I have recently been speaking to Buzz Music about my latest album Aspects and the inspiration behind it.
I never thought I would produce over 25 albums in the space of a decade. As well as a rich and rewarding creative endeavour, for me making music is also a constant learning curve. As an entirely-self-taught artist, you’re only ever as good as you can be in that moment, and what you learn in one project, you feed into the next. Every album is an adventure – a progression in skill and knowledge as well as an expansion of the musical worlds I aim to create.
I first dabbled in making music between 2006-2009, producing several rough demo albums, and a couple of slightly more accomplished works which I regard as my first ‘proper’ albums. Then I took a break for three years. My inspiration returned in 2012 and with it came a newfound direction. Having rebooted myself musically with the album Inferno, I wanted to know if I had any kind of audience out there, so I chose Bandcamp as the platform to launch and sell my work. People listened, and liked it enough to buy the album – I knew right then, my music had found a home and an audience.
As a celebration of the ten years I’ve been on Bandcamp, I thought it was time to reflect on each of those albums. I am immensely proud of many of these albums. Others would have benefited from being worked on for longer; some could do with a better mix and there are one or two I’m less than keen on. But, I guess we are always our worst critics, and it is too easy to hear flaws in our work that might only be apparent to our own ears. Sometimes I can remember making a piece of music or toiling for hours over one particular moment – yet others, I have little or no memory of creating; almost as if it came into existence by itself. Once you make an album and put it out into the world, it finds its own way, while you move on to the next project…
Into the Light (2007)
This was the album where I established my own sound and style. This album was the result of years of being a music fan and absorbing the influence of various artists. The biggest influence of this project through, was our honeymoon in Spain; the tranquility of the Andalusian mountains and the majesty of the Alhambra Palace… that special moment in time provided something unique that I channeled into the music. It does sound like somebody just starting out; the production isn’t great and there are many flaws in the performance, but that also adds a human touch to what is otherwise a very electronic album.
Mechanical Drive (2009)
My work usually drifts between lighter, more ethereal works and darker, heavier cinematic pieces. I’m usually most content creating dark, heavy synth-laden music with a science fiction edge and Mechanical Drive was really the first in this style. I had a lot more to learn, but there are some interesting ideas on this one.
Inferno was my first release on Bandcamp in August 2012. Returning to music with a renewed interest, this is really where my work started to come into its own. Everything felt fresh and exciting again and I can still hear that in the music, although listening to it today, it would benefit from a remix and some more refined production. Despite that, its success on release really drove me forward.
Future Worlds (2013)
Following the loss of my father, I immersed myself in making music – strangely, this darkest period of grief also became my most creative. Future Worlds was a heavily science fiction-themed album and also my first release in association with the Initiative for Interstellar Studies. Each track was inspired by a different scenario or a classic SF book. It was perhaps a little over-ambitious and musically it could do with better production and less going on, but it remains one of my most popular releases on Bandcamp.
Beyond the Boundary (2013)
Following the release of Future Worlds, I started working on two new projects simultaneously during the summer of 2013. Beyond the Boundary was my second release in association with the Initiative for Interstellar Studies, and this time the concept of the music was all about space travel. It built on the style of Future Worlds, combining orchestral and electronic and was released to tie-in with a book of the same name published by the Initiative later that year.
This was the one. At the time, Traces was the culmination of everything I wanted to achieve musically, and its popularity on release affirmed that. It was a very personal project, reflected in the melancholic and nostalgic tones of the music. There was also nostalgia in the sound – it makes heavy use of the Korg M1 and Wavestation synths heard on so many albums in the late 1980s and 1990s. A lot of influence also came from the books I was reading at the time, with authors such as Christopher Priest and Haruki Murakami. I also released a free companion album, Traces Abandoned, comprising the other tracks I was working on which didn’t make it to the final album.
Future Worlds Redux (2014)
This was a fun project – I decided to rework the majority of Future Worlds into an orchestral/symphonic album, not unlike a film soundtrack. Some of the tracks really benefitted from the new arrangements.
Sentient City (2015)
Another science fiction album – this time with a dystopian edge, the concept being about life in a futuristic city. Yes, we’re firmly in Blade Runner territory! I really like this album, but feel I should have spent longer on it, with better mixing/production and perhaps included fewer tracks.
My third release for the Initiative for Interstellar Studies was based around exploring alien planets. I was trying for a slightly different approach with Panorama, and in hindsight, it doesn’t work quite so well despite having some nice moments. Again, I had been working on two different projects simultaneously and this one maybe suffered a little through that.
Timeshift was my unofficial follow-up to Traces and was based on the theme of time passing. I really like this one and think it contains some of my best pieces. This was the project where I really elevated my production and mixing.
Dark Corners (2016)
Dark Corners is a collection of demos and leftover tracks from recent projects. This is very much a musical sketchpad than an album; ideas that had potential for further development. I offered it as a free download.
This project was my way of dealing with the death of David Bowie. It was so hard to believe he was gone. I just sat down and started playing and within a few weeks had enough for an album. This was a quick but cathartic project. Legacy is a very dark album with its own distinctive mood.
