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Camera Obscura: Synthesizer Obsessions with Justin Hori

Music & Sound
Los Angeles, United States
Squeak E. Clean Studios' creative director on synthesizer patches, the big debate over analogue vs. digital and the joy of virtually limitless creative possibilities

A talented composer, Squeak E. Clean Studios creative director Justin Hori has developed a knack for crafting poignant, contemporary audio stylings for branded content, crafting original music for award-winning projects with such top clients as Apple, Reebok, Adidas, Volkswagen and Budweiser, among many others. 

Hori was steeped in the Chicago music scene early on, starting as a DJ at 13 in hip-hop and underground electronica before taking his first part-time job slinging records at the legendary Gramaphone Records. After studying music theory and composition at Columbia College--gathering an extensive education and client base for future projects--he cut his teeth with stints at Comtrack and Comma Music, eventually moving to open their Los Angeles office. He returned to Squeak E. Clean Studios in 2020 after expanding Human Worldwide into the Chicago market.

LBB> What is your niche craft obsession?

Justin> Designing synthesizer patches.

LBB> Where/ when/ how did you first come across this thing? 

Justin> My Freshman year in college. I took a class on MIDI and synth programming.

LBB> Was it an obsession straight away or something that has evolved over the years?

Justin> It’s a bit of both really. I was hooked right away. But it’s something that continues to intrigue, and amuse me.

LBB> What are the most interesting debates or conversations you are having around this obsession?

Justin> There’s some debate over software/hardware synthesizers. Software synths sound amazing now, and their sounds are almost indistinguishable from their hardware counterparts. There’s also a big debate over Analog vs. Digital Synthesis. Software provides more immediacy, ease of use, and is much cheaper. Hardware synthesizers really enhance the experience of using the instrument, with its tactile interface. I use software synths AND hardware synths everyday. They both have a place in my process (and heart). The debate over which is best is a bit like electric cars vs. gas. They perform the same function so…who cares?    

LBB> How widespread do you think this obsession is with your peers?

Justin> It seems like there’s a large section of the composer and sound designer community that are interested in designing patches. You can get lost for hours creating a single patch. The creative possibilities are virtually limitless.

LBB> Can you share any examples of work where that obsession really came to the fore and elevated the final production? Can you tell us about it and share links if possible?

Justin> There’s a few reels on my newly launched Instagram. Hapasanofficial. Also some of the sounds on my new EP, Pandemic Blues.

LBB> For anyone just getting into your field, what advice would you share to help them get their head around this particular thing?  

Justin> I’d recommend getting a good understanding of the basics in regards to subtractive synthesis. It’s the original form of musical synthesis which was developed in the 60s. The same principles apply to modern instruments of today.