Edmonton based producer Neil Thompson, aka Dr. Perceptron, has been writing and recording electronic music since the early nineties. Initially from the UK, he has been in the arts discipline of the computer games industry since the late eighties, with companies such as Psygnosis, Sony, Bizarre Creations and now BioWare in Canada. He continues to actively pursue his twin passions of art and electronica, submitting music for games as well as releasing his own albums via Soundcloud and Bandcamp.
We got a chance to speak with Neil about how he approached creating music for Mass Effect: Andromeda with Reason.
You are one of a handful of Edmonton producers who’ve gotten track placements in the new Mass Effect game by BioWare. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into producing music for Mass Effect.
I've been in the games industry for a long time, but not for as long as I've been a keen amateur musician! I come from a musical family and after brief attempts at learning "traditional" orchestral instruments, I discovered the electric guitar and that was the end of any formal training. The move to electronic music came during the rise of the dance / rave scene in the late 80's and early 90's when my love for the older school of artists like Tangerine Dream, Vangelis and Kraftwerk started to combine with artists like The Orb, DJs like Sasha, John Digweed and CJ Bolland in particular, whose album "Electronic Highway" defined the convergence of European techno and pure electronica. Then Pete Namlook's explorations into electronic sound and his many collaborations (particularly with Klaus Schulze) were a huge inspiration.
When it became easier to self release work through sites like Soundcloud, I started to put stuff out more aggressively and several years ago the then EP of Mass Effect, Casey Hudson, heard a couple of my tracks ("The Sheep Look Up" and "The Jagged Orbit" from "The Brunner Sessions" album) and tweeted how reminiscent they were of the Mass Effect universe. Fast forward a few years and BioWare are working on a new Mass Effect title and I was approached by Jeremie Voillot and Mike Kent (the audio directors) to submit three tracks for the game's soundtrack and I was only too pleased to do it!
At the time of creating your music for Mass Effect, did you already know your songs were going to be in the game, and if you did, did that affect your writing in any way?
Originally, I was considering submitting some existing tracks, but with an opportunity like this I realized that it was a great chance to write some music specifically with the intent of capturing some of the mood of the game.
It's a really interesting story line with a great antagonist that lends itself well to a musical interpretation: anything sci fi is fun to interpret as it lends itself perfectly to the kind of avant garde electronic sounds that I love to make!
Do you have a favorite Reason production trick you can tell us about?
Not much of a trick, but more a rethink of my technique: I got really into modular synthesis a few years ago and now have a pretty large eurorack set up. It made me change the way I thought about using the modules in reason: I now do far more work using standalone LFOs (Pulsar mainly) to drive the oscillators independently of the matrix or the sequencer. It gives an unpredictable and more organic feel to instruments such as Parsec where you can drive the modifiers and filters all independently... Plenty of happy accidents to be had with this approach!
Plenty of happy accidents to be had with this approach!
Top 3 Reason devices?
Thor is fantastic and still a constant source of inspiration: I love huge sweeping tones and Thor has that in abundance.
Synchronous is my go to effect as I like to use a lot of filtering and glitch type effects. The graphical interface makes it a great tool to mess with and see what comes out.
Kong partnered with the Propulsion Drum Sequencer by Lectric Panda I find to be an immensely powerful combination. All my percussion tracks begin with this set up.
What's your favorite new Reason 9 feature?
I do like the new Players, particularly the Dual Arpeggio but the Pitch Edit has proved to be most useful so far. I use it to correct vocal tracks and it's really easy and really fast.
Pitch Edit has proved to be most useful so far. I use it to correct vocal tracks and it's really easy and really fast.
Do you have a favorite game soundtrack?
I've always admired the work of Richard Jacques and it was quite the honour to meet and work with him on a game we did at Bizarre Creations called "James Bond: Bloodstone". Richard's score for that game was tremendous! Very Bond.
If you asked me to name my favourite soundtrack in any medium, it has to be "Blade Runner" by Vangelis... It still gives me chills when I listen to it today and I've spent a lot of time in Reason trying to recreate the sound of his CS-80... with some success :)
Did you watch the epic Reason 9 Sound Bank video? All 9 hours 55 minutes of musical desert automotive action? Good! Because if you did, you could score big in our Reason 9 Road Trip Treasure Hunt!
Treasure Hunt #4 - The Final Quest
Last week we asked you to find the Reason 9 patches used while visiting the Vegas sign and make some music with them. We've had a hard time picking only three winners but we would like to congratulate the following music makers! Congrats! You now have the Rack Extensions in your accounts!
