In December of 1996 Stephen Dewey, the acclaimed Los Angeles Sound Designer –whose company Machine Head, had practically defined the standard of sound design– called me up at home at exactly the same time I was trying out a new fangled thing called the Internet.
Stephen started his career as sound engineer and electronic devices guru for The Thompson Twins; went on to be a Product Specialist for the Fairlight Computer Music Instrument company; did a stint at Hans Zimmer’s film scoring company, Media Ventures; and then riding on the recognition earned by producing effects work for Ridley Scott’s film Black Rain, founded Machine Head, naming it after a mechanical guitar part.
Over the years, Dewey’s company and the team at Elias Associates had provided elements for some of the same projects. I had spoken with him several times over the phone –in order to coordinate elements– but I had never met him person. In fact, as the Senior Producer at Elias, I considered him a main competitor. Our team also produced sound design treatments; and Alton Delano –in particular– did such an excellent job of it, that it frustrated me when clients split their projects up between our two shops; but sometimes they did.
I would of course later come to understand exactly how and why Dewey outshone the rest of the Industry. Sound Design wasn’t just an area of expertise. To members of the advertising community, he defined the standard by which all others would be judged.
By Sound Design, I mean both the actual creation and construction of any given sound, and it’s creative application to film and video. Later –after I began working for him– my contribution to the company’s marketing strategy was to convince our clients that what Machine Head produced was less an effects treatment –which any editor with a sample library could provide– and more like an electronic music composition, which indeed was the truth. Many of Stephen’s efforts are comparable to and reminiscent of the groundbreaking work of Pierre Schaeffer, which Schaeffer so famously called ' Musique Concrete'. In the case of Stephen's work, think John Cage with Hollywood attitude.
Now here he was, former competitor and industry legend –not to mention ex-guitar tech for The Thompson Twins– and he was inviting me to come work for him. And oh, by the way, the first project on my To-Do list would be to produce a spot for the upcoming Super Bowl (MCI ‘Kids In Space’:60/:30), which would require me to hop back forth between both coasts between Christmas and the broadcast.
Essentially, my signing bonus was getting to produce a three million dollar video that everybody on the entire planet was going to see, hear, and talk about.
Graciously, I accepted, and then ran out into the New York night to celebrate the beginning of a new sonic adventure.