Steve Helstrip, aka The
Steve also performs under the moniker Hydra, which he’s been touring as for a while now in anticipation of his new album. We’re all waiting suspensefully for the release of this one, that’s for sure.
The set he performed for us on this night was a bit different than his usual sets as it was a “classics” set. And let me tell you, it was absolutely incredible. Every track was a total throwback. It felt amazing to hear the opening notes of these songs and instantly be taken back in time. It was a 4 hour long journey — the melodies carried us through the night.
I’ve longed for a true classic trance set for a while now and Steve hit the nail on the head for sure! Wow, what an amazing night is all I have to say. You should’ve been there. Luckily, he’s playing a classics set at Luminosity this summer, so you’ll have another chance.
Prior to setting sail on this night’s journey, I was able to sit down with Steve (The Thrillseekers) and ask him a few questions. The following transcript has been edited for readability. The unedited audio is also viewable here.
FMF: This is Nadine here with Fresh Music Freaks. I’m sitting here with Steve Helstrip, aka The Thrillseekers. This guy is an absolute legend. He’s been producing music since I was a child. He has produced legendary tracks like ‘Synesthesia’ from back in 1999 and he has played around the world at different festivals and shows. So needless to say, this dude is an absolute legend. But he doesn’t only produce and DJ under the moniker The Thrillseekers, he also produces as Rapid Eye, En Motion, Insigma, and Hydra. So please tell us a little bit about how your productions are different between The Thrillseekers and the other monikers that you have.
The Thrillseekers: Hydra is the one that I’ve brought back. And then, if it was between Hydra and The Thrillseekers; Hydra is where the tracks are much longer journeys. It’s a softer, more progressive sound and it just has a different feeling, which I’m trying to kind of reinvent because that’s the sound that got me into trance. The structures and the feelings have been lost over the years. I’m trying to go back to what got me interested way back, but with a modern twist. And the other aliases that I had from back in the day; I’ve got no intent to revisit Rapid Eye or En Motion. So this year it’s all about Hydra and then I’m back to The Thrillseekers again next year.
Awesome. So you mentioned that you like how trance takes you on a journey. I’ve heard you mention that many times before as well. So tell us, when you go into the studio, where does your mind go? Is it like kittens and rainbows? Are you like, ‘Oh my God, I’m running through a field of flowers?’ Or do you just get in the zone? And how do you build a journey into your own tracks?
It always starts with playing the piano or guitar or a sound that I like that’s playable and I try not to be influenced by anything except what I feel at that time. And that might be good, bad, emotional; whatever it is, I take inspiration from life and try to play some music. And if that communicates as much with somebody else, great. If I get bored of an idea after a week or two, I just bin it. I’ve got hundreds of unfinished tracks that have never see the light of day. But the ones that I love, I release them and that’s what the album will be; my favorite tracks from the last year.
So you just mentioned you start by playing the piano. Are you classically trained?
I was pretty much self-taught until I went to college and they said, ‘well you can’t come to college unless you’re classically trained.’ Then I said, ‘well can I just play you what I can do?’ And they were like, ‘well, okay.’ And I played it and they said, ‘well, if you can get a grade A in the first year, we’ll let you do the second year.’ So I smashed a grade A in about six months and did the second year. So yeah, kind of classically trained, but mostly self-taught.
That’s pretty cool. I wish I could play the piano. I can play ‘Chopsticks’. And I can play ‘Happy Birthday’ too actually. I’m very talented over here (sorry, I was trying to be funny). You mentioned that Hydra is something that you’re bringing back. You’ve been playing as Hydra a lot recently. So how do your sets as Hydra differ from that of The Thrillseekers?
The sound is, as I mentioned earlier, much more progressive. The tracks are 11-12 minutes long. I might just drop an ambient track in the middle. It’s just a moment where people will melt on the floor and it’ll be completely unrelated to trance or anything else and then I take it somewhere else. It’s all about taking them on a journey. In a lot of trance sets these days, it’s the same structure, the same sounds, the same predictable development. Hydra works against all of those cliches. The stuff that I hate about trance these days is that everything sounds the same. So with Hydra sets, each track takes you on a different emotional journey and that’s what makes it interesting for me. So that’s what it’s about.
Nice. So you’re kind of the master of playing different sets all over the place. It doesn’t matter if it’s The Thrillseekers or Hydra. And that brings me to the fact that you’re playing Luminosity this summer and you’re playing two sets there. You’re playing a progressive and classics set. So how are you going to prepare for that?
