What's your typical work process?
Firstly, I run a full virus check on my laptop while defrag-ing it. Then I disconnect from the internet, open up the task manager and close any processes I am not using. Then I load up Pro Tools. The next step depends on what kind of mood, feelings, visuals I am trying to convey in my music. Sometimes, after deciding on a time signature, I programme a minimalist drum beat through Redrum in Reason 5.0 and layer extra drums as I see fit. Occasionally the timings will vary and so I cut them up, and edit them accordingly. That depends on actions (sic) or mannerisms of characters, camera shots, moods, and other things. Quite often these initial drum programmings simply serve as a click track type guide for what is usually where the main instrumentations come into play. There are times when the initial drum track will be deleted after having guided other instruments rhythmically. If these drums and/or percussions are a main focus, musically, of what I'm trying to convey/express, I'd probably layer more drums and/or percussions, mixing them in there. I will then usually add either a rhythm guitar or keys track. I then add layers mainly using guitars and keys or sometimes samples (which often get manipuated via effects and editing,) but on the odd occasion I may have added a bass track after drums programming. It really does depend on what type of 'scene' I am trying to portray. I have been known to use a fair amount of backtracked guitars mixed in and panned sometimes using reverb and/or other effects. I've fielded many questions from other soundtrack artists about how I got certain sounds. I suppose I do have a certain 'style' of recording but it can vary. I am very open to manipulating organic field recordings, soundbites, samples, even loops, editing them, and mixing them into the process. Though I tend to work very quickly, due to my belief that ideas work best while they're still 'alive' in ones consciousness, I enjoy the process of using a base sound and altering it until I get the result I feel is needed to make certain emotive visuals marry the final master sound.
Which artist would you like to work with and why?
Stephen Gallagher. I met Stephen at High School back in 1990. I immediately liked him 'cause he pretty much ran the school radio station which was the soundtrack to a lot of us playing Rugby League on the schools lower field during our lunch break. I specifically remember him putting on The Cure and had a brief chat with him about how great they are. He asked me if I'd heard Heroin Face. I hadn't at the time. That impressed me as I thought I'd heard all of their songs. These days he's a busy guy doing a lot of soundtrack work, raising a family, and general life 'tasks' I suppose. Here's his website, http://stephengallagher.co.nz/. I love his music, and, well, he has inspired me a lot especially re soundtrack type work, instrumentalisms. Also, Stevie G is one of the most loveliest guys you could ever hope to meet. I haven't seen him in years but we communicate frequently via the internet, mainly on facebook. I did catch up with him very briefly at Wellington airport after we'd both been up to Auckland, to The Powerstation, to see The Jesus And Mary Chain. That barely counts though because it was so fleeting. We have very compatible, mutually agreeable music tastes, and have discussed collaborating at some stage. I suspect the only reason this hasn't happened so far is because of how busy we both are. We both live in Wellington so therefore can meet up when the cosmos allows it, or simply file share our musical ideas/recordings via email. So yeah, Stephen is who I'd like to work with the most out of anyone I can think of for all of the reasons mentioned.
Tell us about your studio setup.
I use an HP Elitebook laptop routing my Mbox mini through Pro Tools 8.0.4 LE. For drums programming, strings emulations, pads, and other keyboard interface recordings I use Reason 5.0. I have 3 main electric guitars which are a Gibson Epiphone, a Fender Squier Stratocaster, and a Fender Squier 'Cabronita' Telecaster with vintage style Bigsby tremelo set-up. For acoustic guitar recordings I use a Fender Kingman. My bass guitar tones are achieved with a 5 string Peavey bass using 4 strings, D.I-ed into Pro Tools. My keys are an Evolution MK-249Z and a Korg Kross. For effects I have an Electro-harmonix Deluxe Memory Man, Belcat Delay, Mini Mod Chorus, DOD FX75C Stereo Flanger, Behringer UP100 Ultra Phase Shifter, Danelectro 'Cool Cat!' Tremelo, Beta Aivin HM-100 Heavy Metal Distortion, Vox V845 Wah, Daphon Volume pedal, Biyang RV-10 Stereo Reverb, G1on Guitar Multi-effects Processor, and various Audio Suite plug-ins via Pro Tools. My main mic is a Wharfedale Pro DS3.0S. My main guitar amplifier is a Soldano Hot Rod 100+ custom built in 1997 using Soldano 4X12" speakers, though I do most of my guitar and bass recordings by direct injection. I also have a Melodica, various percussion instruments, and access to a variety of other electric and acoustic guitars and stringed instruments including a really groovy stand up bass. My electric guitar strings are D'Addario exclusively. I also have a spare Asus laptop which needs some minor reparations and will use that again at some stage in the near future. My headphones are Sennheiser HD 201. I will be getting a better pair later this year though these ones work perfectly fine for me at the moment.
What type of music do you usually work on?
Instrumental. Soundscapes, soundtrack type sonic textures. Psychedelia (sic,) surrealism, dreamscapes, ethereal music, shoegazy stuff, dreampop, and sometimes can veer into some pretty 'dark' territories. Lately I am very interested in minimalism and classical music, especially Arvo Pärt, who is one of my favourite living composers. He has enhanced my interest in timbre, mainly of reasonably high pitched bells, and other high end frequency sounds, purely because of this, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sp2oxWdRMuk. I suppose I am currently fascinated with frequencies which are veering towards or are already beyond our Human audibility, but this topic gets very deep, scientific, and esoteric.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am about to embark on a rather ambitous album recording in which it will be the first time I have ever sung on a solo album of mine. It is a covers album. I have selected 6 songs so far but will add about 3 more. I'm pretty excited about this. I am also about to make a start on another album in which there will be music accompanying original poetry. There may well be collaborators on it. I aim to have them both finished by Christmas.
Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
In 2004 I auditioned as a guitarist for a Smiths tribute band. I nailed the audition and so after we secured our drummer, (after a wee bit of being mucked around by other 'drummers,') we rehearsed, then played our debut gig at a party at Robs flat in central Wellington. Rob was the other guitarist in the band. Our next gig was promoted via a radio ad, posters, flyers, and some very good word of mouth due to our successful debut gig. We packed Indigo bar, in Wellington, and were the 2nd most profitable band for the venue that year after The Breeders. We played in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, and Hamilton. We played more gigs in Wellington because that's where we were based. We also appeared on national TV 4 times, had radio interviews, magazine interviews, photo shoots, a manager, sponsorship, and fans worldwide. I made some life long friends from the experience and had loads of fun. I'm not usually a covers musician but decided I wanted to be in the band due to romantic reasons, mainly. My partner back then was who got me right into The Smiths. She was one of the most dedicated audience members in Wellington. I find Johnny Marrs' Smiths guitar recordings fascinating and viewed playing a lot of his parts, (merged with my own style,) as a worthy challenge. Plus it was fun working with Rob on the guitar parts. We had an absolutely incredible singer, Adrian, who uncannily is actually from Manchester, as are The Smiths. I almost cried at our last gig during the final song because though we were playing covers, it had been a very deeply emotional experience for all band members and a lot of the audience members. A lot of people asked if we had plans of working on originals, as we had a strong musical chemistry and were tight. We all had our separate music projects and never really got around to any original stuff as a band though there was one time in Auckland at Galatos when Adrian randomly announced a dance competition so we went straight into a spontaneous instrumental jam which lasted about one minute. It is, still to this day, probably the most inspiring and tight, funky jam I have ever had with anyone. This was also the gig in which we played in front of a group of rowdy yet incredibly affable English Smiths fans who had seen The Smiths in England back in the day, and some of them were crying during our rendition of I Know It's Over and There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. Adrian nailed that night immeasurably!. I was playing acoustic guitar on I Know It's Over and keyboards and electric guitar on There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. Seeing such a response was breathtaking, so we invited them back stage and 'got on the piss' with them. Such lovely chaps. This kind of response meant so much to us. I remember one of them said we did such a good job that it was pretty much, and I quote, 'As good as' Smiths concerts he'd been to. Looking back on all of this it almost brings tears to my eyes.
Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
Not yet but I'm sure there will be soon.
Analog or digital and why?
I use digital recording equipment and both digital but mainly analog instruments and effects. It is more cost effective and easier for editing.
What's your 'promise' to your clients?
Dedication. Passion. Sincerity. Good communication.
What do you like most about your job?
I get to express myself musically.
What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
They tend to ask about my recent music, what have I been listening to, who are my fav musicians, sometimes about gear, my work ethic, and recording techniques.
What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
I'm sorry but I have absolutely no idea about how to answer this question.
What questions do you ask prospective clients?
What are you trying to convey in your art? Which moods, feelings, synaesthetics are you aiming for from your audience? If it's not too personal to ask, have there been any major life events which influence this project? Is there a deadline and if so, when is it?
What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
Check out my music on bandcamp. To contact me, preferably in person if possible, and discuss what it is they are trying to achieve in their artistic project. I'd be taking notes. If it's not possible to meet up in person then either Skype me, call, or email me for an in depth discussion about how I can help them make their project come to fruition.
If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
An old upright Piano with a decent sustain pedal.
A well tuned, durable drum kit set up left-handed because I play drums lefty.
A custom crafted quality flamenco guitar.
A custom crafted quality steel string acoustic guitar.
A top notch Cello with bow.
Due to the conditions I'd be forced to 'go acoustic' and would want to maximise that, of course. Do I get an endless supply of strings? ;)
What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
I don't have a career path per se. I simply live my life and express myself frequently via musical expressionism and if I get paid for it then that's an added bonus. I have been doing this since 'The Dawn of Time.' :p
How would you describe your style?
Eclectic and very personal.
Can you share one music production tip?
Be willing to read a lot in forums which relate to any production issues you have encountered/are encountering.
What's your strongest skill?
Probably how quickly I can get recordings done though I am very patient.
What do you bring to a song?
Honesty. Soul. Passion. Moods. Textures.
What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
John Frusciante, Arvo Pärt, Brian Eno, The Beatles, George Martin, Stephen Gallagher, John Halvorsen, The Smiths, Vini Reilly, Aphex Twin, Béla Bartók, Dmitri Shostakovich, Erik Satie, Trent Reznor, Prince, Fennesz, Radiohead, PJ Harvey, Mogwai, Jonny Greenwood, Björk, King Crimson, Frank Zappa, Chopin, Beethoven, John Cage, Lou Reed, John Cale, Velvet Underground, Nick Cave, Rowland S. Howard, Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Split Enz, David Long, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, The Cure, David Bowie, Johnny Thunders, Talking Heads, Funkadelic, Led Zeppelin, among many many others.
Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
Sonic soundscapes, soundtrack work.