David Reviews

 Biting the hand that feeds us since 2002.

BEN LEEVES IS WELCOMED TO JUNGLE.

Sound designer Ben Leeves is starting an exciting new phase of his career after a move to Jungle Studios, and DAVID caught up with him recently to find out more about him, his career and his hopes for the future.

Ben Leeves is a name we've typed so often when adding credits to excellent pieces of work that we were well aware he's one of the most highly-rated sound designers in London. What we didn't know is that he's also one of advertising's nice guys... a gentle, unassuming fellow with an unquenchable enthusiasm for his craft.

Over a cup of tea in Soho,Leeves recalls how his career in sound began at Saunders & Gordon where the dynamism and busyness was an eye-opening experience for him at the age of just eighteen: "They had five studios and they were completely packed, back-to-back... you bumped into Tony Kaye, you bumped into Jeff Stark, it was that kind of place."

There was no expectations at that time that new recruits would be university graduates and Leeves reports that he received a lot of support and encouragement: "They were very good at bringing people through... I started on talking books, which was a great way to start recording voice. Then I went on to mixing when I was still only nineteen."


Although this sounds like a rapid ascent, Leeves remembers a difficult apprenticeship: "When I first went to the studio, I found it really tough... for six months, it was like taking a driving test every day. It was really, really stressful. Those first six months were hell. I remember my mum putting me to bed on Friday nights, saying, 'Don't get up until Sunday' because I just looked completely destroyed."


When I first went to the studio, I found it really tough... for six months, it was like taking a driving test every day.

 ”

The hellishness was down to a very demanding schedule and the unforgiving nature of 'analogue'. "You had to plan a lot more carefully... if you started down the wrong route in analogue, it's fairly undoable. If, two hours down the line you realised you'd set out wrong, you had to go back and start from scratch." And most of the time, the two extra hours weren't really available.


Unsurprisingly, Leeves regards the technological changes that have unfolded around him during his career as: "incredible." There are a myriad of advantages delivered by the incredible digital tools which are cheaply available.

For instance, thanks to the accessibility and affordability of some excellent software, a lot of young sound designers are able to experiment at home.


It's a lovely way to work but most of the stuff that comes to us is already locked down as an an edit.

 ”

But this phenomenal availability can result in different types of error slipping through the net. Leeves describes how an unlicensed version of a track downloaded from the internet may occasionally be accidentally added by an editor or someone else involved in the project, and how it's possible for this to remain unnoticed until it's perilously close to creating a major legal problem. Sound designers have had to add 'vigilance' to their skill set to avoid this kind of calamity.


Another massive change over the course of Ben Leeves's career has been the way sound design has come to be seen as a necessary component of the filmmaking process. This wasn't always the case and Leeves has witnessed the growing recognition of its importance from a time when sound design - or, track lining, as it was called in those days - was considered a luxury.

Leeves says the concept of sound design as we know it today came about because of the way music was integrated into commercials. He's fascinated by the way the lines between music and other elements of the sound are often blurred, describing how the resulting ambiguity is something he listens for keenly when viewing new work.


Thanks to the accessibility and affordability of some excellent software, a lot of young sound designers are able to experiment at home.

 ”

Though not a musician himself, Leeves has a fan's appreciation of it and is in awe of those who can compose it. Once again displaying genuine modesty, he says that learning how to work with music is something that took him "a long time to get," adding that, "editing music is a real art... it always has been and always will be. It's something you need to learn as you go along."


Projects usually reach him once almost everyone else has done their bit but there are the occasional bigger budget jobs where he is fully collaborating with the director and the editor. This can be especially useful in the realm of comedy where timing is everything, and being able to make suggestions before final decisions have been made about the edit can prove enormously valuable.

He ruefully adds that, "it's a lovely way to work but most of the stuff that comes to us is already locked down as an an edit."

Attention to detail is evident when Leeves is asked about the difference between listening to the sound he's designed in a studio equipped with state-of-the-art speakers, and using the more modest equipment likely to be owned by the public.

He says it's part of the job to be aware of this contrast and, to that end, he always fully investigates it. By loading the audio on to all kinds of devices, he's able to make sure it sounds as good as it possibly can on each.


Leeves is still fascinated by his realm and - with a slightly embarrassed shrug - he confesses that he loves watching new ads and trying to figure out how they did the sound. Although he's regularly involved with short films and, always encourages aspiring sound designers to do the same, his first love is unquestionably commercials.


They have a lot of strings to their bow. They do other things that people probably don't realise.

 ”

Leeves is very excited about plying his trade at Jungle. He identities their positivity and the broad range of projects they're involved with as key factors in his decision to join: "They have a lot of strings to their bow. They do other things that people probably don't realise. I'd love to be involved in that, and then also to bring some more advertising sound, and more advertising ideas to them."

Time spent with Ben Leeves offers a flavour of the calm, knowledgeable presence he provides and it's easy to understand why his clients keep coming back. And there's no doubt we're going to be attaching his name to a lot of interesting projects in the future.

Ben Leeves can already be found at Jungle as he started a couple of weeks ago. For more on him or any of the panoply of services offered by the company, contact Athene Parker on 020 7734 2000 or via email at athene@junglestudios.co.uk.

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David Reviews - Lovely Lenzie Ltd, Woodbourne House, Seven Sisters, Lenzie, G66 3AW. Telephone: +44 141 776 7766. Editor: Jason Stone.