In this episode of the Trailer Music Composer’s Podcast, Rich speaks with composer and sound designer Andrew Skipper.
Rich and Andrew discuss:
- Andrew’s path to becoming successful composer
- His work creating sound design libraries and instruments with Fallout Music Group
- The “trailer tipping point”
- Andrew’s writing process
- Working on that you enjoy…
- With people you like working with!
Hey guys welcome to another session of the trailer music composers podcast. And in this session I have a very special guest on the show. His name is Andrew Skipper, he is a very, very talented composer and he has such a fantastic attitude about becoming a full time composer. Currently he does it as his second job, but he’s always approached it with almost like a mathematical approach, you know. To become a full time composer I need this many tracks released by library. He gives you his magic number in the show. The reason I loved this interview is because of Andrew’s focus on doing the work that he feels excites him, which you guys know I talk about a lot on this podcast, also on my YouTube videos about focusing on the stuff you enjoy. Because what happens there is you become this conduit of fantastic energy, not only does your music just give off this great vibe, it also means that you get into the flow quicker. You stay in the flow longer, the work you produce sounds better and also your output increases. It’s just such a fantastic place to be.
And Andrew basically preaches that, that since realising he was focusing on not necessarily his best area, his favourite place to be, since shifting to where he really enjoys working it’s been a huge game changer for him. So much so that it enabled him to then also launch Fall Out Music Group, which is a sample library company as well with a couple of other guys where they produce, good news for us, focused instruments for trailer music composers. And the reason I say focused is because like Andrew, he’s got the same mindset as me when it comes to sample libraries, too much choice means that I don’t make any choice at all, where if he just gave me like a single instrument that niches down so far to the point where if I need a certain sound that’s the only one I go too, then that’s an absolute winner. So you should check those guys out by the way, their instruments are fantastic, specifically ascendance, which is a riser machine, and it’s just fantastic, I absolutely love it. Anyway let’s dive into this interview. Here we go.
Rich: Andrew Skipper, welcome to the trailer music composer’s podcast. Fantastic to have you on here.
Andrew: Thank you for having me Richard.
Rich: How are you doing sir?
Andrew: Yeah, I’m doing well thank you. Yeah. A bit rainy out there as usual, we’re talking about the weather.
Rich: That’s in England I presume, yeah.
Andrew: Yeah, yeah, of course. I’m not even using the aircon today.
Rich: Ok, so we’re going to kick this off with a question I like to ask all my guests. Actually in fact generally if I’m at a wedding, any strangers I meet I will ask them if you were a vegetable, what vegetable would you be, but this one is if you were to be an instrument, what instrument would you be and why?
Andrew: Oh, an instrument. I’d probably be like one of those knackered out old upright pianos that you sell for £30. That would suit me actually, yeah. Knackered out, £30 old upright that’s out of tune and half the keys don’t work.
Rich: Nice, fantastic, job done I like that. And can you tell me why you’d choose a knackered out old piano?
Andrew: Because, and I’ll tell you why, I want one and my wife won’t let me get one. She says we can only have a baby grand because it looks pretty and that doesn’t interest me, because it will sound all very nice, but I’ve got enough piano VIs to do all of that anyway. But to get a really knackered old one and then start you know damaging it a little bit more and having some real good fun with it, yeah. And I’d actually be able to play a tune on it, it would be all wonky and out of tune, that would be fantastic. And it’s sort of like me, a bit old and a bit knackered.
Rich: You could have done with having some nuts and bolts shoved in you.
Andrew: Yeah, exactly yeah.
Rich: Nice choice, I like it. I like it. Ok so tell everyone about yourself, what’s your story, where are you now and how did you get there?
Andrew: Right ok. Well I’m not going to give you the life story because I’m like 50 you know, so that will just take forever. But currently I’m living in Cheshire and don’t intend to move till I retire. So that’s where I am, Cheshire, UK. And how did I get here? Well it all started back in the 80s I guess, yeah back in the 80s. Because whilst everyone was doing GCS, well ‘O Levels back then ‘O Levels’ and ‘A Levels’ I sort of decided half way through my ‘A Levels’ that this was really dull and I wanted to do music tech. Now in 87 you couldn’t do music tech, it didn’t exist in the UK, there wasn’t even the old, those old, what do they call SAE, the Student Audio Engineering workshops, they didn’t even exist. And the only place you could go in the whole of the western hemisphere was this place called the Recording Workshop. Which was like a four month course in Chillicothe, Ohio.
So I spent a whole summer washing pots and waiting on that kind of stuff to save up for the tuition fee and then my parents said right well if you do the tuition, we’ll pay for your flights. So at the grand old age of 18, straight after my ‘A Levels’ I went on about three flights and got picked up in a mini bus by, well, I don’t know if you could imagine what Midwest America was like in the late 80s but there was no internet, so that didn’t even exist then. Yeah, it was cool, really good, I was the only Brit there out of about 120 students. So yeah, it was good.
And there we learned all about how to record things, basically bands, and how to use mixing desks and how to set microphones up, and I did that and I came back and I landed a job straight away at CBS Studios in London. Yeah, it was CBS at the time, they were then bought out by Sony. So I worked at a studio complex, a recording complex in London which is now unfortunately a block of flats.
But it was just off the Tottenham Court Road, and they had, there was only them and Abbey Road at the time that had a big enough space to record an orchestra in central London. And you had in the basement this huge, fantastic orchestra sized recording studio. And then on the ground floor and the first floor it was all where you did things like the Carling Black Label adverts, all that kind of stuff. And on the top floor was the snazzy SSL 48 track pop and rock place. And no one understood is why is a tappet, because I was a teapot, a runner basically, I always wanted to be in the basement with the old fart, recording the orchestra because it just fascinated me. So I was more than happy just pottering around, setting up orchestral sessions, setting all the mikes out and then sitting there hitting play and record and stop on the tape machine while they all did their work. So that’s how I started.
And then when I was 18, 19 I got my head turned by a young lady back home, so that job didn’t last that long and I ended up working in the studios in Sheffield which was my home town, next to Phil Oakley’s studios actually, Human League, so I had few sessions shall we say with Phil Oakely and stuff like that. So that was all late at night.
And then my girlfriend wanted a house which meant a proper job. So I think then I was earning like £4.50 an hour at the most. So yeah, so I got a job in construction. And that was it, I moved away from music for a long time.
And then fast forward to turning 40 and picking up a map book for work and finding this thing called ‘Garage Band’ and I loaded up Garage Band and in about half an hour I realised that I had the equivalent of the old multi million pound studio on a laptop and my mind was blown. and then from there I found Logic and from there I discovered the money pit that’s orchestral samples. And then I just started my journey of learning which took several years of orchestration training with things like Guy Mitchell was mentioned the other day on a podcast. I didn’t do his music for the media. I did his cinematic orchestration and stuff like that. That was mind blowing. Because your tutor was actually a Hollywood orchestrator and he would give you feedback and that was just brilliant.
Rich: Yeah I think I saw snippets from that, it was like a, he was actually working to the video with his notation. Marking the bar lines.
Andrew: Yeah, I mean it was really old school stuff, it was just great because you had, I learned all about orchestration, I learned more from that on orchestration than from all the books. And then again another hiatus for another few years as a day job, because I also run a small business, it’s my own business now, that took over. And then I thought I need to get back into this because I’m missing it, I’m missing something in my life that can’t be filled with X-Box. And so I picked it up again and started and went you know what, I actually want, I need a challenge, I need a focus I need a goal and I’d heard about library music and then I went what is the highest picked fruit for library music, what’s the hardest thing you can go for, and I found trailer music. And I thought oh that’s not written by the composer of the movie, I didn’t know that. So yeah, that’s what I did. So then I started again learning courses, including yours of course.
Rich: Well yes, I didn’t push you to say that either.
Andrew: Your original trailer course which was great. So I really enjoyed that. And that’s how I got to know you and I liked the style and the method of teaching and your approach as well. Because some of the other things, everything was so precise and had to be polished and finessed and yours was just like get this done, let’s get the vibe, get the sound and let’s get the feel of the track going so you don’t feel bogged down. And I liked that. So yeah. So that’s it. And then fast forward I haven’t done any more courses now for a couple of years so there you go, since then I’ve been doing production music per se.
