Artist Spotlight: Justin Lassen

Sometimes A Road Sings In the Mind of the Darkly Inclined
Composer, producer, remixer & musician Justin Lassen

By Randy Alberts

“For me it all started with Cakewalk, a keyboard, and a lot of free time,” laughs the globetrotting Justin Lassen, a one-of-a-kind visionary 27-year-old film, game and music soundtrack composer based in Southern California.

A designer, multi-instrumentalist and self-described “heavy Sonar guy,” to boot, Lassen is also one of the most creative composers, remixers and producers in the film, game and music industries today. He’s a talented film soundtrack remixer who recently reworked the score of Clive Barker’s Midnight Meat Train, a dark film take on the producer’s 1984 short story of a photographer tracking a serial killer, into a full length companion album to the movie. Lassen has also produced music remixes for Nine Inch Nails, Madonna, Garbage, Linkin Park, Lenny Kravitz and Blue Man Group and he’s consulted on numerous game and technology projects for companies like Interplay, Novus Delta, Intel and, of course, Cakewalk.

Interviewed by Playboy, Mix, EQ, GearWire, PC Gamer and other arts and trade mags and sites, Lassen’s a darling of the computer-generated graphics art world, as well. A rare musical subject for numerous CGI trade magazines such as Post, It’s Art, The Escapist and CG Society Magazine, he literally can translate the inspiring, hauntingly beautiful visual art he sees into his own musical performances, arrangements and remixes. It’s a phenomenon of the senses called ‘synaesthesia’ he’s personally well acquainted with: Seeing sound, hearing scents, touching words, smelling colors. If the set and setting are just right, what Justin views through his irises can literally become real-time music from his fingertips.

“I’m a visual artist, designer and programmer,” he adds, “who just finds music much more fulfilling.”

Smells Like A Symphony, Tastes Like Sonar 7

Lassen, who happened to be Cakewalk’s Featured Artist of The Week for August 25, 2008, released his own CD, And Now We See But Through A Glass Darkly, in 2003 to acclaim from leading international CG artists, film, game and music professionals. This disc of his own uniquely composed and produced dark chamber symphonic suites has already reached 5.5 million copies in circulation. His debut CG release in 2006 of Synaesthesia then melded Justin’s two worlds of “beautiful dark symphonic” music and CG artwork again to critical peer praise, and earlier this year while in Europe he wrapped up the final release: Synaesthesia Encore, a new collection of pieces that musically addresses Justin’s own personal experiences with the phenomenon.

“Synaesthesia is something that has taken quite a hold of me over pretty much my entire musical career and life,” explains Lassen. “I have had some of my best compositional and performance moments in these types of situations, where I can actually feel an image playing the song right before my ears, completely and naturally. When I see visual work like this that really inspires me in this way, my fingers begin to play music very magically.“

Remarkable. Much to his liking, Justin’s successful role in creating the remixed soundtrack CD for Barker’s wide-released Midnight Meat Train is now attracting interest from other film, music and game audio producers, as well. An always-on, busy musician, remixer and symphonic arranger who travels for his music extensively and just returned from an exhaustive trip across the EU and back to his home studio in California, nothing would please the affable Lassen more than to score more symphonies and movie soundtracks for a living.

“I use Sonar 7’s notation features to clean up my arrangement ideas for orchestra, choir or other performers I might bring into a given session,” says Lassen about his go-to laptop DAW.

“I recall this one time in Paris when I was asked by Intel to do the soundtrack for a new high-tech game for a new platform. There was a pretty tight schedule of just three weeks, and I didn’t have a lot of gear to experiment with. So, I just used FL Studio on a laptop to jot down some ideas that later I would evolve and finish up back in L.A. and Phoenix. I then took those sketches and beats and brought them into Sonar and added many of the orchestral and electronic elements, as well as tracking all the guitars and vocals and doing the final mixing and mastering. I then cleaned it all up and converted the files over to OGG format, for the Unreal Engine 3 the game uses, all quite easily and well before my deadline.”

Continue reading Artist Spotlight: Justin Lassen

Cakewalk’s Music Production 08′ Tour

Cakewalk is coming to a city near you, starting Tuesday October 14, 2008! Join us to explore the latest in digital audio workstation technology- with SONAR 8 (and complimentary products) plus a sneak preview of the new SONAR V-Studio 700 Production System.

