“Protect your livelihood out there. Continuous heavy SPL will ruin your ability to listen to what you enjoy most!”
Lee Mayeux — Audio Engineer
Hi Lee, thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to talk with us and to share some tips and tricks. I was hoping to focus on your studio recording background and on recording live multi-tracks but before we get into all of that, who are you currently out with and what are you doing?
Currently, on the road I’m out with The Neighbourhood doing FOH and production design as well as Monitors with Black Label Society. Both are a true honor and pleasure to work for. In the studio, I’m working on an untitled album. Tracking and editing drums as well as composing for film and TV right now.
What’s a typical day been looking like lately?
Generally my day consists of advancing gigs, trouble shooting PAs from the power to the drivers (dare I say “Smaarting rigs” as well, ha!) then from soundcheck to radio sessions to the show or even mixing/editing/mastering projects in a hotel room, lobby or on the plane. Wake up, and do it all over again! Health is a main focus for me and building a suitcase workout routine is a challenge…From the east and west coast, in the US to UK & Australia, a live DVD shoot for BLS in LA and now SXSW, I’ve luckily been quite busy in the last three months!
Are you carrying your own board and gear or is it dependent on the venue? What’s your ideal set-up look like?
It’s always a gig by gig call based on a variety of factors. Namely, budget, time or logistical constraints. If a venue has stepped up to a decent digital console, you can get a lot done on your laptop and USB stick or PCM-CIA card nowadays. I’m carrying a PM5D, SC48/Profile or Midas Pro 2 trickling down to my old school rack of comps, gates and effects when a house had an analog console.
As far as PA: Actually EAW 740s just blew my mind the other day, it was a great sounding rig. Lab Gruppen PLM amps all the way. Normally, I’m an L-Acoustics guy first and foremost. I find the boxes the most musical and diverse for most applications. K 1, Kudos or dv-dosc with a Midas Pro 2 or Profile isn’t a bad start, ha. EAW, Meyer and d&b are my other ideal boxes. The Meyer JM1Ps with 700HPs are a great point source box and combo. Over (or properly) power your boxes, with proper limiting on your dsp, gives you clarity and head room while never endangering your drivers…Old school PM4Ks, Heritage 3ks & Series 5s are great but you have to find ones that have been serviced and have survived the test of time. The digital realm has really taken over.
Yep! So you really split your time being out on the road and running a recording studio. Do you find that those are complimentary skills? Do you have a preference of how you like to spend your time?
Your ears are your biggest tool. There are some things that are absolutely interchangeable and some that absolutely are not between studio and live. The laws of physics, whether I know the formulas or not, are undeniable. You’ve really got to keep your chops up in order to stay on top of either and there is what we know to be “magic” in both. I truly enjoy each for their own reasons.
What’s the biggest difference between the studio work and running front of house?
The isolation of the studio realm is really a luxury in comparison to live. My EQ and compression settings can vary as well. In some ways, not having to tackle feedback, stage volume, the design or tuning of a PA system’s response live is great. Not to say stage volume can’t be an asset in certain rooms. With studio I find that microphone placement, pre amps, outboard gear, etc plays a larger role, though placement really is everything in both scenarios. I tend to generalize it more on stage as a start. Time is the biggest factor live, with Monitors or FOH. So you have to get used working with what you can accomplish in the allotted schedule. Compromise is a great word in the live world.
Do you ever get to mix for the bands that you’ve recorded? That would be wild. You’d intuitively know the exact sounds that they want to convey to the audience.
All of the time — it’s really an honor —no matter what level of artist. For example, you recorded songs with specific snares or pianos on every track but for live, you only get one. These types of things such as layers and instrumentation etc, can really be a factor. You want it to sound like the record but its going to be different — there is no way of getting around it. It just depends on who and what you’re mixing. If it can be conveyed like the album or not… My goal is to have it fully represent the vibe of the artist and still have the impact to every listener —in every seat, from the kid who loves the discography and to the audiophile that doesn’t know the artist as well. Or, I’d like to think it comes across that good…ha. I mixed Mayer Hawthorne’s single “I Need You” (2010) in the back lounge of the tour bus that was pressed to a laser etched vinyl. That was a blast.
What about your background with live multi-track recordings. I’d love to hear more about that. How did that start?
I started on tape as a kid. Self taught in my garage/band room. I eventually graduated to an old Akai DR4 and I learned how to rewire it to use zip discs instead of the small internal hard drive. Then Cubase SX1 to Logic, then by the time Pro Tools 6/7 came out, I had received a certificate from Musicians Institute in LA, really enjoyed the functionality of PT and have been predominately using it ever since — recording bands and eventually producing albums. I introduced live multi-tracking into my everyday; mixing a show you’ve already mixed live in the studio is a blast. To recreate the vibe of a live sold out show can be a challenge and worth the work! I recorded a sold out Pete Yorn live at the Roxy show back when I was over there which was a great show and experience.
What’s the process of live recoding look like? How do you go about setting it all up?
Key Words: Isolated Microphone Splitter from there into pre amps then your DAW. Of course ambient, room and crowd mics are used to capture the vibe of the show. The next thing which is directly secondary to the iso split is an isolated listening environment if at all possible. You need to be there, but to be able to record it properly, you need your surroundings as quiet as possible. If it isn’t possible, rock it anyway but spend extra time listening to each track (sometimes all 96 of them) for 60hz cycles or placement problems. Remember: its forever!
What feel – what vibe – do you try to capture during live recordings?
I try to recreate the exact vibe of the show. You can’t add too much. The show was the show. Leave it be and work from there, I say. This is where the extra environment mics come in to play (phase coherence is key here…) The crowd is it’s own instrument. They are as big of a part of the show as the artist. They are both one.
So that brings up one of my favorite questions. Should a concert sound like the album or should the album sound like a concert? Things are real different these days?
Tough one. For me, each one is it’s own in it’s own right. Like I mentioned before, you can’t have exactly the album live or the opposite. With that in mind, you mostly want to portray the artists’ vibe, whatever it may be, on the songs they are preforming-to perfection. I just go with my gut. If you are tracking a new studio album, then you’re possibly portraying a new vibe but with the artist’s roots deeply planted. If it’s a live album then capture that energy and experience that was there that evening.
And lastly, any tips for up-and-coming sound guys out there that you want to share?
Signal flow! Know the signal path from the source to the box so you can pinpoint any problem at any time. Also, with all the technology out there, experiment with what you’ve got at home and learn to make the best out of it. Lastly, it’s so cliche but use your ears. That’s the best tool you have. I’m Smaart certified and carry a ton of gear for any situation that may come my way but, you can’t get around your best tool. That being said, PROTECT your livelihood out there. Continuous heavy SPL will ruin your ability to listen to what you enjoy most!
Thanks for sharing Lee. See you out on the road!
Lee Mayeux has over sixteen years of studio recording and live sound experience. And for the last seven years, he has handled Front of House engineering and Tour Management for bands across the USA, Europe, UK, Canada, South America. He owns and operates a recording studio in Studio City where he produces and records a variety of styles and projects including film scoring and multi-track recordings.
This interview was originally published by Mike Dias for the Ultimate Ears UE University