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At The Crossroads With FOH Legendary Engineer Rich Vink

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Photo: Rich Vink ( Click To Enlarge Photo )

Everyone has heard the old tale of the deal made by Robert Johnson with the Devil at the Crossroads for fame and fortune. That old wives tale or myth, based loosely off of the tale of Faust, still lives today down in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. Everyone who is anyone in the blues genre has heard that story throughout the decades since Robert Johnson first laid down his legendary sound back in the 30's. Since then the Blues has lived on and sprung out of a lot of cities: Chicago, Kansas City, Memphis, St. Louis, Detroit, New York and the New England area.

Decades have past since those first blues notes and chords were played. A lot of legends have graced the stage over the years, Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, Son House, Sleepy John Estes, Memphis Minnie, Memphis Slim, Count Basie Orchestra, Lonnie Johnson, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, BB King, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker and Taj Mahal to name a few. One man that has gotten a front row seat of the "behind the scenes" for 20+ years of the career of blues legend Taj Mahal, is Front Of House Engineer Veteran Rich Vink.

Rich had some time to sit down with us and discuss his thoughts on the TELEFUNKEN M80 mic and how he came to use it on the huge Bontaj Roulet tour, with Taj Mahal and Bonnie Raitt. Here is what he had to say:

"The Bontaj Roulet tour with Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal was a unique show with both Bonnie and Taj playing separate sets with their respective bands. Then a couple of quartet tunes together followed by a set with both bands playing together. The technical challenges for me at 'front of house' were unique as well, I was working on a digital console while Bonnie's engineer was working on an all analog console. Taj's band, 'the phantom blues band,' are a bunch of old salts with great tone and feel, and gave me as much of a true north as I could ask for in this digi vs. analog forum.

The problem came with Bonnie and Taj trading verses during the parts of the show together. Taj had hoped to up the showmanship side of things with some wireless gadgetry on this run and those various other units were coming up short going head to head with Bonnies analog hard wired vocal channel. Bonnie's engineer "Pappy" was gentleman enough to offer me an analog vocal channel and signal path the same as what he used for Bonnie. At this point it came down to choosing the best mic for the application and I had just about any industry standard vocal mic to pick from in the stage box.


Photo: Rich Vink ( Click To Enlarge Photo )

I'll forgo all the brands and models I tried, I'll speak to the TELEFUNKEN M80. I conducted a vocal mic shootout to find which mic was going to work with the unique vocal timbre of Taj's voice while holding it's own trading verses with Bonnie. Comparing in the end it came down to the mic Bonnie uses with 'my usual tool of choice' and the TELEFUNKEN M80. The Bonnie prefered model, I'm obviously avoiding naming brands as I am in no way at liberty to even represent that camp, it came up too tight for Taj, but it is very great quality and works so well for her. 'My usual mic' was far to "airy" for the head to head stuff but the TELEFUNKEN M80 delivered the goods.

With the smooth top end of the TELEFUNKEN M80 I'm getting Taj's "slither and croak" quality that has had me using 'my usual mic' in the past with the added dynamic warmth and density the TELEFUNKEN M80 delivers, best of both worlds for me in this scenario. I find the M80 to be a particularly level headed tool and co-worker. The first show I used them at was an outdoor gig and with the P.A. properly tuned I did almost no channel e.q.-ing and just sliced off the low stage rumble with a touch of high pass, I was impressed!

I'm using an TELEFUNKEN M80 for top snare and don't have to add the 100hz thump I usually do with 'other brands' and it's got all the snap on top that one usually goes to those mics for. To be honest it's hard to think of a dynamic mic application on stage as far as instrument mic-ing or vocals that the TELEFUNKEN M80 wouldn't give you the upper hand with. Microphones all each have their individual "flava" and the TELEFUNKEN M80's presence and warmth tastes and sounds great to me."

M80

Featuring a wider frequency response and higher SPL capabilities the M80 delivers condenser-l...

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