<font size=\"4\">Gary Garritan presents the Seventh in a series of GOS "Meet the Artist" Interviews featuring:
<font size=\"6\">ERIC PERSING</font>
<font size=\"3\">We are pleased to present this interview with Eric Persing. It is an honor to have Eric as our featured guest.
<font size=\"2\">Eric Persing is considered one of the top designers of sound libraries in the world and his libraries are among the very best. Eric is a pioneer in the development of Virtual Instruments and is a legend in the sampling community.
\"It is almost impossible to go a day without hearing the work of Eric Persing. The thousands of original sounds he has created are used constantly by top composers and musicians from all over the world.
Persing is the founder of Spectrasonics, a company specializing in developing World Class sampled sound libraries on CD-ROM since 1994. He has produced over 25 of the industry\'s top selling titles. Eric\'s ground breaking Distorted Reality series of sample libraries are the best selling and most widely used collections in the world. Spectrasonics samples are used on thousands of major film, television, record and multimedia productions.
In addition to being the Creative Director of Spectrasonics, Eric has been a consultant and the Chief Sound Designer for Roland Corporation Japan since 1984, creating the key sounds for many popular Roland synthesizers, samplers, CD-ROMs, expansion boards, etc.
As a studio musician, producer and composer/arranger in Los Angeles, he has also contributed to numerous Grammy award winning albums and Acadamy award winning film scores, working with an eclectic group of artists including Marcus Miller, Sergio Mendes, Luther Vandross, Quincy Jones, Danny Elfman, Herbie Hancock, Riverdance, James Newton-Howard, Eddie Jobson, Michel Columbier, Diana Ross, Arif Mardin, Mezzoforte, Chaka Khan, Bette Midler, Roby Duke, Deniece Williams, The Katinas, Larry Carlton, Sandi Patti, Hans Zimmer, Leonard Cohen, Adam Cohen, Michael Jackson, Bon Jovi, Richard Souther, Randy Newman and Celine Dion, amongst many others.\"
First, I\'d like to say a big thanks to Gary for this opportunity. It\'s really an honor to be invited for an interview on his forum and to field questions from NorthernSounds members. I\'m looking forward to talking with you guys.
Thanks for all the great sounds that everyone in the world uses. I have to say that a lot of your work is an inspiration to how I approach sound design ideas and concepts on my own. I still go back to my Roland XP and laugh out loud at how some things on that board are so simple but so effective, and not so obvious. What\'s your background/ schooling with regards to anything \"sound\", besides the credits you\'ve accumulated? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Thanks very much King....and that means a lot coming from you! I was raised in a musical house, my dad was a choir director, trumpet player and music teacher at Stanford University...so music and sound surrounded my life from my first memories. I sang in his choirs, learned the trumpet in school and piano from my mom, studied pipe organ briefly and got interested in Rock and Roll and synthesizers very early.
As a young boy, I started to experiment with my dad\'s weird Tandberg Reel to Reel deck. I didn\'t understand how it worked, but I started to record, erase and splice things with it and played around with dubbing Beatles records, and found out that I could get it to feedback and make really interesting sci-fi noises! (Got me in a lot of trouble too!) After I literally blew up my first \"synth\" (a preset cheap wurlitzer toy organ) by pumping too much A/C current into it to make it louder, I started to take it apart in the basement of our house, and found that if I shorted certain parts together, it would make some interesting \"Tank-like\" sounds. I had no idea what I was doing, but I thought it sounded cool!
From that day to the present, I\'ve been a student of sound, electronics and music. In electronic music...they are really all the same subject. I learned in my electronics classes how to build some simple analogue and digital sound generating circuits and some basic computer music techniques. I went to a community college in Huntington Beach, California where I studied recording engineering, arranging and production techniques....but actually, I\'ve learned much more on my own and from working with so many gifted people in the field.
Once I became involved in doing sessions in LA and in working with Roland, I learned much more about synthesis and sound design by observing and working with other unique sound people like Arnie Schultz, Mick Guzouski, Jack Hotop, Scott Plunkett, Dan DeSousa, Andy Thomas, Erik Zobler, Robbie Buchanan, John Lehmkuhl, Wendy Carlos, Hans Zimmer and so many others.
Learning about sound is very much a \"doing\" process.....which seems to be a big problem with a lot of the academic approach to the subject ....there\'s a tendency to have a lot of talking and reading, but not very much listening and creating. Talking about sound is a little like trying to listen to dancing on the radio.....it doesn\'t quite work!
<font color=\"#3e2dff\"> Member: Dave Govett
Hi Eric, Nice seeing you again at the NAMM show. One of the
things I find very refreshing (and a bit off topic but what the hell..) is that you reference your spiritual life on some of your products with thanks to various church friends and the almighty. It sounds like that is an important part of your life. (as it is mine) Keep up the good work and God bless. </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Thanks Dave, you\'re right....my faith is a big part of my life. I promise not to get too \"preachy\" here, but I will share that one of the things that motivates me most to create sound and music is a natural response of gratitude to the author of creativity -since I believe that God is the source for everything. For me, having that \"eternal perspective\" is incredibly important in everything that I do, and makes an enormous difference in my life.
Many people on this forum (myself included) praise you for your work, and you definitely have earned that praise. The sounds/loops you come up with show an inspired individual, they show that there is a sincere love for what you are doing at the root.
<font color=\"#3e2dff\"> Member: Jan
The first question: from all the things you have done so far, what do you enjoy doing most? The second question: what is most important to you in your life, what makes you tick? The third question is really question 2b: how does your answer to the second question influence you in your work, your attitude towards life? Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. I love your work, as many others do, so keep up the good work, and may God bless you and your family.? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Thanks Jan...that is really kind of you. I do really love what I do, and I feel very privileged to do it for my living. Sometimes it\'s easy to forget that the field of Sound Design/Sampling as we know it is only a couple of decades old. It\'s only been very recently that anyone has ever made a business of \"selling sounds\" in the history of mankind! For instance, the term \"sound designer\" was not a common term when I started. Things change and advance very quickly in this field, and that\'s what keeps it so dynamic and exciting.
