07 April 2014

Q&A With Composer Silas Hite

Q&A With Composer Silas Hite

Music and art are a seamless connection for composer Silas Hite. When encountering writer's block, he picks up a pen and draws. When the ink stops flowing, he trades it for an instrument.

This unbridled creativity has led to an Emmy nomination, award winning scores, and work as a producer and songwriter.

Silas began his career at Mutato Muzika alongside his uncle, Mark Mothersbaugh, a top composer who is famously known for co-founding Devo. Building on his experiences there, Silas has since written scores for some of the most recognizable video games and television shows of the past ten years.

He currently composes from his Los Angeles studio and continues to create illustrations and drawings for art galleries and magazines.

Tell us about your studio. What hardware and software do you use?

"I run Logic on a Mac. I've got most of the sample libraries and a slew of 3rd-party plug-ins, but I record as many real instruments and players on recordings as I can. I just prefer that sound. Budgets these days don't always allow for a lot of players, but I play a lot of instruments myself, so that helps. I will usually play the guitars, bass, drums, piano, percussion, accordion, mandolin, etc myself and hire players if I need strings, winds or brass.

As for hardware, most of the time I am recording with my vintage Neumann U-47 that I run through Neve pres. I use Earthworks SR-25s for recording drum overheads and the kick. My philosophy is to keep the recording chain simple but every link on that chain must be high-quality."

02 April 2014

International Music+Sound Awards: Extension to Entry Window

International Music+Sound Awards: Extension to Entry Window

The entry window for The International Music+Sound Awards 2014 has been extended to Monday 14th April 2014 due to overwhelming demand.

Launched in 2011 to recognise and celebrate the role of music and sound in Film, Television, Advertising and Gaming, The Music+Sound Awards shine a light on those who create, source and commission it.

The Awards not only provides a stamp of approval from leading industry professionals across the disciplines it rewards, but also provides those that supply and those that buy music and sound design a place and occasion to mingle and celebrate together.

There are now two extra weeks to enter.  For full competition details please visit masawards.com/international.

25 March 2014

Q&A With Composer Darius Holbert

Q&A With Composer Darius Holbert

The University of North Texas is known for turning out top musical talents like Roy Orbison, Don Henley and Norah Jones. Darius Holbert might just be one to add to that list of greats someday. 

After studying composition at UNT's renowned music school, Darius built a career producing and touring with artists like Everlast, Wu-Tang Clan, Dave Brubeck, Britney Spears and others. 

Now working solely as a composer, Darius splits time between Los Angeles, New York City and Texas. He's composed music for a number of award-winning films at Sundance, Tribeca, LA Film Fest, and won "Best Original Score" at NYC's Moondance Festival. 

Darius' work has also been featured on hit TV shows like American Horror Story, Lost, The Client List, Grey's Anatomy, American Idol and the Hulu series Quick Draw.

You've toured and worked with a lot of influential artists. What skills translated to your career as a composer?

"I think everything informs everything. I've had a fairly unusual career path from early classical training, to jazz work as a teen, to touring in rock and country bands all around the south, to artist development, producing Hiphop, getting commissioned to write operas and chamber works for modern dance companies - everything adds to the arsenal. In the current climate, composers need to be infinitely varied in their skill sets, so I'm lucky in how varied my path has been to date."

12 March 2014

Q&A With Composer Benson Taylor

Q&A With Composer Benson Taylor

When do you know you've arrived as a composer?

For Benson Taylor, it was probably the moment he recorded 12 snare drums in a stairwell for the NFL's Super Bowl broadcast.

It's often that kind of "out of the box" mindset that sets apart composers in today's competitive field. Benson's drive to develop a signature sound has paid off, leading to work scoring international advertising campaigns for Sony Playstation, British Telecom, Walmart, Ford and others.

Although Benson has made his mark as the resident composer for the Super Bowl from 2009 to present, his score to "Fear of Water" recently won Best Original Music at the Monaco International Film Festival.

Tell us about your studio. What hardware and software do you use?

"My studio is based above a bank in Yorkshire, England and is pretty humble to be honest. I run Logic & Pro Tools, and a 28 channel Euphonix control surface with too many plugins, most of which I don't even use because I'm just a sucker for all those marketing emails with the 'extended holiday discounts'.

For me, you can't beat just sitting at the piano to come up with melodies and structure, so I try and stay away from the computer until it's absolutely necessary. In terms of software, I probably use the same as everyone else for orchestral works, Sibelius/Finale, East West, Project Sam, NI's Komplete, Spitfire Audio etc, but I like to record live where I can, as do we all.

For electronic works, anything goes soft/hardware wise, as I can quickly get wrapped up in tweaking and creating sounds until the early morning. The last Super Bowl broadcast I worked on back in February had a track in the opener where I'd recorded 12 snare drums in the stairwell of my studio, then layered them up on top of each other with a ton of processing. I remember hearing them come in as the show started and just sat there laughing to myself at how ridiculous the process was, but I think it was worth it."

You've had the opportunity to compose for many top television shows. What has been the secret to your success?

