Fraser T Smith, award-winning producer for the likes of Stormzy, Dave, Adele, Kano, Craig David, Adele and many others, recently gave a special one-off performance of his debut record 12 Questions live with d&b audiotechnik’s immersive Soundscape technology at its core.
Released in 2020 under the project name Future Utopia, 12 Questions marked Smith’s first ever solo outing, as he explored a dozen ‘Big Questions’ and collaborated with a star-studded, eclectic line-up of talent, including poets (Alysia Nicole Harris, Simon Armitage), rappers (Stormzy, Dave, Kano, Tia Carys), established and emerging singers (Bastille’s Dan Smith, Duckwrth), artist Es Devlin, activist Albert Woodfox, actor Idris Elba and numerous others.
The album was recently given its first live outing at Bold Tendencies in Peckham, South London. Reworked for a live setting and delivered via a d&b Soundscape system, the show saw Smith playing live synths and electric bass, with contributions from guest artists. However, according to Smith, it was never his intention to take the record on the road.
“12 Questions was definitely conceived as a studio project, with no plans to take it live,” he stated. “But then things developed and Es Devlin, who has an involvement with Bold Tendencies, was instrumental in getting the ball rolling for these two live performances. I was really excited about that prospect, but it definitely posed some challenges. Given the number of amazing collaborators I was privileged enough to have on the record, I needed to think about how to deliver a live show without making demands on everyone’s schedules. So I re-imagined the tracks - essentially re-mixing them for live - and that way I can bring artists in if they’re available.”
Due to the unconventional nature of the project, Smith knew that the show would require something more than a traditional loudspeaker system.
“There’s a lot going on with the tracks and I knew from the start that I wanted to give the live audience an immersive audio experience,” he continued. “The possibilities of really widening the sound stage and creating a cinematic performance was what appealed. I was introduced to d&b and Soundscape by Charles (Bidwell, Future Utopia FOH engineer) who has a long history with d&b. He arranged for a couple of demo days in Nailsworth and as soon as I heard what Soundscape would allow us to do, I knew it was going to deliver what I wanted. It really blew my mind how much control we could have over the placement of elements of the mix and how creative we could be.