I’ve had a lot of open to close sets over the past couple of years, where I’ll play for 7-8 hours and I really love the warming up aspects. Playing the deep, groovy, tech stuff. So I really got into the progressive sound. So I said to the guys at Lumi, ‘Let’s mix things up this year. Let me do a progressive set and see if people trust me to have good taste in music.’ So they said, ‘yeah, absolutely, let’s do it.’ So I’ll just go through a whole ton of music a week before and see what happens. And then on Sunday I’m playing a producer’s set, so that’s with any tracks that I’ve made myself.
For sets like these, do you read the crowd or do you have songs that are already planned out that you know you’re going to play?
If it’s a set of just my own productions and I’ve got an hour, I need to play my biggest tracks in the hour. So I’ll have a playlist of 20 tracks and I might get 10 or 12 in depending on how many I could play. But yeah, I don’t play pre-set tracks because I find that boring. There’s nothing to do as a DJ if you’re just going to press play at the right time. I like to have some surprises. But of course if you’re playing tracks that have been being played for 15-20 years, you know how they work. You know how they fit. So for me it can be a bit predictable and a bit boring doing that. That’s why I like to mix things up and just see what happens on the dance floor sometimes.
Kind of like how you throw in those ambient tracks in the middle of your Hydra sets, right? So
Oh my God, there’s loads of stories. Some I can’t really mention. I think that the maddest one that just came to mind was when I missed my connection to Russia for this festival. And I told my agent, ‘Look, I can’t get to this gig. I’ve missed the flight. I can’t do anything to get to this.’ It was a two hour flight and at least a 14 hour car journey. So my agent goes, ‘I’m sending you a car now, don’t leave the airport, we’re going to drive you.’ So this guy turns up and he couldn’t speak English. He just pointed for me to get in the car. So we’re gonna drive and it’s going to be 14 hours and you have to play the last set. And he’s just got this car stereo with a USB key and he’s got three songs on his USB. Just played on loop for 14 hours on this journey and the roads disappeared. We were driving through fields and I was just like going out of my mind with absolute madness. Eventually, 14 hours later we get to the festival and pretty much everyone had already gone. So I’ve endured this awful, awful experience to get to this party. So it’s not always good times. That one just sticks out in my head as one of those ‘wow’ moments.
Tonight you’re playing a classics set. And I have to ask the age old question; classics versus new. Which do you prefer?
It depends what you’re listening to. The new Hydra stuff now is all about that feeling and keeping it a journey and 30 minute tracks being the norm. I love it all. That’s the base of all of it. Generally in the trance scene, I think things have gone in a bad direction just because everyone’s trying to copy each other and do the same thing and that gets a bit predictable. But, I love music. I like it all.
It is true what you just said. But good old trance, I love it. I love a good classic, personally. I’m actually very excited for tonight. Lastly, your Hydra album; you’re actually having that be crowdfunded and I don’t think a lot of people really know what that means. So can you tell us a little about the Hydra album; what we can expect from it and what is crowdfunding?
Over the years, the traditional way to release a record is to go to a record label. They give you an advance to make the album and they put all the money into the marketing and the artwork and anything that needs to be done to make it happen. I thought I’d do things differently this year rather than go to the record label who ultimately takes your music and then takes a vast majority of the money that it makes and controls how it gets released, when it gets released, who does the remixes, and what happens with it. I’m a bit tired of not being able to do what I want to do when I want to do it. So I get the fans to buy in advance; a t-shirt or vinyl or these various packages that I have and then when the album’s finished they get it straightaway. It’s just a different way to get the album to the fans. So check out my page on Facebook. That’s where you can find links to get involved and support it.
Is there anything else that you want to tell us about? Anything happening in the near future that we can expect from Steve Helstrip aka The Thrillseekers?
Well, last night I played in San Francisco and did this Dolby Atmos set. But a lot of time I’m just making it interesting so that it’s a fully immersive experience. But part of that whole thing was to remix some of my favorite classics in a new modern way with the Hydra sound and remixing my own tracks from back in the day. So I’ve got a lot of extra material which I’ll be releasing on top of the Hydra stuff. Last year I released one track because I was busy in the studio. This year I’ve probably got about 15-20 tracks to release, so it’s going to be quite a busy year, production-wise. Yeah, bring it on.
*Featured Image Via The Thrillseekers Facebook*