Diego Stocco interview

Find Diego @

Brief list of credits:

Chernobyl Diaries, Sherlock Holmes, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Immortals

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

I’m a composer, sound designer and performer, I work in films, video games and produce videos series where I explore different ways of making music. I’m active in creating samples and programming synths. I’m also specialized in creating surround sound projects.

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

I focus on creating sounds with experimental techniques, instruments and natural sound sources, I customise microphones/devices to record unusual sources and develop complex sound design processing techniques. This sound design oriented process is reflected in my music, my pieces are a hybrid of tonal and atonal, raw and polished edges, live performance and processing.

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

On the recording side API Pres, EQ, compressors, Røde mics, and Apogee converters. On the software side I record and mix with Pro Tools and do real-time processing with Ableton Live. I have built several instruments and use them regularly, plus I have a couple of small analog synths. On top of that I have a few custom built devices.

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

In terms of plugins I use many but I can tell you a few that I really like, the SoundToys bundle is one of my favorite, I like some of the Melda Production plugins, the Ohm force stuff is really bizarre and unique sounding, I use the IK Multimedia T-Racks and Amplitube, I like Artifical Audio Quartz, and I also really like some of the bundled plugins of Ableton Live and the MaxForLive plugins. Sometimes I use iPad apps too, they do very interesting things, usually I record them into Pro Tools while I’m playing and later process the different takes.

When do you find you are most creative and are there any particular secrets to your creativity?

I would say anytime, I don’t have a specific time of the day. I tend to document with videos as much as I can, I don’t think I have a secret something that allows me to be creative, I just love sound in every possible form and I’m curious to know more about it every day.

How do you find inspiration? Do you have some specific routines for finding it?

I like to keep things spontaneous, I don’t have a routine, which doesn’t mean I don’t apply myself methodically, it means that I don’t have a particular place or time where I must be to feel creative.

You have a talent for creating custom built instruments like the Experibass and even a small orchestra. Where do you get the ideas for these and how hard it is to built them?

I think that comes from my family background, I grew up in the countryside surrounded by people who were building stuff all the time, my grandfather was a truck driver and had a big garage filled with tools and machinery, my father is a butcher and is very handy with tools too. The ideas of the instruments come from different places, for the Experibass I wanted to try an experiment of physical modelling in real life, so I built it as a test and then ended up playing it with a custom technique, because I’m not a classically trained string player anyway. Some are harder than others to build, I don’t use blueprints, I just start and fix things along the way, it’s a very raw process which I think helps define their sound.

Do you have a specific instrument that you usually start composing with? Or does some instrument feel like a versatile favourite above others?

I don’t and I actually realized that starting from the same instrument is an obstacle to me. I couldn’t compose something for the Experibass on a keyboard, I need to play it with the Experibass. The same applies to other instruments, especially when their tuning is custom, it makes no sense when ported on a keyboard. The Bassoforte specifically, where each string produces two notes at the same time because the piano key is pushing the string against the fret, but both sides of string are free to vibrate; plus, it’s partially microtonal.

Can you tell us about your new sound design video series FeedForward Sounds. What inspired you to do this series and how did it come about?

It’s been a long process, I’ve been doing classes and workshops in colleges and other events, people were encouraging me to put my thoughts down in a video form, so that it would be easier to follow how I structure my workflow. It’s a very beneficial process actually, the moment I’m trying to explain something to someone else, I’m also clarifying those things to myself. The series is about explaining advanced and experimental techniques, and it’s produced for a medium-advanced user, meaning that it goes straight to the point, the format is compact and packed with information, and most importantly, each technique can be applied and adapted to several contexts, instruments, and DAWs/plugins.

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

It depends on the situation, but at the most basic level it starts with a conversation with either the director or the composer if I get on board as a performer/sound designer. After that it’s about deciding the general direction for the sound, which instruments would work best, etc..

How do you decide which sound is appropriate for a certain event (whether in game or film)?

Usually I get involved because there’s already an expectation of the sound and music I can create, but again, it’s always based on a larger picture and decisions are made within the context and function of what we are trying to achieve. In the years I cultivated those work relationships where people value my input and trust that it’s also in my best interest to create the best work I can do, I simply avoid projects that appear problematic from the very beginning. There needs to be mutual respect and sharing the joy of working together.

How important do you think music and sound design are for enhancing storytelling?

If you ask me it’s very important of course :) It’s hard to not to find a composer or sound designer that would say the opposite.

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

I have many, don’t play with sharp objects or try not to decapitate yourself by trying to play steel cables stretched across trees? :) More seriously, bring to the table the best you have and don’t try to please everyone, there’s always going to be someone with a different opinion.

Where do you feel the sound design is headed? The future of sound in games, movies and other areas.

It’s headed in many different directions, there’s so much going on every day, it might start with a new piece of technology and with someone that does something unique with it, or it could be that a specific trend grows to the point of becoming culturally relevant. I would like to see the role of surround sound growing, I’ve been doing several projects with DTS and their Headphone:X technology is inspiring, it allows the creation of complex surround mixes for headphones. I’m also interested in technologies that allow powerful real-time sound processing without being too complicated to handle, with a strong focus on spontaneity.

How do you perceive sound in everyday life?

Very intensely :) I can’t stop paying attention to it, I perceive rhythmic or tonal patterns as soon as they catch my ear!

Let`s talk about the skills a sound designer should posses. Which skills in your opinion besides technical knowledge are important?

Patience and perseverance, not blind stubbornness, a true passion for sound.

Any tips, hints or motivational speeches for the readers?

To be mentally ready for changes, to respect your own internal clock and sense of integrity, to be kind to those who deserve it and protect yourself from those who would abuse your talent and dedication in the name of personal gain.