Industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails (NIИ) recently completed an extensive world tour that began April 20th, 2009 in West Palm Beach, FL and extended throughout the United States, Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the Pacific Rim—playing venues ranging in capacity from 5,000 to 25,000. In all, the storied band performed 74 shows in 64 cities—with the final eleven concerts, known officially as the Wave Goodbye tour, marking the conclusion of the band’s existence. Through it all, the larger-than-life drum sound of Ilan Rubin’s drumkit can be credited to the stellar performance of microphones from the Earthworks catalog.
Pete Keppler, FOH (front of house) Engineer for NIИ, along with Michael Prowda, the band’s Monitor Engineer, were tasked with selecting and deploying a wide range of equipment for the tour. As anyone who has ever miked a drumkit knows all too well, placement and the right choice of microphone make all the difference in the world when it comes to capturing a quality drum sound. That’s precisely why Keppler and Prowda selected Earthworks’ SR25 and SR30 Time Coherent Cardioid Microphones for the drums.
Keppler, who has also mixed tours for David Bowie, Rufus Wainwright, Patti Smith, David Byrne, and Aimee Mann, discussed the challenges of miking the drums and the decision to deploy Earthworks’ SR25 and SR30.“I really wanted to get the full ‘experience’ of Ilan’s bass drum,” explained Keppler, “which required a mic outside the drum to get the massive bottom end I was after. Mike and I tried several other mics in this position, but the SR30 was clearly the winner. It picked up the kick drum’s sub-low energy better than any other mic, as well as its ‘punch’ factor.”
“The SR25’s for drum overheads are amazing,” he continued. “With the SR25’s, the kit sounded super-open and natural—without the brittle top end I frequently hear from a lot of other condenser mics. I used the SR25’s as overheads for a considerable amount of the snare and tom sounds. The Earthworks mics were a marked improvement over the previous microphones we’d used. Another key challenge for any microphone on a Nine Inch Nails stage is durability. There’s a fair amount of activity up there, and the Earthworks mics came through with flying colors—we encountered no issues whatsoever.”
Like Keppler, Michael Prowda is a seasoned audio veteran and has mixed tours for the Eagles, Beck, Joe Jackson, Alice in Chains, Carly Simon, and Prince, to name but a few acts. He discussed those characteristics that really set the Earthworks microphones apart from the competition. “During rehearsals before the tour started, we had an opportunity to try out a number of different hardware solutions,” Prowda said. “The sound we obtained with Earthworks’ KickPad™ attenuator/EQ processor was really impressive and this led us to the SR25’s, which we ultimately used for overheads. The SR25’s are very accurate and deliver a very controlled sound. Shortly after that, we auditioned the SR30 on the kick drum and really liked what we heard. These mics have great transient response, which is critical for getting a good drum sound.”
Prowda was equally complimentary of Earthworks’ customer/technical support services, “Our entire industry functions on customer service, and Earthworks was a pleasure to deal with—starting from my initial interest in their products. The company was very responsive to my inquiry and went out of their way to help us find the products that worked best for our situation. Everyone was extremely helpful.”
With the NIИ tour now in the rear view mirror, Keppler reflected on the events that transpired, Earthworks’ involvement, and what the future may hold. “I toured with NIИ for three and a half years,” notes Keppler, “and Mike was onboard for a year longer. During that time, we tried literally dozens of different mics on that stage. The moment we started with the Earthworks’ mics, the improvement was immediately apparent—and I mean a big change. We’re really grateful to the Earthworks folks for all their support. While NIИ may no longer tour, fans can rest assured that Trent Reznor has a number of surprises up his sleeve. Whatever tour we find ourselves on, you can be certain that Earthworks will be right there with us!”