I remember picking up a vinyl on Neo Records back in 1999 called ‘Synaesthesia’ and not being able to stop playing it. It always found its way into my mixes and sets. Ever since then The Thrillseekers (aka Steve Helstrip) has always been a reliable source of euphoric trance music. Boasting gigs in almost every country, a successful record label (Adjusted Music) and having his music featured in films (check out the club scene from ’51st State’, called ‘Formula 51′ for those of you in the US) Steve has conquered the world of trance both in terms of production and DJing. Steve is known for his great YouTube vids inside his studio and remix competitions that allow new producers to break through (Johan Malmgren being a great example, winning the most recent competition with an outstanding remix). How does one of the original trance producers from the nineties keep things fresh and stay on top form? We chatted to Steve after one of his shows to find out what helps him make great music and what he would have done if he didnt love trance so much…
While you read the interview, here is the great track ‘The Last Time’ by The Thrillseekers (feat. Fisher) remixed by Johan Malmgren as part of their latest remix competition.
How do you prefer to produce? When the mood takes you or 9 to 5?
I go in the studio any time between 9-12 to deal with emails and paperwork, the things people don’t realise go on as well as production and DJing. Depending on whether it’s a full moon I do a good track… seriously, I noticed about 10 years ago, more and more I realised that when I was onto something great it was a full moon, don’t ask me why!
One of the tracks you’re most famous for is Synaesthesia. When you were in the studio working on it did you have a special feeling? Can you tell when something is going to be a big hit?
Yeah, I knew it was special. It was first thing I made after years of trying. It took about 3 minutes to come up with that idea, and then I spent 6 months on it because knew it would do well if I got it right. However, I didn’t expect it to be quite that big!
Name one piece of kit that you love.
The Nord Lead is big favourite of mine, I would never get rid of it, even though I’ve had hundreds of bits of kit come and go. I’ve had the Lexicon reverb since the start and the UAD cards are great, I still use all of those.
There are a lot of aspiring producers and DJs out there, what would be your advice for making it nowadays?
It is harder for ever, that’s for sure. There are so many DJs and producers, and fewer gigs. But if you’ve got something keep at it, keep pushing and it’ll happen.
Do you consider yourself lucky or has it all been down to hard work?
It’s hard work and you have to get lucky as well. I always wanted to do music, there was nothing else I wanted to do. On lunch break at school I’d be talking with friends about what we want to do, I said wanted to be on Top Of The Pops, and everyone else said ‘yeah, yeah, you’ll never do that’. But from that moment made it my focus. And I did it – years ago I was in a boy band called The Flood.
While you’ve no doubt inspired a lot of producers, who are your influences?
There was Depeche Mode and Vince Clark, then I got into Vangelis and his film scores. I think the emotion in my music is influenced by that. And there’s always Chicane…
With music continually developing, especially trance, have your tastes changed over the years?
I still think I like the same kind of trance I’ve always liked. The style of trance has changed, better productions, tougher sound, more groove now than 5 or 10 years ago. But the actual melodies are the same in the ones I like.
When you’re picking music for your DJ sets and for your label what makes a track stand out to you?
Some people just like the feel and don’t care about the production. But for me it’s the other way round. Production comes first and then if it has a great tune its a hit for me. It has to have tune and production for me, but production quality definitely comes first.
Do you always use Traktor?
Yeah. I like Traktor because can sit in the hotel room and go through the tracks and have a listen to how they’re going to mix before the gig, you cant really do that with CDs. I’m mixing with a Native Instruments X1. I was using the Akai APC40 but I was finding in certain clubs there wasnt room for the APC40, the X1 is compact and really easy to use.
Do you find it hard balancing the travelling with family life?
My wife does! Haha. I’ve got friends that go away 5 days a week to the city, I just do it the other way and spend all weekend away. I’ve got 3 kids at home so enjoy peace n quiet! I get to sit on a plane and enjoy films.
What would you consider to be a stand out point in your DJ career so far?
My favourite gig… there have been loads. One of the best was playing in Melbourne as part of the Godskitchen tour, this was the finale of a bunch of gigs in a huge arena. The guys said ‘you’ll fall over when you see what is out there’. We walked up 5 flights of stairs to get to the DJ booth, and honestly you’d think Madonna was about to go on stage, everyone was going mental. That was amazing. And another one was last year at a place called Boracay in the Philippines, a beautiful desert island. Two flights, a boat, and then on the back of a motorbike to get to the party. That was pretty special.
What would you have been if you didnt make music?
Fuck knows, seriously. I was always into wood, so possibly a joiner…
So there you have it, advice from arguably one of the most successful trance artists ever – work on your production quality, always keep at it, and lock yourself away in the studio on a full moon!