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THE 80’s CALLED, THEY WANT THEIR MUSIC BACK

This update will be pretty brief but I wanted to shout out a new colleague I’ve had the pleasure of working with – Sleepless Nights. His name is Jonny Adams and he’s a great guitarist, arranger and producer who’s also getting into video game scoring. Really nice guy as well! I heard his track, Fixation, in the music nerds group I mean Logic Pro Users group I’m a part of on Facebook. To say I loved it is an understatement! So I reached out to him to see if I could collaborate with him, just for fun! He checked out me and my work and agreed. So last Sunday, right before the storms hit Austin (and the rest of Texas) I recorded video and audio for him to use. The new updated version is here:

WHAT IS SYNTHWAVE?

For those that don’t known what Synthwave is, check out this Wikipedia entry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synthwave

Synthwave (also called outrun, retrowave, or futuresynth[5]) is an electronic music microgenre that is based predominately on the music associated with action, science-fiction, and horror film soundtracks of the 1980s.[2] Other influences are drawn from that decade’s art and video games.[3] Synthwave musicians often espouse nostalgia for 1980s culture and attempt to capture the era’s atmosphere and celebrate it.[8]

The genre developed in the mid-to late 2000s through French house producers, as well as younger artists who were inspired by the 2002 video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Other reference points included composers John Carpenter, Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis (especially his score for the 1982 film Blade Runner), and Tangerine Dream. Synthwave reached wider popularity after being featured in the soundtracks of the 2011 film Drive (which included some of the genre’s best-known songs) and the 2010s Netflix series Stranger Things.

I really dig doing this kind of music and hope you enjoy it as well. The cool graphics are also from: https://www.instagram.com/visualdon/ so be sure to go give him some love as well. That’s about it. Told you this one would be pretty short! Life is getting back to normal mostly for us here in TX, thank goodness! While the snow was beautiful, it’s great to have power, warmer temps and hopefully we’ll have potable water soon!

WHO AM I?

Nate Madsen is a 15 year industry vet who’s work has been in games, films, taught college courses and has also performed and recorded in various settings on both piano and saxophone. He’s been with SciPlay for 4+ years and has been running Madsen Studios LLC since 2005. Some of his freelance projects include SkateBird as well as providing sound design, mixing and mastering audio FUNimation anime trailers. On the weekends he likes to be very still and watch the grass grow. He’s considering taking up the bagpipes and really enjoys craft beer. There’s also the chocolate addiction and the Dad jokes collection. He’s currently living in Austin, TX and his is favorite color is green. He’s also trying to increase the number of push ups he can do at one time. You can get in touch with him here: https://madsenstudios.com/contact/

WHAT A WEEK!

As many news reports have probably shared already, it was QUITE the week in Austin (and in Texas for that matter). Snow (that white, cold stuff that falls from the sky) rarely shows up this far South and if it does, it’s just a light dusting. It rarely lasts more than a day and then it melts off. We had some snow early this winter and it was way more than I was expecting for this area of the world. I’ve lived in Denver, Colorado and in Cedar Falls, Iowa so I KNOW snow. I thought, at best, we’d have some ice and that would be it. NOPE. We had a nice snowday and then it all basically melted away pretty fast. Not much else to report.

That was last time. This time was radically different.

Not only did we get a decent amount of snow for Austin, we got ice and then power went out. For days. Water is still not potable yet although it’s been flowing much better as of today. During the power outages the temp got down to 1 degree. That’s not windchill, that was the actual temp. Highly unusually for central Texas! My family and I are all safe, thankfully! And really, they were super stars. Rolled with the punches – we read books, played games, ran around the living room to stay warm. It got down to 50 degrees in the house so at night we’d all be in the master bedroom.

Here’s a vlog where you can see some of the pics and hear a bit more about it as well as how I broke one of my own rules… and what I did to fix it. And for the record, I still get excited about snow.

