VIP Client Story: Richard Devine Interview

Richard Devine photo

Richard Devine is a recording artist and sound designer based in Atlanta GA. On February 1st 2012 he released RiSP on Detroit Underground records. Which is his 5th full length album. He has released music on Schematic, Warp, Asphodel, and Sublight records and has performed his own ear-tearing music mayhem worldwide.

He recently signed a deal with Sony Media to release his first two premium sound effects libraries, "Pulse" and "The Electronic Manuscript" which won best sample library by the Remix Technology Awards. Following the success of these new releases Richard launched a new sound design company "Devinesound" which was nominated the Cannes Lions Award for the work with Microsoft Gaming division for the Halo Believe Campaign. In 2010 he worked for Microsoft in designing the Windows 7 Theme system sounds for Epic and Bungie creators of the video game"Gears of War". Most recently Richard released "Mechanical Morph" sound effects collection with Hollywood Edge/Sound Deluxe. This immense collection containing over 1300 new sounds designed for film, TV, and multimedia projects has won him world wide recognition as one of the most cutting edge sound designers today.

His work has done film score work for Touchstone Pictures (with John Hues & Kyle Cooper). He has also collaborated with BT (Brian Transeau on movie "Surveillance" Directed by Adam Rifkin, Wieden & Kennedy, AKQA Inc., and have done sound mangling/programming for Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, composed and designed commercials for the Nike Shoe Company and worked with various companies doing sound design for Apple Computers, Audi, BMW, Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Scion, Coke, LandRover, Lexus, Peugeot, Dodge, HBO, Nestle, Nike Japan, McDonald's, Sprite, Sony, Spike Television network and XBOX (Halo2 and 3 for Microsoft International Websites. He has also worked with Konami gaming division for the Dance-Dance Revolution game.

In conjunction with TV and film work Richard also has done synthesis programming and sound design work with some of the biggest audio companies in the world. His work has been featured on new software and hardware titles from many innovative companies such as: Alesis, Access Virus Keyboards, Akai, Ableton Live, Apple Computers, Arturia, CamelAudio, Native Instruments, Izotope software, WayOutware Softare,Eventide Effects Company, GRM tools, Korg, Clavia Nord, DigiDesign, Openlabs, Universal Audio, Hartmann Neuron synthesizers, Stanton Magnetics DJ Company, Spectrasonics, Roland, Propellerheads, Yamaha and M-Audio Division.


Richard Devine Gear

You are known as one of the most influential sound-designers in the world, as well as an incredibly innovative artist/composer/producer.  When working on your own artist material, how do the lines between sound-design and composition get blurred?

Well, I have always thought my music was more sound design driven. I love combining the organic sounds of nature and processing them in unusual ways to get something new. I draw lots of inspiration from my field recordings which can be of many different things, animals, insects, machinery, and unusual spaces. I have been recording and collecting sounds for almost 15 years now. I have built up a large collection of different sounds that I have used on my albums and projects. I love taking the field recordings and layering/combining them with computer generated synthesized sounds. Fusing both worlds into one composition for me is really interesting as you come to places you wouldn't normally experience within a musical composition. I will usually pull out the most interesting bits from my recordings then import them to the computer for clean up. I might do some light processing and then will meta tag, and save them into different folders to use for either my design projects or for my own music. I tend to keep separate drives for different projects. So things that get used in music tracks will get saved into another cloud drive server I have setup here at the studio. I try to be really organized so that I can search my library databases quickly to recall any sound if needed for a session.

What were some of the most enjoyable moments or projects in your long and diverse career? What was special about them?

Wow, this would be a difficult question to answer. I have had so many cool projects over the years that where really fun and challenging at the same time. It’s a bummer because I am still under an ongoing NDA with many of them. I say looking back there where a few things that where big turning points for me. One was working with Native Instruments. I was asked to create some of the first patches/presets/sample libraries for the releases of Absynth, Kontakt, Reaktor, and Battery instruments. It was an interesting situation because I started working with NI right at the beginning so I was sort at the right place at the right time. Everyone was looking at virtual instrument technology at this time, and NI just released the virtual version of the famous Prophet-5 synthesizer. It was such profound release as many people where skeptical at the time. Lots of interests started to build after that point. I was able to make an introduction as a sound designer at that time with my sounds and programming and lots of other companies started to take notice. I soon started working designing sounds and patches for many other companies after that point. Everyone from Apple, to Sony, to Roland now wanted sounds for some new project or product.

