Interview with Audio Experience Designers

Interview with Audio Experience Designers

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Bush + Leavenworth tells stories because story is what brings us all together. We feel strongly that surrounding ourselves with creative people enhances our storytelling and creativity. For Kevin Dusablon and Mike Forst, it’s no different. Meet two friends who have been working together for over a decade, on commercials, games, voice acting, films and innovative technology. When they are both in the same room, the energy is… exciting! They complement each other so well creatively, and it’s clear that they push each other to give and do more in their audio engineering. Kevin and Mike also embody a creative lifestyle, via clothes they wear, the drinks they drink, the music they listen to – these are the characteristics that make them who they are, and make them artists.

We are pleased to have the opportunity to sit down with Kevin and Mike. Read on to learn more about these innovative, talented guys!

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For the people that don’t know you, give us a little description of yourselves.

K: I’m from Vermont and am deeply passionate about the quality of the maple syrup and coffee beans that I consume. Starting in New England and moving out to the bay area, close to 10 years ago; I spent a bunch of time playing live music and followed that up with a bunch of time working in audio post-production. I have now settled happily on the bleeding edge of technology and entertainment here in San Francisco with my wife and two and half year old daughter.

M: East coast born and raised. I moved back out to the Bay Area for the second time in 2012 to further my career in audio and to try that artisan toast everybody was raving about. I played in bands most of my life before I started doing professional audio full time. I look forward to my next good italian meal and the always possible aha! moment.

You guys came from playing in bands, going on tour, and now you’re working audio post production. Do you miss those days at all, playing in front of a crowd? In a way, would you say that you’re still playing in front of a crowd, but for a different audience

M: I do miss the actual playing part… a lot. I don’t miss all the things that come along with it like… dealing with promoters, venues, bandmate drama, bandmate girlfriend’s drama and on and on. I don’t really think “those days” are gone either, but if I start to perform live again it would have to be under different circumstances. Right now, I always think about the audience when I’m working on any specific project. Although the audience isn’t live in front of me I feel like I still need to help tell whatever story is being told. From the way the dialog reads, to the music that’s being written, it’s imperative to think about how the audience will feel.

K: I miss knowing my work is ultimately going to see the stage. Live performance is uniquely fun and exciting not only because of the audience but because of the moments of connection between players. I still try and play live whenever I can and Mike and I are perpetually brainstorming the next great band idea…so hopefully it’s only a matter of time until we have a regular performance schedule again.

The work we do now is certainly still for a crowd, just not in the live sense. One of the things that’s changed about moving solely from the medium of music performance to audio-post is that now we definitely reach more people with our work. It’s exciting to think that we are engaging wide audiences around the world now. But, ya; I want both! :)

You guys are are truly talented in all areas in sound, from audio design, composing, recording, making albums, performing. How would you describe yourself as an artist?

K+M: Thanks!

M: I’m stoked to have my fingers in everything audio. It keeps my day to day interesting. Kev and I talk a lot about this and fancy ourselves Audio Experience Designers or AX. Less about one thing in particular and more the whole audio package. It’s a blast, and it really helps to infuse an audio signature in a story.

K: Thanks to the amazing projects and crews that we’ve been a part of, we have been lucky enough to work on so many different disciplines within the field of sound. As Mike mentioned, we often refer to ourselves as Audio Experience Designers. It’s a way to give ourselves latitude, rather than constrain ourselves to strictly defined roles. In some cases Mike will really connect to music on a project and I may be thinking only about field recording and design, and on the next project it could be completely the opposite. We find that we get the best sounding results by letting that shake out naturally. There’s also something about the “audio experience” line of thinking that encourages a macro perspective, and that usually keeps us more in tune with story and the audience’s overall experience.

“There’s no better channel than friends for staying relevant”

What’s a movie, music or game that you have heard or experienced recently that has impressed you?

