In the late ‘90s, trance dominated the mainstage, and during its reign, the musical movement produced some of the most instantly recognizeable and anthemic records in dance music. Among them is the Thrillseekers’ iconic “Synaesthasia,” a tune that still soundtracks some of our favorite nights on the dancefloor. The man behind the classic cut, Steve Helstrip, has spent the last 17 years at the forefront of trance music. Never once allowing himself to rest on the success of that one record, Helstrip has retained a consistent stream of high-quality studio output, as well as his status as a celebrated artist.
Over the last 10 years, Helstrip has reserved some of his finest work for his debut artist album, Escape, set for release Friday, December 2, on Future Sound of Egypt. Extending the project over nearly a decade has enabled him to create an album that represents the full breadth of his artistic vision. While some artists remain pure to their genre in an album, Helstrip instead widely spreads his inimitable style on Escape via beats ranging from the laid-back soul of “Without You” to the shuffling groove of “I Gotta Let You Know.” A dynamic, retrospective work, Escape is equally suited for soothing your spirit and getting you amped for the club.
Ahead of the release of Escape, the Thrillseekers takes the stage at Dreamstate SoCal 2016 this weekend to help guide our journey to our beloved trance destination. We sat down with the legend to talk about the album, the years-long process of writing it, and the places where he finds his own escape.
Describe the relationship you have with the tunes you reserved for the album over the years, compared to the ones you released immediately.
Every track I release, whether on the album or otherwise, has a very special meaning to me; otherwise, they would never get released at all. For my album, I wanted to show many sides to my musicality, and an artist album allows me the freedom to do that. On Escape, you’ll hear downtempo film score tracks and Balearic chill-out stuff, along with trance tracks you’d normally associate with me.
Did spreading the work out over the last decade give you a greater sense of creative freedom?
Absolutely. I never intended the album to take so long, but I didn’t want to pressure myself with an artificial deadline. A good melody will always be good, regardless of when it’s released. I revisited the earlier tracks on Escape to bring the production up to the highest standard that I could, so it all sounds fresh and up-to-date.
When you first decided to start an artist album, was the intention always to spread the project out, or did it just happen that way?
It just happened that way. Because I’m so picky about what I release, I found it hard to keep up a singles release schedule and reserve tracks for my album. I’m all about quality over quantity, and I’d rather release one or two good tracks each year that bring something meaningful to people than 12 mediocre tracks that fade away in a matter of weeks. There’s enough mediocrity in this scene without adding to it! That’s the reason it has taken so long. But we’re finally here, and I couldn’t be happier with the final record.
Now that the album is finished, what do you have planned to keep you busy in the studio?
Right now, I’m working on club mixes of the album tracks for release in 2017. I also have some collaborations lined up and more new music to write. With the album done, I’m actually feeling more creative than ever. Perhaps it’s unlocked something inside of me!
Since the album will be dropping shortly after Dreamstate, can we expect some surprises at the show?
For sure. There’s so much new stuff I’ve been keeping back, and I’m just about to wrap up a club mix of “Stay (Here With Me)” from the album, which I’ll be premiering at Dreamstate. I’m so excited about this one.
The album is called Escape. How do you find comfort when you feel the need to escape?
Music is and has always been my escape, which is the whole meaning behind the album. Whether I’m playing an instrument, writing my next track, or having it large on the dancefloor, music is my Escape.
Catch the Thrillseekers at Dreamstate SoCal 2016 Friday, November 25, at the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino, CA. For more information, visit the official website.
Escape from the Thrillseekers is available Friday, Decemebr 2, on Future Sound of Egypt.
Alexander Dias is a part-time thrillseeker and full-time father. Follow him on Twitter.