After four years out of the limelight, Feeder returned in October with Top 10 album All Bright Electric, their ninth full-length studio release, and a 14-date UK tour with Entec providing a sound, lighting and video projection dry hire package.
Photo credit: Mark Cunningham, Liveculture Group.
With founding lead singer and guitarist Grant Nicholas and long-time bassist Taka Hirose remaining core members, Feeder began the tour with some new faces onboard, among them drummer Geoff Hollroyde, second guitarist Tom Gleeson and lighting designer Niall Hannell, whose career has spanned working as the Royal Albert Hall’s technical show manager and resident LD at the much-missed London Astoria, and touring with Marc Almond, Gnarls Barkley and Portishead – the latter with Entec in 2015.
With a tight rein on budget, the brief handed to tour manager and FOH engineer Yaron Levy was to use in-house sound and lighting rigs at every venue, supplementing them with a dry hire package from Entec Sound & Light and support from the company’s Noreen O’Riordan, Adam Stevenson and Jonny Clark.
“This wasn’t meant to be a production tour in the literal sense,” said Levy, currently in his 16th year with the band, “but it was important to make an impression now that Feeder have returned. So we’ve ended up with a semi-production tour and brought our own small catering system with us, fitting everything into a DAF 28-tonner, so that we can make more of a statement with the show.”
Key to that statement is Hannell, who responded to Levy’s ‘LD wanted’ ad on Crewspace. “I knew Yaron from touring together with the Gang Of Four,” he commented. “Feeder were looking for ideas based on the constraints of what was affordable and what would fit into the venues, allowing for consistency from show to show. I was very happy to be asked onboard.”
Although Hannell accepted the lighting role, he did not waste time in offering to extend his involvement. He explained: “I’d done video for some bands who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to pay for it, so I thought we could accommodate something roughly within budget. One of the tricks up my sleeve was a piece of VJ software called Resolume Arena, which I have residing on one of Entec’s high-capacity laptops. It allows you to mix clips and mangle them, and the thing that sold me on it was that it takes DMX – this means I can hook it up to the lighting console and use it as a media server. It’s a cheap option but one that really does the job if you have the content.
“Resolume also has functions for projection mapping and liquid output transformation. I can take my output and drag it to resize it, which is particularly handy for positioning accurately on a cyc.”
Hannell informed the band that if a reliable projector and a white cyc were added to the dry hire package, video would not only be possible, it would take their minimalist production to another level. “They were very keen,” he said. “We took a 10K Barco CLM R10+ DLP projector and a back-up from Entec’s stock, and in order to maintain a small footprint at front of house, I have it positioned behind me on a tower that’s built from scaff poles and a 4ft x 4ft Litedeck riser.
“Fortunately, the guys in the band like the psychedelic effect of having the video projected over them, otherwise it would have been a much trickier process! In fact, all of the reference images that Grant sent to me were of Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable events from the ’60s. They gave me a list of nearly 40 songs and I just started creating content for some of them.
“Building content can be very expensive but it depends how you go about it. We’ve licensed some stock footage but I’ve made most of the graphics and animations in After Effects or just filmed things whenever I’ve had an idea. Feeder did a big photo shoot for this new album and out of it came something like 70 black and white images of Grant and Taka, which was great material for a slide show with footage running behind them.”
VISUALISATION When it came to plan the lighting, Hannell decided to rent a simple package that would make the biggest difference on small stages. Crucial to his approach was his choice of a grandMA2 light desk, supplied with an On-PC Command Wing.
“I’ve been using it for years,” Hannell was proud to state. “The software is massively clever and every year I’m finding new short cuts and ways to do things. Those little ‘lightbulb’ moments are great when they happen.
“For this tour I was keen to do things properly, so I programmed the whole show on a visualiser down at Entec. I got all the cues together, knowing that the main fixtures would differ sometimes wildly between venues – some are well kitted out with recent technology, but others have very cheap, basic disco lights and PAR cans.
