There is no talent knob: Interview with sound engineer Chris Edrich
In our series of “behind the scenes” in the progressive music world, today we’re having a chat with sound engineer Chris Edrich. You may know him for his sound work with Norwegian proggers Leprous or Klone, Hypno5e, The Ocean or Kadinja . His vantage point behind the sound desk gives him a unique perspective on the bands he runs sound for, so if you want to know about this side of the stage, enjoy the interview!
Tell us a bit about where you come from and your musical background. What did you listen to growing up and how did you decide to become a sound engineer?
I grew up in a small town in the north-east of France called Metz. Listened to whatever my parents were listening to (from Michael Jackson to Vangelis) until I was 9 when a friend gave me a cassette tape (yeah, I’m that old!) of “The Razor’s Edge” by AC/DC, which changed my perception of music forever. I started playing the guitar a few years later and after some time as being a musician only, I got interested in the sound side of things. Started recording and mixing local bands, doing sound for them in shitty bars, and it progressively (pun intended?) became bigger bands and bigger shows, turning me into a happy full-time sound guy!
You also work in the studio producing and mixing albums for bands, what aspect do you like about it compared to live engineering?
As much as I love the challenges of working on live shows (adapting to new conditions every day, working in a limited amount of time…), it’s also really enjoyable to sit down in a quiet place and be able to take your time to try things out, question artistic choices, get more creative! A lot of people would tell you it’s 2 completely different jobs, I tend to think that in my case they’re extremely linked and what I do in one has consequences on the other. Live mixing taught me to accept the fact that not everything depends on me regarding how the show sounds, but on a thousand different parameters. Doesn’t make me a better mixing engineer but surely a more relaxed one, and that’s a precious extra value when it comes to having smooth relationships with artists/musicians and not injecting doubt and fears in their sometimes already chaotic lives. It would be like shooting myself in the foot because if a band plays under too much pressure or bad vibes they probably won’t give their best, which means they won’t sound as good as they could (“shit in, shit out” is the rule here!), so I want my musicians happy, whether it’s live or in the studio!
You have said that you were not a big prog fan. However, you do work mainly with prog-related bands ( The Ocean Collective, Myrath, Kadinja, Rendezvous Point, Vola, Hypno5e…) – how did that come about?
Yeah, I didn’t grow up listening to progressive music, so my prog culture is pretty limited, but I’m working on it! Haha! Honestly, I couldn’t really tell what got me working with so many prog-related bands, I guess it kinda started when I worked with Mnemic, then Hacride who opened for The Ocean and Shining, then I started working with those 2 as well, etc… probably a good combination of being at the right place at the right moment, doing my job the best I can and trying to be a friendly and overall nice dude…!
You are mostly known for working with Norwegian band Leprous. How did you come to run sound for the Norwegians?
It all happened thanks to some other Norwegians! By then I had done tours with Shining and their drummer at the moment (Tobias Ornes Andersen, who also was the previous drummer in Leprous) recommended me when Leprous was looking for a sound guy for their European tour supporting Devin Townsend, and I said yes when they called me! We got along very well so I was asked to do more shows, and I’ve been touring with them for 3 years now. Fun fact: I had never listened to Leprous before they asked me to go on tour with them, so I checked it out before signing in and was happily surprised by the records, but I was completely blown away by their live performances!!!
How do you approach their music and live mixing?
Their music is extremely dynamic and human, filled with details and subtle elements, so I have to translate and sometimes accentuate all of this into bigger speakers. There’s some very interesting work on the vocals, as almost the whole band sings I need to make sure the vocal harmonies are treated well, that’s something I didn’t have to do a lot with previous bands I worked with.
Also mixing a cello in a rock band (with Raphael Weinroth-Browne) might be kind of a challenge but we found ways to make it work and the arrangements are so well written and played that it just sounds beautiful!
Pitfalls was released in October 2019 and received critical acclaim, you went on a huge European Tour in November with the Ocean Collective and Port Noir. How did your approach to live mixing change with this album compared to Malina?
I wouldn’t say “change” but more “evolved” in the continuity of what I was already doing on the “Malina” shows. The aim by then was to get a sound that’s natural and more organic than cold/metal. “Pitfalls” asks even more for that kind of mix, and goes even further because each song is different, so I have more drastic mix changes between songs now than I ever had before. This plus also adapting my mix to the older songs they play, plus the band changing their setlist every day… makes my days always exciting!
For the gear geeks out there, what kind of tools or resources do you use in your day-to-day work?