The answer to the first question is pretty easy. My favorite thing is certainly making music, whether it is with a computer or live with other musicians. I also really love discovering something new, whether it is a new technique, or a composer, or a band, a great new musician, or some new technology, or a new idea or approach of how things can be done.
The second answer is pretty well summed up in what I said to Dave in the previous topic.
<font color=\"#3e2dff\"> Member: KingIdiot
Is it ever wierd to you that you\'re a sound \"god\" of sorts, to many you\'re associated with Linn, and Moog, and Vangelis and the like....except that no one can \"pigeon hole\" you to one sound/piece of hardware? Is it wierd to you/does it bother you that there are a ton of people who don\'t know how much influence you\'ve had on music and sound today? (you are a bit invisible to non sound geeks/sample geeks) Do you actually pay attention to music and notice your sounds, or do you try and appreciate music without that sort of focus? Have you noticed that you are one of the only people in the world that can be associated with music from all different formats?: From Feature Film to Porn, from PC Game, to Shareware, from Prog Rock Bands to New Age, from TV to \"on hold music\" for phone calls. thanks man. </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Wow! How to answer these?! King....you\'re a nut!
First, it\'s amazing to me that anyone would put my work into the same camps of people that I revere too...so all I can say to that is that I\'m really honored and surprised by this question. Thanks!
It\'s great to have your work recognized, but if anything, I\'d have to honestly say that I\'ve received more than my fair share of credit. There are so many other gifted people who are creating amazing sounds. I am really proud of what we\'ve done with Spectrasonics, and I certainly want people to know about our work professionally, but I\'ve already received way more praise for my work than a lot of other deserving people in this field.
In terms of listening out for my sounds...I can\'t really listen to any music and not notice the sounds....that\'s part of how I hear and think, and I can\'t \"turn it off\". I pick up right away anytime I hear any of my sounds being used...it\'s usually really easy to spot, since I spend a lot of time creating them. It\'s not really any different than if you heard one of your pieces being played....you usually recognize it within a couple of seconds. Once I get past that someone is using some of my sounds, I can appreciate their music for what it is. It\'s really cool when someone has used something I\'ve done in a very creative way, that I can\'t quite figure it out....that\'s really fun! James Newton Howard, Timbaland, BT and Bjork are really good at that...and I love hearing how they use my sounds. My favorite thing is to hear how someone will use something in a completely different way than I would....for me that\'s a confirmation that we are making a truly creative tool, and not just licensing \"sound snippets\" or \"presets\" that make everyone sound the same. I really want to encourage people to explore the potential of using these tools to create their own voice. That\'s a big reason that we make instruments now instead of libraries....the possibilities for individual expression are much higher.
As far as being associated with all of those genres.....sounds like a bit of a dubious honor! ;-)
I have a feeling that your sounds make up a large part of many of the high-profile TV ads that you see on the major networks. Do you find that to be the case? How often do you notice your sounds being use in advertising? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Yes...(film scores and previews too)...it\'s usually about one of every three spots that I hear something that I\'ve done either for Roland or Spectrasonics. I don\'t point them out when I\'m at the movies anymore though, because it gets annoying to my friends and family!
<font color=\"#3e2dff\"> Member: Lewis
you have sparetime, what do you spend it on?</font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
In my spare time, I\'ve been working away at my doctorate in Gene Splicing methodologies, and my main project of writing the libretto for a 17 part original opera based on the life of Babe Ruth........just kidding! ;-)
My life is pretty busy, (especially this last year launching our new instruments!)...and tunnel vision gets compounded since I still love to write music, play live and create sounds for fun too.
So that I don\'t become a \"studio mole\", some of the normal stuff I like to do would include hiking, biking, and reading ....and I\'m a film nut too!
<font color=\"#3e2dff\"> Member: Marty
How do you organize your time to include your kids and other non-music related things in life? What does your wife think of your zeal and dedication for your work? What, other than music, is necessary in your life to make yourself a more open, responsive individual? Love your work and spirit (what I\'ve seen of it, anyway) </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Thanks Marty. Great question, and one I think all musicians deal with. The challenge comes from the problem that arises when you do the thing you love as your work, you invariably end up working too much.
We have three great kids, and balancing work and home life is definitely a challenge for Lorey and I. One big advantage is that although we work a lot of hours, my kids can see me at any time, because of the way we are set up. This makes a big difference in maintaining some sanity and perspective. Lorey is my partner in the business too, and she does all the accounting and managing of the warehouse, production and orders, etc. Luckily, we get along great, and we are both really into what we are doing, and all our decisions are made together, so our life (as crazy and unconventional as it is) is truly a shared one. I think there are a lot of different approaches, and no way is the \"best\" way for everyone. You really have to find out what works best for you and your family, and that can take some experimenting to find what works for you.
<font color=\"#3e2dff\"> Member: Damon
Hey Eric, I would also like to thank you for all of your sounds from the Roland days on .I think King asked alot of the questions I had in mind. I\'d just like to know something simple. What kind of music are you digging lately? Thanks for your time </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Hi Damon.....Big subject!
My tastes are really eclectic, but I\'m really digging the Frou Frou record that Guy Sigsworth did....really creative and genius work. He\'s worked with Bjork, and her Vespertine album is one of my absolute favorites right now. Vince Mendoza did some wonderful orchestral work on it too, and I really love the jazz orchestra stuff he did on his album with the LSO and Peter Erskine too. I dig Massive Attack and Squarepusher an awful lot. Squarepusher is like the Stravinsky of drum and bass!
