Luc St-Pierre interview

St-Luc Find Luc St. Pierre @
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Brief list of credits:

Thief, The Lady In Number 6 (Academy Award Winner), Prisoner of Paradise (Academy Award Nominee)

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

My name is Luc St-Pierre and I’ve been writing music for feature films and documentaries for the last 15 years. Thief is my very first video game project. I have a Bachelor’s degree in music and attended numerous film scoring workshops organized by the NYU and the Film Music Institute.

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

Since I was 12 years old I have been playing in numerous bands, some indie rock, some techno and trip-hop. I believe having the chance to work and share studio techniques with renowned producers like Steve Whitfield (who produced the Wish album for The Cure) and Gilles Martin (who engineered and produced artists on the Belgian alternative label, Crammed Discs) gave me a unique insight into sound producing secrets. My years in electro-acoustic and orchestral studies at Université de Montréal came after and completed my tool set for the work I’ve been doing until now.

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

I run Logic in a Mac Pro with a Euphonix System 5 audio converter, summed in a Tonelux Console (gotta love Lundahl transformers). I love working in layers and I cannot live without the power of my Eventide H8000FW for some great 3D background layers. I now rely on Adam S3X-V monitor to see and hear what’s going on. In terms of sound producing tools, I love working with my good ol’ Roland Jupiter-6 and a Moog Voyager XL for its low end. When it’s time to work with complex waveform I also make extensive use of Clavia Nord Wave and make sure I flushed the internal samplings and also the Elektron Octatrack for sequencing organic pulses out of complex waveforms.

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

As mentioned earlier I mainly use Logic 9 and either mix in SSL MX4 through MADI and/or in the Tonelux console. Either way it will end up in the console to benefit from the output transformers and then print the mix in Pro Tools. My go-to plugins, in terms of sound producing, is Alchemy from Camel Audio, Absynth and Kontakt. I make extensive use of GRM tools and C-Sound with the help of the Cecilia interface. In terms of orchestral sound banks and soundscape, I use L.A. Strings, Symphobia 1-2, Vienna, the whole Heavyocity collection, True Strikes and Kinetic Metal to name a few.

When do you find you are most creative?

The first 5 minutes of my morning when awakening and the last 5 minutes of my working session when I am about to close the shop; in between it’s a deadly battle in blood, sweat and tears.

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

I usually start with a musical gesture, generated by some electronic manipulations and/or with the help of my hands wandering on the piano. In my opinion, the more time you spend thinking about what you are going to do, the less time you spend experimenting with the electronic toys. As a former teacher of mine would say, you are better off studying for 5 hours and doing your homework in 15 minutes than studying for 15 minutes and taking 5 hours to do your homework, same applies to composing. Also, when I talk about a musical gesture, it is what it is. Using Alchemy from Camel Audio with its clever interface and X-Y axis allows such musical gestures even with the use of a mouse… talking about gesture to me does not only refer to a physical movement but a sound movement that might have been triggered by a physical movement, hence the interest of having some live instruments and/or an interesting midi controller that suits your playing ability and habits.

Are there any particular secrets to your creativity?

I find the idea of creativity a pretty mysterious and unpalatable concept. For me it’s a question of simply using one’s intuition and create quickly in the studio to make sure my inhibition and prejudice do not have the time to get in the way, and then ask my best friend called objectivity what he thinks of the idea. A secret? Not really, just getting to know yourself.

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

Back in the days in the university’s studio, we had the time to do some funny experiments like throwing cymbals down the staircase and put microphones along the descent, near the library… Yes there were complaints. But in the end the fun part was to do the experiment… the sound that resulted was merely usable. I remember students literally throwing an upright piano from the top of a three storey building, setting up microphones and expecting a growl from hell…All they got on tape was some kind of a ”shlunk”. Having a complex setup is not an automatic passport to an otherworldly sound and I stopped going out and almost getting killed to record ”interesting” sounds. I manage to do what I have to do with cheap, simple CDs of sounds made of complex waveform and that is enough to create interesting soundscapes.

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

Limit your sound palette in order not to get lost in an ocean of sounds…a good idea comes from limitation. When I was younger, if I found myself lacking inspiration, I would run to the local music store and come back with a new synthesizer with a new palette of sounds. It will take you one inch further in your quest, no more than that. Now I spend time with a limited number of machines and the possibilities are already infinite.

Any tips, hints or motivational speeches for the readers?

From my experience and point of view, my advice would be to learn and study and learn and study until the theory of music, that includes harmony, counterpoint and orchestration becomes nothing short of being second nature, just like speaking, in order for you to express freely without stumbling on the caveats of writing music because – as you may have heard – music IS a language that has to be learned and mastered; then be very patient. When you start working and make a living out of writing music, you have to look around yourself and be aware of the opportunity and privilege you have to make a living playing with your favourite electronic toys. Being that lucky I think one should never look at others from above, and be eternally thankful and humble. When you think you are good, you are in danger, music is a never-ending learning process and you will notice from project to project that you always get better at doing it. J.S. Bach on his deathbed said something like ” … I’m just starting to understand how to write for human voice”…That says it all.