SKATEBIRD NEWS

Also SkateBIRD was a part of Play What’s Next Festival at Steam. We launched a new trailer to show off the new, not previously seen Rooftop level and I’ve been busy releasing new tracks of music monthly on my Youtube Channel. Getting quite close to finishing up the OST for this game and let me tell you – I’ve loved every second of it! SkateBIRD has taught me many new approaches as an artist, producer and musician and have given me a new genre to play around in. Check out the trailer below:

OTHER HAPPENINGS

I’ve tried to become somewhat hip (if that’s even possible) and do more Instagram thingies. It’s still QUITE new to me but I’m starting to get the hang of it. There’s a really cool graphic artist show’s doing some really sweet, retro graphics which fit perfect with what I’m writing for SkateBIRD. So I put a video out on IGTV. Check it out here:

Also I’m still working at SciPlay and loving it. That huge side project that was under NDA is still under NDA for now. Hang tight though because I should have some news for that soon. That’s about all I can say about it, sadly. I am REALLY excited to finally get to share it all with you when I can! I’ve been doing some more work with Appy Therapy on their Handwriting Heroes app. This one is quite special to me because my own son is special needs and benefits from the exact curriculum this program teaches. It’s really unique to be able to use my audio to help build something that helps him and so many other kiddos like him.

I’ve also been giving several talks to colleges, high schools and middle schools about what I do. Getting a chance to talk with students about all of the incredible opportunities in audio production is something I’m super passionate about. Here’s a candid shot of the students of Mr. Kevin Pruiett’s band program at Paris High School in Paris, Illinois hearing my presentation. If you’re interested in having me talk with your students about game and multi-media audio – reach out! Especially during so much remote learning, it could be the perfect opportunity to enhance and change up what your students are doing in the classroom (virtual or not).

WHO AM I?

Nate Madsen is a 15 year industry vet who’s worked in games, films, taught college courses and has performed and recorded in various settings on both piano and saxophone. He’s been with SciPlay for 4+ years and has been running Madsen Studios LLC since 2005. Some of his freelance projects include SkateBird as well as providing sound design, mixing and mastering audio FUNimation anime trailers. On the weekends he likes to be very still and watch the grass grow. He’s considering taking up the bagpipes and really enjoys craft beer. There’s also the chocolate addiction and the Dad jokes collection. He’s currently living in Austin, TX and his is favorite color is green. He’s also trying to increase the number of push ups he can do at one time. You can get in touch with him here: https://madsenstudios.com/contact/

TWO NEW TRACKS RELEASED FOR SKATEBIRD!

It’s been a GOOD, long while since I’ve been able to release some of the new music I’ve been working on for SkateBIRD but that changed yesterday! Blue Streak and Pantone Tone were both released to my Youtube Channel and you can check them out below! SkateBIRD’s OST remains one of the most unique ventures I’ve taken on. It’s quirky, unique and a lot of fun. I’m enjoying taking so many sources of audio and sound, mashing and editing them all together while creating my own samples, recordings and melodies. I’ve also been able to hire several friends along the way to add in things like live trumpet or bass! To date, I’ve got ten songs done and am working on more. I’m so excited for the world to get to play around in the world of SkateBIRD. Enjoy these two tracks below!

Look for SkateBIRD to come out Q1 2021!

THE FROSTLANDS IS NOW RELEASED TOO!

As some of you are aware, I’m an active musician, arranger and producer on Materia Collective. It’s been a wonderful, fun journey over the past five years! Our most recent release is called FLAMESGRACE and it’s a tribute to Octopath Traveler. This is an outstanding game, which I first learned about while working on another cover from the game. Sean Schafianski is a friend and fellow saxophonist and he was kind enough to ask me to play the tenor sax melody and solo over his jazz arrangement of Therion the Thief. Check it out below:

This got me tuned in (pun intended) to the game’s music, which blew me away. What an amazing collection of songs with strong melodies, wonderful arrangements and sonic vistas. So when Materia Collective announced that their next album would be a tribute to Octopath Traveler, I KNEW I had to take part. I put together a proposal to do a big band setting of The Frostlands more in the vein of a pop ballad or Chicago because I didn’t want swing or jazz for this arrangement. I think it turned out great and hopefully you all do as well! Take a listen below!