I would say other memorable moments where remixing Aphex Twin's "Come To Daddy" for Warp Records 10 year anniversary release. I was also quite honored that Warp released my first full length album. It was a dream of mine to be on Warp records. I never thought that many years later they would be the very label that would put out my music to the world. I had done many tours and shows with them, over the years. I am truly thankful I had the opportunity to work with them and it opened a lot of doors for me.

Any cool upcoming projects coming up that you care to share with our readers?

Well I just finished releasing my first physical modeled sound bank for Applied Acoustic Systems. It’s called "MicroSound Textures". All of the sounds are based and programmed from the Chromaphone physical modeling synthesizer, but can be also used with the free AAS player. There is 128 sounds in the collection, which span into universe of particle based pads, atmospheres, modeled percussion, and strange sound effects. I also recently worked with Air-Music-Technologies Vacuum Pro and Loom Modular Additive Synthesizer instruments. I created over 100 sounds for each instrument. I have also been working doing design for many iOS music applications. Most recently, I released my first sound bank for Moog's Animoog app and Waldorf's Nave wavetable synthesizer. I love working with new synthesizer technologies and sound design tools.

As for hardware synthesizers I just started working on a project for Clavia for the new Nord Lead 4 synthezier. I also worked with Dave Smith Instruments creating over 40 new patches for the Prophet 12. Another project I released earlier this year through Elektron Machines was my own personal sound bank for the Analog-4. In this bank I created over 128 abstract sounds that took advantage of the Analog Four's extensive modulation capabilities. This bank has now become the factory loaded bank that will ship for all new machines.

As for non music instrument design based stuff I have just finished working on two video games. One of which was doing sound design for the Wofenstein video game "The New Order, with my good friend Mick Gordon. I was asked to create an entire world of new sounds based on resonant bodies, objects, gongs, different sheets of metal. I was using lots of interesting devices for the library. One of them was a Electro Lobotomy percussion box, which utilizes these metal bars that can be used as triggers and resonating rods that can be processed through different effects to get really interesting impacts - video link here. I also used the Metallik Resonator Speaker. The design was inspired from the Resonateurs Métalliques from Ondes Martenot. There is a vibrating amplifier (sound excited transducer) that will accept any line signal. I was recording all sorts of sound effects and running the modular synthesizer through it to create eerie beds and drones for the game. I also just finished working on the new "Dying Light" game in which I was creating synthetic granulated impacts, low pitched atmospheres and synthetic swooshes/power up sounds. I used a completely different technique to generate these sounds. I used analog synthesis and the Intellijel Planar joystick controller to create the transformer like power ups and electrical dynamic sounds video link here. I also just finished working on two remixes one for Annie Hall on Detroit Underground Records and another for another group called bossFYTE.

Richard Devine Gear

Any other particular technologies or techniques, esoteric or otherwise, that you are really excited about these days?

I have been composing on the Eurorack modular quite a bit lately. So a lot of my recent productions have been built around the idea of creating patches and building a song out of a patch from the modular system. I have recorded almost 93 new tracks this past year. I have been really inspired by this new way of working. There isn't any computer or other hardware involved in the process. It’s just building a patch from the ground up, and seeing what happens. It’s a very organic way of working with sound and music. I was an early adopter of analog synthesizers back when I first started making music. I originally learned about how to shape sound on a Arp-2600 synthesizer which is a semi -modular format system with 66 patch points. That synth taught me a lot about how to modulate, envelope, color, and filter sounds. I have been doing a lot of beta testing and helping with design concepts for many different euro companies. It’s been a lot of fun. I have been spending the last 6 years building up my system. My latest release on MakeNoise records called "Creature' was just released a few months ago.