My favorite \"driving\" music is Jeff Beck\'s last record, \"You Had It Coming\"....which is just a masterpiece of creative electronic production techniques and killer playing and it gets played REAL LOUD! That record in particular is really inspiring to me, because it shows that artists can continue to evolve and do great stuff forever. I kind of think that this album is a bit like what Hendrix might be doing if he was still alive. Music and Creativity are not limited by time, only by your attitude.
We\'ve got a great college radio station in Santa Monica called KCRW, that I listen to quite a lot. They play some of the best electronic, breakbeat, independent and world music stuff -that\'s a great source for finding fresh music and sounds. They do live performances in the studio everyday on Morning Becomes Eclectic too...which is pretty rare these days, and you can always hear some great new music going on there. They webcast as well http://www.kcrw.org
I\'m also a film music fanatic (like a lot of you guys are too). I\'m a sucker for any of Thomas Newman\'s stuff, and I love the approach that David Arnold has been doing. I liked Michael Danna\'s score for the film \"Ararat\" a lot, and the music that my friend Alex Wurman did for \"Confessions of a Dangerous Mind\", and \"13 Conversations about One Thing\". Another composer that is always an inspiration to me is my friend Michel Colombier. I\'ve learned so much from him, and I think he\'s just one of the most gifted composers on the planet.
In a completely different genre, I also love \"newgrass\" like Alison Kraus and Union Station! (has nothing to do with synths or technology, but great music nonetheless.)
In a nutshell, anything that is executed really well, highly musical and breaks new ground creatively is what inspires me.
<font color=\"#3e2dff\"> Member: Phattlippz
Which 5 albums do you find yourself going back to time after time for sonic/musical inspiration? Thanks! Tim </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
That\'s impossible to narrow it down to five (when I could easily come up with a hundred), but here\'s what pops into my mind first when I think of inspiring albums that I often relisten to:
1. Arvo Part \"Litany\"
2. Wendy Carlos \"Beauty and the Beast\"
3. Peter Gabriel \"So\"
4. Vangelis \"Bladerunner\"
5. Bruford \"One of a kind\"
Do you like \"new\" music? (Stockhausen, Boulez, Lutoslawski etc.) -Nicklas Schmidt </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
I like to study it, and learn about the history and the techniques (there\'s certainly a lot to learn by doing that).....but much of it doesn\'t necessarily move me very much. I\'d rather listen to Squarepusher, Aphex Twin or Guy Sigsworth work, because these guys are obviously influenced by Stockhausen and Boulez, but it\'s more of a contemporary take on that approach that includes a groove foundation ...which Stockhausen can\'t stand!
<font color=\"#3e2dff\"> Member: cybermaven
Hey Eric Thanks for your special contribution to the composer community. I just got hold of the Atmosphere synth and I have only one word: Atmospheric! Questions then. First of all I want to concur with the speaker/writer before me, when I ask you how you think when you design new sounds. Where do you get your inspiration from? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Glad you\'re enjoying it...Atmosphere was a lot of fun to create, and was the realization of a longtime dream for me to create my own synth.
I\'m basically a \"room\" thinker...in that I compartmentalize my thoughts to one subject or task and really focus on that. So if I\'m looking to do nasty sounds, I will concentrate on trying every technique I can to mangle and distort sounds for awhile, creating hundreds of ideas and feedback tapes, experiments, etc...many of them not great, but in the process, discovering some really interesting things. Then I will leave that and do something totally different, like a funk drum loop or a programming a real instrument sound. Then I\'ll jump to something else like vintage analog synth programming for a few days. Then maybe I\'ll explore ambient sounds with something like Metsynth and Hyperprism for a while.
After a while, then I\'ll come back to those distortion experiments, and listen to them with a fresh ear and put on my \"Editor\'s Hat\" and I\'ll be really critical and picky about what to select. I almost always work from a source pool of material that is gigantic, and then only select the \"cream\" for the actual project.
For instance, Distorted Reality was originally about 4 gigabytes and it got cut down to 1.2 gb. Atmosphere was about 15 gigabytes and I cut it down to 3.7gb. Vocal Planet and SOV were several hundred thousand samples, and we selected about 15,000.
The selection is a really important part of the process, but when I\'m one of the creative contributors like for Metamorphosis, Liquid Grooves, Distorted Reality, Stylus or Atmosphere -I try to separate my \"creative\" side, and my \"producer/editor\" side completely...by doing different sessions with only one role in mind at a time. It helps me be free to explore and make mistakes when I\'m creating. Sometimes you need to get the stupid stuff out of your system, for the good stuff to come out!
Regarding inspiration sources, in addition to what I\'ve already said, I get a great deal of inspiration in working with other musicians and creative people. Collaboration is a great stimulus for new thinking for me, and I just dig being around as many different kinds of musicians and creative people as I can. That\'s something that I find invaluable about being in LA.
How do you go about when you start designing a sound? Do you gather inspiration from anything specific or do you just start blending and tweaking sounds until it sounds wonderfully weird ? Thanks for your time and may the future bring us more wonderful products from you and your team! Thomas </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
The biggest trap is to get into a rut of doing it the same way all the time. With experience and time, you start to develop techniques that you rely on to do something quickly and that you know will work. This is especially true when you are working under pressure in a session...so you develop that \"bag of tricks\", that gets you through the gig. The problem arises when you get into a creative rut because you rely too much on the \"bag\".
So I do whatever I can to break that rut and reinvent myself again. Sometimes I\'ll limit myself in an absurd way...like I\'ll make myself write an orchestral fugue by only creating sounds from a multitracked Nord lead. With these limits, I learn a whole bunch of tricks that it can do, that I never would have learned another way. Sometimes, I will try to limit my approach to working with a program that I don\'t know very well, and work in a way that I\'ve heard other people work, that\'s utterly different from me. I\'ll usually discover a bunch of interesting things that way.
