I co-own a venue in Bushwick called Alphaville and we started having shows in February of 2015. It's been a lifelong dream of mine to run a venue; I've been amassing audio equipment for years in preparation. After years of touring, I knew I could design a venue that's super artist friendly, in ways that not all venues are. Both myself and Drew run live sound at the club and have performed there with our band Beverly. But we also book some of the artists and occasionally handle the door. Being on the production side, as opposed to the musical, is like discovering dark matter - it illuminates a part of the universe whose existence was always suspected but never understood.

Most of the time, I enjoy running sound. When it's locked in, the drums are coming through clear and strong, the kick is pumping and the snare is snapping, the vocals are sitting just on top, the guitars are snarling or chiming, and the bass sounds like a passing train. It's ENORMOUSLY satisfying. A lot of bands are easy to mix, they seem to sound good right out of the gate. Some bands I wrestle with compressors and EQ settings the whole set to make it sound right. Occasionally the sound is a mess - an undifferentiated squall, harsh on the ears, and quite the bummer. It's hard to pinpoint the problem - sometimes it is my fault, an errant auxiliary send setting has capsized the whole ship. Just as often it is a noisy vocal pedal or faulty cable that is causing problems. Some bands, especially those with especially loud drummers, loud guitars, and whispered vocals, are nearly impossible to mix well in a club setting. The best engineer can't subvert the laws of physics. Trudging through these difficult episodes; emerging without having hurled recriminations, perhaps learning a lesson along the way; this is the true test of engineer mettle.

Diving briefly into the minutiae of stage plotting, I strongly recommend that musicians elevate small guitar amps a few feet off the ground. Guitarists often put their combo amp (say, a fender blues junior or vox AC30) on the ground just behind them, then crank the volume until it drowns out the other instruments. Are these guitar players hopeless narcissists, or subtly trying to sabotage their own bandmates? No, they just can't hear themselves. It is impossible to hear your amp when it is blowing straight into the back of your legs. Amp elevation is such a simple, elegant, and low tech solution to managing stage volume, I am sometimes shocked at how infrequently it occurs. Rule #1 - if the guitar amp is sitting fewer than 3 feet behind you, tilt it back or stick it on a chair.

Like most relationships, a little extra communication can avert most problems. Plenty a drummer has showed up with armfuls of equipment at Alphaville, only to find there is already a house drum kit. Or arrived at 7:30 for a 6:30 sound check. (Promoters of the world - send out those production emails! Singers of the world, forward those production emails to your bandmates!) When problems do arise, a deft personal touch goes a long way. As Dr. Phil (probably) says, "laying down ultimatums and trying to assert power are immediate vibe killers." And once the vibe is extinguished, it’s hard to recover. There should never be an argument before showtime. It doesn't matter if I am "right" - if i get into an argument with a band before their set then I have failed as an engineer. Every musician has had that horrible moment onstage, after an unpleasant altercation, wondering if their set is being sabotaged by a mutinous and thin-skinned engineer. A genteel manner and positive attitude are crucial.

As a touring musician, the most important thing is not to let the brutalities of constant travel, lack of privacy, and garden variety tour disasters bring down morale. My personal technique is to build an impenetrable emotional and psychological cocoon around myself, stare straight ahead without blinking and repeat the mantra "NOTHING CAN HURT ME." Beloved American Telecaster gets left backstage in Philadelphia? "NOTHING CAN HURT ME." Van gets wrapped around the guardrail on the interstate in Montana? "NOTHING CAN HURT ME." And so forth. The key to this technique is allotting 48-72 hours to yourself when you return to decompress. Otherwise the dark weird feelings that have been decomposing in your soul will erupt in mutated form on whoever is in front of you when your Pompeii moment happens. (And it will.)

Left unsaid in this, of course, is the unparalleled glory that you experience when everything goes right. When all the pieces miraculously align, there's nothing else like it.

Scott Rosenthal is a producer, songwriter and guitarist in the band Beverly. He lives in Brooklyn. Beverly are currently on tour in the UK. Find dates below.

  • 16 May - Soup Kitchen, Manchester
  • 17 May – Bristol Rise In-Store, Bristol
  • 17 May - The Louisiana, Bristol
  • 18 May – Rough Trade East In-Store, London
  • 18 May - The Victoria, London
  • 19 May - Tunbridge Wells Forum, Tunbridge Wells
  • 20 May - The Winchester, Bournemouth
  • 21 May - The Hope & Ruin, The Great Escape, Brighton