Gear Talks: Sam Haft

Subscribe to Mixdown Magazine


Gear Talks: Sam Haft

Sam Haft feature
Words by Lewis Noke Edwards

Sam Haft can really do it all.

Outside of his band “The Living Tombstone”, Sam Haft has taken the time to work on solo music under his own name, his new Bad Times EP joins his growing resume of music, as well as providing voices for animations such as Trollstopia, Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh!.

Read up on all the latest features and columns here.

Ahead of the release, we had a chat to Sam about how he manages it all, something that a lot of creatives (not Sam obviously) struggle with!

Sam – you’re a multifaceted creator. How do you define yourself?

I do a lot! I’m a writer, a songwriter, a director, a performer, a producer, a voiceover artist, an activist, so on… I have come to thinking of myself as a songwriter primarily. And a dad.

Where did your journey with sound, voiceovers and animation start?

In high school I first wanted to be an animator! I wasn’t very good at it, but the first voiceover (VO) work I did was for myself, and that grew from there. Then I joined a sketch comedy group in Brooklyn, which got me an agent with whom I started booking voiceover work like mad, which contributed to dropping out of university (three times).

With my friend Bill from that sketch group, I started doing comedy music – which got me writing songs – and then I eventually met my partner in The Living Tombstone through a party for a friend of mine in the voiceover world!

What is the split between working and recording at home and working in professional studios? Does it vary per project? E.g. studio for voiceovers, home for writing etc.?

Well, I’m lucky in that I’m a little paranoid – the week that California announced its impending 2020 lockdowns, I ordered a WhisperRoom booth for the office Yoav Landau and I share for The Living Tombstone. Until then I would always go in-studio to record VO and music, but this gave me the ability to work remotely at a time before people understood that remote work was going to be a new status quo.

In 2021 I also got a StudioBricks booth for my house! Nowadays I’m still recording 90% of my stuff in one of those two booths.

Your new EP Bad Times is coming out soon – how did that come about? Does it feel like an intentional detour from The Living Tombstone for you? Or is it just more songs that didn’t fit The Living Tombstone?

The first thing to know about The Living Tombstone is that my music partner Yoav Landau, who founded the act, is a certified genius. The guy can produce and compose on a DAW with the speed that you see professional ESports players play video games. His production style also really defines what makes a song a “Living Tombstone song.”

I wanted to hone my own work as a producer, but in order to do that, I had to figure out, musically, who I really am on my own! Bad Times was in many ways the result of a bit of a musical identity crisis.

The Living Tombstone

How involved are you in the writing and production process of your music? Is it all you or are you bringing ideas to others for input etc.?

On Bad Times I wrote it all and produced some very polished demos, but then brought them to a second producer, Will Hensley, who I think really elevated them and added some very cool production ideas.

After that, I brought the record in-house to Ghost Pixel Records, the label we run as The Living Tombstone, where Yoav did some really stunning production work on the first two songs, “Rooftop” and “Grow Up”.

How does a Sam Haft song start?

Usually it starts with a voice note! From there, I will try to flesh it out on guitar most of the time, but occasionally it’ll be piano or even a Suzuki Omnichord. After that, I’ll build it into Logic Pro X!

Is there one piece of equipment that defined the sonics of Bad Times?

Bad Times is built off of two main themes sonically and compositionally. Sonically, all five of the songs make use of distorted and twisted octave doubles using the (beloved!) [Sound Toys] plug-in Little Alter Boy.

Compositionally, I do a lot of modulating major chords to minor chords – most often as a minor 4 chord. I recorded vocals for all five songs on a classic DIY music mic, the Shure SM7B with a CL1 Cloudlifter. I also used some Omnichord sounds in all five tracks. 

Are there plans to play this live? If so, can you speak to how you’ll perform it? A band or backing tracks etc.?

Initially there wasn’t, but I’m doing a private event for the launch of the EP in which I’m adapting them for a five-piece band, which has been exciting! It’s so cool to have these very different new arrangements for these songs I’m so familiar with in their studio versions.

What can we expect from you in the future? More of the same as you grow or is there another creative avenue entirely we’ll see you pursuing?

Bad Times is the first – and smaller – volume of a two part project for me. Bad Times is very specific and focused on the micro, about what it feels like to be at the end of a relationship. My next album, a full LP, will be titled End Times, and it’s about what it feels like to be at the end of everything, as the world so often feels lately. It’s a bit of an apocalyptic concept album, and the way in which grand society-wide endings can mirror the sort of personal endings that I wrote about in Bad Times.

Beyond my work as a solo recording artist, The Living Tombstone has our next album, Rust, which I couldn’t be more thrilled about, and of course there’s my work for A24’s musical cartoon Hazbin Hotel created by Vivienne Medrano, which I co-wrote all the songs for – and I’m incredibly proud of those. I’m very fortunate to be a pretty busy dude!

Keep up with Sam’s work here.