Often, I\'ll find a new way of working that I really like that produces excellent results, and I will explore that method as far as I absolutely can. For example, Metamorphosis was almost entirely created with Rebirth. I did use other things, but the core of that library is my long experiment with figuring out how much I could do with only Rebirth. Most people kind of wrote Rebirth off as a simple program for 808/909/303 stuff. But when the Mods came out, I found that this completely changed what you could do with it and this inspired me immensely. The Mod culture was really flourishing, and I started to learn how to create my own mods and I got really into it, making dozens of these things. I even liked the graphics part of it too.
At the end of the process, not only had I created a library of really interesting and unique sounding loops, but I had also developed a skill set that became invaluable in our development of our virtual instruments. The process gave me the understanding of how interface design worked, what was intuitive and what wasn\'t and it planted the seeds of what I wanted to do with software instruments. So this process of simply exploring Rebirth\'s possibilities to the max, was enormously valuable in my growth as a musician, sound designer, groove programmer and virtual instrument designer.
So I guess I would say that this recipe is my goal:
A. Forget what you know. Try lots of new techniques that are foreign to the way you usually work.
B. When you find something that resonates with you, push yourself to explore it to the maximum. Be fruitful and productive with this technique.
C. After you have mastered this technique and are an expert with it...leave it and don\'t use it anymore for a while. Store in \"bag of tricks\" for later use.
Eric, Many thanks for this opportunity to ask you some questions. I, like many others, have admired your work for a long time. I\'m really interested in how you work and how you approach the art of sound design. Do you follow certain methods in producing new sounds? Or, do you imagine a sound and then try and realize it? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Imitive techniques are really instructive, even if the result isn\'t always so good. I learned a lot about the overtones of a piano by trying to synthesize it using hard sync techniques with analog synths like the Roland JX series. Those patches today are a bit of a joke, but I learned a lot in the process that gave me a deeper understanding of the harmonic series of a piano and how it works. It even affects my playing and choice of voicings.
When getting to know a new instrument or tool, I\'ll often try an existing technique that I know works on other instruments, and that will tell me a little about the strengths and weaknesses of a particular instrument, tool or technology.
What\'s more important though...is being ready for surprises! Most of the \"good stuff\" with electronic music comes from accidents and bizarre and unintended ways of using the instrument.
One of my favorite memories is from the first NAMM show I attended when I was about 17 years old. Roland was introducing the TR-808, which was the first professional programmable analog drum machine. The demo consisted of heavy fusion tunes that had Billy Cobham-style wild fills and all kind of add-meters and stuff! I remember the stunned audience leaving the room saying, \"My God...that 808 was TOTALLY REAL sounding!\" Hilarious to think about now!
Of course that\'s not how anyone ever used the TR-808 and it became successful for entirely different uses, and it\'s \"fake\" electronic sound is the most famous and enduring drum sound in history. Remember that the factory demo song that came with the TB-303 was \"Teen Town\", and Roland\'s goal with it was to make a virtual \"Jaco\"!
\"Acidhouse\" came along far later after the 303\'s demise, and created the vocabulary of 303 sound that we know so well that created the legend of this funny instrument.
So...the moral of the story is:
Keep your mind open...you never know what will happen! (Who knows, maybe the huge orchestral libraries of the present will be the seeds of the punk rock of the future...you never know!)
<font color=\"#3e2dff\"> Member: synthetic
I would like to hear ... about musical sound design. There\'s a fine line between noise and musical noise, which the Distorted Reality series really nails. As both a film composer and a sound designer I\'ve worked on both sides of this and watched one side fight with the other. When does the composer contribute \"sound design\" and when is it up to the sound designer? I\'m talking about non-specific creepy haunted house stuff. </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Another big subject!
The interesting thing about musical sound design is that the vocabulary is totally new. When we got into trying to categorize the sounds of Distorted Reality, we had to invent our own categories and make some deliniations as to what kind of musical noise it is....that can be sometimes more of a challenge than creating the sounds themselves!
On a film\'s soundtrack, the sound FX designers have a lot of power...usually as much or more than the composer in some types of films. I think that in the future, you are going to start to see more coordination and collaboration between the sound design team and the music team....much in the same way that you now have a powerful Music Editor now who plays referee between the songs and the score of a film. Composers who understand the language of the sound design world, will have a better end result for their music in the final mix. The more you know what the director\'s vision on the sonic landscape of the score, the better shot you have of having your music heard.
The truth is that achieving a desired mood or dramatic effect is sometimes much easier now with the Sound Design department. When you can get such fast results with SFX, and the director can specify exactly what they want and change their mind at a moments notice...it\'s hard for them to realize that this is much more difficult to do with music. But today, this is what directors and producers expect....instant options. The composers and music houses that can react quickly like this are really successful, the ones that can\'t have a more difficult time working in the film/tv medium.
I think part of the job of composers in the film medium today is to educate directors about the options that are available to them with musical sound design. A score like Traffic is a great example of this, where there are few SFX, and the music is very ambient and sound designish. The dramatic effect is very different this way. Steven Soderberg really understands the importance of space in his soundtracks. Whether its sound effects or music, ultimately you are trying to convey a feeling or mood, and oftentimes it should be one or the other...but not both. Too often today, soundtracks are ridiculously jammed with wall to wall music, sound design that accentuates every hit, and pop songs that literally tell you what to feel. A lot of younger directors don\'t seem to get the \"less is more\" thing.....I\'m really hoping that this will change, but it\'s been getting worse and worse every year. There seems to be a real fear from the business guys that unless every emotion is spelled out in bold letters, people won\'t understand it. But think about a film like 2001. That was precisely so incredibly powerful because when the music was on...it was in your face, and when the sound effects were happening it increased the tension and mood like crazy! It\'s one of the most dramatic and impactful films ever...and a lot of it is because Kubrick fully understood the power of music AND the power of silence.
