Company (or Freelance):
Did you attend school for an audio-related degree? If so, what school and degree?
School: University of Greenwich, UK
Degree: BA Creative Music Production & Technology
What inspired you to work with sound?
When I was first getting into making music (specifically metal) as a teenager, I was fascinated by how unique bands with almost identical set-ups sound. For example, Iron Maiden’s looser hard rock tone in comparison to Metallica’s super-tight production. Later metallica albums, would compound this with all the experimentation with tone on different album tracks. I began watching documentaries on production and recording, and was fascinated with the process.
How old were you when you found out sound is what you wanted to do for a living?
I don’t think I ever made a conscious choice, I followed audio/music because it was better than finding a real job! I was just drifting through college courses, and had just started my degree when I had the chance to do work experience QA testing at Lionhead Studios in 2007. It was an amazing experience, and although none of the creative audio team were on-site that week, I had an inspiring chat with the Audio Programmer Neil Wakefield. It was through my obscure questions that he suggested I should look into sound design, something I had never even considered previously.
Was a school degree the first thing on your mind, or do everything self-taught?
I was already in the education system, but on a course that had very slight sound design content – everything was geared towards the commercial music industry – so I had to pursue my newfound interest with a lot of self directed study. I put together an awful sound-to-picture reel (thankfully removed from the internet now!) and began advertising my services on various modding and indie game development forums. The four years since then have just been one gigantic learning curve!
What is your specialty/preference of the sound fields (sound design, music, recording, audio programming, implementation, etc)? What do you like most about it?
I think I’m quite evenly spread between sound design and implementation, with a sprinkling of composition and recording. Such a spread of interests is useful as a freelancer, as I could be doing any of those things at the drop of a hat. In terms of game audio, all these disciplines of audio are so intrinsically connected, its difficult to untangle them.
As to what I enjoy most? Being able to let my imagination run free, and applying my creative muscles to problems like ‘What would an exploding planet sound like, if that explosion was used to power a rocket booster to propel that planet?’. Then taking those discrete files created, implementing them into a project, and bringing those visual elements to life.
What sound tools did you learn in your school curriculum?
We were quite heavily focused on Logic Studio, Cubase and Reason for day-to-day lessons, with Pro Tools for studio recording. We had Audacity for audio editing, and in the final year we used Max/MSP for patch building, which was the closest thing to game audio in terms of thought processes that my course got.
What kind of projects did you have in your classes?
We had remixes, music notation, mashups and recording projects regularly. Our final recording project involved choosing a local artist, recording and releasing a single, complete with music video. Other projects I enjoyed included building a Max/MSP based interactive installation (using a gamepad interface, with stems of a mix assigned to the face buttons, pitch to the triggers and effects on the d-pad), and a surround sound installation piece using acousmatic abstraction principles.
Were your teachers audio professionals? Anybody the audience would know?
All my tutors were practicing audio professionals, with a lot of real-world knowledge to offer. In particular, record producer John Gallen, and electronic music artist Eryk Orpheus.
Did you do any side projects during school? If so, what were they like?
My side projects were my forays into game audio and sound design, it was here that I taught myself about implementation tools and concepts. My first project was made using the XNA dev kit for Xbox 360 indie games; it was a pretty basic side scrolling shooter, but I learned many, many lessons from all 20 sound effects i made for it!
How many of your side projects were published? Any of them turn profitable?
I had around 5 games released on the Xbox indies store, and the Apple App Store before I graduated. A couple of them did reasonably well, but no runaway successes.
How large was your graduating class? Were you all close?
There were about 20 of us graduating, we were quite a close group, and we’ve stayed in touch for the most part.
How often do you work with your old classmates today?
Very rarely, in fact the only time I worked with a classmate was with Lu Caplin (aka Soundmouse), who provided the voiceover for the reveal trailer for ‘Min: A Space Adventure’. I am still in contact with many of them though.
Do you feel more prepared for the sound industry than if you had not graduated from your program?
My degree definitely helped me prepare for the professional world, and it certainly widened my options and range of knowledge on audio production. I wouldn’t have made it this far without the advice and guidance of my fantastic tutors.
Do you have a website for your portfolio? How often do you blog on it?
My website ( www.stomp224.co.uk ) serves as my portfolio, I try to update it once a month with my recent activity. I’m currently trying to find time to update my showreel examples!
Do you use social networking? How often, and what communities?
I am a huge fan of Twitter, it has been a great source of information and opportunities. I’m on it pretty much constantly! I’ve met some great people via that network, and the #gameaudio hashtag is a great, bat-signal like method for getting quick responses on issues you may face!
Any last words for future audio guys looking to carve their education and career paths?
The best advice is really to get out there, and get involved. As fantastic a groundwork as my degree was, I only truly began learning when I jumped in with both feet. Getting real-world experience under your belt with indie game devs, indie filmmakers, animators, etc, and networking with fellow audio/industry professionals is vital.
About Sonic Backgrounds
The sound industry is an ever growing field, ranging from linear sound design in film and TV, to interactive audio in games, and from live theatrical sound design to field recording for the creation of custom libraries. It is only recently however, that school programs have begun to offer degrees in the sound-specific variety. Graduates of these new programs are now coming into the industry, and it provokes the interesting question of how these new, specific programs are preparing individuals for the sound world, as opposed to the older approaches of entry, such as pure passion, musical talent, a film degree, or a computer science degree.
“Sonic Backgrounds” is an interview series focused on interviewing recent graduates of these educational sound programs around the globe, to see what exactly they are providing, and how they are shaping the new “academic”-based sound artist.