In the time since he walked the halls of the University of Vermont as a mechanical engineering student, Ben Pacheco has become even farther removed from the career path he once envisioned for himself. Bypassing engineering for a stint in Berklee’s music synth department, his love of sound led him to develop a passion for making music for commercial use.
Starting out in the dub room for a large music house, Pacheco’s navigation through the production world came with the realization that the workflow fit well with his own aesthetics. He quickly transitioned into a more creative role of writing original music for ads. “The thing that is really appealing to me is that every day is a new challenge,” states Pacheco. “You’re always faced with new ideas.”
Despite establishing himself as a force in his new position of writing music, there was a sense of yearning on Pacheco's part to strike out on his own. Opting out of his stable full-time job, Pacheco and his friends decided to start their own business, Future Perfect Music, in 2008. Thanks to prior connections and “a lot of work that [didn’t] involve making music,” the newborn business quickly found its footing as Future Perfect began securing massive clients like Wal-Mart, Calvin Klein, Nike and Coke.
In our latest Make Your Mark, Ben Pacheco goes into more detail about his career and what it's like to work in the advertising world with his team at Future Perfect Music. Continue reading on after the video to discover how Ben uses his studio set-up to help him create fresh music daily and what it takes to succeed in this industry.
What was the feeling you felt when you landed that first advertising spot?
It was insanely exciting to win that job, but immediately after, you lose, lose, lose all these jobs. Then you win another. Getting to the point where you consistently win other jobs is another step in the learning process.
When you sit down with a project and you’re ready to sift through it, what’s the thought process?
There are a couple different phases of a new project. Usually we get the materials for the project before we go on the conference call and we collectively go over what they sent us. Sometimes when we do that we might be totally wrong based on what they sent us or we can go through and see, “It’s an emotional story that sort of grows towards the end.”
We might go through and try to reference other pieces we’ve done, in case they might have seen our reel. So instead of referencing a band or some other idea, they can reference things we’ve done to get the ball rolling. After the call, we have another whole round of going through and trying to figure out what is right. Sometimes you sit down with a guitar or piano, start writing and hope it comes out right.
What’s the foundation of which you write? Do you have rules?
Sometimes I give myself rules as a way to challenge myself. I think people have their tricks that they will fall into, but sometimes I might make a rule to only use sounds I’ve never used before. Go super deep into the sample library and use things that are new to me. Maybe I’ll say, “I’m only going to use 12 tracks on this piece that I’m writing.” That "I’m definitely going to use my MiniMoog or my Easel" or "I’m not going to play guitar or piano."
What has informed the way you set up your studio space?
I have a minor obsession with vintage equipment, but at the same time, I want things to work really well. While I might have a bunch of vintage synthesizers and guitars, I feel like most of my recording equipment is new. Of all the things that I want to work, and have to work all the time, I do not want to be dealing with problems with my preamp and computer.
What about vintage and new gear suits your way of recording?
For vintage gear, there is something about the old stuff that is really cool to me, especially synthesizers and guitars. Something about how they were made or, for guitars, the way they feel. In terms of modern recording equipment, it’s cleaner, easy to use and one thing extra you don’t have to maintain. I think if everything was vintage, it would be difficult for my production to sound current and modern because it would be clouded in everything vintage. I think for what I do, you need to have a little bit of everything.
What’s a great gig?
I think there are all kinds of great gigs. A great gig might be one that is really fluid, everyone is on the same page. We get on the call, it’s really easy and everyone is getting along and vibing on the same information. We write the music, they pick a track, no revisions, done and done.
Another great gig is where you write a piece of music and it goes final and you kind of forget about it. Then you’re watching TV and you go, “Oh man, I wrote that,” and you’re like “That’s cool.” I write so much music that I often forget what I write, which is not the best compliment to myself, but when I go back I often surprise myself.
What does it take to succeed in this industry?
To succeed at writing this kind of music, you have to have a lot of patience, perseverance and a competitive nature to always be learning and seeking out different types of music. Also, know how to push through the moments when you feel like you’re not doing a good job or you don’t know what you’re doing. Sometimes you can find yourself stuck and butting your head against the wall and you just need to stop. You need to go mess around, play with instruments or just go to lunch, start over the next day and get excited about music again.
Check out some of Ben Pachecho's latest work below, including advertisements for UCLA, Netflix and Royal Enfield.