WaveDNA Interviews G.W. Childs IV
From beginnings as an audio and video editor for the Department of Defense, G.W. Childs IV has done seemingly everything in a long and storied career. Leaving the military with a record deal from COP International Records for his band Soil & Eclipse, he went on to work for Lucasfilm and has done remixing work for Gene Loves Jezebel, Ray Charles, and James Brown.
Currently, he reviews for AskAudio Magazine, creates tutorials for MacProVideo and, as an author, has written Reason 7 Power!, Creating Music and Sound for Video Games, and Going Pro with Ableton Live. He’s also working on a solo music project called GW4.
How did you decide to get into audio production? Did you know it was what you wanted to do before you joined the army?
I decided to get in to synthesis, originally. I fell in love with a Korg Poly-800 in a music store when I was 9-10 years old, after having already spent a lot of time playing with a Casio that I’d obtained a year before. My parents ended up picking it up for me at Christmas. I spent a lot of time learning to ‘synthesize’ my own sounds. I was obsessed with making a really good synthesized, space choir to make my own sci-fi sound tracks. A year later, after landing the Poly-800, I got a Vesta-Fire four-track and a Roland TR-707. I was out of control after that. When I decided to join the army, I had a lot of experience. But, actually, I joined to get away from audio production, bands, and all that. I wanted to get away from it. I sold a lot of my gear before I left for bootcamp.
Packing up and joining the army is a big decision. Why did you want to get away from music at that time?
I think it was a mix of things. I was from a small town in Texas, and had grown up in an environment that I had considered a little sheltered. Also, I was homeschooled towards the end of my high school years, prior to several hard years of playing in the new wave/post punk bands in my early teens, terrorizing high schools enough to be thrown out of several, and living the rock star life a little too much for someone under the age of 18. Also, strangely enough, I was in debt before I got in to the army for a lot of musical gear that I could not hold a job long enough to pay off.
“I think everyone has a dark time during their musical career.”
Ultimately, just leaving for the Army ended up being what brought about the most success I’d had. It just took getting out of my home town. And, that’s always how it goes, you know? It’s the hero’s journey, the way Joseph Campbell depicted it, and the way George Lucas later on illustrated in Star Wars. I needed some adventure. I don’t think I could’ve lived with myself if I’d never left.
How did you get the opportunity to start doing audio and video editing for the Department of Defense?
When I tested for the Army, finally, when I turned 18, I was offered a job in communications as a cable dog. Though, during that time, I was only reserve. I did my school, boot camp, and all that stuff. When I came back, I went to college at the Art Institute of Dallas for an audio/video degree. I decided to give the music world another chance. I did great in my classes, but even with the GI Bill, I really struggled to afford living and paying tuition. I ended up going back in to the Army full-time. I was offered a job as an Audio/Visual Documentation Specialist, which is the Army’s title for guys that can edit, record and shoot audio and video. I jumped at the chance. Because, at that point, due to my early childhood tinkering with synths, playing in bands, and multi-track recording, when I got to my first duty station- 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne), I was instantly made in charge of that unit’s audio production, even though I was young and of a lower rank.
You’ve had an incredibly varied career, what has been your favourite gig?
I’ve had a few favorite gigs. Writing books has been incredible. Just to be able to share what goes on in my head has been a huge opportunity. Working at LucasArts, in the audio department, as well as a freelancer, later, was incredible. Being a voice actor for a Star Wars game was incredible. Editing audio and video for the Army was also amazing. But, I think out of all of it- Being a freelancer. Just getting to have the freedom to work on varying projects with friends, family, colleagues and being able to share and, even better, being able to learn.
If you had to choose one thing to attribute your success to what would it be?
My imagination/creativity. It’s my main tool. I’ve had to use it to get myself out of some very dark situations and I’ve been able to use it to create some amazing situations.
A few months ago AskVideo/MacProVideo released your tutorial series on Liquid Rhythm. How did you come across Liquid Rhythm and how has it changed your workflow?
Originally, I was asked to review Liquid Rhythm for AskAudio Magazine. At the time, I’d never heard of it, and really didn’t know what to expect. I watched the videos that were up on the site. But, it wasn’t until I really sat down with it one night, and said, “Okay, I need to figure this out, before I can write anything about it.” I spent a few nights just goofing around, and trying to incorporate it in to a song. Being a reviewer, I also got a walkthrough from Saro (WaveDNA’s UX Manager), and during this presentation, my eyes started to get a better picture.
“I went from being a decent drum programmer to something altogether else, very quickly. I also had confidence in my drum programming in a way I never had before.”
