Solarstone may come 'from the middle of nowhere' but his talent behind the decks and in the studio has placed him squarely somewhere significant on the musical map. Along with the Solarstone moniker, his other pseudonyms include the Young Parisians, Z2, Liquid State & Skyscraper. He's been tearing up clubs and the airwaves for the past 11 years, with musical styles ranging from Trance, melodic Progressive House, Breaks and Funky House to ambient soundtracks. Not only is he an accomplished DJ and producer, but he runs the successful Deepblue label, and somehow, in amongst all this, finds the time (together with Robbie Nelson) to host the Deepblue Radio Show, which broadcasts across FM and Web networks worldwide, to a weekly audience of a staggering 8 million listeners.
Rich of Solarstone was also kind enough to find enough time to type us some answers to our probing questions, even if his valet was off playing polo!
JW: Hi Rich!!! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions for us here at Raves.com and DJfix.com. Since we're doing this via email, could you tell us a bit about where you are now, and who's typing the answers?
Rich: i'm in my studio in shropshire in England.. and it is snowing outside. I am typing this myself as my valet has the day off to play polo. :-)
The "chrono" on your website goes back to 1995, but what if we rewind a little big further... can you tell us about where you grew up, what it was like, what was the music like around you and your involvement in it?
I grew up in the middle of nowhere - literally - on the end of a big valley in wales - the nearest shop was 2 miles away and it took an hour to get to school each day. There was no music scene at all - nothing - i grew up listening to the early inklings of house music on Radio Luxomberg via a huge FM aerial. I moved to the big city when I was 17 - and got a job in a pub...
And how did that lead up to you playing keyboards in the indie-dance band Emission?
....which is where I met the other two guys who formed 'Emission' with me - they were great guys, Jay was an incredibly talented guitarist (who sadly no longer plays) as Stu was a brilliant front man who could charm the hump from a camel's back. Great times.
Obviously you don't have the dreadlocks any more, but since you worked as a body piercer... what sort of work do you have now?
Yeah I set myself up as a body piercer for a few years - that was a laugh, it paid for a lot of the early equipment in the band. I have a professional musician now for 10 years. [Editors note: this is a funny lost in translation moment, as "work" in the question was an American slang term used for "body work" i.e. tattoos, piercings, etc.]
Fast forward and let it play for sentence each on Solarstone, Deepblue, and your baby boy. Do you have a defining memory for each of those as they appeared in your life?
Solarstone was formed in 1997. Sam, Andy and I were previously known as the 'Space Kittens', and we needed a new name for the new 'trance' sound we were creating at the time, so Solarstone was conceived then. Sam left a year or so later to pursue a different style of music. I have no idea what he is doing now.. but obviously Andy and I continued with it, until Andy left for the same reasons a couple of years ago. The early days were quite difficult to be honest, with 3 people pushing in different directions. Very little music was actually produced, and the end game with me and Andy was pretty much the same, but for longer and more frustrating.
Deepblue was conceived in 1999 because Andy and I were fed up with record labels not getting back to us... making a mess of our releases.. much is the same for other artists these days. We wanted to do things ourselves. It was never set up as a big money making exercise - we just released music we made to get it to the people who wanted to hear it. These days it's much the same, but Andy and I share out the duties in a different way - I handle all the A&R and promotion and Andy handles the business side of things. We still get on well and enjoy running Deepblue together, but are into totally different music to each other these days. Creating the profile for the label was good fun in the early days - Andy designed the whole thing himself., and also the existing website. It was an exciting time - back in those days we would shift 2000 white label copies of a release in a few weeks. These days it is much harder - Artists get very frustrated at long lead times and low income from tunes - but what they fail to realise is that we often - in fact usually -persoanlly make little or no money at all out of the records we release - we do a lot of time-consuming work for free where other labels would charge the artist for the same thing. It's not about the money - it's about releasing brilliant music and fueling the scene with quality trance tunes.
My son.. well this is of coarse the biggest thing that can happen to any man, the birth of a first son. I didn't think that hearing 'Seven Cities' in the UK Top 40 at the age of 24 could be beaten as a buzz, but the birth of my lad was pretty incredible. Pete Alucard is a good friend of mine, and his first mix for the Deepblue show was playing in the hospital room the whole way through my son's birth, so that hold very special memories for me. Now my son is 2 years old and obsessed by my CDJ's - he loves banging tracks and likes to chill in the studio with me when i'm arranging tracks - he bounces about like a little spring!
And now lets talk about "Rain Stars Eternal" -- the monolithic "debut artist album" that every musical artist strives towards, and you've completed. So many questions about this... but I'll narrow it down to three:
1) What inspired you when writing the songs?