The trickiest thing with musical sound design is to design sounds that are harmonically interesting, but not too thick and dense. Because of my orchestral training and arranging, I\'m always trying to think of each sound as a component element that\'s will be used as a part of a larger composition in various ways. If an element gets too harmonically specific, or dense...the less unique and useful it is.
As cliché as \"Oil Can Bow\" from DR1 has become, the reason it was used so often is that it provided a dramatic and musical solution, that didn\'t interfere too much with other things in a larger mix. Since it didn\'t dictate a particular tonality, but only \"tweaked\" the tonality of your composition in a useful way, the sound got used a lot (too much!) Those kinds of sounds are the goal though, because they work so well, they are almost instruments of themselves.
To state it simply: the advantage of musical sound design in a score is that all the sonic elements you are hearing are harmonically related at any given time. This creates a powerful resonance that has an emotional effect on the listener that goes far beyond when there are conflicts and unmusical dissonances.
The hard part is trying to convince non-musical film directors and producers of the importance of this. I remember seeing \"The Saint\" in a theater and there were two musical cues (source music and the score) overlapping at one point that were HORRIBLY dissonant and out of tune. I was freaking out at how bad it sounded, and of course....no one in the theater really noticed all that much. However, when it\'s done right....you can see the effect on non-musical people...they get more \"into\" a scene and more emotionally involved in the film.
My favorite experiences have been in coordinating working with the location sound guys, and the teams working on the songs in a film to use common sonic elements as samples within a score. We did this extensively with Michel Colombier on the score to \"Deep Cover\" with Lawrence Fishburn. The rappers sampled the orchestral score, and we used the DJs samples and sampled the sound effects teams location sound reels to create the score. What you ended up with was this amazing tapestry where there was no clear beginning or end to what was a song, the score or the sound design effects track....it was all seamless.
So much so, that Michel\'s score was disqualified for the Oscars that year, because the academy couldn\'t figure it out!
We also did one score that was amazing, but unfortunately the film (called Midnight Cabaret) was never released. The score was 24 cellos, Minimoog Bass, samples of WOLVES for the horns, and MOSQUITOES for the violins! It was one of the most amazing scores I\'ve ever heard, and makes your hair stand on end! Using SFX samples for musical sounds in an orchestral setting is pretty amazing! To me this is the other, more interesting side of why we have samplers.
Where do you sample the sounds, and with what? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Lots of places and lots of approaches. I have a studio that I can do some recording with smaller groups. Also, in Burbank we probably have more studios per square inch than any other city in the world....so for larger dates, we make use of a lot of the great facilities here like The Enterprise, Capitol, O\'Henry\'s and many other places in town. We also do location recording. This is how we did all of the SOV Choirs in London and various cathedrals around Europe and the US.
I usually use Apogee PSX-100SE or DB technologies A/D converters. They are the best I\'ve found.
As far as all the other gear...you name it, we\'ve probably used it!
The quality of the Spectrasonics libaries are legendary. To what do you attribute that fact? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Thanks...that\'s nice to hear, because we work really hard and take a lot of time to achieve the highest level that we can. I think that ultimately people really appreciate quality and originality, and that\'s what we strive for. We have a very good team of people involved with the company, that have a lot of experience with sampling, recording and sound design/synth programming.
One \"trick\" of ours that I think is kind of unique in the business is how much material we DON\'T use. I once saw a National Geographic photographer working and I was stunned at how many shots he was taking of the same angle. I asked him why, and he said that those great shots you see in National Geographic are the result of selecting the very best shot from a pool of about 1500 pictures of the same basic thing!
This made a big impression on me, and we\'ve applied that same philosophy to our sounds. There\'s a lot of material that gets cut in order to make the types of products that we do. I think that kind of \"oversampling\" is rare...many libraries stop when they reach a certain size and the product is released. We often rerecord things, or throw out entire sessions if they didn\'t have the result we wanted. Our approach is maybe a bit crazy, but it\'s also kind of healthy to be able to criticize your own work that way before it is released. Sometimes we even do focus groups to get more information and feedback from different segments of the music community. We did blindfold testing tests with Liquid Grooves, and that was really fun! It\'s always so interesting how people hear things so differently.
<font color=\"#3e2dff\"> Member: KingIdiot
Whats the longest you\'ve ever spent developing one particular sound/soundscape? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Believe it or not, some of the longest sounds to develop were from the old Roland S-50 days when the tools that we had we so poor.
Lately, probably the Acoustic Bass on Trilogy was the longest. When one patch like that has more than 1,000 samples, and unique release velocity noises for each key and velocity, it is really time-consuming to get the balance right. That was probably a solid 2-3 months of work for that one main patch.
Lots of great sounds come together quickly though....just some heavily detailed multisamples like this can still be a big deal to get right.
Hardest overall project in terms of endurance was by far Vocal Planet...that seemed endless! Hand tuning every note of every single phrase and documenting the tonalities and languages and cultural info was a nightmare that lasted years....I don\'t know if I could do that again! I really had to psych myself up every day to try to get that finished.
<font color=\"#3e2dff\"> Member: Scott Cairns
Hi Eric, it\'s an honour to be able to talk to you! When designing sound for hardware (and perhaps software too,) do you have to pay attention to the limitations of the product you are working with? Does this impact on what you are creating? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Absolutely, and this is why we are so excited about developing virtual instruments now, because we are in a much better position to create an instrument exactly as we want it. You always have limitations of some kind, but it\'s great that now there are far fewer, and the work can be more rewarding too. It\'s was very frustrating creating sample libraries that had to be compatible with the Akai S-1000 format, the only real standard the soundware industry ever had, since that format is over 15 years old!
