Adelaide producer and sound designer Tim Whitt is set to release his upcoming album Geisel on Oct 13.
Geisel is no ordinary album; it was created using sound samples from the city of Adelaide With his portable recorder always in hand, Whitt documented the world around him. From the roaring crowd at the 2016 A-League Grand Final to the everyday sounds of Adelaide’s trams, trains, and pedestrian crossings, nothing was off-limits and nothing stayed as it was heard.
We caught up with Tim just before his City Soundtrack Tour and album release this week to talk about the album and the most interesting sounds he recorded in Adelaide.
Upside: Where was the most interesting place that you recorded in Adelaide?
Tim: Surprisingly, the most interesting places didn’t give the most interesting results as you expect it to. I spent a day with some urban explorers who took me around to abandoned factories but there wasn’t any much sound to record. The best sounds came from recording mundane sources. I have what’s called a “contact microphone” that you stick to things and it records the vibrations within it that you can’t hear with the naked ear. That was really exciting to find new sounds. The best one was a single metal traffic bollard at the University of Adelaide and when I placed the microphone on it had all of these strange musical harmonies within it.
Upside: What was your favourite sound that you recorded and used on the album?
Tim: My favourite sound that made it onto the album was a recording I made of a train passing overhead by attaching a microphone to the train tracks. It was something that I’ve been wanting to record for many years but never had the equipment to do it. It appears at the start of track 2 on the album, where the whole thing really kicks off.
Upside: How big is your recording clip library now? I imagine you must have caught too many sounds to remember carrying your recorder with you 24/7.
Tim: I have a whole hard drive full of recordings now. I have to keep a very detailed filing system for my recordings otherwise it would be impossible to find anything. When I import the files from my recorder, they all get named and put into specific folders, for example, if I recorded a bike I would edit the sound I wanted to keep and put it in the “Objects/Bicycle” folder. That way whenever I need the sound of a bike, I know where to look. Annoyingly, one of the sounds I used on the album I had just labelled “tapping an unknown object” and it kills me that I’ll never know what it was I was actually tapping.
Upside: What’s on your recording bucket list, is there a sound which has escaped you every time you’ve tried to capture it in the wild?
Tim: Last year I was hired to make nature recordings for the new Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail and they got me over to the island for a week to record wildlife and nature atmospheres. There’s an owl called the Boobook owl which makes a very distinct hoot that sounds like it’s saying “more pork”. The park rangers on the island had made a basic recording of one before I got there but I wasn’t able to find one for the entire week I was on Kangaroo Island no matter what ungodly times I was out in the forest with my microphones.
Upside: What does the name Giesel mean and why did you title the album this?
Tim: The title “Geisel” is actually in reference to Dr. Seuss’ wife Helen Geisel who was also an author. I learned that she had a really tragic end to her life which had a profound effect on me. It made me start thinking about my own life in a bigger picture, in terms of what I was doing and how I felt that I fit into the world around me. It inspired me to start making music for myself again, something which I hadn’t done in quite a while and also to take things which are inherently viewed as negative and attempt to turn them into positives instead, like recording abrasive noises and mould them into beautiful compositions. So it’s basically trying to start from a low place and build something positive from it.
Upside: The single Sleep At Night follows makes mention of social media and not connecting with the real world, what do you think of social media personally? Is there any platform or specific features that you’ve actually loved in recent years and is there anything you despise?
Tim: The lyrics to Sleep at Night were written by Sim Jones and Matiah and I was surprised at how much it connected with how they felt when it heard it. I think that social media has the potential to be a great platform for connecting with a lot people and sharing new ideas but it’s becoming increasingly undermined by being seen as a shortcut to becoming famous. Everyone is fixated on how many followers they have but no one really looks at whether you’re making a real connection with any of them. Everyone else is just viewing you as a number on their own social media count as well. Some people are really good at playing the game and using it to their advantage to get themselves out there but I’m just no good at it. I haven’t got the patience or discipline to nurture an online presence. Keep an eye out for my letterbox drop!
Upside: I know you work across numerous projects when doing sound design, is there anything exciting and unusual upcoming on the horizon?
Tim: I’ve already got plans to start making “binaural” recordings which uses two microphones placed inside the ears of a dummy head. It looks creepy but when you listen back to the recordings it sound like you are actually right there. So I’m hoping to team up with some local places to let people hear experiences they could never get in real life, like imagine placing the microphone in the lion cage at the zoo and having the sound of lions stalking around your head. That would be amazing
Upside: Lastly, if you could re-score any video game/movie/album soundtrack ever, what would it be?
Tim: Good question. There is a long-running Nintendo series called “Castlevania” where you play a vampire hunter fighting your way through Dracula’s castle. I always loved the music in it and I think it remaking a horror-action game soundtrack would allow for a lot of dynamics and experimentation.
Geisel will be available on Friday, Oct 13.
Tim Whitt’s City Soundtrack Tour is run on Saturday, Oct, 14 and Sunday, Oct 15
Photo credit: Grease Monkey Media