David Lawrie

Course Studied: MA/BA (Hons) Music (Production)

Year of Graduation: 2006/2009

 Top Career Highlights:

  • Won award for Best Sound Design at the Nice International Filmmaker Festival 2016 for work on Of Shark And Man
  • Worked with CocoRosie on their soundtrack for Robert Wilson’s EDDA
  • Had pieces from his solo album Dorothea’s Boat used in TV and Film around the world


David studied both BA and MA at Leeds Conservatoire, and with a passion for storytelling in his music, has developed a creative career as a producer and sound designer. He has worked around the world, in the studio, in theatre and film.

What was your earliest musical experience?

My first musical experience, other than playing pots and pans as a toddler, and recorder in my first years at primary school, was hearing a performance of Für Elise and subsequently being bought a piano at the age of seven for the sole purpose of learning that piece. I would say, however, that my first truly significant experience was at the age of nine when my father got hold of an advance copy of Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell from a friend of a friend at EMI. We sat down together to listen, and it was the first time I had properly heard a “concept” album. This album has undoubtedly shaped the way I think about music, and is one album to which I constantly refer. “High Hopes” remains as my favourite piece of music.

How were you then motivated to pursue a career in music?

I was very fortunate in that I had parents and teachers who pushed me to improve and stick with it. When I started to study music technology at sixteen I realised that, actually, I was quite good at it, so I spent all of my spare money on equipment and all of my spare time writing and experimenting. From there it was a very natural progression.

Who’s your greatest inspiration?

That is a very difficult question. I don’t think there is any one “greatest” inspiration, but many inspirations whose influences are apparent at different moments in time.

What was your favourite thing about living, studying and being a musician in Leeds?

Leeds is great. There is always something going on with which to get involved, and the centre is not so big that distance becomes a problem for getting involved. The college was very well equipped, both with musical equipment and musical minds, so my time there was a period of rapid musical growth.

How would you describe your challenges and joys of that time?

Being a student is hard. Money is tight, there are pressures to be out all night and it is most people’s first experience of independence. It would have been very easy to fall into the trap of making university a three-year-long night out with the premise of “study”. Fortunately it wasn’t too difficult for me to bypass the nights out and I was really hard on myself and made sure I worked on music as much as possible (i.e. all the time).

What would be your dream collaboration?

There are four that spring to mind – each for very different reasons; David Gilmour, Björk, Nico Muhly and Mike Einziger. Or all four of them, and me, at once! That would be good.

So considering all this inspiration and study, how has your career developed since leaving Leeds Conservatoire?

Since leaving Leeds Conservatoire I have found myself in England, New York and California, working as a composer and producer for and with many artists. I now call California home, and I run Ishikawa Media from my studio here. Transatlantic networking has opened up many opportunities to have music placed in various projects, and most of the work I produce enjoys international airplay. I have also found myself attracting film directors through my sound design work. I created the sound design, composed the opening theme, and did the overall mix for David Diley’s Of Shark And Man, which won a lot of awards around the world (including one for Best Sound Design at the Nice International Filmmaker Festival). I have also had the pleasure of hearing my own solo music being used in television shows and films around the world.

How has your study and musical development at Leeds Conservatoire aided your career?

I spent a lot of time working out my own ways of approaching music production at Leeds Conservatoire, during the creative time that was afforded to me during my BA and MA. Since leaving the College I have been able to develop these approaches in all of the projects on which I have worked. I’d like to think that I now have a unique style, and it is this style that is attracting new clients and collaborators to me.

What has been your greatest achievement?

Whilst I have always had a steady forward-motion with my career, I think it shifted into the next gear when I received the award for Best Sound Design at the Nice International Filmmaker Festival, for my work on Of Shark And Man. Since then my workload has increased tenfold, and I have found myself working in the studio with artists like CocoRosie, and I have even started a project with ex-pro snowboarder Tina Basich, which has, in turn, attracted clients like GoPro. My transatlantic collaborations are also increasing in frequency. The pressure is definitely increasing, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And finally, where would you like to be in five years, apart from performing with David Gilmour...?

I hope to see Ishikawa Media continue to grow, along with my solo career. My brain keeps threatening another solo album…

Read more about David's work, and listen to his music...

(All photo credits to eYe SeE yA Photography)

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