Manchester based James Cook is the lead singer of indie electro outfit Delphic and the composer of the official single for the 2012 Olympic Games.
Currently in the studio working on material for various exciting projects, he took some time out to answer a few questions about using Spectrasonics virtual instruments.
You had previously been in indie bands, what drove you to steer Delphic in a more electronic direction?
It felt like the natural progression for bands and musicians when we were starting out with Delphic. Growing up we had been used to guitars & drumkits in the rehearsal room, and the early digital sequencers we were able to afford could barely handle audio, let alone plug-ins, which made the decision to be more ‘band-focussed’ for us. However, around the time we started Delphic, technology had moved onwards so much and gear become so affordable that most people we knew had a home studio set up. From here on in, we no longer felt the need to limit ourselves to traditional instruments – hence stepping into the world of synthesisers, samples and of course plug-ins.
Aside from Delphic you also create music for film, TV and adverts, can you tell us about that and what you have worked on?
It’s early days on that front, and I’m currently building up a library of sounds and a portfolio of tunes that are yet to be used alongside other writing. Fingers crossed I will have some used in the near future! This is a common venture for many musicians in the industry, the amount of advertising we are all exposed to is mad if you sit down and take note and a large amount of that is composed specifically for the sole purpose of those adverts. Composing in this way helps us to challenge techniques and learn skills we can use in other compositions.
You are currently in the studio working on new Delphic material using Spectrasonics Omnisphere how has this contributed to this process?
When you first use Omnisphere you realise that your options are limitless – whether you want to find an exact instrument or you want to create an amalgamation of sounds for yourself. The great thing when creating your own music using Omnisphere is that the preset sounds are only templates for you to explore further and the amount of exploration possible will lead you down really interesting paths.
What features within Omnisphere do you find yourself using time and again?
You know, aside from the obviously brilliant sampled sounds and the equally great FX racks, the best feature is the ability to layer and manipulate multiple sounds. Many soft-synths allow you to layer and manipulate, of course, but to be able to delve into such depth with sample based synthesis is something which is really rewarding.
Can you explain your process of merging real instruments with virtual ones?
Sometimes I use virtual & real instruments to occupy totally different areas within the soundscape and sometimes I would map the midi from a real bass performance and back it up subtly with a Trillian bass part. The enviable dilemma that both Omnisphere and Trillian give you is that the core sounds never feel solely virtual.
How does the way you use Ominsphere differ between creating for TV and for Delphic
Although it is early days on the advertising composition front, the main difference is that more often than not, advertising music is made to order and genre specific. This means that if I want to make something soul/jazz/retro stylistically, you can turn to one of Omnispheres many Rhodes patches for example and If I’m making something more abstract, I know where to turn for an atmospheric sound bed. When you have a reference point, Omnisphere is fantastic at giving you a place to start from a historical library of industry recognised instruments and synths. The difference when creating my own music is that you lose your stylistic reference point and can use Omnisphere much more as a hands on tool, from which you can hopefully achieve the sound you hear in your head.
We know you have recently been using Trillian in your music, can you tell us a bit about your experience with this virtual instrument?
The main point is that it doesn’t feel like a virtual instrument in comparison to the hardware versions, if anything, its more stable and less frustrating. Obviously that is part of the charm of using the real MS-20 for example, but you don’t lose any intensity or depth in Trillian and features such as the special articulations allow you to really hone performance elements. Many people sneer as virtual synths for feeling too digitised, but it really depends on how you process your sound when you have found it. I often send it out through pre’s or re-amp it to add the ‘air’ that it sometimes needs.
There was a photo on Instagram which hinted to a collaboration with Shadowchild, can you confirm this and who else can we expect to have contributed to Delphic’s latest offering?
Haha, yeah Simon / Shadowchild is a lovely chap who is so supportive of us and probably wouldn’t mind too much if I said he was as much a gear anorak as we are. He remixed a single from our last campaign and we have stayed in touch since, maybe we’ll collaborate again in the future, who knows..
You can find out more about Delphic over on their facebook page