You can stream the full album as well as purchase it here: https://bandcamp.materiacollective.com/album/flamesgrace-a-tribute-to-octopath-traveler. The variety of high polish of music on this entire album is quite inspiring and I’m very humbled to get to take part in it!

OTHER HAPPENINGS…

I’m also very pleased to say that the audio for that huge side project (the one I can’t really mention by name or such due to NDA) is DONE! It was a massive project – original music, sound design production, editing dialog and implementation of it all into Unity. Whew! So now it’s the waiting game. And I SUCK at waiting. But hopefully soon I’ll have some more specific info to share with you all. In the mean time, I’m enjoying getting back into a better work/life balance, watching Star Trek Discovery with my wife and hoping that this COVID madness ends soon. I hope that all of you are healthy, happy and safe!

WHO AM I?

Nate Madsen is a 15 year industry vet who’s worked in games, films, taught college courses and has performed and recorded in various settings on both piano and saxophone. He’s been with SciPlay for 3+ years and has been running Madsen Studios LLC since 2005. Some of his freelance projects include SkateBird as well as providing sound design, mixing and mastering audio FUNimation anime trailers. On the weekends he likes to be very still and watch the grass grow. He’s considering taking up the bagpipes and really enjoys craft beer. There’s also the chocolate addiction and the Dad jokes collection. He’s currently living in Austin, TX and his is favorite color is green. He’s also trying to increase the number of push ups he can do at one time. You can get in touch with him here: https://madsenstudios.com/contact/

GYPSY FIDDLE

The great folks over at Red Room Audio were kind enough to invite me to test out their new sample library: Gypsy Fiddle. This library is FANTASTIC! I’ve been thankful to be able to play-test and write demos for several of their other products as well include Saga – Acoustic Trailer Percussion, their Celtic Fiddle and their flagship orchestral sample library called Palette. As a user of many sample libraries, it’s always a special treat to get to take an active part in the design and development of a virtual instrument. Without such great tools, like these, I simply couldn’t do my job. Capturing all of the nuances and emotion of gypsy styled violin is a HUGE challenge! Red Room Audio pulled it off flawlessly! Check out my demo below for their Traveler Series Gypsy Fiddle:

PLAYBOY MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

On the SciPlay side of things, two slots are now live and out in the wild. The first is a Playboy themed slot that is set in a magical forest: Playboy Midsummer Night’s Dream. So often fantasy theme slots get paired with light, mysterious orchestral music and while that certainly works… I felt this theme could use more edge. So I opted to create something that fused elements of pop, gothic/Baroque styled harpsichord, a bit of EDM flavor along with pads, distorted guitars and driving drums. Playboy Midsummer Night’s Dream is the featured jackpot slot currently (at the time of writing) on Jackpot Party Casino! I’m very happy with the results and hope you like it as well!

MIXING MOJO

I’m a sucker for all things magical and fantasy. You could say I love a certain wizard with a peculiar scar on his forehead, so when I saw the artwork for Mixing Mojo I knew I was in for a treat! Here’s the bonus track I did for this slot theme. I wanted it to be something that had energy while combining hints of mystery and magic. You’ll find this slot in the Ancient Egypt (world 6) realm on the game. To play Monopoly Casino Slots, and I highly recommend you do, go check out this page: https://apps.facebook.com/monopoly-sl…

Monopoly Slots is just one of several in the line up at SciPlay and you can learn more about who we are and what we do here: https://www.sciplay.com/

SAX CAMP… VIRTUALLY

Like so many things impacted by Covid-19, the Inside:Outside Saxophone Retreat had to be cancelled this year. Lots of people were SUPER bummed and we missed the creativity, community and magical spark we get from being around and learning from each other. So the awesome leaders behind the camp threw together an amazing virtual hang out with some MAJOR players in the musical realm. The list included Chris Potter, Kirk Whalum, Joshua Redman, Victor Wooten, Bob Reynolds, Bob Franceschini, Bob Hemenger, Chris Cheek, Jeff Coffin and many more. Plus tons of students that hail from literally all over the world. What an event! Here are some pics from the event.

