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MAGAZINE INTERVIEW

Interview With PARAT Czech Metal Magazine



Surely you have left a concert more than once with the feeling that it was an amazing experience, a great performance, in short, a perfect show. However, it is not just the musicians who are to blame, but also one inconspicuous person at the back of a huge table with an endless number of light bulbs, buttons and cables. Yes, a sound engineer. And if you have just been to a concert such as AUTOPSY, DEICIDE, BORKNAGAR, CARPATHIAN FOREST, DARK FUNERAL, TROLLFEST, ARCTURUS or MEMORIAM, for example, it is always one and the same guy. His name is Rob Sherred, he was born in Nottingham, England and he takes care of the mentioned bands not only as a sound engineer, but often also as a tour manager. "Doing both things can sometimes be quite stressful, but when you build your trust in musicians, everything fits together smoothly and everything works as it should," says Rob in an interview.


How long have you been doing job?

I started mixing professionally when I was around 15 years old .. Im 46 so I have been around a long time now. Hahaha I’m very fortunate to have a good reputation in the industry and I managed to get a couple of endorsements from Audix Microphones and Hate Couture Clothing. So I must be doing something right.


What were your beginnings?

In theatres when I was a kid, my mother worked in a local theatre back in the UK a d I used to be a little bored in the summer holidays from school and I used to help out backstage when I was about 13 and that is when I first saw a sound desk ( an old DDA board ) and I was fascinated by it and asked if I could try and learn it and thankfully they said yes, so I watched them mix for a long time and one day they said your turn, I learned so much back in those days. And I still remember those fondly. After that I started work in local venues which was part of the touring cycle for bands like Pearl Jam, Muse, The Wildhearts, Thunder, Reef, Skindred…… I was a house sound engineer for 10 years when I was not touring. And I was studying Audio at college also for a few years.


When I take the band you have written on your facebook profile (you as a sound engineer, tour manager), are those bands you cooperate the most with?

I would say yes, doing both jobs can be a little stressful sometimes.. But you have to gain the trust from the artist, and everything sort of falls into place after that. I used to do sound and tour manage Alcest, Solstafir, Dark Funeral and Primordial for a few years and we always got on really well, but unfortunately schedules classed with other bands and I had to make a choice. My main bands I like with now are Autopsy ( 11 years) Borknagar ( 12 years ) Deicide, Death To All, Carpathian Forest, Arcturus, Memoriam and Trollfest.


When it was possible to play live, was the sound engineering your main job at concerts or was it to be a tour manager?

I started off as just sound engineering but ended up having to look after the money and organise things, which I do not really mind and I know it gets done. I do both now… so sometimes one or the other.


How often you work at the studio?

I have done some studio work, but I find it a little boring as I like the challenge of a live show… as you are there in the moment.


What is your most favourite band you work for?

I love working with all of my current bands.. me and the Autopsy boys and the Memoriam guys ( X - Bolt Thrower ) have had a friendship since 1989 / 1991. Borknagar , Carpathian Forest, Arcturus, Trollfest are all great to work with, I am very fortunate to work with bands in a fan of and you become part of a family.


Are there any funny stories that you can share with us?

We have turned up at the wrong venue before, I happened when Party San Open Air moved sites and we standing looking at a big empty field… we were not the only bad to do that either. I’ve seen Nattefrost walk onto the main stage at Brutal Assault before .. he walked onstage with Madball !!! It was hilarious as they just looked at him smiled and carried on playing.


How about Glen Benton? Dreaded for music journalists.. You will certainly confirm he is completely a different person in a private…

Glen is a super nice guy, a pleasure to work with… he is one of the most professional people I know. He knows what he wants and doesn't bullshit.. we got some bad press on the last euro tour as they did not play Brutal Assault, the band were stuck in Florida due to tropical storms and there was nothing that the band could do about it, i was on the phone with them constantly during that period.


For whom is the work absolutely most difficult?

It can be difficult on everyone if you have a tough tour schedule, but mainly on the crew as they (we) are the last to bed and first up in the mornings.


