The Church Collective has had the great pleasure of having Eric Persing answer some questions for the site. Persing is the founder and creator of the vastly growing, and increasingly popular virtual synthesizer company known as Spectrasonics. The most well known of their products being Omnisphere, Eric has made a considerable impact in the secular music world as well as the Praise and Worship community as well with his sound design and ingenious sampling methods. We hope that this small session can help bring an understanding of the hearts and minds that go behind the products that we use as worship leaders and musicians.
TCC: How long have you been in the music industry? What has your professional experience consisted of?
EP: Since about 1982, which is when I was in college and I started doing producing albums and working as a synthesist and arranger at the same time.
My very first gigs were when I worked with a number of different Gospel artists and Christian musicians who became great friends and mentors over my career – including Richard Souther, Abraham Laboriel, Justo Almario, John Pattitucci and the late, great Roby Duke.
Musically over all these years I’ve been very fortunate to work with a huge variety of amazing artists as a keyboardist, sound designer, arranger, producer, engineer, technologist and remixer – often a combination of multiple roles.
I was lucky enough to be involved in Michael Jackson’s landmark “Bad” album and tour, and blessed to work on hundreds of film scores with composers like Danny Elfman, Michel Colombier, Thomas Newman, Randy Newman and Hans Zimmer. I’ve learned a lot from the opportunities of working with some of the best producers in the world including Quincy Jones, Sergio Mendes, Marcus Miller and Nile Rogers.
Recently I’ve been working with Herbie Hancock and Imogen Heap creating new sounds for them and consulting with their evolving live shows and alternate controller setups.
I had the privilege of working with Roland Japan as their Chief Sound Designer from 1984-2004, so I got to be involved in the birth of MIDI and I produced and created thousands of the factory sounds for all the instruments they produced in that time – including now classic instruments such as the JX series, JV series, the D-50 and many others.
For curious gearheads, here’s a link to the complete list of instruments I was involved with at Roland: http://www.spectrasonics.net/company/other/ep-roland.php
TCC: What are you experiences in ministry been from a musical standpoint?
EP: I grew up as a kid singing in the choirs that my Dad directed and would be with him as he played his trumpet from the rafters in Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. The majesty and glory of these times left a big impression on me.
Although I went on to work with many well known Christian artists in the studio, it wasn’t until the late 80s through the encouragement of my dear friend Richard Souther that I started to put my synthesis world and my worship world at church together.
Richard was leading worship at a small church in La Crescenta, California that only had about 200 members. However, the worship band was probably the greatest band ever! The band consisted of incredible players including three of the greatest drummers/percussionists on the planet (Chester Thompson from Genesis/Phil Collins, Alex Acuna from Weather Report and a very young Abe Laboriel Jr. – now famous from Paul McCartney’s band), Abraham Laboriel Sr on Bass, and Larry Carlton on Guitar! Richard played piano and he encouraged me to express myself by worshipping on synth – which I absolutely loved doing.
We eventually landed down the road at Christian Assembly Church in Eagle Rock, California….affectionately known as “CA”. At the same time, Tommy Walker arrived and so I got to be part of the birth of the CA Worship Band and co-produced a lot of those early records. We’ve been there and involved with Tommy and the worship team for the last 23 years.
TCC: Spectrasonics has been a staple among many professional and amateur keyboardists and producers for some time now. How did Spectrasonics come to be?
EP: The short version of the story is that in 1993 I was still working as Chief Sound Designer for Roland and producing all the sample libraries and patches for them, however they really didn’t know how to market the sample libraries we were creating – that the sounds themselves could be a compelling product on their own, not just an add-on to one of their keyboards.
So although I truly loved working with the Japanese at Roland, they were not really embracing the coming “virtual world” where hardware was going to become less important than it used to be. And remember, this was also the first year of a little thing called the Internet.
I had an idea for a library of Bass samples that would feature my friends, who also happened to be three of the greatest bassist in the world (John Pattitucci, Abraham Laboriel Sr and Marcus Miller). Nothing like this existed at the time. However, I was frustrated because I knew from previous experience that this would not be a good fit for Roland and I didn’t want to approach my friends with the idea if I knew it wasn’t going to work well for them with Roland. As I was complaining about this situation to my wife Lorey, she casually said, “Well…why do we do it ourselves?” …..and thus, Spectrasonics was born.
I never imagined having my own business, or what it would turn into – I just wanted to see my ideas get realized. And so we began a long journey together and find ourselves today as a full-blown software company with an international staff and a customer-base of most of the professional composers and electronic musicians in the world using our products. It’s been an incredible ride!
PS. The long version of the story contains amazing miracles and many incredible examples of God’s Grace towards us, so we definitely cannot take credit!
TCC: What sets the Spectrasonics products apart from other virtual synthesizer plugins?
EP: Well, first I need to make clear that there are many great synths out there for sure and I’m a big fan of many of our competitors work. We don’t believe that you only should use our instruments, but rather that if you haven’t checked out what we do, we think you’d really be missing out!
We do work especially hard at coming up with unique approaches and are especially fortunate to have one of the best creative teams of sound designers, interface designers and software programmers in the industry. The combined experience here at Spectrasonics is really pretty unique in the business. The amount of time we spend on developing an instrument is also much longer than most companies too, because these instruments are so huge. Omnisphere took about 7 years to make. That kind of time is typical of what we do, and we even have a project in the works now that’s been in development for over 12 years. We also throw away tons and tons of material we create, so that what we present only the very best of the best in the final product….it’s a brutal process!
Our goal is always that all of that effort and combined talent comes together to create instruments that are truly extraordinary and will last a lifetime.
TCC: For the keyboardists, what advantages are there in using products such as Omnisphere and Trillan?
EP: Hopefully it’s as simple as this:
They sound great and are expressive, diverse, powerful and easy to use…..Oh and they work really well across a wide variety of platforms too! 🙂
TCC: What are some patches in Omnisphere that you are most proud of? What was the sampling process of those if there was any?
EP: Yiikes! With 8,000 sounds it’s pretty tough to choose and explain all that has gone into it! Check out some of our videos on this topic. (http://www.spectrasonics.net/video/videos.php)
TCC: Did you plan on having such a big impact in the Praise and Worship realm when Spectrasonics was first developed? How has it impacted Spectrasonics?
EP: No, not at all. Our company consists of a broad mix of believers and non-believers and even the majority of my musical work has been in the secular music production area.
However, it’s been kind of cool for me to see it take off so much with you guys, especially since I am myself a worship keyboardist and some of the things I designed into Omnisphere and Omni TR were to specifically solve the live performance/worship team problems I was having.
It’s always a blessing and an honor to see how your work connects with other musicians. The fact that other brothers and sisters connect with the heart and soul that I’ve strived to put into our instruments is really awesome!
Think about this for a second….how cool is this?:
I’m incredibly grateful and fortunate that I get to respond to my Creator by exercising the gift of creativity He’s entrusted to me, to be able to create tools that inspire others to be creative and make music which makes the world a better place – and in the case of you guys is even is directed back towards the Creator….WHOA! Seriously, I think my head just exploded! 🙂 LOL!
TCC: Are there any plans for further development of new software?
EP: Absolutely! We’ve got a TON of great stuff in the works and are really excited to be able to finally share some of what we’ve been working so hard on. It’s going to be an exciting year!