Hey Steve, this is a rather simple question, but music has inspired me so much that I feel I cannot just listen to it, I really want to make my own music to inspire people the way that I’ve been inspired. My main interest music-wise is the 80’s because I feel that everything was new then, and I can’t stand most mainstream pop, so what advice would you maybe be able to give to an aspiring musician, on exactly how to get started in the industry?

There are many potential routes to take when launching a musical career but much depends on what you would want to achieve. Generally speaking you do have new and immediate ways to channel your creativity through the internet, and technology gives you the tools to produce music relatively cheaply. The question is whether you see yourself as a composer or a musician. If you truly aspire to be a musician then you have to physically play, and keep playing until you become good at it and then perhaps see how you feel about performing live. But if you mainly aspire to compose then there’s little holding you back as long as you have a computer and some basic understanding of how to construct music. The industry is all about opportunism since it’s extremely competitive and anyone can release their work on iTunes or via any digital aggregator (TuneCore for example) who will do all the distribution for you for a one-off fee. But regardless of all of the above, it comes down to you having ideas and being creative or nurturing a skill, or talent on an instrument. That is your starting point. Without that, the rest is unlikely to happen. Good luck.

Hi Steve, just listening to Vault of Blossomed Ropes, which is quite beautiful; one of the things I love about the way you work in collaboration with other artists is that it introduces me to music I would probably never otherwise hear. What criteria do you use when deciding who to work with? Do you have to have an affinity with the artist and what they are trying to express? Have there been times when you have regretted your involvement on certain projects? Thanks, Victoria

The criteria is, I imagine, the same for anyone who’s being asked to apply a particular craft: does it fall within my capabilities? Affinities are not compulsory, rather an instinct of what the artist (or producer) is hoping to achieve. For example the difference between rhythm design for VoBR and a singer such as Susana Félix is fairly extreme in terms of approach and outcome, but if I understand what the music is about then I can apply ideas and hopefully the collaboration works out. I don’t often meet the people I work with, files are exchanged remotely, so having an affinity is a bit much to expect. I also prefer to contribute without having a conversation about expectations because either I’ll get it from listening to it, or I’m not the right person to ask. There are those that like to express concepts and grand designs but I find it incredibly superfluous to the act of feeling inspired, in fact to be more precise, in my experience ‘concepts’ sound alarm bells for a failing in either originality or craft, and can cause quite a blip in the process. Any affinities for me would come directly from the music rather than the artist, but then ‘affinities’ is too grand a word for what is essentially understanding a particular music genre and applying what you do. So in the real world, (or in the case of most collaborations these days, in the virtual world) all I need are a few audio stems, a BPM or tempo map and it’ll get done and returned electronically. To answer the last part of your question, I don’t feel regretful about past projects, they are forever what they were meant to be. There came a point when the work was deemed good enough to call complete and you signed off on it, but anything frozen in time is subject to scrutiny and criticism retrospectively, which you realise only too well at the time you’re making it, so you’re kinda geared up to living with the consequences and moving on from the outset.

Hi Steve, thanks for making such great music all these years, “December train” is one of my all time favourite pieces of music.I just wondered if you ever have offers to make collaborations with visual artists? And are you interested in visual art at all? Many thanks, Dave.

I do very much enjoy working with visuals and have completed some works in that area. In an ideal world I would be composing for film as I feel it could work out pretty well, however it seems to be a business dominated by very few agents with a select number of writers who are more than happy to keep it that way.

Hello, Steve! Thank you very much for your kind answers. I have a question,maybe a strange one but. Several years ago I’ve started to see music isn’t only like a sort of entertainment,but also as a type of protection. I mean when you’re wearing your headphones you’re drowning in sounds,in your fantasies etc, and reality seems a little bit far away from you (in a positive way,of cause).Whether in your youth or in your present days you make music for creating your own world,your own convenience?

My personal experience is that creating music is a form of self-indulgence and escape in much the same way as you are describing, however by the time a piece is completed, due to the number of repeated listens, it has been somewhat exhausted. But aside from my personal involvement, I do feel the relationship with music on a deeper, less superficial level is beneficial to our well-being, whether your preference is for a more cerebral, insular experience with headphones, or to connect on a physical, visceral level on the dance floor. To have a relationship with music allows us to escape in a very individual, yet socially acceptable way. Art is subjective and music sits in there with the best of them, and one of the greatest purposes of art is to give us an alternative take on reality, (as your experience clearly demonstrates).

Hi Steve, I really enjoy the ringtones you’ve made available. Are there plans for any more? Thanks, Alec

Thanks! First time anyone’s mentioned them. After creating the familiar Blackberry default ringtone a few years back I thought why not put some other contenders out there independently as it’s a fun thing to do. I realise anyone can pretty much make their own so it’s not really going to be in high demand …. an extremely niche market in fact. It’d be nice to feel incentivised but on a business level it has it’s limitations, but if the demand were there, why not?

Dear Steve,I have really enjoyed your recent output and would like to ask you about your home studio. Do you spend much time there? what gear do you record with?without the pressures of a paid for studio how do you know that a track is ready as you could feasibly work on it forever! Finally do you consider the making of music a labour of love or work. thank you.

I would usually spend some hours of each day in the studio working on material. It depends what it is and whether there are time pressures. For example, working on other people’s material there is typically some sort of deadline or at least a sense of responsibility to focus and get the job done. With my own material I am more likely to live with things and see how much I feel they are worthy. Therein lies the problem, it has to be said, (and I didn’t fail to pick up on your subtle hint). As regards the last part of your question, I find that if I don’t pursue some level of creative output I begin to feel low in myself, it’s therefore fair to say that I feel compelled to work for my own well-being and state-of-mind.