Bill Bressler is an Emmy award-winning audio engineer, composer, sound designer, mixer and producer. In his spare time, he writes and releases music in his quest to become a ‘Prog Rock legend’.
How did you get into the industry?
I was in a band in college called ‘the Untold.’ We were known as ‘modern rock’, which was the name for alternative rock in the early 90s, doing mostly covers and a few originals. All of my bandmates were into U2, The Cure, The Smiths, and Pearl Jam. Keyboard players were not very popular during this period of music history and I was a keyboard player who was into classic Progressive Rock like Genesis, Yes and Rush. It was an odd mix which made for some very creative songwriting sessions… and arguments. My bandmates were seniors and I was a sophomore. The summer after they graduated, the singer and I started writing a lot together. We eventually brought in the other bandmates and decided we would take a year to try and ‘make it.’ This meant me dropping out of college. I give my parents a lot of credit for being so supportive and letting me take the shot. We promptly broke up a year later after essentially getting nowhere beyond the West Village. They went on to grad school and got regular jobs, and I decided I would be in the music industry hook or crook. So I went to the Institute of Audio Research. And that’s where I discovered the joy of Audio Post Production. Btw, zero regrets for taking a chance at stardom.
IAR helped me land a six month internship with a jingle studio called ‘Mega Music.’ My boss was the former lead singer for the Cyrkle, a band that had Brian Epstein as a manager, a hit single that was written by Paul Simon, and opened for the Beatles at Shea Stadium. They purchased Pro Tools (3.0!) while I was there, and I got a lot of hands on work while watching insanely talented composers writing music for ad agency producers right on the spot. It was such a wonderful experience for me. I was eventually hired as an audio engineer, but I knew I wanted to write music as well. Even if it was going to be a jingle for soap or some pharmacy, so be it. So a year later, I landed an entry level position as a composer with Lavskymusic, another music house. I ended up composing the jingle for Duane Reade Pharmacy, called ‘Everything You Need,’ that aired on every major AM and FM radio station in the New York tri-state area almost non stop for nine years. The sad lesson I learned on how to get screwed over on the publishing could be the subject of another interview…
What does your current job entail?
My current job description is ‘Audio Post Production Engineer/Sound Designer/Mixer/Composer, Producer and Prog Rock Legend.’ Aside from from ‘Prog Rock Legend,’ the rest happens to be my reality (although my 20 or so fans may disagree). I’m a ‘Perma-lancer’ with MLB Network, and freelancer with NBC and CBS News promo departments. For MLB, I mostly mix promos for the networks, mix a weekly show that airs during the season called ‘MLB’s Best’, and I’ve mixed a lot of content that has aired on jumbotron screens in major league baseball stadiums across the country, including during the World Series. When I say ‘mix’ it usually also means edit music, create sound design and sometimes record the voice over artist. Occasionally, I work for the international education division of Sesame Street. A music video that I scored with Elmo and Cookie Monster for their Japanese market has over 6 million hits!
A music video that I scored with Elmo and Cookie Monster for their [Sesame Street’s] Japanese market has over 6 million hits!
As for being a Prog Rock legend, I decided to self release an album that was a labor of love for three years. It was like a giant snowball of all my musical influences being thrown at the world. Ironically, it got a fairly frosty reception, as I am without a label and a novice at distribution. Bandcamp has been great, and I think Spotify and Apple Music have utter disrespect for its artists paying less than a penny per stream.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Well, there’s a pre and post coronavirus answer to that question. Before the coronavirus, it consisted mostly of getting the kids to school, followed by a 10-6pm gig with MLB Network at their studios in New Jersey. It wasn’t always a 5 days a week, so to fill in the gaps, I would work in NYC at 30 Rockefeller for NBC, or on 57th St. at the CBS building. Since there’s been no baseball season yet, a large portion of my work has dried up, at least for now. CBS and NBC have both allowed me to work from home, so that’s been a huge help. I also discovered that I’m an ok distance learning teacher.
What do you think are the most interesting developments in your area of the industry?
I find the fact that almost anything that you can do in a professional studio can now be done from home is a really interesting development. And the coronavirus just solidified the usefulness of it. I used to work on this monster of an audio production machine called a Synclavier. My boss spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on it, and even posed for the cover of Mix Magazine leaning against its enormous towers. One day, I realized that the sequencer and cheap Akai sampler in my home studio had the same processing power as this uber expensive beast. There’s no going back from that. And there’s been a tidal wave of people setting up a home rig, but the bottom line is, you still need talent.
I find the fact that almost anything that you can do in a professional studio can now be done from home is a really interesting development.
What’s been the most unexpected thing about the job?
Finding out how regular (almost) everybody is once the curtain is pulled back. I’ve worked with celebrities, producers and creatives of all types and at the end of the day, most of us have families that we go back home to, or at least have personalities that we can get along with. I consider it a privilege doing what I do, and I sometimes feel guilty that I’m paid to play with these awesome toys and work with friends.
What’s the coolest project you’ve ever done?
I just finished composing music for a video game. This is the first one I’ve ever done. The client was so cool to work with not just because he was a friend, but because I was given a lot of creative freedom with his team to compose taking large inspiration from the gorgeous landscapes that are a big part of the gameplay. It was also the first time I got to use the larger than life, cinematic ‘BWAAAAAAHHHHHHH’ in my music, LOL. The release date is August 2020.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
My Dad always used to say, ‘Ya gotta wanna.’ He even had that phrase framed and hung on the wall of his office. It’s true. If you don’t ‘wanna,’ it’s not gonna happen for you. And if you do ‘wanna,’ you’ll figure out the best way forward.
My Dad always used to say, ‘Ya gotta wanna.’ It’s true. If you don’t ‘wanna,’ it’s not gonna happen for you.
What’s on your playlist at the moment?
I don’t exactly do playlists, but I’ve come to embrace my childhood musical tastes by listening to a lot of Yacht Rock radio on SiriusXM. Chuck Mangione’s ‘Feels So Good’ came on and I love it just as much as I did when I was 8 years old. I’ve also discovered new(er) Prog Rock bands like Wobbler, Big Big Train, the IZZ, Frost* and White Willow which have carried the Prog torch so to speak, exactly what I’m trying to do with my music.
What’s getting you through lockdown?
Having a beautiful wife that’s really supportive of what I do, along with a home studio where I can still go and play and create has been very cathartic for me. Also Netflix, Prime Video and YoutubeTV.
Do you have any predictions or hopes for the future of the industry?
My prediction is that more production is going to be taking place from the home. My hope is that I keep getting hired, and can still find time to produce my second album.