Jahr 2004




Hillebrandt at Apple 

Keith Hillebrandt: Designer of Sounds and Soundscapes.

By Stephanie Jorgl


Folgender Artikel wurde auf der offiziellen Seite von "Apple" veröffentlicht. Nun ja, im Grunde sehr interessant, weil man viel über Keith's Arbeit erfährt und welche Geräte er benutzt. Natürlich ist viel Werbung für Apple dabei, aber interessant ist der Artikel auf alle Fälle. Leider habe ich ihn nur auf Englisch vorlliegen.

Quelle, so lange es noch online ist: http://www.apple.com/pro/design/hillebrandt/

Keith Hillebrandt: Designer of Sounds and Soundscapes

By Stephanie Jorgl

“I’ve always liked the sound of transistor radios, and I’ve always really liked droning sounds,” says sound designer-remixer-programmer Keith Hillebrandt. “I think that comes from watching scary movies as a kid. I always liked how they could create a mood with a sound. If somebody is walking down a hall, it’s not too exciting. But if somebody is walking down a hall — and you’ve got this eerie drone going on — all of the sudden, it turns it into something substantial.”

As one of the best sound and soundscape designers in the world, Hillebrandt can create a sound texture that can make a musical piece evoke a desired emotion. His work is often so subtle that you can’t even tell what what he added — until you take it away.

This natural intuitive talent of his — combined with years of hands-on experience playing with sound — led him from a testing position at Opcode, to producing sounds for the renowned “Poke In The Ear” sound series, to his very own “Diffusion of Useful Noise” sample CD, which landed him a job working for Trent Reznor’s Nothing Studios, designing most of the sounds for Nine Inch Nails’ epic “The Fragile” album.

Hillebrandt recently left New Orleans and Nothing Studios to launch his own sound design company, Useful Noise. He just produced and released a CD collection of his own sounds, “Useful Noise V2.”

Noise Knowhow

The start of Hillebrandt’s adventures in sound tweaking began soon after his parents decided to buy a Kimball organ, when he was nine years old. “They did it to be cool,” he explains. “Everybody else in the neighborhood had pianos, but my parents decided to get something electronic instead.”

When Hillebrandt and his siblings started taking lessons, he took to the keys instantly and found he could play by ear. “At the same time, I realized my interest in noise was there,” he says. “I used to take my forearm, put it down on as many keys as I could, and then use the Tremolo to make it sound like a train coming. And then when it went through ‘the tunnel,’ I’d kick in the Leslie.

“That moved on into trying to playing guitar, not being able to play guitar, realizing you could make a lot of weird sounds on a guitar without actually having to play it, but that didn’t get you in the band,” says Hillebrandt.

Bands and Beyond

“So, I ended up buying keyboards and playing in bands,” he says. Eventually, he got tired of playing in bands and dealing with band members. Then he got his first Mac and started using Performer. “After that I was hooked,” he exclaims.

“That led to a lot of noodling around, learning how to write songs again in a different context, because all of the sudden, you didn’t have a drummer who knew what to play, you were basically gonna play whatever was coming out of your non-drummer head,” he explains. “So, it made me come up with a lot of interesting rhythms that I probably shouldn’t have.”

When Digidesign came out with SoundTools and TurboSynth, Hillebrandt got super-sonically inspired. “All of the sudden, here was something there I could make anything sound completely twisted… completely out of this world — especially in those days. TurboSynth was so far ahead of its time, as far as sonic destruction,” he says.

Nothing Discovers Keith

“I sent a copy of my first “Useful Noise” CD down to Nothing Studios, and Trent (Reznor) eventually heard the sounds, liked what he heard and said he wanted to buy the whole library. But he couldn’t because Rarefaction had started up and they were going to release the CD,” explains Hillebrandt.

Reznor trusted Hillebrandt’s talent and hired him to design a gigabyte worth of sounds to be used for Reznor’s next album, which would become “The Fragile.” “I spent about six months or so doing that. Eventually, I got to meet with Trent, and we hit it off, so he asked me to move to New Orleans and work with him,” he says.

“So, I ended up being one of Trent’s main programmers for the five years I was there, doing sound design as well, but usually programming bits of music here and there,” says Hillebrandt. “But when you’re working with Trent, he’s a musical genius, so it’s rare that you’re going to think of something better than he will, when it comes to adding a little fairy dust to the music.”

Keith Hillebrandt: Crazy, Droney, Tweaky Moods

Audio Initiation

After finishing school, Hillebrandt figured that if he was going to hold down a job, then he might as well hold down a job that was related to the process of making music. He first got a job working for a tape recorder manufacturer, then moved over to work for a company called Audio Images that represented WaveFrame — a competitor to the Synclavier and Fairlight systems.

“WaveFrame put out an amazing machine for its time. It was a $120,000 computer with a built-in digital mixer with digital EQ you could automate, and a 32MB, 16-bit sampler in it,” he explains. “There was a sequencer that was built into the machine — a program called Texture that was written by Roger Powell.

“That was the first time that I’d heard such a tight-feeling sequencer, because everything was internal and it wasn’t going out to MIDI,” says Hillebrandt. “And it wasn’t until recently that I’ve been able to get that feel again out of a sequencer. Finally, with all the soft synths that are out, you can again cut out the delays of interfaces and cables and things like that.”

On to StudioVision

When he got the opportunity to work for Opcode as lead tester for StudioVision, he jumped on it. Because Opcode paid him to use StudioVision all day, he could write music while testing the software. “I got to take home a lot of gear as well,” he says. “That’s where I got into the Kurzweil K2000 and VAST Synthesis, which is one of my faves.”