Rich: Ok, nice. Now my question here is so obviously you had this fantastic time in the 80s and early 90s working the studio. Then you had your hiatus when you had your family you got the ‘job’ you know. Then you come back to music with your, obviously I don’t think you’re in a garage band now, but you go back, find garage band, I had a similar thing, I realised you know I was back, when I was in a band we were playing, we were all saving so much money to get an engineer to record us with his really expensive desk that sounded actually they sounded, the demos were shockingly bad. And what you can do now is just amazing.
Andrew: It’s just mind blowing. Kids don’t realise it, they don’t know they’re born.
Rich: Taking it for granted. So yeah, you go from there, you start taking some courses, now how did you take your desire to write this music to the next level, how did you start getting your music out there, how did you start getting placements from it?
Andrew: Well the thing is I think some of it does come down to your personality and I’m just one of those personality types as is my wife, as are the kids as well, we are all a bit like a dog with a bone when we get something between our teeth we don’t let go. And we will not be beaten somehow so we just go to the distraction of everything else to the actual, to the point where other things can even suffer. But so with this kind of next level it was I want to get the first step was can I do this? So I followed some courses including yours and I produced some music that I thought was ok. And I actually got some help from a mixing engineer to mix my stuff via Skype. So again this is all about investing in your future and at the time I knew that my mix skills were just atrocious. And so I picked a young guy what was doing really well, and asked him if he would give me some online one on one tuition. He basically mixed one of my epic tracks from scratch over Skype over about nine hours. And I paid him for his time. And I learned so much in that time.
And then from then after I would basically throw him the tracks, every track I did I would throw him and I paid him 15 Euros to review the track and just give me a few hints and tips in five minutes, what do I need to look at? And it was always just those little things that helped you just get it right. And then I did about four or five tracks like that and I thought it was time to approach some publishers. So I got my spreadsheet out and got my list, sent it off to Colossal, each one was personally sent, it was non-generic, it was hand written so to speak, well hand written email. And I sent them to about seven or eight publishers. And no one came back to me. And then it was, it was basically, it was a funny old one actually, is that one of the publishers was having a Christmas party, so I sent it to them, and then because I sent an email I got on their email list for the Christmas party. So then I got back in touch and went look, I’m coming to the Christmas party, no pressure about the tracks I sent you. And that was just a friendly reminder. And then they came back and they went oh I’ve listened to them, oh actually we could use that one track on this one album. There’s the brief, just go and tart it up. And they went through a couple of revisions and funnily enough that one track has actually been used about 500 times as a promo in some Netherlands and French and German different promo snippets. Not that I’ve seen anything but pennies but it was still used a lot funnily enough, just the first 15 seconds of it. But yeah, that’s how I got on with my first publisher yeah, and then from there on after it was more a case of relationships, you know not going out and targeting people just chatting and getting on with people.
And then you sort of just get chatting don’t you and then someone finally says oh would you like to do this or can we listen to something. I think it’s a much more organic nicer way of doing things than trying to ram things down people’s email. So it is a relationship game and the young ones don’t realise it as much I don’t think. But they learn quickly enough. I don’t want to sound like a really old fart, but you know what I mean.
Rich: Funnily enough just before you said the word relationship I was about to say to the listeners that actually you know we, you and I have a working relationship now and that is hugely in part not just to your talent as a writer, but your ability to build a relationship naturally.
Rich: Now in one of the previous episodes Ciaran Birch talked about how he built relationships naturally.
Andrew: Yeah, I listened to that, it was great.
Rich: Yeah, fantastic interview. And he’s got some amazing work from just like sharing common interests or just being very forward, not forward in that way but proactive with his conversing.
Andrew: Yeah, you don’t go out with this sort of laser focused I am going to manipulate this person to like me and therefore offer me some work. If you go with that attitude you’re going to fail because it’s going to be really transparent, really quickly. And to give you another example I went to this thing called the ‘Production Music Awards’ in London, it’s like an event.
Andrew: Yeah, the PMAs. Yeah, you’ve probably been or you’ve probably got an award no doubt.
Rich: I am yet to have a PMA.
Andrew: Yeah, ok I’m sure it will come. So you need Vik to put enough towards it.
Rich: Go on, yeah.
Andrew: So I went there purely because it sounds like a good night out. And me and the wife thought you know what we’ll have a night out in London, or a couple of nights in London, we’ll go to these PMA awards, it wasn’t cheap, it was £80, £90 a ticket or something. And we’ll go there and we’ll have a good crack. And we didn’t know anybody. And on the table there was actually somebody I knew from Facebook, I’m not going to mention a name because he might get inundated, but he was basically starting his own company in America as well, yet he’s a very, very successful production thriller writer. And we just started talking and we just got on so well, and then we kept in touch, my wife was in touch with his wife, after that night, we had a really good night out. But it must have been several months later, if not 10 months later where he then said to me would you like to do an album for our new TV production type stuff? And I was like yeah, I’d love to, absolutely love to. And he said well throw me some, pitch me some stuff.
So I pitched him a few things, and he goes I don’t like that, that, that, that or that, but I like that. Do me an album of that. And it even came with an advance as well. And that was, but not once did I go there with an intention of trying to manipulate anybody, it was just going for a good night out. But because we got on and chatted, opportunities arise. And I think that’s the way that you should look at it.
And it’s also about just being nice, you know I don’t know what it is, this whole thing that’s been going on recently about this Spitfire competition and everyone is being so vitriolic online, not everybody, but a lot of people have been vitriolic online about the winner, and I’ve just been sort of saying it’s so much easier to be nice, so much less effort to be nice and supportive than it is to be an absolute ****hole. That takes effort to actually keep up that level of vitriol and nastiness, I don’t know why people bother, it’s so negative, it’s so much easier to be positive about things. And I just think you know if you put out enough positivity some hopefully may come back your way. That’s my plan anyway.
Rich: What you give out will come back to you tenfold.
Andrew: I hope so.
Rich: Oh the wave is coming Andrew.
Andrew: Well it already is, it already has. I mean some of the relationships I’ve built up have just been great and I just know that they’re going to last a long time as well. You know these aren’t just send me a few tracks and I’ll shove it on an album sort of thing. These are sort of friendships, they probably are friendships. The same happened with Vik from Elephant, that was really organic in the way that he got in touch with me for the sound design. I don’t know if I’m jumping ahead here but you know nothing, I wasn’t asked to do anything and I didn’t offer to do anything until we’d met up and had a few beers. And been out and had a curry.
Rich: So I just want to fill in a few missing details just for those listeners who aren’t in the inner circle of Elephant Music here. So the sound design you’re referring to is Mammoth Audios Density product. So Mammoth Audio really has this amazing trailer music instrument called Density, last year, wait where are we?
Andrew: I don’t know it was the beginning of this year actually.
Rich: Or was this year?
Andrew: Yeah, I know we did it last year.
Rich: We did it last year. But I want to fill in a kissing detail that I’m not sure you know about. So at that point before Vik had gotten into contact with you Andrew, Andrew had been posting on all of Elephant Music’s social media. So whenever they posted something he would post something positive. He’d be like this is great, great news, congratulations guys, you guys deserve it. Stuff like that, tons of stuff like that on every post. I’d see them because a lot of them were tagged with me in it. That wasn’t a brag.
Andrew: Yeah, my name’s Richard I get all the placements.
Rich: Yes, your words.
Andrew: Only jesting.
Rich: But I do get all the placements. Seriously. So yeah, and Vik said hey look, you know this guy don’t you Andrew because at the time you were doing my course and I’d set up the trailer music Facebook group back then. And I said yeah, great guy. You know why? And he was like I’m thinking of getting him on board to do the Mammoth. And it’s because of the way you had been proactive being nice and thoughtful that then led to that development.
