Brief list of credits
Abstract sound design, Impact, Data disruption
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do for a living?
Hello! My name is Stuart Keenan, I’m a sound designer based in the UK creating sound effect libraries aimed at producers working in areas such as film, video game, music and podcasts. My libraries are released through my label, Glitchedtones, and are distributed via several of the largest online sound effects stores. By day, I work a mundane office job which is completely non-audio related. My spare time is spent gathering and creating the sounds which will become Glitchedtones libraries, which is getting closer to becoming a full-time thing.
What is your niche or speciality, that makes you stand out from rest of the audio professionals?
Having a limited studio and set of tools has really helped give my sounds an edge as it has encouraged me to experiment with techniques I may not have otherwise explored had I been spoiled with a bunch of highend gear and fancy plugins. To date, my libraries have been created mostly by manipulating feedback loops from a 4 channel mixer combined with guitar pedals and corrupting computer files. I also process instrumentals, noise pieces, lo-fi field recordings and pretty much anything that makes a sound with granular tools and various effects. I’m confident the techniques I employ help my sounds stand out as they definitely have their own unique quality to them, laying between the analogue and digital worlds which helps keep an organic flavour.
Can you give us a brief summary of the equipment you use regularly?
I have a simple laptop, audio interface, MIDI controller keyboard and monitors set-up as the main hub. However, my audio interface has only recently become out of action so I’m in the market for a new one. I use a few guitar pedals but nothing extravagant, distortion, phaser, octaver, reverb etc. The classic Boss DD-6 Digital Delay is always in the feedback loop chain. I capture a lot of recordings using the now discontinued Zoom H2, although these are almost always used as source material for extreme processing. I’ll shortly be upgrading to the Sony PCM-D100 for field recording and general sound capturing, which is exciting, as I’ve received positive feedback about the device and from what I’ve heard, it sounds great.
What are your go-to plug-ins and software? (virtual instruments, audio processing etc.)
I almost always go straight for Cataract and Polygon by Glitchmachines during my sound design sessions, the random functions are fantastic for getting ideas going and the scope for modulation is wild. Even when subjected to terrible and downright weird recordings, the results they spit back out are incredibly inspiring and beyond expectation. Besides the rest of the Glitchmachines range, I use a couple of free Waves plugins, their delay and reverb, quite a bit. Right now, I’m using Xfer Records Serum synth more than anything else, I’m really getting into designing and playing custom wavetables having never dabbled before. Maybe these experiments will eventually form a new library and Serum preset pack. For recording, I use Ableton Live Lite, editing is done in Audacity and metatagging is made a breeze with Soundly.
When do you find you are most creative?
I’m most creative when I stumble upon a technique that’s new to me and when a particular theme comes to mind. I tend to randomly experiment and jam with source material and effects and once something inspiring forms, I’ll usually get an idea of where I can take it. For example, playing around with the No-Input Mixer feedback loop technique with a bunch of guitar pedals in the chain often brought about some really unique, gritty drones well-suited to Dystopian, Horror and Science Fiction scenarios. These experiments inspired my library, unsurprisingly titled, Drones.
What is your usual process for creating audio content for games, films etc.?
When a particular theme comes to mind for a sound effects collection, I’ll gather as much source material as I can and then edit lengthy recording sessions into manageable sections for software manipulation. I’ll usually spend a whole day doing this and then see how the material works when pitch-shifted, reversed, time-stretched etc, the classic sound design fundamental processes. Often, this can be good enough but if the ideas well runs dry, I’ll start bringing in the plugins and really get down to shaping the sounds. Not working directly with production teams affords me the luxury of being able to experiment freely with no
time constraints or other confines.
Are there any particular secrets to your creativity?
Nope! There’s no great secret other than being inspired by unconventional techniques and trying to make my sound effects and atmospheres as unique as I can. Not having boundaries and embracing experimentation is a huge plus which helps inspiration and creativity flow.
Do you have any audio creation techniques that resulted in something interesting?
Databending, the process of corrupting raw computer data instantly springs to mind. I’ve released three libraries now using this technique, Data Destruction, Data Disruption and Process Malfunction. The random nature of manipulating raw data from sources unrelated to audio brings a multitude of fascinating sounds which would be difficult to produce any other way. Some of the best drones I’ve ever heard come from databent bitmap files, so that was an interesting find. Also, to my surprise, Data Destruction is my bestselling pack so far which is interesting enough in itself as I expected this collection to be extremely niche!
Any specific “lessons learned” on a project that you could share?
An embarrassing lesson I once learned was to double-check recording settings! I was recording a friend jamming on his homemade modular system for a good half hour or more, completely caught up in the incredible analog tones coming from the instrument. Somehow, an incorrect recording option in Ableton Live was selected meaning I was monitoring fine with a perfect signal but the rendered files were complete silence. I think that being so excited by the sounds coming from the modular made me completely forget recording basics!
Any tips, hints or motivational speeches for the readers?
Try and keep in mind that no sound is unusable. For me, the beauty of sound design is that anything which makes a noise can serve a purpose for someone, something, somewhere.