The title of the album came to me long before I began recording the music and dictated how it should go. 'Rain Stars Eternal' describes what I've always strived to acheive with the Solarstone sound : beauty, emotion, melody, euphoria, poignancy, longevity. I had a very concise vision of how the album should begin, develop, and end, and i'm incredibly happy with the way it's turned out. I agonized for a week just over the running order, because I had too many tracks due to a creative splurge and a couple of collaberations happening unexpectedly - my friend and business collegue John said it is like 'deciding which of your kids to send to the orphanage' - and that is so true. But i've always believed that a great artist album should never have more than 10 or 11 tracks on it, so when we sat down and allowed the emotional journey of the album to dictate it's own coarse, we were left with 10 great tracks that worked together as a whole, and then i created the intro for the album as a homage to one of my favourite bands Pink Floyd - I always loved the way 'Dark Side of the Moon began, with lots of tape loops of bits of different tracks from the album overlapping and evolving into a crescendo - so this is what I tried to create with the intro to RSE.. it was great fun to do. The additional tracks that didn't make it on will be included in the limited edition 'X' disc of remixes which will be released later on - it will be a dj mix of exclusive versions by some of my favourite producers. There is also an additional track 'Dark Heart' which people who buy the album can download for free - plus a full lyric sheet. The artwork for the album is absolutly stunning, really beautiful. We insisted on the new 'curved corners & hinged' cd case for it too - which is so much more aesthetically plaeasing than those horrible old ones that crack before you get home from the shop. I wanted it to be a beautiful tangible product that people would want to buy - downloads are so horribly impersonal - people love to leaf through the sleeve notes and hold it in their hands.. i guess that is a remenant of my growing up in the 70's and 80's when the packaging of a record was so much more important and impactive than it is now. When i see cover art like the new 'Cascada' album for example it makes me visibly shudder.
2) Do you have a favorite track and why that one?
That's a toughie..each of the tracks was my favourite at the time I recorded it.. it's impossible to answer. 'Late Summer Fields' is close to my heart as it was written about my wife when we first met, but also 'Last Defeat' (the final track) is very personal to me, as it describes (in musical terms anyway) the loss of a loved one. '4Ever' is one of my current favourites - it is was created purely and simply for lovers of 'Seven Cities' and the 'classic Solarstone sound' and people refer to it! That track was the first on a theme back in 1999, 'Solarcoaster' followed it in 2002 and now '4ever' is the third installment. I've always believed that is is great to move forward musically - to do new and different things - but to never be shy about stoking the fire of familiarity occasionally and giving people exactly what they want!
3ish) Who/what/where/how did you working with/use to make it? (That is like four questions in one but three is just not enough! :)
On a technical level the whole project was recorded using Cubase 4 - i've used this system since I began making music 15 years ago, I love it. The virus Ti was useful in the album, but i still go back to my nord leads on a regular basis - they are incredibly versitile for creating new sounds. I've worked with various singers, guitarists and techy dudes over the years, but the group of people who played on this album are an incredibly talented bunch. The is Elizabeth Fields - everyone knows her from 'Speak In Sympathy' a few years ago, we recorded 'Part Of Me' for the album which may be the next single. Then there is Julie Scott - she has one of the most amazing voices in the world, and is a beautiful creative person too. Essence is from San Francisco and she sings 'Lunar Rings' which is the most 'pop' track on the album, and Alex Karweit is a guy I met when I went to a showbiz party with Essence - he is a fantastic singer and guitarist, and 'Breakaway' with him is a kind of 80's electro/trance record - my Son's favourite one on the album! It was on rotation in the car for about a month. Nyje Summers plays guitar - he has contributed to a few previous chillout remixes over the years, and also Karl Easthope does some stunning guitar work on 'Filoselle Skies'.
I just subscribed to your DeepBlue radio show podcast on iTunes. What am I going to hear?
We just reached our 100th episode last week - so Robbie and I got tanked up in the studio and the show is hilarious. We always aim to present the best in quality trance and progressive tunes, as well as other cool dance stuff that we get sent. The show has lots of features like 'Its Not The Kind Of Thing We Usually Play.. But We Like It Anyway' and 'Chillout Moment'. We used to have 'Retro Trance Classic' but a certain other show stole the idea, so we dropped it. We also sometimes have a 'Featured Artist' or 'Featured Label' where we showcase up-and-coming talent with a couple of records back-to-back. The 'Unsigned Track' is a staple feature of the show too - and now we also have the 'Forum Favourite' where listeners vote for their fave track of the show each week. The forum is not that busy yet, but we don't go out on ministry or anything big like that so it's difficult to get a central broadcast that people will gravitate towards. The show is one of the most widely syndicated in the world though - hitting 40 stations worldwide. We're more keen on reaching regular fm listeners around the world, because they tend to be more likely to buy the tracks they hear.
And lastly, tell us something most people don't know about you.
I have webbed toes.
Anything else you'd like to say?
Thanks for having me - I hope people enjoy the album, it comes with hope and optimism for the future ;-)
Thank you so much!! :)
-- written by Jennifer Warner