Tokyo Onken Provides MONARC MLA6 for Stevie Wonder
A Smooth Run through Japan is Music to Wonder Engineer’s Ears
Recently Tokyo Onken partnered with Stevie Wonder’s production crew for a tour of Japan. Tokyo Onken put their arsenal of 50 plus McCauley Monarc MLA6 cells out on tour for Stevie Wonder’s production.
"It was a very solid system with good imaging and enough power and clarity to give ‘In your face’ sound to all areas of the arenas we were working... I had such an enjoyable experience mixing on them [MLA6s] that I’ve added them to them to my ‘A’ list of approved systems for Wonder Productions."
Stevie Wonder’s Front of House engineer, Danny Leake has been working with the artist for 15 years; however he had never worked with McCauley Sound gear before.
This particular tour was just for entertaining the fans. “We’ve been promoting Stevie’s last record since November of 2005, and it started in Japan,” says Danny, “But this tour just kind of came up. We weren’t promoting anything, every year or so we end up in Japan.” With numerous spanning the country, including the Saitama Super Arena and Nagoya Rainbow Hall, the tour reached hundreds of thousands of Wonder fans in Japan.
Having worked with Tokyo Onken for the last 10 years worth of tours in Japan, Danny says “Terry-san has one of the best crews I have ever worked with, so when I was given the option, of course I chose Onken. Tohru ‘Kiku’ Kikuchi was my FOH system engineer, as he has been for the last 10 years and he is magnificent.”
Amplification for the MLA6 rig was all Lab.gruppen fP 6400s and the production carried Yamaha PM5D Digital Console and Midas H 3000s for the run of the tour. “I like those for Front of House. Tokyo Onken also runs a SIM system with the McCauley MLA6s which makes for a
very precise room analysis.”
SIM technology is specifically designed for measuring audio frequencies of an acoustical system. It then analyzes and presents the data in a way that enables Tokyo Onken to make alterations so the whole rig creates an optimal response. It’s important to Danny that his production of the tour sounds impeccable, so using this technology to dial into the McCauley rig helps the production achieve ideal coverage from night to night.
“Prior sound design and planning was able to be done with the Line Array Calculator” says Tohru “Kiku-san” Kikuchi. Combining the Line Array Calculator and SIM technology to set up the tour were “very useful in calculating correct weight of each rigging points, including angle and height of bumper, center of gravity and trim height.” Kiku-san goes on to say “Of course most important things are judging the sound done by ear. The sound coverage plan from the calculator almost becomes like what we hear at each listening point. As a result, it was so easy to set up the sound system, much ahead of schedule. Getting the system together so quickly allows the crew to relax… and actually enjoy the music.”
Kiku-san prefers the Monarc Line Array System because “if the sound of stacking sub bass decreases from the all standing up audience, it is not influenced, still very good bass sound. Because the bass sound of flown Monarc System is already very good, clear
and not hysteric mid and High Sound. Quick rigging and low profile design is also wonderful.”
Impressed with his first interaction with the MLA6s, Danny says “It was a very solid system with good imaging and enough power and clarity to give ‘In your face’ sound to all areas of the arenas we were working and we were playing some real ‘Barns’. The FOH was usually around 100 feet back and I never had any trouble hearing details in the mix.”
Danny got his first job with Stevie Wonder in 1992 during “The Natural Wonder” tour. The idea required a full orchestra to sound as full as the band on stage. “The problem” Danny said “was getting the orchestra to ‘live’ with a rhythm section whose stage level frequently approached 110 DB onstage. My solution at the time involved three consoles out front (band, Steve’s keys and vocals, and the orchestra, all being tied by VCA control), clip on/close micing and the selective cutting of certain frequencies that enabled me to get the orchestra as loud as the band at maximum show volume. I’ve become sort of an expert at integrating orchestras with loud rhythm sections. I did a similar sound design for the Dennis DeYoung and the Music of Styx Tour with a 50 piece orchestra.”
Challenges Danny faces when working with Wonder include frequent and rapid set list changes. “Stevie will give us a set list, but will change it
according to what he thinks the audience might like, so every show is different. What we’ll do is strap mics on either side of the stage so Stevie can get a better feel for what the audience is getting into. I’ve known him to make up songs onstage, call out changes to the guys and actually pull it off because he has some of the best musicians and singers in the world working with him. James Stone, our ProTools Operator, who has in ear communication with Stevie, will sometimes mention something in crowds and “bang” the show takes another turn.”
Challenges Kiku-san faces include difficult locations settings that make set up more challenging. “In Osaka, we knew that ground support would be a challenge because there are not enough weight capacity and rigging points to support the rig. When we get the venue, ground support base deck is 2 feet height from the ground and there is not enough space to roll the Monarc cells into under rigging points. After thinking, we made we made 4 feet (W) x 12 feet(D) x 2 feet (H ) extra play ground deck behind the Ground support deck. After that, it was so smooth setup as usual.”
The Tokyo Onken Corporation was established in 1965 and since Osaka Onken, Tokyo Onken Housou Service TOS and Tokyo Onken Eizo have all been created to provide Japan with the Sound Reinforcement services needed in today’s entertainment industry.
“To support the acoustic aspect of these events, the need for professional sound system service is increasing every day,” says Tokyo Onken CEO Hiroki Okamoto. “We have recently implemented MONARC LINE ARRAY SYSTEM from McCauley Sound, USA, and enhanced our equipments at both Tokyo Onken and Osaka Onken, to meet the recent needs for large-scale venues such as outdoor stage, gymnasium, and dome venues.” Osaka Onken provides equipment rentals and event planning, Tokyo Onken Housou Service TOS is a broadcasting service, and Tokyo Onken Eizo Corporation is the visual division.
Tokyo Onken’s experienced production team allows Danny Leake to do what he does best, produce and mix. “I believe in creating a fluid setup that is ‘transparent’ to the making of the music… Music should NEVER become a slave to the technology” says Leake. Danny has spent 30 years in the audio industry and has spent 20 years as an accomplished live sound engineer.
“In addition to 15 years with Stevie Wonder, artists I have worked with live or in the studio include Diana Ross, The Police, Tom Waits, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr., Bobby Brown, The Beach Boys, Ramsey Lewis, Nancy Wilson, Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, Johnny Gill, BellBivDevoe, and New Edition among others.” When asked if Danny would be interested in using Monarc technology in the future, Danny had this to say: “I had such an enjoyable experience mixing on them that I’ve added them to them to my ‘A’ list of
approved systems for Wonder Productions.”