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Continuing a relationship of nearly twenty years, Solotech supplied a d&b GSL system for The Prodigy’s latest UK and European dates, a tour that saw their legendary FOH engineer Jon Burton hang up his faders and retire from touring.
It was in 1993 that Jon Burton first visited Wigwam in Heywood as monitor engineer for Suede. “It was the first time that I’d had anyone to assist in the setup of my system,” he recalls. “They asked me if I wanted to come in and prep. It was one of the first times I had built a rig up from scratch, I was even given choices! I was made to feel at home and that feeling has never left me”.
The Prodigy live show is very much a full-on production and is renowned from an audio perspective for its ‘Bass Drop’ – ultra low frequency bass that is felt by the listener as much as it is heard.
“From day one, back in 2004, I’ve strived to improve and develop the show. At the production rehearsals for the ‘Their Law’ Greatest Hits tour, I took time out with Simon (Sid) Rogerson just working on sub-array designs. We spent 3 days just trying out every crazy idea we had.”
For the 2023 tour, which took in arenas across the UK and Europe, Solotech Account Manager Jack Langfeld specified a d&b audiotechnik GSL system.
“The great advantage of GSL is that it uses two (almost) 15” LF drivers,” commented Jon. “That means you get good low-frequency extension from the array” – the GSL goes down to 45 Hz – “which helps with the Prodigy sound.”
For the sub-array Jon opted for 16 x d&b SL Subs, placed single height in front of the stage. These were augmented by a further 16 x d&b Infra Subs, stacked 8 per side at either end of the SL array. Jon explained, “I use the Infra Subs as an effect. For much of the time they aren’t in the mix and I dial them in at key moments or for certain songs, to give an extra sub punch.”
On stage, the band have an equally large, albeit old-school monitor package comprising a central stack of two d&B B22 subs beneath 4 stacks of d&b C4 for Liam Howlett’s keyboards. The same configuration can be found as side fills on either side of the stage. The system poses challenges at FOH as Jon explained, “The stage is a significant presence, therefore, we ensure that the main system is time aligned with Liam’s keyboard fill.”
‘Loud’ is often the first word that springs to mind when thinking of the Prodigy, however Jon is keen to emphasise there’s a difference between loudness and sound pressure levels (SPL) levels.
“SPL is a scientific measurement of pressure, it is easily definable, whereas loudness is perceptual.” This links in with academic work he has done, cited by the World Health Organisation, in an effort to help establish best industry practices for audio at live events. This latest tour was mixed around 100 dB measured as a 15-minute average and LAEq weighted. LAEq discounts much of the sub-bass element when measuring SPL. Therefore, “the sub helps give the listener the perception of loudness at a level where the potentially more damaging higher frequencies are lowered.”
At FOH Jon could opt for any digital console he desired, yet he continues to use his personal vintage Midas XL3 analogue console for Prodigy gigs.
“Every gig is a dub reggae gig in my head. There’s lots of spinning-in of effects on the guitars and vocals. I own three XL3s and they still produce a great sound, however, it’s primarily down to how all the controls are laid out in front of you. Everything is just instantly at hand. Much of my mixing is done by muscle memory and I’m yet to find a digital surface where I could lay out all the encoders and achieve this. Also, the way it’s been set up means it’s easy for engineers to deputise for me.”
Jon was delighted with the service he received once again from Solotech: “For this tour, I was so busy I just didn’t have time to prep my equipment, I had to trust in the warehouse crew to deliver. The service we’ve received from account handler Jack Langfeld has been superb. Jack has toured with the Prodigy in previous years so he knows what’s needed, what is important and what we want to achieve”. Key to the touring crew was Sid Rogerson, Jon’s long-time right-hand man. “As always Sid was brilliant to work with! I’d like to also make a special mention for the newcomers, John Lumsdon and Callum Griffin. Callum, came out to get a bit of on-the-road experience and fitted in straight away, with the same enthusiasm I had seen in Jack year’s earlier. However, not as good at making tea, yet”
Prodigy is one of Solotech’s most established clients – a relationship we hope will continue. But alas this will likely be Jon Burton’s last tour as it brings to a close his life on the road.
“It’s just not sustainable anymore and so I’ll now be focussing on my full-time role as a senior lecturer at the University of Derby. However, I’ll still be maintaining close links as we continue to develop the relationship between Solotech and the University – watch this space!”
Audio CrewFOH Engineer: Jon BurtonMonitor Engineer: Tom MaddocksMonitor & Stage Technician: Will LucasSystem Technician: Sid RogersonPA Technician: John LumsdonJunior Technician: Callum Griffin