What an amazing and giving community we have in the Inside:Outside Saxophone Retreat world. Click this link: Victor Wooten Center for Music and Nature to learn more about the various camps and programs happening year around! You better believe I have plans to attend more as time and money (and pandemics) allow!! Please check them out!

WHO AM I?

Nate Madsen is a 15 year industry vet who’s worked in games, films, taught college courses and has performed and recorded in various settings on both piano and saxophone. He’s been with SciPlay for 3+ years and has been running Madsen Studios LLC since 2005. Some of his freelance projects include SkateBird as well as providing sound design, mixing and mastering audio FUNimation anime trailers. On the weekends he likes to be very still and watch the grass grow. He’s considering taking up the bagpipes and really enjoys craft beer. There’s also the chocolate addiction and the Dad jokes collection. He’s currently living in Austin, TX and his is favorite color is green. He’s also trying to increase the number of push ups he can do at one time. You can get in touch with him here: https://madsenstudios.com/contact/

I’M STILL ALIVE…

Hey all! I’m still alive! It’s been a good while since I’ve uploaded some new content. This is for a few reasons – waiting for things to go public so I can share them, being super busy washing my hair (now you know that one is a lie) and being slammed with freelancing. But I wanted to share with you Radiant Season 1 Part 1!
Check it out below:

It’s always so much fun to take the stems from the video editors of these trailers, add in my own sound design as well as sweeteners and then mix and master all of it into one cohesive experience. It can be quite the puzzle to solve but something I enjoy quite a bit! Plus it’s such a different workflow than most of my other work – so I’m very thankful for it! As more Anime trailers go live – I’ll be sure to share them with you all.

WHAT ELSE IS NEW?

I’ve also released two vlog episodes as well as a few jam session videos. With the freelance schedule I’ve had the last few months (more about that below), it’s been rather hard to get as many vlogs or videos out as I’d like. It’s my hope that once my plate clears a bit, I’ll be able to produce more. I’ll feature three of my recent videos below:

OTHER HAPPENINGS:

As previously mentioned, freelancing is SUPER busy right now, with just about every week night being taken up with tasks until about 11PM or even midnight. Then I get up with my kiddos starting about 6:15 or so. So while I’m thankful for the work, it’s been a grind. Skatebird is still happening and I’m also working on an arrangement of Materia Collective. There’s also a huge side project which I can’t talk about just yet. Then add in the usual batch of various Fiverr gigs and then my full time work at SciPlay. It’s been a lot. I’ve also been dieting and working out A TON more lately.

Starting to see some good results too! I’m down 16 lbs. We’re doing the Biggest Loser at SciPlay and the competition this year is FIERCE. I’m currently in 4th place of out 20 contestants. So please… refrain from shipping me donuts and pizzas until after the first week in April!

WHAT’S COMING OUT NEXT?

Unfortunately, I cannot be very specific right now due to NDAs. It’s looking like I’ll have quite a bit to share with you in the next few months or so (give or take). Trust me, I HATE waiting so it’s quite hard for me. I’ll share more as I can. I hope you’re all doing well and having a great 2020 so far. I’ll probably reach out again just to ensure you all that I am, indeed, still alive.

WHO AM I?

