Mix beaches, rivers, forests and fireside camp-outs with acoustic performances by up-and-coming artists and you’re always in for a good time. Ian Neilson‘s Wildersound project takes musicians out into the bush to film live acoustic music sessions in our lovely scenery. Ian allowed NZM to show an exclusive preview of one of the clips recorded with Albi & The Wolves, and also answered a few questions.
The project started kind of by accident. Originally it was intended as just a fun day out recording some music somewhere different. That turned out to be beautiful enough that I wanted to turn it into its own thing and explore where it could be taken while sharing it with lots of great artists and creatives.
I don’t, is the short answer, haha. In a slightly longer variation, however, I have a job that’s fairly flexible, and I had a fair amount of time off work over the past year which let me get things started. I also really enjoy my job in IT (you can be passionate about more than one thing!) so I don’t come home completely drained.
I also find that IT in many ways is quite similar to a lot of the jobs that need doing at Wildersound. I’ve always found many of the technical elements of film and audio to feel quite natural, and my day job involves a fair amount of project management and interacting with people. I think everything in life is a transferable skill you can use elsewhere.
I also bring in other wonderful people to the project who bring their own unique styles and ideas. I’ve had help from cinematographers and in production and marketing, and of course the musicians themselves.
What you see in the Wildersound videos is real time. We shoot on multiple cameras which allows me to cut together an honest and real representation of the live performance. It’s second best to being there for real. We aim for one take in the performances, so we tend to end up using quite a lot of what gets shot.
It turns out large cardioid studio condenser mics aren’t designed for wind. I’ve mostly just tried my best to avoid windy locations, but I’ve also been trialing wind socks to cut out wind noise while still keeping as many frequencies as possible. Mark I was literally socks, mark II is a knitted model.
I’ve tried film audio gear as well (which is actually designed to be used outside), however I’ve not found these to be particularly musical sounding, especially once you bring instruments in.
In terms of gear explicitly, I’ve got two setups depending on the situation. Either my Audio Technica 2050 or Rode M5 stereo pair go into a Tascam recorder as uncompressed waves. On the AT’s first outing the mic stand proceeded to immediately fall in a river. Thankfully it landed on some grass that held it above the water long enough for us to grab it – with half a second to spare before the cardioid would have been drenched.
In one of Looking For Alaska‘s videos they started playing and a dog walked right in front of the camera, curved around and came over to the band for a pat and a sit down. Couldn’t have asked for anything more organic and beautiful. Of course that’s the take we’ve decided to use. Keep watching for this one releasing soon!
I’d love to get a variety of artists and genres involved in the project. So far it’s been mostly on the acoustic singer/songwriter end of the spectrum because that’s what’s easiest to do, but I’d love to branch out. If your instrument(s) make audible sound, you can carry them for 10 minutes at a time and you don’t need mains power then I don’t see why we couldn’t have a chat about collaborating together!
The environment we created for Albi and the Wolves‘ sessions was really special for me. We set up a fireside session after a long day filming and had them bust out their ballads and bangers just for us while we chowed down on a hot home-cooked meal. That’s not a memory I’m not going to forget for a long time.
I also love when artists sing songs about the subject matter around them. Ciaran McMeeken singing about the ocean while perched on a branch with the ocean’s waves swirling in below him. Holly Arrowsmith singing a romantic song about a river while children played in the river behind her, and Bonnie Strides singing about living a life in the trees, with a maze of tree branches behind.
A BMX bike. Yeah, it would be pretty astounding and cool if Wildersound somehow turned into a BMX bike. Rad.
Actually though my goal for the project is that it grows enough to be a great platform for artists to show themselves to a new audience as we create something beautiful together. If I get to keep hanging out with cool people, explore the country and make some music, I’m happy.