Andrew: Yeah. And like I said earlier it’s not that you go out and target as a goal to do, you know it’s so easy to flip past your feed and just go like, like, like. But you know what it only takes an extra two seconds or five seconds to actually say something nice about it. You know and if, and I’ve done this for a lot of the trailer companies as well, and when you press play because nine times out of 1q0 they put a link through to YouTube normally I’m like blown away. So I’m like this was great, that was awesome and I know that it’s always nice to hear that when someone says you’ve done something well, it doesn’t matter who it is. So it doesn’t hurt to actually offer that and say I mean if you think it’s awful you don’t say anything obviously. But if you think it’s cool then say so.
Rich: This is a fantastic life lesson here Andrew and actually I think what you’re sending here is a remedy for the negative effects of social media. And I don’t mean the negative effects like trolling. I mean the negative effects like the simple passive, negative effects of sitting on your Facebook feed and just being oh, oh, oh because everybody else is doing stuff. But if you switch that onto its head and you are positive and proactive with your positivity you’d be amazed at how quickly your outlook shifts.
Andrew: Yeah definitely. The other thing is with Elephant Music, sorry Mammoth should I say and Density is it, I decided to get a pair of stereo mikes. And I’d done it because I wanted to record some of my own sounds to make risers because I noticed there was this great, I don’t know my wife will kill me because I don’t know the name of it, there’s this huge bloody bush outside my studio and when it’s sunny the bees in it are so noisy, and I thought that would be really cool if I could turn that into a riser. But I don’t like bees and wasps, even though I know bees are pretty cool wasps are evil. So every time I got my zoom and went anywhere near it I would like chicken out and have to back off. So I got like a pole and a pair of stereo mikes, I could shove it right in with the bees. And so I sort of got a picture, hey I’ve got this new mike or I’ve got this new mike or I’m doing something stupid with a vacuum cleaner or whatever. It sounds terrible, but you know what I mean.
And I think that also Vik did mention, he said oh we saw you, he messaged me or Jamie did, one of them did, and said we noticed you’re getting into sound design do you want to come and have a chat? And I was like yeah, I’d like to meet you and have a chat because the thing is when you get to my age as well. God, I’m so old, it…
Rich: Stop saying that, stop saying when you get to my age.
Andrew: You actually only want to work with people you like because I spent enough years working for people I don’t like or doing jobs for people I don’t like in construction, civils or IT the things that I’ve done. And therefore when it comes to this job, which is actually a second job, you know because I do 30, 40 hours on the day job in a week and then I put another 20 plus hours on this in evenings and weekends, so it’s a second job. So who the hell wants to do a second job with people you don’t like. So you know, so when that person that you do like says here’s some revisions that you’ve been waiting for, for two weeks, can I have them back in 24 hours you actually go yeah, no problem because you like them, and you like the people you’re working for, whereas if you don’t like them you will just be sat there muttering and hitting the keyboard rather hard as you sort of scowl your way through the revisions, which is just going to come out and show itself in the work that you do.
Rich: Yeah, the energy goes into your music and comes out.
Andrew: Exactly. Exactly.
Rich; More fantastic advice, I just love that, I’m all for working with people not only who you like but who you admire as well.
Rich: Because I think that admiration then sort of gets this lovely reciprocation and there’s just the cycle of loving basically.
Andrew: And there is some definite fan boy stuff going on as well, because I have my fan boys, I don’t mean I’ve got fanboys, I mean I put people on a pedestal and think oh my God they’re so awesome at their job. And Ciaran was one of them, about four years ago I heard some of his work and I was just blown away with his orchestral hybrid work.
Rich: Ciaran Birch?
Andrew: Yeah, Ciaran Birch and I thought oh my God, one day I might be able to get on an album with him and this is just about to happen with Elephant even though it’s nothing to do with orchestral hybrid, because I’m just not cut out for orchestral hybrid, which is another story that I’ve come round to realise this last year or so. But bye the bye, I am actually going to end up, I actually believe he’s on the same album as me.
Rich: He’s working on that album too. Yeah.
Andrew: And I’m going to be, when it comes out I’m going to be raising a little glass, you’ve finally got on an album with Ciaran. And with Ciaran I’m like oh man, what’s he saying, what’s he saying. Because he’s such a humble guy, but for me that’s huge and as would be putting on a horror album with you or putting on a sound design album with Brett Daniels say or someone like that, or Si Begg or whoever, these sound designers. So there is that thing that is like a little bucket list of who you can be alongside. So that will be awesome. And it’s a bit ego boosting but whatever.
Rich: No, its gold setting that’s what it is.
Andrew: Yeah, it is. Its like four years ago I remember saying that would be amazing if you could get an album with him, and four years later after a huge amount of work, I mean people really, I mean I’ve listened to some of your podcasts and heard some of you guys, I think it was Cody you were interviewing and someone said to me by messenger of Cody he like got his first placement within two years and I was like did you listen to the interview? He said yeah, yeah, he said he got his placement within two years, and I said but he spent like seven years before that learning Logic at the Apple store and learning the tricks of his trade, he was orchestrating, he was self teaching himself for years. Before he then did that. You just cherry picked out that one thing you focused on it and now you’re comparing yourself because you’re only a year in and you think you’ve only got a year to be able to do that. You’ve said many a time it took you a few years before your first placement?
Rich: At least, many years, yeah. It took me seven before I could go full time and that was only because of saving my money.
Andrew: Yeah, exactly. So I think sometimes there’s a lot of people feel they have to rush, rush, rush as well because they feel like the marketplace is getting very, very crowded. And it probably is but I think hard work and talent will shine through in the end whatever happens.
Rich: Yeah, and a friendly face.
Andrew: A friendly face, be nice to people.
Rich: Yeah. Big time. On the note about the marketplace getting crowded people are always going to say that. And the other thing you’ve got to look at is yes the barrier for entry has got lower, but that’s only a blessing for everybody. And yes there are more people getting into it, but yes there are so many more outlets. You think about back in the 80s, how many channels on the telly were there, four?
Andrew: Four max. We didn’t get channel four till 92 I think.
Rich: Very good, two and a half.
Andrew: BBC1, BBC2, and ITV that was it in the UK.
Rich: Exactly. And you think about how many channels and it’s not just the UK that a UK writer would get put on, we can get music on all of these streaming channels.
Andrew: Thousands of channels. Thousands of channels. I mean my biggest Spotify earnings came from Japan, I mean it wasn’t a lot but I had 17,000 plays.
Andrew: Yeah, 17,000 plays. I mean I got about £4 but…
Rich: Get in.
Andrew: It was a deal or something no doubt, but it doesn’t matter, it all builds up. And traits just from one track. And I don’t have a large output. That’s my other problem that I’m trying to fix this year is that you do need to build your output up. That’s something that I’ve learned from you guys as well. You know you can’t go through life, no you can go through life doing what you want obviously but you can’t aim, you can’t set a goal of being able to live off placements if you’re putting four tracks out a year, its just unfortunate it’s very unlikely its going to work. You might if those four tracks are customs and they all land, but it’s still unlikely. And I think I’ve had to change my whole mindset about how I approach writing which you and all your teachings have really helped is how you approach writing to actually build to produce content. Such as when we worked together and you know it was like producing 10 tracks of the similar genre. You have to have a mindset about doing those 10, and getting, you know, doing one every couple of days rather than like in the first, maybe the first, you know it might be two years ago, three years ago, I think I put our four tracks in the first year. You know whereas this year I’m up to probably about 40 already.
Andrew: You do need to get to a certain tipping point and I’m going to give a golden figure here that I’ve worked out from talking to lots of people, and this is in overall general trailer music not customs, forget customs, because I hate them as much as you do. And that’s just having a good publisher and lots of tracks. I think the magic number is 75.
Rich: Per year?
Andrew: No just 75, I don’t mean 75 a year, I mean you just need 75 good tracks, and you will start to see something happening. Obviously you need to carry on producing those tracks but if it takes you three years to do those 75 that’s fine. It’s up to you, but as soon as you seem to hit about 75 with a decent publisher you’ll start getting the odd placement. And I’ve tested that with about six people, I’ve had chats with them, people who I’ve started seeing, getting placements in the last year or so and they get them every three, maybe two or three months. How many tracks before you’ve got, how many 68, how many 78, oh really 75 that’s what I say.
