As part of our monthly On The Road With… series, I recently had the chance to talk to my old friend David Reyna about becoming a sound engineer for TV. Before getting off the road in 2011 so that he could spend more time with his son, David had been the monitor engineer for Interpol, Yellow Card, Fall Out Boy, Travis Barker and Linda Ronstadt.
Hi Dave, thanks for talking with us today. How did you get started in the business?
I always had offers to start touring back when I used to do club work. When I started working at rock clubs around town, I would meet bands and for some reason they took a liking to me. They would ask me to come out and tour with them. I always turned them down though. I didn’t feel I was ready to be on the road. I didn’t feel like I was doing them any favors. I just didn’t feel prepared enough.
So I started working for sound companies around town learning how to be a technician besides for just a mixer. This turned out to be pretty valuable because that’s what kept me busy every time I was home.
That’s really how I got my break. I worked with sound companies and developed a more technical background. Then I started touring with the sound companies – mainly with Rat Sound. And that’s where it snowballed. I kept meeting bands and by that point, I felt like I was ready.
That makes sense. And now you’ve come full circle. You’re at home. You’re doing one-offs. You’re doing festivals. And you had mentioned before that you’re trying to break into TV. That’s what I’m really curious about.
Yeah. The TV stuff is pretty hard. It’s union work and it’s not your average job to come by. Luckily, I just started meeting these people every time I came through with my bands. And they liked me. So they asked me if I wanted to do some work with them whenever I was in town. And they don’t really ask a lot of people that. So when they gave me the opportunity, I jumped on it.
Can you clarify that for me please? I always think of someone doing sound for TV only when a band comes through to perform. Is there something I’m missing?
No, it’s like that. When you go in for an award show — like if a band is performing at the GRAMMYS. There’s usually only 1 company that does all the TV stuff. They’re called ATK. It’s treated as a festival so there is one main console for front of house, for monitors, and then there’s the broadcast truck. What I’ve been doing with these guys lately is going in as an in-ear monitor guy or as a systems tech. The mixing jobs are pretty locked down.
So how these shows go is that there are guest artists who come in which are your national touring acts — or international touring acts. And then there are guys like me who are there all day and deal with all the acts that come through.
That makes sense. OK. So you’re there and then the band’s regular engineer comes in and you sort of work together – is that how it works? Or do they turn it over to you completely?
Since TV is mostly union jobs, we have to operate. So we work with the band’s engineer to get the mixes ready before the artist shows up. When the artist shows up for sound check, they have a starting point. The band engineer is usually the go-between the artist and us.
Ah. That makes sense. So this is the stuff we never talk about or never think about, but this is how it really works.
That’s how it works.
Now in the In-Ears Business, we like to tell ourselves that in-ears help TV performances because there is not a lot of space. With these tight stages, you have to use in-ears. Is there any truth to this?
Ummmm. That’s a tough call. That goes from artist to artist. Some artists just want to feel the musician next to them; especially the older artists. They want to feel their amp. They want to hear the time of the drummer. They want to hear what’s going on acoustically next to them.
A lot of the newer artists are running off of support tracks. Not that they’re lip-synching or anything but they use support in their tracks — be it strings, pianos — whatever they can’t fit onto that stage. As well as click tracks and the intros from the host — who could be in another state like on a New Years Eve broadcast. You need to have that intro going through your ears if you want to be on time. It’s a much more convenient way to do things, I think. It’s all there. It’s all right in front of you.
That makes more sense. So it’s not a space advantage. It’s a technological advantage.
It’s definitely a technological advantage for accuracy.
Say, do all the different TV studios have different setups or is there standardization in the industry?
There are typically 2 desks that are used for the majority of these things. They’re both Yamaha desks. One’s an M7. The other is a PM1D. For the big award show-type things, you’ll always see a 1D. For shows like The Sing Off, it’s an M7 that’s doing that monitors. It’s usually different at every show you go to. The more wireless elements introduced into the space, the harder it is for the radio technician to control all those things. In turn, that could jeopardize the sonic quality of anything wireless. You can have interference when you have that many things going on.
So Dave, I’m curious. Do you think that touring is actually easier?
It’s much easier. The only variable that you have when you are touring is how your room sounds that day, acoustically speaking. And what wireless elements you’re dealing with that day.
Well, is TV something that you’re going to stay in?
Yeah. If this means that I can spend every day with my son, I’m going to try and do this. I love touring. I’ve even had this conversation with my wife. I love touring because it is easy. I love it because everything is set up for you already. You build your stage, you build your snakes, you build your world and you’re done. You label everything so that you can do it in your sleep. This is not the case when you’re working locally in LA. The local shows take much more preparation.
That is something else. We’ll all be thinking about this next time we watch a show on TV. Thank you Dave!