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 DJ’ing. 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.
Thanks Steve for taking time from your studio work and DJ’ing to talk to us.
How did you get into the whole rave/electronica scene?
I got interested in synthesizers back in the eighties after discovering Depeche Mode. I guess things grew from there. I made loads of 'dance' tunes before getting noticed with Synaesthesia. Life would never be the same again...
When did you first start producing?
I suppose while still at school. They had this 8-track MIDI sequencer, which I used to mess around with on a lunchtime. I borrowed it one holiday and wrote five or six tunes. It's quite funny listening back to them now, they're about 13 years old. Didn't have the same drums as we have now.
“Synaesthesia” is arguably one of the greatest trance tunes of all time. Having been featured on every trance compilation and caned by DJ’s from Seb Fontaine to Paul van Dyk, this track has become a classic masterpiece of electronic music. How did you come about producing this track….and naming it so aptly?
It kind of happened the other way round - I wrote the track around the name. We were having one of those 'mashed' post club conversations when someone mentioned synaesthesia. I'd never heard of it, so asked what it was. The answer I got all made sense (funny that), and I thought I should write a track about it.
When you sit down to produce a track, what goes through your mind?
To be honest, I've no idea. I just put my fingers on the keys and play until I like something. Occasionally something interesting comes out, yet other times it just doesn't happen.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Life itself. Good things, bad things. I really love spending time in the Lake District in the UK. I always come back feeling inspired.
Although Thrillseekers is your main alias, you also produce under En Motion, Rapid Eye, and Insigma which all have a somewhat different sound. Are there any other aliases that you work under?
No, that's all of them. I'm planning on releasing more original material from now, though, so there will definitely be new aliases to come
You have gained a lot of acclaim with all your remix work, and in the process Thrillseekers has become synonymous with quality epic trance. I love your remixes of Orinoko - Island and Chicane - Saltwater. Which of your remixes do you feel is your best or your favorite?
My favourite is Vincent De Moor's Fly Away, mostly because I had so many found memories of the track before I had any success myself. It was great to be asked to do it.
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.
What equipment do you use to produce/remix?
My main bit of kit is the Nord Lead 2, but I also love the JP-8000.
“Synaesthesia” is the last original production to be released under Thrillseekers. Do you plan on producing any more original tracks or are you going to keep this moniker purely for remixes?
I've just signed the Thrillseekers project to Ministry of Sound's Data label. There's a new single, Dreaming of You, due for release in July. There's also a new ambient track, called Escape, which will hopefully have a chance to get heard.
Do you have any upcoming projects in the works?
Just finished a remix for Sholan, called Can You Feel What I'm Feeling, and I'm about to start work producing a single for Futurasound, called Reminiscence. It's a really catchy pop song, which I'm going to trance-up.
How do you feel the scene is evolving?
It mostly goes round in circles. The drum sounds change every few years, but that's about it.
Which city do you think has the best scene? Which Country?
Do you DJ under your Thrillseekers moniker or under your own name?
Now that you have started to DJ more often, what is the magic behind DJ’ing, what’s your favorite part of it?
The feedback and vibe you get from the crowd is priceless. You don't get that in the studio.
Do you prefer DJ’ing or producing more?
DJing can be more fun, but I'd never give up producing.
DJ culture is becoming very popular nowadays. In the past, everyone wanted to be a rockstar. Now more and more people want to become DJ’s. Do you feel that this is a passing phase or trend that is likely to flourish?
DJs are the new rockstars. I don't think it's right, because most of them haven't got a clue about what goes into the tunes they play, but they get all the credit. I can't see DJ disappearing anytime soon.
Do you have any current residencies at clubs?
No solid commitments at the moment, but I've got some nice gigs coming up.
What have been your most memorable gigs?
Probably PvD’s party at the PopKomm festival. It was my first gig ever and I was warming up for the man himself. I was shitting bricks, big time, but it went pretty well. The crowd was amazing, along with the venue.
Have you ever played in the US before?
Many Europeans believe that the US is behind in the world of electronica, that most clubbers/ravers here have an uneducated ear and hence DJ’s come here and “dumb” their music down to us. What are your thoughts on the US rave scene?
To be honest, I know very little about it. Perhaps you could educate me when I come over.
What are your current favorite vinyl picks?
Altitude, Altitude. Tenth Planet, Walk on Water. Sharpside, Wave Crusing.
What other types of music do you enjoy?
Anything that's good, really. There's only good and bad music, right? Particularly love Vangelis, The Verve, Massive Attack, Gabrielle. The list goes on...
Who are your favorite DJ’s?
At the moment? Armin and Ferry Corsten simply because they play all the tunes I love.
What are your favorite albums?
The Verve Urban Hymns. Massive Attack Mezzanine. BT Ima. Depeche Mode Exciter
For more info on The Thrillseekers, check out: www.thethrillseekers.co.uk