Tell us a little about yourself and what you do for a living?
My name is Russell Bell and I’m a fulltime composer for media and my speciality area is US TV music. I’ve been writing since I learned to play around the age of 13 and spent a great deal of my time earning my stripes in working bands playing keyboards and bass guitar.
What is your niche or speciality, that makes you stand out from rest of the audio professionals?
This is just my own perspective, but I feel my biggest asset is my ability to soak up a genre and style and really feel what it’s like to write from the inside out. I adapt very well to new cultures within musicality and the sheer fact I’m self taught, gives me a freedom and a range that I don’t believe comes hand in hand with a deep educated knowledge in music theory. I enjoy being the chameleon and taking on every genre I’m asked to. It’s an exciting challenge to be asked to take on an alien style and make it your own. In this environment of unease, I find you discover things about yourself and your abilities you simply can’t do in a comfortable place.
Can you give us a brief summary of the equipment you use regularly?
My studio/setup kit isn’t extensive by any means. I run a 16gb i7 based PC running Cubase 6.5 and with this I have a very large array of libraries and sound sets all controlled via an Axiom 61 second gen keyboard. Pretty much everything I need is run in this setup.
What are your go-to plug-ins and software? (virtual instruments, audio processing etc.)
I have way too many to list as I don’t tread the same path with my choices. I try to keep it quite broad. I find myself using a lot of Soundiron libraries as their sound is extremely organic and has a depth and life to it like no other. I don’t have a go-to one stop for orchestral, but prefer a mix of Symphobia, Albion, EWQL SO etc. I do like Ozone for mastering with a little smattering of Nomad tools for warm compression and containment shall we say!
When do you find you are most creative?
This varies from week to week. Sometimes its clearly a morning thing but currently its becoming a very late in the day creative surge! Much to my annoyance! It’s hard going to bed with a 100 new ideas kicking around that’s for sure.
What is your usual process for creating audio content for games, films etc.?
I would spend more time researching the project than actual writing. I find getting truly inside the story and the theme is paramount. Sitting yourself away from the writing until that last moment when everything starts to feel connected works well for me. You need a perspective and rushing in with big ideas can feel exciting, but also give you the wrong footing, besides, once you commit to strong themes early on, your kinda married to them for the long haul, so choose wisely.
Are there any particular secrets to your creativity?
My biggest ally and friend is belief. Second guessing your talent, your ideas doesn’t work for me at all. Over-analyzing music whether it’s your own or someone else’s doesn’t actually break things down for me in a constructive manner. Instinct is key. When you have a vision that you can see unfolding, go with it and flesh it out. Not trusting yourself is your greatest foe at all times. It should not be confused with seeking perfection. Longing for something better is in all of us, it’s a great value, but always trust your creative self.
Do you have any audio creation techniques that resulted in something interesting?
My fondest technique if you can call it that, is removal and separation. As in, I don’t run big templates and preset anything in stone. I don’t like being suggested where I should go long before I make the journey myself, so I delve in and take risks sonically. Not big earth shaking ones, but let yourself explore sound, go always head for the obvious library or solution.
Any specific “lessons learned” on a project that you could share?
Yes!!! The client is always right even when ‘artistically’ speaking. They are paying you, they want their product, their show to sound a certain way. You can suggest and you can assist, but that client with the cheque book is holding all the cards. Learn to be a charming person to talk to and deal with. No one likes a smart arse and being artistic is sadly just reserved for those big acts that can captivate you with their character, sound and persona. For most of us, gently pushing the boundaries each time gives us subtle leverage.
Any tips, hints or motivational speeches for the readers?
My best shot at motivation would be, work as hard as you can. Use all those hours and push push push. Once a door shuts, go to the next one and so on. This industry is full of rejection and near misses but don’t let up for a second. Learn as much from as many people who have made it work as you can. Listen to everything people tell you and ask a lot of questions!!! If you get people to talk, your halfway their already as said above. Charm and warmth go a long way. Share the wealth. If you know of a good thing going and there is more work than anyone can handle alone, tell your friends, give people a break. Promote yourself and others, help people on their journey as you never know when the opportunity comes back to you and 10 fold!!