Remnants From A Lost Time (2016)
Another very quick album – this one was a series of improvised ambient pieces, recorded in just one week. It was conceived as music to play while out walking in the woodlands and countryside, but one that also looked at the passing of time (another recurring theme). There’s something really unusual about this one and is my most ambient and experimental work to date.
Infinity of Space (2017)
My fourth and final (to date) album in association with the Initiative for Interstellar Studies. This was a difficult album to mix and I’m still not happy with how it sounds. By the end of the process, I really didn’t like it at all. However it does include two tracks featuring a friend on guitar, and his work really takes the music somewhere else – I’ve always felt very proud of those two tracks although I can’t take any of the credit!
Back Into the Light (2017)
Another personal favourite and one of my most accomplished albums. I composed this album to celebrate ten years since Into the Light. I wanted to return to the world I created with that first album and explore it some more. Back Into the Light is an album of dark and light shades, but with a more optimistic, mysterious and worldly feel.
This album really represents my love of artists such as Mike Oldfield and Jean-Michel Jarre. In a nod to the instrumental concept albums of the 1970s, I wanted to create an album of continually evolving music which also tells some kind of story. The end result was three 15-minute long tracks. I was very happy with the overall sound and production and flow of the music. I wanted Crossover to play like a dream; crossing from one realm to another and something not unlike a video game soundtrack. Video game music has always been a big influence on my work, so that is celebrated here. Crossover is my most ambitious and complex work, but sadly one that never received much attention.
Prototype is unusual in that it is an album mostly made of ideas leftover from previous projects. Unlike Dark Corners, I gave the tracks more of a polish (though still leaving the production quite raw, mistakes included, so not to lose the spontaneous energy) and also composed some new tracks to fit in. I think there are some really interesting ideas on here.
Created during another period of grief, Mutate is another dark and cinematic album with a sci-fi influence. Fusing together rock, electronica and industrial styles, I was trying (perhaps too hard) to make a heavy, angry-sounding album, and it was very difficult to mix, and I’m still not happy with the first half of it. However the second half of Mutate has some strong material I’m really pleased with.
Another one of my personal favourites, and an album largely inspired by traveling through European cities. Travel has always been a big musical inspiration for me, and although it was another difficult project to mix, I regard it as one of my best works, and also one where I tried out some new musical direction. Chiaroscuro is one of those albums that sounds best played late at night.
The Ministry of Machine Building (2021)
Another dark science fiction concept album, but for me, this one really succeeds conceptually, musically and in the mix. Right down to the red/black cover art, Ministry sits perfectly alongside Prototype and Mutate. Maybe this was the album I was working towards in this kind of style and concept.
An artist’s latest work is always their favourite and that is certainly true of Aspects. Although not composed with any kind of concept, the songs all came together during different points of the various lockdowns at the height of the pandemic – yet they had a common sound and worked well together. I also wanted to return to the world of Traces a little, so I used some of the same sounds that had created that album’s distinctive atmosphere and the result was something that really affirmed this is where I want to be, musically and perhaps what I do best.
Although my music is on streaming services, I still regard Bandcamp as the main platform for my music, and that’s where you will find my full discography – although frustratingly in recent years, the rise in popularity of Spotify et al, has more or less sucked the life out of Bandcamp. The albums I have chosen to distribute on streaming services are those that I feel are my best work, but that should be at no detriment to the others – there’s something to discover on every one, and on the rare times I do listen back to my older work, it’s always rewarding when something surprises me.
Glacier Heart, my first vocal collaboration with rising star Ren Faye, has been reissued as a two-track digital single. I originally released the song in July last year, but it soon got lost in the quagmire of independent music on streaming services.
The new single features an updated mix of Glacier Heart and also comes with an instrumental b-side. We are incredibly proud of this song, and this time, it also seems to be getting heard – if you enjoy the Glacier Heart, please help spread the word!
Glacier Heart is available now via Bandcamp, as well as Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, Tidal and Deezer – see https://linktr.ee/thelightdreams for streaming options. Spotify users can also hear the track as part of Joe Tavano’s Relaxing Indie Moods playlist.
Glacier Heart also has a video, which has recently been picked by by Angel in the Dark’s popular YouTube channel.
My new album Aspects is released today as a digital download on Bandcamp and across popular streaming platforms.
Aspects was composed and recorded between December 2020 and February 2022. I wanted to return to my roots a little, with longer, flowing instrumental pieces with shades of dark and light. Aspects has a reflective and contemplative mood, but an overall tone of optimism. Music has the power to keep certain memories alive and fondly remembered times and places in check. Either as a listener or creator, music allows us to travel to many different junctures, and during troubles and worrying times like the present, that escape is vital. Why not take some time out for a journey…
A selection of my albums have been available on streaming services for a while, however on Spotify, my releases were getting confused with an artist of the same name! I have now been able to correct this and finally got my own artist profile on Spotify. I have made a special playlist, an introduction to The Light Dreams, which you can stream here:
My track “Comfort Zone” (taken from Chiaroscuro), features on A Journey To A Time or Place – a new, free digital compilation of music by independent artists.