While he was working at Opcode, the company OSC spawned the original front-end for ProTools — ProDeck — and put out a sound library. “When I heard the first ‘Poke In The Ear’ CD, I was blown away, so I got in contact with them. I then made a bunch of sounds for them that eventually got onto the second and third ‘Poke In The Ear’ CDs,” explains Hillebrandt. “It was a great experience because nothing was too strange for the guys at OSC.

Diffusion Of Useful Noise

“You’d come up with sounds, and they would always want something even stranger. This kept pushing me,” he says. “Then Ron MacLeod suggested that I do my own CD-ROM, — ‘Diffusion of Useful Noise,’ which came out in 1996. Doing the CD was a lot of fun, because they gave me free reign, but they helped me in staying focused and keeping organized in assembling the library.”

But right when the library was scheduled to come out, Macromedia bought OSC. “That was the end of the OSC sound library world. So, there were about eight or nine months where Ron MacLeod, who had headed up OSC, wasn’t sure what was going to happen with my sound library,” he says.

Virtual Samplers & Other Effects

“I do a lot of sound design in Logic, for the more rhythmic and loop-based stuff. Or if I need really precision automation. In the latest version of Logic, the automation is unbelievable! I use the new EXS sampler which has a sidechain — so I am side-chaining all my samples now. I love the EXS.

“And just having the EXS right there in your sequencer gives you one less thing to think about. It’s easier than even turning to your sampler. It doesn’t get in the way of the creative process. And the fact that the EXS24 sampler is so dialed into the Logic sequencer, the fact that you can sync everything up — all your LFOs and things like that — it doesn’t compare.

“What I’ve really started getting into recently is Native Instruments KONTAKT — that definitely takes it to a whole new level. Between the EXS and KONTAKT, I pretty much have all the sampling power I think I’m going to need.”

Other Favorites


 Pluggo (Noyzckippr & Fragulator)



Keith Hillebrandt: Dard Drones and Wide Atmospheres

Logic and Peak for Sound Design

Today, when Hillebrandt designs his crazy, droney, tweaky and atmospheric mood-touching sounds and soundscapes, he relies on a Power Mac running Logic and Peak. “Peak is my main program. It is always the front end and the back end of my sounds.

“I always need a precision sample editor. A while back, when Alchemy wasn’t doing it for me anymore as a sample editor, I found that Peak did everything I needed it to do,” he says. “Plus, it’s also a program that continues to expand.

“Peak also has given me some weird sound design processes,” says a grinning Hillebrandt. “I have this process called ‘Sound Design Roulette.’ I will go to the batch processor in Peak, and I’ll set up three or four things for Peak to batch process, I’ll have it convolve and then I’ll add gain by 10db, even if it sounds normalized. Then, I’ll just grab a folder of sounds — drums, glass breaking or something — drag it on there, then open each sound. Every once in a while, I’ll have a winner!”

Why a Sound CD?

“When I left New Orleans, I wanted to do something that was uniquely me. And I don’t think that there’s anything more uniquely me than to make a CD of my noises,” explains Hillebrandt. “It’s a collection of all the kind of noises I like, and the kind of noises I like making have got real deep, dark drones and wide atmospheres, nasty drums, digital-sounding synth sounds.

The “Useful Noise” CD, distributed through Hillebrandt’s website, includes a collection of more than 1,000 sounds that Hillebrandt designed, plus a special access code that allows the person purchasing the CD to get access to Hillebrandt’s sound portal where he puts up new sounds weekly.

New Projects

Now that Hillebrandt completed and launched his “Useful Noise V2” CD, he is onto a few other projects. He just completed work on another sample collection — a 24-bit construction loop library called “Arhythmia” with insane rhythms created by former NIN drummer Jerome Dillon, blended with Hillebrandt’s unique sense of sonic processing.

Hillebrandt also plans to help out on Dillon’s coming solo album, which will chronicle the evolution of a certain recurring dream he’s had for years. Plus, Hillebrandt will soon jetset out to Brazil to remix a couple of artists there, including Brasil Nove.

Hillebrandt is also considering lending his sound design expertise in designing sounds for his favorite software companies. He’s also up for designing sounds for film companies, or other bulk sound design projects. “If someone hears my library and says, ‘Oh we like this kind of sound.’ I’d like to say, ‘Well, okay, here are 1,500.’”

“Music will always be my first love, though, so I couldn’t get too far away from that,” he insists. “If I were working on sounds for movies all day, I’d still go home and do music on my own at night.”


The only external sampler Hillebrandt owns now is the Kurzweil K2600. “But I use that more for the processing in the K2600 than for it being a sampler.

“I created a lot of the drums on my analog synths, on my Arps, and some of the stuff came out of the Virus. A lot of the processing also went through my Roland SP-808 — which is something that Trent turned me onto — and my various pedals,” he says.

“I also love Electro Harmonix pedals, so I’ll chain a bunch of those together and just start tweaking little knobs like it’s a little modular synth or processor itself. So, I use a lot of those, particularly for drum sounds that are in the library,” he adds.

Hillebrandt uses a MOTU PCI-324 with a 2408 audio converter. His studio is synth-stocked with Kurzweils, a Nord Rack 2, a Nord Modular, an ARP Odyssey, an ARP 2600, a Virus, a Roland Jupiter 6 and a Roland Super Jupiter. He uses Tannoy Reveal monitors for listening to his mixes in his home studio. He’s also got an iPod on hand, for taking mixes around to other studios. “Conveniently, it’s also the jukebox for my car,” he says.

Useful Links

 Useful Noise   http://www.usefulnoise.com/

 “Useful Noise V2” CD   http://www.soundsonline.com/sophtml/details.phtml?sku=RF-08

 Jerome Dillon   http://www.jeromedillon.com/

 Ron MacLeod   http://www.apple.com/pro/design/macleod/