Post Magazine

September 2013

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getting started One audio pro's $280 dream By Seth Phillips Audio Engineer Sound Lounge New York City From aspiring DJ to audio professional. I began experimenting with sound when I was 18, using two record players and a twochannel mixer. I was always interested in music, but came from a household that was more athletically minded... so the closest I ever got to an actual instrument was playing the plastic recorder in music class. Nevertheless, I spent nearly every penny I earned at my part-time job, buying records. Then, in the early '90s, someone took me to see a DJ battle in the basement of an old bank in Baltimore. The experience was nothing short of a revelation for me: watching two DJs manipulate records to create entirely different sounds from the tracks that were originally pressed onto the vinyl. They were communicating back and forth and lobbing sonic insults at each other's mothers with turntables. It was hilarious and inspiring. Shortly after, I took my meager savings and called every pawnshop in DC to try to find a pair of Technics 1200 record players. (You couldn't even begin to be a battle DJ without a pair of the coveted "12s," which, new, were waaayyy out of my — and most teenagers' — price range.) Of course, it was the last pawnshop in the phone book, in the worst part of Southeast DC, that had two in stock. When I pulled up in my family's beat-up station wagon to buy them, I was scared to walk the 10 feet from my car to the front door. Needless to say, Southeast DC, was not a very good neighborhood at the time. To that point, the store owner was surprised that I'd shown up. He said customers would call all the time about the tables, but flake once they realized where the shop was. I mumbled an awkward response, paid the Phillips, current day, at Sound Lounge. man my money, and went home with my decks. My dad was furious. Apparently, $280 was too much money for me to spend on something so foolish. My mom had just moved to Florida and I didn't know anyone there. So, when I stayed with her that summer, I spent the entire time in my bedroom, prac- intern for about six months, until they expanded and a position became available for me. Fun jobs are not easy to get; everyone wants them and there aren't many open- Seth Phillips combined mixing skills, his love for music and ad agency experience to land an audio post job at Sound Lounge. He's worked on spots for Pepsi (inset), BMW and Master Card. ticing beat matching, cutting, scratching and so forth, bending every sound I could out of those tables and my records. When the summer ended, I wasn't half bad, and by the time college rolled around, I was good enough to start landing shows. TURNING PRO I DJ'd through college and got to play with some legendary DJ and hip-hop acts, while I majored in advertising. After graduating, I moved to New York and got a job at an agency, working on account management and new business pitches. I was still DJ'ing on the side, but I'd also gotten a lot more interested in producing my own sounds. Instead of just playing them from records, I began creating them with keyboards, samplers and computer programs. After a few freelance commercial sound gigs, I realized it made a lot more sense for me to combine my interest in audio with my background in advertising, take it to the post side, and turn it into a viable career. On a tip from a producer, I was introduced to Sound Lounge. I worked as an ings. I had to employ a lot of patience, perseverance and hard work to get into the chair as a mixer. I started out in the casting department, learning how to work with actors and relay direction to them from the agencies. Simultaneously, while acting as Sound Lounge's music director, I had to find exactly the right songs for clients' spots, which, in a nutshell, meant translating the adjectives "upbeat" and "contemporary" into the perfect soundtrack. Ultimately, being so focused on the nuances of sound for so many years, coupled with the experience I gained at an agency, gave me a broader understanding of the role my mixing plays in the creation of a spot. I know how much it means to my clients when their work gets to me, and I find it truly satisfying to help people sonically create what's in their minds. I have a great job with a company I love and I look forward to coming to work every day, which sadly, not many people can say. So, as it turned out, the $280 that so incensed my father was the best money I ever spent. Thirty-seven-year-old Seth Phillips has 11 years of experience, including mixing commercials for such brands as BMW, Master Card and Coca-Cola. Post • September 2013 41

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