Rich: Ok. You know what I’m going to have to go back through my catalogue and see how many tracks.
Andrew: How many tracks before you got your first, before you first got regular placement, I’m not just on about one, sort of every couple of months, three months.
Rich: Yeah. See Vik and I when we first started I was like kind of the hidden bespoke guy. So this was back when me and Vik used to work in advertising. So we didn’t output albums then, he would get a brief from an advertising client and he would send it to me and say Rich, bash out some tracks that sound like this or in this style. And I would send like five tracks over in the style of that brief. Which you know wasn’t very effective.
Andrew: Go back to when you started doing albums then. Forget about customs because…
Rich: Well Piano Works, we launched with 50 tracks for Piano works.
Andrew: I bet you got placements within weeks.
Rich: Within the first year we got quite a few placements.
Andrew: Yeah, you do need I think to have it, I just call it like the trailer tipping point, that’s what I call it to myself, I named it for myself, and it’s basically because it’s a goal I’ve set myself to get 75 decent tracks with decent publishers. And I feel once I’ve got that I should start to see some success on the sort of music placements rather than just sound designs.
Andrew: That’s what I think anyway.
Rich: Malcolm Gladwell eat your heart out.
Andrew: Yeah, I’m not going to go for thousands of tracks I haven’t the energy to even think of thousands of tracks. But certainly I am currently aiming at 30 to 40 tracks a year. And if I can beat that. And I’ve already done that this year, but you know we’ll see.
Rich: So what number are you currently on, are you at 75 yet?
Andrew: No, nowhere near, not really because I’m saying 75 good tracks.
Rich: Oh good tracks that’s half my catalogue gone.
Andrew: Good tracks, I mean tracks that I wouldn’t actually mind someone to listen to now, some of the earlier stuff I’d say no, no. so I don’t know probably I’m up to, well most of it’s been done this year that’s the thing. I procrastinate terribly so last year I think I maybe did seven or eight. You know for trailer companies and a handful of customs. And a lot of sound design.
Rich: Was it last year you got your first placements?
Andrew: Yeah, a couple of sound design ones yeah on the horror side of things with Warner Brothers stuff, I think I got placement of a 20 second riser.
Andrew: But that was weird, that was kind of a custom because they actually wanted a sound design pack of risers, hits, you know pings based around a brief they actually said produce 30 or 40 pieces of sound design. And they just happened to lift out one of the risers I did. So that was like a teaser for the main trailer, Dr. Sleep, coming main trailer coming on Sunday, and then obviously a proper trailer guy got the main trailer on the Sunday. But yeah, yeah it was great, it was awesome and spurs you on, but that’s been a year nearly now, and nothing since on that front. But I’m nowhere near my tipping point.
Rich: It will come.
Andrew: I’ll get there.
Rich: Yeah, do you remember the days when I’d get a trailer and then it would be months and months and months before I got anything else and then the panic would start to set in, the self doubt would set in and I’d think am I wasting my time, I shouldn’t be doing this. And then oh I just landed another trailer. So another one will be coming shortly Andrew I’m sure.
Andrew: I’m sure it will at some point yeah, I’m sure it will at some point. And I think the other big thing for me this year was releasing and again without sounding too bromance was to take your sort of whole ethos of making sure you enjoy what you do, and it excites you when you’re writing music whatever kind of music it is. And I think, and then also there’s a guy called Goran who runs Infrasound Trailer Music and he gave me some advice as well. It was a bit harsh, or it felt harsh at the time, but I’m old enough to actually realize how he meant it, how well intentioned it was and how heartfelt it was to actually help me. And he basically has got an amazing orchestral hybrid album coming out soon, I’ve heard some of it and it’s amazing, and I’ve known him for ages and I was sort of expecting waiting for the brief to come, and he actually contacted me and said don’t actually think this is going to suit you, and I’ll tell you why. And I was like what. And then I listened and then I was like you know what you’re right actually.
And he was basically saying I know you can do it, but it’s going to take it out of you, and it’s going to take a lot of time. And your horror stuff is absolutely awesome and I’d just had three tracks with him on a horror album, they were all at the front of the album, and he was like which do you enjoy doing? And I was like I hate doing orchestral hybrid, I really don’t, I mean I kind of like it, but it’s more like a vanity thing and you know it’s more like you want to sort of tweak everything and polish everything to perfection. But in the end i have limited time and in the time it would take me to do one of those orchestral hybrid tracks like Ciaran does, but not as good, I could have put an album out of horror and enjoyed every single second of it. So and then you constantly going on about doing stuff that excites you, it just made me realise it’s time to actually put aside the orchestral hybrid goal that so many of us have when we first start in trailer music that we’re going to write the next marvel trailer and actually find your, find your thing that you really enjoy doing. And I realise that I like breaki8ng things and hitting things and putting them into some semblance of a track to try and create fear and tension for some reason. So you know. I also like writing pretty piano pieces with solo cello, but that doesn’t have a huge call for that because it, you know.
Rich: Yeah, allay your features to the choir on all of those fronts.
Andrew: I know. And as soon as I switch from focusing on that style of music to focusing on what I want to do my output has rocketed. Like I said last year I did some classics, we took things like Nocturne in C Sharp Minor and Rachmaninoff in C Sharp Minor and Moonlight Sonata and we put out a mini album of trailerised classics. And I love those and I love doing it, but it took months. And so that was like five tracks and it took months. Whereas this year I’ve done about 30, 35 or 40 horror, tension, dark things. So…
Rich: Yeah, that’s the thing, when you find your, there’s so many words for it, like your zone of genius, your ease.
Andrew: Your niche. Genius.
Rich: I like the sound of genius too, when you find your flow, you know it’s the ease of writing is phenomenal. We mention Ciaran a lot having worked, having written tracks with Ciaran although he says he’s a slow writer he’s not. We’ve worked on a track that was bashed out in a day and it was the same quality as the tracks that weren’t. You know when you’re in that flow.
Andrew: To you, I bet he picked the part. He’d have just sat there going oh no that violin, that lead violin there was a little bit out of tune and the velocity was…
Rich: Are you saying I’ve got low standards?
Andrew: No I’m saying that I reckon Ciaran is a fiddler, he likes to fiddle with the little, you’ve got to be to produce the quality that he does with kind of media orchestrations. That Avengers trailer I remember reaching out to him saying was there live strings in that and he was like no, and I was just floored. I was just floored because he had the same libraries as I did but he made them work.
Rich: I know, I still can’t, I’ve asked him many times how he gets his bass sound, and he’s explained it to me, he’s actually explained it to me and I still don’t understand. It’s like what you just use the same libraries as me and the same plug-ins and you get that? What am I doing wrong, is it because I’m playing cello over the top?
Andrew: I know, I know exactly.
Rich: Ok, so it’s nice we’re moving onto this, naturally, but I would like to dive into your writing process because I find it absolutely and infinitely fascinating to talk to people about how they write music. So what is your process for writing a trailer cue. So say today I emailed you and said hey Skipper we’ve got an album of horror tracks we’d like you to pitch on. Boom. What’s your writing process?
Andrew: Well the first thing is i like a reference because horror, you said horror that could mean so many different things couldn’t it. It could mean huge terror drums, screaming risers, everything drenched in reverb, whatever, or it could mean close up, breaking sticks in your face and smashing a cello. So I’d want a few references. Once I got those references then what I always do, especially with an album, even though I probably throw 80% of it away, is I create a sound palette and that sound palette is basically, I approach it from a couple of different ways, one as I will first go through all my own recordings of found sounds and stuff like that, see if anything sort of tickles my fancy. If it doesn’t I will start hitting and breaking things and recording them. But I first go through my own samples, I then start hitting and breaking things and then I’ll start torturing instruments. And I do all of that, and what sort of starts to form is a cohesive palette and sounds. And I might pick 500 bits of sounds and I will keep 30 or 40 as my palette. And funnily eno0ugh, only a handful of those will actually make it into a track, but it’s just like an anchor, a point of reference, just to keep me focused on what I was thinking of. If it was like, if you were an interior designer it would be the equivalent of your mood board I guess, and anyone with a wife will know what a mood board is, which sounds an incredibly sexist thing to say.
