This fall, singer/songwriter Lorde is wrapping up a successful year (over a million albums sold worldwide, a Song of the Year Grammy Award for “Royals” ) by touring the U.S., then heading back home to New Zealand for a string of hometown shows. Out on the road with the 17-year-old artist is 1997 Recording Arts grad Marcel Cacdac, who works as the singer’s Monitor Engineer.
“I look after the artist’s monitoring situation – in-ear monitors, floor monitors, wedges on the stage,” says Marcel. “I’m responsible for designing the monitor system based on the needs of the artist, then my monitor technician and I are the team that puts together the whole stage; everything from the consoles to the stage system to the speakers and microphones. Anything audio, basically.”
During Lorde’s live performance, Marcel mans the console on the side of the stage and mixes music live in her in-ear monitor. Earlier this year, he worked with her during tour rehearsals to nail down a mix for each song, so he’s got a base mix ready to go for every track. Lorde’s stage set-up is simple – it’s just her, a keyboard player, and a drummer – but other effects make the singer’s set appealing.
“There wasn’t much production in the spring tour, but for this fall tour she designed a few more elements; things that fly in, video screens, bubble machines, fog machines. There’s a lot of stuff happening,” says Marcel. “It’s a pretty good show. I think she has a lot of creative input; she’s working with designers to make it happen and she’s got a really good crew behind her.”
Marcel has been on the road for more than a decade, working with artists like The Decemberists, The Flaming Lips, Atoms for Peace, MGMT, and Of Monsters and Men. He was also the co-owner of reFRACTion, a Bay-area based audio/lighting design company that worked with clients like the San Francisco International Film Festival and alternative rock band The Breeders. The company recently merged with another lighting firm in the San Francisco area after more than 14 years in business.
“Merging with [San Francisco’s Got Light] was good for us. I hadn’t been spending much time at home and wasn’t able to focus on what reFRACTion was doing,” says Marcel. “It was pretty hard to do a show and get on the bus at two in the morning and bang out a quote or talk to clients in different time zones. It was nice to be able to kind of let go of something that had become difficult to maintain while I was touring.”
Marcel, who will be looking for another tour to join after Lorde’s run ends at the end of this year, lands many of his gigs via word of mouth, and he believes there comes a point in a live production career where your resumé becomes a formality and your attitude is what’s most important.
“When you get to a certain level, almost everybody can do the same job,” says Marcel, “but it’s really about the actual personality of the person and the way that they fit into a scene. If you’re not a good hang, then people aren’t going to hire you. Once the resumé becomes a formality, it’s all about relationships. You never know if that guy doing catering or selling merch will be the one who’s hiring next time. I’ve seen it happen a lot. So you’ve got to be nice to everybody. Don’t burn any bridges.”
Ultimately, putting yourself out there, getting along well with people, and having a passion for being on the road are some of the keys that have helped Marcel find success in live production.
“I love being part of a big production and being able to translate an artist’s vision to people,” says Marcel. “You become a family on the road and you all really have to depend on each other. Just being part of that and knowing at the end of the day, no matter how hard we worked, that we pulled off a show is great.”