The possibilities are so much more vast now, with being able to custom design all aspects of an instruments -engine, interface, graphics, features, layout AND sounds!
<font color=\"#3e2dff\"> Member: FrankSN
How do you go about designing a Virtual Instrument? Is it like developing for any other sampler format (like giga), or is it entirely different? Do you do the programming yourself? And does the lack of streaming with the UVI sample engine limit what you can do with virtual instruments? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
It\'s been a time-consuming, but very interesting journey. I can\'t share all the details of the process here (for competitive reasons), but the short version of the story is that we got involved closely on the software development side with the French UVI team (who are the guys from Univers Sons, -our French distributor). We found that we shared a very similar vision of what the future was, so it made a lot of sense to work with this team (which includes some of the brightest minds from the Audioease/Altiverb team from the Netherlands). This has become a key strategic alliance for Spectrasonics. It\'s been very cool to see the UVI engine evolve, and now that MOTU picked it up in the Mach Five sampler, it\'s really getting exciting. (the same French UVI software team behind the Spectrasonics instruments is making the Mach Five...it\'s not actually made by MOTU)
There are aspects of instrument development that are the same as developing for another software sampler, and then there are many new aspects, like tweaking the filter algorithms, and dialing in the sound of the engine itself to exactly where we want it for a particular instrument. Designing the interfaces was a huge job, much more than I imagined. There are a lot of different graphics people involved, but we created the layout and basic design in-house. I thought it would be fairly easy to design the interface, since I\'ve been scribbling pencil drawings of synth ideas since I was in elementary school -but it turns out to be quite a challenge to keep an aesthetic, and get the right balance of controls, that makes sense. There were probably about 100 design versions of each instrument!
Since we knew streaming wouldn\'t be available initially for the UVI engine, we picked three instruments to start with that worked well with a RAM-based system. But the future........well, let\'s just say that it looks very, very good!
<font color=\"#3e2dff\"> Member: Crispin
I remember the first real synth I ever bought was a Roland D-70 (I know, I know). The demo on it was by Mr Persing. Every Spectrasonics lib I\'ve bought has been a keeper. I don\'t even know where to begin with the questions. Except maybe \"Can I have Danny Elfman\'s phone number?\" Ok and this one: \"Eric, first off, I\'m a huge fan of your work! What\'s your favourite synth to program/use these days?\" </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Thanks Crispin....that\' really nice of you to say. In terms of favorites, Aggghh! I can just choose one! I\'d have to break them down by genre:
Favorite software synth to program new sounds is probably Absynth...Brian Clevinger is a genius!
Favorite non-realtime software synth: Metasynth for its endless possibilities.
Favorite modular software synth: Reactor
Favorite modular hardware synth: Roland system 700
Favorite Digital hardware synth would be the Roland V-synth and the XV 5080
Favorite Virtual Analog synth is the Virus Indigo....love that baby! (especially for live playing)
Favorite Real Analog Poly Synth: When I want to feel good about life, I always fire up my Yamaha CS-80 and crank it up (it is bladerunner!)...never ceases to amaze me.
Favorite Real Analog mono synth would have to be the new Minimoog Voyager...what can you say?...Bob is the MAN!
Favorite Free Plug-In synth: Delay Llama hands down (probably coolest plug-in on earth period too!)
Currently what is your favorite piece of gear with which you carve out new soundscapes? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
I like the Malstrom synth in Reason 2 quite a bit....definitely new sounding. The V-synth also has many good possibilities.
<font color=\"#3e2dff\"> Member: Robert Kral
What product / project in terms of your work in sound libraries / software has excited you the most? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Hard question! I guess I get the most excited when we are doing something totally new that hasn\'t been done before. Atmosphere, Stylus and Trilogy are certainly in that camp, because we had to figure out a lot of new things and there were tons of decisions that had to be made that were very risky for us. The possibility of crashing and burning is always quite exciting!
The project that we were in new territory the most on was Liquid Grooves. Two weeks before the NAMM introduction, all we had was a name and a cover....but absolutely no idea what a \"Liquid Groove\" was! So we frantically began recording, doing crazy stuff like trying to record underwater, and having percussionists slapping waves in a pool like percussion, or trying to make a groove out of water droplets! Finally, we went in the studio with the drummers and they started improvising and we would just yell in their phones, \"THINK LIQUID!!....MORE LIQUID!!\" :-)
I finally came up with the approach with certain processing and groove manipulation remix techniques with the Korg wavedrum and soft ethnic percussion in one groove that seemed to fit the title, and that one groove was our NAMM demo!
Crazy...but a lot of fun. Sometimes mad approaches under pressure like that really produce the most interesting results.
<font color=\"#3e2dff\"> Member: Robert Kral
Are you a gigastudio user? (We\'re all really excited about your products as is, but I\'m just wondering are you ALSO a giga user?!) Thanks for appearing on this Forum, it\'s been a wonderful blessing to have you around, and to be able to \"speak\" to you when we wish to. Rob </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Thanks Rob...I like being part of the discussion here at Northern Sounds too. This is a particularly good group of regulars that come here and the ideas and feedback is always interesting and lively!
I\'m more of a casual GIGA user and observer....it\'s more of a platform that I try to keep up on development-wise. I never really got that into it for my own work because of the lack of integration in the host sequencer, and not having good filters and synthesis options. I\'m used to having good filters in a sampler since the S-550, so it\'s hard for me to really get into a platform that doesn\'t have much in the way of filtering. But GIGA has certainly been a really important catalyst for new development and ideas in the industry.
