Dark soundscapes, ominous rhythm patterns and an Experimental-minded song construction, the British Ambient/Electronica-project Creature a.k.a. Stephen Haunts is quite different to your usual listening procedure. Besides his musically outfit, Stephen stands also behind his own label Haunted House Records, home also for Happy Welly and ZiBiR. A lot of activities for this active musician we like to introduce herewith…
Chain D.L.K.: Hello Steve, sorry to start with an always-the-same-standard-question, but some of our readers still wanna read about, how you’ve come to the idea and dedication to produce music. Is it right, that you’ve gotten some classic piano training due to your childhood? I hope it wasn’t too hard under parental advisory? 😉
Creature: Hi, how’s it going? I started taking music lessons when I was 9 years old. I played the piano and the electric organ. My parents weren’t pushy at all when it came to learning music. Of course, they nagged me to practice sometimes when I wanted to be out playing with my friends, but that was about it. I stopped taking the lessons after I finished my exams at school and went to college. I kind of got separated from music until a little later in life when I got hold of some studio equipment back in 2000.
Chain D.L.K.: You’re based in Derby, so I hope you aren’t a soccer fan, are you??? :-P.But seriously, you have visited a university in London to study. Was it related to your music? What could you extract for yourself out of it?
Creature: Nah, I’m not really into football. Good job too with Derby FC’s performance. Kick boxing is more my sport of choice. Although I am not that good at it. I didn’t study music at University. Instead I did computer science and software engineering. Not quite as exciting as music, but I found it interesting. After university I worked in the computer games industry for 10 years as a programmer. It was when working in the games industry that I met lots of other musicians who taught me a lot about electronic music production. I was very fortunate with all the contacts that I made.
Chain D.L.K.: You’re producing under the moniker Creature a sort of Experimental/Ambient music, which deals often with dark and ominous layers and several percussive effects. Why this special dedication to this darker-minded and cinematic sounding stuff? And why do you prefer to compose instrumental music, no trust in the word of your voice?
Creature: I personally find darker music to be more expressive. You can convey lots of interesting emotions and I really like that. It also allows me to be really creative with my sound design. I tried writing some happier music once before and it just sounded really cheesy, I hated it. I prefer instrumental music as this kind of music works in any language. I have only released 1 Creature track that contained vocals. This was “NOX” of the”Mechanical” album. Whilst this was a good track, I still prefer instrumentals. Unfortunately I can’t sing myself, I sound like a strangled cat. I was always better at telling a computer and synth what to do, instead of a singer.
Chain D.L.K.: You are standing also behind Haunted House Records, your own label. Tell us a bit about the finding of it, have you created HHR, because you got fed up to wait for the right label to sign with? Or is it generally a hard cake with your style of music to get signed, even in UK?
Creature: I never considered trying to get signed before starting HHR. I don’t like the idea of signing away any rights to my work, and with the internet being what it is today, I decided to go it alone. Haunted House Records was started mainly as a vehicle to promote my own music, Creature, but from time to time we release music from some other artists. It has been a lot of work trying to build up the label. With lots of other people also trying to do the same thing, it is very difficult to make yourself heard. HHR has been around about 2 years now, and we have gone from nothing to building up a decent fan base. I think the music we have released has been exceptional, and we are getting lots of great reviews to back that up. I think all the hard work is paying off. I personally find it very rewarding when I get emails from people who have bought one of my albums,saying how good they think it is. I also get into lots of conversations about how I write the music and what gear I use. I really like getting into these conversations. I could talk about music production for hours.
Chain D.L.K.: As we talk about your label, you have besides Creature only two projects of your friend Mat Howlett under your flag. Any chance that this will change soon? What kind and sound is required to get signed to HHR?
Creature: For the moment the label will be kept as these 3 acts. But I am hoping early next year we can start thinking about adding some new acts to the label. As for the kind of sound, then we don’t have a fixed style, but our music tends to lean towards darker music. And certainly strange music if you have heard Happy Welly’s last album 🙂 If someone has some music they think fits into Haunted House Records, then by all means email me a link to a couple of tracks online (MySpace for example) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Nosending mp3’s to that address though!!! Unlike a lot of smaller labels we don’t just release our music digitally viaiTunes, eMusic, Napster etc. We also still like to put out CD’s. I for one don’t think CD’s are dead. As a musician nothing beats the feeling of getting your first batch of CD’s back from the manufacturers with your music on. It really is a great feeling. Our CD’s at the moment can be brought from CDBaby.com, but we are in the process of setting up stock/stores in the UK and the rest of Europe also. I still think the concept of the album should live on. I find it sad that a lot of people buy individual tracks from places like iTunes. I spend a lot of time making a full cohesive album that flows from track to track. I think this is still important and relevant.
