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Behind the Scenes at Point Blank: Hart Thorson (Course Advisor)

At Point Blank, it isn’t just our expert instructors who are active in the music industry. Point Blank Course Advisor Hart Thorson has been DJing for 15 years and producing for 8, supporting a number of top DJs including Chris Liebing and Dieselboy. Joining Point Blank in 2015, Hart ensures that all of our prospective students get a well-rounded view of what Point Blank has to offer, helping to guide them through our admissions process, selecting which course is right for them in relation to what they want to gain out of our acclaimed tutelage. If you’re interested in studying with us at our London, Los Angeles, Ibiza or Mumbai institutions, check out the course pages on our website. With the assistance of staff like Hart,  we can help feed your passion for music.

What is your role at Point Blank?

I am the United States based course advisor for Point Blank.  I assist all of our prospective students who are looking to enroll at Point Blank Los Angeles, Point Blank Online, and work directly with those looking to make the trip to the London college.

What do you like about working at Point Blank?

I love working at Point Blank because it gives me the opportunity to live simultaneously in the music production/technology world but also in the education world.  It’s a treat being able to talk about music production and Djing every day while getting to help our instructors shape the minds of young musicians.

As a course advisor, I get the chance to speak to people who are just starting their journey with making and playing music day in and day out.  This keeps me young and invigorated because it reminds me of when I was just starting out.  At that time I wanted to learn everything I could about Djing and how to create dance music.  I know for a fact that if I were just starting now I would be one of these people watching our tutorials and looking into taking classes.

Do you have a background in music? What did you grow up listening to?

My background in music was singing and playing the saxophone.  Like a lot of kids, I played the saxophone when I was in middle school but found out that I enjoyed singing and performing.  Throughout high school, I was in various choirs and singing groups.

The music I grew up on was a range of punk rock, hardcore, and metal.  Some of my favorite artists were Bad Religion, NoFX, The Misfits, and many more.  I always enjoyed faster, aggressive music and still do to this day.

What first piqued your interest in DJing/Production?

There were two distinct times that I fell in love with electronic music.  The first was when I saw the movie Hackers and heard groups like Prodigy, Underworld, and Orbital for the first time.  I’d still say that one of my all-time most influential albums was Prodigy’s Fat of the Land.

After some time of exploring other genres of music and moving slightly away from electronica, it wasn’t until my senior year in high school until I discovered dance music.  I remember one of my buddies in my hometown playing Tiesto’s “Suburban Train” on vinyl and that was one of the moments where everything stood still and I realized that the rest of my life would revolve around this music.  Over the years my tastes in electronic music have changed but I will always have a soft spot for some good trance music.

Do you have any favourite studio tools/equipment/plugins?

As of right now, I’m slowly building up my hardware collection and until that gets a little further I’d have to say that my favorite tool would be Ableton Live.  Without Live I wouldn’t be able to construct the music that I’m making.  It is the most integral part of the setup for me.  I do really love the Soundtoys plugins and use them on every project.  I also really enjoy using my Boss RE-20 Space Echo pedal that is modeled after the iconic Roland RE-201 Space Echo.

How do you balance working full time and DJing/producing?

Thankfully working at a music production school allows me to constantly talk about and think about music production and performing.  Here, I’m able to talk about new ideas, gear, and more with not only my colleagues but our students as well.  Outside of work I typically carve out specific time for working on music either in the evenings or weekends.  I’ve found that if I schedule a specific time to work on music I tend to be more productive as opposed to just turning stuff on and meandering about.

What have been the highlights of your DJ and production career so far?

As for DJing, I’ve had the chance to open for a lot of DJs that at one time I would consider “heroes”.  Those are always fun gigs as you get the responsibility of setting things up for someone you look up to.  I’d have to say some of my favorite parties were the ones with local DJs who know how to throw down.  Having come up in a great scene in Minneapolis, MN I was able to watch and play alongside some special DJs/artists and some of those gigs will go down as my favorites.

