Audio Profile: Elise Kates

The blog is finally back! And we are so excited to kick it off with an interview of talented local engineer Elise Kates.

SSG: Hi, Elise! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Can you tell us a little bit about your work?

EK: I'm a Freelance Audio Engineer/Sound Designer, which I've transitioned to doing about 95% full time as of March. I have a very-part-time job to keep my landlord happy, but for the most part, I connect with folks all over the place and work on a per-contract basis for them. Lately, I've been working on doing sound effects for indie video games, and putting together sound on a commercial campaign for a company out of Norway--the first of which should start airing next week! I'm lucky enough to have a good set up at home and aside from doing field recordings to gather sounds out in the world, I can do most of my sound designing right here!

SSG: How did you get your start in Audio?

EK: I honestly didn't even know that Audio Engineering was an option as a career path until a recruiter for the Art Institutes came to my high school senior year and mentioned they had an Audio Production Program at some of their branches. I was always obsessed with listening to music and playing guitar, but knew that I didn't necessarily want to be a professional musician. I realized that this way, I could be a part of that process, capturing that magic, while learning the technical side of things as well. Only a few branches had that program, so I picked Seattle, and immediately fell in love with the program and the city. I graduated in 2007, and freelanced on the side for several years after that, recording and mixing local bands' music. I loved doing it, but I simply wasn't busy enough to support myself, and was honestly getting a bit burnt out. I knew fellow audio friends who focused more on sound design, and bit by bit started changing my focus. As I started getting more involved in awesome projects, I realized how much I loved my new path, and here we are!

SSG: What’s the best part of your job?

EK: Sound Design has totally changed the way I look at the world--I'm a very active listener now, and every time I make note of an interesting sound I hear through my day I wonder what I could use it for, or how I could alter it to sound even cooler. It totally makes me use my imagination! When a client comes to me and says they want a "purple zap," I have to pick my brain and wonder what that would sound like, and gather up bits and pieces of what I hear to make what's in my imagination into a sound! Not to mention, my work feels like playing did when I was a kid. I get to dig through the dirt to make footsteps, I've squashed tomatoes to help make gross flesh noises, I've gone to farms to record cows--it's part of my job!

SSG: What’s the hardest part of your job?

EK: Finding more work! As a freelancer, I'm my own boss, which is awesome. But that also means that I have constantly be looking for gigs in order to keep working, and not knowing when your next paycheck is going to be can be pretty stressful. I am constantly looking to meet new people and find new projects, because even as I'm working on a gig, I need to do my best to plan ahead.

SSG: What advice would you give girls looking to get into the industry?

EK: 1.) Keep an open mind! There are so many facets to Audio--try as many of them as you can, and don't dismiss the fact that you might be really passionate about ones you didn't expect. A majority of the people I know in the industry started down one path in audio and ended up on a completely different one--like live sound, sound for film, production, or in my case, sound design! 

2.) Be confident, and believe in yourself! On one side of the coin, you should always be open to constructive criticism, and always be ready and willing to learn new things and new methods. But if you know you're good at something, and it's your passion, don't let people bring you down. Own your skills, keep honing them, and let your passion drive you. That will shine through more than anything else!

3.) Make friends! You can have a degree, fancy equipment, and know how to do run a recording session with your eyes closed, but the bottom line is that people will want to work with someone they like and trust. Use that confidence of yours to start the conversation and make new connections. Because once you build a relationship with one client, they'll tell their friends, and your network will grow. 

SSG: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

EK: The first thing I really wanted to be was an archaeologist. I was really into Ancient Egypt and Greece, and I loved the idea of finding buried cities and hidden tombs. In middle school and high school I had wanted to be a writer, but as to what kind I was never really sure. Suddenly, I discovered Audio, and it felt like the right fit.

You can listen to Elise's work at her website:


 Elise Kates, Freelance Audio Engineer, Seattle WA

Elise Kates, Freelance Audio Engineer, Seattle WA