Christophe Génix is one of the pioneers of in-ear monitors. The aural precision allowed by these personal wireless monitors has led him to constantly refine his mixing equipment – switching from analogue to digital a few years ago. Now, he will only work with a PM1D, especially with Indochine concerts…
The rock group Indochine has existed for more than 25 years. It is now the only French group capable of filling its own country’s largest halls several times over – this is the same for other French-speaking countries. The tour following on from the album Alice & June started in March 2006. The first venue was Paris (six days at the Théâtre Mogador), then it continued in different provincial towns and summer festivals. The second part of the tour ran from October to December. It is starting up again in March 2007, going back to the provincial towns where the concerts were completely sold out in 2006.
We met Christophe Génix at Bercy on 8 December 2006. He is a monitor engineer and has been following Indochine on the monitors since the Paradise Tour. He has been working in sound for seventeen years and his CV is pretty full: Nougaro, Césaria Evora, Sinead O’Connor and Paul Young, among others. Originally a drummer, he started his career as a studio assistant. A few years later, he started working at live concerts but at the front of house! Monitors came later. “Working on monitors is a completely different job from working at the front”, explains Christophe. “As we are really close to the musicians, right on the side of the stage, we are in permanent contact with them. Not only do we ensure the artists’ aural comfort, we also act as their psychological point of reference. For me, working on monitors is 50% psychology, 50% sound!”
“I and my colleague-friend, Xavier Gendron, were among the first to use in-ear monitors (personal HF devices) ten years ago. This is when the job started to change. With traditional monitors, we used to set them before the concert and wait for someone to ask for something before changing the setting. What’s more, we didn’t really know what each musician was actually hearing in front of his or her monitor. Using IEMs gives us much greater precision when refining the sound we send each performer and enables us to listen to the sound at any time under the same conditions as the performer. We just tune a receiver on his/her channel and put on the same earphones! We do this regularly before and during concerts…”
“That has made artists increasingly demanding in terms of what they want to hear in their in-ear monitors. A monitor engineer has to be more and more precise and this means we need more impressive control systems than before, particularly with regard monitors, i.e. more audio outputs, processors, redirection possibilities, etc. Under these conditions, switching to digital seems an obvious choice: for each piece, the effects are different, the reverberations are set differently, the levels change, a memory is allotted to each piece and we can recall this memory instantly. Another advantage of digital consoles is the integrated effects they offer. On this tour, I only use a Lexicon 480L reverberation for Indochine’s singer Nicola Sirkis, a PCM70 for the acoustic guitars and an external dbx compressor. For all the rest, I use the processing and effects of the PM1D and I am perfectly happy with this – two effects for the drums, four for Nico (harmonizer, delays, etc.).”
Therefore, Christophe creates a specific sound mix for each musician according to his/her indications. This sound heard through in-ear monitors in almost ideal conditions is bound to influence the musicians’ interpretation. Therefore, the front-house mix that the audience hears must correspond to the sound on which the musicians base their playing. So, contrary to what we may think, is it the monitor mix that influences the front-house mix? “To a certain extent!” confirms Christophe. “Nicola, for example, is so convinced by his in-ear mix that he insists that the front-house mix (created by Philippe Dubich - known as “Dub” - on a Digidesign VENUE console) reflects the spirit and ambiance of the sound he hears. Dub and I entered the same settings during rehearsals. I told him what I was doing for each piece and it was up to him to reproduce the same result with his equipment. It would have been easier if he had had a PM1D at the front of the house too!”
“I’ve been working with a PM1D for two years now – I discovered it thanks to Potar Hurlant at the concerts added onto Indochine’s previous tour. Up until then, I had used a Midas and worked quite a lot on Paragons and I had done two or three concerts on an InnovaSon. On that particular tour, Nicolas became more artistically demanding and this made us adopt digital equipment. On the H3000, I couldn’t do what I now do on the PM1D – I’ve only got two hands! It was I who helped Nicolas use the monitors to improve comfort and ambience, follow up the reverberations and to choose the best effects. After that, you have to accept your choice and adopt the equipment that makes the job the easiest! What’s more, the album was out, and there were lots of things and machines and this lent itself to detailed processing.”
“I particularly like the ergonomics of the PM1D. It really lends itself to monitors. I think it suits the way I work much more than a PM5D, for example, which would definitely restrict me at some point or another on a tour like this (number of outputs, processors, etc.). I manage 8 stereo mixes, 4 spares (on the matrix outputs), 3 wedge outputs, 1 side stereo output, 1 sub output, 1 sub output for the drummer, 1 mix for the backliner, … and 52 inputs. On the PM1D, I love the idea of the double row of high and low faders. I can see everything that’s going on without having to refer to the pages and I can work fast. With monitors, what’s important is speed. You can’t spend ages deciding or hesitating – you have to do the right thing straight away. My assistant, Sébastien Dandreis, alias ‘Prof’, has shown me a lot of things you can do on the PM1D. He knows it better than I do because he’s used it on more concerts. He’s always finding easier ways of accessing functions and doing tricks! I taught myself how to use the console but I always ask him when I don’t know how to do something – he has given me several tips. You can really do such a lot with it.”
You just have to see the concentration of Christophe when he's working on his PM1D, both during rehearsals and concerts, to realise that he is sure to find many other clever tricks with the console and maybe he’ll even invent a few himself!