“You should stop focusing on making people sound better than they really are and do your own thing.”
When Scott Eric Olivier received that advice from Chris Cornell a few years back, he was already a sought-after name in the music world — in his three decades in the industry, he’d already worked with a who’s who of musicians, including Michael Jackson, Van Halen, Gwen Stefani & No Doubt and Goo Goo Dolls. A multifaceted talent, his hundreds of credits include work as a studio musician (drums, bass, guitar, synths, vocals), digital audio technology guru, music engineer, producer, songwriter, mixer and programmer.
But Cornell’s words took on new meaning after the singer’s passing.
“That was a wake-up call for me,” says Olivier. “He and I were friends — at one point, he had a studio in my building, and we worked together for a year and a half. He was always very positive about my music.”
So while Olivier is still a go-to figure for musicians live and in the studio (some recent credits: Aimee Mann, 311, UNA), Olivier’s been working on his own music, which falls under two realms: Selfstarter, a rock-based project (“My engineer Matt Higdon and I work in lock-step… it’s nice not to have to worry about turning knobs”) that will release its debut EP Soaring with the Egos later this year. And D8A5NR (Datasinner), his collaborative electronic project, which will release Misinfornational Anthems in 2020.
“I’ve been a synth programmer since I started as a kid, but I really focused on guitars in the 1990’s until I rediscovered my love for electronic music.” says Olivier. “Working with No Doubt and Michael Jackson rekindled my interest in synthesizers. I always wanted to compose in that realm and work with other electronic artists so with D8A5NR, I inject live drums into the mix — giving DJ and modular synth culture more of a live, unprepared feel through improvisation.”
The bonus for Olivier during this period of musical self-discovery? He gets to use the products he’s designed.
These technical products — and there are a lot of them — have certainly helped innovate the music industry over the last decade. A brief recap: In 2006, Scott designed LaptopRoadie, a secure cloud storage vault designed to combat intense post-9/11 airport and cargo shipping screening (pre-dating Dropbox and iCloud by a year). Laptop Roadie later became an integral part of Skyscraper Holding Company, a tech startup firm Scott founded in 2010 and still owns a majority share of today (Skyscraper purchased LaptopRoadie in 2010). That company works with fiber optics and remote data storage not just for musicians, but for all types of businesses.
More recently, Scott’s been working on PEDALpUNK!, which allows analog devices (like guitar pedals) to interface with computers — released in 2016 to stellar reviews from the likes of Sound On Sound, TapeOp and Mix, the units are now in North America, UK, Europe, Africa, Australia and Japan, and currently being used in the curriculum of the recording department at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood.
His other technical endeavors include PrivatePipes, an encrypted Extranet data transportation service; and enviralNET, a digital, time-based protocol that allows an unlimited array of computers and electronic devices to operate as one large environment. Olivier presented enviralNET at the Audio Engineering Society Convention in 2016 and at Loyola Marymount University in 2017. He used that technology to build a huge touring rack for the band 311 on their most recent tour, which synchronized the concert audio, lighting and video.
As well, he’s designed and produced two blockchain applications with his new startup EncryptoBet, LLC, created a passive analog filter called BowTie, a guitar pedal (UNDERdRIVE!) that attenuates the signal of a guitar, bass or modular synthesizer, and Ohmboy, which beautifully meshes the analog world with the digital — basically, it’s a way to plug a guitar directly into a computer while maintaining the instrument’s natural sound.
You need to act fast to take advantage of Olivier’s technical/musical expertise, however. “All of the electronics I design are handmade, hardwired and produced in extremely limited editions,” says Scott. “That’s part of the allure. So I can’t go big. There’s a tipping point.”
This flurry of activity is nothing new for Olivier, who built his first computer when he was eight, bought his own drum kit just two years later (with chore money) and was already a well-respected drummer and recording engineer in New Orleans while still a teenager.
“When I was young, no one told me not to do my own thing, so I just kept pushing, whether it was building my own studios or becoming a live musician,” Olivier says. “Even today, everything is a constant state of flux. But I love working with others, and I love being able to create what I want to create. I’m always going to try new things.”
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