Hello cyber friends. A good friend and colleague of mine has agreed to bless us with a few minutes of his time today. He just got married… he lives in the weirdest city in the world… and he might be the monitor engineer for Jay Z’s wife. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome DANIEL GONZALES!!!
DG: Thank you, thank you. I have been known to mix it up for the Queen for the last year and half. Also I did recently move out to Austin and so far loving it!
SB: So, what can you tell me about the Illuminati?
DG: I can tell you they are listening in right now and I can’t say much. I’ll leave it at that.
SB: Typical. So with Jay Z being such a huge name in the industry, what’s it like running monitors for his wife?
DG: It has been a great adventure. I started in December 2012 for a NYE one off party in Las Vegas. I got the call and they wanted me to “try out” for a show and then see how it went from there. We started rehearsals and I tried to get as much info about what Beyonce might like to hear but didn’t get a lot of feedback so I just built a mix that I thought was an overall mix of everything and made sure her vocal would stand out on top. When she showed up she didn’t have much to say at all and just started rehearsing with the band. Over the next few months I just was waiting for her to critique and give me notes but they rarely came so I just made sure I was on top of it and listening closely and trying to get a feel for what she liked but her reactions…I guess I was doing alright. haha
SB: Seems like that worked out pretty well. So she is pretty difficult to read? And is that difficult for you as an engineer?
DG: The thing is, she is really vocal about what she likes and doesn’t like when it comes to video content, lighting design, or staging and dancing and even the FOH mix. I mean the first load in day of my first show with her, they sent home the FOH guy and brought in a new one. So I knew she knew what she wanted and would verbalize it if she didn’t like what she heard or saw. She is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever seen and she knows what she wants so I just took it as if she didn’t have anything to say, then she must be happy. But yeah, overtime I would get small notes from her about the overall level or turning up the vocals but not much more than that. As a monitor engineer I really try to put myself in the artist or musicians head and hear things from their POV and make adjustments that way.
SB: So you basically walked in and nailed a monitor mix for one of the biggest artists in the world. How did that feel?
DG: Haha I guess you could say that. I was really on edge every moment of the first few months… just waiting and wondering how I was doing. And I critiqued my own work pretty hard.
SB: What is the monitor situation on her tours? Are there multiple desks and engineers?
DG: So I mixed monitors for Beyonce and her background singers (The Mamas) and handled the mix for the front wedges and side fills. The wedges and sidefills are more for the dancers on stage but in case of IEM emergencies they were also used for Beyonce. There also was a second monitor engineer taking care of the 8 band members and all the techs.
SB: What packs and IEMs are you using?
DG: I try to be on the same IEMs as the artist. Beyonce and her team are all on Sensaphonics. In the past I’ve been a big fan of the JH audio stuff. I own about 6 different pairs of IEMs between Sensaphonics, JH and Future Sonics. For packs I try to always request the Shure PSM1000s. I haven’t found anything better. RARELY do I ever hear a frequency drop out or a radio interference issue.
SB: Yeah the 1000’s are really the best monitoring systems in my opinion. Are you dealing with RF tuning and issues as well or are there techs who handle all the radio stuff?
DG: We had a great RF tech out with us. Props to Clinton from Eighth Day Sound for keeping the RF controlled. He was dealing with about 30 some odd freqs.
SB: Is he in the Illuminati too?
DG: IDK but he does always fly into the Denver airport when returning from tour.
SB: Oh god… I knew it. BRB
SB: Sorry.. coffee was getting cold. So what desk do you use on tour?
DG: I’m so old school (sarcastic) just ruling it on a Avid Profile. I’m a big fan of the Waves stuff and Avid, in the past had always had the best reliability with those plugins. I feel really comfortable on the Profile. I know the desk and move around quick. However, I’m not opposed to other desks… I just haven’t had the time to make myself comfortable on them.
SB: Hey in my opinion, it’s nearly impossible to top the Profile/Waves setup. But how do you handle it when other engineers are all of a sudden not cool to you anymore when they hear you still like the AVID stuff?
DG: I mean I’m not going to lie…. Avid needs to start moving forward with some things. Technology moves so fast. Some of the other consoles do have some great features and sound. BUT… I was the only guy on the tour using a profile and I can still rock it like it’s in style.
SB: Are you going to try out the S3L for Beyonce?
DG: She knows I’m an audio guy and would be confused as to why I have a lighting control surface in front of me.
SB: She’s in the Illuminati, right?
DG: What’s that?? You’re breaking up.
SB: So, Daniel, we all want to know… what vocal chain do you have going on for the queen?
