VF caught up with Slipknot's soundman who despite hanging out with scary mask-wearing rockers turned out to be a warm, loveable man-mountain called Dave, with a cheery midlands accent!
[R-Zone1]Virtual Festivals: What are you doing at Download?
Dave ‘Big Shirt’ Nichols: I mix for Slipknot.
VF: Are you prepared?
DN: Yeah we’re all set, very chilled.
VF: What do the Slipknot guys look like with their masks off?
DN: Well, you know that geezer from Knight Rider? Nothing like him! No, they’re just normal dudes.
VF: Have you got any good backstage gossip so far?
DN: No we’ve only just got here. Download Scotland was good though, the crowd was just incredible.
VF: We interviewed Chris from the band- the one with the nose- and he said that Slipknot had never used any random people to cover for them at gigs (‘cos you’d never know!). Can you verify this?
DN: Not as far as I know. He’s telling the truth.
VF: Surely you must have been tempted before to stick a mask on and go on?
DN: (laughs) No
VF: Regale us with a crazy Slipknot tale!
DN: A Crazy story? Well, there’s a funny one from the American tour we just finished. Clown hates clocks, he especially hates to have clocks on stage, so we bought 4 or 5 clocks and strategically placed them around the stage and then we uncovered them while the band was playing. So he sees the clock and smashes it with his baseball bat like 4 times. We’d put one up on the truss with a cable on it, so we dangled it in front of him, and he sees it and goes to grab it and we pull it back up, and this went on for about 20 minutes! It was pretty funny.
VF: Rock on. So has he got a phobia or something?
DN: No. he just hates clocks, especially on the stage.
VF: How did you end up being their Sound engineer?
DN: A friend of mine was mixing for Metallica, and he said I should work with this band the next time they tour, so I guess he must have put a good word in for me.
VF: How does one go about becoming a live sound engineer?
DN: I kind of fell over one day and found myself behind a mixing desk. For a kid wanting to do it these days, I’d firstly recommend staying in school and doing your exams and getting a proper job like I tell my kids! But seriously, there are a lot more courses out there these days especially in live sound as opposed to just studio recording. I would say 50% of the job is being able to get on with people, whoever else is on the bus. You’ve got to be able to the job but you’ve also got to be able to put up with being dirty and living on the road. It’s like a circus really.
VF: So you’ve just got back from touring?
DN: Yeah we’ve just come back from America where I almost got arrested because they were getting complaints 2 miles away from all the bass.
VF: That must make you a proud man then?
DN: The band loved it; they were like ‘you’ve got the job for life’.
VF: How is working in America compared to the UK?
DN: It’s the same really, it all depends what kind of tours you’re doing. If you’re doing the ‘toilet tours’ then it’s not great. But if you’re lucky enough to do the bigger shows then it’s really great, though you know that the bigger the show is certain things can get more boring.
VF: Do you prefer the big shows like this or small venues?
DN: It depends what hat I’ve got on when I get up in the morning. Working is definitely more involved in a club. There nothing like a small capacity crowd of 2000 people, bands sometimes say it’s not as fun in big venues but you know, they both have good and bad points really.
VF: Are you looking forward to seeing any of the other bands at Download?
DN: We went to Rock in Rio Lisbon last week and Sepultura were playing so that was cool. To be honest I’ve worked for a lot of the bands on the bill so I’ve seen most of them!