77 Artist’s Journey: What is your personal interpretation of what music and sound are? How do you perceive them? Geoff Nostrant: Sound is life, literally. Sound is a vibration, and so is pretty much everything we perceive that is translated through the body’s senses. Sound is what I pay attention to most. It’s the quickest way to get my attention. As it is my profession to work and shape sound, my thoughts are never far from music. I feel it has been deeply rooted in my consciousness from as early I can remember. How did Black Swan Audio begin? What is the signif- cance of the name? I started Black Swan when I was finishing up my music de- gree at Eastern Michigan University. I started doing live record- ings for students that had recitals. I remember using these great Russian-made microphones with a (really terrible) MiniDisc re- corder. Humble beginnings, equipment-wise, but that’s how I feel one gets better at whatever one’s passion is. And that passion has fueled me to continue to keep learning new things both in songwriting and in production to this day. The name behind Black Swan is a bit of a long story and actu- ally defines why I started recording my own music. When I was a teenager, I started having minor heart problems, which would cause a minor aching pain in my chest. One night, as I lay in bed with more than a few problems on my mind and that dull ache, I suddenly found myself in a different state of consciousness, free from mental anguish. A kind of peace. Curious about what I had experienced, I started reading books about lucid dreaming and out-of-body experiences. One somewhat-related book was “Swan on a Black Sea.” I thought the book name reflected a very nocturnal peace- fulness during a time when I was creating an ambient song of that nature. I decided to give the track as well as the album the name. So from all that, I loved the image of a swan on a lonely des- olate endless curtain of black waves. Something about that felt ancient and beautiful. A few hundred years ago, a black swan was known for its rarity and the term “black swan” meant some- thing unique or unordinary. So, it was a fun way to convey that in the name of the studio. How do you manage to work with various musicians working in different genres and cater to the particular sound they are searching for? There are many parallels between mixing music and cook- ing. Different artists with their different genres are a variety of ingredients and spices. Who wants to eat the same meal all the time? I feel the same about music, and it’s such a pleasure when I discover so many artists who not only shine in Korea, but stand up to their peers in the West. And the part that has made my dreams come true is to be in- volved in the song writing/recording/mixing/mastering process. My career is making and helping make songs! For that, I am a most grateful person. What traits are vital for a producer? I think different producers would tell you different things. I think three things: 1. experience, 2. an open ear and mind to the artists one is working with and 3. being able to serve the song. They have to do their best to sonically shape the song in the correct way, in a perfectionist way. I (sadly) hear stories from artists I work with about studio experiences that end up junk because the producer/recording engineer had no idea how to serve the song. Serving the song could consist of recording technique, an idea about arrangement, lyrics, melody … The list could go on, but the point is that great songs must stand the test of time and every great producer should want that at all times. What kind of relationship should a producer have with an artist? It’s all up to the artists. They are the ones footing the tab. It’s their own original concepts. So, in my book, the artist calls it. If they want me to help them with any part of songwriting and recording, I’ve got them. But if they need me to stand back and let them call the shots on things they know how they want, I’ve got them. How does music defne a culture? There is a connection to something so strong for both the individual and the collective alike. A community with a strong sense of music and art sounds like a good community to me. If one were in a place to have to adhere to preset rules (or) laws about creating and listening to music, it really seems to state quite a lot. How do you capture your own personal experiences and emulate or express them in your own music? So many messages seen and unseen are deeply woven into the fabric of a song. I feel my own personal therapy is creating music. It’s divinely cathartic to turn one’s struggles into a little — or big — piece of art. I started out just experimenting by putting down musical ideas through tape recorders. So honestly, I’d say my history was learning how to use the hardware for recording before really diving into the world of songwriting. Af- ter I got that out of the way, and now, years after that in which I have made every single mistake in recording that one can possibly imagine, I don’t have to look at songwriting and be daunted by the fear that the song will suffer in the process of putting it together. The devilish part is the fact that one can become obsessed with getting the right sound, but I bet any artist, musician, songwriter or producer out there can relate that it’s about one’s own musical gems. MORE INfO j Website: fb.com/BlackSwanAudio