Steve Helstrip has been behind some of the most emotive, evocative electronic music, ever released, as The Thrillseekers. The Thrillseekers story started back in 1999, where, with a relatively basic home studio Steve constructed the trance milestone that is ‘Synaesthesia’. Signed and released by Neo Records in 1999, at the height of the trance explosion, it has gone on to sell over 1,000,000 copies, across its numerous, repeated worldwide releases. In the following decade he rocketed to DJ and producer stardom, and has just released his latest compilation mix CD, which given the track record of his prior releases, will no likely go off the charts again.
So... ever wondered what it would be a world famous DJ and producer... to party in the private disco in the basement of a banker's castle - in Russia? Or how about the airline loosing all your CDs, and having to play other DJs records - when you haven't spun vinyl in a decade? For these tasty tidbits and more, read on for ten thrilling questions (by Tim Stark) with Steve of the Thrillseekers!
1) You’re just about to release your sixth single (‘The Last Time’), which again carries that highly-recognizable ‘Thrillseekers Sound’. In terms of the trance sub-genres, how would you classify that sound and have you ever been tempted to break away from it?
I’m not sure what you’d call it, to be honest! I’ve experimented with lots of sounds/genres over the years, but this sound is what really works for me and gives me the most pleasure. To me all my tracks sound different, as I always start a track with a clean slate, but I guess I lean towards certain types of sounds, which gives my music a certain feel.
2) What’s the best remix you’ve ever had done on one of your productions and what do you feel is a) the best and b) the most popular remixes you, yourself have done?
The only remix that I’ve ever been really happy with is Breakfast’s mix of ‘Waiting Here For You’. That guy has bags of talent. My mix of Chicane’s Autumn Tactics seemed to go down pretty well, but my own personal favourite is my ambient mix of Saltwater.
3) You’ve been part of a number of successful collaborations (Insigma/Rapid Eye/Morpheus) over the years. Generally, how did you find the process of working with others producers in the studio and what would your dream producer hook-up be?
It’s great to be in the studio with someone else, as you hit off a different energy, which has an effect on the music you make. I also tend to work a lot quicker with others around (perhaps I should do more!). If I could collaborate with anyone, then I’d love to do a track with BT or Vangelis. Both have had a huge influence on my music over the years.
4) Performance-wise, DJs seem to either fall into the ‘heads-down, intensely concentrated’ style or the ‘hyperactive jump-around’ variety. Which kind are you?
Definitely the ‘jump around’ sort!
5) Where was your most nightmarish gig and how did it qualify for the ‘honour’!?
I played at an event in Spain around 4 years ago. It was quite a big club – around 5,000 people. This was the first and only time that I’d packed my CD wallet with my main luggage, and as luck would have it (or should I say bad luck), my bags somehow ended up in Amsterdam!
My only option was to play records belonging to the other DJs, but they all played vinyl and I hadn’t played from vinyl for years. In fact, even when I did play from vinyl I was never that comfortable with it.
So I started to look through the other DJ’s records and didn’t recognise a single tune! They were playing progressive, house and techno. So, my set was an eclectic mix of music I didn’t know, which had no flow or direction. Those two hours seemed to last forever.
6) What was your most embarrassing moment behind the decks and full details of your biggest post-party knees-up?
Nothing has been more embarrassing than that time in Spain – that will take some beating! I don’t know where to begin with the afterparty stories – there have been many!
Quite an interesting one was in Moscow. I’d been playing with Mike Koglin and John Creamer and we’d been invited back to the house of one of Russia’s wealthiest bankers. After an hour or so of travelling we eventually arrived at his house (or was it a castle?). We were led downstairs where he had his own private club. Now this place was incredible. The floor was decked out in sheep skin rugs; there were glass sphere swings that hung from the ceilings; the sound system was probably the best I’ve ever heard and John played for hours while 20 or so of us partied it up ‘til late in the afternoon. There was a pool nearby, Jacuzzi and everything you could possibly want or need for such an occasion!
7) Outside of music, what do you spend your free time doing?
Any free time I have these days is spent with my family. I have two kids and another on the way. I really don’t seem to have much time to do anything else!
8) You run at roughly one Thrillseekers single a year for the last 6 years. Is there an idea behind this method?
No, not really. I’ve been writing plenty of music, but either I’ve not been happy with the results or they’re lined up for my album. I plan to step up the output this coming year.
9) Your new compilation, ‘Nightmusic 3’ is out now. Tell us a bit about how you go about selecting the records you compile, how you assemble the mix on to the releases and what you want to say with your compilations?
Nightmusic is all the about the very best music I play in my sets. There are two discs: the first (Fast Forward) is the most recent and forward thinking music I play, whereas disc 2 (Rewind) is the biggest tracks from my sets over the past 6 months or so.
There’s quite a lot of variety in the tracks I chose, so each mix develops and stays interesting. I can’t stand listening to trance compilations where all the tracks are 138 bpm and have the same bassline and predictable riffs. On disc one, for example, I mix out of Martin Roth’s Nu Style mix of Blank & Jones ‘Miracle Cure’ into Jay Lumen’s ‘Vibe’. You couldn’t find two more different tracks, and the mix shouldn’t work – but it works a treat!
10) Which country in the world have The Thrillseekers not played in but still have a hankering to do so?
I still haven’t played out in Thailand. I’ve accumulated many hours waiting for connecting flights in Bangkok, but have never left the airport!
Thanks so much for the interview, Steve... and Tim!