My main sampler these days is the EXS-24mkII and I also still use my Rolands for certain things because they sound so great (especially the 770). I\'m getting into Kontakt now too, and really dig it....great for mangling stuff.
<font color=\"#3e2dff\"> Member: Roman Beilharz
Hi Eric, thank you for providing such wonderful sounding products. Metamorphosis with GrooveControl is my personal favorite regarding rythmic tracks and loops, just for your records. Its a great source of inspiring and atmospherical loops, that always have a striking individuality without getting too much \"in the face\" while scoring. I use them a bit too often ... It seems quite obvious, that more and more sample-creators are turning towards proprietary products like you did with e.g. Stylus, due to the fact, that the financial loss piracy is causing has grown endlessly. I would do the same, if I were creating samples. The problem is, that \"open\" standards such as Giga might potentially loose their content this way. As fas as I know, Tascam will integrate an authorization-system into Gigastudio 3.0 to give the sound suppliers better protection of their work. Do you think, that this will make the Giga-platform more attractive again for the sampling-people and save its future or are the good times of open formats about to vanish from sight? Thank you for your time to answer all that and I wish you (and us!) many more fantastic ideas and visions for future products out of your hands! </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
For Spectrasonics, the direction of virtual instruments represents much more than just the ability to have copy protection (which is certainly a very useful addition for our business). The main reason we are pursuing virtual instruments exclusively is that it offers us many more possibilities to make the instruments exactly as we need for each project. If we think of a useful feature, we can add it....this is simply not possible with sample libraries.
Also, we can develop the sound set one time and then update the software plug-in platforms to reach more users, instead of the time consuming process of reformatting the sounds again and again and remanufacturing like we had to with the merry-go-round of Akai, Emu, Roland, Kurzweil, SampleCell, EXS, Unity, HALion, V-Sampler, GIGA, Kontakt, etc, etc....all with various limitations which affect the end result.
The coolest thing with these Spectrasonics virtual instruments is that every user gets the same experience (once their system is set up properly for virtual instrument plug-ins). Since it\'s the experience that we are creating, being able to deliver that same experience consistently to every potential user easily is very important to us.
As far as \"closed\" and \"open\" concepts go, it\'s more of how you look at it. If you really think about it...plug-ins like VST, AU MAS, etc are about the most open platforms you can imagine. The possibilities for new plug-ins to be developed doesn\'t look likely to ever slow down to me. I think plug-ins are here to stay for as far into the future as we can imagine. That\'s ultimately better than being tied to one particular sampler brand, and the success or failure of that company in the marketplace. That\'s why I see the model of \"Host sampler\" and \"Content\" being a less desirable approach for the types of ideas we have. That model still has tremendous value of course....but IMO, plug-ins of one kind or another will be around a lot longer than any given software sampler platform will be.
Of course, what we are doing is no replacement for a good and mature sampler like GIGA. You simply use our instruments in conjunction with your sampler.
<font color=\"#3e2dff\"> Member: Runyon
Hi Eric, How are the new software instruments...Stylus, Atmosphere, and Trilogy performing on the new Macs? Are they OSX ready? I could be mistaken, but I thought I once read a quote from you that implied that the faster PC\'s performed better with music plug-ins than Macs when used in real time...even dual-processor Macs. (this was before the newest G4\'s) I\'m looking forward to getting all 3 of your software instruments, but am in limbo right now with OSX compatibility from a number of software makers... What\'s the scoop with Spectrasonics and OSX? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
OSX compatibility is the number one priority and is in beta testing right now. VST OSX will be released first, then RTAS OSX for Pro Tools 6.0 and then Audio Units. All the OSX versions will be free downloads to registered users. Shouldn\'t be too long before we are 100% OSX compatible on every platform.
There is a substantial difference in performance between the current best dual processor G4s and the best Windows machines.....the Windows rigs are really powerful and have a lot of headroom for polyphony. That said, a 500mhz Mac or more is all you need to get going. Obviously, the more the better.
On the other hand, I just got my Logic 6 and I have to say that the new Freeze function is absolutely life-changing for using virtual instruments on the Mac....super easy to use and it allows you to use at least 10 times the plug-ins you could have used before...with no hassle. I\'m sure every sequencer host will copy this idea....it\'s just awesome!
<font color=\"#3e2dff\"> Member: SCARBEE
Hi Eric, I have been a fan of your sounds for many years -starting with Roland D50 which was just me (I like the big sound!) Then I enjoyed JV-1080 + most of the expansion boards. Later I used Metamorphosis, liquid Drums, bass legends, Stylus, etc. The fact is that you have helped me earn money on my music. Thanks! I have one question: After D-50 the D-20 and D110 was released. The sound was multitimbral- but worse.. Same thing happened after Korg Wavestation - the samples were less good for a long time. Why did this happen? Why didn\'t we get a better multi timbral D-50? And... will you please make a Korg Wavestation alike module? I loved this too.... Thomas Hansen Skarbye </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Hey Thomas...thanks for the kind words indeed.
The D-10, D-20 and D-110 were inexpensive synths for Roland\'s low-end market. They didn\'t have powerful enough chips to do a multitimbral D 50 at the time.
The true follow-up to the D-50 was really the JD-800, and then the JD 990, which took that idea further. The JV-1080 was an experiment in doing more of an \"all-around\" approach, and of course it ended up being a huge hit. Then as far as \"pro-level\" instruments, the next major step was the XV-5080....which is where we are today in terms of Roland hardware sample-based synths.
Hi Eric, I remember using many of the Roland sounds and had hopes of something better in terms of orchestral samples, and then the Giga came along, and now my JV1080 is collecting dust. Can you tell us in detail why Roland stopped producing orchestral samples? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
The JV-1080 samples were never the \"state of the art\" that Roland offered. Those samples were really just the cut-down, low-rez versions of the big orchestral libraries that we did at Roland R&D LA. The full 700 series sample libraries sound much, much better than those JV versions.
