Recycled Percussion holds the distinction of the highest non-vocal finalists ever on “America’s Got Talent”. They’re now playing for audiences at the famed Tropicana Las Vegas Theater, performing six interactive shows a week.
From the moment guests enter the theater and are each handed a drum stick and something to bang on, to the curtain raising to reveal… well nothing, it’s obvious that this will not be a typical Vegas show. What follows is musical, mechanical madness as the group descends playing four ‘drum kits’ while bolted to a vertical wall. Wouldn’t it be a waste not to tip ‘The Wall’ fully upside-down before finally settling on the stage? Recycled Percussion thinks so. From there on, percussionists Justin Spencer & Ryan Vezina, DJ Todd Griffin and guitarist Matt Bowman proceed to use, misuse and abuse pretty much anything one can find at hardware stores, junk yards and landfills. Oh, and a kitchen sink…
Nearly 60 Audix mics have been selected to sonically capture all this mayhem. “The Audix D6 and D4 crushed the sound of the other microphones we were using and trying,” says Spencer; group founder and sound designer. “We have over twenty plastic barrels that we play. We need five dollar 22-gallon buckets from WalMart to sound like $2,000 kick drums and Audix, with some plate reverb, is the choice for us.”
Spencer and Vezina have nearly matching collections of junk, referred to as ‘Blue Kit’ and ‘Red Kit’. Each one features three 22 gallon plastic tubs, snares and various ‘cymbals’. D6’s and D4’s handle the drums, with overhead i5’s to cover the rest of the pile.
Twenty i5’s are used for all the snares and cymbals (and oxygen tanks, hubcaps, fire extinguishers, toasters, car mufflers etc.) OM7’s are used for vocals and body percussion. Eighteen Audix mics alone are used for ‘The Wall’ of four drum kits; D2’s, D4’s, D6’s and i5’s. Another six D6’s and four i5’s cover ‘The Van’; a vehicle that splits open to reveal more percussive pyrotechnics. Additional D4’s and D6’s cover moving drums as necessary. Sound chaotic? It is!
The Audix D6 was selected for its unique ability to combine full low frequency response with a crisp and accurate high end. “We don’t play our kick (plastic tub) drums with pedals,” explains Spencer. Everything is played with sticks and we sometimes treat the drums like hi-hats, so we need that full in-your-chest sound, but with a crisp ‘snap’ and no flabby over-hang. The D6 is singlehandedly the best for this.”
“Shifting from some of the other well known kick-drum microphones out there to the Audix D6 was just a drastic reduction of the E.Q. needed at the console,” adds Tropicana front of house mixer Jeffrey James (JJ). “The plastics tubs that the guys use have an inherent pitch and tone to them, depending on how they are (duct) taped. Other kick drum mics weren’t able to capture that tone. The Audix D6’s make them sound like drums.”
“The 22 gallon plastic tubs are mounted to upside down folding metal chairs,” continues JJ. “The tubs are pushed down over the chair legs and mic-mounts clamped to the horizontal chair supports place the D6’s and D4’s pretty much in the inside center of the buckets”.
JJ, who also mixes “Dancing with the Stars,” is kept pretty busy during a typical Recycled Percussion performance; mixing both front of house and monitors. “I sub-group ‘The Wall’, ‘The Van’ and Justin and Ryan’s kits,” he explains. “I have six monitor zones going up and down to keep on-stage volume under control. Again, the Audix mics keep me from having to pay constant attention to E.Q.”
Recycled Percussion is on stage at the Tropicana Wednesday through Monday every week, in addition to other shows and corporate events. Their new concert DVD is available at recycledpercussionband.com. New shows are in the works for this fall.
Oh, and the chainsaw? “You mic it from a respectful distance with an overhead i5,” says JJ.