Chain D.L.K.: Most of your unusual sounds you’re extracting out of a working process entitled “circuit bending”. Well, that sounds more like a job for an electrician instead of a musician. Please describe us the details and the how-to-do…
Creature: Circuit bending is when you take apart battery powered gadgets and toys and re-wire the insides to make strange noises. This doesn’t really require any electrical knowledge. You just open the back of the toy and start jabbing away with some probes. The only real rule with circuit bending is that you don’t try and bend anything that runs of a mains electricity supply. As long as you stick to battery powered toys you can’t get hurt. Well, you might burn yourself with the soldering iron. I think I am immune to a soldering iron burn these days.I find some of the older toys like speak and spells, and furbies are the best toys to start with. They are very robust and don’t blow up as easily. You can get some casualties though, not all toys stand up well to being jabbed with probes. Luckily it is quite cheap to do. I get most of my toys from charity shops or sometimes eBay. One project I am thinking of doing is making a kind of large modular synth out of about 10 furbies. I’ll make it a big black box with a large patch bay on it. It’ll be crazy :-)If anyone is thinking of giving circuit bending a try, then you don’t need to spend too much money to get involved. Tool wise, you just need a soldering iron (15 – 18 watts), some pliers, screwdrivers, wire, buttons,pots and switches.
Chain D.L.K.: In some latter news you’ve announced the release of a DVD set featuring your sounds extracted out of your circuit bending-procedures. The samples on this DVD seem to be free for usage in any music production. I guess not many electronic musician are that generous to open their sound archives to the listeners. don’t you fear that this would have a negative impact on the work for Creature? What has changed your mind that you’re giving away free sounds to anyone interested?
Creature: Yeah, the sound effects DVD is called “Electronic Critters”. The sounds are royalty free to use once you have purchased the disc, which is for £20gbp. I don’t think it would have a negative impact on Creature. Most of the sounds were even created after I released my last album, “Distant Horizon”. Sound design is something I really enjoy, so creating Electronic Critters was great fun. It all started when I was writing the last album. I did a load of circuit bending with the aim of creating sounds to use on the album. I enjoyed the process so much, that I decided to carry on with the bending and processing and create the DVD.So far it has proved quite a popular sample DVD. I have had some great feedback from people that have used it. Who knows, we may even hear a top 10 hit on the radio with the sound of a furby going crazy on it.I think one thing that is a testament to the quality of the sample disc is that it has been picked up for online distribution by the guys from Sample Magic. They have created a new online sound sample portal calledSounds/To/Sample. They heard the samples and got in touch with me to see if I wanted them to distribute the samples.
Chain D.L.K.: Your daily life besides being a musician. Please fill in details, relations, hobbies, and further interests?
Creature: I would love to say that I do music full time, but unfortunately it doesn’t pay enough to do it full time. For my job, I work for a large internet bank in the UK. I am a software developer. It may sound quite dull, but I quite enjoy it. I work on some nice complex projects and I have a lot of friends at work. I am married to Amanda. We have been married for nearly 5 years now. We live just outside of Derby near the Peak District national park, so the scenery around here is really nice. When I am not writing music or doing sound design, Me and Amanda like to go country walking to keep fit. I also like to take the camera out when we go walking and get lots of nice scenic photos. We also are really into cooking. Very rock and roll eh 🙂
Chain D.L.K.: Please let us know about your upcoming plans, some new releases you like to confirm here?
Creature: The rest of the year is going to be quite busy for me. I am re-releasing my original 2 EP’s, “Daisy Cutter” and “Twilight”. I am releasing them as 1 complete album with 5 extra new tracks. The songs are being completely re-edited and mixed/mastered. They will sounds great. I am also re-releasing my old “Nightmares” and “Dreamscapes” EP. One request from people that have heard that EP is that they would like some longer extended edits of the tracks, so I am going to provide them. I have also started preparation for a brand new Creature album. I am planning to release this next year. Finally, I am also working on a new sample DVD. I am hoping to get this complete before the end of the year. Also on Haunted House Records we are going to be releasing a new Happy Welly and ZiBiR album. So all in all, we are going to be very busy :-)I recently released a FREE promotional album, called promo-1. This can be downloaded for free from www.hauntedhouserecords.co.uk
Chain D.L.K.: Some final words to our readers to conclude this interview?
Creature: Thanks for the interview, it has been fun answering your questions. I hope more people get to experience the music of Creature. I pride my self on writing very dark, cinematic and moody music. All the best. More info on Creature, and the rest of our acts can be found at www.hauntedhouserecords.co.uk.We also have a free collection of 20 samples from “electronic critters” that people can download for FREE as a demo of the sample DVD.
Visit Creature on the web at:
[interviewed by Marc Tater] [proofreading by Tommy T. Rapisardi]