Hennessy Sound Design
Meet Sean Hennessey. He is the owner and operator of Hennessey Sound Design (formerly Badman Sound Custom Speakers). We are going to be taking an in depth look at why he is so passionate about his work, and get a little more insight about his personal view on Sound System Culture.
Let the interview begin
M: Sean, Tell us why you got into building custom loudspeakers?
S: Well I was just starting to get into djing while I was attending Uni at NCSU in Raleigh NC. I noticed the state of local sound systems was quite dismal. Most venues only furnished one or two tired or blown speakers. I knew that no matter what music I wanted to play, without a proper sound system it would be difficult to convey my message through music
M: So how did you plan to rectify the situation?
S: I had always been very “DIY’ minded, and Ive been woodworking and fiddling with electronics since a very young age. I did countless hours of research, and decided that the only way to affordably achieve my low frequency goals would be the construction of horn loaded speakers
M: What was it like your first time constructing an enclosure?
S: The first boxes were built on the kitchen floor in an apartment I shared with three other people. Two of my roommates, Will Stoy, and Elliot Willis pitched in to help. The Boxes were…. pretty ugly in all honesty. We had our first “sound check” right there in the middle of the kitchen in a pile of paint spills and sawdust and it went “better than expected” resulting in us being reported to the management for “sounds of explosions” emanating from behind our doors.
M: Didn’t the ATF show up? Was that scary at all? (laughs)
S: Yes, they showed up with the apartment management team to investigate the following day, We were quick to point out our newly minted subwoofers (while hastily sweeping sawdust and hiding paint spills to boot). They told us not to operate it in our apartment anymore due to the disturbance it caused to tenants and left
M: So what happened after you finished building the first boxes?
S: We used that rig for many events over the coming months, supporting local college radio station, WKNC’s free monthly dance party, amongst other low scale events in the Triangle Area (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel hill). The shape of the boxes was not ideal for packspace I had available at the time (my roommates Nissan), so I was prompted to sell them to a local buyer who had heard them at a local event, and moved on to a different design
M: So after building the new design did you gain more notices from event promoters, nightclub owners, and party goers?
S: So, revision 2 of the sound system stayed active for almost 4 years. Over this time period, I built up the rig to be large enough to cover all but the largest room in the local area (good for events up to 600–700 people). The Rig, and myself as operator was hired for primary sound support for countless touring acts and other local events. We took up sound system residency for popular monthly events DSCVRY at Kings Barcade in Raleigh, and Party Illegal at Pinhook in Durham, both of which featured great out of state headliners and extremely solid crowds.
M: Lets get into the other work you’ve done outside of your own personal rental rig before we start to talk about what Sound System Culture Means to you, sound cool?
S: Oh of course!
M: How many designs have you personally done, because previously you bought plans from Bill Fitz Maurice and built his designs correct?
S: Yes… after about a year and a half of operating revision 2 of the rental sound system, I started to come to grips with its limitations. At this point, I began tirelessly researching the techniques and skills required to produce my own unique designs. After thousands of simulations, I’ve “Finished” about 35 designs, 15 of which I’ve built and tested myself, with the remaining 20 being jobs done on contract for other builders around the globe.
M: I didn’t even realize it was that many…. Time flies when your designing and building boxes huh?
S: I guess you could say that…. (laughs)
M: Alright let’s get into my second favorite part about this conversation. Sound System Culture!!
Sound System Culture
M: How do you feel about Sound System Culture as it stands from your own personal experience?
S: I would say that the cornerstone of the culture has always been about “building”, and I’m not just talking about the speakers.
The time and energy required to produce a complete Sound System scratch, from the design phase, Construction, Tuning, and finally the end result in the dance is an additive process, ultimately resulting in a unique vibe for everyone who gets to witness it.
M: So essentially it’s like making a child and watching it grow up?
S: I guess you could say that… really the most important thing is letting your passion and all the hard work that goes into the process shine through, no matter if it’s a local dj or an international at the head of the rig.
M: So, Speaking of international artists, do you care to list some that have played on your rig for the readers?
There have been so many so I’m just going to touch on some of my favorite memories, otherwise this could go for another thousand words! (laughs)
M: Alright, let’s hear them!
S: I’d have to start with Tunnidge and Distal. The first two artists that played on some of my speakers to really lead me down the path I’ve walked to this point. From there I can’t forget both times Truth played on the rig (Tristan and Dre both played on separate occasions). Hatcha was amazing, played almost double the amount of time he was booked till and he still wanted to keep going till 6am! Youngsta was another great set (some audience members who followed him to DC the night after we had him in Raleigh even had to make it known they thought our rig outdid the install at U Street Music Hall!). Goth Trad was very inspirational, as he’s always been a producer that I’ve looked up to from a technical aspect, and his set was on point! Seven, as it was the first time I had the chance to unveil the “full” Revision 2 rig (6 subs, 4 tops) to the public, and it took place in the last month one of my favorite venues was open (The Berkeley Café in Raleigh NC, formerly managed by Jim Shires). Kaiju was another great experience where we got to flex the full weight of the system in a small room. DJ Shiva, Justin Schumacher. Kode9 and the rest of the members of the Hyperdub 10 year tour was a great show, but unfortunately the police came to turn off the subs as there were reports that the court house was vibrating 3 blocks away!. J kenzo, Eshone, Sleeper and Thelem absolutely smashed up the place for the debut show of the Artikal music tour, and our last show in Raleigh featured two absolutely Bad Men, Kursk and LAS of the Innamind fam, alongside our good friend Inyoka.
After this, we actually sold off the subwoofer components to the Revision 2 system, in preparation for our relocation to Wilmington. I took the money and invested into a new rig, which I of course designed myself. I was very proud to get to debut that in Richmond for Infrasound Crew’s event Progression, Featuring the likes of DJ Madd, AXH, Ill Chill and Inyoka.
M: Fair enough!
I guess lastly, ,I would like to ask where do you see yourself, or I should say, where would you like to see yourself in the next few years regarding Sound System Culture?
S: Well, I’ve just taken on a new partner, a master craftsmen based out of Massachusetts. We are currently working on building and testing many of the designs I have back logged on my hard drive. We are hoping to have our data in order fairly soon so that we can share our years of hard work with the public!
M: alright, I think that about wraps up all my questions, I did want to ask one more before we close. Is there anyone you would like to thank that has been a strong supporter of your work over the years?
S: Actually yes I would!
First and foremost my family. I’d also like to thank Uzoma Nwosu and Michael Schoffner, Jason “Slimjay” Geban, My Girlfriend, Bobby Trinanes, Michael Perros, Roland Massey, Algoriddim Sounds, Ryan Kochany , Thomas Turner, all the Artists who have played for us over the years, and anyone who has had the pleasure to come out and experience the system firsthand! Thanks so much for taking the time to ask some questions!