Tim Whitt: collecting sounds of the city

Interview by Hannah Powley
Photos by Jon Brooks

Local sound designer, producer and collector of sounds Tim Whitt is set to unveil Geisel next month, an album dedicated to the city of Adelaide. With his portable recorder always in hand, Whitt is an interesting mix of foley artist and DJ, having previously produced Fringe shows, played at some of Australia's biggest festivals (Big Day Out, Laneway) and supported renowned artists (Seth Sentry, Tkay Maidza). Geisel is made up of sounds recorded off the streets of Adelaide and accompanied by local artists singing about their personal Adelaidian experiences. Whether it's the growl of a cricket stadium, the rustling of a kangaroo, the demolition of a historic building or the chant of noisy club-goers, Whitt can find a way to twist and warp sounds into new stories.

Yewth asked Whitt a couple of questions before the release of Geisel on October 13 and the beginning of his interactive listening experience with Wandering Sounds.

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Yewth: So you’ve been recording sounds around Adelaide and using them to create your music - how did this concept begin?

Tim Whitt: I did a Bachelor of Sonic Arts and part of that was recording sounds that could be used to create sound effects. I started doing that for work, and then with my own music I started experimenting - making unusual broken-beat hip-hop.

I’ve always sampled records to make music, but this way just seemed like such a different take. Instead of just sampling music I’m actually sampling sounds and trying to turn them into music.

What caught your attention when recording around Adelaide?

I started out recording almost everything. Walking around going, “ah this rain dripping down a gutter sounds interesting - I’ll record that”. Then I started listening for more unusual kinds of sounds.

It’s really exciting when you find a new sound. I don’t know if you have ever played Pokemon Go, it’s kind of like that – hunting around trying to capture these rare sounds.

My favourite one would be from Sleep at Night, the single. The melody from it is made from a rice cooker lid. Someone had thrown it on the side of the road. I took it home and was just experimenting hitting it with different stuff. It sounded heaps like a lead in a future bass song, so I just mapped that onto a keyboard and started playing that and then the song came together almost instantly.

We’ve heard the first single 'Sleep at Night', which sounds great by the way; can we expect a similar sound from the rest of the Geisel?

That one feels like the most commercial I get, most of the album is head nodding grooves. The album sounds pretty cohesive, which I was worried about. I didn’t want an album that was disjointed and full of all these weird noises. That’s a little too arty even for me.

You have collaborated with a bunch of vocalists and instrumentalists for Geisel, are they all Adelaide locals as well?

Yes, yes they are. They’re all my friends that I’ve known for years, its really great. I’ve always wanted to collaborate with them all individually, but never found a project to do it, or I feel bad that I can’t pay them for their time. Then the Music Development Office had a grant going called the John Lemon Artist in Residence Program where they pay you to come into the Saint Paul’s Creative Centre on Pulteney Street and make a collaborative bit of music.

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You’re doing a city soundtrack tour to launch the album, what can people expect from the tour?

When the album launches on the 13th it’s available by an app called Sound Pocket [developed by TechJam winners Wandering Sounds] and then you walk around the city visiting different locations and when you get within a certain range of that location it starts playing the songs. It’s a really cool way of releasing the album, which is written about the city, made from sounds within the city, so it should be listened to within the city.

After it launches on the 13th, on the 14th I’ll be leading a curated walking tour to a few of the sites. I’ll take them to the site and explain a bit about each song and how it came about, really give people some behind the scenes stuff. Yeah it turns out I really love explaining the music that I make.

After the album’s released on Sound Pocket it will become available on all of the regular stuff like Spotify and iTunes, if you just want to listen to it in a regular fashion.

Finally, do you have a favorite song on the album we should keep an ear out for?

My favourite song on the album would be the first song on the album; which is now called 'Movement in Motion'. I really like that song, it opens the album and that was actually the first song that I started working on when I started the whole project over a year ago.

Keep up to date with Tim Whitt and the release of Geisel on:

Facebook | Instagram | Soundcloud | Bandcamp | Spotify