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Muse’s Live Novation Solution

United States
29 November 2006 — When it comes to touring there is probably no one out there with Des Broadbery’s range and depth of experience. With 23 years in the business — 16 of those as U2’s keyboard tech — this man has probably come across every type of on-stage technical issue that you can imagine. He is currently facing some of his biggest challenges on a mammoth world tour with Muse, but overcoming all hurdles with a system based around Novation’s SL range of controllers…

“I was working for Clannad and their management liked what I was doing. They were taking care of U2 and asked me to come and work with them,” recalls Des Broadbery of his appointment with arguably the biggest band in the world. “I worked for U2 for 16 years programming keyboards, doing MIDI sequencing and so on.”

After that Des established himself as one of the best keyboard techs in the UK and for the last three years has been working with the mighty Muse, most recently on their sell out world tour…

“I am their MIDI programmer and I take care of all of the electronics and keyboards on stage,” Des explains. “It’s fantastic. In the last two years they’ve won awards for best live band and other awards right across the board.”

“On stage we’ve got a Zero SL and 61SL. This particular tour we’ve taken another keyboard player with us, Morgan Nicholls. He is the bass player from The Streets — a very accomplished musician — and came out to do some replacement bass playing for Chris [Wolstenholme] when he broke his wrist. He plays keyboards as well and is now keyboard player for this tour.”

“I’ve built and designed the system that he is using that consists of Logic, software instruments and playing these instruments live. We needed something to control that in our particular crazy way, and the controller we decided to get was the Novation SL.”

“It’s the way that we can control an entire system as opposed to just instruments. It’s using the Automap function but we’ve taken one template and altered it dramatically so that it works with what we do.”

“It’s really is fantastic. The way that we’re running all of this stuff just makes it very, very streamlined and very fast. We’re running another piece of software with it called On Stage written by Paul Eastman [programmer] from Snow Patrol. It’s a little program that allows you to load a Logic song via a program change. What we’ve done is designed the Novation to spit a program change number at it so it listens to it and pulls up individual songs.”

But it’s not just the controlling side of the SL range that Des and Morgan find appealing — the actual keyboard itself is very playable too…

“The SL61 is fantastic and what I use most and Morgan loves it too. It’s a cross between a waterfall keyboard and a normal “keyboard” keyboard. For what he uses it for Morgan said, “right this is the one and it is the one that actually feels right’.”

“We set the keyboard up and then Logic in a the way that we wanted it to respond to the keyboard. It’s the only keyboard that I have come across that can do that and so far it’s the most flexible. Matt [Bellamy, Muse singer, pianist] is one of the most challenging people that I have ever worked for technology wise. But there hasn’t been a situation yet where he has come to me and said “can it do this?” where I have had to say “no’.”

Which is just as well, really, as the band still have a long way to go on their tour and many countries to visit…

“We’re doing our full production tour between the end of October and December 19th. That’ll be in Europe and the UK. We have some time off until January 10th and then set off to Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. It’s terrific, absolutely full on. I’ve probably had just five days off since January as we’ve been so busy with it all. It’s been full on and very successful so far and hopefully will continue to be.”
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