Jim Stout Special: Exclusive Interview
Following with the Jim Stout Special, here is a nice interview I had with him, talking about general aspects of his career and his thoughts on different aspects of sound design. Check:
Designing Sound: Jim, tell us hen you decided to make your career in sound… How do you get started with this?
Jim Stout: I guess you’d have to say it wasn’t a “conscious” decision. I’ve had a fascination with synthesizers from an early age, and I always liked the idea of coming up with sounds no one had ever heard before. From the music world I always liked the strangest ambient textures, and especially the atmospheric sounds of people like Jean-Michel Jerre. As far as making the jump from the music industry to the sound design world goes, I feel like they go hand in hand. It was a very natural evolution for me.
DS: Did you have a mentor early in your career? What was your best source of learning when you were starting out?
JS: No, not really. My mother taught me a lot about music and my father taught me a lot about computers. The rest of my education was just me reading every book I could get my hands on and a lot of trial and error. There wasn’t a whole lot of people doing electronic music, or anything remotely connected to it, where I grew up. I’m pretty sure I was the only middle schooler with a Beginning Synthesizer book. And, my obsession with research was way before the internet so I guess you could say I’m mostly self-taught.
DS: How being a video producer helps you on your career as sound and music producer?
JS: It’s definitely helped me build better sound libraries and assets. Because I can rarely ever find a sound that I like, or one that works with what I’m doing, I generally end up just making my own. And, it’s helped me have a better understanding of, and appreciation for, how sound and video work together to achieve an overall mood or effect.
DS: You’ve created lots of sound effects for industry recognized companies. How do you get involved there? Why do you decided to sell our sound effects?
JS: I was at the 2003 AES show in New York doing some demonstrations with the Roland V-Synth, making wild crazy effects with it. A gentleman walked up to me wearing a Sound Ideas shirt and asked me what I was doing. I said, “These are just some sounds I made with this keyboard.” He handed me his business card and said, “get in touch with me, I have a project that you’d be perfect for.” That guy ended up being the president of Sound Ideas, Brian Nimens. And, I ended up doing a handful of libraries for them. That’s pretty much how I got my foot in the door. As far as why I decided to sell my sound effects, well, it’s not like I was giving away Col. Sander’s secret recipe (laughing). I mean, I don’t really have some great philosophical ideal about “selling one’s creations.” I was just a guy trying to make ends meet like everybody else.
DS: And what about your relationship with music. How do you approach your sound design work there?
JS: In all honesty, I don’t really think I approach them any differently than I used to. The only real change is that the tools have gotten so much more powerful I can pretty much do anything I want. There has always been a fine line between music and sound design for me. When I think back to my EPS [Ensoniq Sampler] days, I can remember rolling brushes around in bathtubs to get whooshing effects, and banging on pots and pans to get metallic drum sounds.
DS: What is your main source of inspiration? When and where do you feel more creative?
JS: I have my best moments when I’m not thinking about it too much or trying to over analyze. My inspiration is everywhere, it’s everything. I carry a portable recorder, literally, everywhere I go. It’s a lifestyle. I never can be sure when or where I’ll hear a sound that will trigger a major creative flux, 90% of the time it’s when I’m thinking about something totally unconnected.
DS: What do you do when you’re creating something and it’s not working?
JS: The only thing I can do is turn everything off. I don’t even bother saving anything I was working on. I walk away for a while, go see my family, or go ride my motorcycle, and try to get as far away from it as possible. After that, when I go back to it I can usually knock it out in ten minutes. Distracting myself clears my head and allows me to start over with a clean slate.
DS: You’ve also worked for Roland, programming sounds there. I think you’ve to create sounds in a very creative-flexible way, so anyone who purchase the synth have different ways to change the sound how they like… Is there something special to create sounds for a commercial synth?
JS: Yes, absolutely. You have to be able to give a listener instant gratification from a sound so when they hear it they immediately think, “Wow, I love that, I want to hear more.” The preset patches are often times what makes a synth sell, regardless of feature set, or functionality- if the preset patches stink, it won’t sell. No one buys a synth because it has 500 sequencing tracks, they buy it because it sounds good.
DS: Can you tell us about your sound design philosophy and/or approach to both organic and synthesized stuff?
JS: I combine both worlds in my work flow. I don’t really separate one from the other. I regularly use organic recordings as the base for a huge amount of my sounds. That’s why I really like the V-Synth and Alchemy, because those give you so much real time control over sampled waveforms.
DS: If you have to choose only three tools (both software and hardware)… What would be your choices?
JS: The V-Synth, the Neko EX5 and Logic.
DS: Someone you admire?
JS: On the sound design front, Ann Scibelli. She is an extremely talented sound designer. On the music front, Alan Wilder.
DS: What do you think about projects such as Tim Prebble’s HISS and a ROAR and Chuck Russom FX and this new way to distribute sound effects around the web? Would be possible to see a Jim Stuff collection?
JS: I think it’s the future, it’s an obvious next step for sound effect delivery. Yes, you will be seeing something similar very soon…
DS: What’s coming next for Jim Stout?
JS: My fourth title with Hollywood Edge, Mechanical Morph, which will be featuring Josh Kay and Richard Devine. And, I’ve got a few more libraries that are slated to begin production very soon. Also, I’m in the process of working on a new ambient/down temp album, and keep an eye out for a download service…