Danny Cocke interview


Find Danny @
Official website

Brief list of credits:

The Prototype, Project SERA, The Devil’s in the Details, Thief (trailer), Jupiter Ascending (trailer)

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

I compose music for movie trailers and score for various films, commercials, and television. I’m from Sacramento, CA originally and I was in multiple bands there when I was younger. I decided to take more control of my music career and I exited the band world to concentrate completely on composing. I moved to L.A. and I now stay very busy composing. I’m a huge fan of Marvel, comic books, movies, and I spend way too much time playing video games!

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

I come from the artist world, and I’ve always been a long time studio guy. I’ve continuously journeyed through all my projects developing my own way of writing/producing. Usually the music I write is described as unique, which helps to have a little niche to stand on out there.

In addition, I’m continuously learning and absorbing new information. Even when I’m composing I’ll have my iPad up and watching new and interesting shows and videos to get that extra edge.

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

I’m all Pro-Tools HD, Vienna Ensemble Pro, with most of all of your modern software and plug ins. I’ve been spending a lot of time sampling my own instruments though, using my guitars, piano, or whatever’s around to create custom ambiences, pulses, etc. I always try to have some live organic elements recorded on any track.

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

My composing process is simpler when I keep things sort of based around Kontakt as much as possible. But I’m also addicted to having new plug-ins, so I’m always giving things a try. Of course all the regulars, NI, Soundtoys, Fabfilter, Izotope, and I love U-he Zebra and Diva for synths. At times I get tired of the same synths, so I move around a lot, and some times I even forget about things I haven’t opened in a year and go back for some more play time. I also take a good amount of time between projects to make myself little mini loops, bass lines, guitar stuff, then make kontakt patches out of that stuff for when I’m composing. You don’t often get the luxury of time to dig around in sculpting sounds for a cue when you’re on short time table, so it’s nice to have your own custom sounds on hand.

When do you find you are most creative?

When I know I’m going to be plunging into a big project or writing full stream for an album, I go into a totally different personality mode. I tune in, meditate, write in a journal, keep the phone away, and try and stay off the Internet. I just get introverted then get lost in writing. I call it walking from the left side of my brain to the right side for a while. There’s a tipping point in the process where writing goes from your work for the day, to your obsession too. Where it’s all you hear when you sleep, the first thing you do in the morning, and the last thing before bed too. Breaks to go hiking, travel, getting out of the studio, hang with family and nature are really key components in staying creative and inspired. Daily exercise of some sort also keeps my creative energies flowing.

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

I like to demo around with some cues and sort of discover what the tone of the music will be. I try to find something that really hits and makes the story speak or put you in the right zone. Once that’s set, I make my palette and keep it simple so I can go from cue to cue with out too much setup time. I’ll usually make some basic templates with the palette too (Action vs. ambient tension vs. orchestral, etc). Each project is totally different, fresh start, fresh approach.

Are there any particular secrets to your creativity?

I just do what works for me, I work at home, with cats around, and its very peaceful. I take time to garden, yoga, and take walks throughout the day. I listen to a lot of interesting pod casts all day on various subjects that keep me inspired too. Take breaks to listen to other music or just read too to keep the brain going with endurance for a lot of writing in usually a short amount of time.

Do you have any audio creation techniques that resulted in something interesting?

I always love recording things in my environment then making musical patches out of them. Anything from wine glasses stretched out into pads, sticks on piano wires, guitar pedal tweaking on a synth through an amp, or just crushing and morphing a sound with plug-ins into something new and unusual. I had fun doing a whole sound design album for trailers last year that was a real cool opportunity to experiment with all types of approaches just to make a unique and interesting layer of sounds. That was my first collaborative album too so getting to bounce sounds between 2 guys was pretty cool. We had lots of good live source recording to dive into and start designing with.

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

I’ve found that always doing whatever changes, re-writes, tweaks, or enhancements needed for a client quickly and with a super positive and willing attitude has really made the people I work with happy and the process usually quick and painless for everyone.

Any tips, hints or motivational speeches for the readers?

Find what works best for you, what inspires you, and let that drive your journey! Discipline, persistence, borderline obsessive compulsiveness about the music, and mainly taking time outside of music to balance and stay connected to life are all things that gave me the will power to stick it through for 12 years of trying to make music my career. The journey continues with many areas left to explore!