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Hutch - QOTSA

Hutch - QOTSA

FOH Engineer
Hutch

Patrick Hutchinson, or Hutch as he is better known, is a sound engineer, musician and member of American rock giants Queens of the Stone Age. He has also engineered for other top artists including Kyuss, Eagles of Death Metal, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather and Them Crooked Vultures. And it all started in the back of a van…

Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss, Eagles of Death Metal, The Raconteurs, Them Crooked Vultures, The Dead Weather
Aston gear Hutch uses:
Starlight
Finding the sweet spot

“I was a High School student in Canada in the 70’s. I was interested in theatre, not so much being on stage but I liked the production end of it so I learned about lighting, sound and set-building, so it was really from a theatrical standpoint that I began. Then as my friends learned to play instruments, and I realised I wasn’t one of those people, but I wanted to be involved - and I knew what I could bring to the table.

I realised I could go see the world, interact with artists and creative people, and as punk rock came to birth in the United States and Canada that’s kinda where I got my start. I climbed in a van with some friends and started driving round the planet!

I can make a sound on most instruments. I don’t know if I consider myself a player but I thought it was important to understand the mechanics of how these instruments make sound. I’ll sit down with an instrument I’m going to try to mic up, and make a sound on it, understand it and try and find where the sweet spots are and how it reacts and behaves.”

Turning up

Hutch’s first major gig was engineering for rock band Kyuss and his working relationship with the band’s guitarist Josh Homme was to last long after Kyuss split in 1996. Homme and Hutch went on to work together in Eagles of Death Metal and Queens of the Stone Age. But it was during his time with Kyuss he was able to really develop his sound engineering skills:

“I was fortunate in that in the time I spent with Josh Homme starting in the early 90’s with Kyuss we were always really open to experimentation and we did so many crazy things to achieve different sounds. We made mistakes but we made advancements.”

Among the galaxy of A-list artists he has had under his sonic control he remembers being particularly struck with engineering for Them Crooked Vultures:

“Having a volume knob for John Paul Jones’ bass was probably one of the coolest things I can say I’ve done. Like ‘I can solo this guy, and turn him up. This is amazing!’”

Hutch has worked almost exclusively as a live engineer rather than in a recording studio environment:

“I don’t have the attention span for doing things more than once. I love the immediacy of what happens when an artist and an audience get together. That’s probably the most exciting thing about it all.”

Down the mine

“We did a Queens’ gig in a salt mine in Germany. It was pretty intense, we had to take a little elevator way, way below ground [the mine is actually 2300 ft deep!] it took a day to get all the equipment down for the concert, and another half day to get all the audience down the elevator shaft! We had no idea what all those decibels were going to do to the mine. They’d had other performances down there but nothing electrified.”

Hutch retired from touring with Queens of the Stone Age a year ago and started a sound company in his home town of Joshua Tree.

“After 40 years of touring I think I’ve earned the opportunity to sleep in my own bed. I’m not saying I wouldn’t want to go back on tour but I don’t know that I want to do the 18 month-two year album cycle I’ve been involved in.”

He now stays busy engineering for concerts and festivals in the area, from the Shakti and Bhakti Yoga and Sacred festivals which attract more than 5000 visitors to the ‘electric guitars and sweaty pounding drummers’ of rock venue Pappy & Harriets.

Whatever the gig, Hutch has used Aston Starlight small diaphragm condenser mics ever since he first heard them at Rancho De La Luna, the studio owned by Dave Catching of Eagles of Death Metal.

The spice of life

“I use the Starlights quite a bit. Joshua Tree is a musically rich area, the diversity of music that is played, performed and recorded here is pretty extreme. I’ve done a lot of concerts here recently with Kirtan music so I’m dealing with harmoniums and tablas, a lot of really interesting percussion and stringed instruments and I really find the Starlight does a great job on a diverse range of instruments.”

“There are so many great things about the Aston brand, the price point is fantastic, the durability and build quality, there’s nothing that compares to it. I think you guys build really great microphones. The versatility of the Starlight especially, I love.”

Versatility, and variety, seem to be something of a theme in Hutch’s career and he enjoys the musical and cultural diversity of living and working in Joshua Tree; an eclectic world music festival one day, a high decibel, raucous rock gig the next:

“One of the things I really love about living out here is my plate is full of all kinds of different thigs to taste, it’s really awesome.”

Tricks of the trade

“I do festivals so the mics get a good work out.”

“The Midas Heritage 3000 is my favorite desk. I can mix blindfolded on it. My sound company has a couple Midas M32's, these are such a great little digital workhorse.

As far as outboard gear I always had at least a 4 space flight rack with 2 EL8 Distressors, a Transient Designer 4 and a Delta Labs Effectron 2 - it’s the best echo, so much stuff you a can do with it, like dive bombs! Or jam two buttons in and get a great vocal doubler. It’s got speed and depth adjustments. You can really man-handle it.

I love speakers as mics (The Queens always used an NS10 for a sub kick since the early days - pre Yamaha sub!). It’s an old studio thing that works great in a live setting. I once made some mics for for Paul Stanley from KISS, and for Jesse from the Eagles as well - people wanting the vintage look with a familiar sound. And I built a really cool mic rig for a Jack White's snare set up, he had 3 snares set up in a triangle.

I think what I am good at is problem solving. I love this kind of challenge, I see it in the Aston approach to making mics.”

Out-takes

Q. WHo are your favourite artists?
A. Jack White, Japanese DJ Cornelius, plus a lot of hip hop and outlaw country – polar ends of the spectrum: Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, ASAP Rocky, then Shooter Jennings and the new wave of country kids.

Q. What would your fantasy mic be?
A. Very versatile. Directional.

Q. What are the 4 words you’d chose to describe Aston, or your experience with the brand?
A. Durability, quality, versatility, affordability

Q. What is the first song that made you cry?
A. One of the ballads Freddie poured his heart into - Love of my Life by Queen.

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