Asbjoern Andersen (Epic Sound) interview

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Tell us a little about yourself and what you do for a living?

My name is Asbjoern Andersen, I’m a composer – and along with composer Simon Ravn and sound designer David Filskov, I run Epic Sound (http://www.epicsound.com), a Danish audio production company.

We create music, sound design and voices for lots of different projects –including video games, film, product sound, and presentations. To see (and hear) some of the things we’ve done, hop on over to http://www.epicsound.com/projects/

What is your niche or speciality, that makes you stand out from rest of the audio professionals?

When we started Epic Sound, one thing we noticed early on was a need for a company which could handle everything when it came to sound.

We saw that our clients (and potential clients) were using many different subcontractors for a single project, which lead to a lot of coordination and quality issues – and the end results didn’t always work well together.

So for more than ten years, we’ve focused on delivering a complete, high-quality sound solution – whether it’s music, sound design, voices or localization, or a combination. And, importantly, do it so everything works together, no matter the target platform.

That approach is working really well, with the help of our core Epic Sound team and some hand-picked collaborators when needed.

Can you give us a brief summary of the equipment you use regularly?

We’ve pretty much gone all-software these days. David and I are PC guys, and Simon’s using a Mac.

What are your go-to plug-ins and software? (virtual instruments, audio processing etc.)

For sequencing, it’s Logic and Cakewalk SONAR – and for audio editing it’s often Sony Vegas and Sound Forge.

When it comes to plugins, the Spectrasonics VI’s are always a good start, Kontakt for sample playback – and some of David’s current favorites are Magnus Ambience (http://magnus.smartelectronix.com/) and Battle Comp Vintage (http://www.robotplanet.dk/audio/vst_battlecomp_vintage/).

When do you find you are most creative?

Having an inspiring project at hand, working with people who are passionate about their project, and when we’re brought in on a project that calls for an unusual solution – all these are situations which tend to spark creative ideas.

Another thing that gets things moving in that regard is when we’re working together as a team. The internal talks and feedback we have can really trigger some great new ideas and approaches, and we’re quite good at challenging and pushing each other. An added bonus is that when we deliver something, it’s often already been through an internal quality assurance and review process.

What is your usual process for creating audio content for games, films etc.?

I think every good process starts with asking the right questions and getting in sync. Besides the basic stuff like lengths, number of tracks, sound effects etc., we’re also really keen on finding out what kind of overall soundscape a client is looking for.

Since sound is pretty abstract, we always try to work with examples and references whenever possible. It’s not about creating carbon copies – far from it – but it’s about agreeing on the direction. It’s turned out to be a really good approach for getting in sync, and it makes it a lot quicker to get the results the client is after.

Once we agree on the direction, it’s time to start creating the actual content. This is also where we bring in external talents such as voice actors, translators, solo performers etc. We create our material, gather and review material from our external suppliers, align and submit everything to the client. After that, there’s usually some tweaking to further polish the sound.

Are there any particular secrets to your creativity?

As composers and sound designers, we effectively have to be creative on demand – and the pesky thing about creativity is that you can’t always predict when it’s going to strike. So I think the real secret lies in being able to consistently deliver great results, no matter if you’re inspired or not.

So the approach to this one is twofold:

a) Take steps to put you in the creative zone:

This is things like getting distractions out of the way, use visuals or references to inspire you, bring in some fresh new sounds for your projects, keep your project types varied – and importantly, don’t be afraid to experiment.

b) If you’re just not getting into the creative zone, have a backup plan:

Reuse approaches from your past projects, have a template to work from, have the right tools at hand, take a break from your project, get external feedback, – and essentially, keep on working till you get it right (but look after yourself in the process or you’ll burn out in no time).

You can’t always rely on creativity to get the job done. Sometimes you simply have to work your way out of it. The important thing is that you deliver something the client can use – every single time.

Any specific “lessons learned” on a project that you could share?

When I started out composing many years ago, I built a home studio and just composed away. Or rather, that was the plan… because making a living as a composer turned out to involve much more than just creating music. When you go at it alone, you’ll also have to take care of marketing, accounting, keeping the studio running, finding new customers, keeping existing customers happy and so much more. It’s a lot of work, and it can take the focus from what you’re really good at.

Teaming up with David and Simon was one of the best career moves I’ve ever made, as it gave us the freedom to focus on what we did best. Together, we set up a proper studio, it allowed us to share the administrative workload and it gave us the opportunity to take in much larger projects.

So my recommendation would be to find some great colleagues in the sound industry – preferably ones who specialize in different areas of sound than yourself – and team up. Of course, you’ll want to ensure that you collaborate and communicate well, and that you share the same vision. But if you find the right people with the right skills, it’ll be a major boost to your business and your creative work.

Any tips, hints or motivational speeches for the readers?

For the sound people among the readers:

1. Collaborate and team up, as described above
2. Add more products on your shelves. The more revenue streams you add to your sound business, the better you’ll be insulated against any downturns that might happen in your core business.
3. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. When it comes to sound, look at what your current and potential customers are using, who they’re getting it from, and what they might be missing. The trends you spot could very well be a way for you to find new opportunities.

As a side project, I’m actually putting together a special course on how to succeed as a composer. It covers everything from creativity, finding work, pricing, pitching, building your brand – and the many ways you can go further with your sound skills to really grow your business. If you’re interested in hearing more about it when it’s ready, drop me an email at aa at epicsound.com

For those who are looking for sound for their projects:

1. Remember the value of custom content. There are so many ways of finding sound for your projects these days – but in my mind (and I might be slightly biased), there’s nothing better than using custom-created sound. It gives you material that’s created to exactly match your requirements and fit with your project and vision. It also gives you a unique brand asset that you can use going forward.
2. Use references to explain what you’re after. As mentioned, sound can be hard to describe in words. If you want to quickly key in your sound supplier on what you’re looking for, use sound examples to do that.
3. Go for a consistent soundscape. If you’re using several sound suppliers, be sure to get them to work together on a consistent sound for your project. Or, even better – bring us in and get a coherent solution :)

I’d like to invite you to visit www.epicsound.com to hear some of our work, and read about the projects and brands we’ve worked with. Contact us at www.epicsound.com/contact

And below, you’ll hear a selection of our orchestral work: