By Cassidy Pittman
While pursuing a lifelong dream in music, Brad Divens, founder of Fixin’ To Get Mixin’, a recording/mixing company, found himself, in February, being inducted into the Maryland Entertainers Hall of Fame. Divens, a county native, now resides in Hagerstown, but before he lived there he was a resident of Breezy Point Road, just six miles west of McConnellsburg.
Divens first found his passion for music at age 10 when he heard “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash for the first time. It was only a few years later when he heard Aerosmith’s record “Get Your Wings” that he realized playing a guitar and singing in a band was the ‘rockstar’ kind of life he wanted.
After forming his first band Ratzalad in his hometown of McConnellsburg, Divens’s hard work and passion paid off when he was asked to join KIX, a Maryland based rock band that formed in 1977. At age 20, he went to Criteria Studios in Miami, Fla., to record “Cool Kids” for Atlantic Records.
“I used to go see them (KIX) at Mt. View in Smithsburg, Md., when I was still in high school. I was on top of the world when that phone call came. It was a very big moment for me,” Divens said, recalling the memory of his first big break.
After his experiences with KIX, Divens joined Wrathchild America, which taught him many new skills pertinent to the recording industry. Since then, he has worked with a multitude of well-known recording artists such as Linkin Park, Garbage, Cyndi Lauper, HIM, Bob Seger, Silver Bullet Band, Motley Crue, and Jane’s Addiction. He is currently the front of house (FOH) engineer for Enrique Iglesias. As the music industry moves away from the era of CDs, Divens and other FOH mixers are finding themselves in demand. Usually sitting in the middle of the audience, an FOH engineer is responsible for mixing and recording live shows for applications such as streaming and record releases of “live versions.”
So how does a small-town guitarist from McConnellsburg make it to working face-to-face with so many big music names? Passion and hard work. As a kid Divens spent time jamming with his friends anywhere and anytime he could. Whether it was just in a friend’s garage, at a school dance, or the local firehalls, it was all practice for what was to come. He also credits Jack Deshong of Peach Orchard Road. Deshong taught Divens songs such as “Cream” by ZZ Top and many others. His love of guitar pushed him to play daily and to be surrounded by similarly musically inclined people.
“When I first realized that music was something I wanted to do I had no idea where my journey would take me. You can do anything that you set your mind to do,” Divens said, “and it doesn’t matter what it is as long as you enjoy it and it moves you. If you do something that makes you happy then you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”
Although Divens is working with top-name musicians, his climb to the top was not always easy. He found himself a struggling artist, like many do, when he moved to the West Coast to join a Los Angeles based band, Back Alley Gators. Even while pursuing a dream, reality beckons with rent and food expenses. Odd jobs and perseverance were key to Divens following one dream to the next.
When asked about his most memorable show, Divens admitted it was a difficult question to answer. Many stood out for multiple reasons. The bottom line was, from KIX to Enrique Iglesias, every struggle, every change, and every bump in the road was worth it for Divens.
Recently I was given a session to mix by Break The Current. I always get rid of everything in the session and start with my own template. For some reason I decided to listen to a couple of things before getting started. One of the inputs was the lead vocal. The eq caught my eye. It was the McDSP 4020 Retro Eq. I noticed how much top end was added and thought, there is no way the vocal can be pleasing to the ear. But guess what, it was quite the opposite. Very smooth and present. I ended up adding it to my template for this track, but I adjusted it for my taste and never thought that I needed to try anything else. I ended up mixing another track for this band and used the 4020 again for the lead and back up vocals. Click on the Youtube link below to hear the McDSP 4020 Retro Eq in action.
I was recently searching through my computer for old files and came across this. Hope you enjoy it.
We had tracked three songs for Yahoo that needed to be mixed. The difference being that now we’re on the road and I’ve got to find time in the day to do this. So here is how it went down. These tracks need to be done today since we are flying to the UK tomorrow for a handful of shows and I won’t have the Pro Tools rig on this run. I get to the KROQ show at around 11AM. Went straight to FOH to deal with my show file and make sure all plugins came up. Guess what, didn’t work out that way. The console software had been upgraded and some of plugins didn’t like that. After about and hour and a half of downloading and installing new drivers and plugin software everything is working. Now I’ve got to listen to the PA and deal with line check, all the while knowing that my time is running out to get the mixes done for Yahoo. Now it’s 2:30PM and the show time is 3:45PM. I’m in the truck, which is parked at the back of the stage, setting up my rig for mixing. Since I had set up snapshots for each song I loaded the Pro Tools tracks and the Yahoo file I had saved on the Profile. Being that we’re parked at the back of the stage there is no way I’m going to be able to mix on monitors since it’s very noisy around me. I pull out my trusty Sony MDR-7506 headphones and get to work. At 3:35 I get the last track done and exported onto the USB stick. I get to FOH with 5 minutes to spare before the show starts. Show goes well and truck gets loaded and we’re in the van on the way to the airport for our departure to the UK. Billy did some mastering to the tracks on his laptop while at 40,000 feet and today they went up on the Yahoo site. Enjoy!!!
