Jazz/pop artist Jamie Cullum is currently in the midst of an extensive world tour to promote his latest album The Pursuit. At the Front of House position is a DiGiCo SD8 mixing console, which is aiding engineer Danny White own pursuit of the newest mixing technologies.
Combining the touring roles of front of house engineer, tour manager and more, Danny bought the SD8 for his family-run audio and lighting production company Chaps last year. Based in Sutton, Surrey – not far from DiGiCo’s Chessington HQ – Chaps is providing both equipment and personnel to the tour, including Danny and his two sons.
“You have to embrace the latest technology because it’s what everyone is doing. It’s the way forward and I saw the SD8 as part of that development,” he says. “To me, mixing is all about the path. If I have a good signal path then I’m happy.
“When I was told that the SD8 has the same signal path as the SD7, I realised that it offers exceptional value. What it does is phenomenal and the quality is fantastic, you can tell just by hearing it. When I saw the price my reaction was ‘OK, where’s the catch?’”
Using a d&b Q series system, the five-piece band has around 30 inputs into the SD8, split between five vocal mics, a dozen or so DIs, instrument mics and a Helpinstill piano sensor.
“It’s like a guitar pickup for the piano strings. It’s quite amazing, the best way of amplifying a piano I’ve heard,” says Danny. “We also mic the piano up, because Jamie slaps it a lot.”
He continues, “I’m quite minimalist. I don’t make it any more complex than it needs to be. As long as I have a good vocal, good piano and the rest is good and clean, I can mix the show almost as they start.
“In terms of effects, I’m only using onboard and then just a bit of gate on the kick drum and a bit of reverb. I don’t use much compression because I have to ride the faders. The dynamic range of the show is so great, it changes so dramatically that I can’t leave it to compressors.”
Another reason for mixing on the fly is that the band rarely uses a set list, preferring to have the spontaneity of a different show each night and freeing Cullum to spend as much time as he wants interacting with the audience.
“Jamie will introduce a song, or play a bit of the intro and we go ‘Right, it’s that one’. It’s sort of organised chaos but it really works. The audiences love it,” says Danny. “I have the same approach to sound – when something works, I don’t mess around too much with it.”
Although the SD8 has presented something of a learning curve, it’s one that Danny and son Tom are rapidly adapting to, with DiGiCo’s technical support always at the end of the phone, if needed.
“Compared to an analogue desk there is so much to learn, relatively speaking, but I’m finding my feet and, as challenges arise, we’re learning the console more and more,” Danny adds.
“We managed to create a problem with the console at the Glasgow show. It was purely operator error, but as we were panicking, literally five minutes before the support band went on, a DiGiCo engineer was on the phone to us and helped to sort it out. I thought that was pretty good.”