Company (or Freelance):
Freelance on Rising Storm, but started at Travelers Tales as a Junior Sound Designer on the 9th of July (woop!!)
Did you attend school for an audio-related degree? If so, what school and degree?
School: Leeds Metropolitan University
Degree: BSc in Music Technology
Post-Grad: MSc in Sound and Music For Interactive Games (Two thirds of the way through. Studying under Richard Stevens & Dave Raybould).
What inspired you to work with sound?
Hard to say, the initial flame was started by Rage Against The Machine and a passion for learning the drums. Much has changed since then… Although I do still love RATM and playing the drums!!
How old were you when you found out sound is what you wanted to do for a living?
At 15 I wanted to be a session drummer then from 18-21 I wanted to get into music production but lacked the extra spark of enthusiasm required to get anywhere with it. In the final year of my BSc I studied a module called interactive audio. Suddenly two passions collided (games and sound) and I realized what I needed to do (kind of like when yoda lifts the x-wing out of the swamp and Luke realizes the power of the one ring and is all like, “holy crapola batman we need to find the pieces of the triforce before dr eggman destroys Aldaaran!”). Before this I’d never thought about combining the two (maybe I’m a bit realizationally slow, is that a word, probably not… it should be). All I know is that I’ve found what makes me tick, and I am, by some miraculous debacle, going to be paid for making silly noises.
Was a school degree the first thing on your mind, or do everything self-taught?
College course/Degree was the first steps and gave me a good grounding in audio. My MSc has taught me to teach myself. In some ways this is proving even more important than my previous 5 years studying Music Technology.
What is your specialty/preference of the sound fields (sound design, music, recording, audio programming, implementation, etc)? What do you like most about it?
It changes daily, one day I’ll really enjoy doing foley work for a linear cutscene and the next I’ll be enjoying a good head scratch-a-thon (I don’t have nits) trying to figure out how to make the audio awesome within a given set of restrictions.
What kind of projects did you have in your classes?
BSc was a bit of everything, the degree gave me knowledge from calculating the RT60 of a church (painful!) to sound engineering to sound design to music composition to…. yeah a lot of stuff, all of which is completely invaluable to me and I’m always surprised how tidbits of this knowledge come in handy when I least expect it!
Were your teachers audio professionals? Anybody the audience would know?
Yes, RS and DR, are at the top of their game when it comes to teaching interactive audio. Check out their book – The Game Audio Tutorial! Oh and somebody who wasn’t my teacher but taught me loads about sound design (so in essence was my teacher, just not paid to do it) is Andy Quinn (studied the same masters as me, now works at Splash Damage). The feedback he gave me on my portfolio stuff was incredible.
Did you do any side projects during school? If so, what were they like?
For my BSc my only side project was playing too many computer games. I really only gained the passion to push myself outside of studies since starting my Masters. Rising Storm has been running alongside my MSc and when it is released I’m sure its going to do pretty well!!
How many of your side projects were published? Any of them turn profitable?
Rising Storm will be published at some point in the future.
How large was your graduating class? Were you all close?
BSc – LARGE but had a very close group of friends within it. MSc teeny, friends with people not just from my class but also from the music production side of the LMU MSc program.
How often do you work with your old classmates today?
Not often, but I’d love to!
Any old classmates you want to mention? The more the merrier with the audio community!
Matt Waring – Max/MSP Guru. Naila Burney – Sound designer of awesomeness!
Do you feel more prepared for the sound industry than if you had not graduated from your program?
BSc – Yes. MSc – Megayes! (Megayes… that could be a great megadeth coverband)
Do you have a website for your portfolio? How often do you blog on it?
stefanrutherford.tumblr.com I try and get at least one post up a month.
Do you use social networking? How often, and what communities?
Twitter FTW Although I’m attempting to become part of the real world a little more (scary stuff), internets is great but I want to actually meet all of the awesome people I talk to online!
Any last words for future audio guys looking to carve their education and career paths?
I’m not exactly a strong model for how to get into game sound but I’ll impart something of moderate usefulness: Find a degree which exposes you to a wide variety of audio related things and make sure the teaching team is well rounded, if you are interested in an audio related avenue of some kind you should be able to find somebody in the department who knows the subject well! (unless of course you are interested in becoming a foley artist for porn, there’s probably specialist courses for that). Other than this just be easy going, work iteratively, gobble up criticism from your peers as much as possible (omnomnomnom), and make a badass showreel. If you’d like to pick my brains feel free to email me at email@example.com
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.
This was a really good read for me. I’ve just completed the same Music Technology degree and went down the path of Interactive Audio for my final project. I’ve spoken to Stefan on twitter and can directly relate to much of this article (I drum too!). I have nothing but respect for him and am inspired by his journey so far. I wish him nothing but the best for the future.
That’s very kind of you to say Alex! I wish you the best of luck with the future too!