Ian Boddy Interview
Judging by the sheer volume of sonic output that has come out from one man - in the form of
albums, sample libraries, synth patches, soundtracks and compilations - one might think that
Ian Boddy has hardwired his musical brain into Max/Msp and pressed record. As we will find
out though, he actually prefers Reaktor in this case, and the bulk of his experiments still rely
on the trusty analog tones of his vintage synths. If you haven't heard any of his ground-breaking
music yet, chances are still very high you've probably used one his sounds on a track and didn't
even know about it. Read on to find out more about this synthesis wizard.

The famous VCS3 that got Ian hooked
into the world of synthesizers.
Probably the most emulated vintage
synth ever, but can software ever
really match the true warmth and feel
of the real one?
Reaktor's arena is Ian's choice to enhance his modular options in the
The Cameleon 5000 additive synth
above, but will developers really
crack open this potential holy grail
of sound synthesis in the future?
Ian Boddy and Markus Reuter
circa 1999.

How and when did you become involved with music?

I had no formal training in music but loved listening to many of the instrumental bands of the
seventies, especially electronic artist such as Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Kraftwerk, Vangelis, Eno etc. Whilst studying Biochemistry at Newcastle University in 1978 - 1980 I was
introduced to Spectro Arts Workshop which was a publicly funded arts centre that had
printing/photography & sound studios -a fabulous place. Initially I was interested in the screen
printing facilities as besides having a scientific background I was good at art and liked to do it
as a hobby. However one day someone showed me the sound studio which was full of VCS3's,
Revox tape recorders etc - that was it, I was hooked. Within a month I'd packed up all my
printing stuff and started working in sound - I've never stopped since !

What was your first synthesizer?

Well the first one I worked on was the VCS3 in Spectro. It's a great synth to learn the
fundamentals of analogue synthesis on and indeed I own one of these lovely instruments.
However the first one I actually bought - using a large part of my student grant - was a Jen
string synthesiser.

How does it feel when you hear your samples in another artist's release, and how often
does that happen?

Great, it happens quite a lot, although I hear them more in tv/documentary music. After all that's
what the aim is for when producing a sample library - sounds that inspire people to produce
their own pieces of music.

A remarkable trait of your sound effects is that they often have hints of a "real world"
sample, but are processed into an alien-hybrid sound. Are you a big collector of custom
found sounds and field recordings for processing?

Well that's funny you should say that as to be honest there are very few that actually do use
real world sounds. Of course I have recorded the standard stuff, seashore, rivers, traffic etc
and used these as sound sources but I like making surreal soundscapes that use organic
analogue textures and then treating them in an "acoustically" interesting way. This often
involves things such as Altiverb which can impart a convincing real world ambience to

What synthesizer do you find most inspiring to tweak and why?

I couldn't single out one as it depends on my mood or the needs of the musical project.
However I always go back to my analogue gear - the Minimoog has no presets but within a
few seconds it produces bass sounds that are just sooooo right. Then there's my trusty old
VCS3, no matter what they do in software nothing sounds like this beast. It's just so
unpredicatble and at times untamed.

You seem to use the best of both analog and digital worlds. Do you find there are any areas
in which digital still falls short relative to analog?

Analogue gear still seems to sound better at being "analogue" - it has a solidity, a 3
dimensional character that digital still hasn't got. I don't care what the marketing blurb says
there's nothing out there that sounds like a big Minimoog bass patch. Then there's the instant
tweakability of anlaogue, some of the digital stuff has got better from an interface point of
view but I still prefer sitting in front of a VCS3 or my modular systm and actually physically
creating a patch. However I'm certainly no luddite and I'll quite happily use digital or software
synths but I prefer ones that have their own sound rather than trying to reproduce an
analogue synth sound.

Do you use any modular environment softwares such asReaktor/MaxMsp/C-Sound,
and if so, do you create your own custom plugins?

Yes I use Reaktor a lot. For me it's the best modular environment and I often treat it like an
extension to my analogue modular systems. I tend to start with one of the pre-made ensembles
and then mess around with that - it takes a lot of time to start from scratch. I'd like to get into
Max/MSP but would need to set aside a significant amount of time to really do it justice. I also
use Metasynth a lot as it's a unique sonic tool that produces sounds quite unlike anything else
I use.

What are your favourite items on your gear list, hardware and software-wise?

Analogue wise - all of it, the Minimoog, VCS3 and large modular system. Software wise
Reaktor, Metasynth, Kontakt, Absynth, Camel Audio & LinPlug stuff.

Do you make use of randomness in sound designing and composition?

Definitely. Although mainly in the analogue world. I set up slowly evolving soundscapes that
go through various long delay lines that are set up in such a way as to never repeat. I then
record these unique sounds and edit out the bits I like. That's one of the good things about
working with something like a modular system though, chances are you'll never get that
patch again or indeed even if you could it wouldn't sound quite the same so you have to
capture the moment or it's lost.

What do you imagine will be the most significant advancement in sound synthesis in
the next 10 years?

If only I had a crystal ball ! I'm sure that software will get better at reproducing the subtleties of
analogue sounds - it'll be interesting to see if in 10 years I still think a Minimoog bass sounds
better than a software equivalent. But in a way I hope it does as that's not what's really
important about software instruments. I'd certainly like to see software instruments become
more playable in an expressive way but that also relates to the keyboard as an interface and
whether there are ways to improve on that. I don't think anybody has yet really cracked
true, high resolution additive synthesis. We all know the theory that anysound can be
broken down into all it's constituent harmonics which then evolve through time. If this could
really be put into practice then an astonishing sonic world could be opened up - let's see.

Do you also produce work for films and/or video games?

I do a lot of library music for DeWolfe, who are the largest independent library music company
in the UK. I've done 10 albums for them on such topics as space, the sea, nature etc. The music
is mainly atmospheric, painting pictures in sound and as such it gets used all over the place in
documentaries, adverts, films etc.

What are you next big projects as a sound designer and a musician?

I have no current sound design jobs as I want to spend some time working on my own musical
projects this year. I run an ambient label called DiN (www.DiN.org.uk) and I'm about to start
working on a new solo album as well as collaborations with Markus Reuter & Tetsu Inoue.
I've also recently helped set up a music download store that specialises in offering FLAC
music files alongside the regular MP3. FLACis a lossless format so the downloaded music
is exactly the same quality as the original CD www.musiczeit.com So that will keep me busy
for a while.

Any cool trick or advice you can share with aspiring producers?

Follow your nose, or should that be ear? Use your instincts when designing sounds. I often
liken it to walking on the beach looking at the pebbles. There's a lot to choose from but now
and again one will catch your eye, you're not sure why but you pick it up. You then take it
home but that's only the start, you'll need to polish it and shape it into an object you're proud
of. That's how treat sound design.

For more info about Ian and his work visit www.ianboddy.com

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