Mixing the Sounds of the Industry
Academy alum wins Emmy for work on HBO documentary series Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways
Academy of Art University alumnus Eddie Kim. Courtesy of Eddie Kim.
When Eddie Kim attended Academy of Art University in the ‘90s, he originally envisioned gaining the skills he needed to fulfill his boyhood dream of making a movie that would change the world. But Kim, who worked as a deejay while he was a student, soon found his interest shifting to sound design.
At the time, the Academy didn’t have an audio program. Kim, however, didn’t let that stop him from pursuing his interest in the field. With the help of his instructors in the School of Motion Pictures & Television, he developed his own audio curriculum. “My teachers at the Academy fostered an environment of creativity,” said Kim. “Patrick Kriwanek, especially, was key to my success. He let me focus on audio from the beginning of production, through editing and sound design, for most of my senior project.”
Kim’s decision to change the focus of his education paid off. He has enjoyed success as a sound engineer and designer working on commercials, TV shows and movies ever since he graduated from the Academy.
“I’ve been in this business for a while now, and it’s been a pretty fun ride,” said Kim. “I’ve been lucky to work on an incredible amount of awesome projects.”
Currently a sound designer and re-recording mixer for Therapy Studios in Los Angeles, Kim recently won an Emmy for Outstanding Sound Mixing for the HBO series Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways.
The acclaimed docuseries aired on the eve of the band’s 20th anniversary and was directed by Foo Fighters founder Dave Grohl, formerly the drummer for grunge sensation Nirvana. Sonic Highways follows the band as it travels across the country visiting eight
different cities known for their rich musical heritage: Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Seattle and Washington D.C. In each city, the band spends time with legendary artists from the area and records a song for its latest album (also called Sonic Highways) in a historical studio. On HBO’s website, Grohl refers to Sonic Highways as “a love letter to the history of American music” and a way to “give back” to the next generation of musicians.
Kim, a longtime musician himself who plays the piano and the 808-drum machine, was thrilled to meet and work with the Foo Fighters. “Dave Grohl is a great guy,” he said. “He’s so personable and friendly— definitely a rock star.”
As a sound designer for Sonic Highways, Kim was responsible for re-recording and mixing the original tracks the band recorded in each city. He also supervised other audio engineers working on the project, which took about six months to complete. “There was some challenging environmental stuff happening during the recording sessions that was hard to make clear and intelligible,” he said. “We worked our butts off to get it there.”
(Left to right) Jeff Fuller, Fred Stuben and Eddie Kim, Emmy recipients for Outstanding Sound Mixing for Nonfiction Programming for HBO’s 'Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways.' Courtesy of Eddie Kim.
eing involved with the series for Kim was learning about the music happening in each area the Foo Fighters visited. “Since I’m a musician as well, it was really cool to understand the history behind all the hits I already knew,” he remarked.
In addition to Sonic Highways, Kim has worked on a number of other high-profile projects over the years, including Super Bowl commercials. As a skateboarder, he especially enjoyed supervising the sound needs for the 2001 film Dogtown and Z-Boys, one of his biggest early-career projects. The documentary focused on Tony Alva and other members of the influential Z-boys skateboarding group.
Kim credits the training and support he received from the Academy for helping him launch his career. “L.A. is notorious for being a hard city to break into as far as getting a job,” he explained. “Talent counts for a lot, but it’s also who you know. The Academy helped me land my first internship at one of the most prestigious sound companies in Hollywood. It was tough coming from San Francisco to L.A., but it would have been a lot tougher if I was doing it on my own.”