Basically, when Roland Japan folded up the LA R&D office (which was our headquarters of all the sampling for Roland), that was shortly after we started Spectrasonics and many of the Roland R&D LA sampling team came on board at Spectrasonics to be involved in what we were starting. So Spectrasonics had a lot of experience in the very beginning of the company already, because of all the Roland sampling sessions and libraries we had developed.
Roland continues to sample new material around the world, including orchestral stuff. They did some new String sampling sessions with Peter Siedlaczek in Poland for the Symphonic Strings SRX expansion board...but since they still are dealing with a memory limit of 64 megabytes on those boards, it obviously limits what they can do with their source material. It\'s difficult to compare what Roland does with GIGA libraries, and their focus is now more on live players and the hardware crowd.
<font color=\"#3e2dff\"> Member: esperlad
Eric, Will Symphony of Voices ever be released in Giga format? Is there any recorded sample data that has not been released? </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
We won\'t be doing any more sampler formats of our existing libraries, since our focus is now 100% on virtual instruments. There is material that was never released, but the best stuff is certainly on the SOV product, which converts fine to GIGA with Translator or CD-Xtract.
Will Symphony of Voices ever be released as a VST!!??? :-) If I could upgrade from the akai I would get it!!! </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
You never know.....it depends on the demand and a lot of other factors.
Actually though, our focus now is really on creating 100% brand new instruments. To try and bring our catalog up to date as virtual instruments is a lot of work, and not terribly interesting right now. Especially since we have so many other exciting things in the works that are taking all our efforts.
It may happen at some point if we can come up with a compelling idea, but quite frankly it\'s the nightmare of all the updates people would want and managing that worldwide that keeps this idea from being a very \"doable\" thing. Updating software is a lot easier than updating libraries, especially when you have a large distributor and dealer network like we do with our libraries...complicated.
Is there any possibility of releasing a vocal utility (like VOTA\'s) for SOV so that we could type words in and have the choir enunciate them? Thanks for making such create products and hi from Australia! </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Anything is possible, but it would be tricky to go back and record all of that stuff in the same cathedrals to match everything. A lot of people involved in that project!
Hi Eric, when I listened to those Backbeat demo\'s, I was really stunned about how great it sounded. The sound of the drums is among the best ones I ever heard. I especially like Goin on, Cops, Stop \'n Go, Coping and Bugaboo. Since I\'m a drummer myself and I prefer to program my own drums, I\'d really like to know how you did that?! The sound has some kind of reverb or ambience to it that sounds great and isn\'t too present. The overall sound is just so clear and alive; you hear every note and it doesn\'t get too thick. Every instrument has it\'s own place and you can hear exactly what it plays. Could share us some secrets of how you did that?? My mixes always tend to get I don\'t know, full? Or maybe some tips about what\'s a good place to start learning about this kind of stuff. Thanks, Tom </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Thanks Tom, I really appreciate hearing that, because we spent a ridiculous amount of time and energy to preserve the sound of the drums on Backbeat. That project took about three years to realize actually! I get very microscopic about how every digital transfer, and software program and even the color of the CD-Rs affects the sound quality and transients of drums. We spent so much energy to get those great sounds and the natural ambience at Capitol Studios and The Enterprise with SSL-9000J boards and killer A/D conversion, that it would drive us crazy when software programs would lose that sound quality....so we spent a lot of time listening and discovering weird things about digital audio that affect sound quality, but no one can properly explain yet.
In terms of the mixes of the demos, I always just try to carve out the sonic space for each instrument. I\'m a big believer in the less is more approach to mixes. When each instrument has its distinct space, the end result is always \"larger than life\". Also, my monitoring environment is really dialed in my studio. A great monitoring environment is absolutely essential for what I do. Your reference is everything.
Oh, and when is the \"Modern Sonics\" library going to ship? I\'ve been waiting for this one for years... Thanks, -jl
Don\'t hold your breath for that one. It\'s been shelved indefinitely at Roland. At the time, it was some pretty remarkable stuff, but today its not as wide in scope as things like DR, Bizarre Guitar or Atmosphere.
What was it like to work with Danny Elfman? Which film scores were you involved with? Can you give an example of a project that you had completed? Have you met and/or worked with Steve Bartek? He is also a good composer, and yet he no one ever mentioned his work. Thank you for your time, D.H. </font><font color=\"#3e2dff\">
Danny was really interesting to work with. I\'ve always been a big fan of his, and it\'s great to see how successful he\'s become. He certainly deserves it. He\'s always been a musical innovator with a clear artistic voice and musical identity. I first started doing some work with him in the Oingo Boingo days, when he was just starting to do Pee Wee\'s movies and his first scores. I was stunned at how cramped his studio was at the time, he was basically a struggling rock musician with all of these huge dogs running around in his studio/living room! It was one of many experiences that opened my eyes to the realities of the music business.
Of course, once he did Batman, things really changed for him and he joined the big leagues. I did some work for him on various projects at that time, including a film called \"Wisdom\" I think it was called. Most of his work then was totally orchestral, with not much sound design stuff or he would do those things himself. Shortly after that, he started working with Marc Mann as more of a full-time MIDI/ tech/ programming guy to manage his system so he could concentrate on composing.
The thing that I remember most about working with Danny was this crazy sequencing technique he would use at the time for synth and percussion parts for some action cues, of hitting record on the sequencer, and then smashing the keyboard with his elbows or sitting and BOUNCING up and down on the keyboard! I remember being kind of stunned by this and asking him what in the world he was doing? Then he told me that he preferred to put all those notes in the sequencer at once in an intense way, and then delete all the ones he didn\'t want! To my amazement, it actually worked musically!