And on the other hand – is there a big band that is absolutely modest and it is easy to work for?

Autopsy and Borknagar definitely, all super cool guys, genuine people.


Who is the most demanding musician?

I cant really say as artists have good days and bad days, there is always one in each band sometimes. But I have dealt with some divas in the past.


Have you ever been in a trouble that you are ashamed of?

Cant think of anything hehehe


What is your routine program when you arrive at the gig?

First thing COFFEE, find the dressing rooms, speak with the local promoter/ venue crew and go through load in / set up / sound check / door/ show times.. print them off and stick them everywhere backstage so everyone knows. Load in / set up / sound check then sometimes there are interviews or meet & greets. Make sure that everything is working ok and people are happy, I always make sure that the crew eat !!!! You are on your feet for hours everyday. Just before doors, I check the guestlist is correct… mix the show, pack up and do the same the next day.


How it works during the biggest festivals where many bands and sound engineers switch?

That seems to work pretty well… if you have a good local crew and stage manager you will be fine.


Is there any band that you have not cooperated with yet and it is your big wish?

I mix alot of death metal and black metal and I already have mixed my idols… so I cant really think of anyone.


How long did it take to reach your current sound engineer level?

It can take a long time, I’m still learning.


To be a good sound engineer - how much percent of technical knowledge and how much of musical hearing you need?

Musical hearing can really help you, hearing when something is out of tune or out of time… its good to know the basics of electronics as you sometimes have to fix things on the road. Theory of sound is a big plus when doing this job, helps knowing room acoustics, speaker arrays.


How it works during the biggest festivals where many bands and sound engineers switch?

That seems to work pretty well… if you have a good local crew and stage manager you will be fine.


Is there any band that you have not cooperated with yet and it is your big wish?

I mix alot of death metal and black metal and I already have mixed my idols… so I cant really think of anyone.


How long did it take to reach your current sound engineer level?

It can take a long time, I’m still learning.


To be a good sound engineer - how much percent of technical knowledge and how much of musical hearing you need?

Musical hearing can really help you, hearing when something is out of tune or out of time… its good to know the basics of electronics as you sometimes have to fix things on the road. Theory of sound is a big plus when doing this job, helps knowing room acoustics, speaker arrays.


Can you remember your first concert that you sounded?

It was a couple of acoustic guitars with condersor mica and it was horrible, there was alot of feedback and I was not really to sure what I was doing.


What is the worst nightmare for sound engineer?

Having a speaker system or sound desk just die on you during a show.


What all can be fucked up during a concert?

Having a drunk local crew, who are lazy and don’t want to work, equipment gets put in the wrong place, artist gets sick. There are so any different things.


You are touring with bigger bands. It probably does not happen that you arrive somewhere where the equipment and sound system is completely fucked up, right?

It does, I was in Harbin, China with Moonsorrow a few years ago and the speaker system was made up of different speakers and there were about 30 power cables all wrapped in a huge bundle on stage. A pa system in Mexico keeped overheating when I was with Dark Funeral… that was a horrible show. But normally everything works perfectly.


Is there a celebrity among sound engineers? The idol? Someone whos work you value?

The guy who does sound for Sting is amazing. There are so good sound engineers in this business and I get to hang out with some of them at festivals over a beer. Johnny who does (Cannibal Corpse ) Simon ( Napalm Death ) Ralphy ( Testament ) are all great guys foh and friends.


Do you play in any band?

I used to play fretless bass in a death metal band in my teens called Mortis. We played a few shows and that was it.


How difficult is it to handle long tours across the continent? Is it difficult physically and mentally?

It can be but I do enjoy the travel part of it, but you have to learn to live with not much sleep sometimes. But the show mush go on.


A lot of people think that touring is one wild party. It used to be that way for sure.... Does it still apply today?

Some bands still like to party, but a lot of the older bands do not really as they know it’s a job and people pay money to come and see you, so you have to give them your best. The Dark Funeral guys don’t have any alcohol on there rider… they like to try and stay in shape on tour when they can…running, gym etc… and it is nice to wake up feeling fresh everyday also.


