Hear the stories behind the music with the new podcast Signal Path.
Tapping a global network of musicians, producers, engineers and other sonic innovators, Shure brings you exclusive interviews with the people shaping the world of audio.
Live Sound Engineer Roger Lindsay
For the latest episode, Andrew Low sat down with Roger Lindsay.
The legendary sound engineer originally hailing from Liverpool has had a storied career, working on some of the biggest live productions imaginable.
After touring with the English prog rock band Procol Harum in 1970, Lindsay quickly gained a reputation as someone capable of delivering a top quality front of house mix. Since then, everyone from Prince to Prince Charles has called on his audio expertise over the years.
In the podcast, Lindsay talks about how dramatically sound engineering has changed from his first days on the job, touring with acts like John Mayall and David Bowie.
“You’d have Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin … all these bands on the same bill,” he explains. “Back then, you didn’t have just one PA system everyone could use. You all brought your own. It’s laughable now when you look back it, but at the time, it was state-of-the-art.”
Focused on Sound
It was in those heady days that Lindsay honed his craft by focusing on what he was hearing rather than the equipment he was using.
“I’ve never known what goes on under the surface of a mixer,” he admits. “Because if it breaks down I’m not going to whip out the oscilloscope. It’s gone. Get a spare. Learn how to bypass it. Do something. So I never had that distraction. All I concentrated on was how do I get it to sound the way I want it.”
He says that a good sound engineer should always keep in mind an audience’s expectations for a live show: “I don’t care how big your drum sound is. If the people can’t hear the vocals, they’re going to feel robbed. Get the important stuff in first.”
His good ear and ambition to be the best engineer he could be eventually led him to work with Prince, an artist known for both his musical genius and uncompromising standards.
“I was very nervous,” Lindsay says, describing his first encounter with the Purple One in the early 90s. “To see those players, it makes you raise your game. They put so much into it. So there’s a desire to keep pace with them.”
Trading Rock Bands for Orchestras
The one constant throughout his career has been change. Never wanting to be pigeonholed, he also embraced occasional work with orchestras and mixing sound for major sporting events while still touring with rock bands.
This taught him things he otherwise never would have discovered. For example, he learned that a specific reverb that works well on an orchestra’s string section could sound just as good on a rock band’s string synths.
“There’s been a lot of cross pollination,” he says. “It just gave me more options. If I had just stuck to one kind of act I might have become very good at it, but that’s it.”
That professional approach served him so well that he one day found himself mixing the royal ball at Buckingham Palace held in honor of Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s wedding in 1981.
“We’re sitting there on the balcony,” he says. “Two former roadies with champagne and cigars thinking: How the hell did we get here?”
Always looking for a new challenge is what still keeps his job fresh and exciting for the 66-year-old engineer.
“It’s the stuff that scares you that will make you a better engineer,” he says. “Say yes, I’ll do that. Take a chance.”
Listen to the full interview with Roger Lindsay below. And be sure to subscribe to Signal Path via your preferred podcast provider.