When Christina Aguilera postponed her 2010 Bionic Tour in the spring, engineer Jon Lemon was able to transition his gig—and the DiGiCo SD8 he was using for the tour's promo leg—onto a Smashing Pumpkins' run. Having worked extensively on an SD7 over the last few years with artists including Janet Jackson, Lemon wanted to use the few one-off gigs for Aguilera, including a VH1 "Storytellers" taping, to try out the SD7's sibling. "I decided to go with the SD8 as I originally didn't need many inputs for Christina," Lemon recalled. "Plus, I hadn't really played around with one… But we ended up using every input and output on the console because the band kept expanding as we went along, adding strings, brass, etc. So when her tour got cancelled, I figured I'd take it out with the Pumpkins because it worked admirably and I'd gotten on really well with it."
With no rehearsals prior to the first show, The Smashing Pumpkins limited 14-date U.S. club tour kicked off July 8th, with Clair Global as production partner. The intimate shows were a warm-up for a global swing in the Fall, and to promote the band's new, limited-edition box set, Teargarden by Kaleidyscope. It was also the perfect setting to showcase frontman Billy Corgan's new band, which including bassist Nicole Fiorentino (formerly of Veruca Salt), guitarist Jeff Schroeder and drummer Mike Byrne.
"I was shocked at how refreshing great they sounded, with no rehearsals," Lemon mused. "This is definitely the best version of the band, and the SD8 lent itself perfectly to the line-up. The SD8 was an easy transition, once you work out accessing everything via one screen it's very easy to get around. The console is extremely flexible using touch faders and banks to assign screens. Since it's a 4-piece band, we're only using 26 inputs. There are two opening acts and because of the space in these clubs, I'm letting them use another 24 inputs, which we put on a file and away they go. As far as outputs, I'm just going out—left and right—into the club system using Dolby Lake System for my outputs. It's all very simple, but effective.
In addition, Lemon is carrying a local rack for some additional, must-have, outboard gear, as well as two recording rigs to capture all of the shows. "Billy wanted to record and archive all of the shows with backup, so I've got my Pro Tools rig and a Logic rig out, which posed a bit of a challenge. Using an RME MADIbridge, we've been able to split it all up so I'm able to use my local rack running the stage rack on MADI and two recording rigs that via the MADIbridge and a MIDI button so I can playback whatever I want and record whatever I want wherever I want. It's all pretty neat and tidy—which was another consideration for us when we start flying to the Far East. The smaller the better when it comes to airfreight. Having a compact setup, with the SD8 for FOH and D1 for monitors, was ideal."
The DiGiCo D1 was the first choice for monitor engineer Seth Kendall, who has worked with a range of artists including Megadeth, Korn, Lionel Richie, Beyonce, Carrie Underwood and Lucinda Williams. "I've used a lot of the digital consoles out there and my preference is DiGiCo. I picked the D1 for this tour because of the audio quality and ergonomics of the desk, and because of the desk's small footprint. The richness of the bottom end and the clarity of the top end is something I haven't found in other digital consoles. I know the D1 isn't DiGiCo's newest technology, but having multiple touch screens in monitor world is a real asset. Monitors tend to have a lot going on at the same time, and being able to do two things at once is great and it's something that I can do on a DiGiCo that I can't on the others. I can keep a bank of inputs up on one module and page freely between the other inputs on the second module and have my EQ window popped up and work on another one on the next module… it allows you to multitask. The way that the desk is laid out makes me think that the people who designed it were people who've actually mixed live shows. Everything makes sense and feels the way analog consoles feel. The sound quality, the ergonomics, and the ability to multitask are probably what I like best about the desk."
On this tour, the Pumpkins are all on wedges and sidefills, a bit out of the norm for most touring outfits. "It's been a while since I've mixed a wedge band; it's been mostly in-ears for the last several years. Billy likes to have pretty significant volume come out of his guitar rig, so it's loud onstage, and getting the vocal above the guitar and the stage volume is always a challenge, especially in the small venues we're playing on this leg."
As the tour continues to rave reviews among fans and critics alike, engineer Jon Lemon still marvels at the diminutive audio package they've been able to assemble for a band of such big stature and such big sound. "For this tour, being a 3-band tour and one of them being a considerably large band in terms of status—to have everything in one stage rack and one small console, one FOH package, is fantastic. I think for the price-point, you can't beat an SD8. And once the sound grid is out, it'll be a super-competitive package. I've very happy with it!"