With the recent launch of Sound Dust products here at Time+Space, we thought it the perfect opportunity to talk with Pendle Poucher, a Brighton UK based composer, sound designer and self-confessed ‘lover of funny noises’, as well as being the creator of Sound Dust.
Pendle has written, produced and performed soundtracks for every major UK TV station and has worked for 10 years as sound designer and composer for award-winning theatre company DreamThinkSpeak devising amongst others a 32 channel soundtrack for their radical reworking of Hamlet “The Rest is Silence” in 2012. He’s also collaborated on two major works with the Jarman prize-winning artist Lindsay Seers.
Here we chat about his work, his achievements and the Sound Dust…
Hi Pendle, so you’ve written soundtracks for every major TV station in the UK and several around the world, could you give us some examples of these projects?
I’ve had a strange TV career, for a while I was a go-to guy for dodgy property based telly programs and did various long-forgotten shows like Hot Property, Selling Houses, and some others I can’t even remember, the pinnacle of this period was writing libraries of rarely used really gloomy tracks for Location etc and Relocation etc. My name still tends to appear on the end credits of these even if my music doesn’t.
I’ve done channel idents for BBC1 and BBC2, music for the failed reality replacement of Big Brother, a big BBC prime time thriller and lots of documentaries about anything from cottaging on Hampstead Heath to the lives of spoilt children. AT the moment I seem to be the go-to guy for a few production companies in Japan, this week alone I’ve worked on a cosmetic ad, a sportswear ad and something for a huge corporation.
It can be tough working on ‘uncool’ stuff but I also really like the challenge of making music that I wouldn’t ordinarily choose to make. I also always try and sneak something musically subversive into the most innocuous of jobs.
How did you get into writing music for tv?
It all started a long time ago, I did a film degree as a cover to pursue my desire to make music and be in a band. I was in a semi-successful band in the 90s and when that inevitably all fell apart I realised that I had some good connections in the film and TV biz who were starting out and needed help with the musical side of things.
At this time because of my band connections I was asked to join a collective of artists and architects in London and did some amazing sound installation projects, which included composing an endless birdsong symphony shown at RIBA, a freephone sound collecting project at the Royal Festival Hall and a project that converted 12 central London bus stops into sound/art installations. My first proper job writing music was for a public information film about the firework code.
What would you say has been your greatest achievement in your music career?
I know it sounds corny, but every day I can get up and spend the day in the studio making funny noises seems incredible to me.
How, in your view, has the industry changed since you first started working in it?
The pay has definitely got worse, and frankly, the work has got harder. In the ‘good old days’ you only really had to please the director, but it now seems like all telly is made by a committee who are all trying to hang onto their jobs by not making a wrong decision. I have a group of friends in Brighton who are much more successful composers than me and we get together every few weeks for a coffee and a chat about work. We quickly decided that the collective noun for composers is a ‘grumble’.
So what made you start up Sound Dust?
It all started because I discovered a rare Dulcitone on eBay and convinced a very successfully (and much richer) composer friend that we should buy it together. He got a bit carried away with the bidding and spent much more than I would have. When it arrived it was completely unusable because the keys stuck when you played them so he only way to make it work was to sample it. I spent a while working out how to do that really well and something clicked with me.
Your Sound Dust collection includes expansion packs for Spectrasonics Omnisphere, are you a big fan of the software and do you frequently use it in your own TV
projects? If so, what types of sounds do you tend to generate from it and which features do you particularly love?
I really like the architecture of Omnisphere, its got a great sample collection too, but what makes it really special is the way you can warp and twist those samples in a reasonably intuitive way. I tend to open up Omnisphere when I need something to inspire me or I need some complex textures.
You’ve also created packs for NI Maschine, tell us about those and why you produced them.
I’ve made a few percussion based sample sets which are in both Maschine and Kontakt format, Kontakt is great for many things but Maschine really excels for drums obviously. I like the way you can quickly build really quite disparate drum kits, sequence short loops and then drag the directly onto your DAW timeline.
I spend a lot of time thinking about sounds and looking for new ways of making new ones. My whole kitchen wall is one large chalkboard covered in ideas that pop into my head that I don’t want to forget. The fantastic thing about sampling is that you can create impossible instruments, that make sounds that can’t possibly exist in the wild from harmless things that do already exist. I experiment with sound producing ideas and sometimes really exciting things happen that send me on a little journey of discovery.
Recent favourites include the Plastic Ghost Piano which came out of experiments with convolution reverbs. I worked out that you could reverse the process and use notes as convolution impulses and push shaped white noise through them, I did this with every note of a multisampled piano. It took weeks but you can hear for yourself that it was worth it.
My ‘cloud’ series ( viola and cello so far) uses the idea of playing stringed instruments with unlikely bows, in this case, rough garden twine. Again I spent weeks individually bowing every note with a 10metre length of twine, a Heath Robinson series of pulleys, a retractable dog lead and a fishing reel.
Which are your personal favourites and why?
I’ve recently been experimenting with the idea of wavetables by making long ones out of unlikely sources, the first fruits of this have been the Flutter EP which is a kind of weird hybrid electric piano that does amazing things and makes really nice sounds. There are more really exciting things on the way that use this idea.
Where does the inspiration come from when deciding what to create for a sample pack?
See above, but its usually a combination of dog-walking, messing about in the studio and looking up the ideas I’d forgotten I’d written up on the kitchen wall.
Finally, what else can we expect from Sound Dust over the coming months?
I have a double bass and a large ball of twine sitting in the middle of my room, so watch this space 🙂