At the beginning of the second leg of this tour Eddie Caipo and I spoke with Steve Jennings. What I didn't know at the time of this interview was just how much of a badass my System Engineer, Dave Shatto, is. He has become a very important part of my mixing process. His attention to detail and the precision in which he tunes the PA is nothing short of pure audio bliss. Thanks Dave!!! Click on the pic to go to the article.
Dissecting The Mix
Garbage - Hammering In My Head
We’ve all heard the phrase; “we’ll fix it in the mix.” Well in the live arena you only get one chance to get it right. With all the digital technology now available to live sound engineers this has become easier. With the integration of snapshots and automation everything can be programmed and rehearsed so that it is possible to get it right. With a song as complicated as this one is I can have a snapshot for each part of the song so that all my vocal changes are done with the push of a button on the desk.
Vocal Effects: Soundtoys Decapitator, McDSP Futzbox, Line 6 Echofarm, Waves Vocal Doubler, Waves Truverb
In addition to all the individual channel processing being used on the drums everything gets bussed to a group and gets processed like this:
Drum Group: Waves SSL G-Buss Compressor, Waves API 550A, Cranesong Phoenix.
Parallel Compressed Drum Group: Same as above
Bass Group: Cranesong Phoenix
Parallel Compressed Bass Group: Waves Veq4 and Waves CLA LA2
Steve Guitar Group: McDSP 4020 Retro EQ, McDSP 6030 Ultimate Compressor and Cranesong Phoenix
Duke Guitar Group: Waves SSL G-EQ, McDSP 6030 Ultimate Compressor, Waves C6 and Cranesong Phoenix
Tracks Group: no processing.
Vocal Group: Waves Q10, Waves Q2 and Soundtoys Decapitator.
The effects processing of the vocal from the verse to the chorus to the bridge goes like this. Vocal during the verse is going through Decapitator. When the chorus comes in Decapitator gets turned off and reverb and delay are applied. Into the bridge section reverb and delay are turned off and vocal distortion from Futzbox is applied. 2nd verse and it’s back to Decapitator. 2nd chorus and its Decapitator off, reverb and delay on. Gets to the end of the song with the spoken word section and it’s back to distortion. Yes this might seem complicated but with rehearsal comes the practice of “getting it right”. I only get one chance to do this live, but with that comes the thrill of mixing a live show.
Keep in mind that while all this is going on with the vocal there are guitar parts coming and going, tracks are running and the bass and drums are pounding away.
“Have a good show everybody!”
I had the opportunity to try out the Soundcraft Realtime rack while making the switch from the Avid Profile to the Avid S6L. I decided to try a couple of plugins on the master buss. Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor, Empirical Labs Fatso, Brainworx Digital V3 and UAD Precision Limiter. Have a good show everybody!!!
About a year ago we had a show in Antalya Turkey. The PA was JBL VTX 25. My normal routine is to listen to a couple of tracks from Pink Floyd's The Wall. My Production Manager, Andres Restrepo was at FOH during this time. There was a moment when we both looked at each other with big shit eating grins across our faces. It sounded amazing. Needless to say we listened to most of the album that morning. Later on that day after setup was complete we started to line check. My first input is the vocal. Right away I knew it was going to be good day. More inputs came up and I didn't touch a single channel strip on the console. My show translated perfectly on this rig. Showtime came and 40,000 fans turned up. It was one of those nights when the show starts, the crowd starts screaming, and everything just falls into place. "I truly felt like I was immersed in the music and not in front of it."
Special thanks to Eric Friedlander, Brian Divine and Andy Flint and all the fine folks at JBL and Harman.
During this video I will show you around my FOH setup which I'm currently using on the Enrique Iglesias 2017 tour. Special thanks to my ninja Eddie "El Brujo" Caipo for filming and editing this masterpiece!!!