IT’S LIVE WITH JUST ONE-CHANCE-to-get-it-right at “Music’s Biggest Night”—the
annual GRAMMY Awards telecast—and audio
mixer (and guitar player) Ron Reaves seems
as tranquil as a cat napping in the sun. With
two stages humming constantly—one being
struck and reset for the next act, while the
other hosts the current performer—the sound
crews move at an insane pace. And yet Reaves
methodically adjusts his audio settings with
all the calm and confidence of a tech who has
logged 11 GRAMMY shows.
“Stage volume is the biggest enemy with
guitars,” he offers. “Tonight, Tom Morello is playing
really loud to get his tone, and it’s appropriate
for this song [the finale performance of
LL Cool J’s “Waddup”] because everything is
loud. Tom’s guitar sound comes into my console
flat with no EQ, and it goes out the same
way, because his tone is perfect. But crank your
amp to back a singer, and you may force me
to mix around the guitar.
“We have a two-second delay at the Staples
Center in Los Angeles [GRAMMYs venue],
so I haven’t put any effect on any guitar other
than compression. If a guitarist is using too
much reverb, I may ask that it be pulled back
a bit. Of course, you don’t tell The Edge to turn
down his echo.
“Mic placement is critical. There are 30
audio assistants on stage who handle all the
microphones. If they don’t put the mics back in
the same position they were during rehearsal,
it changes everything. That rarely happens,
though—those guys have superhuman memories.
“It’s a treat to mix for the GRAMMYs. When
Jeff Beck did the Les Paul tribute a while back,
it was a thrill to have his guitar running through
my console. I once said that I mix music for
free. It’s all the other sh*t that I charge for.”
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