“When I arrive at each gig, I go through each fixture in the house rig and change the settings on the grandMA2, so that the software recognises the brand and model, and reacts accordingly. Naturally, the looks are a little different every day but I actually like that.”
The Entec fixture package included seven SGM X-5 white LED strobes and a modest array of Thomas Molefay blinders. Said Hannell: “I wanted Molefays for the tungsten flavour and the power they can give you. With big, loud guitar bands you do need to bring that kind of visual strength into the show. We were planning on having six 8-Lite clusters but some of the venues can’t give us the required amount of electricity, so I pared down to two 2-Lites, two 4-Lites and two 8-Lites which still give me what I need.”
Just before the band hit the road, Hannell received approval for a last-minute addition of seven Thomas PixelLine 1044 LED battens. He said: “Not being into humping around masses of equipment on my own, I kept the add-on package to a minimum. The PixelLines weren’t in my original design but Grant wanted the cyc to appear completely red in one part of the show and I couldn‘t achieve the degree of boldness that he visualised what the gear we had booked. The solution was to place a row of PixelLines along the bottom of the cyc to get a really striking red wall effect. It turned out to be a very good call.”
AVID CHOICE Yaron Levy toured simultaneously for many years with both Feeder and Ocean Colour Scene, and successfully juggled the two bands until he was faced with the decision to remain with just one of them. “I came in as tour manager but in 2009 we had just returned from a tour of Japan and were due to play at the Roundhouse for War Child when the FOH engineer didn’t show up. I stepped in and mixed the band, who were very happy with what I’d done, and I’ve been doing both jobs ever since.
“Obviously, I had known Entec for many years but in all my time with Feeder we had never used their services for a full tour. It was as good a time as any to change that and it was a smart decision.”
Taking the same approach as the lighting department, Levy has relied on Entec for FOH and monitor desks, a Sennheiser/Shure/AKG microphone package, IEM and wedges, to supplement house PA systems and sundry extras.
“I’m from the Midas/Martin generation of engineers but digital didn’t faze me when it arrived,” says Levy. “I always liked the user interface on the Venue Profile and got on with the desk very well, so I was very happy with the prospect of taking the new Avid Venue S6L-32D out on this tour along with an Avid Stage 64 I/O Rack. One of Avid’s support staff came to spend a day with me in production rehearsals at the O2 ABC Academy in Glasgow [where the tour began], and was very helpful with advising on setting things up the way I wanted to use it.
“The new console certainly sounds much better than the last model I used. The basic functionality is the same but there’s now an external touchscreen and all the desk controls are laid out on four banks, each of which are independent – overall it’s a big step up.”
AT STAGE LEFT… Another Feeder ‘old timer’ is monitor engineer Dan Trowhill who, 11 years ago, auditioned for his job at John Henry’s. “Like Yaron, I’m a long-time Midas fan and due to footprint size, I made the practical choice of the PRO2 for this tour,” commented Trowhill. “It used to be quite a crazy set-up for these guys with about 24 mixes but I’ve managed to reduce that to 20 including some effects sends.”
On stage, Feeder are working with a combination of wedges and in-ears, with Entec supplying eight d&b M4 wedges and six Shure PSM1000 units along with their related Wireless Workbench software interface. Although accustomed to Sennheiser’s G3 systems, on this tour Trowhill has found the Shure equipment to be superior. “It’s faultless,” he claimed. “I’ve not had a single dropout. I was having some connectivity issues with Wireless Workbench but after one call to Entec, I had everything working just fine.”
Frontman Grant Nicholas’ preference is to perform with four wedges and a single in-ear monitor, through which he mainly hears his vocal and some effects on various songs. Said Trowell: “It’s really just to help Grant with pitch because it’s a very loud stage.”
He added: “We’re looking at getting the new band members’ impressions done in the near future so that we can also have them on in-ears. So far, Taka is the only member who isn’t into the idea of IEM. He’s a noise junkie and wants to feel that bass energy, so that’s going to take some persuasion, but I hope to win him over in the end because my long-term hope is that the whole band will eventually be on IEM.”