Low Tones on Low Tones: An Interview with Adrien D'Angelo


Well traveled Rochestafarians that have a fondness for the local music scene have likely run across our friend Adrien D'Angelo. Being that the fellow is a talented bassist, a reliable live audio technician, and an all around nice guy we decided that the masses would want to get a closer look at the man/myth/legend himself!

EB: Hi Adrien!! Despite the constant craziness happening in the world, I hope

you are doing well! Right off the bat, I know you first and foremost as a live sound engineer,

and a good one at that! What led to you taking that path in life?


AD: Well thanks! I was attending the University at Buffalo and was in a band at the

time. Someone hired us to play an Earth Day event and when we showed up a

tech started helping us out. So I said to him, “I want your job.” As it turns out,

they were hiring and that was the last day to fill out an application. So I went up

and started doing that. Most of the tech gigs were working with student club

organizations. Lots of Deejays. It was actually pretty simple. But that also got me

in to work production for our Spring/Fall fests for acts like B.O.B, Ludacris,

Mystikal, etc.


I had a friend at UB who knew a sound tech who worked at a little festival called

Sterling Stage. He got me in there to work on the main stage under Mike

Richards who really taught me most of what I know about audio. Then I started

buying gear.


There’s a lot of scenarios where bands have to do their own sound, so I was the

guy for that. Then I guess other bands started to take notice and wanted to

sound just as pretty. The rest is history.


EB: I know that you can probably play all the standard instruments that you

might find in an average band, but I think I know your main instrument to

be the bass. How did you pick up the bass?


AD: The bass guitar and I fell in love like many relationships start - with the tragic end

of another relationship. I had been playing classical piano since I was eight and

taking lessons from Steve Copeland who lived across the street from me where I

grew up. I loved him as a teacher. But when my family moved, I had to pick up

another teacher who I really wasn’t as big of a fan of. Also she wanted me to do

a recital right off the bat. I bombed it. Terribly.


With my confidence out the window, I thought the instrument didn’t really suit me.

In middle school I was getting into all the cringy alternative rock / scene music

and bassists seemed to always have the attitude I wanted. The low growl of

those bass lines, as well as my discovery of Sublime, really had a lot to do with

choosing this as an instrument.


EB: How did you end up getting your nickname “Low Tones?”


AD: Well, I guess it just came to me one day. “Low Tones” is the name I’ve used for

everything from podcast/interviews, to my audio production company, to music

journalism, to producing my own music. I liked the double-meaning of not only

having fat bass frequencies, but the idea of also “getting it on the low” or “getting

the low-down”. It stuck with me.


EB: Through an interview you conducted with the artist known as “Ragechill,” I

learned that you have a background in journalism. Obviously journalism is

an essential tenant of a free society, but I’d be interested In hearing how

you became interested?


AD: Ah! This was another example of how I fostered a new skill in college almost

entirely by accident. I was never into the idea of journalism per se in college, but I

loved poetry. I used to have poetry readings at my house where everyone would

get together and just vibe out and read. I’ve even been published once or twice in

some small-time mags out there - one being a college poetry periodical I really

wanted to be an editor of. So I found a certificate program through the school that

allowed me to get college credit for such experience. However, when I went to

apply I found out they would only accept credit if I worked for the college

newspaper, The Spectrum.


As much as I disliked this idea, the paper had an Arts section. And I found out I

could get college credit for going to concerts or listening to albums and reviewing

them. So that brought me back in. I got to listen to some albums before they

even made it to the country which was cool. I also got to interact with some

people that I really admired musically and learned a lot through asking questions.

I was a staff writer that first semester but became Arts Editor the following and

then switched over to Photo Editor to get experience with Newspaper Layout

Design and Photoshop.


I actually wanted to make a career out of it, but like performing, it’s just a very

difficult path to take if you want to be financially independent.


EB: Speaking of Ragechill, I have heard through the grapevine that you have

been doing some clever gigs with her centered around some of your

favorite movies... could you expand on this a bit?


AD: Well, we’ve played as a duo before. The goal then was to build a band around

her and really get a kickin’ full-band sound. And we got there eventually. But now

with the way things are going, it’s tough to find full band gigs as well as

bandmates that are willing to risk their health in order to play out. So now we’ve

gone back to the duo arrangement, occasionally adding Greg Puglisi on the

saxophone for a little flair.


I felt like in order to bring the energy back up to where it was with the full-band

we had to get creative. So I wanted to incorporate creating a performance that

goes off of the themes and soundtrack of movies. We also get costumes to dress

the part. It’s just one of those things that adds a little bit more excitement in a

time where people really want to go to a show to see something different.


EB: Other than that, could you give a brief history of some other groups you

have played in?


