Defined by his colleagues as a ridiculously talented sound designer, who also happens to be one of the funniest and most enjoyable people we’ve ever worked with, I met Diego Stocco when I wrote the post about a truck full of yogurt.
We grew up not far from each other back in Italy (that's why that post resonated with him) and thanks to the world wide web we connected even though we now live on two opposite ends of the US. The other great thing about the Internet is that someone with content and talent like Diego can get his name out there on his own, without the big marketing budgets of a studio.
With social media, someone who would ordinarily be in the background, behind the scenes, has the opportunity to tell his story.
What does sound designer mean? Is that your job at the moment, or a passion you're developing?
Diego: A sound designer creates sounds that don't exist yet. There are all kinds of new and interesting sounds and noises. It could be for a movie, like Wall-E for example, where all the vocalization and noises of the robots have been created by Ben Burtt, or like in The Matrix, where Dane Davis created a universe of liquid digital sounds.
I've been a sound designer professionally for 12 years, and I have been into creating new sounds since I was a child. I started playing with synths and samplers when I was around 11.
Specifically I'm a music sound designer, which means I'm focusing on creating new sounds for scores, musical instruments and audio branding projects. It's definitely a big passion and not just a job, I love creating new instruments and sounds, I worked on films like Into the Blue and Crank, tv shows like The Tudors, Moonlight and Sleeper Cells, and produced sounds for a well know company called Spectrasonics.
I'm one of the principal sound designers for the multiple award winners virtual instruments Atmosphere, Stylus RMX and Omnisphere.
How do you compose your music?
Diego: When I compose, my sound design vein is really strong. I always like to create new sounds for my compositions. I build strange instruments out of common objects and I like to extract tuned and playable sounds out of common materials that surround us, like water or sand for example.
In my music, even what could be considered a standard instrument, has been treated with a sound design technique. I like to alter the character of the orchestra and combine it with unconventional timbres that you wouldn't normally associate with classical instruments. To me the sound of an instrument is important as the composition itself.
I composed some pieces for a piano that was slightly out of tune and so it could be played only in a specific key, that *limitation* somehow was essential in making that composition sound the way I wanted. The same composition would have sounded very different on another piano.
I don't compose always the same way, I don't necessarily start with an instrument like piano or guitar, I could start a piece from an ambiance or groove. I've been producing a series of CDs for a production company called Epic Score, specialized in trailer music.
For those tracks the starting point was the creation of complex textures of sounds suitable for cinematic projects. Recently I composed the score for a video game that is coming out soon called The Conduit, also for this project I experimented with new instruments and techniques.
There have been many conversations around the music vs. the music industry, mostly centered around digital. See for example this post by Seth Godin. As a musician, what are your thoughts on expectations, economics, and the future?
Diego: There's a major transformation going on, the web allowed things that weren't possible before and changed rules that some people thought were eternally valid. There are plenty of discussions opened every day about the future of the music industry, and at this stage the amount of inputs can be overwhelming.
What seems to be taking form are new ways for emerging musicians to distribute their music, what is still not defined is how to actually make a living if you decide to pursue a career as a musician.
It's important to clarify that models of digital distribution that work for major artists do not necessarily translate well for new artists. Without a solid fan base, it doesn't matter in how many place people can buy your music.
More artists are trying to move towards licensing deals for films and other types of productions where the money is coming from a company and not from sales of albums.
Giving away music for free is starting to be considered a mere promotional expense in order to grow a fan base, but it's not that simple as it may seem. Investing time in promoting your music is a major undertaking, especially if you're doing everything by yourself.
Putting together a successful tour can be very expensive, intense for someone's personal life and family and complicated for various technical aspects. These are considerations I heard from several artists who are trying to make this strategy work.
There's another thing to consider, the amount of home entertainment choices available today act as competitors to live concerts.
Personally I've been mainly into films and other type of productions rather than making albums, but I cannot be happy knowing that fewer and fewer musicians will be able to make a living in this profession, and I'm referring to the not famous but truly talented musicians that are struggling to get some recognition.
This is not unlike many other professional fields. Take for example writing. It takes more than sheer skills to get noticed. In some cases, distribution channels in addition to a fan base still help. In our conversations, you mentioned TuneCore and ReverbNation. Can you tell me more about them?
Diego: These websites offer opportunities for musicians to promote and sell their music online. They both offer valuable tools at affordable prices, but they are different from each other in the way they operate.
TuneCore is mainly a music delivery and distribution service that helps you get your music to major outlets like iTunes, Amazon and other retailers.
ReverbNation offers ways to organize your promotional activity for concerts and with social networks. Also ReverNation offers services to distribute your music to iTunes, Amazon and other retailers.
Please note that I'm not affiliated with them in any way so the best way to figure out what they do is to visit their websites.
How do you get the word out about your work?
Diego: Back in 2005 I started to shoot videos and take pictures of my sessions to show what I was doing to clients and artists I was working with. It wasn't precisely a marketing move, it was a way to better explain how for example "an electric guitar with 8 piano strings across the board, pointed to a huge amp to produce insanely low feedback sounds" was working! : )
Later on I realized that people liked to see these sound design sessions, so I started to document my experiments with longer videos and detailed photos. These days, thanks to sites like Vimeo, it's very easy to make videos accessible.
Where can I buy your music?
Diego: I'm using a website called Bandcamp. It's simple to use and offers the possibility of selling your music in high quality formats, not just MP3s - find my music here.
I don't know about you, I'm really liking these sounds. Music can create a truly personal experience. Think back to the movies and shows you enjoyed the most, and you'll find out that the sounds played a key role in your connection. The experience sounds create is highly emotional - and personal.
Will we hear more brand sounds in the future?
[image of burning piano from Diego Stocco's photostream, used with permission]