Interview: Tony Andrews of Funktion One
Tony Andrews, co-founder of loudspeaker system manufacturer and designer
The sound systems designed by Andrews and his team were used at Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage since the festival’s inception in 1971 and for many years after.
Since 1992, Funktion One designs the Experimental Soundfield at Glasto, since 2016 in the festival’s Glade Arena. The company also provided the sound for 350,000 people who attended the historic Berlin Wall Concert by Roger Waters in 1990.
What made you want to get involved in live audio, and when was that?
I loved music and audio and I had just started experimenting with loudspeakers.
This was in 1968 when the touring industry was in its infancy.
Do you remember the first concert you went to as a private individual, and also when you first got involved professionally, supplying the audio?
There was a blues club in Brighton called Jimmies where I saw bands like Free, Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation and Chicken Shack. The first bands I worked with professionally were Pete Brown’s Piblokto in 1968 and Pink Fairies and Hawkwind in 1969.
What are some major changes in the audio business since you’ve started?
In the beginning, it was all about musicianship and building a sound system to get the artistry across to the people.
There was a pioneering spirit and a quest for excellence, which these days has become institutionalized.
Also, the emphasis has moved away from the music and sound to the visuals. Last year we asked about repositioning a lighting rig, which was obscuring the loudspeakers and affecting the sound.
We had a production manager tell us that “We can’t have the sound compromising the show” – unbelievable! These changes have made no difference to the way we work; we always fight to get the best possible audio experience for the audience.
What makes your systems unique?
Most of the time our systems are horn-loaded, not just for the greater efficiency but also for the excitement of their transient response. Our horn-loaded bass is particularly dynamic and musical compared with the industry standard, one-note bass reflex designs.
We learnt, a long time ago, how to replace the ugly sounding compression drivers with cleaner-sounding paper cone drivers for midrange. We also pay a great deal of attention to getting our components to be naturally flat because this is sonically far superior than trying to correct frequency response with masses of on-board EQ.
What’s your latest sonic innovation?
I guess I’d have to say the F132 horn-loaded sub bass, which is giving us transient bass notes right down to 24Hz.
When did you become involved with Glastonbury?
Johannes Kraemer – Funktion One
This is a long story starting in 1971 when one of my first systems was used at the Pyramid Stage. When we persuaded [Glastonbury founder] Michael Eavis to carry on with the festival again in 1979, we used the Festival system and then Turbosound TMS-3s and then the Flashlight system right up until the late ’90s.
These days, for political reasons, we don’t do so many stages.
What’s the biggest setup you do each year?
We do the Carl Cox Arena at Ultra Miami, which is 15,000 people.
Do you also supply audio for concerts?
Yes we do but this is really a question for our network of distributors.
With Vero and the Evo Touring Range, we have what we believe to be the highest-performing loudspeaker technology available for concerts, tours and festivals.
Can your system be found permanently installed in venues? Which ones?
Yes it certainly can. I’m pleased to say it’s a long list around the world including the historic
Where do you want to take your business?
I would like the unique clarity of sound that we have developed to continue to be present in all markets. We’ll continually push for audio to be the primary consideration, or at least have equal status to the other technological entities, in whatever type of environment we’re addressing; be it concert, festival, nightclub, theatre, sports venue or bar/restaurant.