Can you enjoy the gig or are you too busy to enjoy it?

I really enjoy mixing, so I always get a chance to enjoy the band, I always try and see a bit of the support bands if I can also.


Can you imagine sounding today with the sound system that was new twenty years ago?

The industry has changed for audio a lot in the last 20 years, there are some amazing pa systems out there now.. I have a few favourites like D&b, L’acustics, JBL. Some places you go to still have systems which are over 20 years old.. which is fine as long as it still works correctly.


Is it hard to keep up with the times? Do you have to constantly educate?

During the world lockdown alot of companies have been doing online courses and seminars, so I have been doing lots of those kinds of things… just to keep up with all the new products.


I remember one gig when the police arrived and they demanded immediate end of the gig. But the concert continued, so one of the police man ripped the cables from sound desk. What would you do in that situation? Would you kill him?

Wow, I’ve never experienced that.. that is actually criminal damage by a police man !!! He probably got into A LOT of trouble. I would ask the police what the situation was and why they wanted it to end… if it was an emergency situation then that’s fine.. turn the music down and make an announcement from the sound desk.


Have you ever experienced that someone poured the beer on your sound desk?

Yes, I was during a show many many years ago and it blew the power supply to the desk.. thankfully it did not damage anything else… and it ended the show straight away. Some of the audience saw they do it and had a few words with them outside I was told. I really don’t know why people do that sort of thing to ruin every one else fun at a concert, if you don’t like the band go somewhere else.


What was the breaking point when you get from the beginner to the big bands?

Album sales, social media with certain bands I work with, some bands like Autopsy, Deicide, Death to all are already known names so you know that you will play bigger shows / fests. I’ve been lucky with the bands I work with.


Do you believe that there will be live shows again in the second half of this year? Or even shorter tours?

I really hope that there will be, I still have a couple of tours booked for last year that have been pushed to this year. I think that people really need to hear live music again… I know I do.


How does your service work? Are the bands contacting you, they say the time, you tell your terms and you make it OR is it more complicated?

I get contacted from bands and booking agents, we discuss fees and contracts and take it from there… it’s pretty easy. I’ve been at a festival mixing a band and another band or booking agent will ask me to mix the next day sometimes, so it’s good to have a good network.


When the musician is having a “bad day”, sound guy can save him. What can do a musician, when the sound guy is having his “bad day“?

Always be nice to the sound guy as at the end of the day he / she can make or break your show, I’ve had some bad days on tour before.. missing loved ones, home etc… and the band have always treated me as family.


When you are a tour manager, is it sometimes difficult to get all the musicians on the tour bus after a concert? Someone is having fun with fans? Someone drinks an alcohol?

It does happen a few times with the Trollfest guys, as there a 7 of them and when they have been drinking then sometimes wander off… its like hearding cats hahaha. But most of the bands I work with are behaving and know what time the bus call is and are normally on the bus before we leave.


Do you have some crazy experience with fans (groupie)? Do they chase musicians a lot?

Hahahaha yes… some try to get on the bus, I try to have a no fan policy on the bus as it‘s your home on the road at the end of the day.


Has any fan ever gone too far that you had to deal with the security help or the police?

Never gone that far.. but I have thrown fans of the bus before.


Have you ever encountered a problem after arriving the venue when you said that it would be better to not do this concert?

That’s never happened to me before, it’s happened to some other bands I know… sometimes bad tickets sales etc..


When you tour with a few big bands, how many people are in the crew? Everyone except the musicians themselves?

With Autopsy there is Ron who does the stage and Nancy who does merch, Borknagar 1 stage and 1 merch person. It’s just me and the band like with Carpathian Forest, Craft, Deicide, Memoriam, Trollfest. Some bands are there own crew and it keeps the costs down if they don’t have a big stage set or lots of equipment, its normally just a backdrop. If it’s a tour them you will sometimes have about 6 - 7 people in the crew.