Compiled by Across the Universal Soundscape, this diverse compilation celebrates independent music and creativity during these challenging times. It is available to download from Bandcamp.
I’m pleased to announce the release of Chiaroscuro; a new instrumental album inspired by city life and the layers of time. Nighttime atmospheres blend with nostalgic, melancholic tones forming a dreamlike musical world in which to escape.
“The world of chiaroscuro is one of contrast – between light and darkness, of transition between one realm and another. Colours blend, textures merge, and it is the difference itself which gives meaning to the whole.
Change is the essence of life, and contrast is the basis of understanding what it all means. This album takes us through an appreciation of how we can make sense of the differences that flow through our existence, against a background of the cities in which we live. They have their darker and brighter sides, and we need to grasp the relationship between them within ourselves.
Light and shade are part of the same process – one has no meaning without the other. We need both in order to make sense of the artwork that is our life.”
The track list for Chiaroscuro is as follows:
There and Then
Here and Now
The full album download comes with a bonus PDF booklet containing a specially-written introduction by Richard Hayes plus a selection of my own photography juxtaposed with archive images that all represent the theme of Chiaroscuro.
Here is a video for Silver Screen:
September 2019 will see the release of my new electronic instrumental album, Mutate.
Mutate will initially be released in digital format on Bandcamp and MusicGlue. Here’s a teaser!
It is getting to that time of year where we start to notice subtle signs of the change of seasons ahead, and a reminder of how quickly time passes. The passage of time, and indeed the concept of time travel is a regular theme in my music.
I’m pleased to offer 25% off each of the following albums using the discount codes shown:
Codes redeemed at http://thelightdreams.bandcamp.com and are valid until midnight on 31st August.
Whether you’ve previously bought one album or several, I really appreciate your support. Thank you!
Last week, I published Prototype, my 20th independent album release via Bandcamp. This feels like a milestone of sorts, so I figured it was a good opportunity for a look back over my musical journey.
I first started making music as The Light Dreams in 2006. I had no musical training whatsoever – I didn’t know if I even had any musical ability. I had simply spent so many years as a music fan, soaking up influences, that it felt like time to regurgitate that influence and see what I could shape it into. Over the next 18 months, I made a lot of demos and album ideas, learning as I went. They were raw and rough, but I knew where I wanted to go. I’d share them online for feedback, and that spurred me on to keep trying.
I wasn’t interested in writing songs or playing live. I wanted to make instrumental music. A kind of audio equivalent of painting. I still maintain that the creative process is the same for both; one uses sounds, the other uses colours. And both allow your mind to wonder and escape to other places.
In the summer of 2007, I made what I consider my first real album, Into the Light. Thanks to the previous year’s exploration and experimenting, my own sound and style was finally defining itself. In contrast to the optimistic soundscape of Into the Light, I was also interested in exploring darker, heavier, electronica – which I did with Mechanical Drive, in 2009. With that album, I felt I’d accomplished everything I could (I was wrong) and decided to focus on developing my science fiction artwork.
Creativity is like an itch which needs to be scratched, and in 2012, the musical itch returned. I bought some new equipment and soon got back into making music, with a renewed vigour. I called the resulting album Inferno, and felt I had made something that might be good enough to sell online.
In a 1996 interview, David Bowie said something along the lines of: If you’re really turned on by whatever it is you are creating, there’s bound to be other people out there who will like it too. As with many things, Bowie was right. It’s absolutely true. This has become my creative mantra for art and music.
Having looked at the options available to independent musicians, Bandcamp was the platform to offer what I was looking for. I joined, and published Inferno as a digital download – and it sold! Encouraged by this, I also published Into the Light and Mechanical Drive, before focusing on my next project.
Around the same time, I was invited to become honorary musician for The Initiative for Interstellar Studies (I4IS), a new organisation keen to promote its mission via the creative arts. This gave my music a second home and also the chance over the following years to work on a series of space travel-themed albums – perfect for my style of music – that I published in association with I4IS.
Every album was a learning curve. With each project, I would learn something new on the technical side, whilst improving my playing. Each album would often better the previous. Being purely independent, there is no pressure or deadlines to hit, other than my own. In a sense, I started treating music the same way self-publishing authors work, putting out one or two new releases each year to keep momentum and interest.
The contrasting dark and light themes continue through all my work, with album concepts including time, dreams and space travel (many of the same themes you’ll see in my artwork).
Making music also offers a different creative channel to my primary work of digital art and graphic design. It’s often nice to have an album project on the go at the same time as I’m working on a book cover or a personal piece.
More and more artists – amateur and established – are going down the independent route. As with self-publishing, The Internet has given our music the chance to be heard in all parts of the world, without needing a record label, and technology has allowed us to make professional quality music from the comforts of home without expensive studio time.
I like the way Bandcamp operate, and they’re an ideal platform for new and independent artists and especially for those niche genres of music such as my own.
I never imagined I would have a discography, and the simple fact that other people like it enough to buy, has kept me motivated. I appreciate that support enormously.
What’s the point in making art if nobody else gets to see or hear it?
Explore The Light Dreams’ discography at: thelightdreams.bandcamp.com
Any comments or questions welcome!