That sounds amazing, and when you talked about syncing up the music to the actual sound effects, it reminded me of what Julian Slater did on Baby Driver.
Yeah, absolutely. Some of those tricks that he did on Baby Driver are also some of the tricks that we do here, but in another way of course. I love Baby Driver and the whole musicality of sound. For me, one of the most important things in sound design is to have a musicality and sounds that are used in a musical way. But they have to have atmosphere and a tonality and a groove, this feeling of rhythm. It’s amazing what sound can do for you where you’re not conscious of it- it’s truly drawing you in. And if it’s very musically done, I believe that it’s opening up your experience of the film. That’s one of the things that I really loved about Baby Driver was this whole interplay between sound and music.
And that is something that I do again and again on different films. Sometimes it’s done in very subtle ways. In The Last Race, though, I definitely placed it where it was very upfront. I mean there’s loud music and there’s loud sound effects and it’s almost like a symphony of sound, noise, and music.
I agree entirely. I honestly believe sound is very underrated. There was a French film called Irréversible where the film’s sound crew had this background noise play throughout the flick. It was very subtle, but what it ended up doing was make the movie even more unnerving for audiences on a psychological level. So I definitely agree.
Speaking of Julian Slater, he was one of the first people I ever interviewed for Flickering Myth, and he told he’s acquired a library of audio over the years so that he has something to refer to if he does a similar project in the future to one he did in the past. I remember reading in an interview that you said you like to create new sounds, but I’m wondering if you have acquired own library?
Oh yes, absolutely. I mean, for every new project I do I record new sounds. I even have an assistant who helps me out with those recordings, because I feel it’s so extremely important that the sounds are made for the film and not just some anonymous archive; it has to feel right for the film. So we spend a lot of time recording new sounds for every movie. And of course, it’s such a great gift for the sound designer when a director like Michael Dweck on The Last Race has recorded so many sounds beforehand that are right for the film, so I had a big library already there.
But of course, I also have a library of all these sounds that my assistant and I have recorded over the past many years. For every new film we are recording new sounds, and one of the great revelations in modern sound is that nowadays you can have these small heart-disc recorders that are so small that you can hold them in your hand, but the quality is really good. So I’m constantly carrying these around, just recording sounds all the time. Even when I visit the local supermarket, I record a freezer or a door that’s shrieking. My kids are specialists at running away from me and looking like they don’t know me at all [laughs].
My library is really big now and I think a huge part of doing great sound is to record great sound and have access to a lot of great sounds. When I start off a project I always spend a lot of time on just gathering sounds. For example, with The Last Race, we not only gathered sounds for all the cars, but also gathered sounds for this area, making sure we got the right birds and the right insects and the right background noises.
So I build up a library for every film. And yeah, it’s turning into a pretty big library. It’s always a lot of fun to explore things like that and also to suddenly find and repurpose an old sound, like my dishwasher, which works terrifically as the sound of a car getting hit and rumbling. Things like that. With sound it’s so much like an adventure in a way. It’s about how you can get so many crazy ideas and how all those crazy ideas can turn into wonderful moments where sound and images do something special because sound is constantly surprising and constantly kind of….I mean it’s unpredictable how things will work. And sometimes if you have one sound where you’re thinking “oh my god, what is that sound?” and then you put it together with something else you see, you create something very magical. That’s really what I love about working with sound.
That makes sense. When you talked about the surprises that come from strange combinations, it reminded me of another sound editor I spoke to, Jacob Ribicoff, who created a nightmare scenario with just helicopter blades and a heartbeat. And I always love it when people like yourself experiment and create new experiences.
So, The Last Race is one of many documentaries that you’ve done. Was this a genre you always wanted to pursue or did it happen to come about naturally in your career prospects?
It’s interesting because, for me, I constantly go back and forth between doing documentaries and doing fiction films. And for me there’s not that much of a difference because I believe that a lot of documentaries, which I truly love, are just as experimental and filmic and radical as a feature film, and sometimes even crazier! You can do really wild things with sound, and I’m sometimes saying that, for me, the only difference between a fiction film and a documentary is that in fiction films the actors get paid.
And I believe that quite often it’s amazing what you can do with sound in a documentary: as long as you stay true to the story and the characters and the environment you can still do so much manipulation and abstract sound design. It actually goes back to being at film school in Denmark where there was both a fiction part of the school and a documentary part of the school. And as a sound designer, you worked with both parts of the college.
So, I constantly change back and forth between doing documentaries and fiction films. I have just loved it so much that it was natural to keep on doing both. And now, I love the many great stories that are told through documentary filmmaking. I feel like, during the last 10, 15, 20 years, there have been so many great documentaries, and the format has shaped more based on journalism and words, and nowadays documentaries are stunning. They’re very visual and very sonically interesting as well, and often use music in interesting ways.
Going back and forth, there’s not that much of a difference, but it’s great to be able to do both. I hope to continue like that always. It’s very inspiring.
Yeah, documentaries have always been an important part of the industry. You go back to The Longest Summer and now you have cinema like The Invisible War and The Witness. They are integral in this day and age and I’m glad that they’re providing these new avenues for you as a designer and a re-recording mixer.
Now, as a gamer I have to ask, I noticed you were the music editor on Wolfenstein II. What was that experience like? Cause I know you don’t usually do music editing or video games for that matter.
That was really interesting. I’m actually very much involved in the music work on the films I do. Sometimes I do music editing; I also do music supervising now and then. I’m very involved in that whole process of music. But for Wolfenstein II, I worked with the computer game composer Martin Stig Andersen, who did the music for the game, although there were two composers [editor’s note- Mick Gordon was the second composer for Wolfenstein II]. I loved the work Martin had done on this computer game called Limbo.
Oh yeah, Limbo was amazing.
Yeah, exactly. So I got him involved in a feature film I did where I got him to do some sound effects for me, and I loved that and we had a very nice collaboration. So, with Wolfenstein II, they were looking for someone to help out with the music editing, and Martin asked me “okay Peter, I know you haven’t done computer games before, but would you be interested in helping out a bit?” And I was like “yeah, let’s try it out.” And that’s how that came about. And it was a fun experience! It was different to what I do because in the computer game world you work differently with the way that you tell stories. But that was really inspiring. I always like to try new things and evolve, so it was a lot of fun, and Martin is a good friend but also a terrific composer, so it was a lot of fun working with that material. It was a pretty crazy game!
No I agree entirely. The composers were amazing, and the fact that you had a hand in making their score as well-integrated into the game as it was is a testament to your skills. I hope you do more video games in the future because I felt you did such a good job with Wolfenstein II. But thank you once again for speaking with me Mr. Albrechtsen, especially since I know how busy you actually are now. This has been an enlightening lesson about sound.
No, it was great. Thank you!
Flickering Myth would like to thank Mr. Albrechtsen for sitting down with us. The Last Race is available on YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, and Google Play Movies & TV.
Special thanks to Katie Dooling of Impact 24 PR for making this collaboration possible!