AD: The brief version is my first band was called IGS in highschool which stood for In

Good Spirit. It centered around the (still) very talented Brendon Caroselli and the

impressive music he was writing at 16 years old. I had a couple college bands I

performed in - mostly jam band / funk stuff. Then I returned to Rochester and got

in with a band called Lap Giraffe that was more of a jazz/fusion ordeal. During

that time I kind of became a bassist for hire and joined Tyler Pearce Project, Meg

Williams Band, and Subsoil. Subsoil being the most popular at the time. We got

to open for Parliament Funkadelic and play a lot of bigger shows which I enjoyed.

We actually had plans to play a reunion show this summer, but alas, we couldn’t

do that.


EB: Do you have any plans for solo releases?


AD: Actually, I am working on some songs! Nothing like a release date, but I’m

working on an EP of sorts. Something a little more like a hybrid of electronic

music and real instruments.


EB: In a normal non-covid world, how do you go about procuring gigs for your

live sound engineering? Do you take freelance gigs at all?


AD: Almost 100% of my gigs are freelance. Honestly, it’s nice because it gives me the

freedom to choose my own schedule and be my own boss. Even when I work

steadily for one venue it’s usually as an independent contractor. But festivals,

backyard parties, weddings, these are the bread-and-butter of my sound gigs.


EB: This is a pretty wide open and large question, but what are some of your

golden rules for live sound?


Portray the music the way it’s supposed to be portrayed. Make it clear and

transparent instead of focusing on making it sound “big” or “loud”. Start with the

most basic tool - as in gain/volume - before you add things like EQ or

compression. And one of my favorite sayings: Things work better when you plug

them in. (Basically, when troubleshooting start with the simplest mistake.)


EB: Everyone is different but there must be at least a few universal pet peeves

when it comes to live sound engineering. Could you help readers avoid

taking some passive aggressive heat from the one person who should be

your best friend at the gig?


AD: I won’t go into this too much because basically it comes down to: just know your

gear. Be consistent - with volume and otherwise. If your instrument or voice is

going to do something crazy, tell us. And do it during sound check. We’re here to

work with you, not against you. So it’s less that we get mad and more that we’re

dealing with something we totally didn’t expect to not get weird looks from the

crowd.


EB: I hear that you’re a real big Paul Simon fan. What about that gentleman’s

music draws you in?


AD: I think Paul Simon is America’s best song writer. He has so many tunes that are

just so subtle and powerful at the same time. His lyrics are so poetic (and I do

like poetry as I said before). He had ideas in his head that spanned continents to

look for a specific sound. Just a really all-around talented individual.


EB: What are some of your favorite shows that you have done sound for? What

are some standouts as far as performance goes?


AD: One year I mixed monitors at the NY State Blues Festival and really enjoyed that.

I worked with one of my favorite new artists I’d never heard before, Carolyn

Wonderland, who really blew me away. I also got to work with The Lowrider Band

who are basically the original members of War. Harold Brown, the original

drummer, is such a treat to have on-stage. He’s patient and appreciative. And

constantly yells his signature phrase, “All bands would be garage bands without

stagehands!”


EB: If you could run sound for one band that you’ve never worked with who

would you choose?


AD: Oh man. I’d have to say The Gorillaz would be my dream band to mix for. When

you take the challenge of the wide array of instruments, genres, sounds, special

guests, etc. it’s gotta be a really tough gig that you pull your hair out at but are

super proud of at the end of the day.


EB: Do you have any advice for those looking to break into live sound?


AD: Buy cheap stuff and make it sound like it’s expensive stuff. Then buy expensive

stuff and make it sound like it’s even more expensive stuff. Rinse and repeat.


EB: Precisely what amount of “Yo Adrien!”s would it take to elicit a punch?


AD: We won’t go there. Everyone gets ONE freebie.


EB: You must have a lot of late nights, so what can you do for food once all of

your work is done? Most places are likely closed by the time a musician is

free, so what can we do to feed ourselves in a reasonable way? Is it pizza?

It’s probably pizza isn’t it?


AD: I do love pizza. But as your doctor, I’ll have to recommend some vegetables in

there too.. And by that I mean on the pizza.


EB: Are there any kinds of artistic endeavors that you have always wanted to

try but haven’t had the opportunity to do so yet?


AD: I’d like to get into more multimedia stuff. I suck at drawing but I’m inspired by

people who make “sound art” or “circuit hacking” installation performance art. If

you have no idea what I’m talking about - google it. It’s really cool stuff.


EB: What can we expect to see from Adrien in the future?


AD: Same bass, same place. Just more in your face. ;)

There you have it, friends. Take one from AD's book. Stay real to yourself, keep it rolling, stay evil.




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