Sunday, 22 December 2013

Time to reflect...

So we're nearing the end of another year. I don't know about you, but 2013 seems to have flown by in a flash. I thought I'd take a self-indulgent moment to look back on what the last year brought to the world of The Light Dreams.

In February I released Future Worlds, the culmination of several months hard work and a lifetime's interest in science fiction. I learned a lot during the making of that album, and I'm incredibly proud of it. My artwork and music converged for this release, with one of my favourite paintings, "The World Outside" being used as the album cover (the painting actually illustrates the song on the album of the same name). This was also the first new music I had produced as honorary musician for the Institute for Interstellar Studies (I4IS), so it was a privilege to also promote them with the album. Future Worlds was also my first work to be available on the big platforms such as Amazon and iTunes.

Following the release of Future Worlds, I decided to take stock and look at my back catalogue of demo albums dating back to 2006 – stuff which had been online around the time I was working on them, but that I had taken down around 2009. From these demo albums, I pulled together a new compilation, After Hours, of what I felt were the strongest pieces.

I started working on new music around June, and decided to work on 2 different albums simultaneously. One would be an EP of space music for the I4IS, the other would be a more electronic, dream-inspired album called Traces, a title which had been in my head for a while. Working on 2 music projects meant that when the ideas temporarily dried up for one, I could bounce back to the other, and inevitably this would lead to new ideas on the other album!

I was also invited by the I4IS to contribute a chapter to their forthcoming book, Beyond the Boundary. My chapter looked at the association of space and interstellar travel and popular music culture in the twentieth century. This gave me a perfect opportunity to write about my specialised subjects of the careers of Jean Michel Jarre, David Bowie and Mike Oldfield, artists whose music continues to inspire me to this day, and artists whose work is synonymous with space travel.

This also led to me naming my space EP after the book, as a sort of tie-in. However, as work progressed, Beyond the Boundary EP soon evolved into Beyond the Boundady – the album! The ideas kept coming, so why stop them?!

In the autumn, I started working on some artwork again – this year, I'd only produced one original piece, albeit, it was probably one of my best! But this time I looked back at several earlier works that I never felt were quite finished, and enough time had elapsed for me to see exactly what was required. So by October, I had several refreshed digital paintings I was very pleased with, and all ready in time for the Novacon convention.

Novacon took place in early November, and although it was only my second appearance there as an exhibiting artist, I loved it. I'm already looking forward to next years. It was an absolute honour once again to exhibit alongside my good friend and renowned space artist David A. Hardy, and it was great to talk to the people visiting the art room. I'll admit, I'm not the best when it comes to spontaneous social interaction, but at Novacon, you can literally talk to anyone about anything! What's more, my work did very well in the auction, which I hadn't expected. This was not only very rewarding personally, but a huge confidence boost.

My artwork and music converged yet again at Novacon, as several of my albums were playing in the art room, and the newly-completed Beyond the Boundary had its first public airing.

I released Beyond the Boundary on Bandcamp at the start of December, its real aim to help raise the profile of the I4IS. I'm working hard on the Traces album and also have ideas for new artwork. So although the year is almost over, my work here is almost certainly not done! I have a good feeling about 2014…

Friday, 20 December 2013

Turrican - the music!

Anybody of a certain age will remember the Commodore Amiga computer with a certain fondness. In the late 80s and early 90s, it was head and shoulders above the rest of the competition, and the home computer to have. It offered sound - in stereo. And hundreds of colours. You could even upgrade the RAM to a whopping megabyte!

But thanks to the Amiga's superior graphics and audio capabilities, with it came a plethora of outstanding games. As a teenager of the early 90s, I spent many days huddled in the corner of the lounge, plugged into my Amiga, whether it was my early forays into digital art and music production, or hours spent gaming.

Out of all the hundreds of amazing games, one clear favourite would emerge for me, and that was the action-packed platform adventure, Turrican, originally published by Rainbow Arts in 1990. My friend Tony had gone on about this Turrican game for ages, and when my 13th Birthday came, along with it, came Turrican, in his chunky silver robo-armour.

Not only did the game take you through another word on an exciting and explosive journey, but it had the best computer game music I had ever heard - composed by the mysterious Chris Hüelsbeck (in the following years, Hüelsbeck's fantastic music would accompany many a great classic game). Over time I became as addicted to the music in the game, as I did the game itself - to the point where I'd stick a tape recorder in front of the TV speaker and record the music to listen to, when I wasn't lost in the world of Turrican.

In 1992 and 1993, we had two more Turrican games, both with fantastic music, but it was always the original game's soundtrack that both stuck with me and would ultimately inspire my own music.

