Elated at Pacha, Ibiza, Noiseboy likes the DJ booth locale: I want to be part of the party, in the crowd.

Tales of an aural globetrotter.
By John Landers

Hobnobbing with Maria Sharapova, rewiring superclub sound systems, eluding armed guards, and escaping from Croatia in a private jet are all in a day’s work for international soundman of mystery Noiseboy.

Noiseboy, a.k.a. Michael Roche, is a freelance tour manager, sound guy and general problem-solver for superstar DJs. This globe-trotting dance music jack-of-all-trades has worked with A-list talents like Danny Tenaglia, Joe Clausell, Francois K, Danny Krivit, Danny Howells, Sander Kleinenberg, Victor Calderone, Paul van Dyk and Sasha, as well as premier clubs such as crobar, Ministry of Sound, Pacha, Space, Spirit, Zouk, Cream and Home. Whenever you see him lurking in the DJ booth, you know you’re getting the best sound that a club has to offer.

Although Roche got his start as a theatrical sound engineer with Glimmerglass Opera, Hartford Stage, New York Shakespeare Festival’s Public Theatre and Shakespeare in Central Park, his passion for dance music eventually lured him to the New York underground club scene. After working in New York haunts like Filter 14, Arc and a series of other gotham venues, Roche went international when he became tour manager for Erick Morillo’s Subliminal Sessions in March 2003.

Currently, Roche is serving as project manager for Deep Dish, taking charge of the duo’s tour dates all over the world. Tracking him down for an interview proved to be something of a challenge. Due to the limitations of both cellular service and internet access in Ibiza (his temporary base of operations), the following conversation was actually conducted via MySpace messaging.

What’s the difference between a tour manager and a project manager?
It’s a co-title I share with my partner-in-crime, Sarah Varley, truth be told. This basically means that everything goes through me for this party. Usually, I just tour manage: sound check, get the guys to and from, make sure it sounds good and everyone is drunk, and catch the next plane out. This time, I’m handling every aspect of the party on the island: merchandising, decór, promotion, budget, transport, DJ schedule, et cetera. It’s a lot more bullshitting with the Pacha staff; bitching, moaning and generally whining until we get our way or some sort of suitable compromise can be sussed out. It’s a job that suits me pretty well, actually.

So, how did you get started on your unique career path?
I was trained as a theatrical sound engineer. A couple of my friends were house music DJs as I aspired to be. I used to be a radio DJ and do parties here and there, but nothing the continual mixes my friends did. Whenever I’d go to their gigs, I always wanted to make sure it sounded right. I was obsessed with making the systems at these shitty lounges sound as best as they possibly could. Some lounges let me at the amp racks and the EQs, and I’d tweak the system throughout the night as the crowd ebbed and flowed.

What about your day job?
I got sick of working theater. I wanted to work at Twilo, as it was the most amazing system I’d heard. The clarity was just incredible. I got jobs working at a few lounges because I knew how to add specific pieces of equipment to round out the sound and I knew how to work within a budget.

Eventually, I was hired at Filter 14, and Tommy Frayne, the owner, let me change the entire system there, which ended up bringing in premier DJs. Then, I was hired at arc [New York] as the sound engineer and it kept building from there.


Noiseboy (left) does a regular guy pose with (from left) Behrouz, Sharam (Deep Dish), Danny Howells, Sander Kleinenberg, Dubfire (Deep Dish) and Cedric Gervais.

What do you like most about your work?
I’d be stupid not to mention the ability to travel the world, meeting thousands of people and working on some of the most amazing club systems, but I think what really affects me the most is how everyone in the world is so similar, how everyone needs to have an outlet, to let loose, to experience joy and to enjoy music. I have to remind myself that there will be at least one person at every party who is having the time of their lives. I love being a part of that.

