He dodged advertising for sound design, and he’s loving every minute of it. Meet Robert Lindell, sound designer at Pole and a firm believer that minimalism is beautiful.
So, Robert, what is your background?
I have been playing computer games since I was 5-6 years old. Dad wrote down various DOS commands on post-it notes and that way I could navigate into the game world on my own.
Like many others, music was my gateway to sound. I have more or less been making music and playing video games my whole life. It just took a long time to pluck up the courage and make it my career.
I attended Hyper Island, a design school unrelated to sound. Although, in the final stages of my education I took a chance by applying for an internship in a sound studio. Instead of the more typical path of an advertising agency. So, I called up a sound designer and music producer and asked what I needed to do to impress him enough to let me start my internship in his studio.
As he gave me a list I started working on my portfolio. I barely slept during the three months I was preparing and studying sound. The poor roommate of mine must have grown awfully tired of me and the noise seeping out of my headphones. However, I ended up sending my material to another studio where I remained for quite some time after my internship ended. I’ve been privileged working with linear sound design, mix and music. Mainly for commercials, television, series, radio, documentaries, and video game trailers.
All in all, this has definitely been one of the best leaps of faith I’ve ever done!
And when did you start working with Pole?
I happened to be in the right place at the right time. All of a sudden, I was in a meeting with Max and Niklas from Pole together with my old boss regarding a possible project. The rest is history, haha!
How has it been so far?
It’s absolutely magical! I’ve learned so much since I started here, in all aspects of sound. I’m surrounded by a bunch of professionals who are all so humble to their brilliance. They happily share the knowledge that they’ve acquired during their long careers. I’m very grateful to be a part of Pole Position and its development. And a big thanks to Niklas and everyone else who believed in me and took me under their wings.
When you start up a new project, what’s your creative process like?
It depends. If it’s a new game, I read about it, listen to it, and play the genre or IP. In regard to sound design, I like to start my projects with at least 70 empty tracks, haha! I like browsing for sounds in Basehead. Both relevant and irrelevant keywords while playing around with pitch. The relevant sounds I use as framework while the more unexpected ones become my creative challenge. The latter I usually process hard and finally I just blend it together.
I get inspired by my colleagues and their work. Or everyone in the industry who makes fantastic sound experiences for that matter! But also, to just be. I try to stop in everyday life and just listen to things, anything really. I think that is important.
And perhaps the most valuable formula for achieving the result I want, ask for feedback!
What are the most challenging things in sound design?
Rhythm, clarity, and oomph. No, but as I love playing around with sounds and have a lot of empty tracks at my disposal it’s easy to get carried away just adding unnecessary layers. I have to remind myself to go back and review my designs. Listen to each individual track. Does it add value to the end product or is it just additional mud? Minimalism is beautiful and that’s easy to forget in the heat of the moment.
And the most rewarding?
Take something from vision, to design, to implementation and finally fire off that ability in game and feel satisfied with the result! Even better if you have been involved in recording the source material.
Co-creation is also great! To iterate on each other’s sounds and make something as a team. Another rewarding feeling is when the team meets a juicy deadline.
I just figured something that almost beats all of the above in its simplicity! When you design away and mess something up completely. But somehow chance made you a sound so cool you couldn’t recreate it no matter how hard you’d try. Sound design at its best!
Do you have any favorite genres you like to work in?
I love fantasy and sci-fi. 1st person, 3rd person or top-down. MMORPG or shooter, it doesn’t matter really. Add co-op in there and I thrive.
Today I only work on PC. Pro Tools for mix, structure, and most of my design, Ableton Live when I want to freak out. Basehead for finding my sounds. Unreal Engine, Unity and Wwise for game audio. Lots of plugins and great libraries.
Oh, and for my bucket list: I need to work more in Reaper.
Do you have a dream project you’d like to be part of?
I’m currently part of a dream project and I’m so sad I can’t talk about it! I’m sure me and my friends will dig out a lot of spare hours for this one when it comes out. Great team, great genre, and atmosphere. And super challenging.
But I’ll admit I wouldn’t be sad if the next Doom got outsourced to Pole Position. Haha! And if they gave us the OST as well, I’d love to see what Mats could do with an endless chain of pedals for his synths and guitars.