Interview: Martin Walker (English)

Um Martins Originalität in diesem Interview nicht auf Deutsch zu verfremden, beließen wir das Interview auf Englisch.

Interview – Martin Walker Steamworx for Camel Audio Alchemy by Sebastian Hinrichsen

Martin, could you please introduce yourself to those who maybe don´t know you and what you’re doing?

Martin Walker: Well, ironically the release of my Steamworx sound library has finally brought my career in a full circle. Many people still remember me for my 8-bit games and sound design, in particular Hunter’s Moon and Citadel on the Commodore 64, but then I spent a further seven years being commissed to write over a hundred game soundtracks across eight formats, so lots more came across my name during that period. Then in 1996 I started writing columns, features and reviews for Music Tech magazines such as Sound On Sound and Audio Technology, so another set of musicians may recognise my name from their pages. I’m also known for the albums of ambient music I release on my Yew Tree Magic record label, so I often get people saying ‚Oh, I didn’t realise you were that Martin Walker as well‘.

How did you start in sounddesign?

Martin Walker: At school with an ancient valve tape recorder, a home-made guitar and experiments with electronics. Each week I’d spend my pocket money on electronic components, building oscillators, filters, amplifiers, effects, and eventually even a primitive guitar synth that you could program with patch cords – this gave me a really good grounding in synthesis. Sadly we moved house so many times that all this early experimental hardware is now just memories – I really wish I’d had enough space to keep it all.

What sort of music are you producing?

Martin Walker: My more recent music is peaceful, ambient and almost meditational, partly because I’d spent so many years being commissioned to write mainly aggressive game soundtracks and I needed to explore the gentler side of my nature. However, with Steamworx the wheel has once again come full circle, and I was able to explore darker material once again.

How did your association with Camel Audio come about?

Martin Walker: I was impressed by Ben Gillett’s first ever product CamelPhat, reviewing it in one of my columns way back in 2001, and followed the Camel’s subsequent progress with great interest. However, the pre-release information for Alchemy was so intriguing that I had to persuade SOS to let me review it so I could justify spending a few weeks exploring it more closely.

Alchemy proved to be the first softsynth to really inspire me for many years, and after my review was published I continued to create new sounds with it. When I mentioned this on a public forum Camel’s Sound Design Coordinator Col Fraser contacted me to ask if I would let them have a listen. They liked what they heard, and the rest as they say is history! As well as the 150 presets in my own Steamworx signature bank I’ve already contributed a further 170 presets across five other Alchemy libraries, and still feel I’m only scratching the surface of its capabilities.

And how did you get the idea to make your Steamworx sound library starting with a clock from your grandmother?

Martin Walker: Well, that clock has many happy memories for me – its ticking was the last sound I heard at my grandmother’s house every Christmas Eve before falling asleep, so I always associated its sound with magical times. I also loved all its clockwork noises, especially when it chimed on the hour and you heard bells and whirring cogs and ratchets.

Grandmother´s Clock ;-)

I used to have a Fender Rhodes Stage 73 piano, and that was essentially a set of hammers hitting metal tines, so I decided to use a similar approach with my magical clock, carefully re-pitching its chimes across the keyboard, but including other mechanism sounds in the background to add character. Then I did the same with several old musical boxes and suddenly had a collection of ‚invented clockwork instruments‘ that sounded as if they’d escaped from a mad scientist’s laboratory, and Steamworx was born!

When you hear a noise/sound, do you immediately hear a possibly sampled instrument?

Martin Walker: Quite often yes. The longer you spend working on a sound library, the more you begin to inhabit its world and spot more creative possibilities. For months I scoured junk shops, antique fairs and toyshops looking for items I could sample, but found the most important thing was the ‚focus‘ – a way of viewing the real world with your current library in mind. Once I became focused in this way, many unexpected sounds revealed themselves to me, such as my dog’s metal bowls that later resurfaced as an entire Gamelan orchestra!

I recorded various long sessions striking several differently sized bowls with a range of different beaters I’ve made ranging from really soft foam through rubber, wood and metal, or flicking them with a wet towel, elastic bands… basically whatever got me the sound I was after. Each bowl also contained a little water that I could swirl about to add movement and pitchshifting effects.

Martin Walker – Steamworx-Dog-Bowl-Hits

Martin Walker – Steamworx-Dog-Bowl-Hits

Using Alchemy’s arpeggiators I was able to simulate a group of musicians playing together, while with its granular synthesis I could stretch the bowls into huge gongs. The bowls also resurfaced as the strike component of larger percussion instruments and the Bendy Bowl mallet instrument.

Martin Walker-Steamworx-Dog-Bowl-Presets

Martin Walker-Steamworx-Dog-Bowl-Presets

How long did you spend on the production of Steamworx?