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Meet our Head of Sound Design

We are happy to introduce you to Alex Cummings, the Senior Sound designer at Polyend! Alex is an experienced sound designer who has worked behind the scenes with Polyend as the lead sound designer for many of Polyend's past releases. Now we are working with Alex to create the Palettes sample shop, the perfect place for new samples. Get to know Alex, and find out a little more about Palettes in this week’s 6 Questions!

Could you tell us a little bit about your experience with sound design?  How long have you been doing it?  What made you want to start doing sound design?

I started making music back in the late nineties using Impulse Tracker software, and it was all just using samples and bad samples really, and doing a terrible job. I had no understanding of music or production or sound design or anything but I was hooked. I slowly got better and ended up getting some stuff released years later after using loads of different kit from Jeskola Buzz to an Atari ST and an old EMU sampler. I was really into sample-based music generally but after a while tired of being reliant on loops from vinyl and then drifted more and more into making sounds from scratch getting further into synthesis and sound design. I sort of started the process again thinking “why do my synth sounds sound so bad”, and started investing more and more time in trying to make better sounds.

Could you tell us a little bit about why you wanted to start Palettes? How did it come about?

I’d made a lot of the stock sounds for previous Polyend equipment and really enjoyed making the sounds for their kit, there’s something really nice about knowing hardware is shipping with sounds you’ve made. Piotr told me he was visiting Bristol for the Maschina Bristronica event and we decided to meet up and had a few beers and talked about the idea of a sample shop. I’d been thinking about it for quite a while and it seemed he had too so it was just a natural fit really. The idea of making specialized sound tools that work closely with the hardware is a really exciting idea.

We’ve had the pleasure of being able to play with your sample packs in advance and are proud to launch these.  The quality of these packs is just over the top.  What was your goal in creating the first Palettes packs?

High quality and diversity in the sounds were the focus! We decided to keep the packs around the 100 sample mark, to ensure there’s no filler and it’s all super usable stuff. The idea was getting sounds that people would love using with enough variety that they could make a whole EP using one of the genre packs, or packs of tools that would be useful again and again in countless productions. Everyone is very busy these days and there’s more soundware out there than ever before so I really wanted to make sounds that people would love using that stand out and are worthy of people’s time.

What are your inspirations for making these sample packs?

The Play+ to a large degree, having a Play+ to test the sounds on was a big driver in the type of sounds, I’ve used loads of other grooveboxes but the speed you can knock up sketches on the Play is really something, it was part of the process making the sounds on various bits of kit then loading them on the Play+ and testing how they worked together.

Vibes-wise I wanted the first three packs to be pretty broad, we’ll get more specific with the packs as things progress but I wanted to get some really solid sounds out for the first round of samples. Beats on Wax is my take on the golden age of 90’s hip hop, MNML is the sound of modern Techno, and Atmo is a pretty broad swathe of chilled IDM and ambient sounds from 90’s Warp records up to modern modular bits and pieces.

Do you have any recommendations for people wanting to get started with sound design?

Software VSTis are amazing these days, I think really learning one synth inside and out is probably the best thing to do, it’s tempting to get gear lust and want racks of equipment or plugins but you can really only use one thing at a time, and initially, you want to learn a few tools inside and out, you’ll learn cross-transferable skills on any good modern VSTi synth. You can learn loads of stuff following YouTube tutorials but really the best thing is to just get on with it, accept you are going to probably make some dud sounds and enjoy experimenting.

Is there any kit that you find vital?

I tend to alternate between pieces of hardware and software depending on what I’m working on. The thing that’s stuck with me though is my headphones which are Beyerdynamic DT990 pros. I worked at Guitar Amp and Keyboard Centre in Brighton about 20 years ago and everyone there had them and loved them. I’m on my third pair now, but they seem to last me a decade or so.

Alex is a veteran sound designer working on projects from cutting edge synth presets, creating sound for science fiction sound effect libraries, samples and loops for nearly any genre of electronic music, creating sound for art installations and occasionally gets to confuse himself trying to use eurorack as a treat.

You can find his music on Bandcamp