It was recorded entirely on the MakeNoise shared modular system. The concept was that each artist was sent the same system, and was only allowed to use this system to record their compositions which would be later released on to a 7" inch limited edition record with patch notes on how the piece was created. The music you hear on the records is a result of each artist's approach using this fixed modular system. The main inspiration for my two piece was derived from the early works of Morton Subotnick. I can remember listening to Morton's "Until Spring" and “Wild Bull" records thinking how amazing the timbres and gestures where. I loved the unusual places these pieces took me. I loved the way everything sounded so organic and rich but at the same time synthesized. I also loved how these works almost told a story in that it conjured up so many interesting spaces and images in my mind. The "Creature" series is in a way paying homage to those works. I recorded 26 different version of the Creature II track here before I got the right one.

Any artists, producers, or academic computer music projects you are really excited about these days?

I always try to keep an open ear out for new producers and music. Some of my favorites recently have been Grischa Lichtenberger's new album on Raster Noton called "And IV (Inertia)". The amazingly well structured minimal sonic glitch on this record has made this release one of my all time favorites. I have also been really been into Rashad Becker's Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol I album. Rashad is a mastering and cutting engineer at Dubplates & Mastering (Berlin, Germany). He cut and mastered my last 2 albums, a true scientist of sound. I love the focus on analog-only sound sources of his most recent release. Another artist I have been listening to is "The Haxan Cloak", with his new album "Excavation" on Triangle Records. It’s a wonderful dark moody journey, with many intriguing moments, one of my favorite new artists to come out in the last two years. I have been recently studying Curtis Roads music again, been a long time fan of his works. I love the opening track "Now", from "Point Line Cloud". I have always been fascinated by Curtis's works. His philosophy and approach to sound is so inspiring. I have drawn much from his writings and research. I am going out to UCSD in November to meet up Curtis and perform at the university really looking forward to that.

What hardware, OS, and host application(s) are you using with our software?

I am running the latest Mac OS Mountain Lion 10.8.4, with Logic X.


Richard Devine Gear

How important is having access to a quality reverb to your work and production style?

I consider it to be an essential tool as I use reverb almost every day here for all my projects. It’s very important to me as I use reverb sometimes to smear out the frequencies of a sound. Sometimes I will use them to make drones out of sounds. Other times I use them to create sound effect swells when reversing them. I like to use reverbs in really creative ways to get new sounds. In my sound design projects I use convolution reverbs all the time to process dialog and sound effects that are in specific spaces and environments. I have created hundreds of my own impulse responses that I have collected over the years working on various video game and TV projects.

What are some of your favorite hardware reverbs that you have used throughout your long career? Do you still use any of these?

My favorite hardware reverbs are definitely from my Lexicon PCM 92, and Eventide H8000FW units. I love the detail and presences these two units offer. I use the Eventide H8000 and Eclipse on a lot of my projects even today. I have a host of different microphones and keyboards running into a digital console (Yamaha DM2000VCM) that is setup with my hardware SFX racks. I also like using the TC electronics Fireworx that I generally like to use for reverse delays and other strange effects. They are running via digital light pipe with my RME UFX sound card here. I have been a long time fan of the Eventide products, and have worked doing presets and design for them over the last 5 years.

Any general tips for younger producers on effective reverb use or secret recipes you care to share?

Like I mentioned above, I like to use reverb in really creative ways to sometimes mask out frequencies of a sound. Sometimes I like to engulf the sound in reverb and turn it into a drone. I like using lots of automation with reverb plug-ins. I love automating things like the reverb size, decay, and shifting the pre-delay out to get pre-reversed-like effects. It’s really neat on synths and impact sounds. I like automating strange wave shapes to these parameters, jagged, irregular shapes almost random at times. You can really hear how to creatively envelope or freeze certain frequencies of a sound by using a reverb in this way.

How often do you destructively print reverb to tracks, and then apply further sound-design transformations to the wet source sound?

I print reverbs to tracks all the time. What I like to do in a lot of my sessions is have several channels that have different reverb effects loaded up. I sometimes stack different reverb plug-ins to achieve a certain sound. I will then copy some of those sounds to that channel and re-bounce those sounds in that channel. Then importing them back into the session to hear they will sound with everything else in the mix.


What do you find most unique or inspiring about B2 as compared to other competitive products?

I love that it’s a dual engine design and that each engine can have completely independent settings and even that is reconfigurable. It’s setup sort of like a modular synth in that you can route how the spaces will work with each other. Another amazing thing is that the B2 can be completely non-linear and you can shape the delay lines into anything you want. That is just incredible as you can really craft the way the decay is shaping around the reverb. Depending on your settings you can make the decays sound glitchy, broken, or open and lush.

