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Kevin Wass

Kevin Wass

Composer, Musician, Producer
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Kevin Wass

When he isn’t wing-walking or taking part in medieval re-enactments, composer, musician and producer Kevin Wass runs his own purpose-built studio, Wyshwood, in Cambridgeshire UK. He is helping create the music and sound effects for the game his son, Rob, is developing, 'Clive 'N' Wrench', with backing from gaming giant Numskull. Kevin’s main mic, his Aston Origin, is earning its keep, capturing everything from guitars and violins to kettles and kitchen trays…

Music for games
Kevin uses:
Origin
Cleaning up

“I started dabbling in music back in the 80’s and I got friendly with a chap who had a band and I used to sort of follow him around. He then got involved with places like Thames Television and BBC and his little band started doing little tunes for television. I was very lucky to already be his roadie - he was a drummer - and he invited me along to one of the sessions, during which I suggested one or two things and I came to the conclusion that this is something that I’d really like to do, this is great.

I’d written library music and I got interested in doing stuff like that. I got invited to go to BBC in Maida Vale, his band were performing, doing a theme tune for television show. I took some of my equipment along so I could record them for keepsake. The BBC very kindly let me bring my gear in, cheap that it was, and they produced a couple of songs and played them on the radio. I got home and I started re-mixing and cleaning up - very rudimentary stuff - and the band liked my version better than the BBC’s!

That was it, that was the bug. I bought myself some keyboards, I got a Wasp synthesiser, and invited a few friends round. We couldn’t afford a drum kit so we used to hit speakers and make some funny noises and we did a little bit of recording, we just enjoyed ourselves and I carried on.

I built up the hobby until we arrived around here [Wyshwood] 17 odd years ago and we built a little studio. I started recording bands, choirs, learning my chops - how to record things properly, how to mix them, master them (which is a whole different skill set I’m still learning). Then my son started talking about doing the game…”

Character driven

“The game’s called Clive’N’Wrench, it’s a journey through time and space in a 1950's fridge! There are always bits and pieces to do, sound effects for new levels. I’m working on it every single day.

The game has been in development for near on 9 years now, it’s my son, Rob’s project. He started off modding, as they call it, oldie games back in the day and decided it would be nice to have a platform game, the old fashioned style, a bit like Banjo-Kazooie where you run around, you pick things up, you collect stuff, it’s amusing, humorous, but challenging and fun to play. There weren’t any games like that being made, they’d just gone out of fashion. it was all warring and throwing bombs and making it as real as possible. My son has never been into those, so he decided to make his own and gave it a go on Kickstarter.

Scroll forward a number of years, the game is starting to look absolutely splendid. He wanted it very character driven, each one with their own little trope, some kind of repetitive thing so that we know who’s around whenever. There are 12 levels, and internal levels within those levels, there’s a hub world where you arrive to then go off to each of these worlds, there are intros, outros, short cartoons. I’ve written somewhere in the region of 120 tunes, we’ve honed it down to around 75 and every now and again we have a new one or we have a re-mix one because perhaps the levels change slightly or there’s an update, or he’s had another idea and needs a little leitmotif.

Numskull were very enthusiastic and they wanted to work alongside Rob without interfering with his view of the game. He’s basically a sole developer but he’s been very lucky he’s got some really kind people high-up in the industry who have helped him out and are working on his behalf. They’re aiming to launch it in wintertime 2020.”

Winging it

“I’ve had your first microphone, the Origin, for a little while. A guy at my work bought one and I’d already been boasting about another mic I’d just bought. He showed me this mic and I went “Oh my god, why doesn’t mine look that good?” and then he sent me a little video showing what it sounded like and I thought, “I’m going to have to throw the other one away”. So I bought an Origin and I’m very, very happy with it.

Initially it was just going to be used for vocals, but my son wanted me to do music for the game. It gets more and more complicated because he wants funny sounds, it has to be cartoony, it’s cast across a vast amount of time-scapes so I’m using the mic for all manner of instrumentation. Today, for example it was snare with brushes. I only accidentally discovered how good it was because I was going to record myself with an the old SM57, well recommended for snares. I didn’t like the sound very much but I was hearing something in the background that was really good. The Origin was on live, and I didn’t realise I was picking it up like a room mic. It was much better, so I turned the SM57 off and carried on!

I obviously then angled it down and got it more focussed but nevertheless it’s got such a low background noise. It’s so usable it’s embarrassingly good! I’ve used it on all manner of things like tambourines, old kettles, things I bash - trays and various glass objects - and squeaky things. I can’t fail with it, it’s extraordinary.

There’s a mine shaft level in the game, and I thought I’ll do a trope of the miners clunking and clanking in a rhythmic fashion, so I had trays and bottles and bits and I just clunked them in time to the music and it all came out lovely. Of all the tonal things, nothing phases the Origin, I don’t seem to be able to overdo it on any of the spectrums.”

The monster in the garden

“I’m very old fashioned. I got myself a Tascam DP24 track – brilliant machine. I record everything on that first, then put it in my DAW and edit all the background noises and bits and pieces and coughing and farting and everything like that. Then it gets produced in the DAW as a mix and a final master. I’m on FL Studio 12 at the moment, I will be updating to 20 but I’m a bit scared to do so when I’m in the middle of a project.

I’m a one-man band but occasionally I’ll draft in musicians, I’m quite friendly with a number of them and I can get them in for drums and guitar and occasional vocals.

I like to have real instruments; I love recording violins, very difficult to record and to get it right, and acoustic guitars. We’ve now found the perfect position for that and that is with the Aston away from the sound hole, slightly below the 12th fret, more or less pointing at that blank spot in the bottom lower corner of the guitar. That’s a lovely, lovely sound. It captures a bit of the depth but certainly the high end of the singing of the strings.

We re-built the studio a couple of years back, a 24ft x 12ft monster in the garden. Now I’ve got this dedicated space, it’s acoustically treated and it’s wonderful to work in. I’ve managed to do it because I’ve got a wife who builds stuff, she’s brilliant

 The last chap I had round was Alan Warner, from Alan Warner's Foundations (‘Build Me Up Buttercup’). He’s helped do some guitar background stuff for the game as well as for my own projects. He loves the Origin, he did some vocals on it and said it was extraordinary. He likened it to Neumann, I said no it’s a British company of all things.”

Clive 'N' Wrench - Preorder Trailer!

 

Read more on Clive 'N' Wrench here

Out-takes

Q. Who are your favourite artists?
A.  Ennio Morricone, Bob and Barn and Danny Elfman

Q. If you weren’t working in music what would you be doing?
A. It would have to be artistic. I would probably go back to painting and drawing oh and writing.

Q. What would your fantasy mic be?
A.  I am very much looking forward to trying the Stealth. I’m afraid I’m sold on the Aston stuff so I would try that out first. 

Q. What are the 4 words you’d chose to describe Aston, or your experience with the brand?
A. Exemplary, funky design, attractive.

Q. What is the first song that made you cry?
A. 'Alone Again, Naturally' – Gilbert O’Sullivan. I’ll be honest with you, it still does.

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