Photo: Raphael Williams FOH with a pair of Soundcraft Vi2000 consoles
Photo credit: Fabrice Nyembwe.
FOH package also included HARMAN’s Soundcraft Ui24R and JBL 708P nearfield monitors
Arguably the most talked-about performance at this year’s Glastonbury Festival, Stormzy’s Friday night headline slot on the Pyramid Stage was historic in featuring the first black British male solo artist to headline the iconic festival. At the age of only 25, Stormzy also became the second youngest person to headline the festival; the lyrical and artistic content of his set focusing on modern politics and current affairs.
The sonic delivery of this epic performance was handled effortlessly by FOH Sound Engineer Raphael Williams, a long-time user of HARMAN’s Soundcraft Vi Series of mixing consoles.
To mix the show, Williams used a pair of Soundcraft Vi2000 desks at FOH connected together in Mirror Mode, provided by his own company Bethel Productions. This mode allows the two consoles to constantly push control data to one another, effectively increasing the available number of faders and Vistonics touch screens. Not only did this provide Williams with a surface extension, but also redundancy in the unlikely event of a console failure. “It was not that I needed a back-up, though,” he affirmed, “as these consoles have always been rock solid.”
In addition to the two consoles, he also carried two Soundcraft Realtime Racks, augmenting the consoles’ world-class on-board processing with the full suite of UAD-2 Plug-Ins. Although he says he “not a plug-in crazy person”, using the DSP engines sparingly, his lead vocal insert contains a UAD Precision Channel Strip for its EQ and compressor, running into an SSL 4000 E channel strip. “I use the modelled SSL preamp on that strip to produce a “glassy” sound on the lead vocal. I’m also using a Fairchild 670 Legacy on the drum bus and the dbx 160 plug-in on various guitars, brass and keys.”
Photo credit: Fabrice Nyembwe
Also travelling with him was a Soundcraft Ui24R digital remote controlled mixer, which acted as a shout system, handling all the communications between FOH and backstage crew and artists, and a pair of JBL LSR708P nearfield speakers for his FOH reference sound. Additional gear and show crew, headed by FOH Systems Tech Richard Kemp, were provided by Williams’ “go-to” supplier, SSE Audio Group, headed by accounts manager Dan Bennett.
Photo: A Soundcraft Ui24R acts as shout mixer between FOH and the stage for the Stormzy headline at Glastonbury
Photo credit: Fabrice Nyembwe.
Two Soundcraft Vi Stageboxes handled the show’s high channel count of over 100 channels. Requiring more than the 96 DSP input channels available on the Vi2000, Williams was able to improvise by changing the console patch using the Snapshot Recall function — for instance when Chris Martin duetted on Blinded By Your Grace, bringing his own mic. “So I was able to bring the necessary inputs into the desk on a song by song basis using the Snapshot Recall, as well as utilising the ‘Input 2’ function with Main and Spare Microphone on one channel strip. This really stretched what the console could do.”
Stuart Strachan, Application Engineer at HARMAN’s UK distributor Sound Technology Ltd, confirmed this. “It’s always a pleasure working with Raphael, since he’s always pushing the boundaries to get the maximum results from his gear. It was really good fun working with Raph and Rich during prep and rehearsals to achieve the channel count, mirror mode, recording and redundancy functionality which was needed for this critical gig. Raph’s a VIP, and it’s all part of the Sound Technology service to ensure we can achieve his vision with him.”
Raphael was quick to add that the process was more straightforward than may have been expected. “The Vi2000 is easy to use — as a generic sound engineer you can walk straight up to it. The functionality is great, as are the preamps, and sonically you don’t argue with it.”
Raphael has been working with Stormzy on full production tours since 2017 from the release of (Gang Signs & Prayer album) after getting the call from the artist’s tour manager, Trevor Williams (of Tour Music Live). “I was using a Vi2000 for both monitors and FOH, because I know what sound he likes to hear, and in that way I have full control.” He says that in around 90% of the shows the artist’s monitor sound is delivered from FOH, “although Glastonbury was an exception, where we have a great engineer looking after monitors in Nat Hopking.”
Stormzy’s appearance at Glastonbury followed a lengthy break away from the spotlight. “Although it’s an iconic and global event the results are the same as for any other show,” acknowledged Raphael. “His sound requires different dynamics depending on whether he is rapping or singing. While rapping warrants a very ‘dry’ sound, when he is singing I apply reverb to give him some length, and I add some inbuilt Lexicon delay for artistic flow.”
While Stormzy’s Friday night headline performance on the Pyramid Stage was hailed the iconic moment of the festival, Raph was far from finished, moving to Pussy Parlure on the Saturday to mix Hamzaa’s set before finishing at Sonic Stage on the Sunday with RayBlk, taking his Soundcraft Vi2000 with him.
However, Stormzy’s set was by far the biggest of the weekend. “I’m glad I didn’t know how many people were out there, because I was in the tent. I’m sure it was scarier for Stormzy than for me,” the sound engineer concludes.
Raphael Williams will now be out with his different charges on the festival circuit for the remainder of the outdoor season.
Soundcraft is distributed in the UK by Sound Technology Ltd. For more information please call 01462 480000 and visit www.soundtech.co.uk