Rich: Ok, I’ve got a wife but that’s irrelevant you know.
Andrew: It is irrelevant. Let me rephrase that, if you had my wife you would know what a mood board is. Because I have seen many of them every time we’re doing a new thing she will get a bord. She’s very artistic. You know she is actually a painter, an artist in that way. She will get strips of material colours, she’ll put them together, and she will create an absolute huge thing and then expect me to understand it. Which of course I don’t so I just go yes darling it’s fantastic go with that. But that’s what I do with sound. And that’s how I stand.
And then when it starts with a track it always starts with a signature song for me, it has to start with something that is really cool. Today I had to do a revision for a track and the feedback from Soup was love it from 55 seconds onwards, but I’m a bit bored up until that point can you make it a bit more exciting? Can you either bring forward something that you’re doing later on or do something different in that first bit just to grab me. And I’d just bought this amazing instrument, I can’t show it to you, I will do I’ll post pictures. I’ve actually posted a video the other day. And it’s basically a block of wood with bits of metal and springs and like a cut up symbol and it’s all bolted into a metal plate and then underneath that there’s three contact mics that are all welded to a four inch jack output so you can plug it straight into your audio interface. And you can bow it and tap it and all sorts and you get the most amazing sounds.
So with that I literally dragged that out, first time I’ve used it, put a bow across a bit of wood that stuck out, and created a sound, tuned it, pitched it down and that was put in within literally five, six minutes from start to finish, it was in the track. As the sort of opening signature sound for the track and that’s being sent off tonight. And that was so much quicker than trying to browse through thousands of samples on my hard drive. And it’s cool, it’s so cool. It’s got all these over times and weird and then you saturate it and create all these overtones. And I’m sorry there was nothing you could do, no one else could have done that because they haven’t applied the same pressure on the same pierce of metal with the same bows. Or applied the same chain of effects. So no one else has got it. And that’s what’s cool you see, that’s what it’s like, and I that was so just so awesome. You’re sat there making this funny noise and you’re smiling and you think yeah, this is cool.
So that’s how I start, and then I always end with drums because I hate drums. I know you like them, I just can’t stand them. I’ve got so many drum libraries and I hate them.
Rich: An honest admission, I like it, I like it.
Andrew: You know what, that’s the other thing I’ve learned is that I’ve spent two or three years learning to layer drums and make massive huge sounds in drums. And then in the last year I’ve had this sort of I don’t know what you’d call it. This epiphany when I realised that if I taken out eight of the 10 things I just did for drums, it sounds a lot better. So now I just put a couple of layers in and it sounds a lot better. And if they want bigger drums you know I then ask a friend, phone a friend.
Rich: Yeah, well it’s like that age old producer’s advice, you know when people are layering up sounds for a snare, you know to get that big snare sound, they’re like the problem is you’re layering. You should just have one snare sound.
Andrew: One decent snare.
Rich: One decent snare sound exactly. Yeah, drums can be so complicated and it’s so easy to, I mean I find myself layering, I just go well I can layer, I’m going to layer all of that hands in percussion drums all at once. When actually you could just take all of them but one out and it sounds just as impactful perhaps even more so because their band width isn’t being taken up. Yes I do love drums.
Andrew: Exactly. It’s not actually the sound of the drums I don’t like, and it’s not getting the big epic sound that I don’t like, it’s doing the rhythms. For some reason I am really bad at doing drum rhythms. You know even if it’s just like tapping your fingers on the steering wheel, I can keep in time with the indicator like we all do, but you know I can’t come up with anything original. So I tend to like dig into midi files from sample libraries or whatever. So for example you might take a midi file from Damage or one of their loops, I don’t know if damage do them, but one of their instruments did have midi loops. And I’ll drag that across and then I’ll just rearrange it all to fit whatever instrument I’m using. And then strip it back a bit. And then you get like a proper feel and groove and I’m done. So that’s what I do. You know what, I’m probably going to take that one, I had two anyway so never mind.
Rich: See my approach is always like if I was going to be in drums, so if Steve Reich was a trailer music composer how would he do drums? So that’s my approach. Just lots of very simple, and that’s why I want to get into this, that’s why I love your instruments, sticks by the way.
Andrew: Oh right have you tried it?
Rich: I’ve tried it yeah.
Andrew: Cool. it’s really fun because the whole thing behind any of the instruments that I do and I do it, I do them with a guy called Random, Random Purcell, he’s over in Utah, we met online, as you do, just chatting via Facebook. And we got on really well, similar age, similar background. IT and stuff like that. And he’s an absolute demon worker, I’ve never known anyone work like him, he gets up at 4.30 every morning and works through till half seven eight o clock. And then he gets up deals with the kids and wife and all the rest of it, and then he puts on a full day’s work and then he’s a family man again all night. And he does that seven days a week, without exception, 4.30 in a morning and wow. And yeah. And his output is amazing because of it. And he’s so talented and we just got talking. We had one of our little late night chats, disillusioned about sample libraries, because what we were finding is there were some amazing libraries being released, but they were all like $200, $300, $400, $500, $600. $700, $800 some of them, but we said isn’t it true how we only tend to use like a fraction of what we buy.
And then we got talking, later on, a few weeks later, a few months later and he said something about oh I’ve got this thing, and I’ve just put it in contact, what do you think? And we just started sharting bits and bobs like that, and then we said well we could actually do something with this if we polished it up and do a bit more content. And I was busy doing the Mammoth stuff last year and he went out and released Trailer Drops, something like that, I can’t remember now, he’ll kill me for forgetting the name. A whole load of downers anyway. And then he also did Trailer Brahms of which they recorded a load of brass since, and I did a load of presets for it. And then from there we started working properly together on Ascendance, the risers one. So I did pretty much, I don’t know the majority of the organic stuff, maybe not the majority but a lot of the organic stuff. Or the organic risers.
But what we do is we say what do we want because we’re using these things. So with risers for example, we said all the risers, you’ve got to press a key for majors, or extend your midi, then you’ve got to cut it, then you’ve got to fit it to the audio, and you’ve got to cut it and then put the fades in and blah, blah, blah. Wouldn’t it be really cool if whatever BPM you were at you just had four, eight and sixteen bar risers and you just stretched out the midi and you knew it was going to fit, and then from there we said oh wouldn’t it be cool if we had two layers and then we were like wouldn’t it be cool if we had three layers. And then it kind of grew from that.
And then when we were happy with it, oh and then we went and paid for a full string orchestra in Bulgaria to do all of the string risers and he was, I think he was caught up somewhere so I had to like be online too, you know while the session was going on. And that was cool. And then we got a soloist to do a whole load of stuff as well, and we kept all those for ourselves. So we just put all the big orchestra and stuff and the instruments and then all of the synths and everything like that.
So we basically built an instrument that we wanted. Because what we said to ourselves is look the orchestra was X amount, it wasn’t loads, a few hundred dollars. So between two of us we probably spent about seven, eight hundred dollars making the instrument. But to us we had a totally unique instrument. But then we said if we just work a little bit harder and really polish it up, we could actually sell it and just share it with people at a very reasonable price.
And that was it, so that was where sort of Fall Out was born. Where we have this sort of ethos where everything we make we want to use yourself and we will use our self, and it has to be ladder focused in what it’s trying to achieve and it has to be cheap. Not just good value which is a proper marketing term, but cheap. So that pretty much anyone can afford it. And so that we don’t mind if we give it away to friends as well. So and that’s what we’re doing really. And we’re not going to turn into you know Keith Forrest and do 4000 sample libraries because we haven’t got time nor the inclination.
Rich: That’s the exact same reason I started releasing my instruments and my invented instruments. Because I wanted to load up an instrument, play it down. Move on. So just for the listeners the instruments that you’re referring to are released by Fall Out Music Group right.
Andrew: Fall Out Music Group, yeah.
Rich: And the instruments, you ever worked on are Ascendance, which are these amazing rise instruments, all my listeners should know, and if they don’t know this already, they should know how much I love a riser. And that instrument is just beautiful. Although I would like to say if you do a revision give me a 64 bar riser please because you know.
