How I Invented the Sounds of Jelli’s Town Hall

By: Adam Kay

It was the end of my first full week at Jelli, in November of 2012. I was sorting through a massive pile-up of emails — trying to figure out a few things — when “Hell’s Bells” by AC/DC started blaring and startled me out of my seat. Oddly, nobody else seemed the least bit alarmed by the disruption.

Before long, people were shuffling into the center of the room for what I now know is Jelli Town Hall — an all-hands company meeting that occurs weekly. At this particular Town Hall, Mike, Jelli CEO and co-founder, called an engineer up to celebrate a contribution by pressing a DLR. “Press DLR one, two, or three,” Mike said. There was a drum sampler sitting below the TV with about 50 buttons on it — it looked like something out of an airplane cockpit. The engineer selected “DLR 2” and the sound of a snare drum rang loudly and awkwardly throughout the office.

Everyone chuckled because the wrong sample bank was loaded. After a bit of technical support, we were ready to try it again. The engineer once again selected “DLR 2.” We were treated to the raucous howl of David Lee Roth (oh, so that’s what DLR means) — part of an isolated vocal track from the session for “Runnin’ with the Devil.”

Inventing the Sounds of Jelli

A few weeks later, I started a “train project” (i.e. side projects I worked on during my Caltrain rides to and from work) to rid us of mishaps during our Town Hall meetings. I set out to build a simple UI with only 3 buttons. I tracked down the David Lee Roth (DLR) vocal tracks and added some additional variations to the DLR celebration track list.

I also needed to re-create “the gong” (the song we used to indicate the start of Town Hall), but when I was putting the code together, I couldn’t find a recording of “Hell’s Bells” so I decided to mix things up a bit. Instead, I downloaded Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” from the Jelli music library. I shifted the pitch down until it sort of sounded like a gong and attached it to the UI. Nobody complained about the change, so it stuck. All these years later, it still prompts one of our engineers (hi, Larry!) to sing the opening Eddie Van Halen guitar riff. Eddie Van Halen …we’ve come full circle!

Anyway, over time, I have added a few other samples to our Town Hall mix. Who knows what my next side project will be, but I’m glad that the sounds of Jelli’s Town Hall have made an impact.

If you want to read about another fun side project, check out this article about how we built a unique web player.