Richard Devine Gear

Do you tend to use B2 for extreme FX oriented presets, or more subtle and traditional reverb needs, or both?

I would say that I use the B2 more for making really interesting spatial effects to my sounds. I particularly love the Granular category and adding in the particle like delay line sounds. Experimenting with the Mod depth and rate while setting just a few delay lines and randomizing those gets such wild effects. One of my favorite tricks to do with 2C is take only one engine and set the size rate to something really low like 1.79. Then set the delay time to something really short like 0.32 then set all the geometry knobs down to 0 percent. Then set the density to around 67 percent, and the diffuse setting to 61 percent. Then set your Mod Depth and Rate knobs both to zero, and then set your EQ to about 56 percent. I then will automate the "Size" knob control to get really cool Karplus-Strong string delay type sounds. Another cool thing is to set the geometry to the random setting and then modulate or automate the random knob. It works awesome on voices and drum loops. Here is a short example of this on Vine.

How many instances per project do you typically use?

I tend to use about 4 to 5 instances per session all loaded with a specific setting to quick dump a sound in that channel to preview what the sound will be like. I usually will setup some smaller room like effects on the first two channels, then two channels of bigger halls and rooms, then a 5th channel that will run a unusual effect.

Richard Devine Gear

What kind of source sounds do you usually use with B2?

I like to use B2 with mainly sound effects. I have done some really great stuff with weapons, impacts, swooshes, and other SFX. It colors the sound so nicely, and the level of detail is just astonishing.

Do you find yourself designing your own presets on a regular basis?

I like to use a combination of both in house presets and a bit of my own. There is such a great collection of presets that come with B2, that even if you never made your own presets you can find something that will fit your needs. I have made about 20 that I like to use for my personal projects.

Could you name some of your works in which you have actively used B2?

B2 was one of the main reverbs I used on the title track "Plonked Spectral" from the album RISP. Here is a link to listen to it. I had 4 instances of B2 running in this sessions, mostly to add some depth and space to some of the DSP splashes and sound effects.


What do you find most unique or inspiring about Aether as compared to other competitive products?

Aether was one of the first 2CAudio products I used. I love the interface, it’s so easy to navigate and the quality of results is amazing. It’s great for dialing in a specific space really quickly. The browser window and super extensive library of presets make this a must have reverb for anyone.

Do you tend to use Aether for extreme FX oriented presets, or more subtle and traditional reverb needs, or both?

I was using the Aether reverb mainly as my main spatial reverb for all my tracks. I was previous using the Waves TrueVerb and IR-1, but after hearing Aether I started replacing them with Aether. I like Aether the most because you can hear more detail in the tails and decay. I am really picky about this, and how sounds are processed. I find that with other reverbs you just hear the dry signal then the reverb mix, and they almost sound separated in a way. It’s hard to explain. With Aether you really hear the fine macro detail of the effect and it really sounds as if you’re hearing it in this space. It’s more convincing to my ears especially when comparing to other virtual plug-in reverbs.

Richard Devine Gear

How many instances per project do you typically use?

I would typically run about 2 to 3 instances per session. I would typically like to have one small room effect and one large one. I like to have sounds happening in two different environments to add even more variety and contrast to the sounds. I will sometimes run a third instance for some strange otherworldly granular/modulated effect.

What kind of source sounds do you usually use with Aether?

I like running pads, swooshes, rises and sound effects with Aether. The detail is good with it, that you could run almost anything through it and it will sound great. :-)

Do you find yourself designing your own presets on a regular basis?

I have made a dozen or so presets with Aether, about 6 small room style effects, and then 6 large/Granular like verbs that I love using for instrument splashes.

Could you name some of your works in which you have actively used Aether?

I have used Aether on almost everything I have released. It’s been in almost every mix since I have gotten it. It’s so useful, and I have saved it into my logic templates so it always gets loaded up every time with my sessions. Like I said before it is mainly because the GUI is so well thought out. Everything you want to tweak is right there in front of you and the sound quality is so detailed.

Richard Devine Gear

2CAudio In The Mix: Richard Devine

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