Once I see the performances in Liquid Rhythm, I can hear and see areas that need to be cleaned up, as well as add in some sick high-hats and other percussion pieces that I can program in Liquid Rhythm with the Beat Sequencer, the Barform List and so on. Also, because Liquid Rhythm tends to take the initiative for you, and varies up velocities, I don’t have to spend a lot of time going back in to a note editor and manually adjusting velocities.
What are some of your favourite music production tools right now?
Ableton Live, and Liquid Rhythm are my two main apps, right now. I use Reason a lot, as well. I worked on the factory sound bank, for Reason 3, and 4 years ago, and a lot of patches that I made for Reason, are patches that I still use. Also, I love the route-ability. The three applications together- Ableton running Liquid Rhythm, with Reason rewired in… Man, it’s heavenly. I also incorporate a little bit of hardware, here and there. But, it’s not my main schtick. I really enjoy software. I do love my Volca synths, and Beats from Korg. And, I have a little MC-202 I rock a little bit. My MOTU traveler is also a piece that goes everywhere with me, along with a Livid Base and Alias 8.
Tell us a little bit about Soil & Eclipse and the remix work you’ve done.
Soil & Eclipse is a band that an Army buddy of mine, Jay, and I started while we were still in the Army. We started playing shows in the Hawaiian Industrial scene, during the 90s, and wound up getting signed to COP International Records. I was urged by a Sergeant Major that I was working for, at the time, to take the contract to the JAG office (military law) and fill out the form for Opportunity of a Lifetime. If it was signed, I’d get discharged from the Army, honorably. I put the paper work through, but didn’t have much hope because it had to be signed by the secretary of the Army, who was Togo West, back then. I ended up getting shocked – it got signed. I got out of the Army two years early.
I went to work for LucasArts a few years later. And, my bandmate Jay got hired on not long after. We continued to tour and do shows for years – even landing a spot in the German billboard within the top ten. We still put out music via http://soilandeclipse.bandcamp.com. During the time of working at LucasArts, and playing show, and so on, I started doing some remix work for various labels. I ended up doing a remix of the 80s band Gene Loves Jezebel that got some publicity off of the MTV page, and got contracted to do some remix work of older acts like Ray Charles and James Brown. In the industrial arena, I remixed several bands like Two Witches, Deathline International (toured with them), New Skin, Razed in Black, Pulse Legion, and a lot of other bands from that era.
You’ve worn a number of different hats during your career, what do you see yourself doing next?
Well, the upcoming job that will be of the most importance will be fathering a newborn. This isn’t my first time raising a kid. But, it’s my first time raising a baby. So, that’s going to be something new, challenging, and very fun. I’m starting to play shows again, as well, doing music I’m just writing as I go along. This past year, I put together a 6 piece band around a set that I’d been writing, and I had a blast. My domestic partner is a singer, and she joined it. So, the plan is to play more shows and do a little more touring after the baby comes along. That project, I’m just calling GW4, can be found here. I’m also always working on something over at AskAudio Magazine, which is a blast to be a part of, as well as MacProVideo. You can definitely expect more tutorials, reviews and video series from me! Also, I still do stuff with Propellerheads, from time to time, and on my own. You can definitely expect to see some more patches for synths, and loop libraries coming from me.
What advice can you give to someone starting out in the industry?
I generally recommend sitting down with yourself and really asking yourself, “What sounds the most fun, right now?” Then, list five things that sound amazing. Now, run your finger over each choice, and notice which one excites you the most. An example would be:
What do I feel like doing right now:
1. A sound bank for a synthesizer
2. Write a book on a synthesizer.
3. Write a new album
4. Eat a sandwich
5. Meditate more…
Notice how there are long term and short term goals? I’ll choose the goal that sounds the most appealing, now. If I choose a sandwich, at this moment; I put the list away. But, I keep coming back to that list once I’ve finished any other other goals on this list, until it’s done. I may do a sound bank a year later. But, I’ll come back to the list, when I complete another option on the list. When the whole list is done, no matter how many years it is later, I sit down with myself again. I may not even know how to complete a task. But, if it sounds exciting, I’ll choose it, and figure it out along the way. I guess I spelled it out this way to say that I think its important to just go with what you love most, and love it as much as possible, while you are doing it. If it gets boring, try to remember what you loved about the project in the beginning, enough to finish it. Finish it, though. And, if you aren’t feeling it, stop for a sec, get a sandwich, mediate and come back, later. This is supposed to be fun! 🙂