While the Amiga is (very sadly) long gone, Turrican has lived on through various games and of course, its fans, whom like myself, have maintained a certain adoration of Hüelsbeck's music. Therefore it came as a pleasant surprise in 2012 when, due to popular demand, Chris Hüelsbeck announced a Kickstarter campaign with the plan of re-recording all the Turrican music into one big anthology.

The campaign was a huge success, and as a result, we now have a lot of very happy Turrican fans, myself included! The anthology has its own website, and each volume of the anthology is now available on Bandcamp as a digital download.

Not only do we have fantastic and faithfully recreated artwork, but we have all the music, bigger and better than ever and still sounding as fresh and exciting as when I first heard it 23 years ago.  I've spent the last couple of weeks reliving memories of being lost in the Turrican worlds for hours on end. The soundtrack to every level, the end-of-level boss musics, game loader tunes, the intro and outtro - they're all here, and more. And it's brilliant.

The Turrican games boasted a level of creativity and perfect playability that most other platform games could only dream of, but I'm sure that the soundtrack was integral to the game's success. It certainly wouldn't have been quite the same without it. Chris Hüelsbeck first issued a selection of updated recordings of the music on CD in the mid-90s – while finding video game soundtracks on CD is fairly commonplace nowadays, back then it was almost unheard of, which says something about the demand for both his work and this game. So it's really fantastic that all this time later, we can enjoy the music all over again.

I dare say you do need to be a fan of the game to appreciate this kind of music, but for us fans, it holds a very special place indeed. Great job, Chris!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

BEYOND THE BOUNDARY: track by track

The mission of the Institute for Interstellar Studies is to foster and promote education, knowledge and technical capabilities which lead to designs, technologies or enterprise that will enable the construction and launch of interstellar spacecraft.
We aspire towards an optimistic future for humans on Earth and in space. Our bold vision is to be an organisation that is central to catalysing the conditions in society over the next century to enable robotic and human exploration of the frontier beyond our Solar System and to other stars, as part of a long-term enduring strategy and towards a sustainable space-based economy.

…these are, in brief, the mission and values of the Institute for Interstellar Studies. As their honorary musician, I really had to think about how to translate this vision into music. Not only into a suite of songs that reflect this ethos and ambition, but as a solid album of interesting and exciting music. When the I4IS announced their forthcoming book, Beyond the Boundary, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to connect the dots and make an interstellar album that would promote both the institute, their thinkers, visionaries and artists and the book.

Beyond the Boundary (the album) was released last week on Bandcamp. Here’s some of my thinking behind the songs…

This track is based on one of my earliest demos, a track called “Birthline” originally from my first ever attempt at space music, in 2006. I always felt there was potential in this piece and it was a case of finding the right opportunity – and this was it! But while the original demo built into a longer, rhythm-based song, this version serves more like an intro to the whole album, keeping only the first part of that original demo, now completely reworked. An interstellar atmosphere of resonating choral vocals gradually build up while we hear distant communications from astronauts, culminating in an exchange between Mercury Hub and starship Prometheus, beginning its interstellar voyage.

For the title track, I wanted driving beats, catchy riffs and a real sense of dynamism and excitement. The fusion of symphonic and orchestral styles continue the soundscape I established on Future Worlds, but this track really shifts things up a gear. I wanted to create an anthem to the stars, full of optimism and adventure. The choral vocals reprise towards the end of the track and I also introduced some electric guitar sounds which would continue throughout the rest of the album.

In contrast to the previous track, "Halo Orbit" is an ambient yet cinematic piece; dark, cold and haunting. I wanted it to sound as blinding as starlight and as vast as space. 

This track was the first to be composed for the album, and makes heavy use of Korg’s classic M1 and Wavestation synthesisers, the big, warm tones of which lend themselves perfectly to a science fiction soundtrack. "Stasis" is the album’s most chilled-out piece, a steady, flowing piece to take you on your interstellar journey. I wanted the music to reflect the colours of space, and the ever-changing sights of galaxies and nebulae.

"Afterglow" picks up on the subtle hook in the end of "Stasis", taking us once again into new territory. The origins of this track actually came about in 2012, when I worked on a long demo of evolving styles, entitled Chrysalis. This was more like a musical sketchpad or dumping ground for ideas – from that emerged “To the Stars” (on Future Worlds) and "Afterglow".

My favourite track on the album, and actually one of the last to be written. Until this point, the album was going to be an EP, but once this track was coming together, it was clear that a full album was in the works! There is a slight prog rock feel to this epic track, as it goes through 3 stylistic evolutions, gradually building up to a dramatic, thunderous finalé. Again, I wanted to create something powerful and anthemic to compliment "Beyond the Boundary (Part One)". I think there’s some of my best work to date in this track – very proud of it.

