Peter Watts, Road Manager interviewed by Frank Torker
On the back cover of Ummagumma is a striking picture of Pink Floyd’s sound gear. Standing nonchalantly amongst the speakers is Mr. Peter Watts,Pink Floyd’s redoubtable road manager. I spoke to him the day after one of their recent gigs. It is 5 p.m., Sunday afternoon, May 1973.
Frank: How old are you Pete?
Frank: What’s the official title of your job?
Pete: Road Manager.
Frank: What does that entail?
Pete: It entails being in charge of getting everything together for them so that all they have to do is just walk on stage and play.
Frank: How long have you been doing that?
Pete: Ten years.I was with The Pretty Things for about four years…I started with the Floyd six months before Dave Gilmour.
Frank: What does your job involve?
Pete: Well…I’m mainly into sound,so I have to get together all their sound equipment.A lot of it I’ve built myself.I sort of ran around and picked people’s brains and put stuff together,the best I could.Also when we’re on the road,I make sure everything they want is together,like the stage is right and the power is right,and so on…Like when we did a twelve day tour I had to go around five days before hand and go to each one of those places we’re going to play in,and just spend the day there talking to the promoter,the hall manager,and all the electrical heads of departements,going over our rider and all the things that we specify,making sure that they’re all organized.
Frank: What happens on a typical touring day?
Pete: The trucks usually hit the hall about ten in the morning and we catch a plane to meet the trucks and then it takes all day from ten to four to set the equipment up, at least! So the whole day is just spent making sure all the equipment is working and the band usually come in about four for a sound check.
Frank: What is the structure of their sound system?
Pete: On stage Rick’s keyboards and stack,Dave’s guitar stack,Nick’s drums and Roger’s bass gear.At this moment they just use that as a sort of on stage sound which is all carefully miked;and we’ve got a P.A. and a mixing console which we have in the audience,and also a quadrophonic set up around the house…
Frank: Is the quad directly connected to the Floyd?
Pete: The quad system is in addition to the P.A. and is set up behind the stage,at the back of the hall and to the right and left,so the people sitting in the centre round about the mixer get a quadrophonic picture of the sound,like for the tape effects.Also on the mixer you can punch in, say Dave’s guitar solo into quad,and pan it around on a joystick and send it round and round the hall – like when Roger does that scream in “Careful With That Axe” you can sort of fade it into quad and have it bombard you from all sides.
Frank: Is the P.A. a specific set of equipment?
Pete: Our P.A. isn’t something you can just go in a shop and say “I wanna buy a P.A.,John” and come out with that. Our P.A. has developed with the Floyd the way their music’s developed. It’s just basically amplifiers,speakers,horn units and high pressure units that we all put together – what I’m trying to do is reproduce the sound that you get at home with a good hi-fi system in the hall,right,with the mixer so you can have complete control of the sound they’re making on stage… The mikes,which are standard,on stage,they all come up a multicore cable to the mixer and that piece of equipment is specially made for the Floyd – they said what was needed;we had an ordinary mixer but after a few years I chopped it all up and rebuilt it.
Frank: What is the P.A.’s amplification?(Shows me a photo.)
Pete: That’s half the amplifiers we use on the P.A. – that’s 6 Phase Linear 700s,right, an electronic cross over,and a compressor and we use all that each side of the stage to drive the main P.A. At the mixer we use 4 Phase Linear 400s and 2 Phase Linear 700s to drive the quad system.
Frank: What about their personal stacks?
Pete: Dave plays through a couple of Hi Watt 100s that drive an ordinary traditional 4×12 speaker which is essentially just a ‘monitor’ for him on stage, although in fact Dave plays very loud. His main power comes through the P.A. as it does for the others. Roger has 2×100 Hi Watt amps driving 2 bass reflex speakers the same as in P.A. and two high frequency horn units on the top. All Rick’s keyboards go through another mixer which he also sends through the P.A.,or through his Leslies. Nick doesn’t have a monitor because he plays loud enough for himself and the others to hear.
Frank: And the mixer?
Pete: Sound travels up the multicore cable plugged into the back of the mixer and it comes up on a fader like in a recording studio,and you can equalize the sound that comes through the microphones and make it treble,bass or whatever;you can also have echo,and control the volume through the P.A.i.e. you do all the instruments on different faders – like Nick’s drum kit,there are ten different mikes and you set the drum balance and send the whole thing through another fader,and the vocals are the same, another sub group.In effect you’ve got someone sitting in front of this giant stereo just doing a mix of the band live. The guy who does it is the guy who did their last album – instead of doing it bit by bit as in a studio he does it “live”.
Frank: What speakers do you have for the P.A.?
Pete: On each side we are using nine bass bins for reproducing any bass sound between forty cycles to about eight hundred.Then we’ve got thirty horn units both sides some of which are mid range and some are higher range. I’ve put these units together using a number of makes – Electrovoice equipment(bass range)JBL equipment (treble range)Vitavox equipment(mid range) – They’re just brand components which I’ve used and put together for what I think is the best hi-fi.
Frank: So,the sound travels from…
Pete: All the mikes pick up the signal and send it down the multicore on a balanced line to be amplified by the mixer which is like a giant pre-amp – then you send it out on faders down another multicore which is a stage return which then goes to an electronic cross over unit which splits the signal three ways and sends it to the brass section of amplifiers, and the treble section and the mid range section of amplifiers.From the amplifiers they go three ways right to the bass units,the treble units and the mid range units. It’s all split up and goes to the different sections.
Frank: This for every single bit of sound put out by the band and from tapes?
Frank: Is that why it’s so clear?
Pete: Well…yes…but it’s just part of a lot of things put together over the years…trying to get all parts better, trying,in effect to get a studio effect in a hall!
Later on two further points were made clear: –
1. The cross over system ensures that the right sound(bass, (treble or mid range)goes to the right speaker.Thus each speaker is used efficiently and does not try to reproduce sounds for which it is not specifically equipped.
2. The nearer you are to the maximum noise output the more you are likely to dissort(just try turning your amp or player full on).The Floyd have enough amplification not to have to ‘overload’ their speakers even at their loudest.
Pete assessed his role in the Floyd as reproducing to the very best of his ability the sounds that the band want in a way that can reach a large audience. I feel that it may be more than this.His contribution to the sound apparatus is a necessary part of Floyd music.The way the music is reproduced has itself an influence on the subsequent writing and desired ‘quality’ of the sound job. Somebody else could do this job,but then perhaps Floyd music wouldn’t sound as it does.
Peter Watts: Road Manager
Arthur Max: Lighting and effects
Graeme Fleming: Lighting Technician
Paul Padun: Lighting Technician – on tour only
Chris Adamson: Sets up and maintains stage equipment
Mick ‘The Pole’ Kluczynski: General Factotum,Tape Operator, Drum Kit,Quad
Alan Parsons: On tour mixer – Recording Engineer for albums
Robbie Williams: Stage Crew
Bobby Richardson: Stage Crew
On Tour: Trucking Crew – Four drivers and two forty-foot Trailer Tractors
At Gig: 2 fork lift drivers, 6 stage hands, 2 electricians, 2 soundmen, 8 follow spot operators, 1 house electrician