Interview with Oliver Squirrell of SoundShoots

Producers – how often do you get writers block?

That feeling of opening a new Logic / Ableton / [insert your DAW of choice] project and having a feeling of… well, nothing coming to you? One suggestion is to have a mosey on over to SoundShoots – it’s a creative music platform that challenges you to sketch a new piece of music in response to a given theme, which changes every couple of weeks. For the purposes of writers block can be a great help to stimulate different ways of approaching music; negating the pressure of writing a dancefloor banger every time you knuckle down in the studio.

SoundShoots also sets the backdrop for a great community of like-minded creatives, providing a space to showcase your style and be ideas board for you to explore other’s work. We spoke to the creator Oliver, to find out a bit more.

Hi Oliver! Let’s go from the start, can you tell me a bit about your background – – what were you up to prior to SoundShoots?

After finishing my degree in 2008 I initially didn’t take my love for music beyond a hobby, opting for a more ‘safe’ direction of Mathematics teaching. That all changed a buy few years ago when I experienced a chronic fatigue illness called M.E. During that period of time music became an essential part of my existence and it gave me the motivation to download Audacity and buy a cheap USB guitar lead, which exposed me to the accessibility and pure joy of recording and producing music at home. There I was with minimal equipment and no pro experience and yet I was able to channel my creativity into something that I could blast out of my sound system and share with my friends. And it’s that satisfaction and energy of self-made music that motivated me to move away from a safe career choice and into something that I have genuine devotion for.

Music is a powerful thing, that’s really inspiring! It’s amazing how with just a small soundcard and a mic you can get a workable recording setup on the go. Do you think scratching that creative itch increases your desire to further with technical knowledge? 

Yes, absolutely! The current rate of new music-making products and techniques is just incredible. I keep my eyes on various music technology magazines and websites  and I always enjoy reading about new products and techniques. If had had the money and time I would love to enrol on an established production course. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to make music from home and to “learn as I go”, but I visit many studios on my travels and I often look at the equipment and fantasize over being able to fully exploit that level of technology. Also, one of the goals for SoundShoots is to be able launch a label from the platform and I would love to be able to get hands-on with the production of the music in some way by the time that happens. So if anyone out there wants to invite me into their studio and show me what they’re all about then please get in touch 🙂 Learning never stops.

Where did the idea of SoundShoots come from?

In Jan 2011 I had one of those nights where I sat up in bed thinking about various things and then I had a realisation that there must be millions of people like myself who get enjoyment from grass roots music production, and for whatever reason I had an urge to come up with a concept that could reach out and engage these people in a different way. I can’t pinpoint exactly what thought process lead me to the SoundShoots concept, but I can vividly remember the realisation that I was potentially onto something; without having time to logically process my idea I had a shoot of adrenaline that told me that this concept could really work, and I have acted on that chemical reaction ever since.

Do you have a favorite theme from the SoundShoots so far?

I personally enjoy all of the SoundShoots themes because each and every one generates such a great diversity of what people create in response. But if I had to pick a favorite I would probably say the Rainforest’ theme, partly because of my love for natural topics and partly because the Rainforest theme was the first theme that Guillemots guitarist Mclord Magrao created a response to. I vividly remember him contacting me to ask me more about SoundShoots and the whole thing was a great thrill for me as the Guillemots are a band that I’ve looked up to and seen live before, so to have one of its members engaging with SoundShoots was a great moment for me personally.

The other obvious benefit of SoundShoots is that not only is it incredibly fun to create and share with other artists, but the exposure for artists that’s garnered through it. Student Rida Mukhtar (RZM) in particular has had a lot of success through the site, winning three consecutive themes and as a result has been getting chased up by blogs for interviews, it’s good to see.

It’s great to see and Rida fully deserves that exposure because he is a great talent and his input to SoundShoots is consistently strong. Currently we look to initiate blog posts for the most outstanding SoundShooters and we regularly push the best tracks out to our social network communities in order to fuel the exposure. The SoundShoots site is also set up so that the main page of the site, provides all site visitors with a public directory of all of the SoundShoots inspired tracks, which again catalyses the exposure that SoundShooters can receive. The whole exposure element will become a sharper focus for us as the platform grows in size and reputation, paving the way for new exposure opportunities and connections. I have many ideas up my sleeve regarding what we can do and who we can potentially work with to give the best SoundShooters the strongest possible spotlight, but this can only be achieved with a bigger community and a larger flow of uploaded tracks, so every new user and every newly uploaded track genuinely helps this cause.

SoundShoots: a creative-block-unblocker and haven for both musical and visual artists – sounds like a great cause to support.


Why buy a Moog Minitaur?

In this video, I’m taking a look at Moog’s Minitaur. First of all, you might ask yourself, ‘why spend nearly 500 quid on something that just does bass, when I can get Komplete for that?!’ Good question.

There are several answers to this question:

The sound you get out of the thing. It sounds real. It makes your studio monitor’s cones move a lot. 

There are some amazing VST instruments available today: some of my favourites, are Lennar’s Sylenth, U-he’s ACE, and from 2007, Korg’s Legacy collection. They all have something in common in that they sound warm, lush, full, and almost real. Almost. The Moog IS real. There is a fullness, roundness, and warmth to the sound that you simply can’t replicate with software. Now to the untrained ear, and without comparison, it’s difficult to comprehend the difference between hardware and software. Even when there are comparisons, the difference we’re talking about is arguably quite small in the overall music production process. However, it’s these small differences that give you an edge over someone who is solely using software. The untrained ear of the clubber will latch onto your tune containing the Moog bass and not know quite why: it’s a visceral thing. In fact, since using my Minitaur for the bass on almost every track I’ve written since buying it, people who have heard the tracks have always commented on how mega the bass sounds!

Because if you spend £500 on something, you’re more likely to use it to its full potential… 

…Rather than preset surf on it for hours on end.

We’re all guilty of this: you’ve just bought an amazing synth plug-in that comes with 1000 presets. You start writing a track and load it up. The next 30 mins are spent going through presets until you find something that almost fits the bill. Yawn.

The Minitaur has a simple one-knob-per-function design, it’s also a very basic synth overall. You’ll patch it in to your DAW and tweak until you create the sound which fits your track. There will be a sense of achievement when you get the mix right of oscillators, envelopes and filters. When you do, you can save your patch using the free software editor and recall it later. This is another reason I bought the Minitaur – you’ve got the analog sound, but the flexibility and ease of a software interface, which also allow you to see ‘under the hood’ and tweak some things not immediately available from the front panel.

Finally – new to synthesis? This is a great starting point because it’s so damn simple!  

2 Oscillators – Sawtooth or Square wave

Low pass filter


Filter envelope



Doesn’t get much more stripped back than that.