The Art of Sound
A Profile of the Best Sound Man in Arkansas
by Jim G. Miller
Jake Williams has been doing sound for four years as of this month at Maxine’s a live music venue, a former brothel located at 700 Central Avenue. When I say that he has been doing sound, I mean that he is the sound man. When I say that he is the sound man, I mean that he is a sound god who wields a mighty, holy hand over the sound board and like Jesus of Nazareth, he is kind to any and all who grace the stage. “I like doing sound for even terrible bands or bands that I don’t particularly care for,” says Williams “The way I see it, I’m not going to let anything get in the way of making you sound as awesome as possible.”
It is fair to say that Maxine’s has arguably been established as the best place for touring bands to play in Arkansas, and the venue owners and the people employed by them have worked extremely hard to make it what it is today. “Before I ever even worked at Maxine’s it was like a second home for me, I’d played there a lot in a band that I was in called Attractive and Popular,” says Williams. “There are acts and musicians in Hot Springs and throughout Arkansas that give me faith in the music scene here, and I have seen a lot of progress just in the past five or six years.”
The sound man makes or breaks the atmosphere and overall feel of your typical music venue. It takes more than expensive speakers and a sound board to have a good music venue, and Jake has brought that and more. Doing sound for 1200+ bands for four years, Jake started off playing guitar and singing as a front man in a band when he was fifteen. “I think my career has gone backwards compared to most,” laughs Williams as he ruminates on his early musical career that ranges from playing guitar and singing to playing bass and then eventually acting as support for bands on stage.
“I record bands at Wolfman Studios in Little Rock, and I used to do sound at Vino’s, so I know about sound, and Jake’s the best there is around,” says Jason Tedford while loading his gear into the van after his band “The See” had finished playing a gig at Maxine’s.
It is a lonely feeling not to have the sound man on your side, especially if you are a solo artist or musician in a new or foreign place. Good communication and a healthy connection between the support team and the band promotes confidence in the musicians and makes the whole experience worthwhile for both the artists and the people in the seats.
“There is no greater feeling than to be doing sound for an artist that you appreciate when the audience is six people deep in front of the stage and everything is hitting and sounding right,” says Williams. Truly a master at his craft, it’s the passion and the carefulness that he has tactfully applied that has helped to lift up the spirits of traveling artists and their audiences.
It is more than just doing sound, but there is a relationship that is built between the person doing sound and the band. “I don’t just do sound, I act as a liaison to the musicians,” says Williams. You can be a master sound engineer behind the board, but if you don’t have people skills, you are going to be a pathetic sound man for your venue. They are most often the first line of communication when bands step out of the van to unload gear and set up on stage to do the sound check.
“He is more than a good soundman. He is a compassionate musician who works with the artists and the room to produce perfection. He cares about what he does without being that snarky sound guy we all know. Jake is funny. He is the man who commands the faders to make my band seem rehearsed,” crooned Adam Faucett who has played on several occasions at Maxine’s.
“All of my passions just collided here with music and engineering: taking shit apart and putting it back together, checking out new gear that bands bring in. I love it, and I’m happy to be here for it. I’d rather it be me here at Maxines than anyone else,” says Williams with a big, cheesy grin.