As a part of Rock Academy program special expert workshops open to everyone are arranged in participating cities. Douglas Blair, the guitarist for the legendary W.A.S.P., kindly offered to share his expertise to local musicians at Rauma. Douglas spends a lot of time in Turku, which is 90 km from Rauma and I promised to pick him up. I was glad he accepted a ride in my new Ford. When we first met a couple of years ago, I had a Saab as does he. I had had to let it go due to increasing service costs but Douglas' Fractal Audio rig along with his GuitarX and ESP custom guitars fit in well.
On the way to Rauma I got a plenty of good advice concerning my upcoming trip to LA. As an open-minded and ever-curious person Douglas was interested in the big rocks aside the road and we tried to imagine what kind of history they had seen.
Today's scene was the old water pump house that the Rauma association for live music Relmu rents for band rehearsal rooms. Members of at least eight bands were attending, along with lots of sidekicks with general interest in music. Douglas took over the situation with routine and after a quick setup and soundcheck he started the first part of the workshop. How to utilize your band rehearsal space most effectively. The audience got to hear about mixing, frequencies, sound projection and zones, avoiding feedback, sound pressure levels, acoustic isolation and many more aspects to take into account when practising in different rooms. We checked out some rooms in the building and got useful hints.
As a pro musician for decades Douglas had seen lots of rehearsal spaces. He told about his first band's place and how to avoid trouble with the neighbourhood, as well as the way the major bands organize the preparation for tours with professional rental practice arenas. He told that nowadays the bands have generally better situation since the knowledge and equipment are better available. Especially he mentioned Rauma Rock Academy band Mator's room. They had built a headphone monitor rehearsal system to practice recording live. While they play, they can all have a different monitor mix in the phones and also record their pieces. That way they can easily get a good picture of how ready their music sounds.
Lunch break. We decided to try a new Italian restaurant in the Kuninkaankatu. The food was nice and Douglas especially praised their tomato soup. He told about recording their upcoming album and how they use clicktrack with subtle tempo variations. Usually drummers tend to play faster in choruses and lean back in verses. By increasing the tempo with a couple bpm in choruses and solo parts music sounds more natural. Douglas also told about how he loves to tour and one of the reasons why he likes to spend time in Turku is that he can keep up a rhythm that he is used to when touring.
Back to the premises. A cup of coffee with famous local herring donuts. Time for Rauma Rock Academy bands Mator and Whitewater Victims to perform their original songs. While giving feedback Douglas also guided and encouraged the bands to mix each other's pieces. This would be of great use when they gig together out of town. Never trust the house soundman. ;) Also, he told the bands to network with similar genre bands in other cities and organize gigs for each other. They could sell the package for example three bands' live show and do the mixing with no external soundguy needed.
Afterwards we heard songs by Douglas' side project Signal2noise with Whitewater Victims' Tommi Haavisto featuring on drums and Mator's Aleksi Rautiainen on vocals. Douglas played his GuitarX 8-string guitar/bass mutant. Amazing performances and the crowd went nuts! At this point the house was so in flames that we decided it's a good time to start heading back to Turku. Thanks to Douglas for autographs, pics and video clips also!
On the way back we had a discussion whether an XLR connector with pins was male or female. Or vice versa. Douglas was going to do the mixing for Awake Again and two other Turku Rock Academy bands in Street Bar. We went to drop off his stuff and grab the let's say "sex neutral XLR adapters" for the evening show's setup. Hard to find a parking spot close to the venue. We went in, me just to greet the guys and Douglas, maintaining the Duracell bunny energy level, took over the sound setup for the night. A long day, but who's counting when you love what you do.
Thank you, Douglas, for a great time, sharing the day with the youth and incomparably useful information! Respect!