Composer Daniel James on music production, making videos and working with Spectrasonics…

Daniel James
Daniel James

This week brought Spectrasonics’ announcement of their Bob Moog Foundation contest – the grand prize for which is the OMG-1, a custom built one-of-a-kind instrument designed by the company’s Founder Eric Persing. To enter the contest, Omnisphere users need to purchase and download the Bob Moog Tribute Library and create a track which utilises some of the sounds. The sounds within the library have been created by 40 different composers and sound designers including Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, and Jordan Ruddess.

Another contributor to the pack is the lesser known (unless you’re a frequent visitor to the vi-control forums), Daniel James. One of the founding members of Hybrid Two, a sound and music production team whose main focus is the film and game industry, Daniel is also responsible for creating some great You Tube videos that focus on music production.

Daniel’s videos are so informative that we’ve used some of them within our own product pages and when we heard that he’d been involved with the Bob Moog Tribute Library we thought it was about time that we had a proper chat with him to find out more…

Spectrasonics OMG-1
The OMG-1

First up, congratulations on the inclusion of your sounds within Spectrasonics’ Bob Moog Tribute library. How did you get involved with the project?
To be totally honest with you I think it may have more to do with good timing than anything else. I contacted Eric Persing around the 26th of February (which just so happened to be my birthday) asking if he had seen a recent video I uploaded to Youtube, which was taking an in depth look at some patches I had created in Omnisphere. Eric soon replied with his opinion on the video and asked if I would be interested in helping out on a project they were working on. Of course you never say no to a man as kind and generous as Eric Persing, so I accepted and began work on my small contribution to the project.

How did you set about making the sounds?
Creating custom sounds and patches in synths is actually a very important part of the way I write music. So I listened to the fantastic new sound sources included in the Bob Moog Tribute Library and tried to imagine in which types of cues I would hear these sounds, and how I would apply them. Anyone who knows my music will know that I am very rhythmic with my writing, so I began by writing some custom rhythmic modulation envelopes using Omnisphere’s amazing envelope editor, I then started finding ways to apply these various rhythms to components of the synth, in what I consider to be creative ways. Each patch is obviously created in its own way, so there is no general way I start creating a new patch, luckily the Omnisphere interface is so intuitive and inspirational that I actually managed to have alot of fun just playing around with elements until I decided I had created something either useful or fun to play.

Bob Moog Tribute Library
Bob Moog Tribute Library

Would you rate Omnisphere as one of your staples when it comes to music production? What is it about the product that you love?

Absolutely! I use various other synths and libraries, but I find myself time and time again coming back to those instruments which I actually have fun creating unique sounds with. The main reason I love Omnisphere is the sheer amount of creative freedom it offers, alongside the sheer amount of content it provides. There are libraries out there that offer gigabytes upon gigabytes of content but you have not much creative freedom when it comes to the use of the content. Alternatively you have some products which are really creative but you are a limited in the amount of content it provides. I would say Omnisphere is the best of both worlds but those who own it will agree with me when I say its more like 2 whole worlds in one.

Your sound and music production company Hybrid Two has created music for games released on Xbox Live plus soundtracks for many films – which projects are you most proud of?
This is a tough question to answer. As I am sure all composers do, I constantly aim to create a score to the complete best of my ability with every project so picking one based on quality or result is impossible. However one that will always stick with me is a score to a feature length fan film based on the Metal Gear Solid series called ‘Metal Gear Solid Philanthropy’ The main reason being that it was the first opportunity I was given to work on a feature film, as well as the fact I am a huge Metal Gear Solid fan (both the games and music). On top of that it was a great privilege to record an ending credits track with vocalist ‘Aoife Ferry’ who was credited as the main vocalist to the ending credits track on the original Metal Gear Solid game (‘The Best Is Yet To Come’).

Tell us about your studio set-up (hardware and software)
Compared to what one might expect from a film/game composer my set up is rather humble indeed, the main reason being that I like to create scores from a more sound design angle, which doesn’t always require as much hardware as a composer who likes to have 200 track templates. My main system is a 2 x 2.8Ghz Quad-Core Intel Xeon with 6gigs of RAM (although I plan to add more RAM).

