Maurice O’Connor, Sample Answer, and I have been friends for several years now. In 2014 I was lead guitarist in Maurice’s outfit and we played gigs all over London. Over the past year and a half as Maurice has taken a new musical direction, I have taken on a different supporting role. I am now his sound engineer for important gigs and tour dates.
In his new setup Maurice is using a Boss loop station and a Roland drum pad to sequence his songs live whilst playing guitar and singing. So far we have been fortunate enough to play some amazing venues around the UK.
“Every time I play gigs I feel weird when Max isn’t there. It’s nice to have someone playing with you. I feel comfortable knowing that Max is behind the desk”
Maurice O’Connor, Sample Answer. Nov 2015
The Fratellis Tour
The Fratellis’ Chelsea Dagger, their 2006 mega hit from the Costello Music album, would have been hard to ignore in the noughties. When Sample Answer (Maurice O’Connor) said he was to support the Fratellis’ new album launch tour and would I be his live engineer and guitar tech, I was excited. The band was doing two dates to launch their fourth album, Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied.
After Tetris packing the car full of people and equipment we trundled off up the M1 on the way to our first tour.
We were to play sold out shows at the O2 Academy in Birmingham (capacity 600), and King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut (c.300) in Glasgow, the Fratellis’ hometown. Famously, King Tut’s is where Oasis were discovered and signed back in ’93. Our last gig on the tour was at Barfly in Camden, where Sample Answer headlined another sold out show, this time without the Fratellis.
Having worked with Maurice over two years, I knew his music and how he likes his sound. However, going from a band to using a Boss loop station and Roland sampling pad brought its own challenges in a live situation. He’d already done support slots for Damien Rice and Pete Doherty, but this was his first time supporting a band, so the pressure was on.
Aside from loading in on time and having enough time to soundcheck, which, due to the distance we had to travel by car to get to the venues was not always as long as we would have liked, the greatest challenge of the tour was learning new desks.
Playing established venues means you get top quality equipment, but you have to work out unfamiliar desks on the spot. I approached the in-house engineers with both trepidation and respect – their desk, their system, their baby – and relied on them to do the routing and show me the desk before letting loose. It was as much about giving them confidence about my competence as it was about me learning. And they were incredibly helpful and willing to share their expertise.
02 Birmingham: Soundcraft Vi6 Desk
The famous stairs of King Tut's
A much smaller venue than the 02 but none the less prestigious, with a Midas Verona 400 analog desk at FOH.
We didn’t have a lot of time for soundcheck due to complications with the hotel booking so neither Maurice nor I were that happy with our time for preparation, unfortunately.
The homecoming gig of the tour. The Midas M32 Digital Mixing Console at FOH was similar to desks I had used before. It was a great gig for everyone involved as we had enough time for soundcheck!
My role as engineer for Sample Answer
The first port of call for any of our gigs is an equipment check and loading the transport to the venue. Upon arrival, I will unload all equipment into the venue and then liaise with the venue engineer to look over the desk and ask as many questions as I need to get all things in order well in advance of soundcheck.
At these gigs I have acted as guitar and stage tech, making sure Sample Answer’s guitar is tuned and all of his sample pads, microphones and other equipment are ready for the gig. From there we will soundcheck, and if we have enough time, we will run through the set and I will make sure the songs sound correct for the space. In the absence of a monitor engineer, I will organise those as well.
When the gig begins I engineer FOH, automating delays and reverbs for specific songs to give the desired effect (as we’ve been to enough gigs together where the engineer just throws them in randomly for fun) as well as making any EQ and compression adjustments to taste.
At the end of the set I will remove Sample Answer’s equipment off stage and pack it all down, ready to be loaded into the transport for the next gig.
Sample Answer and I have worked together at a number of venues in London as one off events.
To date we have worked together supporting:
- Gabrielle Aplin at Village Underground, Shoreditch (UK tour)
- Elle King at Electrowerkz, Angel
- The Milk at Scala, Kings Cross (UK Tour)
Backstage passes for the Sample Answer gigs
Backstage at Gabrielle Aplin
Backstage at Gabrielle Aplin’s Village Underground gig, Irish videographer Christian Tierney and a good friend of Maurice, recorded an acoustic session of Textile Baby, a song that had just been released in anticipation of Maurice’s upcoming EP. I engineered the audio at the post production stage.
The beginning: Rose and Crown, Kentish Town
The Sample Answer residencies at the Rose and Crown in Kentish Town were my first experiences of live engineering. Utilising the skills I had learnt on my engineering course, I setup the small 4 channel mixer provided by the venue and organised soundcheck with the acts as they arrived. As it was only a small room with acoustic acts, and a request from the management for no bass(!), the mixing was basic, but it was a test of organisation and quick thinking in the face of technical issues. I was relied upon heavily to run the event, and I did such a good job that I was asked to engineer all of the future events.
The setup and the gig for Residency #5 with support from Rachel D’arcy, L.A. Salami and Cherry Simpson, who hosts the Rock n Roll Kabaret radio show.