Looking to replicate that studio sound on stage? Live tech guru Matt Cox relies on Novation to get the world’s favourite acts on tour…
When it comes to live music, few people are as well qualified as Matt Cox. Billing himself as a Computer and MIDI system designer for the live music industry, Manchester’s Matt Cox already counts the likes of Hot Chip, Kaiser Chiefs and The Prodigy amongst a roster of world-class clients.
“I started out in the music business 16 years ago as a tape op in Manchester’s now-defunct Planet 4 Studios,” he recalls. “I’d had ambitions to be a studio engineer since being a young raver at the end of the ’80s during the whole ‘Madchester’ thing. I was lucky enough to get a studio placement whilst doing one of the first engineering courses that ran in the city. And from there I progressed into programming and looking after synths and MIDI for several bands when they went on tour.”
“I’m currently working with Snow Patrol as their keys/MIDI/playback tech, but other bands I’ve set up and worked with include The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy, Zero 7, Hot Chip, Moloko, Kaiser Chiefs and James.”
And it doesn’t get much bigger than Glasgow-based Northern Irish and Scottish alt-rockers Snow Patrol, whose career has taken a stratospheric turn on the back of 2006’s multi-million-shifting album Eyes Open.
But Snow Patrol aren’t the only ones making an impression. “Part of their live setup includes running an Apple Logic rig for Tom Simpson, the keyboard player. I’m using Novation’s ReMOTE 25 SL to program-change his keyboard setup, plus Logic on three computers in tandem with a little application called ‘On Stage’, notes the MIDI maestro.
“We’re also looking at running Ableton Live as a standalone instrument/effects processor. We’ll use the Nocturn for hands-on control of various aspects of that set-up.”
No doubt that testing will be completed soon, as Snow Patrol are about to hit the road again with Novation in tow. “This year I’m gonna have my hands full with Snow Patrol,” says Matt. “We begin a UK arena tour in February, followed by dates worldwide throughout the year.”
Not that our in-demand live guru is one for resting on his laurels, mind you. “I’m also going to be developing my own company – iMatt Ltd – which I started last year,” he continues. “iMatt aims to deliver advice and knowledge to the live music arena, providing keys and MIDI system design ideas, Mac configuration and setup ideas, as well as touring programming and tech work.”
And with 30 touring clients dating back to ’96 already listed on the iMatt website, it’s unlikely that Matt will be running short of innovative ideas anytime soon. “As is always the case when using technology live, don’t over-elaborate – keep things as simple as they need to be,” he reasons.
“It’s easy to get lost in a world of plug-ins and instruments that aren’t necessarily needed, which will only slow down your system and make it unreliable. When you find equipment from a particular manufacturer that is reliable, stick with it for every project you work on. Peace of mind is very important when it comes to configuring and building different rigs for different bands – especially for live tech work. I’ve got certain favourites when it comes to audio interfaces, MIDI interfaces, sequencing software, and MIDI hardware. And yes, Novation features quite often in that list.”
Indeed it does, as Matt concludes. “The Nocturn is really easy to set up with Automap, plus you always know exactly what each knob and fader is doing if you keep your assign window onscreen and opaque. And then the ReMOTE 25 SL’s strength is the number of MIDI In and Outs, plus the USB connection, which allows it to sit at the very heart of a MIDI rig and send control and program info to several destinations very easily – plus on a dark stage that backlit display is very easy to read!”