Mike Williams is a composer, drummer, multi-instrumentalist and DJ who has worked and played with the likes of Samantha Ronson, The Teddybears and Nancy Boy to name just a few. He’s now a member of Camera 2 and recently made the transition to IEMs with UE Pro.
We wanted to get an idea of Mike’s musical history and also his perspective of what it was like to finally make the switch to IEMs and get his thoughts on how it’s changed how he approaches performing.
Hi Mike! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Let’s start with your musical history, can you tell us about the bands you’ve played with in the past?
Well in a live format, I’ve played with numerous bands over the years, but lets stay with bands of some note and/or actually got a good old fashioned record deal. While in London – I’m originally from Liverpool – I started with a 3 piece rock outfit called Underneath What (WEA records). Toured globally to a very well received debut record (yes I said record) which unfortunately ended up slowly disintegrating assisted by all the usual r ‘n’ r trappings. Then I met a bunch of chaps, (1 Brit and 2 Yanks) in London from New York city, minus a drummer and wanting to do shows. After a 15 minute audition, I played with them that night, and then the following weeks in Europe. A month later we were in New York and I never left. With the noise we created, we had a deal just a few months later. By the time it had run it’s course (7 years later), we’d had 3 major deals, (Sire/Electra, Hollywood, and Equator) worked with some amazing people Shel Talmy (The Who, The Kinks), Dean Delo (Stone Temple Pilots),Steven Trask (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), Tim O’Heir (Dinosaur Jr, Sebadoh, All American Rejects), played Wembley in London, opened for Brits Blur andThe Charlatans(UK), The GoGos, and the only time all 4 original members of the Monkees reunited. Was quite a whirlwind but a very exciting period. That band was called Nancy Boy. In the subsequent years I’ve done numerous session gigs for artists including, TeddyBears (Sweden), Santogold (US), Rialto(UK), Five O’Clock Heroes (UK), Brookville (US), Samantha Ronson (US -sister to producer Mark). More recently I have just come off a 4 month US & European stint touring with Brooklyn based electro rockers Camera2. When not on the road, I, like so many other musicians these days, write, record, produce, mix, license, and sometimes DJ at my own home studio here in Brooklyn, NY.
You’re not just a drummer, you’re a singing drummer. Can you tell me about some of the challenges you faced before using IEMs?
Yes. I’m one of those guys – a singing drummer! Doing back-ups on the road into a mic on a stand over the hi-hat. No easy task in those antiquated days pre IEMs – with earbuds in, playing backing tracks, click blasting in one ear, tracks in the other, then a stage monitor speaker behind me next to my floor tom crapping out due to the shear volume needed to hear me sing in pitch over the kit, band, and with my buds in. Not to mention the feed back issues. As you can imagine, there was some nights were I could barely hear anything, desperately trying to stay on the click. Flying by the seat of me pants, I was.
Also, I was the only one with click track in my ears so the band would sometimes pull or push me off while speeding up in excitement. Now all the band has the click in the background of their ear mix and we are considerably tighter as a group.
You’ve just made the transition over to IEMs [In Ear Monitors]…
Oh have I! Every so often there’s one piece of technology you get that has a huge difference in how you accomplish what you’re trying to do. IEMs are that!!! I’d tried so many sport ear-bud combos, but nothing could deliver the sonic capabilities of professional IEMs while remaining actually in my ears comfortably.
Which model of UEs are you using?
I’m currently using the UE7’s. I’d had no experience of pro IEMs previously, so decided on a mid priced model. I was NOT disappointed.
What made you do the switch IEMs?
We were on the road in the US and first of 3 on the bill. The other 2 bands came in each day and were able to set up quickly and not spend much of their valuable sound check time sorting out their onstage sound. The biggest thing we learned (beside IEMs’ high quality) was that your in ear mix will probably rarely change once you have it set for the tour, therefore avoiding not only wasting sound check time (in this case 25 minutes before doors open) but the need to set up (and more importantly tear down) the floor monitors when you have a 15 minute changeover between bands. Imagine eliminating all those cables and heavy speakers, roadies to set them up, on top of having 3 bands FULL back line on stage. It was a Christmas miracle, I tell ya!
Mike Fanuele our Tour Manager who’s worked with Dashboard Confessional, Bon Jovi, and Hanson recommended UEs for our UK tour, and once set up, we never looked back.
Was the switch difficult to make? Was there a big learning curve?
The switch, for me at least, was easy, as I’d had experience of something in my ears on stage for a long while. Only now I could hear everything clearly, consistently, and with controllability. The only minor scare we had was the first time several of us heard slight RF (interference) and thought this system was about to crash. But it quickly went away and we were fine. As I’d also had custom molds done for ear plugs (protectors) several years back, I wasn’t aware of any learning curve having something that far in my ears.
The rest of Camera2, especially Andy, the singer, were in heaven. Andy was now able to hear his mix wherever he was jumping around on stage, singing with confidence and not overcompensating.
How long before you felt comfortable?
Me? 2 minutes.
Have you noticed any difference in your performance since the switch to IEMs?
Oh absolutely! When singing, I can actually hear myself in pitch and on time instead of finding pitch in my head, off mic, then hoping it’s right when hitting the mic. It takes the guess work out of the equation.
Another perk is, we have a channel set up where we can actually converse on stage between band members, and it doesn’t come out of front of house. Great for impromptu set changes, or reminders, or talking to our FOH sound guy.
But I think the biggest and most relieving benefit of IEM’s is being able to reduce the likelihood of (further) ear damage, blocking all the unnecessary stage volume while hearing all you need with clarity, detail. And because it’s clearer and molded into your ears, it doesn’t have to be that loud. I no longer wake up the day after a show with ringing in the ears like I did. I now will hopefully have more ‘years of ears’ while enjoying myself more on stage.
It’s a win-win all around and more than worth the investment to UE’s.
Terrific!! Thanks for your time Mike! Cheers!!
Camera 2’s New Album will be out at the beginning of 2015 / Check out their website for more info. http://camera2.com/
You can also keep up with Mike’s composing work here: http://www.composium.net/