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student recording competition finalist and award winner: Tad Nicol

We are happy to post some interviews with the student recording competition winners of the AES133 in San Fransico. Congratulations again!

bronze award winner of category 3 (modern studio recording): Tad Nicol


SDA: Tell us a little bit about you.

Tad: I hail from the East side of the San Francisco Bay Area, five minutes away from downtown Berkeley. I’m currently attending the Music Engineering Technology program at the University of Miami in Florida. As a “MuE” (pronounced mew-ee by us music engineers), I’m immersed in what’s really a nexus of music performance, computer science, and electrical engineering. I’m insanely lucky because I literarily get to do everything that was on my college wish-list (and much more that I wasn’t aware of).

SDA: Tell us about the production of your competition entry. How long did you work on it? Was it your first entry? Stories? Inspirations?

Tad: The Hope Design began last winter as a collection of sampling into Reaktor, exporting to Logic, chopping, warping, editing and repeating the process until I had some appealing soundscapes. half a year later on the other side of the country the vocals were recorded and cinematic arrangements composed. Musically, it was inspired by Left to Tell, an autobiography about a woman in the Rwandan Holocaust who had to hide in a bathroom for several months among other hardships. Before my friend had given me the book, I could have never even conceived that a massive haloucost had occurred so close to when I was born.

SDA: What initiated your passion for audio?

Tad: I was always into albums and their respective “soundscapes”. It wasn’t really until I heard the likes of BT & Hybrid that I began pondering excitedly “Oh my god how are they getting these sounds?” Among my more current heros are Joanna Newsom, Flying Lotus, and Amon Tobin to name a few. I fell more in love with technologically engineered music during each long road trip my family would take across the Western landscape. I would stare out the window for hours, listening to album after album. This habit nurtured within me a very intimate connection between landscapes and music.

SDA: How did the AES help you on your way of being a successful audio engineer?

Tad: Inspiration. I went back to home everyday fired up to dive deeper into audio engineering.

SDA: What are your highlights of the AES133 in San Francisco?

Tad: Well apart from traversing the span of SF with fellow MuEs at night, I really enjoyed Poppy Crum’s talk on current medical science regarding the inner ear. Meeting so many audio engineers was pretty memorable (I have a stack of business cards sitting up on my shelf). The expo was great too, but where was Native Instruments???

SDA: What was your funniest experience as an engineer so far?

Tad: While I was recording The Hope Design, actually, I tried messing around with a Neumann “dummy” head stereo mic by placing it in the room to capture room reflections. I didn’t know, however, that the threads on the bottom of the head were broken. Somehow I managed to get the thing up on the atlas stand (by standing on a chair) and “screw” it in. But as I was walking away the head started to fall! Luckily my parents had the foresight to enlist me in many sport teams as a kid, so I was able to lunge and catch it before my entire college career smashed to pieces. Funny thing, though, is that the head has threads on the top also so I was still able to use it but only upside down.

SDA: Can you tell us your biggest mistake you made during a production?

Tad: Well once I was recording a pseudo-barbershop quartet me and my friends were in called “Smokey Mike and the Foreplay”. We were using my ol’ iMac G5 with Logic 7 and recording a monologue breakdown. Those iMacs had particularly noisy fans, and I didn’t notice the thing whirring away in the background while in the heat of the moment. On the final mix it always sounds like the guy is in a helicopter or something.

SDA: What is the best recording of all time?

Tad: One of my favorite compilations of all time is Hybrid’s Soundsystem_01. The first disc is a 54.5 minute dreamworld of cinematic/electro acoustic blend (It’s a continuos mix of 15 songs). It’s an especially nice break from modern 2 minute, chiclet-saturated radio music. I highly, highly recommend this record for literarily anybody into music and movies.

SDA: Do you play any instruments?

Tad: I’m in the Jazz department at UM’s Frost School of Music. I play lots of tenor and soprano saxophone (there are bits and pieces of my saxophone playing strewn throughout my electronic music). I’ve also been playing the piano since very young, and consider it my first great love.

SDA: Any other hobbies?

Tad: Mountain biking, backpacking, yttp, boba-testing, crafting/scheming/writing up audio/music ideas in my notebook (check out my website, I’ll be posting all the software/hardware I’m designing and most of them will be free!)

SDA: Where do you want to be in 10 years?

Tad: Somewhere in a dynamic landscape, perhaps a another country, doing what I love to do most—writing music and engineering audio! One last note: For those of you interested, my recording The Hope Design, will be released in the early spring of 2013 under my alias Muir ( Until then, my first record, Prismatic, will be released this December!

Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2012

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