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Killer Influence

Kenny Kaiser sets the technical tone on stage and in the studio

On The Killers’ Imploding The Mirage stadium tour, front-of-house engineer Kenny Kaiser leaned into the GSL PA system from d&b audiotechnik’s flagship SL-Series. At roughly the same time, his Dolby Atmos music production facility— co-founded with Sammy Hagar and Forrest Lawrence—opened in the Bay Area with Focusrite components and Martin monitors.

For Imploding the Mirage, the GSL system was provided and supported on tour by Capital Sound, now part of Solotech UK Group. As long-standing clients of Capital, the band’s sound team was able to draw on the company’s continuing investment in d&b systems to specify an extensive GSL/KSL setup for this major tour.

“The first time I used the SL Series was at a festival in Memphis,” says Kaiser, who works closely with monitor engineer Marty Beath on all aspects of the band’s touring sound spec. “We just turned up and used it, and I was floored – it was awesome.”

Planning ahead, the pair worked with Solotech to finalize the system design for The Killers’ 2022 stadium tour. That design has main hangs of 16 x GSL8 and 4 x GSL12 cabinets left and right, plus 10 flown SL-SUBs per side and 14 x GSL8 and 2 x GSL12 left and right for side arrays. On the ground are SL-GSUBs, stacked six-wide and two-high, their arrangement of 21” speakers extending the system’s characteristic cardioid pattern control down to 30Hz. “Low end is always an issue in stadiums,” says Kaiser, “but the control here with the flown subs and the G-SUBs, it’s just great. I’ve been impressed by the evenness of the coverage,” says Kaiser. “Compared with previous d&b systems I’ve used, [the GSL] sound is smoother, more uniform.”

For delays, the smaller KSL8 is deployed in hangs of 16 cabinets per side. All arrays are flown in compression mode, but smaller KSL8 arrays can be rigged from roof structures where needed, in tension mode to save weight. “With the SL-Series, d&b seem to have nailed the concept of quick rigging,” says Solotech’s Robin Conway.

“Speed of deployment is a huge factor—it’s so safe to fly, especially in compression mode.”

“The team arrives on site about 3pm, and it’s always up, checked and verified in three hours,” Kaiser adds “In terms of tourability, I’d give it ten out of ten—honestly.”

Kaiser and Conway both confirm that setup and optimization with d&b’s ArrayProcessing software is straightforward. Conway says, “It’s a powerful system that does throw a long way. And with ArrayProcessing, that takes care of the frequency response front-to-back. It means the system tech can focus on the finer details and how the arrays interact with each other.”

As with all the SL-Series, the GSL employs a combination of cardioid techniques which result in the rejection of energy to the rear, meaning a more comfortable working environment onstage – as well as lower off-site sound emissions. Kaiser comments, “The back end is quiet and it’s really clean on stage, which makes life easier for everyone. Marty can get his mix out without fighting, so everyone’s happy. And when everyone else is happy, I’m happy!”

As if he were not busy enough with an international stadium tour, this summer Kaiser co-debuted Working Title Recording Studios in San Mateo, CA, a new breed of music production facility and one of only a handful of Dolby Atmos-certified studios in the Bay Area. Kaiser’s partners in the venture are Sammy Hagar, and his associate Forrest Lawrence, a noted mixer and system technician.

Kaiser says mixing in the immersive, three-dimensional Atmos environment is the next step for music across applications for music, commercial, and corporate production work. “Since the pandemic lockdown, everyone is looking for a new experience,” he says. “It’s going to be here for a very long time.” As well as his acclaimed mixing skills, Kaiser also brought some other things to the venture — key components from his inventory of Focusrite Red and Focusrite RedNet products. These included the Focusrite Red 16Line 64-In/64-Out Thunderbolt 3 and Pro Tools | H compatible audio interface and Focusrite RedNet MP8R eight-channel mic pre. He also added his unusual but effective studio-monitoring choice: a full Atmos 7.1.4 array including C8.1T overhead speakers, CDD8 surround speakers, and CDD10 main speakers, all from Martin Audio and well matched with the Dolby Atmos SPL and EQcurve specifications.

The Dante network and Focusrite products completely cover the facility’s two control rooms and four tracking/recording spaces. “I was talking to Forrest, and I said we can run one mic line on Mogami XLR cabling for $180, or we can get 128 channels over a thousand feet of Cat 5 cable for a fraction of that,” recalls Kaiser. “And we don’t have to be punching so many holes in walls.”

Kaiser says the Focusrite Red 16Line units have become the studio’s go-to converters and act as the I/O between mic preamps and the studio’s Pro Tools systems as well as the main control room’s SSL Sigma console. The Focusrite MP8R moves around the facility in its own rack as needed. “We have that as a floating mic pre that we use in four recording rooms — two regular live rooms, a loading dock room which we also use to track in, and a front room that we use for either guitars or if we have somebody that has a small project coming in,” he explains. “I’m able to patch whatever I want to patch and it’s all on one screen,” he says. Combine that with what Atmos can do with music — we’ve had about 15 demos with artists and record-label people, and we’ve seen two people actually cry when they heard it — and you literally get goosebumps hearing it. It’s that amazing. And Focusrite lets us do that.”

“To get the infrastructure going with a traditional analogue way of thinking, it would have been three times as expensive. Just being able to have these units and not have to worry about conversions – just plug in a Cat 5 cable and get to work – there’s so much money and time saved.”

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