Andrew: Well we are talking about Ascendance and trailer braams to and a few other things as well, because you learn don’t you and you realise that you could go back and do something a it better. So yeah. So we’re descendants. There was a lot of us worked on that. Kyle worked on that too, Simon, who you know he tortured his wind instruments for us. But we even had a harpist on there as well, so we really went to town with that one which is why it’s I think our most expensive instrument, like $39 or something.
Rich: Oh yeah, that’s not expensive.
Andrew: There was a lot of hours went into it actually, but Stix the new one, Stix that’s primarily me on the, we’ve done this arty series one, so Kyle he Kyle Kniceley, he did one called Ping, no Sonar sorry, he did one called Sonar which took the same idea of ascendance of a three layer system, and he created an instrument with Random. Random is like a great coder as well, so he’s great at IT. so he does all of the tech stuff and the website and then within the Arty series we get one sound designer to do all the recordings and cutting of the samples and all that.
And yeah, Kyle did Sonar which is amazing. If you haven’t got it you should get it because it’s basically really awesome sound sources from organic sound sources etc. and you can just layer them, hit random and you’ve got a perfect unique ping because you’ve got like a one in 300,000 chance of getting the Sonar.
Rich: Amazing stuff.
Andrew: So yeah, so they did Sonar, and the next one is Sticks which I’ve just released which was basically much to my wife’s annoyance was a big Aldi bag for life was bunch of dried sticks what I got from last autumn and kept in the how much to her annoyance, to dry out properly for next year was my excuse. Because I knew that just cracking sticks would be a cool little percussive thing and it grew a bit from there you know.
Rich: I did exactly the same thing, I kept a bag of sticks in our utility room for at least a year and a half.
Andrew: I don’t know how many times she tried to throw them away, I was like no, don’t throw the sticks away. So yeah, they finally got destroyed about three months ago, two months ago when I recorded them for a couple of hours mad season of breaking and tapping because I’ve got this old, my daughter bought me an old sort of, I think it might be real animal skin, horribly, the way the dog tries to jump up on it I think it probably is real animal skin. It’s like a little hand drum thing that you can sit on your lap and tap, it’s got like a cow hide on it. But it isn’t like a cheapie from Amazon it was like bought from a music shop, but it might be actually, and it does stink a bit, so I think it probably is real animal which is a bit gross. But I basically use that with a stick so I can turn it into more of a percussive element as well.
Rich: Is that the drum patch?
Andrew: Yeah. They weren’t hit with drumsticks they were hit with gnarly bits of sticks, like ten sticks held loosely or lightly and then scraped with stuff and like that. So we ended up with a load of scrapes. But the idea of that instrument was purely to create something for when you wanted, because I want sticks quite often in my tracks, I want some kind of, and I’ll end up using wood blocks, or sticks from Spitfire or whatever, but they are very clean and clinical because they’re proper percussion sticks. So I thought well it would be cool to actually, especially for the organic horror and tension stuff to be able to you know, tap crappy old garden sticks together and build a percussive instrument out of them. So that’s what we did.
Rich: It sounds awesome. And you know I pretty much always use damaged sticks. I always, I’m like look at these damaged sticks because they sound great, I love them.
Andrew: They do sound great.
Rich: But this, this is just beautiful. Also the other thing it’s got, it’s the fact that you’ve got loose hits as well. I love a loose hit, but you’ve got a patch, I can’t remember which one it is, I think it might be the kit patch, it sounds like with a little bit of reverb it would be the perfect ambient drum kit. You know have a lovely pad going in the background, you know and then just this (crunching sound) you know.
Andrew: I love that stuff yet.
Rich: Put it through a vinyl.
Andrew: That was the other stuff yeah, the software that let you, it’s actually used in the games industry for creating weapon noises, it’s called Weaponiser, but basically it’s to allow people like when someone is shooting an AK47 that they don’t have to build up lots of tiny little audio files for the AK47, someone has gone out and recorded 2500 different variations of an AK47 being shot from everything from loading up the ammo to pulling the cock thingy back, the bolt back whatever it is, we don’t use it do we, but you know what I mean, to the recoil whatever. And they’ve created this engine that lets you have four layers and each layer like A, B, C, D, you can then have four blocks and in each block you can have four samples. So you can have 16 layers, 16 samples in four layers. So you can imagine it can get crazy. But then what you can do, you can tell it to randomise which sample it plays, so you end up with a load of round robins so I thought and so did Random, this would be great for creating this and stuff because you can put all your drum samples in, and then hit fire, it’s even got a fire button. And it basically created round robins.
So with the sticks I just put in a load of different stick samples, in just two of the layers, like about 30 or 40 different samples and just kept it on fire. And every one was different because it was pulling our different samples to play at different times with different offsets. And you can randomise the pitch. How fast, slow it plays. So that’s what created that patch you were on about that thing. So just laid up the samples, ah it was fantastic, that would have taken me 30 hours. I did it in about half an hour, it as absolute bliss it was just like a revelation.
Andrew: I don’t think I’ve got any use for the 14,000 gun samples that come with it unfortunately.
Rich: Ha yes.
Andrew: Yet. Yes Vik, gun battle two.
Rich: Yeah, Elephant’s gun album. Mate that is awesome also I love how excited you’re getting about all this sound because I find myself doing that, I still to this day walk around my house just tapping DAWs, even the same bowls, I’ll pick it up and tap it and I love this bowl.
Andrew: Do you get the look from the family, do you get the family look as well?
Rich: Ah yes.
Andrew: Let’s go on holiday.
Rich: Just get a room Rich. Ah.
Andrew: I know, in Wales when we went down a copper mine about four years ago, and just all I got at the time was an old, was a cheap zoom, like £40, £50 zoom, they bought it for me for my birthday like the week before. So it was really nice the kids and they’d all clubbed together to buy this little zoom, but they regretted it because I made them walk up that same sort of tunnel humming for time so I could record. And then I turned it, I got back to the hotel, well it was a B&B, I think I was using Evil 2 at the time, slapped it all into Ableton and created a pad out of it with the Ableton sampler.
Andrew: And it’s funny because that sort of showed me that even four, five years ago that’s what I enjoyed doing. So I don’t know why I stopped doing it, and decided I was going to be the next Ciaran Birch.
Rich: That’s because we’re all chasing the big golden egg.
Rich: I think also there isn’t enough emphasis place, and I try and emphasis this on this podcast that when you approach trailer music, you’re doing epic orchestral music. You can just be a sound engineer and produce tool kits and you can earn a phenomenal amount of money if you do it well.
Andrew: You can, I know that Gothic do nothing but that. Their Tool Works album, Gothic absolutely kills it with their Tool Works stuff, they are brilliant at it, they know exactly how to do it. You know they do everything to the same BPM, so the editors can put it together, they know to do round robin variants of different, of every different sound thing and put it on an album, they’ve got it spot on, really well done, they’re really good at it. So, I shouldn’t…
Rich: There you go.
Andrew: I don’t actually want to do that, that’s the thing, because I totally respect the guys that do that. The idea of sitting down and just creating samples to go on to an album, 36 variants of one sample would send me screaming to the woods.
Andrew: I love doing it, to create a cohesive track, that’s what I like to do it for. And if something comes out of that we can do a little instrument as a side bit of fun, that’s great.
Rich: It’s using the excitement that you find from these organic natural sounds to propel the writing process.
Andrew: Yeah. and I’m also finding now dipping my toe into semi modular synthesis which is the stupidest thing I could do.
Rich: Another money pit.
Andrew: Yeah, it already is. No actually we got another box being delivered, shush darling. It’s mine, yeah, right. Because I don’t really understand synthesis I’m a preset liver, I’m not a fiddler, I’m a tweaker, but I’m bored of going through presets. So I thought you know what, and I’m bored and I don’t like using software synths and there are some amazon software synths, like Omnisphere or New Heath’s Zebra and all of those, they’re all amazing, but they don’t inspire me a desire to learn how to use them. I watch a video, a tutorial video on them, and I’m asleep in 20 minutes. So that doesn’t do it for me, whereas I can watch videos, you know I can watch four hours of videos on how to programme a semi modular Moog. So obviously I’m finding something that’s exciting me there. And I’ve got this thing called DFAM which is Drummer From Another Mother. Like Moog, and it’s basically a weird percussive synth. And within five minutes of turning it on I got some weird stuff that I just had to like record. So that’s already inspired me. And I’m seeing a possibility of fusing the two somehow. I just haven’t decided how yet.