M: I recently saw the VR experience LoVR with music by Jon Hopkins which is next level. I literally lost myself inside their story. The new Lusine album is awesome as well, and I just saw Shigeto live which was extremely refreshing. For movies, The Arrival was one I instantly fell in love with. The score is just something else. Johann Johannsson is incredible.

K: There’s just so much good stuff out there! But if I had to pick one thing that has really stuck out to me recently (I use recently very loosely here); it might be The Last of Us. I know this one has gotten plenty of praise over the last few years, but I think it really pushes storytelling and the relationship between character and audience further than almost anything else I’ve seen. It also broke down a few conceptual walls about what a game can and can’t do. I’m extremely interested to see how that notion moves further in media – undoubtedly using VR and AI. I’m excited to see experiences blur the line between passive and interactive, to surprise audiences and hopefully invite them to overcome dated expectations of entertainment.

Being an artist requires us to stay fresh and sharp. How do you stay on top of the many trends and emerging artists coming out around you?

K: There’s no better channel than friends for staying relevant. The creative community here in the Bay Area is more open and forward thinking than any other I’ve come into contact with. Usually a cup of coffee with someone I haven’t talked with in a few months brings something new and exciting to light. I also make a conscious effort to create as much I can and to try and engage new entertainment as much as my schedule allows.

M: Yea, it’s definitely part of the job. Input is just as important as output, if not more in some cases. Even the stuff I don’t like I take time to watch/listen/digest so that my output isn’t all one sided. There are so many places to find new music, movies, stories, etc. but the best place is recommendation from a trusted friend.

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What is some music you’re listening to now?

K: Bibio, Oddisee, BadBadNotGood, Eagles of Death Metal, The Cloud Nothings, Ty Segall, Johann Johannsson and I’m so hyped to hear what Little Dragon has in store this year! …oh and Raffi – my family and I love Raffi, so that’s on regular rotation of course.

M: Les Baxter, Shigeto, Pink Mexico, Chrome Sparks, Kendrick Lamar, Son Lux, Konkoma, Lee Fields. And the list goes on and on.

How would you describe your fashion style?

M: My style is simple and consistent. A button down shirt and a pair of 511s. I’ve been through so many different style changes in my life but I’m pretty happy (and comfortable) with what I’ve landed on for now. I’m just really glad the JNCO jeans didn’t stick. (yikes)

K: [laughs] I think my fashion style is a result of attempting to be relevant while really looking for utility and functionality. For instance I ride my bike daily, ride my skateboard often and enjoy getting out into the woods – while at the same time working in an office. So, things like solid jeans, simple, flat kicks, a million t-shirts and a few button down shirts usually fits the bill. Also, living in SF requires one to master the art of layering; so, some stylish long socks and a fresh hoodie always play nicely in my rotation. I would describe my style as Ron Swanson but only if he was kind of into garage punk rock.

What are some of the exciting things you guys are cooking up in your current projects, and personally?

K: I’m particularly excited about some of the unique characters we’re bringing to life via conversation at PullString. Mike and I are also working on an ambitious, new VR project that I think will be a truly unique experience for the medium as well as going into post soon on a fantastic animated short  called Sonder. We are also, at any given moment, about to start a new band – at the moment that appears to be something in the afro-neo-soul wrealm but could change swiftly to 50s exotica, or rock-steady ska before the end of the week. We’ll keep you updated.

M: Working professionally in audio is always a new adventure. It’s what keeps me so excited to get in and see what’s happening. I’ve been heads down in a lot of music, both at work and outside. And I just released new music under my own name, Mike Forst – Check out “Look, the Ghost. EP” on Spotify.

Any last thoughts for our readers?

K: I’d like to offer my general excitement and encouragement to everyone who is creating something new. There are some really talented storytellers out there and more access to great tools than ever. I’m chomping at the bit to see the unique and emergent results that come into existence as a result.

M: There is so much great art in the world, and it’s never been easier to consume it. So, to sum things up: consume it, create it, share it!


 

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Interview

Kevin Dusablon
Audio Experience Designer

Mike Forst
Audio Experience Designer