Thomas James Slater’s Website | TJ on Twitter
BIOGRAPHY IN FIVES
1) Please describe five things about yourself that help frame your journey into sound design.
- It may be a fairly circuitous route, but like many other sound designers, I started as a musician.
- When I was an undergraduate, I was a music composition major. However, in my last 2 years of study, I started veering away from writing functional harmony for normal instruments and starting delving into electronic music (like Paul Lansky, Karlheinz Stockhausen, et al.)
- When I went into graduate school, my focus was scoring for film & multimedia. To my composition teacher’s dismay, I became less interested in doing solely the music, but rather the entire soundscape for the films I worked. I ended up doing everything, from foley to VO to orchestration. Perhaps I had OCD when it came to audio, I couldn’t just have music – I had to have everything filled in.
- I began drifting more and more away from music to eventually just doing sound design. It was easier to get gigs in sound as well, and it seemed like everyone I knew just wanted to do film music. Since they knew I respected the music part, they’d refer me to be the final mixer.
- I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of going into films, I had merely been directed that way. My teachers would tell me “Go to hollywood and you’ll be fine”. The thought of going into video games hit me when I was passing my time playing Civilization in my apartment in Queens one cold October day, my teachers didn’t like that decision much.
2) Five words to summarize that journey are…
1. oblique 2. piquant 3. epiphanic 4. whimsical 5. autodidactic
3) Five sounds that represent that journey are…
- Home life: Coal tits in the woodland
- beginning the journey: Obviously an Electrical flange whoosh with zaps and reverb
- college time: Light restaurant, lunch, dishes, ambience
- Lots of things happen: A space ship traveling at high speed, with objects flying by
- The entrance into games: Definitely a Large opera house audience applause
HABITS IN FOURS
1) What four elements need to be in place in order for you to be productive?
- Game assets
- Game design
- Support code
2) In an ideal work flow, what would you like to accomplish in four hours?
On my current title, doing all the sounds for a single multi-attack weapon. This includes standard attacks, any critical attack, complicated attacks, and their respective impact sounds. Then I would implement all of it.
3) If you had four hours to listen to music/sound design, what would you choose?
Götterdamerung; Wall-E. They’re both incredible works of art in every aspect, yet worlds apart.
LIFE LESSONS IN THREES
1) What three sound design lessons could your younger self learn from your present self?
- Much like orchestration, layer your sounds. If you just have one layer, and it’s not a footstep, you’re probably doing it wrong.
- no, you don’t have to make your ambient loops super long
- if you make all your sfx bassy, you’re gonna have a bad time
2) What three library sounds have become cliched for you?
- ElectricitySpark 6039_* these electrical-ish sounds that I’ve been hearing forever
- howie scream
- generic phone ring, I think this one’s gone by the wayside because mobile phones have become more pervasive and old rotary phones are long gone
3) What three foods or beverages lead to great sound design work?
- I drink directly from a 2 liter pitcher, anything smaller is inefficient! It is my mug.
- I make a wonderful blend of terrible coffee, milo, and powdered non-dairy creamer in the company pantry in the morning. Sometimes people leave candy out, I will include that in my concoction.
- soup & salad combo for lunch
TOOLS OF THE TRADE IN TWOS
1) What two sound design tools do you use on a consistent basis?
2) You have a choice of two hardware devices – what would they be?
Give me a Kyma and Zoom H4n, then we can have a magical time!
3) Record two of your favorite sounds that you can make using only your mouth/voice and describe them.
Mouth Sound 1 – the radio adjustment whistle
Mouth Sound 2 – the awooga horn
SECRET WISHES IN ONES
1) If you could collaborate with any person on a single creative project, with whom would it be and what would be your project?
I devised a wing chun kung fu strategy game, and I bet my friend – game designer and programmer Ariel Gauthier could help me out with balancing the design and coding.
2) What outstanding quality would that project have?
It would be like paper rock scissors, only wing chun block/attacks and in rapid succession. It could also be used with the Kinect, so you could learn Wing Chun *while* playing a sweet kung fu game.
3) If you had one opportunity to present it, how would you choose to do so?
On a huge screen, in an arena, likely with wing chun masters to demonstrate its awesomeness. There would have to be colored lights, some strobe lights synced to dubstep and the kung fu moves, and free t-shirts.
I could come on stage and shoot the t-shirts out of a cannon at the audience – like they did in the 80s – and then proceed to get defeated by the evil kung fu master at my own game. Then the good kung fu master could fly down from the rafters and defeat the evil kung fu master. Once the applause would fade out, I could talk about all the cool details in the game while audience members are chosen at random to try it out live.
About the 3×5 Interview
The “3×5” is a non-traditional interview series that encourages creative and personal responses from its participants. While the core structure remains intact, I occasionally update the sets of questions to keep interviewees and readers engaged. Although the resultant replies of the participating audiophiles may be informative or instructive, my hope is that the interview will encourage conversation and a sense of camaraderie within the sound design community.
Great interview, and cool mouth sounds. Can’t wait to hear some sounds from the game you’ve been working on!