James ‘Oysters’ Kilpatrick is one of Australia’s most experienced FOH engineers and has mixed for a who’s who of Australian music: Midnight Oil, Eskimo Joe, Delta Goodrem, Rogue Traders, Yothu Yindi, The Living End, Slim Dusty …….. the list is endless.
1. What are the three best things about your job?
The crews that work in it, they are like my extended family.
Getting to use state of the art audio equipment with some great acts.
Seeing an audience go home happy.
2. And the three worst things?
Poorly treated crew, ignorance, cheapness.
3. What do you never leave home without when working?
USB stick with showfiles, plug in licenses, iPhone, earmuffs, multifocal glasses – everything I take on tour fits into a regulation carryon bag including my gym gear.
4. What was the worst nightmare you encountered on the road?
Having a crisis at home when you are on the other side of the globe and taking days to get back or just being stuck there helpless.
5. What has been the strangest request from an artist?
Asking if I could rub moisturiser on a shirtless, well known female singers’ back.
6. Who was hell to work with (probably best not to actually mention name but allude to it)?
Anyone who is ignorant is hell to work with, fortunately most people are nice.
7. What is the most stupid request you’ve had from a member of the public, artist or promoter?
It’s nearly always from some physics-challenged individual that doesn’t understand I can’t un-mumble or endlessly turn up or fix somebody’s poor singing or speech …. comes with the territory. There is a reason cockpits have locked doors.
8. In your opinion, what’s the best show you’ve worked on and why?
For sheer brilliance it would be Midnight Oil in Werchter Germany 1990. Best I have ever seen them play – straight out of the blocks flat out, was really something to see. I remember everyone (including the other crews and acts) looking around saying ‘what the fuck just happened’?
9. What is the most bizarre sight you have ever seen at a gig?
Pat Pickett’s Apollo Strut.
10. Who do you admire in the industry and why?
Wyn Millson, Bob Daniels, Ernie Rose, Jimmy Mac and Howard Page … the godfathers of modern sound engineering.
11. Which venue is your favourite and why?
Rod Laver Arena, perfect sounding venue and home town gig.
12. Which recent piece of production gear do you view as a game-changer?
Vertical arrays, I went from throwing sound everywhere in a “clumped” array to aiming a measured dose.
13. What is the most outrageous thing you have ever done on tour?
Not fit to print. I’m now a grandfather but was once 20.
14. What was the worst weather event you’ve encountered at an outdoors gig?
Supercell with a microburst at a Xmas carols in the park at Fitzroy – green clouds, windshear, lightning – we set most of the gear inside the trucks and just shut the doors while it passed and hoped that the trucks didn’t flip over.
15. What invention would make your job easier?
A universal console software platform that didn’t run on stripped back Windows 1848.
16. Which band would you most like to work for and why?
I like mixing at high 80’s low 90’s decibels so I’m usually in the realm of cheese or back heritage acts, I do like surprises though.
17. Do you have a favourite mantra to get you through the day?
Your pay doesn’t go up if you crack the shits.
18. What do you think of the Australian live music industry at the moment?
There is nothing much left of it, it is all internationals, theatre or comedy. If it wasn’t for those acts coming over and hiring me, I would have to move overseas to work.
19. Do you have a preferred sound console and if so, what and why?
Avid Profile, I own plugins for it, it is available everywhere and doesn’t break down. The audience can’t tell what I mix on. For them they either have a great time or don’t. I go for an overall good show instead of fretting over the sound of the floor tom. Having said that if it is a large orchestra, broadcast or opera and a one off probably a DiGiCo SD7 with a Waves server.
20. What did you really want to be when you grew up?
A live sound engineer (true) or join the fire brigade or elite forces infantry.
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