A heartbeat percussion leads into this groove-driven chillout track. This was the final song to be composed and was really designed to be a short transitionary piece between the previous and final tracks. After a mellow start, this song takes an unexpected turn towards the end, adding a feel of drama and uncertainty before heading off into the unknown territory of the closing song.

A dark and menacing close to the album. While overall, I wanted to create a suite of tracks that reflect man’s interstellar goals and starbound ambitions, ultimately, we don’t know what’s out there – and I wanted to bring back a sense of tense uncertainty, as we enter unchartered territory. I had also been working on a painting showing a starship heading towards a black hole (as featured in the digital booklet which accompanies the full album download) – it seemed fitting to leave the album with questions left unanswered. Although I wanted to close the album with a sense of mystery, I did want an upbeat ending, so this track (which clocks in at over eight minutes) does accelerate into an energetic crescendo, as we cross beyond the boundary and into the unknown.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Going beyond the boundary...

Ever since I started making my own music, one of my ambitions has been to make an album of space travel-themed music.

My first attempt at this in came in 2006, when I put together a set of demo tracks entitled Discovery. Despite being a rather amateur attempt, the ideas were there, but it wasn’t quite the album I had in mind. A second set of half-formed demos came in 2009, under the working title of Voyage, but at that time I had run out of steam, and decided to put music on the back burner for a few years, while I focused on my artwork.

Following my science fiction-inspired album Future Worlds, and appointment as first honorary musician for the Institute for Interstellar Studies™ (I4IS), the time felt right again to have a go at the space album. Beyond the Boundary would be a project specially composed for the I4IS and to help raise awareness of the institute and its forthcoming book of the same name, to which I also contributed. It’s worth noting, that I borrowed their title for this album, so the two would tie in!

I’ve written a lengthy chapter about the connection between popular music and culture with space travel. I’ve gone into detail about the association between space travel and the music of artists such as David Bowie and Jean Michel Jarre among others, and the influence their work has had on my own. This is a theme with infinite creative possibilities, and also one that instrumental music best lends itself to. One particular benchmark album for me is Mike Oldfield’s The Songs of Distant Earth, which is a work of pure majesty, partly charting the evolution of the world, and partly based on Arthur C. Clarke’s epic book of the same name. 

I’ve been working on two different albums over the last eight months or so. When I’ve been stuck for ideas on one, I’ve worked on the other. This could have been a disastrous approach, but it actually worked very well for me. Beyond the Boundary is the first of the two albums to be finished. In fact, my original idea was simply to produce an EP of six tracks, but this gradually evolved into a fully-fledged album. I realised it was getting into album territory once the running time went over twenty-five minutes (your maximum EP running time), so six songs became eight. One of the album’s strongest pieces – Beyond the Boundary (Part Two) – actually came together very late in the process. Sometimes it happens like that. The album does actually include two of my older demo tracks, which I have revamped and completed for this project – one of which was originally on Discovery, so it’s nice to see it finished and given a home!

So Beyond the Boundary is an album with multiple missions – to take the listener on a journey beyond the stars, to help raise the profile of I4IS and promote the upcoming book. And to further this, I’ve been working on a digital booklet to accompany the release. You’ll get this when you buy the full album download from my Bandcamp page. The PDF booklet features stunning artwork from space art legends Adrian Mann and David A. Hardy, whose work also adorns the front cover of the release.

Beyond the Boundary will be available from Bandcamp from the 2nd December, with a possible wider release to follow.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Afterthoughts on Novacon 43

A belated blog following this year’s Novacon...

The Park Inn hotel in Nottingham has been the home to this long-established convention for a number of years now. Despite being only my second Novacon, I’ve settled in and started to feel like one of the Novacon family. As the UK’s longest running SF convention, there are a lot of familiar faces. A "same time next year" sort of affair, but in a good way – who can complain at an annual get-together of likeminded folk? And despite attendance numbers being down on last year (possibly due to World Fantasy Con just a week or so earlier), we had some new, young – yes, young – faces in the crowd.

Speaking of demographic, it’s safe to say that most attendees fall into a certain age range. And I’m not really one of them. At some point in my brief absence from the art room, I was described as “the dark-haired person without a beard!”. But what I love at Novacon is the fact you can strike up a fascinating conversation with absolutely anyone. We all have one thing in common, and that is a genuine love for SF, particularly when it comes to literature. Whether you want to chat with authors, or browse the rare, new, classic and vintage titles in the dealer’s room, it’s all there.

