All hail the under-appreciated sound people

by DGO Web Administrator

The sound person: they are the unsung heroes of the music scene, and an under-appreciated aspect of the live and studio music experience. In the studio, you could have many people, along with the musicians, all working on making that final product just right. On stage, it’s sometimes just one person tucked away in another part of the venue, working to make sure the mix is as close to perfect as it can be.

Some bands, performing in smaller venues with a smaller sound system, may try to handle the job themselves. Other venues have a house sound guy who knows the room and the equipment, while larger acts can travel with one or two people, who can be as important as any musician.

They’re a necessary part of the live music experience, and can truly make or break the musical product. Doing it right is worthy of recognition.

Doug Eagle is one of many sound people in town, and one of the few that lives in both musical worlds, where he sometimes works sound for live bands, and other times recording bands in his studio. He’s been at it in Durango for 31 years, and counts Heart & Soul, Lawn Chair Kings, The Outskirts, and Sunny and the Whiskey Machine as clients, along with many more.

It’s a list that reads as a who’s who of regional bands, many who still play, while others were blips on the local musical map.

“Live is cool because it’s immediate. You’ve got the energy of the audience, and just a live performance in general is cool. I mean, people go to live music because they like the excitement. Otherwise we’d all sit at home listening to CDs, listening to the radio, and you’d never go out with a bunch of people in one place with a live band. So, there’s some energy to that, having to do it in real time, setting up for a band, and being in different venues and the variety of it. It’s fun,” said Eagle.

Eagle has strong thoughts on why it’s great to mix a live band and record in the studio.

“The studio is the same space all the time, the same set up,” Eagle said. “You have a lot more control. Live, there is the element of not being in control. But in the studio, you have time and you can craft things. Be picky, go back over it repeatedly, the real time thing is gone. You can be more of a perfectionist. Mixing in the studio is fun, working mostly alone, and really trying to craft the sound, really digging in, really trying to perfect it. But you can’t do that live. You do the best in 90-minutes of performance and a sound check, so I like both a lot.”

There are plenty of stories and plenty of jokes, and most sound people likely have some good tales, like the bass player who couldn’t score while in town for a show, and took out his opioid withdrawal-inspired inability to play on the poor sound dude. Or about the electrical issues that happen minutes before show time that put everything on a delay and cause an increase in the sound person’s stress levels.

Eagle has the appreciation for a recognition of imperfection, an acceptance of the fact that you work with human beings, and what comes out of any type of performance, studio or on-stage, is human – imperfections and all.

“The only way to make it all perfect is to start replacing musicians and instruments, and giving them an unlimited budget,” said Eagle.

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected].


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