Thank you all for participating! Now go check out all the Treasure Hunt songs right here!
Treasure Hunt #3
It's time to reveal the lucky Parsec winners! First, the answer we were looking for was "the world's biggest thermometer", and we asked you to make some music with the patches heard during the walk to the temperature measuring device. We've enjoyed listening through your Treasure Hunt music and we've chosen these five as our winning favorites! Congratulations! You'll find Parsec in your Propellerhead accounts.
Rules & Conditions
To enter the Reason 9 Road Trip Treasure Hunt, you need to have Reason version 9, since you need the sounds in the Reason 9 sound bank, and you need to be able to drop to Allihoopa. If you don't own Reason 9 yet, you can buy it here or try it out free for 30 days here, and enter the challenge!
The submission period closes on September 12 2016. We will pick three winners and present them on September 13. If you already own one ore more of the prize Rack Extensions, you may still enter the challenge but you won't be able to exchange the ones you already own for other products, nor will you get another copy of that particular device you already own. Propellerhead employees and affiliates may not enter the contest.
So glad to finally have the new version of the Rigs out the door!
Ever since we first launched the first series of Rigs a year ago we planned to keep these new and fresh, by adding new products every year. We wanted to help customers to find a good selection of Rack Extensions and Refills that would complement each other. We wanted to target them to different users - an acoustic, a synthetic and a "Outboard Rig to rule them all”. The Rigs have been hugely popular and a great success for participating companies. So, it’s with great joy that we now launch the second generation of these Rigs. 50% more products have been added to each Rig. The products in Rig 2 are some of the most well loved REs out there.
The Rigs also gave us an opportunity to crete Refills on a different level than we’ve been able to in the past. For the first time, we could create ReFills that uses more than one RE as we know precisely which REs and ReFills the user own. This creates opportunities for some really nice Combinators. Employing the best sound designers and mix engineers we could find to create tremendous presets - J Chris Griffin and Kevin Schröder have really done an amazing job. This is a great opportunity to glimpse over the shoulder of these professionals.
Outboard might not have been the best name as it wasn’t self-explanatory what it actually contained. So, we renamed it to Mix & Mastering Rig. The focus of the Mix & Mastering Rig as much on the tutorials on how to mix and master a song as on the included Rack Extensions and presets. The included video course combined with the presets makes it possible to drastically improve the sound of your songs.
And speaking of video tutorials, one aspects of the Rigs that we felt didn’t get enough attention were the video tutorials that AskVideo prepared for the each Rig. Each participating product gets one video on how the RE is actually working and one video of how it’s used in a song. The course is laid out so you gradually build up a song, so by the end of the course you’ll hear a finished song. In total, AskVideo produced 137 videos, that’s more than 8 hours of tutorials for the three Rigs!
For more information, check out the video below or go here!
Jay Pulman aka CAPSUN from CAPSUN ProAudio shares his thoughts on creating these loops:
As a fan of D16 Group's products and a long time Reason user I'm really excited to see Decimort 2 and Devastor 2 arrive as Rack Extensions. Coming from a hip-hop production background, a lot of my creative process is spent looking to add analogue style warmth and lo-fi re-sampling to my sounds. I collect old samplers, drum machines and toy synths but Decimort 2 is almost indistinguishable from the real thing when used at the right time in your signal chain and a whole lot quicker to set up! Instruments such as Rhodes keys, FM bells and acoustic instruments love the downgrading and aliasing that these classic sampler emulations can add and instantly give a nostalgic shimmer to digital sounds. Devastor 2 is a whole different beast that's perfect for distorting, enhancing and fattening up drums and bass lines or used more subtly to change the tone and timbre of a sound. My best tip is to try applying either Rack Extension to drum hits and slowly turn up the preamp gain to add weight and saturation - instant fatness.
Sure, the title of this video reads like classic click-bait but in this case I actually stand by its claim! There are two knobs in Reason's mixer that far too often get overlooked by people new to mixing. Unsurprisingly, these knobs are seldom overlooked by professional mix engineers and once you learn to use them, you'll start using them just as much in everything you do.
The High Pass and Low Pass Filter in Reason's main mixer helps you achieve something called "frequency slotting," which is just jargon for this result: Your instruments won't be fighting each other for the same space in your mix. In this tutorial, Ryan shows us how to get clarity and definition out of your mix by mindfully considering the important frequencies for each instrument in your music.