"Thank you. Yeah, I've had a pretty decent run so far. I managed my expectations of my writing from a very early age. I think it's crucial to sound fresh, unique, detailed, and make your final production stand out whatever genre you're working on. Sounds like a massive cliché, but just jump on SoundCloud, everything sounds the same.

I don't really have a 'secret' as such, but I always knew exactly what I wanted and still do. So when I first started out, instead of working in a crowded market place here at home, I took my music to a more crowded place and what I considered to be the source, Los Angeles, hoping that producers, supervisors, and directors would like my British accent, and they did. I built a strong team around me, like my agent and others, and it kinda went from there. It's important to have the right people working hard for you too. Bill Gates didn't build Microsoft on his own, right? I'm rolling out the clichés today."

07 March 2014

Q&A With Violinist Christian Howes

Q&A With Violinist Christian Howes
Christian Howes isn't just one of the world's top jazz violinists, he's also pioneering new recording techniques that are poised to change how composers and producers create music. 

With shrinking music budgets and increasingly better orchestral samples, many composers don't get the opportunity to work directly with real string players. Those who have know the difference. 

Christian's approach capitalizes on the human elements of music that can't be replicated with samples, helping us all to realize just how powerful the internet can be as a creative tool. 

You recently faced controversy in an online forum with Hans Zimmer. He questioned your marketing tactics, your integrity as an educator, and your overall sound. Do you feel your service undercuts the pay of working orchestral musicians? 

"It shocked me when I saw the diatribe from Hans Zimmer which compared my work to that of 'high school' musicians, and especially when he tried to imply that I lack integrity because I'm commodifying music and undercutting players. Really, did he have to be that extreme? 

I mean, I'm not trying to over inflate myself, but clearly I'm good at what I do, and there's no evidence to support such a dismissive, insulting position with regards to my work as a musician, or my integrity as a businessperson. But his extreme and ridiculous positions were also obvious when he started to talk about how the best orchestras can only be found in LA, so at least it wasn't all directed towards me. I think most discriminating readers, if they see the original exchange, will be surprised to see 'the real Hans Zimmer' (username Rctec) come through in his self-satisfied musings at my expense.

He's obviously a huge success, and must live a very comfortable life, so it's at least ironic that he's going on a 'pretentious rant' about how commerce shouldn't come into play, let alone how we should value the live/human-to-human musical experience. I thought he built his career essentially as a salesman for those old sample libraries. 

It really bothered me at first. I tried to respond to him in a diplomatic way, but it became clear that he's like the emperor that's wearing no clothes. He just must love to hear his voice reverberating around the internet while his yes men tell him what he wants to hear. 

I am providing good work for U.S. based live players, and it is undercutting none. Some of the players on my team studied with me when I was an Associate Professor at the Berklee College of Music. They are improvisers, arrangers, composers, producers, and players comfortable in multiple styles, unlike most classical string players who focus exclusively on playing classical music well. My players enjoy the convenience of working from their home studios on flexible schedules, getting paid well and getting to be an active part of the process.

We all take enormous pride in providing such a meaningful value to our clients who could not otherwise afford to have their works performed by live players. Recently we were featured in the movie 'Don Jon'."

What can a composer provide to get the most out of the recording process?

"Detailed instruction is very important. Whether it's PDF charts and MIDI references, or verbalized instructions via a voice over recording on a separate track, I work with all sorts of producers and composers, some of whom have little knowledge of 'lingo'. That's one of our services, frankly, i.e., to translate across the cultural divide between classical string players and producers who learned on their own.

In traditional scenarios, you'd have to hire an arranger and conductor. With us, you can simply have a conversation with us or ask us to transcribe your keyboard reference, and we'll spend time figuring out what your vision is and making sure we get it down, whether we're arranging the strings or just tracking them."

27 February 2014

Q&A With Composer Roy Harter

Q&A With Composer Roy Harter

One would think that being an Emmy award-winning composer and sound designer is more than enough of a creative outlet for any artist.

But for Roy Harter, music and sound is just the beginning.

Podcast listeners and SiriusXM fans recognize him as "Roy Shaffer" from the Davey Mac Sports Program, a one-of-a-kind radio show breaking new ground in an otherwise lifeless format.

Seriously, what sports talk show doesn't need a live keyboard player as a sidekick?

When he isn't moonlighting as a radio co-host, Roy keeps busy delivering award winning music and sound design from his post-production facility SkinnyMan located in New York City's Times Square. 

Tell us about your studio. What hardware and software do you use?

"Here at SkinnyMan we run Ableton's Pro Tools. The latest one with all the plug-ins. Computers simply do not interest me. I like villas and bungalows because I am intro-spective and not impressed by material possessions. This becomes evident when you look at the facts. I own six villas and bungalows around the world, and only one computer."

How would you describe your creative process?

"Music is merely the finished by-product, you see. An afterthought. To me it's simply, 'creative exhaust'.  I think of it as a fart that pays my mortgage."

What composers or artists do you find inspiring and why?

"When people ask me whether or not God exists, I place my finger on their lips and play them Gustav Mahler's 'Symphony No.5 ;IV. Adagietto: Sehr Langsam'. The only recorded piece of modern music that comes spiritually close is 'The Obeah Man' by Exuma."

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