Justin Lassen is a musician. In this field, he is one very passionate artist. While not a visual digital artist, Lassen creates visions in soundscape. Gaining inspiration from the works of the digital artists we see and celebrate, Justin emotes into music, the feelings and sounds he finds in his head while appreciating the art.
Justin Lassen tends to run at whatever takes his interest, in a mad rush to understand the field. “When science piqued my interest, my bedroom resembled Dexter's Lab,” starts Lassen. “When I became involved in gymnastics, I quickly escalated to a pre-Olympic level, winning competitions and such. Then, computers became the next obsession. I was entranced by how they worked, and learned several programming languages as well as I knew English.” When Lassen was given a video camera, he did everything from burning miniature sets, flying UFO’s on strings, directing sci-fi shorts to creating fake blood for horror films. "Though, once music seriously took over my life, when I was about 16, I could only think of myself as an artist. I knew then I could never be satisfied doing anything else.”
From elementary through to high school, Justin was involved in many music classes and musical productions. Choir ended up being the most important music class to him and he was taught basic theory. “Beyond that, I am completely self-taught,” he admits. “I love playing the piano or keyboard, and I am magnetically drawn to this instrument. Something about those 88 keys and 12 tones speak of limitless possibility and exploration. Music comes so natural to me that sometimes I feel a “ghost” is playing through my fingers. I also absolutely adore my Schecter S1+ custom guitar, which I use on all of my music because it just helps me get the music out without even thinking. I don't know if I ever was a ‘traditional’ musician in the classical definition of the word. Although, I was in choir, briefly played trumpet, obsessed with piano, and I have always been primarily a recording artist. This started at a very early age when I used to record myself on an old cassette deck I had received as a gift. My recording skills were heightened when a new karaoke machine allowed me to do layering.”
Justin's life changed when he discovered he could work much more effectively digitally. He admits also to becoming obsessed with MIDI, and he began composing with Cakewalk and using Adobe Premiere 3.0 in order to layer tracks in the mid-nineties. “As the technology keeps advancing, it has been important for me to stay on top of things. In my early digital composing days, I got by on basic recording gear -- Casio/Yamaha MIDI keyboard (controllers), Cakewalk Pro Audio, SoundFonts, and a Windows 95/98SE PC. As the music began to take over, my gear, hardware and software had to be top-notch.
At my home studio, I like using my Yamaha MOTIF8 workstation, Triton, etc. on my Intel-based personally customized PC DAW running through a Presonus Firepod/preamps and Behringer mixers. While I am traveling, my Behringer FCA202 and my Aviator MX6 Turbo laptop by Hypersonic make composing possible for my mobile lifestyle. I am a certified gear whore, but keeping my workspace (wherever it may be) to a minimum is becoming more important to me. I’ve had decked-out personal studio setups in Budapest, London, Paris, Phoenix and Los Angeles over the last seven years.
Justin has just finished producing a mobile platformer called ‘Eternity's Child’ with a magnificent French artist; Luc Bernard. The game has a ‘Harry Potter’ meets ‘Nightmare before Christmas’ meets ‘Sonic’ feel. He is also working with author Kim Anderson on a multimedia presentation on her book ‘The Fairy Who Could Not Fly’. As well as this, he is also wrapping up work on his second dark Chamber Symphony that he worked on in London, Paris and Budapest over the past two years.
"Linda is the artist I turn to when I find myself wanting to give up, or am just completely out of inspiration. She is one of the most rare and profound artists alive today. Her paintings are beautiful in a way that few things are. She and I have been discussing doing a dark fairy tales book complete with soundtrack for the past couple of years. We are just waiting for the project to gain a little more momentum. The track featured here for CGsociety is the one I did for her character 'Hajieelkhe.'”
”Philip is another amazing artist whose work never fails to inspire. We clicked immediately. His colors are so rich, that they alone can tell the story behind his pieces. I have done two tracks for Philip, also featured here. His piece 'Where Fears Roam' is actually my dream recording studio. I look forward to working more with him and always welcome his new pieces as he creates and shares them with all of us in this fantastic CG community. He is a gift to us all.”
While visiting the Game Developer’s Conference and SIGGRAPH in 2005, Justin met up with software developers SONAR / Cakewalk and really hit it off with them. They eventually commissioned him to write a flagship demo for their 64-bit DAW software, Sonar 5 Producer Edition. “It was awesome to use the new technologies and sequencing capabilities of this software,” Justin says. “All of my edits and layers can be seen and heard in that demo. It was amazing to use a wide variety of cutting-edge soft-synths, such as Dimension Pro, East West, PSYN II, Kompakt, Garritan Personal Orchestra and other new ones from Cakewalk.”
Like a visual artist, when Justin has an idea or inspiration for a track, he feels he has to get it down as quickly as possible, using only gear and software that is conducive to this creative process. “I love using my Roland XP30, which I have had for six years, but it still amazes me with its sensitive keys, and overall fluidity. Without Behringer gear, which I have also been using since I got into digital production, I would not have progressed to the point I am at now. I prefer Sonar 5 for sequencing and audio processing, but have also been loving FL Studio 6, SoundForge and Ableton Live. My absolute favorite sound libraries to use are from East West.”
”If you have the digital music urge, and you love it so much that you can't do anything else, you have to commit to this 100%. If you can't, maybe you don't love as much as you think you do. Keep your focus on the music and content no matter if you have a digital or analog music urge. Also, make sure to steer clear of industry clichés like “The Pro’s use Pro Tools, If you don’t, you aren’t Pro!” which is something commonly preached in the education and word-of-mouth-industry sector. In fact, no matter what sequencer software you choose to use, stick with it and don’t let anyone else tell you what you can and cannot do with it. Each package has it’s perks and downfalls, the trick is to pick one that works with your creative flow or style of writing. I’ve worked on projects in Digital Performer, Pro Tools, FL Studio, Acid, Sonar and a dozen other applications and each is worth checking out. When you find your software of choice, the hard part is done, then the music can flow; digitally or otherwise. Digital audio technology today is quite amazing and has such amazing possibilities; it only gets better as new engineering feats are passed. Companies like Native Instruments take audio to places only dreamed about in fairy tales. Keep an ear to the ground and an eye to the sound.
Story: Paul Hellard. Layout and Design: Tim Downing.
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