Nathan Madsen interview

nathanmadsen Find Nathan Madsen @
Official website

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

I’m the owner of Madsen Studios LLC, an audio production company that provides all things audio: music, sound design, voice-overs as well as implementation of audio. I also like long walks on the beach. On the side I teach piano and saxophone lessons as well as perform with local groups around the Denver metro.2. What is your niche or speciality, that makes you stand out from rest of the audio professionals?
My niche or speciality is producing high quality audio really fast. I’ve heard many times that’s one of the main reasons why clients choose to work with or come back to work with me again. Also being able to produce music as well as sound design and voice-overs and help implement the audio has helped me land more work. I sometimes use the old saying, “one stop shopping.”

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

I have a Mac Pro 8-core, 32 gigs of DDR3 ram, MOTU 896mk3, Roland Fantom X8 and an EWI 4000s wind controller. My speakers are actually just an old pair of JBL speakers that I’ve used for years. They still sound great and I know them so well that I’ve not even considered upgrading or changing. Believe it or not I’m still using a Schure 58 mic. I haven’t developed the buying-every-kind-of-microphone bug yet. That’s probably a very good thing for my pocketbook! If I need a certain specific mic I’ll either borrow one from a local studio I sometimes freelance out of or rent one.As far as real, acoustic instruments (gasp!) I have three saxophones (1922 Buesher soprano, alto and tenor Selmer series 3), an upright Baldwin piano, Yamaha acoustic guitar, Fender Strat and a Takamine classical guitar. I also have an Armstrong flute that I use on occasion when my flute chops are up to par!Finally for field recording I have an Edirol R-09 unit. Super handy, small and produces a good sound.

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

Logic is my main DAW and I use it for both music and sound design. I really like most of the bundled plug-ins that come with Logic. Often, though, I’ll rewire Reason into a Logic session if there are a few refill sounds I really want to use. If I’m doing a ton of audio editing, like dialogue for example, I’ll boot up Pro Tools 10. I also have the GRM Tools suite as well as several specific Waves plugins that I fancy. For VSTs I have a wide collection: Native Instruments, East West, Spitfire, Vir2 Instruments, Sample Modeling, Cinesamples and tons of Reason Refills. I’m kind of a sample library junkie! :)

When do you find you are most creative?

It used to be really late at night, and then I got married so I try to only work when my wife’s away. Now it’s usually early mornings but since I work from home it’s depends on when the client gets some new video capture or screen shots to me. When I see the game or film I usually have a flurry of ideas right away and get so pumped that I immediately start working. If the client doesn’t have anything to show me, it can be much harder to find that inspiration spark.

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

First the client really needs to have something to show me. This is vital if it’s a new client that I haven’t worked with before and don’t already know and trust. For a repeat client, I can be more lenient as I know them on a more personal and professional level. I know their style, their workflow and how they communicate. Once I have material to work from, I start drafting. I’m a strong believer in steady, consistent and clear communication so I’ll often share WIP drafts with the client to ensure we’re all still on the same page. This is especially important for remote clients – which most of my clientele is right now. From there I take any feedback into consideration and iterate on the content. Repeat as needed and then finalize the audio and get paid. Most of the time it can be a very quick process. It’s all about good communication and understanding each other well.

Are there any particular secrets to your creativity?

Lots and lots of drugs. And sleeping on mountains of cold, hard cash while surrounded by beautiful women. Don’t I wish! Seriously though, the biggest thing I’ve discovered is to listen to my body more. If I’m particularly stressed or tired then maybe not working is the best thing to do; even if there is a deadline. Other times you can push through that wall and find inspiration. Maybe play some video games for 30 minutes? Maybe go jogging? Maybe just getting away from the project and your studio would help? The key is to find what works for you. Everyone is unique and different.

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

Whenever possible I try to spend a bit of time just experimenting. If you have the time, try thinking outside of the box. See what happens if you create a strange fusion of styles or sounds. Look for new and unusual ways to use plugins. Musically speaking, I’ve sometimes started with a rhythmic idea other times with a bass lines, sometimes only harmony while other times only with a melodic idea. If you find yourself in a rut try changing the key signature or meter. Production-wise: try changing up your workflow. Instead of always adding your plugins in a certain order, change it up! Try a new plugin or take one out, etc. Humans are creatures of habit. See what you can do to break up your routine and I think you’ll be surprised with what you end up with.

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

Keep things consistent and clear. Always have a contract and stick to it! The moment a client proposes moving away from the contract you should become very wary. Amending a contract is possible but can be tricky. I’ve found keeping the business agreement as steady and consistent as possible is best in the long run. Changes can add confusion and can make it harder for you to prove your case if it ever went to court. I’ve been burned several times when I was first starting out because I was too trusting, honestly. Thankfully, most people are good and will not try and screw you over but there are some bad apples out there. If you stick to a contract then you can limit your chances of getting ripped off.Everything else is just constantly trying to get better at your craft and continually polishing the way you interact with your clients and peers. The best rule of thumb: treat others the way you’d want to be treated.

Any tips, hints or motivational speeches for the readers?

Be who you are, where you are, right now. Sounds cliché but what I mean is be honest with yourself and with your potential clients. I’ve seen industry noobs try and puff up their resumes or standing and it never works out. If you’re just starting out and have little to no credits, that’s OK! We all had to start somewhere. Folks will be more interested to see if your work is any good. But the moment you lie, even a small lie, you run the risk of getting caught and then black listed. Don’t take that chance; just be honest with yourself and others. (And yes, exaggeration is a form of lying too.)Also be nice. Nobody likes a jerk. I’ve worked with many very talented people, most of whom were super awesome and nice! A few were jerks. What I’ve noticed is the jerks sometimes “work” themselves out of jobs.

Even if they do awesome work, many studios are also very concerned about their company culture and want to hire someone who will be a team player. So remember the “Golden Rule.”Finally, don’t give up! I’m still learning new things every day and progressing in my skills as an audio professional. Rejection is a part of this industry so develop thick skin. If someone rejects your work don’t take it personally. We’re here to support the product after all. I run into young(er) audio folks that expect to learn and master everything in a very short period of time. Or they expect to land the perfect audio job right after graduation. For most of us, it doesn’t happen like that. There’s no magic trick or fix-all solution to go from industry noob to AAA-level audio professional. It’s just a bunch of time, effort and focus. I’ve been building my network of clients since 2005 and I’m just now really starting to feel (somewhat) established. I’m nowhere near folks certain audio folks but I am building a foundation. So that would be my biggest piece of advice: don’t give up!