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’d like to introduce you to David Frangioni, who will be moderating “Tour Mixing Tips and Techniques” with a panel of fellow live sound veterans.
David Frangioni is a leading expert in many facets of music technology. A drummer since the age of two, he is the recipient of dozens of Gold and Platinum albums as technical consultant, engineer, and programmer for his work with The Rolling Stones, Ringo Starr, Elton John, Sting, Bryan Adams, Journey, Styx, Shakira, Rascal Flatts, Ozzy Osbourne, Cher, and hundreds more. He was the in-house engineer for five of Aerosmith’s records and built most of their recording studios and high-end A/V systems. He’s the CEO of smart home automation and integration firm Audio One; his first book, Clint Eastwood ICON: The Essential Film Art Collection was published by Insight Editions in 2009.
Sarah Jones: How did you get your start in the live sound industry?
David Frangioni: Well, I began as a drummer at age two, and started playing in live bands at age 12. I always gravitated towards the sound and the technology that went into making everything sound great. As time went on, I studied and taught myself everything I could about sound, engineering, and technology in general. When I was 17, I started a MIDI consulting business, and as I went on, growing the business, I learned more and more about the technology behind the sound.
After a lot of hard work and sacrifice, I became a full-time technologist working with great artists such as Aerosmith, Bryan Adams, and Elton John. Back then, in the ’80s and early ’90s, it was a time when engineers had to roll up in a recording truck to capture live sound. And then I began to implement some of the recording and technology that I was using in the recording studio for live sound situations. At that time, it was cutting-edge to use a modular digital 8-track, and then later on, hard-disk recording for live sound recording. It was a great time for digitally recording live shows, doing it cost-effectively without sacrificing quality, and I got to work with some great live sound engineers like Kevin Elson, Jim Ebdon, Brad Divens, and many others.
SJ: What drives your passion for live sound?
DF: My passion for great live sound is driven by the desire to have everyone in that particular stadium, arena, or venue to experience the most emotion and impact from the music that is possible. I think that the quality of sound has a huge impact on all of the emotional performances that are coming from the stage—the better the sound is, the closer that the audience is brought to the message. Great sound can heighten the experience, as can technology.
SJ: What kinds of new live sound technologies are you most excited about these days?
DF: I am excited about some of the new consoles that have come out in the last couple of years. It’s amazing how console technology is evolving at such a rapid pace. Seeing new digital technologies and the evolution of connectivity for live sound companies, and how quickly it’s advancing, is just awesome. In the ’90s, we used to have wiring harnesses between the live sound console and recording system that were giant snakes with cables all over the place. Now we run a cable or two to interface between the live recording system and live sound console. It’s just amazing how integrated everything is, and the future is exciting to imagine.
SJ: What are the biggest challenges facing live sound engineers right now?
DF: The amazing thing—the technology—is also the challenging thing, and keeping up with it. For a long time, live sound engineers needed to strictly know how to perform their craft, how to mix great live sound. Now, live sound engineers have to know a lot more about the signal path and what is going on with the technology—and how to keep up with the new technologies that are always coming out.
SJ: We’d love to hear a story about one of your most notable live sound gigs.
DF: There are so many! In 2011, when I did Bob Seger’s record-breaking sell-out shows in Detroit—he sold out the Palace in Auburn Hills that week for the 37th, 38th, and 39th consecutive times—they were his homecoming shows. That was an incredible memory, and one that I am still thrilled to have been a part of to this day.
In 1992, I put together a Tascam DA88 recording rig for Aerosmith to use on their Get A Grip Tour. At the time, I was living in Boston, and they were playing in Vermont. The band called me four hours before the show and said, “We need more tapes, and we need you to get up here.” That distance was five hours on my best day, and the show was in four. I drove like a maniac and got the tapes there 15 minutes before the curtain went up. Kevin Elson was doing live sound that night, and I did the live sound recording. Whew!
SJ: What’s on your Vegas bucket list?
DF: I’m a HUGE Beatles fan, and the main thing on my list is that I intend to finally see the Cirque Du Soleil Love show in Vegas for the first time. No one can believe that I have not had the opportunity to see it yet, including me! All you need is love!
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.