Nate Madsen is a 14 year industry vet who’s worked in games, films, taught college courses and has performed and recorded in various settings on both piano and saxophone. He’s been with SciPlay for 3+ years and has been running Madsen Studios LLC since 2005. Some of his freelance projects include SkateBird as well as providing sound design, mixing and mastering audio FUNimation anime trailers. On the weekends he likes to be very still and watch the grass grow. He’s considering taking up the bagpipes and really enjoys craft beer. There’s also the chocolate addiction. He’s currently living in Austin, TX and his is favorite color is green. You can get in touch with him here: https://madsenstudios.com/contact/

IT’S A TWO FOR ONE UPDATE!

This week’s update includes two new slot themes from Monopoly Slots and they couldn’t be more different from each other. One is for Monopoly Marvin Gardens, an upbeat, energetic, light and carefree tune. My favorite moment in this piece is the turnaround at 0:50. Writing music in this style is always tricky because it’s a delicate balance between “too cheesy” or “too silly” or “too cartoony” but you still want to capture that whimsical, carefree and light hearted vibe. The other is for Clue Orchid’s Mystery which is also upbeat but has a more sinister, mysterious vibe to it. I love the ascending arpeggio figure and how it changes with the harmony at 0:19 in. One of my favorite things about working at SciPlay is the fact that I get to represent major brands. Often times these are brands that I remember playing with or experiencing in my childhood, so to get to be able to take part in them now as an adult, is truly a neat experience! Another great perk to SciPlay is all of the free snacks… but I digress.

GO PLAY THESE GAMES FOR YOURSELF

Clue Orchid’s Mystery is currently up on Monopoly Slots via the Jackpots Just Visiting feature. Our slots rotate and change over time so it’s location may change in the future. Monopoly Marvin Gardens is located in the third world of Monopoly Slots. If you haven’t played Monopoly Slots, you’re missing out on a truly fun and hilarious adventure filled with side quests, quirky characters and some really great artwork! Go check it out.

Take a stroll in the lovely Marvin Gardens.
Can you solve the mystery?

WHO AM I?

Nate Madsen is a 14 year industry vet who’s worked in games, films, taught college courses and has performed and recorded in various settings on both piano and saxophone. He’s been with SciPlay for 3 years and has been running Madsen Studios LLC since 2005. On the weekends he likes to be very still and watch the grass grow. He’s considering taking up the bagpipes and really enjoys craft beer. He’s currently living in Austin, TX and his is favorite color is green. You can get in touch with him here: https://madsenstudios.com/contact/

Read up on the three lectures I gave to my alma mater, OBU, this past Friday!

I’m happy to share with you the main theme I composed and produced for Monopoly Go Scottie, developed and published by SciPlay. Writing music for light hearted projects is always a challenge for me. I want to support the casual, cute vibe without becoming too predictable or cheesy. I also don’t want the music to get in the way of the setting of the game – only to enhance it. I was particularly happy with how this theme and the arrangement turned out. I hope you like it as well!

If you haven’t played Monopoly Slots yet, you owe it to yourself to check it out. It’s WAY more than just a normal virtual casino game. Tons of quirky characters, hilarious dialog blended with fantastic artwork really help push this game to the next level. Add in all of the various side quests which you take to help make all of the various Monopoly properties evolve and grow and you have a winning formula! Monopoly Go Scottie is just one of the many slots you’ll discover as you dig deeper into the game. Go check out the game and please enjoy the music!

WHO AM I?

Nate Madsen is a 14 year industry vet who’s worked in games, films, taught college courses and has performed and recorded in various settings on both piano and saxophone. He’s been with SciPlay for 3 years and has been running Madsen Studios LLC since 2005. On the weekends he likes to be very still and watch the grass grow. He’s considering taking up the bagpipes and really enjoys craft beer. He’s currently living in Austin, TX and his is favorite color is green. You can get in touch with him here: https://madsenstudios.com/contact/

Megan and the crew over at Glassbottom Games have been busy making Spartan Fist, a first person brawler that is super fun! You punch dudes so hard, their heads explode. All in super cute pixel art style! For more info on the game, go check out http://spartanfist.com/.

