I’m happy to announce Harry Cohen as the featured sound designer of November.
I was born in New York City a long time ago…..1954. Grew up in Flushing , Queens (a borough of NYC). Undoubtedly the city has left an indelible imprint on me. As a kid I was mainly a science nerd that liked to build hand wired oscillator circuits in my basement ‘lab’. I moved to CA with my family just in time to start High School, in what is now Santa Clarita. Now, in NY, I was an amateur musician, but never considered good enough to partake in the neighborhood jam sessions. Out in suburban CA, the field was much more open, and I soon found myself playing piano in the school jazz band and involved in several garage bands. I started playing nightclubs like the old Gazzari’s on the Sunset Strip before we were out of High School. After school, I concentrated on music, with several side jobs to supplement income; I was a hospital lab assistant, I worked a plastic injector press, and did some time at a picture frame factory, until I almost cut off my finger. Eventually music was able to barely pay the bills, and I spent the next 12 years or so playing clubs and pursuing a career with various recording acts. Hunting in the bargain bins, you might find some records I did with a band signed to a Motown offshoot. I spent more than a year traveling back and forth from Alaska to Hawaii with a show band; that is where I met my lovely wife; she was one of the singers in the band.
Eventually, I was asked to do some piano overdubs on a new-agey album at a studio in Burbank that was just starting to shift gears into post production. The manager at the time was a musician I had been in several projects with. After the sessions, they offered me some part time work helping to organize their library of synth patches. After about 3 days of that , the owner asked me, out of the blue, if I would be interested in trying my hand at sound effects. So, I was already in my early thirties before I ever even considered getting involved in post !
The facility , EFX, was using emulator II’s (an antique sampler) to generate sound fx that were recorded to multitrack analog tape machines, synched up to 3/4″ video machines, all tied together with early synchronization systems that were very tweaky. I sat in a room with my emu and a stack of floppy disks, with an engineer (Ken Teaney) who recorded the stuff, and was my first real mentor. Occasionally he’d would make us trade places, and taught me the synchronizer and some console basics , though I already knew some of that from my music experience. So, I never went to a school to study post; it was all on the job training.
We started doing overflow work for Dave Yewdall’s company. He was the first real sound editor/designer I met, and he also taught me a lot of stuff, as well as sharing lots of library. I used to go over to his facility and transfer stuff from mag dubbers to F-1 digital tape (an early digital medium, before even DAT). I did a fair number of films for Roger Corman’s company. I also did lots of industrial videos, some commercials, lots of TV work and animation, and also a lot of stuff for theme parks. The wide range of projects was a great lesson in flexibility. For some of those endeavors, the clients are sitting right behind you the whole time; thats a particular kind of pressure familiar to guys who do commercials.
Somewhere in there we started expanding and getting better films. We switched to Synclaviers, and the edit rooms became one man operations, recording to sony digital multi-track instead of analog; then it became DA-88′s; and finally pro tools. Now that was a great set-up; Synclaviers recording to Pro Tools!
Lots of really talented sound designers and mixers passed through EFX; and it was a great environment of exchanging techniques and figuring things out.(Gary Rizzo, Dave Farmer, Paul Menichini, Tim Gedemer,Tim Walston, Ann Scibelli, Juan Peralta, Tony Sereno, Michael Kamper, Marc Fishman, are just a partial list of ex-EFX-ers).I was head of our small department, and had an awesome day shift of talent ! (I am sure there are lots of names I am forgetting; my apologies.)Also we started to do some game work early on for Charles Deenen; I am sure association with him has had an influence on all of us !
At one point we partnered with Steve Flick’s company, and he was a great source of information and guidance for me. We did one film that mixed up at Skywalker, and that experience was a real eye-opener as well. Randy Thom and Laura Hirschberg were part of the mix team, and Gary Rydtrom came by and introduced himself to me, and invited me to come by and hang out while he was prepping stuff for “Casper”. Everyone was very open and willing to share information.
After about 14 yrs, EFX re-organized their business, and I accepted an offer from Lon Bender and Wylie Stateman to join Soundelux. Except for a six month period where I was ‘on loan’ to Soundstorm , I have been here ever since; those are the only facilities I have worked at ! The opportunity to be present at the mixes of the films I work on has been one of the most beneficial learning experiences I can think of.
By the way , when I can, I still get out and play in some local LA blues clubs , and I have an awesome collection of vintage keyboards and stomp box effects!