As we gear up for the LDI Show, we’re profiling speakers in our Sound Tracks series of panels aimed at live sound engineers. This week, we’re pleased to introduce you to our keynote speaker, Robert Scovill, who will also present “Tom Petty Case Study: 40 Years On the Road” with fellow tour veteran Bernie Broderick.
Award-winning live sound engineer Robert Scovill has spent much of the past four decades touring with top acts such as Prince, Rush, Def Leppard, Matchbox Twenty, and most famously, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, in a partnership that’s lasted nearly a quarter-century.
Scovill also serves as Avid’s senior specialist for Live Sound Products, where he was instrumental in the launch of the Venue line of live sound mixing consoles and acts as a technology visionary and brand ambassador to the touring industry.
Sarah Jones: How did you get your start in the live sound industry?
Robert Scovill: I took my first paying jobs in Kansas City while studying for an EE in electronic engineering. I was “moonlighting” at a regional heavyweight sound company called Superior Sound and also working nights at nightclubs and recording studios. I was fortunate to land a gig with a great band that was on the rise out of Kansas City named Shooting Star, which immediately helped get me to the next level. Great guys and great mentors, to be sure.
SJ: What drives your passion for live sound?
RS: It’s not just live sound for me; it’s live music, really. Live sound is just the vehicle. If there wasn’t music coming out of the console, I’m not sure I would be all that interested in it, honestly.
SJ: In addition to your keynote, you’ll be doing a presentation that looks back on your time on tour with Tom Petty. Can you give us a taste of what attendees can expect to learn in your panel?
RS: Well, I think more than anything, we’ll just demystify a lot of concepts and really show folks what it is like on a show day for a major tour. I’ve shared this insight with a lot of people over the past decade or so, and I’m constantly surprised at the differences between what it is that we do, and what they think it is that we do.
SJ: What kinds of new live sound technologies are you most excited about these days?
RS: Oh, I think the Adaptive Technology from EAW is certainly the most exciting thing I’ve seen in P.A. systems in quite a while now. So, yeah, that would be it for me.
SJ: What are the biggest challenges facing live sound engineers right now?
RS: It’s the same challenge it’s always been at its core: It’s about managing time and tradeoffs in order to get the task at hand completed to the highest degree of excellence that you can achieve. And frankly, that challenge is never going to change, in that as soon as you conquer the time challenge and open up a slot of time, you’ll immediately fill it with something else to do. So you’ll never work less, you’ll only get more done in the same amount of time. Live sound engineers are tasked with, and accomplish more, in a single day today than at any other point in live sound history.
SJ: We’d love to hear a story about one of your most notable gigs.
RS: Well, one of my favorites is while on tour with Def Leppard on the Hysteria Tour. We had a semi-truck “go missing.” It just happened to be the one that was filled tip-to-tail with speaker cabinets. Whoops…We delayed the show by 24 hours and had 120 speaker cabinets FedExed to the show site. The speakers showed up by semi to the venue, 20 minutes after the doors were opened. Yes, we actually did a show about an hour or so later. The audience witnessed the entire flying and checking of the massive “in the round” P.A. system. It was an amazing feat for an amazing sound crew.
SJ: What’s on your Vegas bucket list?
RS: Oh, going to LDI, no doubt.
To learn more about pro audio workshops, panels, and events at LDI, visit http://www.ldishow.com.
Sarah Jones is a writer, editor, and content producer with more than 20 years' experience in pro audio, including as editor-in-chief of three leading audio magazines: Mix, EQ, and Electronic Musician. She is a lifelong musician and committed to arts advocacy and learning, including acting as education chair of the San Francisco chapter of the Recording Academy, where she helps develop event programming that cultivates the careers of Bay Area music makers.