Rich: I’m pretty sure there is definitely a way you can fuse the two but you know it’s…
Andrew: I’ll keep it to myself for now. My idea.
Rich: Oh don’t worry I’m not at all interested, yeti No I’ve never been that interested in that stuff really, I’d always be looking at it and be like I just want something I can hit and make a sound.
Andrew: Yeah. You want a steady tweak, you just move the knot around and see what happens. I don’t really know what I’m doing yet, but I just think oh that sounds cool, record it quickly, sample it. Put it in the sampler and play it and we’re away we go.
Rich: Right amazing. Now if I got sidetracked from your creative process to your creative process for creating your samples, I just want to ask you what as a trailer composer as a composer and a creator of sample libraries what creative barriers do we face, how do you face as a composer?
Andrew: Life isn’t it, I mean it’s the day job, it’s the day life that is the usual stuff, it’s everything that we put in front of ourselves as well, so it’s everything from social media, it’s like I’m sat here now at my studio desk and if I was working, if Facebook was on the other screen I would be stopping and answering Facebook, that’s a creative barrier to me. The day job itself is a creative barrier so when I’m on a deadline I do have to enforce very strict discipline on myself. So I will get up at 6.30 and work two and a half hours before the day job starts. Luckily I work from home on the day job so it’s just a case of moving desks, not commuting. So that’s something.
And then there’s good things, there’s good barriers that you need to be aware of and embrace. And that’s the barriers of family, because if, and I can see there’s so many you know people with families are working themselves to death and stressing out and then worrying that they’re not spending enough time with their family. Well if you’re worrying that you’re not spending enough time with the family you’re probably not spending enough time with the family. So set yourself that, I would say set yourself that time limit for that day and set yourself that time for the family and say that is going to happen, whatever happens that is going to happen. And even if I’m you know really at the absolute pinnacle of act three and I could just finish it in half an hour, no you promised you’re going to go and watch that K drama with your teenage daughter, yes I have you watch K dramas with my teenage daughter at 9 pm and that’s what I’m going to do.
And I think, but also put some like little mini goals as well. And say you know you’ve only got a certain amount of time, so for me, the main creative barriers are time, distraction and my day job. So I have to actually make time for all of that and fit it all in and get the balance right and that’s taken some doing to be honest. I’m not going to say technology is a barrier because it isn’t, as you well know, and I found what I need on the DAW, though I’m looking around at a stupidly expensive amount of equipment that I’ve bought. But that’s all down to the day job, you know the day job has allowed me to buy all the toys, which is, puts me in quite a privileged place and I know that, then I say I’m older than you so tough.
Rich: Hey, I’m not complaining.
Andrew: I know I don’t mean you lot, there’s some people on Facebook you know who you are Lee, and they’ll always say God go and ask Skip, he’ll have that plugin, go and ask Skip he’ll have that keyboard. And he does it all the time to try and wind me up. And he doesn’t because he’s great, and he’s invariably right, I normally have bought that plugin. And then tell someone whether it’s worth it or not. But that itself can become a creative barrier which I mentioned earlier to you before we started, you can get too much stuff. And you can’t see the wood for the trees, and that’s something I’ve done recently is cut back on the available plugins that I’ve got. And I’ve just cut them right back, so what’s available in the DAW, I’ve actually disabled them from my DAW now so that I can’t even choose and browse, so I’ve got this core of 30 maybe that I ju8st go to all the time. And I’m starting to know, even though I’ve had some of them for years, I learned how to use them. I didn’t even know that like some plugins I can even modulate some of the things. There’s a modulation page. I didn’t even realise that half of them had an extra button that opened up a whole load of stuff.
Rich: Yeah, I don’t ever touch those extra buttons.
Andrew: When you do it’s like opening up Pandora’s box. I tell you, you man I can actually modulate this pan man.
Rich: I think for me it’s like I’m scared to make myself aware of the true potential of all the plugins I have because them I’m aware of the things that I’m lacking and also I’m aware of the time I don’t have to spend to learn them.
Andrew: That’s how I feel, so what I did I just cut out 100, 150 plugins and just left myself with 30, so now I actually will play a little bit more with them because I’m not overawed by this huge list that I’ve got to pick from. And the same goes with the libraries as well. I’ve sorted them all out using Contacts Quick Load, so I’ve created categories of stuff and put all my favourites in there, and now I just go to the favourites.
Rich: Nice. Good, that’s a huge time saver.
Andrew: It is, I don’t spend anywhere near as much time browsing and listening to sounds I just pick what I want and go with it, or make what I want.
Rich: Yes, exactly. And you know I’m a big preacher of like just choosing the sounds that you like and just loading them and get on with writing.
Andrew: Get on with writing, get it done.
Rich: Stop twiddling those knobs chaps come on.
Rich: Right, this, I always like this question, although I could phrase this differently, but what advice, the question is this, what advice would you have to people who want to get into trailer music. But I kind of want to frame this as if you’re talking back to your former self, you know what advice would you give to yourself prior, you know Skipper in the 90s, you know. Getting into trailer music.
Andrew: Do you remember what trailers were like in the 90s? Of course you do, you do it at the beginning of every podcast. One of my favourite cinema movies, the kids or whatever. I mean the trailers and that then were awful. But hey it still used to make us go to the cinema.
Rich: Immediate music made a killing you know, they nailed it.
Andrew: They did. So anyway, what would I say to myself back when I first started on trailer music three, four years ago I think is probably more apt. Well four years I think when I started actually learning. It’s, I’d say education, you’ve got to educate yourself. If you don’t know anything about trailer music, I know a lot of people will say go on YouTube and listen to all the trailer music, and I agree. You can do that, but not everybody has an analytical mind enough to actually break that down, analyse it and work out exactly what steps they need to be taking to create a standard three act trailer track. A lot do, but there’s many that will struggle with that. So I think you’ve got to be able to educate yourself now, there’s a variety of different ways you can do that through courses and all the rest of it, or peer groups. But you can do it. So I think education is key.
Two, my other, the biggest advice I’d give myself would be don’t keep buying all the bloody libraries, you don’t need to, because all that did was make me feel guilty for spending the money, made me feel gui8lty for not them using them, and then made me guilty years kilter for still not having used them to their full potential. And I’m sure that they were all very good. So think really carefully. And I have a rule now that I will only buy a library, and there will be a few people that will listen to this will laugh, but it’s true, and I’ve had this for over 10 months now. I only buy a library if I have an immediate use for it. Or I think I can buy that and use it in this track now. And then you know what if I only use it once, I’ve covered myself morally and mentally, I can underline that. So I would say just be very, very careful about what you spend your money on, and getting an education should be at the top of the list for me. And a microphone or a Zoom recorder. That’s the next thing you should buy I think.
And I think after that, it’s setting yourself realistic goals, because I didn’t, I honestly fell into that same old trap of the first custom I did. I was waiting for the email to say I’d landed the Aquaman trailer. Silly, I really was.
Rich: Hey we’ve all done that.
Andrew: And I listened back to that track a few weeks ago and I was horrified and I don’t believe for a second that it even got sent on to the publisher. So, on to the supervisor, never mind, I think the publisher listened to it and just threw it away and was nice about it.
So yeah, I would just say set your goals very carefully and realistically and I don’t mean that in a negative way. I just mean don’t set yourself this huge goal that I’m going to write the next Marvel trailer. For me it doesn’t work, it’s better to say my goal this year is I want to link up with three fantastic publishers that I really get on well with and then next year I want to learn and improve my skill set to the point where I actually can hold up my track in my peer group and feel really excited about what they’re going to say rather than fearful. I think they are sort of really cool goals, rather than if I don’t get the next Marvel trailer I’m crap and I’m never going to pick up my keyboard again. So I’d say you know just be careful about setting goals that, it sounds so negative doesn’t it, don’t set a goal that’s going to be, so difficult to achieve but I think switching it round, setting positive goals that are achievable, smaller sets of goals that are achievable over a shorter period of time is a better way of approaching it rather than this huge goal is probably a better way to put it actually.
