “Save Us” – BATZ
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