Chicago, IL—Commercial music company Human has expanded its global footprint with a new office in Chicago headed up by veteran composer and producer Justin Hori. The company, founded in 2001, maintains facilities in New York, Los Angeles and Paris, and focuses on original music and sound design for commercials, movies, television and recording artists.
“We want to straddle the line between serving the music needs of the ad community here and the mixing needs of post,” says Hori. Chicago, the third-largest city in the United States and long a hub for major marketing firms, is also home to corporate giants such as Boeing, McDonald’s, MillerCoors and United Airlines.
Human lowered its initial startup costs by moving into an existing production facility on West Madison Street in Chicago’s West Loop district. “We have an amazing couple of rooms that we’ve inherited from a big session guitar guy, Sandy Torano, who is retiring. He built the studio in 2004,” Hori reports.
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“It’s as big a studio as I’ve ever been in,” he says of the 2,500-square-foot facility, noting that there are plans to subdivide it into smaller work spaces. “The studio has a huge live room, more than we need these days. It was set up to track large ensembles. You could probably get 30 strings in there. The plan is to chop that up and create more of a writing suite for the music and a pared down live room. The main control room is going to be turned into a 5.1 mix suite for post mixing, ADR and voiceover. It’ll be set up for Source-Connect,” Source Elements’ ISDN replacement.
“It’s kind of sad we’re going to take [the studio] away from its original intentions, but we’re maximizing the use of the space. I think a lot of the acoustic treatments will be left intact,” he adds.
As Hori points out, Chicago is a big community: “We thought it would be important to have a presence.”
Human has been going through something of a growth spurt, having previously announced that it added a second 5.1 mix suite at Post Human, the audio post sister company run by sound designer and engineer Sloan Alexander at the company’s facility in Manhattan’s Flatiron District. There are plans to add 5.1 mixing capabilities at the Santa Monica location in California. Also in New York, senior producer Craig Caniglia has added “head of sonic branding” to his title. Caniglia’s clients include National Geographic, Ikea, Visa, GE Appliances and Brighthouse Financial.
Hori grew up in Chicago, learning to DJ at age 13 and working at Gramaphone Records, the city’s venerable DJ-centric vinyl store. After studying music theory and composition at Columbia College, he held positions at com/track and Comma Music before relocating to Comma’s Los Angeles office. He subsequently worked as creative director for five years at music house Squeak E. Clean in Los Angeles before returning to Chicago in 2016.
One of Hori’s most notable creations while in California was “Da Diddy Da” featuring Gigarok for Apple’s four-part summer 2018 iPad campaign. His work has been recognized with numerous industry honors (including D&AD, One Show, Clio and AICP awards), and a 2016 Cannes Gold Lion for Best Use of Original Music for Adidas’ “Your Future Is Not Mine.”
Hori works primarily in Apple Logic Pro and Ableton Live, he says. “I’m a big Universal Audio devotee, so I have the Apollo. I also have a UA 4-710D, four preamps in a rack. I’m a big fan of their stuff.” Those are not his only mic preamps, however. “I have a variety of mic pre’s—a couple of the Brent Averill 1073s, a couple of SSL SuperAnalogue pre’s and an Avalon V5,” he says.
On the processing side, “I have some Warm Audio Pultecs,” the EQP-WA tube equalizer. “They sound amazing. I’m a big fan, especially for the price. It’s a fraction of the price [of a Pultec EQP-1A] and I don’t know if you can tell the difference when you hear it,” says Hori.
Above: Adidas’ “Your Future Is Not Mine”
“I learned very early on that a good front end is really important. I try to get a very good signal path when I’m recording anything. I have a lot of outboard synthesizers, and I find that even running those through nice preamps can really bring them to life.”
Hori not only has a lot of synths but also various other keyboards and rhythm machines. “I have a Dave Smith Prophet 12, a Moog Sub 37 and an Elektron Analog Rytm MkII, my newest toy. On the vintage end I have a Wurlitzer electric piano, the 240. I also just got a Fender Rhodes Mark II Suitcase. And I’ve been bitten by the modular synth bug. I’m trying not to go too far down that rabbit hole, but it’s fun. They open up a whole world of creative potential,” he enthuses.
In the world of commercial music, it’s not unusual for projects to be kept under wraps until the last moment, so Hori is tight-lipped about his recent work. “I’m working on a bunch of stuff right now that’s really cool, but we’ve signed NDAs.” There is one project he can mention, however: “I’m scoring a feature that is just wrapping its shoot. It’s called Big Gold Brick, a dark comedy that stars Andy Garcia, Oscar Isaac and Megan Fox.”