1) How did you get into music, did you have a mentor at an early age, did you pick up music by ear or take up formal training?
Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, starting with my mom giving me piano lessons when I was 5 years old. I always had a strong ear… I remember how I used to pretend I was reading the sheet music, but I was actually playing by ear after hearing my mom play it. I fell in love with synths in 1985 and went on tour with Bobby Brown in 1991 as their keyboard tech and sound designer. I spent the rest of the 90s in my studio working with all kinds of artists, songwriters and producers on all kinds of music. In 2001 I started really enjoying the music I was hearing in video games and was incredibly inspired. In 2003, I released my first solo album under my artist moniker, Atlas Plug, (a little trivia… Atlas is “Salta” backwards 😉 ) which started showing up in numerous video games. Soon after, I began to get opportunities to score games. These days I work across the board in the music industry… video game scores, pop music, trailers, music libraries, corporate …you name it.
2) What’s your main instrument?
Piano and Keyboard. As a producer and composer, that’s probably the most useful instrument to know as it affords me the ability to easily create music from an endless palette of instruments in my Digital Audio Workstation.
3) At what age did you make a professional record?
Ha! I’ve never been asked that one before! I’m not exactly sure how “professional” I would consider it now but the first time my music was ever on vinyl and released to the public was while I was still in high school at 18 years old.
4) The Halo Series, Ghost Recon, Prince of Persia… these are all very popular games that we’ve played or heard of at some point! How tough was it to get these projects with all the competition in this business?
The law of supply and demand is never in the composer’s favor… competition is always there. But I’ve learned to let go of looking at my career as a competition to beat out my fellow composers. There are so many great projects out there and I know that as long as I’m always being true to the gifts and talents I’ve been given, there will always be enough opportunities for me to thrive as an artist.
5) What’s your DAW of choice and why?
I use Logic Pro X…mainly because I’ve been using it for almost 30 years, even while it was called Notator (by Emagic) on Atari ST in 1990. I know that program better than any other software on the planet, so it’s like a natural extension of me.
6) Main Virtual instruments you can’t live without?
As far as a “desert island” virtual instrument, I’d choose Omnisphere. Eric Persing has always been my favorite sound designer and Omnisphere really resonates with and inspires me. It can be as simple or as deep as you want it to be.
7) Do you always replace mock orchestras with live recordings or sometimes keep the Virtual instruments instead of live recordings?
Haha! Well if a client has the budget for a live orchestra I always make sure it’s in the recording, even if it’s subtle, but sometimes the virtual instruments have taken center stage. In fact, I remember a live choir session I had where we ran out of time and ended up using the fake choir on some of the tracks. Fortunately, the fake choir was a virtual instrument library from the same choir I was working with, so it matched up incredibly well.
8) Your favorite studio for recording orchestra?
I’ve recorded at several great stages including the Eastwood Stage at Warner Bros in Hollywood and Skywalker Sound, but there are still a few key locations, like Abbey Road, AIR, Fox, etc. that I’d like to record at first before answering that question.
9) Advice for young composers, is it a good idea to apprentice under an established composer?
If you have the opportunity, absolutely yes! Nothing beats working in the actual environment you want to work in with an expert who has been doing it their entire career. Besides, it’s a great way to establish relationships… which is important to do in the field.
10) Any new plugin for processing that you really like and why?
The sheer number of plugins flooding the market is pretty overwhelming and it gets harder and harder for me to find the gems out there. Especially in this digital age, the Holy Grail in processing for me are the plugins that bring back the authentic analog warmth and distortion of expensive high-end pro audio gear. The latest plugin that has really caught my attention in this area is GOLIATH. It’s easy and intuitive to use but the flexibility it has makes it one of those go-to plugins that could have a use in every mix. It can be used for subtle things like adding tape or tube saturation and warmth or for completely destroying or transforming things like some of the best distortion hardware and pedals out there do.