The Women Who Are Behind Live Music

Karrie Keyes is a woman who knows rock ‘n’ roll. She is the monitor engineer for
 Pearl Jam, a gig she has held for over 20 years after starting out doing sound for punk 
bands in Los Angeles in 1986. She was mentored by Dave Rat of Rat Sound and worked with him to establish Rat Sound as the empire it is today. Karrie also worked as the monitor 
engineer for The Red Hot Chili Peppers 
from 1990-2000, as well as heavyweights like Sonic Youth, Fugazi, and Neil Young.
How did you first find you were interested in becoming a sound engineer?

I kinda fell into it. I had no idea I could be a sound engineer. I knew I wanted to work in music, but careers in the music industry where not presented to youth as something you could do.  I think it is still fairly unrepresented in career options offered to youth. I met the owner of Rat Sound at a Black Flag show and he showed me that you could make a living on the road with a band. I started working shows with him and learned on the job how to do sound.  I spent twenty years working at Rat Sound, and over that time started working with first Red Hot Chili Peppers 10 years and meeting Pearl Jam when they opened for RHCP.  I continued to work with RHCP until 2000 and have remained with Pearl Jam since 1991.

You’ve spent over 20 as the monitor engineer for
 Pearl Jam. How does it feel to work with one band for so long?
It feels good – we are family. It has allowed us to really focus on sound on stage – We never really start over – we just evolve.
Other bands on your resume read like my record collection, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sonic Youth, Fugazi, and Neil Young. Are there any standout moment for you across your 27-year career?
My favorite tour ever was working with Fugazi. A Great Live Band and it was all about playing live music everyday. No Frills, No Big Production, Just about the show. I mean we were playing YMCAS…It was a lot of work but there was a magic to it.
There are a lot of stand out moments – with all of the acts above – All amazing bands and musicians and great people. I have felt privileged to work with them.
You are a co-founder of soundgirls.org, which came about after an industry panel rganized by Terri Winston of the Women’s Audio Mission connected a number of women working in live and broadcast audio. The Sounds Girls website says that ‘each of us are strong on our own, but together we were even stronger and a powerful force.’ How important do you think it is that females is such a male dominated industry have a space to share, network and encourage the next generation of women in audio?
I feel it is pretty important for women to have a safe place to come and be amongst their peers. I never had that – I was out their alone. I know it has been helpful to women at all levels.  Especially for young women starting out, when they are getting ready to throw in the towel due to all of the obstacles – they can find many that have been in their shoes and find advice tips and know they are not alone.
Photo credit: here