Cakewalk’s Product Specialists will be on hand to demo many of the new features in SONAR 8 including:

Newly-added instruments– including Beatscape, Dimension Pro, and TruePianos Amber VSTi

New features– such as Loop Explorer 2.0, higher track counts with lower latency, single instrument tracks, Anytime Recording, and more

New plug-ins– including the TS-64 transient shaper, TL-64 Tube Leveler, Channel Tools, and more

New creative content– Maximize your creative potential with SONAR’s massive collection of loops, samples, and presets

Also, get a first glimpse of the new SONAR V-Studio 700, the groundbreaking new hardware/software solution from Cakewalk by Roland. Visit www.sonarvstudio.com to watch exclusive videos and get in-depth product information.

These events are FREE and open to EVERYONE, from new users to long-time Cakewalk customers.

For a complete listing of Tour locations and information, check out the Music Production 08′ Tour Page!

For dates, times, and locations of all Cakewalk Events please visit the Cakewalk Events Page Or call 888-CAKEWALK and choose Option #2 to speak with a customer service representative.

SONAR 8: The Fine Print

Cakewalk’s CTO Noel Borthwick sheds some light on the features “under the hood” in SONAR 8.

*Note that this list is not a substitute for the official feature list & other features already documented in the SONAR 8 manual. Rather it is a list culled from Cakewalk’s Engineering Department*

Enjoy!

Performance optimizations:

Although every version of SONAR we shipped in the past had some degree of optimization work, SONAR 8 is the first version of SONAR to which we applied the same engineering process to performance optimizations as we do with other more user visible features. i.e. we established goals, built a specification for the optimizations, split up the work into milestones and tracked the progress of these tasks just as we do for other features. To make testing more deterministic, we devised various internal profiling tools in order to track and measure changes in performance across a variety of hardware platforms on XP as well as Vista.

Systems tested included brand new cutting edge platforms from Intel and AMD as well as earlier generation machines.

We split up this work into the following classes of performance enhancements for SONAR 8:

1. CPU and kernel level optimizations – use less of your CPU to do the same amount of work

2. User Interface optimizations – faster drawing, scrolling, zooming

3. Driver level optimizations – more efficient access to drivers, minimizing driver state transitions

4. Vista OS specific optimizations – Better use of MMCSS thread priorities, support for custom MMCSS task profiles, new WASAPI support

5. Audio engine optimizations – optimize “hotspots” in our bussing, streaming and mixing code

As a result of all these changes, SONAR 8 has the following benefits:

– greatly minimized kernel usage. This helps provide more “kernel bandwidth” to drivers who need it the most. More kernel bandwidth translates into less potential for audio glitches.

– Lower CPU usage – translates to better performance at low latency

– More efficient use of audio drivers – esp with ASIO drivers

– Better performance on Windows Vista esp X64. Many of the complaints of Vista performance as compared to XP have been solved with SONAR 8. X64 low latency performance should now be on par with X86.

– Faster application launch

– Less flicker in GUI. Track view splitters no longer flicker when resizing.

– More responsive zoom and scroll with large projects. Zooming with wave files now uses 1/2 the RAM with 24-bit or less stereo or mono files used.

– Better meter performance.

– Improved thread scheduling by insuring threads are properly distributed on processors.

This link shows the overall benefits of SONAR 8 as compared to SONAR 7: http://www.cakewalk.com/Products/SONAR/English/benchmark.asp

Continue reading SONAR 8: The Fine Print

Artist Spotlight: Trev Wilkins

Trev Wilkins and Scadge Productions:

Rely on the sound of Cakewalk’s SONAR:

“It’s the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of our studio!”

The best recording studios are those that get results, and to do that the engineers need to understand exactly what the client wants. And what better way to understand what’s required than to have had a career that spans almost every possible stage of the music creation process?

For Trev Wilkins, owner and engineer of Telford-based Scadge Productions, the last 25 years have seen him take on all manner of roles in the industry – from running recording studios, touring as both a musician and engineer, authoring books and producing videos to order.

It’s this wealth of real-world experience that’s made Scadge Productions the first choice of production venue for clients who need guaranteed results. “We have to be very flexible in our approach here at Scadge,” Trev says. “We’re recording a choir one day, then we’ll have a video interview the next, perhaps a rock band in the day after that. Consequently we can’t afford to spend time fiddling around with anything in the studio, especially the software. We need to guarantee that we can get the job done and cover any eventuality quickly and with total confidence – and that’s where SONAR shines through – we rely on it as the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of our studio!”

Continue reading Artist Spotlight: Trev Wilkins