On all tours and shows, I always bring my microphones, mainly Audix for drums with AKG for cymbals. Most of the bands I work with now use amp simulation for guitars and bass, but if I have to mike cabs I’d go for good old sm57’s for guitars and m88 for bass! Mixing desk: I’m a big fan of Yamaha mixers and I’ve also used my fair share of Midas consoles, and with Leprous we just did our first tour with an Allen&Heath dLive, it’s awesome and super compact and light, so we should be able to have more consistency for festival shows this year, that’ll help us for sure!
You are part of Frogs on Tours, a collective of French live crew with Camille Bechet (FOH Palaye Royale, Betraying The Martyrs, Dying Fetus), Tim Bickford (FOH Being As An Ocean, Novelists), Capsule Four (LD Phil Anselmo, BTM, ROTNS), Marine Guenet (TM BAAO), and you recently welcomed Jimbo Goncalves (FOH Myrath, Igorrr, Perturbator) to the team. What was the idea behind creating this collective?
It started as a “sound guys only” thing and was mainly a way of making official and giving a name to something we were already doing: calling each other when one of us was offered tours or shows he wasn’t unable to do, so basically trusting each other to do a good job and offer our bands and clients some kind of label of quality. It worked quite nicely and got some attention from bands and brands, and then it made sense to turn it into a crew collective and welcome talented people working in the live music field. Now we have tours with almost exclusive Frogs On Tour crew, like the latest Being As An Ocean or current Palaye Royale tours!
With your experience, would you at one point consider the idea of teaching/sharing your skills (in a school / conference / clinic)?
“Teaching” is a big word… As I’m completely self-taught, I’m not sure I’d be a great teacher, but if it’s more talking about my experiences and sharing tricks, then why not! Would be happy if I can help make the world a better sounding place, haha!
What advice would you give students either going into school or just graduating about getting a job in this industry?
Go full-on or don’t go at all! Stay humble and open-minded, we learn every day, in school or on the field! And I’d wish every sound engineer was doing this job out of passion, so we could finally get rid of that “grumpy sound guy” cliché…!
Favorite venue to run sound at?
Basically any venue in The Netherlands, to me they have the highest standards in Europe regarding quality of equipment, hospitality and house crew… and they’re made to be venues, not old churches / train stations / former warehouses turned into venues! (has its charm but usually doesn’t sound as good…!) Also had a lot of fun lately at Le Cabaret Sauvage in Paris, or at Fri-Son in Fribourg, Switzerland… there are great venues everywhere!
Favorite album(s) at the moment?
Besides “Pitfalls” from Leprous, “Le Grand Voyage” by Klone and “Meta” by Maraton (not only because of my job but also because they’re great albums!), I’ve been listening to “Rennen” by Sohn an unreasonable amount of times… Also my prog culture might be pretty lame, but I’m trying my best to improve it! Listening to “In Absentia” by Porcupine Tree right now and I’m totally charmed by ‘Collapse The Light Into Earth’, I can thank Einar Solberg for pointing this song out to me!
Your musical guilty pleasure?
‘Everybody’ by the Backstreet Boys. I don’t even feel guilty, to me it’s the best pop song from the 90’s, fight me! Haha.
Favorite tour memory?
Wow, hard question…! I guess any time we managed to make a good show happen against all odds and bad luck/conditions, when it finally works and if it’s a killer show, that’s the best reward! Also, amazing crowds in South America that make you feel like you are playing a stadium even if it’s a 900 people club show! It really blows my mind how passionate crowds are over there, I think they even beat Spanish, Portuguese and Greek crowds that are the best in Europe!
Any sound engineers out there (prog related or not) who inspires you?
Of course, plenty! My fellow Frogs On Tour sound guys for being some of the hardest workers I know, Johann Meyer for destroying everything with Gojira live and in the studio, Alex Markides (Periphery, Suicidal Tendencies) for having as much love for snare drum as I have, Ronnie Young (Plini, Animals as Leaders) because I have to mention him in an interview so we can be friends again… hahahaha! Jokes aside he blew me away with some of the cleanest live mixes I’ve heard!
What are your plans for 2020 ? (touring, mixing / producing albums)?
After the second Leprous European tour for “Pitfalls” in February, the plan was to tour with Rendezvous Point in March as main support for Anathema – sadly the tour has been cancelled after a few dates due to government rulings over the COVID-19 virus . End of March the plan is to head over to Latin America with TesseracT. I should be working on Kadinja’s new album in May/June, then summer festivals till the end of August. I have some really exciting tours coming up from September to December but I can’t talk about it yet! Stay tuned!
We want to thank Chris for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer these questions and wish him the best of luck on the road!