“Learn from the guys who are with the headline acts. Be nice, be friendly, and ask questions.”
Mike Baehler—Audio Engineer
Hi Mike, thank you for taking time out of your day to talk with us. You just finished up the first weekend of Coachella with Passion Pit, no? So what’s your world look like? What gear are you carrying with you this run?
First off, Coachella, wow, that was my first time doing that festival, interesting. Very interesting. Anyway, I digress on that. Ok, so my rig — well — I am using a profile with plenty of dsp cards (for my mcdsp and eventide plugin bundles — the only 2 I use) and 96 virtual channels. With lots of double and triple patching of inputs. 57 inputs to be exact. The band is all on wireless in-ears. I am using Shure 900 series, very nice! Easy to set up, clear, nice. And we are all using Ultimate Ears UE11’s.
And how long have you been out with them? It seems like that tour has just kept going…
Funny you ask, I started out with Passion Pit in 2010 as the monitor tech. I just returned from living in England and moved to the northeast to get back into the work force in the us. I did some tech gigs. That led me to filling in for the monitor engineer and to keeping the job from 2011 all the way till now.
What’s next on your plate?
Actually I am going to be jumping back in with the Fall Out Boy camp.
Got it. So let’s back up a bit. How’d you get started in the biz?
I first started playing guitar and realized I sucked. We had to pay a sound guy and I didn’t get paid as a musician so I went to the other side and became a sound guy. This is way back… 1989.
What was your big break?
My first big gig, before I knew anything, was a hair band called Tuff. After I went to college for audio, my first major gig was Wayne Newton. I was working for a PA company at the time and their client was Wayne Newton.
Who were some of your mentors?
Ya know, as far as mentors go — as in audio guys — I never really had anyone. Actually, it wasn’t until I learned a bit that I could appreciate the real talent some of these engineers had.
OK. So this is a tough question but let’s see where it goes. What separates an A-list touring engineer like yourself from the engineers who are just coming up in the clubs now?
Mix, Mix, Mix your ass off (I hope I can swear.) I use to teach at a recording school and I always stressed to the students “you can’t get enough practice mixing” over and over and over. Also, you have to use your ears. I see some of these club guys get FOH positions and have no idea about gain staging, what a stereo buss is, and on and on….
So what advice can you pass on to those who are waiting and cutting their teeth?
Get out there in that club or with that sound company and mix those support bands, patch the stage, learn from the guys who are with the headline acts. Be nice, be friendly, and ask questions. We are not trying to reinvent the wheel out here but “there are no rules, only guidelines!!”
What’s the hardest part of the job?
The hardest part about being a monitor engineer is making sure your artist is happy. It really doesn’t matter what you know technically —well yes it does — to a certain extent…. but you are responsible for making the artist feel good about what they are playing.
What gear do you rely on most?
My ears. Oh gear gear. Well, all we are doing is taking what we get so shit in equals shit out. I try and get the best from the artist and their instruments. As for the rest like choosing what type of console, effects, and all that. There are plenty of good ones to use. I chose the profile currently because of availability all over the world. When you travel all over, consistency is the key to success. So having access to the same digital console all over the world helps a bunch!!!!
Got it. And lastly, what’s been the best show you’ve mixed recently?
Hmmm, recently, well, Passion Pit has had some damn good shows… they just did Madison Square Garden. That was pretty cool.
And with that my friend, we’ll see you on the road!
Mike Baehler started off as a musician, decided to become a self-taught audio engineer, had to learn more about audio and went to Full Sail college. He did several recordings and tours and then became a teacher of recording. He then got major tour offers and decided to do full time touring.
He has been blessed to have been involved in the entire audio industry’s transformation from analog to digital —from loud large speakers to small line arrays and in ears. Michaelbaehler.com has discography’s you can view and feel free to contact him any time with question comments or anything on your mind!
This interview was originally published by Mike Dias for the Ultimate Ears UE University