A Sit Down With DJ The Thrillseekers
Steve Helstrip really is Thrillseekers -- all by himself. All the euphoric sounds and banging beats you hear come from his head. Touted by many fans as pure genius and by conservative critics as somewhat commercialistic, there's no denying that his sound is strictly his. His mammoth production Synaesthesia has become a trance classic for the ages. A track that still sends shivers down my spine. The latest remix releases from The Thrillseekers have a solidly delirious sound, blending smooth basslines, spacey bubble samples, and ridiculous high-speed synth-rhythms on tracks like Alibi - Eternity and Orinoko - Island. And though Steve has been mostly remixing under the Thrillseekers moniker, he has also been producing fantastic trance under Insigma, Rapid Eye, and En Motion. Now Steve has taken on the role of portraying his love of the music through DJing. His recent Ministry of Sound Radio set has boasted his talent not only as an incredible producer but also as refined DJ with a keen ear for quality trance.
"Music has to have soul, emotion and feeling and I only find that in trance. I would like to see it evolve, but how I dont know."
You started to make music in a time where producing music happened in a studio mostly with hardware. How has the technical evolution changed your way to make music?
Its so much easier now. If you want a punchy kick drum, you have a million to choose from. Back in the 90s you would spend a day making one! Likewise with the 100s of other sounds that shape a production. To use one of my dads favourite phrases, kids dont know theyre born these days!
What kind of equipment and software do you use to produce music?
I come from a production background, so I have a fully kitted out studio with a bunch of synthesizers (real and virtual), some juicy outboard compressors and stuff like that. I use Cubase as my core software, which
I've been using since its inception some 18 years ago. Thing have progressed at such a pace I can barely keep up, but that just makes the ride even more exciting. For those that are more interested in production side of things, I have a production forum on my website where I talk more about my gear and techniques.
As well as producing your own tracks you have worked as part of some notable collaborations. Can you tell us about those?
I wrote and produced a track with Ferry Corsten, called Sublime, for his Right Of Way album, and collaborated with Andy Perring under a project called Insigma. We had a reasonably big club hit with a track called Open Our Eyes. It followed a very similar route as Synaesthesia, being included on all the biggest compilations and gaining support from the likes of PVD, Tiesto and Oakenfold. I also produced with now label partner Tim Stark, under the alias Rapid Eye.
Do you like playing shows or working in the studio better?
Nothing beats being in the studio when the magic is flowing. Of course, there are days when the magic eludes me!
Compared to todays artists that stick to a given sound, you come from a generation that was never afraid of using aliases to explored different avenues. How do you decide what core elements each alias will represent?
My past aliases have included collaborations, such as Rapid Eye (with Tim Stark) and Insigma (with Andy Perring, AKA Pulser). My Hydra alias came about to release a softer-sounding, more progressive style of trance.
What can you tell me about the Hydra full-length album youre working on?
Im kind of developing almost like two albums at the same time. The idea is that there will be a chill-out version of the album, which is almost the same as the club version, but without all the energy and the beats stripped out. But the structure and the flow will work pretty much the same. Im probably about 30 percent through the album in terms of finished tracks, but Ive got a whole bunch of tracks that Im developing at the same time. The way that its different from what Ive done previously is that each track is like 810 minutes, so theyre journey tracks within themselves. Im programming to build a bigger, evolving journey throughout the album. Im having to be very mindful of how its going to translate to the ambient version of the album, as well as the club version, so its minimal effort to strip out the beats and just have a really beautiful chill-out track.
Do other artists actively seek you out to do remixes of their tracks or do you just remix the tracks you like?
It's mostly record labels that approach me to do remixes. These days I do only mix tracks that I really like. In the beginning you'll remix anything just to get noticed.
Looking back on your long career, what were the highlights for you?
There are so many I hardly know where to begin. Playing for Paul Van Dyk at the Casino ranks pretty high, not to mention having a Paul Van Dyk remix of my track, Synaesthesia. Prior to Synaesthesia I worked alongside Trevor Horn in Sarm West Studios in London where I was fortunate enough to play on the piano that Bohemian Rhapsody was record on. That was off the chart. More recently I've played 4 hour sets across the globe to 10s of thousands of people. Every moment is so special to me.
You actually have a number of aliases that youve used in the past. What is it about Hydra that speaks to you?
The first track, Affinity, was reasonably successful back in 2003. Then two years ago, I thought itd be nice to revisit that sound, because I was trying to do a sidestep from what I was doing. I produced the track Amber, [which] went on to be a big track last year. Those kind of tracks I just really connect with, very melodic and very uplifting. Its all about the emotion and the feeling. Theyre not necessarily upbeat club bangers; theyre more progressive. I just really enjoy that sound and the reaction that track had. I wanted to do some more. Then I thought, Well, why dont I just do an album? Thats the idea. So, well be playing bits from the album and some of the older tracks at Dreamstate.
The trance sound has really developed in the last 12 months getting influences from all kinds of musical sounds. Where do you see the Trance sound going in the next 12 months?
I get asked this a lot, but I dont really have the answer. So many people are trying different things. Some stick, some dont. For me, Im not that interested in fads, or trends. I just like to make music that Im feeling without trying to be too different.
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