Meet the Team – Jamie Thomas

When you’re working on a new brief or project, what’s your typical starting point? How do you break it down and how do you like to generate your ideas or response?

I always try to start from the viewpoint of ‘…what do the people asking me to do this, want as a finished product..?’ 

It’s funny – being the big headed control freaks that we are, we assume people know what we do. As much as we’d like to think it is – unfortunately sound just isn’t at the top of most people’s thought processes day to day. 

Trying to understand it from the perspective of someone who hasn’t necessarily been thinking about things from a sound POV is very important. It means you’re able to approach the project with some degree of understanding as to what they expect – you can then adjust your approach. 

More often than not I’ve found that explaining what you’re doing and why allows you to engage with people you’re working with on a more ‘helpful’ level. It’s an easy way to gain trust and allows people an insight into ‘your world’ and is great for building the foundations of a working relationship. 

It’s from there you can start being a bit more adventurous (where they might not have wanted it) in terms of sound design and at least the trust is there to allow this to happen. This is, after all, a collaborative process and the most important thing for me is letting the clients know this and that we will be creating something together. 

Asking clients to help out with recording some foley or something similar is one of the best ways to get them involved – and more Importantly to let them feel like they’re involved!!

Music and sound are in some ways the most collaborative and interactive forms of creativity – what are your thoughts on this? Do you prefer to work solo or with a gang – and what are some of your most memorable professional collaborations?

It works both ways – I love working with people to get ideas down and ‘sketch’ sounds – maybe working out ideas for a campaign and general experimenting. There’s always a ‘hey folks, what if we try this..?’ approach which is perfect for creativity. No one’s got any other ideas apart from trying to make cool noises no one’s heard before. PERFECT!! 

And then you have the flip side – personally I find working on my own, once I have some ideas sketched out, is the most efficient way for me to work. I find other people too distracting, especially if I have an idea in my head about where to go with the project – however I will say that is just me personally. I also like working late at night/early morning because it just feels like there are less people about to disturb what I’m doing. 

What’s the most satisfying part of your job and why?

On a human, interpersonal, level it has to be finishing a project with someone and them being genuinely happy because you’ve helped them with their vision. 

On a more selfish level I would say the excitement and  surprise of working with sound on so many different types of projects. It could be a washing detergent with some crazy VFX that needs sound designing or an NSPCC commercial that needs to tread the fine line between shocking and palatable in terms of sound. Two completely different projects that you might end up doing on the same day. So, in that respect, the ever changing landscape of what you’ll be working on day to day provides plenty of excitement and satisfaction when you pull it off. 

No two jobs are ever the same and more often than not you’ll surprise yourself with what you can achieve when under pressure. 

Also, obviously just making new sounds and trying to find things that haven’t been heard before. Discovery is satisfying beyond belief!!

As the advertising industry changes, how do you think the role of music and sound is changing with it?

This is interesting because on the face of it, by default, no one’s listening to the commercials on Instagram/FB (you have to ‘press to unmute’) and everyone I know records the TV programs  and FF through the commercials – so I should see that as some sort of warning…however, unless it’s just me, there are more people listening to podcasts and radio shows which means there is an obvious market out there for advertising. 

I think a lot of the streaming services (Netflix is on the cusp of this I think) will offer a cheaper subscription service that has advertising before an episode. 

So in terms of the industry changing with regards music and sound I don’t think it’s going to be that different, it will only be the implementation of music and sound and how they reach a wider audience that perhaps isn’t consuming material in the traditional sense. 

In terms of technology we’re already seeing DOLBY giving us soundbars that have ATMOS technology built in, the new MacBooks have Spatial Sound built in (which sounds amazing, btw, considering it’s a laptop) so that means people are being subjected to new technologies within sound and they are getting used to it. 

It won’t be long before all TV’s have some sort of ATMOS/Spatial sound and advertising should be on top of this, not left behind. 

I think it’s a great time because the advancing technology gives more choice with regards to ‘what to do with the sound’ as well as more opportunity to engage the viewer/listener. 

The music industry is embracing this head on with ATMOS remasters of old albums, so the market for this stuff is there, we just need to get the technology into everyone’s homes so we can show off what we do!!

When you’re working on something that isn’t directly sound design or music (lets say going through client briefs or answering emails) – are you the sort of person who needs music and noise in the background or is that completely distracting to you? What are your thoughts on ‘background’ sound and music as you work?

Weirdly I don’t really listen to music as a background thing – I’l happily put on an album and just sit on the sofa listening to it. I prefer listening out for sounds if I’m just walking around/going about my day. If I’m listening to music I like to give it my full attention, which is, I guess, why I do what I do. 

On a typical day, what does your ‘listening diet’ look like?

I don’t really think about it, maybe something like sounds on the way into work and anything I choose to listen to when I get home. I’m constantly listening so my ‘diet’ would just be the world around me. 

Do you have a collection of music/sounds and what shape does it take (are you a vinyl nerd, do you have hard drives full of random bird sounds, are you a hyper-organised spotify-er…)?

Vinyl and real life – so yes in that respect I am a vinyl nerd with a large collection of weird sounds on various hard drives (basically reinforcing the stereotype!!) 

Outside of the music and sound world, what sort of art or topics really excite you and do you ever relate that back to music (e.g. history buffs who love music that can help you travel through time, gamers who love interactive sound design… I mean it really could be anything!!)

Architecture and History, just because I find the fact that humanity keeps making the same mistakes intriguing. You’d have thought we’d have learned by now!!

Also attempting to understand (if somewhat rudimentary) some aspects of physics, particularly sound (obvs) and particle theory. No reason why, I just find it fascinating.

Let’s talk travel! It’s often cited as one of the most creatively inspiring things you can do – I’d love to know what are the most exciting or inspiring experiences you’ve had when it comes to sound and music on your travels?

The most inspiring thing is not any one moment but a realisation that music is universal and you can be a complete stranger to someone but share the same taste in music or click your fingers to a song on the radio at the same time and have a connection. That’s what, to me,  is the  most exciting thing about music – it’s ability to transcend cultures.