Interview with bx_oberhausen developer Andreas Schröder
by Brainworx Audio
Explain what a normal working day consists of for you?
There are no normal working days at Brainworx, it's all chaos and magic, from which great plugins are birthed. I'm kidding of course (or am I?) I get in around 10 o'clock, check my emails to see if there were issues with whatever I'm working on in the nightly build, then I mostly work on my current projects, as planned for the week. Once a product hits testing, work becomes a little less plannable due to bugfixing, but most of the time it's somewhat structured because part of the work week is spent on planning and making sure the developers, testers and all other branches sync up nicely. The actual project work then consists of conceptualizing how to implement certain things, actual programming and learning new stuff (it never stops, guys). We have a great codebase that allows us to do many things quite efficiently, so part of the job is also learning how to work within this framework. I was fortunate to work on our first synth for the past 15 months, and quite a bit of the time was also spent just playing the instrument and trying to get crazy sounds out of it...err...I mean "stability testing" :) Besides my work as a developer, I'm also part of the 3rd party dev suport team, where we help partners include our licensing system, create installers for them, make sure we're technologically compatible with new partners and so on. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the great team I'm working with in describing my working day, everybody brings different stuff to the table, everybody is highly motivated, we're all music lovers and the vibe in the dev team, as well as the entire company, is simply amazing. We do a lot of stuff with a comparatively small team, so there can be a high workload at times, but we also have *a LOT* of fun every day. Getting feedback from the greats of the pro audio scence obviously helps.
What have been your favourite projects you've worked on thus far?
I've been at Brainworx for a little over two years now and after cutting my teeth on my own small unreleased rotary speaker physical modeling effect and bx_subfilter, I joined the team working on bx_oberhausen, which I've been doing ever since as my main gig at Brainworx, so that's easily my most favourite project. It's been a huge undertaking, with large parts of the code being completely new stuff that Brainworx has never done before, and I'm proud of having had a major contribution on the product. That was a fantastic learning opportunity and I can't wait for it to be released. What has been the most valuable lessons you have learnt during your time as a developer? Apart from learning new programming techniques and paradigms, speaking in a broader view, it's either "shit happens" or "question everything". Our products are highly complex and living in a complex ecosystem of operating systems, DAWs and plugin formats, so there's no shame in debugging and sometimes things you work with don't behave the way you think they do. I can only quote Doyle's Sherlock Holmes here: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
How do you get in the zone when doing complex coding?
Sometimes I definitely need some alone time with my thoughts, so I'll put on my headphones and listen to soft and not-too-intrusive music to drown out other noises while staring vaguely into the distance. As I get older, my days of programming with a heavy dose of death metal and energy drinks are mostly over (mostly) :)
What made you decide on the audio industry?
I'm a lifelong musician, I've been on stage since I was 7 years old, I worked in a recording studio before I went to university and in the first couple of semesters. It had been clear to me that I wanted to become a software developer already as a kid growing up in the 80s and being raised on the C64. I also started playing keyboards at that time, so having midi and computers around felt natural pretty early on. Ever since VST came out in the 90s I was fascinated by the whole digital recording thing and especially virtual instruments, so I always had that plan of combining music and software development and chose a course of study that gave me a well-founded base for that. It just so happened that I got hired by a medical device manufacturer in my hometown where I spent seven years working on embedded software that didn't have anything to do with music. One night I was sitting at my desk with a glass of wine, having just bought bx_megasingle and watching the video with Dirk and Igor presenting the amp. In one of the shots, it said "Igor Nembrini, software developer" and on a whim I wrote Dirk a message on Facebook saying that I wasn't really currently looking for a job, but I had always been interested in the field and pondered a career move. I really just wanted to get a frame of reference on the skills I would need to brush up on if I really decided to apply for a job in the field. Dirk actually replied a few minutes later, and I guess my initiative left a positive impression, so he gave me Martin's (our managing director) phone number. I hadn't actually planned on doing anything so quickly, but that was in early april and I signed the contract in early September to start working in January. I guess the stars aligned for me from watching this video and just following my intuition, opportunity met preparation and I'm happy as can be to finally work in the field that's closest to my heart.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I guess the above answer alludes to this one, I make a lot of music in my free time. I play guitar, keys, drums (I haven't owned a drumkit for a few years now, unfortunately) and I sing. I've been doing solo and duo gigs for many years at weddings, corporate events and private parties, I was in a large show troupe, singing, acting and dancing for 15 years, I've been a backing vocalist on various heavy metal recordings (Powerwolf, Arjen Lucassen), singing in various metal bands and I've been part of a theater production alongside James LaBrie from Dream Theater, Anneke van Giersbergen, Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine) and others in 2014/15. I've been playing in several cover bands since relocating to Leverkusen and since we're close to Cologne, I've had the opportunity of playing at the opening ceremony of the "Kölner Karneval" in front of over 10.000 people. A good part of my free time is thus occupied by practicing, preparing and listening to music or going to concerts. Besides that, my main hobbies I’d say are probably cooking, reading/listening to audiobooks and photography, with (sadly too little) sports thrown in. Occasionally I’ll play a game on my Xbox but these days I use it more for Netflix and Youtube than anything else.
Do you ever go online to see what others think of your work?
Yes, I do. That's a bit of a loaded question though, as the audio crowd can get pretty harsh at timess so while there's always something to be gained by constructive criticism, it's also necessary to harden one's heart a bit and not go into it with the expectation of pleasing everybody :) We have a closed beta forum, which is a bit of a safer space, but I'm also on Gearslutz and KVR of course. So far, of my work only bx_subfilter has been released, so I'm of course excited to see what the reactions on the synth will be.