I was blessed to experience Sound Engineer Abel Ocasio’s work in action on The Aces‘ latest tour with COIN. The sound was so phenomenal, I just had to find out who ran it! I connected with Abel on Instagram via one of my favorite photographers, Liz Brown (who took the photo above). I love that we share a church background and heart for music. Abel is humble, talented, and graciously willing to share his wisdom – thanks, friend!
S&S: Take us all the way back – when and how did your interest in the music business begin? Did you ever play in a band?
Abel: I wouldn’t say music business but music in general – I grew up in church, and one day, I saw a video of Abraham Laboriel, a famous Christian bass player, doing a solo on the Ron Kenoly song “Ancient of Days.” The way he performed it made me want to do the same. I started learning how to play bass after that and started really paying attention to anything music related. Never played in a full-time band, but I was part of the worship band back then.
S&S: How did you first get involved with Sound Engineering? I see you attended Full Sail.
Abel: Growing up in church, they needed someone to help run sound, and I was put on the spot. I didn’t know anything at the time, so I started researching online and watching tutorials on different consoles. After a while, I knew this is what I wanted to study and do for a living, so I went to Full Sail and got a Bachelor of Science in Recording Arts.
S&S: Take us through a typical day for you on tour. What daily responsibilities do you have?
Abel: We usually check out of the hotel in the morning and drive to whatever city the next show is in. Once we arrive, we unload all the backline gear and take it into the venue. Once we are in, I get in contact with the venue techs to explain how our set up is and [figure out] what we need from them. After this, everything gets set up, we do about an hour sound check, then set the venue to open doors. Fifteen minutes before the show, we do a final line check to ensure everything is still working, and then we do the show. After our set, we break down, load up the truck and go to our hotel, then repeat for the rest of the tour.
S&S: What challenges have you experienced in your job? I’m wondering if different venues have different sound capabilities and how that effects what you do?
Abel: Because of the size of this tour, we depend on the PA system of the venues we go to. This means I can’t control what PA I’m gonna be having every night. Because of that every day, I have to readjust the balance of the mix for each room and PA. Some venues have invested in having a solid PA, so it makes it easier some nights. But then you have venues with PAs that are at the end of their life, and your night is not as pleasant – but it’s all part of the Sound Engineer’s role to manage this.
S&S: What are the best and most difficult aspects of being on tour?
Abel: The traveling is great. Although we don’t go to the cities to explore, we still get a glimpse of all the places we go to. For example, this is my first US/Canada tour, so I got to see almost the entirety of the US without paying a cent for travel, and that’s pretty good. At the same time, all this travel involves call times, lobby calls and pressure to be where we need to be on time – which leaves not much room for sitting down and having a good meal in a great restaurant every day. So, you always depend on a quick bite wherever you can find one in the place we are for the day.
S&S: How do you like to spend downtime on tour?
Abel: Everything is so fast paced that there isn’t really downtime, but usually if we don’t need to leave the city that night, we will go out somewhere with the crew and have a good time.
S&S: What are some of your favorite tour memories?
Abel: Listening to great music in the van and talking with Dan Avery the Tour Manager, some inside jokes with the band, and an after party we had after our show in LA.
S&S: What do you do when you’re not on the road? Does time off make you miss touring or invoke a desire to stay home?
Abel: I work at PRG in NJ when I’m not on tour. Not being on tour does make you miss it, but time off a tour and at home is always enjoyable.
S&S: What tours do you have coming up (bands/dates)?
Abel: There’s an arena tour coming up in July/August that I’ve been asked to help on, but it hasn’t been confirmed so I can’t give info on that.
S&S: What are some life lessons you’ve learned on the road?
Abel: Treat people nicely even if you’re not being treated that way, and it will come back to you.
S&S: What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a Sound Engineer?
Abel: Start somewhere – you’re not gonna get an arena tour or a studio gig in your first step. Some will, but that’s rare. So, get the internship, do the small gig, meet people, be nice, and always try to get better when you’re not being seen. It will come in handy when you get to be in front of people.
Tour Life is a new Stars and Scars featured section where we interview the “behind the scenes” rock stars on tour with bands – managers, security, instrument technicians, drivers, photographers, videographers, light and sound technicians, merchandisers, etc. Know someone who would be a great fit for Tour Life? Email firstname.lastname@example.org