Sound Profiles
Stepping Around the Wreckage: Industrial Sound's Greg Dean explains how his company came back from dire circumstances

From a relatively inauspicious start in 1988 living three to a room in Hollywood and schlepping gear around town in a 1954 bread truck nicknamed "Dino," Greg Dean and Greg Doughty, co-owners of Industrial Sound and Touring Technologies, are poised on the brink of a growth spurt.


The early days. Circa 1989, No Show Sound founding partners (L-R) Ron Kimbal, Greg Doughty and Greg Dean at home, which doubled as their first office.

Readers may recall the events of early September 2001, when an estimated 10,000 fans ran riot, trashing the El Segundo, California-based company's PA rig after the band System of a Down failed to perform at a free 3,500-capacity show in Hollywood. The irony was not lost on Dean and Doughty, who had originally named their company No Show Sound.

Recalling the events of that fateful September, Dean says, "When all that gear came down on September 3, 2001, we lost a 40-box rig. That made a pretty big impact. We had to recover from that, and in doing so had to decide what to go for."

As Dean recollects, "There was a lot of debate between myself, Greg and the engineers in the company about whether to go with a conventional point-and-shoot box or to move in a different direction. We felt that we had enough conventional PA to stay competitive in the local market, so we wanted to try something different.


Greg Dean with the company’s first PA, on tour with After Shock in 1990.

Nearly every loudspeaker manufacturer was busy launching line array systems at the time, says Dean. "We'd been looking at line arrays for a while. We compared the McCauley MONARC against two high-profile brands and saw advantages, for example, the speed at which it rigs. And I prefer the fidelity. I favored McCauley primarily because of the transition of the drivers: double 15-inch, double 10-inch and a two-inch. The 10's in that box can take an enormous amount of power and not fail."

Satisfied with the decision, Dean notes, "All of a sudden, with this new system, we've stepped into being able to tour through sheds. I just put a shed tour in one truck, and I did it because of the McCauley rig. It's one of the best-designed systems to go into a truck in terms of the subs and placement of the mid-high packs, and how they marry in a truck. They're really space efficient."

The decision wasn't made solely on the system's technical specification. There was the issue of financing, and Dean made what he considers an "excellent deal" on the product.

"The reality is that the cost came in at a point that was affordable and reasonable for us to assume," he adds. "We're still the same company, but now we have more tools to go after the business. My intent is to try and do more touring with the system, and to try and do bigger and a lot more tours. It changes my direction, because we've been under the radar for a long time."

But stepping up to a new level of business does present a number of challenges. While the addition of the new system will require Industrial Sound to hustle for larger gigs, Dean is adamant that he has no intention of losing any friends over it.


Getting the 360-degree MONARC system staged for a Dariush concert at the Forum in L.A.

"We've never gone out to make enemies. We haven't gone out and deliberately targeted someone's account. I have never wanted to be a sound company that screws another company by undervaluing their service. I think enough of that takes place in the industry as it is.

"It will never cease to amaze me how this little company can be profitable, and to realize what the profit margins are on a tour and when it just doesn't make sense to go and do it. Because regardless of the gear that you have, you still have to service it, fix it when it blows up, plus there's wear and tear and prep time in the shop."

In Dean's view, the ability to spot and effectively address the little things has helped Industrial Sound maintain steady growth. "That's the big thing: what's the weakest link, what do I need to improve upon the most? It's how you are set to rig, how fast you can get the gear into the truck, how you can make your gig a little better, a little faster, and a little more effective so that the touring engineer can be very comfortable right away."


The Industrial Sound crew taking a break during setup at the Christopher Street Fair in West Hollywood. On the subs is System Tech Taka Nakai, with System Engineer Makoto Araki in front of the cage and System Tech Dave Calandre behind him.

There is a simple answer, he says. "You go out there and do a good job. You work hard for people, and if you're successful the work will keep coming." Moving up the ladder to larger tours and larger venues is definitely more risky. "That's part of the challenge, part of the fun, but the stakes are much higher. You blow those gigs once and you don't get another shot."

Not that it was any easier starting out. But through hard work and being in the right place at the right time, Dean and Doughty have steadily built the company, even if, at times, it seemed almost by accident. Doughty originally moved to L.A. to pursue a career as a musician, recalls Dean, who was promoting gigs at the time in their hometown of Sacramento. "I tagged along. We had no game plan. When we first started, we had a Soundcraft Series 2, a handful of microphones and two matching amps – (Crown) DC150s – plus a PSA2, an AB, a Hill, mic stands and the cables were in milk crates. Everything was plugged in with banana plugs – there wasn't a multi-connector.

"Our first year, we were doing Ricky Rachtman's Cat House, Dale Gloria's Scream, Water The Bush, and the Rhyme Syndicate, which led to more work with Ice-T. We did the Lethal Weapon video, English Acid – the opportunities kept rolling in. We got our first Christian account. All of a sudden we did $97,000-worth of business."


Finshed result: Industrial Sound-supplied system in the round at the Forum.

The exploding music scene in Los Angeles between 1990 and 1995 meant that the work kept pouring in, and the company grew. The pair was also sensible enough to recognize their limitations. "We did not have the means to design and build our own system, like Rat or Showco did in the early days. We didn't have the resources to do the market research and the product development.

At that time the EAW KF850 was the biggest in-demand box out there. We bought our first bunch and toured with KMFDM, and it was stellar. KMFDM was our first touring account with gear, and that's been a 10-year relationship.

 

"Out of KMFDM came other opportunities: Bauhaus, Peter Murphy, Methods of Mayhem, Filter, Love and Rockets, Rammstein in 1999, the fall 2000 Moby tour, Bad Religion, Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Tool. The Lords of Acid was another tour."

Technology is fun and cool, but it's a means to the end, according to Dean. "My responsibility and loyalty is to the artist. How many sound companies would take a Mackie d8B out as their primary front of house desk?" he asks, regarding the recent Peter Murphy tour. "But I was doing a small tour and knew that was the only way that I could accommodate what the artist wanted. I was using 60 channels: 16 effects returns, 24 from the band and 20 channels of ambient tracks, percussion loops and other stuff. I could not have done the gig with an analog board."


Putting together the rig for the Sprite Liquid Mix tour in fall of 2002.

He continues, "Isn't that the goal, to be as successful as we can be with the tools that we have so that the artist is as comfortable as they can be? If those conditions exist, that artist is going to do a great performance for a crowd that's paying to be there."

With the addition of the MONARC system, Industrial Sound has another tool to help meet the needs of their clients. "We put it on the Vans Warped Tour, the Sprite Liquid Mix Tour, on King Crimson, local one-off festivals, and church events." Dean finishes. "I've done gigs at the Great Western Forum [in Los Angeles], 360 degrees in the round, with four stereo zones. What I'm looking forward to now are the opportunities that stepping into that kind of product opens you up to.

In addition to serving as LSI's Broadcast Sound Editor, Steve Harvey covers all aspects of the audio business. He can be reached at sharvey@livesoundint.com

February 2003 Live Sound International

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