Blessed with the Gift of Sonic Intuition
By Stephanie Jorgl
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Ive always liked the sound of transistor radios, and Ive always really liked droning sounds, says sound designer-remixer-programmer Keith Hillebrandt. I think that comes from watching scary movies as a kid. I always liked how they could create a mood with a sound. If somebody is walking down a hall, its not too exciting. But if somebody is walking down a hall and youve got this eerie drone going on all of the sudden, it turns it into something substantial.
As one of the best sound and soundscape designers in the world, Hillebrandt can create a sound texture that can make a musical piece evoke a desired emotion. His work is often so subtle that you cant even tell what what he added until you take it away.
This natural intuitive talent of his combined with years of hands-on experience playing with sound led him from a testing position at Opcode, to producing sounds for the renowned Poke In The Ear sound series, to his very own Diffusion of Useful Noise sample CD, which landed him a job working for Trent Reznors Nothing Studios, designing most of the sounds for Nine Inch Nails epic The Fragile album.
Hillebrandt recently left New Orleans and Nothing Studios to launch his own sound design company, Useful Noise. He just produced and released a CD collection of his own sounds, Useful Noise V2.
All of the sudden, here was something where I could make anything sound completely twisted… completely out of this world, reflects Hillebrandt.
When Hillebrandt and his siblings started taking lessons, he took to the keys instantly and found he could play by ear. At the same time, I realized my interest in noise was there, he says. I used to take my forearm, put it down on as many keys as I could, and then use the Tremolo to make it sound like a train coming. And then when it went through the tunnel, Id kick in the Leslie.
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That led to a lot of noodling around, learning how to write songs again in a different context, because all of the sudden, you didnt have a drummer who knew what to play, you were basically gonna play whatever was coming out of your non-drummer head, he explains. So, it made me come up with a lot of interesting rhythms that I probably shouldnt have.
When Digidesign came out with SoundTools and TurboSynth, Hillebrandt got super-sonically inspired. All of the sudden, here was something there I could make anything sound completely twisted completely out of this world especially in those days. TurboSynth was so far ahead of its time, as far as sonic destruction, he says.
Next page: Father of the Drone