Decode: Why silence isn’t the enemy for podcasters

The team behind the Spotify exclusive podcast dissect their approach to sound design, research and more

One of the most wonderful things about music is the ability it has to transport us to another time, another place or another mood. In addition to skillful composition of lyrics and melody, part of the way it does this is through sound design - and this is a trick that podcasters can also learn from. This principle is illustrated wonderfully by Spotify exclusive podcast Decode, which not only breaks down seminal UK hip hop albums track by track, but also weaves these explorations into a rich and immersive soundscape. 

This week, we’ll be hearing from the team behind Decode - including poet and presenter Kayo Chingonyi, composer Axel Kacoutié and managing director at Reduced Listening Joby Waldman - as part of a session from Podcast Day 24, produced in collaboration with the British Podcast Awards and RadioDays Europe, where they explain their approach to research, how they incorporate foley effects, and the role of fair usage rights in their creative process.

Key takeaways

Silence is not your biggest enemy  

“In radio, in audio production, silence is almost like the enemy. If there's dead air, it's a problem. I feel like what we do in a combination between myself, Axel, and Rapsz Katai, who made the original music, is that we use those spaces,” says Chingonyi. “...I feel like when designing your sound world, thinking about silence as a unit of sonic currency as opposed to the enemy is a really powerful thing in terms of delivery,” Kayo says. 

Let the narrator tell the story in a unique way

“Cole Cuchna, who invented Dissect, is very well informed and has huge knowledge and passion for hip hop but brings quite a sort of an academic approach,” says Waldman. “And we thought what would bring to the podcast is having a host who has a more personal engagement with music. So we were really, really fortunate to find Kayo who as well as being a massive hip-hop nerd and an academic, is also a published poet.”

Find the right team dynamic

“There's a very intuitive understanding, shall I say, of what I can do and bring to life,” says Kacoutié. “It’s also because Kayo’s words are so evocative in a way that

it just harmonises with my own sensibilities of how I see the world or like to move in the world, that there’s a lot of stuff that is left unsaid and you just leave with a feeling, which sometimes can be quite risky but we’ve got a lucky makeup with the team that it just flows…”

Read the full transcript