Interview Steve Dennis | Lead FOH

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Steve is the lead FOH guy at Greenwood Christian Church, a friend, and the guy who recently welcomed me to join his audio production team.  He has a wonderful servant’s heart and he works great under pressure.  He also has a wealth of knowledge and yet still is open to learning more about his craft and getting opinions from others.  Just the other day, we were both mixing on the same mixer at the same time…during a worship band practice, NOT during the service.

Q: How long have you been mixing FOH and how did you start?
A: Off and on for about 20 years. I grew up watching my father mix sound for church services. After I got out of college I did some mixing, but it was fairly basic stuff (vocal and tracks). Then, I quit for a few years after changing churches and got involved again when I started attending my current church.

Q: Everyone has a war story as it relates to running sound. What is your story?
A: It isn’t exactly my story. I’ve been lucky to not have any major catastrophes. I was heading up the sound team and one of the other guys was running on a Saturday night. We had just recently transitioned from electronic to acoustic drums. I think the operator was just being a little too aggressive with EQ and possibly gains because we kept getting feedback throughout the service. Eventually during the closing song the feedback went crazy and the operator had just thrown up their hands. I ended up jumping over a couple of seats and into the tech area, pulled all the levels down and ended up just doing a rough mix on the fly. It wasn’t a big deal for me, but I felt horrible for the volunteer and the musicians on stage.

Q: What is the biggest problem you have ever faced running sound during a service? How did you overcome it?
A: Like I explained above, I haven’t really had any major issues. Probably the biggest problem is just dealing with people. You can either have a demanding musician on stage who wants it done their way or else. You just have to take a step back and not react right away. I try my very best to work with the people on stage and earn their trust and also to react in a Christ-like way.

Q: What’s the best part of your job?
A: That there is a purpose behind what we do. I think that all of us who run sound dream of going on tour with a band. But what we do each week hopefully has a positive impact on people’s lives. It is so important to never forget that. It is extremely easy to get caught up in the technical aspect of what we do and lose sight of our ultimate goal, to facilitate worship and win people for Christ.

Q: What’s the best tip you could give a new sound tech?
A: Two related items, don’t panic and learn from your mistakes. Just recently I have started using scenes on my digital board to give myself a mixing baseline for each of the songs. During a service I got distracted and had too much going on. I went to the next scene too soon. Unfortunately there was a video playing and my gains and EQ were not the same in this scene for the video channel. I panicked and tried to adjust the gain right on the fly which sounded horrible and I also initially altered the wrong channel! After looking back at the problem it would have been much better to simply return to the previous scene and fade in the video. I might have missed the first second of audio, but it would have been far less distracting to the congregation

Q: You wake up in the middle of the night, starving, and head to the kitchen. Do you go for comfort food, leftovers, or make something fresh?
A: Most likely none of the above. I’m a junk food nut, so it would end up being chocolate, ice cream or potato chips. If I have to go with one of your answers, I would say leftovers.

Q: What’s the best tip you ever received about mixing for a worship service?
A: Mix so that people don’t even notice you are there. Don’t be a distraction in any way to the service and what is happening on the stage.

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