Time to get punchin'

Here’s the awesome trailer with music by yours truly:

It’s not you, it’s me.

It’s time for a divorce… from your work. If you’re a freelancing or hired audio professional, that is. Too many times I’ve seen audio professionals, as well as folks in other disciplines, grow too attached to their work. This is a dangerous thing because it causes you to lose perspective and potentially over react when criticism/feedback is delivered. This can harm the collaborative effort which is vital to projects like films, video games and other multimedia. When we compose music or produce audio for a project, it’s NOT own our audio anymore. It belongs to the project.

It’s not about our personal feelings, tastes or bias.

It’s not about our own egos.

It’s not about our own preferred work flows.

It’s only about what content/methods would best serve the product.

I picked the title carefully because divorce is, from what I’ve been told, a very hard and personal thing to go through. Likewise, having your work criticized can be very painful and difficult. It can feel personal, even when it’s not meant to be. Divorce is also the act of detaching two things that were once very close to each other. When I’m doing work for a client or for an employer, I remind myself that I’m “divorced” from the audio. I put myself in a very different mindset than when I’m working on my own projects as a hobby. This enables me to better receive feedback from management and peers as well as objectivity look at my work and see how it’s lining up with the product’s designs and goals.

It takes practice.

This is a skill that can take some time to develop. My advice is to keep a cache of personal projects on the side where you can do whatever you wish, in whatever manner you wish to help satisfy that personal creativity. This way you can keep a part of “you” in your work and not feel like a drone and also be better prepped to fall in line with what your given roles are on a work-for-hire project or employer. Please notice what I’m not saying: I’m not telling you to sell yourself 100%. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be invested in work or be passionate about it. I’m not saying to give up your personal ideals or methods. That’s not healthy and odds are not why people hired you to make audio for them. They want YOU involved! But sometimes you do have to adapt and change your approach to better serve the project. If you’ve never been through honest feedback on your work, then I’d suggest putting your work online and letting folks from the professional audio realm review it. Many folks, myself included, will listen and gladly give our input. This works great because it’s not your friends or family listening and saying “sounds great!” even if it doesn’t. This is good, honest feedback from folks that should have the ears and skillsets to be able to distinguish what’s going great in your work and what could use some improvement.

Growing a thick skin.

My first real exposure to blunt, concise feedback was at FUNimation Entertainment, where I worked as a composer/sound designer in the Special Features/DVD dept. I would create the music and sound design, as well as edit and produce dialog from the show into a trailer for anime shows and films. We’re talking top tier anime work like Dragon Ball Z, Yu Gi Oh and such. Once the audio was done, I’d have a quick review with the brand manager, head of the video editors and sometimes even a VP of the company. Feedback was sometimes as brief as a few words:

“Love it!” “Doesn’t work.” “Hate it.” “Redo it.”

Then the folks would go back to their jobs and I’d be left making any needed fixes. That kind of environment forced me to grow a thick skin quickly. And you need a thick skin to be successful in this industry. It was at this job that I started the notion that any critiques were not personal in nature and were not directed at ME. They were directed at my work and how well it lined up with the product. This helped me better process and apply the feedback. In turn, this made me much better at my job.

Take a moment.

And the next time you feel yourself getting heated or protective of your work due to some criticisms, take a deep breath. This is creative work and therefore passions can play a large factor. Take a moment before responding and remind yourself – this is no longer YOUR audio. You’ve divorced yourself from it and instead, it’s the PROJECT’S audio. Do what’s best for the project. Hopefully everyone else on the team will be like minded and focused exclusively on what’s best for the project as well. Not always the case but one can hope!

Best of luck!

Bio:
Nate is an established composer/sound designer, based in Austin, TX. Aside from making various kinds of noises and music, he also teaches private lessons (saxophone and piano) and performs with live bands. On the weekends he likes to sit and watch the grass grow.