What’s a typical day like for you?
Wake up. Shower. Call the DJ or DJs and wake them up. Wait for our airport pickup. Load the car. Get the DJs in the car. Go to the airport. Check in. Get some food. Get to the plane. Take a nap. Go to the hotel. Drop off the DJs. Go to the club for sound check (all sound checks are set up in advance equipment-wise through tech riders) test the DJ console. Test the DJ monitors. Test the main system. Set up dinner. Set up club pickup. Back to the hotel. Shower. Change. Dinner. Straight to the club. Play ‘til close. Back to the hotel. Set up wake up calls. Set up car to the airport. Repeat. (This is very simplified.)

Certain mixers, turntables, and CD decks may sound great, but they aren’t always reliable in a harsh nightclub environment. Which specific pieces of equipment have earned your trust?
Gear I can always count on: The Rane 2016 XP [compressor/limiter] has always been reliable, and the Pioneer DJM-600 [mixer] is a workhorse and will work when all else fails. I love the new DJM-800, though.

What sorts of problems do you encounter at various clubs?
Clarity, or lack thereof. Not enough power. I was always taught to overpower a room. You don’t have to run the amps at full; you rarely have to run the system at full and the clarity comes through. Of course, there’s a lot more involved, but it’s a different way of approaching a system. Also, DJ booth placement. Why would you want to be on a mezzanine or on a 2nd floor? I want to be a part of the party, in the crowd. Of course, it depends on the venue. And people who don’t know how to use a compressor/limiter properly.

Are most clubs investing in better sound systems?
Not many are, to tell you the truth. It takes money and time to work this stuff out, and when you can find those places, you try to work with them more often, because those are the people with a vision. Places like Space in Miami, Space in Ibiza, Cocoon in Germany and Home in Australia take pride in the quality. Places like that are a joy to work with.

Which makes life more difficult: shady people or substandard equipment?
Shady people make things far more difficult. You can’t believe anything they say when it comes to the system, the crowd, payment, recording, et cetera. If I can’t trust the person in charge, I have to do it all myself, and I don’t mind being an asshole about it.

Worst moment(s) on the job? Having one of my DJ’s UDG bags of two CD books stolen in the lobby of a hotel in Madrid. I actually have the security video of the two minutes I took my eye off the bag, and I saw the woman who grabbed the bag and walked out like nothing happened. I was aghast. I felt so responsible for that one.

What can you tell us about that infamous gig with Erick Morillo and Tommy Lee in Croatia?
That was one of the top five weirdest gigs Ive ever worked. The show had already started and I had to install three EQ filters, an effects unit, and a FireWire router/laptop configuration to the mixer whilst the opening DJ was mixing. Fifteen minutes later (thankyouverymuch), I returned to the backstage area to find Erick and Tommy feasting on roast duck with black truffles, sipping on champagne, and having an impromptu discussion with John McEnroe. I ushered the boys onto the stage, where they were astounded to find a banquet in progress. With 50 or 60 tables seating ten heads a piece, complete with appropriate floral arrangements and busboys waiting nearby wearing red vests and clip-on bow-ties, it was a bar mitzvah to the nth degree. People were still finishing their fruit cocktails while Erick dropped his first track. But, like the consummate professionals they are, Erick and Tommy went on to perform. Erick would DJ, remixing and creating new tracks using the filters and EFX, while Tommy would add percussion and use his Artillery program on his laptop to add some spice. Without a dancefloor or general area for people to crowd and, well, dance, we became dinner theatre. Nonetheless, Tommy played along with Ericks beats for four or five songs. At times, Erick would cut out the music entirely, leaving Tommy to carry the beat into the next song as Erick mixed back in. The interchange between these two has always been great, and Erick knows how to mix rock n roll in with house music to great effect.

Any advice for club operators who want to book your favorite superstar DJs?
Pay on time (uncommon concept, no?), pay attention to tech riders and be willing to work with the agents and artists. Its amazing what can be accomplished when everyone works together towards a common goal.

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Copyright 2006 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2006 TESTA Communications