Audeze interviews producer, engineer and artist Bruce Somers

Bruce Somers has been an artist, producer, songwriter and engineer for over 30 years.  His band, Kidneythieves, has been releasing and performing cutting edge electronic and industrial music over the last two decades along with lead Singer / Songwriter Free Dominguez.

"These headphones are a game changer for me as an artist and engineer." - Bruce Somers
Here's our talk with Bruce:
Can you pick out any favorites from your work that you're particularly proud of?

One of my favorite tracks is “Arsenal” from Kidneythieves 2001 release, “Zerospace.”  I remember working for a week just on the snare drum.  I can’t imagine having that kind of time today but back then, we seemed to obsess over the smallest details.  I’m really excited about our latest release, Kidneythieves “The Mend.” 

How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on these days?

I still spend a lot of time working on different musical ideas for Kidneythieves as well as for scores, commercials and other endeavors.  I also love technology and spend a lot of time working in my studio with new software and hardware tools.  My main role in Kidneythieves is to come up with the music and sounds that drive our songwriting.

How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?

I started as a drummer in a garage who wanted to record his own music.  I used a Radio Shack mixer and two cassette decks to overdub my drums and I used a cheap guitar and amplifier to try and get some distorted sounds happening.  I think I was working out some angst!  I listened to a lot of heavy 70’s inspired music like Led Zeppelin, Boston, Bowie, etc… but I also loved groove, soul and pop music.  I loved the Police and many other alternative bands.

Can you name any factors you feel majorly influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?

My older brother Eric turned me on to The Who when I was 12.  That was big.  I think my good friend Sean Beavan had the biggest influence on my professional music career.  Sean and I played in a band in Cleveland Ohio in the 80’s (Odd Man Out / Cool Down Daddy). Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails actually played keyboards on our first release.  Sean and I worked as engineers in the same studio that Trent worked at in Cleveland called Right Track.  Sean went on to work with Trent on the first 3 NIN records.  Sean was a huge influence on getting Kidneythieves to push our sound and move things into a heavier industrial direction.  Trent has always been a huge influence as well.

Can you briefly describe a moment of frustration from your past work, and what you may have done to overcome the obstacles? Would you approach it differently now?

I think using any type of new technology has its moments of frustration.  Certain people have minds that deal with frustration and obstacles better than others.  I am geared towards problem solving, pushing forward and overcoming obstacles.  I know plenty of other people that just can’t cope with those distractions.  It’s probably why I do what I do in terms of being a technology person, engineer, producer etc…  I always see the technology as helping to inspire and solve issues as opposed to seeing technology as getting in the way.  I do prefer to have things running smoothly though so I can be creative.  That’s how it works for me.

Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?

I’m a huge fan of the Axe FX III Guitar Processor.  I find the quality of the sounds to be pretty amazing.  I love using the Focusrite RedNet gear as well. I have a studio built around Pro Tools Ultimate and a Focusrite Red 8 Pre with a bunch of vintage gear as well.  I also use a Line 6 Helix with the Digital Guitars.  I love being able to change tunings on the fly.  Super inspirational.

Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?

Do it because you love it but if you need to make a living at it, make sure you are fulfilling an actual need.  It’s really hard to just create music you love if you are the only person that loves it.  It might be fulfilling but being aware of a demand and fulfilling that demand will serve you well when you need to pay the bills.

How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?

Funny question because I’ve been working with headphones as long as I can remember.  Being a drummer originally, I had to use headphones to hear the records I would obsessively play to.  I use them when recording vocals and sometimes when I mix in order to hear music the way a lot of people listen to music today.  Good quality headphones make a huge difference to your fatigue level as well.  From a great fit to an amazing open sound, it is one area where you don’t want to cheap out.

Do you have any additional comments or stories you want to share?

We are certainly in an interesting time where a lot of the obstacles that we used to have to work around have gone away.  I have been working out of my home project studio since 1989 and have seen a massive evolution in my own gear from 4 tracks to ADAT recorders to Sound Tools / Pro Tools.  Back in the day, we never had enough tracks.  Everything crashed all the time.  We made all of our samples ourselves, etc.  We had to see management and labels to get our music “out there.”  Today, all of that has changed with technology and the internet.  I think it's an amazing time to work without those limitations, get your music and media out there, and see if you can do something that inspires others.  It’s an exciting time.

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work?

I have never been one to write and engineer music using headphones.  My LCD-X Headphones have changed that.  After spending a good deal of time listening to mixes that I was very familiar with, I decided to do some writing in my remote studio using my headphones.  I can honestly say for the first time that I was very happy with the results.  The low end, which has always been the trickiest for me with headphones, sounded great.  The separation was fantastic as was the over-all balance and fidelity.  These headphones are a game changer for me as an artist and engineer.  Thank you.

Can you tell us what you've been working on with them recently?

Kidneythieves is currently in pre-production for our next project.  For us, what pre-production means is coming up with beats and ideas that will reflect what we are currently feeling musically and what we are currently being inspired by. I really enjoy working with Native Instruments Maschine as it really re-wires how my brain might think of a groove or a beat. I will usually have an electric bass handy as well as many of my ideas come from drums and bass.  Sometimes, I will start with a trippy or nasty guitar riff that I can set to a beat.  It just depends what I am feeling at the time.  Once we have 1-2 ideas down, we will find some kind of musical and thematic concept that will help push us in a certain direction to complete the project.  We hope to have something before the end of the year.  We will see how that goes.