The clarity and versatility of DPA’s microphone range made them the ideal choice for Front of House sound engineer James Dunkley when he was tasked with amplifying an unusual live concert – one that combined a heavy metal band with a classically trained chamber ensemble.
The Norwegian band Satyricon had just completed two weeks of shows in South America when they appeared at Restasjonskonferansen, a conference of outstanding performances at the Oslo National Opera House. On stage with them were the Trondheimsolistene, a musical chamber ensemble of string players from Trondheim in Norway.
“What I really like about DPA microphones - and the reason why I use them almost exclusively – is their precision and high fidelity sound,” Dunkley says,” he says. “Since switching to DPA I use much less channel EQ because I never have to compensate for the microphones. They are also built like tanks, which is a good thing when you are working with rock drummers who are particularly heavy handed on stage. I’ve had one drum kit totally thrown off the riser this year and every DPA mic on the kit survived. From sweaty clubs to rainy festivals these mics just don’t fail.”
Dunkley, who has worked with numerous rock acts such as Hellyeah, Seether and The Used during his 20 year career in live sound, says the Satyricon and Trondheimsolistene concert was especially tricky because the band was exhausted after 20 hours of flying back from South America and there was no time for a proper rehearsal.
“We literally arrived back in Norway and went straight to a sound check,” he says. “Also, although many of Satyricon’s albums feature orchestration, it is not often that I am asked to combine classical musicians with the band in a live setting so that was also unusual.”
The DPA microphones Dunkley used for this show are his default starting point and standard microphone set up, particularly for the drum kit.
“Satyricon has a fairly large drum kit, as well as a bass guitarist, three regular guitarists and vocals,” he explains. “There is also a keyboard player in the band but he didn’t perform on this occasion. For the drum kit I used d:dicate™ 2011C Compact Twin Diaphragm Cardioid mics on the snare top and as overheads. I also use d:vote™ 4099 Instrument Microphones for the tom, snare bottom and hats and as the ride mic. I completed Satyricon’s mic list with a d:facto™ Vocal Microphone for the main vocalist.”
For this performance the Trondheimsolistene comprised 15 musicians playing a selection of violins, violas, cellos and an upright bass. Every one of their instruments was amplified with a d:vote 4099 Instrument Microphone.
“I don’t really think about why I use these specific DPA mics on specific instruments anymore – I just do it because they never fail to work and that is why I stay with them,” Dunkley says. “When it comes to the drum kit I use the same selection of mics for every band I work with and I let the drummer determine the sound. All the microphones need to do is reproduce the sound accurately.”
Dunkley adds that being able to position the microphones very close to the instruments was a real advantage on this occasion because it meant that he didn’t have to use too much gain.
“I also didn’t need to do anything crazy with the EQ either,” he says. “It was just a question of letting the natural tones of the drums and strings come through. DPA cardioid mics have such a tight pick up that I didn’t get the drums and guitars spilling into the d:vote mics that were being used on the strings. This allowed us to get a very accurate representation of the original sound.”
Although James Dunkley has handled FOH duties for many rock acts, he has also worked with more mainstream artists like Matt Goss and Willemijn Verkaik. His next project is a tour with British Comedian Greyson Perry, during which he will be using a DPA d:fine headset microphone.
“I like doing a variety of gigs because it does keep things exciting,” he says. “From Satyricon with the Trondheim Soloists to one man telling jokes – it’s all different and all interesting to me!”