DG: It’s nothing special. It’s actually what I would do for most vocals. I have the SSL EQ followed by a CLA 76. I also run a Waves Doubler on the NON insert mode and use it more as a FX I blend in to give the vocal spread and space. And then the good verb and some trickery with the H Delay.
SB: Where do you normally HP her vocal?
DG: Dealing with IEMs and super loud arenas, I usually HP it between 140-155. Obviously that doesn’t work all the time but it works well for her.
Let me just say that I approach mixing on the more non-technical side. Some guys are super technical and that’s great. I take a more creative approach, and just love music.
SB: And I’m sure that’s a big part of why you are Beyonce’s M1. I’d say it’s pretty easy these days for engineers including myself to become distracted with too many plugins, snapshotting things to death and RTA displays that show data only the techs should be concerned with. Particularly when you don’t have a big team, the tech vs creative role always seems to be a difficult road to navigate for an A1/M1. When it comes down to it though it’s really all about the music. AM I RIGHT???
So, 2013. Superbowl XLVII half time show. Lights went out and everybody knows why. But I’m wondering… was that whole experience pretty cool? Or was it an absolute shite fest?
DG: 2013 was awesome. I was able to do some things that I never thought I would and cross a lot off my bucket list. Really thankful for that. The super bowl was giant. I mean, we did make the power go out so you know it was good. I was still really new at that point and just trying to make sure I didn’t mess up so I wasn’t able to even take it in until like half way through the performance I looked around and was like…….dang! It’s amazing how fast they get that stage on and off so quickly. That blew my mind.
SB: Yeah the production for the half time show honestly blows my mind every time. That gig is on a level of it’s own.
DG: Yeah AND that stage is all put together and loaded in by VOLUNTEERS.
SB: WHAT?? Were they all wearing flip flops or go pro’s on their heads?
DG: Most of that and not knowing Stage Left from Stage Right too.
SB: Sounds like a real nightmare. So what mic do you use for Beyonce?
SB: Do you ever have a problem with mic bleed? How is rejection with the 5235?
DG: The 5235 seemed to be better than some of the others when it came to bleed. It’s a dynamic capsule with just a regular cardioid pattern. She’s pretty good about getting the mic right up there and can really belt out. I only had issues during rehearsals when she was saving her voice but still wanted to hear herself loud or when she was out at the B-stage.
SB: What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you on one of her tours?
DG: Maybe just showing up to one of our South American load ins and seeing guys build a stage out of scrap wood and painters scaff.
SB: I hope they weren’t all volunteers too.
I’m usually happy if I’m on an XL2 for a tour. Tell me, what’s it like having a 767?
DG: Actually flying with that many people is one of the worst parts. Sometimes I wish I could have just ditched everyone and booked my own flight. From the moment we try to depart the hotel and get everyone on the buses to the airport to checking bags and going through security, it’s just a mess traveling with that many people. I’d way rather do the bus thing any day and we did bus it in Europe and the US.
SB: How many days a year are you typically out with this crew?
DG: Last year we did a crazy amount of shows and traveling. I lived out of storage and would just spend my few weeks off out of a hotel or with family. I think we did close to 170 shows plus all the traveling and rehearsals.
SB: That’s intense. I can’t say that I’ve ever lived out of storage.
So you’re a great guy with a great head on your shoulders, married now and have one of the greatest gigs in this business. Do you have any thoughts or wisdom to share with people who are currently doing or interested in potentially doing this kind of gig?
DG: Thanks man. I’m just a regular guy that has worked hard and got some decent breaks. I’m lucky enough to have found an amazing wife (shout out to Sarah) and get married. I’ve actually turned in my notice and using the warmandpunchy blog to announce my retirement. My advice would be to always go after your dreams. Work hard and pay your dues but don’t forget what really matters in life. Family first and have fun. I’m hoping to stay home and start a new season of life with my girl and finally live in a city and call somewhere home for awhile.
SB: Retiring after a year and a half… the queen must pay pretty well! That’s probably a great decision though… it’s a great job but I know how difficult and crappy it is traveling so much with a family.
DG: I’ve been doing this audio engineer thing for a lot longer than a year and a half. What a story it would have been though if Beyonce was my first gig ever. I have some other passions and goals I want to accomplish now. I wish you the best of luck now with your new one!!!
SB: Thanks Daniel. We wish you and Sarah a happy marriage and a great beginning to this new season of your life! And your sanity around town during SXSW.
Well, there you have it fans. If you’ve ever mixed before and want to run monitors for the queen, email firstname.lastname@example.org
DG: You can submit your monitor engineer mixing video and upload to youtube for try outs.
Follow DG on twitter and insta: DANDYDDG