Rich: I think the thing there is I actually am a huge believer in huge goals, but that the huge goal is a huge goal at the end of a very long train of smaller goals and I think what…
Andrew: I think that’s fine isn’t it, because you’re setting yourself a journey, a path to follow, but I didn’t do that, I actually set myself this huge goal with no real clue how I was going to achieve it.
Andrew: And I just started buying things thinking that was going to help, which it didn’t.
Rich: The other thing to bear in mind there is maybe that goal is still going to happen, you know it’s just not happened yet.
Andrew: I think there’s a far better chance of it happening in the next two years than what there was in the last two years.
Rich: Yeah. I still have the goal of landing an Avengers trailer, even though…
Andrew: I do as well, and one day they might actually want some weird foley dark track, you know there might be some new Marvel, is there a Marvel character that’s really dark all the time?
Rich: Oh there’s tons of them. And I think maybe you do the sounds and I’ll do the first act and job done.
Andrew: Groot that’s all we need, groot, there we are sticks.
Rich: Wood yes. Ok that’s taken a turn for the worst sorry. Ok let’s go to the quickfire round.
Andrew: Okay dokey.
Rich: Alright so, I like to ask people these questions because generally I’m always fascinated about what gear everyone has. Not outboard gear because I don’t care for that stuff, sample libraries basically. First of all what DAW do you use?
Andrew: The new one and it’s a buggy thing but it’s still fun.
Rich: Yes, I haven’t upgraded. So ok.
Andrew: Don’t bother yet if you’ve got a deadline.
Rich: I have no deadlines, don’t worry. Ok, go to piano library.
Andrew: Go to piano library, um, probably Olaf Arnold’s Fault Piano is my go to, but if I want something brighter than Alisha’s Keys.
Rich: Nice. Go to string library?
Andrew: It used to be Cinematic Strings but it’s probably Studio, Spitfire Studio Strings now. And Chamber Strings, oh crap, yeah, Chamber Strings probably.
Rich: Chamber Strings?
Andrew: Yeah, probably Chamber more.
Rich: Ok, go to brass library?
Andrew: Junkie XL Brass because it’s got to be loud and nasty and gnarly and you can pitch that thing down and they let you, they don’t care about purity they just let you make tubers two octaves lower, it’s awesome.
Rich: I have had nothing but wonderful things about that brass library.
Andrew: It’s fantastic, you wouldn’t want to try and do something beautiful with it in my opinion, best for trailers.
Rich: That’s not really his approach really is it?
Andrew: No, it’s just loud, it’s big and it’s brassy and its nasty, and it’s great.
Rich: Awesome. Go to percussion?
Andrew: Now, you know what, probably that LAMP one, what is it, LA Modern Percussion.
Andrew: That one, is it Modern Percussion?
Andrew: I just type LAMP in on Logic do I know what it is. So LAMP damage, and Hans Zimmer Pro.
Rich: Yeah. So how do, so I bought the Hans Zimmer percussion when it was Hans Zimmer One, Two and Three. What is Hasn Zimmer Pro, is that all three of them?
Andrew: It’s all three with additional mikes, but to be honest for me it’s pretty pointless because I turn every mike off and just try and get it as close as possible anyway.
Rich: Nice, ok go to synth?
Andrew: Go to synth. I can’t say Omnisphere because it’s a bit of a hog, I probably load up Zebra more than anything, U-He Zebra.
Andrew: But that’s not because I know how to use it, it’s because I use the awesome sound sets by a guy called Matt Bald who does the Unfinished, it’s called The Unfinished and it just makes the most amazing soundsets, I usually find something I need from his stuff.
Rich: Top three effects plugins?
Andrew: I’m not going to say Sound Toys like everyone else says. Because even though I do use them all the time I’ve started to go away from them a bit. I’d say ‘Saturn’. ‘Saturn 2’ by Fab Filter, the new one. But it was always called Fab Filter Saturn, that’s the distortion saturation, I didn’t realise how good it was until I bought the second one. I never used the first one even though it sat there, Saturn is my favourite. And then you know what the Logic Compressors are, when you click on Compressor in Logic and you get those old analogue emulation ones where you can get like the red one and the black one and the blue one.
Rich: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Andrew: I always you know what for all the fancy compressors I’ve got. I just pick those up and I think they’re great, I think they’re musical and they do the job really well.
Rich: Yeah, I use those a lot too.
Andrew: And Fab Filter Q3, Pro Q3, the EQ, I just don’t think there’s a better EQ.
Rich: I think…
Andrew: It’s just fantastic.
Rich: I think everyone said Fab Filter EQ for all their EQ needs.
Andrew: It’s just amazing what it can, it’s just so transparent and clean and light and super you. It’s a shame because Logic’s only about 20% away from being as cool, the Logic standard EQ. And then of course you can even see it on the DAW. which is really quite handy. So I just wish they would make it a little bit better. So that I could do away with Q3.
Rich: You listen in Logic come on.
Andrew: Because it’s so cool to be able to just be able to see all the curves on the DAW.
Rich: Yeah, definitely. Ok, and what’s your number one piece of advice to write better trailer music?
Andrew: O)h my God. you’re not really asking the right person for that are you, I’m afraid I’m going to, I’m just going to have to just regurgitate earlier stuff and what you’ve said enough times. And that’s is if you want to write good music, and I don’t care whether it is trailer music or whether it’s polka, rock, it doesn’t matter, because you’ve got to find a way of doing it, or a genre that excites you, and you love doing it because it makes such a huge difference. It comes through everything that you do, it oozes out of it, it oozes out the music.
The feedback I’ve got since I started to make sure I enjoy doing what I’m doing has always been far more positive than what it was before. Before my feedback was quite technical, now they’re actually more emotive. So, and I think that is because I’m writing with more emotion, even though a lot of it is sound design stuff. Before they were saying Act One needs to be louder, drums need to be bigger, those need to be that, those strings are too loud. Now it’s like that’s awesome but it’s a bit fuzzy there and can you make that a bit more nasty there. And it’s all the feedback is now emotion driven rather than technical driven. And I think that’s because I’m writing what I like to do. And I’m enjoying doing what I’m doing.
Rich: That’s a beautiful piece of advice. I completely agree as you know. Ok, if anyone wants to get in touch with Andrew Skipper, be it about getting advice on plugins or obviously they Fall Out libraries how can they get in touch?
Andrew: With Facebook, Facebook only. That’s all I use Facebook for, I don’t have any friends on Facebook other than music friends. So just hit me up on Facebook, that’s the best way, just look me up, send me a friend request if you’re not already a friend, which is funny because I’ve only got about 140 of them. That’s what I mean, I’m not one of these 2500 people. So if someone sends me a friend request I actually do look into them to see why they’re trying to connect with me, so send a friend request with a message and that will be absolutely great. I don’t, you know emails are for the boring day job stuff so, and feedbacks not for connecting. And Fall Out Music Group which again we’ve got our own page on Facebook if you want to ask us anything on there feel free.
Rich: Fab. Well thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. I had a lot of fun. And I just loved hearing your story. It was awesome.
Andrew: Yeah, great, thanks very much Rich.
Rich: You’re welcome Andrew.
Ok guys thank you so much for listening, I hope you got an awful lot out of that, I mean I know I did, and I specifically like I said love the focus on the enjoyment of what you’re doing. And you know not being afraid just to do that, you know even though you know, oh ok that’s the really popular sauce, but actually if you want to go super niche you know go synth wave trailer tracks there is a niche that you could really zone in on, hone in I guess is the best way to say it.
Now I just want to remind you guys that Vikram Gudi and I are launching Protege, which is our year long master class training for composers. It’s for the select few, we’ve got 100 places and lots of them have already gone. I would suggest you check it out, if you really are serious about your career in trailer music or even just production music go check it out, protege.school and hopefully see you there.
Thanks so much for listening guys, you’re absolute legends.