With regards to producing I’d say that so far I’m most excited about the release I just had this summer on the mighty Lucidflow records.  They have been a leading name in the dub techno and techno scene for as long as I can remember.  Getting to work with Nadja Lind and the Lucidflow crew was an honor and has already lead to various projects for the future.

Who are your musical icons/influences?

This, of course, is not an easy question to answer.  Since I’ve been Djing for over 15 years now I’ve had many influences over the years.  As I mentioned previously, Tiesto is who originally turned me on to dance music.  Since then I’ve been a fan of Marco V, Chris Liebing, Steve Lawler, and so many more to mention.

What new music do you like? Who are you listening to right now?

When it comes to dance music I’ve been consuming as much dub techno, deep house, minimal, and house music that fits my Intent mix series’ aesthetic.  Some artists I’ve been listening to non-stop is the dub techno giant Kenneth Christiansen and his labels Echocord and Echocord Colour, Idealist, Voltmar and the Minimood label, the team behind the labels at Berg Audio and Sushitech records, as well as house artists like Molly, Cinthie, Dana Ruh, and Janeret.

How did you get into the music industry?

I originally stepped into the music industry by moving to the nearest city to where I grew up.  Having grown up in a small town in northern Minnesota in the United States not too many people had heard of or were even fans of electronic dance music.  In 2002 after graduating high school I moved to Minneapolis where I dedicated pretty much all my time to learning how to DJ, networking, and setting up a foundation within the scene.  I worked on the bar staff at a concert venue/nightclub, worked at a record store, went to a music college, started throwing shows, and made a ridiculous amount of hand stamped mix CDs.  From there, things just kept building and building until I was able to work with the premier booking/promotion group in the city and after a run of a few different weekly club nights I was off to the races!

What advice would you give to up and coming producers/DJs

Nowadays there is so much content and an endless amount of resources for aspiring DJs and producers.  While this is a great thing and something I wish I had when I was coming up I realize it can often be quite daunting as well.  The two things that I always tell our prospective students or those who are just getting into making and playing music are:

  1. Don’t get bogged down in having to achieve everything right away.  Just follow the passion you have and don’t worry about the little details in the beginning.  There isn’t any rush to get a release out or start playing gigs.  It’s better to take things step by step rather than try to attempt to climb the mountain in a day.
  2. As one of my good friends  told me, “The medium isn’t the message.”  What this means is that it doesn’t matter what you are using to create your music or to mix tracks with.  As long as you are able to convey your message through your music or get a dance floor shaking it doesn’t matter what equipment you use.  While I recommend learning how to beat match by ear with vinyl, to learn how to make music with hardware gear, and so on, at the end of the day it just doesn’t matter what you use.  Do not get caught up in anyone telling you what your set up should be.  Over time you will find the gear that allows you to express yourself and the key is to always be open to learning.

What has been your most embarrassing DJ experience?

I can say from experience, always always always have a back up of a backup of a backup of your music when going to a gig.  If your MIDI controller doesn’t work for your Traktor or Serato set up then have a flash drive (or two) to plug in to a CDJ.  If the turntables at a club don’t have needles make sure to have some with you.  If the CDJs aren’t linking properly at the gig have multiple flash drives with the same folders on them.  I’d rather not go into the gory details but it is a lesson that I learned early on and you don’t want to be the person who can’t play a gig that they were booked for due to something not going right!

Are you working on any upcoming projects?

Over the past year or so I’ve been working a lot on a new sound.  Expect a string of releases over the coming months that is inline with this new direction.  Until then make sure to pick up my latest EP here.

You can find the rest of Hart’s original music and mixes on his Beatport page.

If you’d like to learn music business, music production, composition, mixing, mastering and more, our BA (Hons) Music Production & Sound Engineering Degree is one of the most comprehensive music courses available. We also offer an online alternative, in the form of our new online BA (Hons) Music Production & Sound Engineering Degree. We are currently offering a 25% discount plus a free copy of Logic Pro X/Ableton Suite with online courses until September 30th. For more information, contact our course advisors on +44 20 7729 4884. If you are a resident of the USA, you can reach us on 323 282 7660.

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