Since the beginning of the Arctic Monkey’s last global journey in May 2013, lighting director Sam MacLaren estimates he must have had his hands over fifty different grandMA2 consoles from rental sources across the world. So if anyone has earned the qualification to assess the functionality and reliability of the grandMA2, it is MacLaren.
So he must have been a regular grandMA2 user before then? “Well, actually that wasn’t the case,” muses MacLaren. “I used the MA1 a few times but more recently have been using a few boards from other manufacturers, all of which have had some issues with reliability. So when we were deciding on the specification for this tour, the choice of console was obviousLy high on my list of priorities. I knew I would be picking up boards from local companies as well as touring closer to home with a full rental rig so my choice had to have reliability and availability at the top of the tick list. Integral to the decision was the knowledge that we would have the help and support of MA’s exclusive UK distributor, Ambersphere Solutions at the end of the phone, should the need arise, wherever we found ourselves.”
“I had first come across the grandMA2 at festivals in Denmark and thought then it was a pretty solid console. The brand of MA is fairly ubiquitous worldwide which meant we would be able to find two consoles wherever we were playing. Although only one is required, I still like to have a back up on hand, not that it was really ever needed. Pretty much everywhere we went the console did the job for us; it was a wonderfully consistent choice.”
As something of a newcomer to the grandMA2 did MacLaren attend any of the Ambersphere training sessions? “As with a lot of freelancers, time is always a pressing issue, so I consider myself to be self-taught. That said, whenever I’ve been unsure of something the Ambersphere team are always at the end of the phone, wherever and whenever you are – and I’ve been in some pretty out-of-the-way places on this tour! A quick chat with Phil Norfolk or Chris West is all it’s taken to iron out any niggles I’ve had about navigating the board. I feel that Ambersphere has really hit the nail on the head in the way they liaise with their end users. They have taken the weight off the designers and operators by understanding that the establishment and development of same face relationships in this business are the key to maintaining confidence and customer satisfaction.”
This tour began in May 2013 and couldn’t really have played in a wider selection of venues. In Europe MacLaren had the luxury of a full touring rig playing mostly arena size venues. Globally, the Arctic Monkeys visited South and Central America, Canada, Japan, Russia as well as New Zealand and Australia. “In the US we started doing small clubs and ended up at Madison Square Garden,” explains MacLaren. “When we didn’t have our own rig out – which was most of the time – we picked up everything locally and always specified grand MA2 so I must have used most of the consoles sold worldwide over the last 18 months!”
This tour has combined running with a full rig and touring with a console from companies like Neg Earth and Lite Alternative where you know the equipment is in great condition, to using house rigs and walking into a hall to re-programme a desk you’ve never seen before. It is to the credit of MA that they have produced a board that can pass muster in such circumstances where you are in a location where perhaps the equipment is not quite given the care and attention it deserves.”
“This has been a very positive experience,” concludes MacLaren. “ The combination of MA’s reliability and functionality combined with the security blanket provided by the superlative customer service from Ambersphere makes for an unbeatable package.”