DiGiCo SD7 delivers the beast sound for Iron Maiden
Back in the 1980s, those who dismissed the New Wave of British Heavy Metal as a passing phase obviously didn’t reckon on Iron Maiden still selling out stadiums and arenas 30 years later. The band’s enduring appeal means they still tour with a huge production, so a DiGiCo SD7 at Front of House is a match Maiden heaven.
Despite not touring at quite such an intense level as the two-year long marathons of the late 80s, Maiden still hit the road every year, visiting countries across the world. Huge audiences enthusiastically comply with Bruce Dickinson’s cry to scream for him, as the six-piece tear through a large catalogue of classic rock songs.
Front of House engineer Martin Walker has a long history of working with hard rock bands, including Judas Priest, Slash, Whitesnake and Californian thrashers Testament. He began working with Iron Maiden last year, bringing his console of choice, a DiGiCo SD7, supplied by event management company ML Executives, with him.
“I really like DiGiCo consoles and was using an SD8 with Judas Priest,” he says. “The first time I was involved with the SD7 was when I sat with Lars Brogaard on the first Rod Stewart residency at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. I moved up to one with Judas Priest two years ago and I haven’t looked back.”
Maiden generate about 40 inputs, plus another dozen from various outboard units and playback at FoH. Outputs comprise main left and right, with subs on an aux and vocal fills. Martin also does a multi-track recording of most shows on to ProTools with a JoeCo system backup.
“I have nothing but good results from the SD7. Sonically it's in a league of its own, it sounds natural, warm and has a rock’n’roll edge without you having to overdrive, over EQ or over anything,” says Martin.
“I love the onboard multiband compressor - it’s an absolute necessity with Bruce’s voice - but one of the most important features for me is the video screen. There is a camera dedicated to following Bruce throughout the show and I have a feed from it, which I literally watch all night. It shows me where he is on stage, so I can mute his mic when necessary, it also shows me how he is handling the mic and I can see from his performance how much input I am getting. It can vary a lot, so a smooth vocal mix would be impossible without being able to keep a constant watch on him. It remains a big challenge, but the close up video eases the task.”
He continues, “I treat the desk in a very old school way. Everything is mixed on the fly apart from using snapshots for midi-triggering outboard and to recall notes. I have a few notes that remind me of input peculiarities for particular songs and which guitarist does what lead line or solo and when. At my age the old memory is not as good as it once was, so any help in that direction is a positive plus!”
The band continues its Maiden England tour with two shows at London’s The O2, before moving on to the USA and South America in September and October.
“The SD7’s roadworthiness couldn't be better. It's like having a friend out on the road, helping you achieve what you are trying to do,” says Martin. “The support from DiGiCo is also second to none, whether it be from the guys in the UK or the USA. Any issue - however major or minor - gets sorted quickly, quietly and efficiently within the time frame one needs in a 24/7 touring environment.”