Daniel in his studio
Daniel in his studio

My studio monitors are M-Audio BX8a Deluxe, with a pair of BX5’s if I want to check my mixes on another set of monitors. These are not the most expensive monitors out there, however I think one of the most important part about reference monitors is how familiar you are with them. If you know what a good mix sounds like through them, you generally aim towards that quality in your own mixes. My interface is an M-Audio Firewire 410. I don’t do much recording into my system direct, although I may one day decide to get an interface with more input. My midi keyboard is an M-audio (perhaps I should ask for endorsement here haha) Oxygen 61. I love these types of keyboards which come with custom assignable faders and dials, it allows you to play with your software instruments in a more tactile, analogue fashion. Just a note that I intentionally picked a synth action key keyboard over a weighted key keyboard, I can personally play much easier with a synth action response, I am no piano virtuoso anyway so my midi performances is normally edited and adjusted later by hand.

My DAW is Ableton Live, which is usually followed by a gasp of air and “really? you use Ableton Live for film score” but I find for the way I work its is fantastic, it really lends itself to creative sound design as well as providing great midi sequencing. Although I wish Ableton would add a few more composer specific features but that is just wishful thinking. My sound library is pretty large so I will mention the ones I use most frequently. Omnisphere, Trilian, Komplete 7, LASS, Symphobia, Cinematic Guitars, Orchestral Brass Classic, Tonehammer Epic Toms, Dhol and Requiem Pro, Cinesamples Drums Of War 1+2, Voxos, Hollywoodwinds, Heavyocity’s Evolve. These are the libraries which get the most use however there are a few I am sure I missed. Even with all these libraries I still spend just as much time recording and editing my own custom sounds to use in my scores.

Cinematic Guitars and Symphobia
Cinematic Guitars and Symphobia

You’ve made some fantastically informative videos about specific products as well as tutorials – what was your inspiration behind doing these?
The main reason behind them was to help people. More specifically I was either asked personally or there was a question asked on the Vi-control forum to which I felt I knew the answer. I have always found it easier, personally, to learn something if I am shown a visual demonstration of how it is done rather than some explain it to me in words. So I thought I would make myself useful to a community that has done so much for me and offer something in return.

One such video was a 40-minute walkthough of the sounds and features of Sample Logic’s Cinematic Guitars (see below) – what are the features of this product that you find most appealing?
As I have said a few times in this interview, the way I create music is very sound design orientated. Cinematic Guitars is one of those libraries which gives you really creative opportunities to make something really unique, without making the process of doing so needlessly hard. When a product is laid out in such a way that I know exactly how to create the sound I have in my head with the least amount of fuss, I will use it…why make things harder on myself. I truly hope Sample Logic keep with the user interface they debuted in Cinematic Guitars, its great fun and infinitely creative.

Another was a video dedicated to Symphobia’s strings which sees you creating some custom ‘Dystopia’ patches and making use of the effects and ensembles. What is it about Symphobia that makes music production easier/more enjoyable for you?
The really selling point for Symphobia is simply ‘That sound’. Symphobia comes with a real film score sound right out of the box, I quite literally use it in every project that has some kind of orchestra, if not in the foreground it is definitely contributing that fantastic sound to the overall picture. As with any sound design scoring you need a good initial sound to build your creative ideas from, not many libraries come with that sound right out of the box like Symphobia does.

What are your plans for the future?Omnisphere
Well hopefully to keep busy writing music. My main goal right now is to find more work related to video games as I am a huge fan of the industry and the soundtracks that are coming from it. I also plan to keep on helping people out where I can, so don’t be afraid to chat to me if you genuinely think I can help with something.

Finally, going back to Omnisphere, what would you say to those musicians out there who are still teetering on the fence when it comes to buying Omnisphere (despite the major updates and this new contest!)?
Stop thinking and just purchase it now. There are thousands (literally) of instantly inspirational presets already built into the library and if you are more interested in creating your own unique sounds, it is by far the deepest synth you will ever own. It just has everything you would ever need to create amazing soundtracks and although it’s a cliche’d phrase, the only limit really is your imagination.

Thanks Daniel!

For more information about Omnisphere and the Bob Mogg Foundation Contest, click here

To find out more about HybridTwo, visit the website
See Daniel’s Cinematic Guitars video below and to check out his other videos, click here

Posted by Melanie Doidge

Having worked in marketing for over thirteen years with experience in various industries, Time+Space and the world of music production continues to be the most exciting of them all. With our brands consistently pushing the boundaries of technology with their products, the terrific DJs, Composers and Producers using them and the feedback from magazines and our customers, there's always plenty to tell the world about. Musical experience? I reached Grade 6 in piano back in my school days and am currently in the throes of trying to resurrect my abilities!

Website: http://www.timespace.com

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