Having tested the water last year and exhibiting a small number of artworks, this year, I quite a lot – 19 pieces in total. And the fact that I returned home with just four, clearly indicates I’m doing something right. The art auction on the last day came as a huge confidence boost to me, as I didn’t expect to sell quite as much. This does mean that for next year I need to do some new work! But it was very rewarding on a personal level, and even if I hadn’t sold anything, just being able to talk about my work with the visitors to the art room was great. All these pieces of work that I’d done over the last few years, finally printed, mounted and up there on the walls for all to see and assess. 

As the artwork at Novacon operates on a bidding system for the auction, it’s really interesting to see which pieces of your work get bids – and now many. It is sometimes fascinating to see that the pieces you think might be your most appealing don’t get any bids and a piece you were perhaps less confident in, does! There are many lessons to be learnt in exhibiting your work at an event like this. Novacon generally attracts between 200–300 people, so it’s a good size audience. Although more people are likely to see your work at a bigger event, there’s a high chance they’ll spend less time looking at it or return for a second visit.

I really enjoyed talking to everybody who came to my stand, and I’m truly grateful to everybody who placed bids on my work, and those who walked away with a piece or two.

Over the course of the next year, I plan to work on new artwork, for display LonCon3 (all being well) and of course, Novacon 44. See you there!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Making an album

Sometimes you can sit down at the keyboard and a melody just comes out of nowhere, and before you know it, you’ve got the makings of a great new song, in no time at all! Other times it can be a drawn out and slow, frustrating process, where you can hear what you want in your head, but you just can’t seen to shake it out of your fingertips on to the keys!

The process of making an album has its ups and downs, and at the same time, you completely immerse yourself in it. Play it day and night, time after time, picking it apart or enjoying it. Quite often by the time you've finally finish the album, you don’t play it again for months! By revising it constantly you’re faced with ever-changing decisions; which tracks need to stay, which can go, which need to be longer or shorter (then there’s the issue of mixing, which I won’t even start to go into here!).

But sometimes even the most subtle change can make a huge difference – even changing just one sound in a song can completely transform a song. Or ruin it! Sometimes you might really like a track, but somehow it just doesn’t fit in – eventually it gets removed and it’s actually an improvement. The process of making an album is full of surprises and frustrations. And one of the hardest parts is knowing when to stop – but more often than not, it just feels right, and complete. All of a sudden.

Another complication to the whole process is deciding on cover artwork. Many musicians, like myself, are also artists. Therefore you quite often have a preconceived idea of how the album cover should look. But sometimes having the artistic side can also get in the way – somebody else’s point of view quite often ends up being totally opposite of yours. And sometimes you need that. When immersed in a project such as this, it’s very easy to lose sight, direction or over work things. And that’s when comments and feedback from friends or colleagues is really beneficial. Don’t be afraid to ask for opinions!

But as an artist and graphic designer, the obsessive part of me thinks that the cover art should usually be my own work – it’s an integral part of the project and extension of the music anyway.

Two of my album covers use paintings by renowned British space artist, David A. Hardy, whose work I have admired from an early age. David’s paintings really transport you to another place, and it’s a real honour to associate my music with his artwork. The first of these was my 2007 album Into the Light, and my forthcoming release, Beyond the Boundary.

The creation of an album is all about decisions. Non-stop decisions. Then you just need to hope you’ve made the right ones :)

Monday, 28 October 2013

Beyond boundaries...

It’s been a while since I last blogged. So what’s been happening?

Since the spring, I’ve been working on two musical projects in parallel. One of which is an album especially composed for the Institute for Interstellar Studies (I4IS), and is entirely themed around interstellar travel. This is an easy subject for me, as science-fiction is often a starting point for my work and an ongoing influence – and ever since I started making my own music back in 2006, one of my ambitions has been to make a space album. I first tried this in the summer of 2006 when I made a set of demos entitled Discovery. Although it had some nice ideas, it didn’t really turn out how I wanted and I soon got distracted by other album ideas. The second attempt came in 2009 with a set of demo tracks with the working title of Voyage, but again, these musical sketches never really went anywhere, and it was at that point, that I decided to give music a rest for a few years.

Fast forward to 2012, and having proudly accepted the position of honorary musician for the I4IS, I made my science-fiction concept album, Future Worlds, which in many ways felt like the culmination of the past few years’ musical experimentation. But it was firmly rooted in SF concepts, rather than space travel, and it felt like the right time to explore this theme again, both as an exclusive release with which to promote the I4IS and also to be used in their upcoming promotional film work. My plan for this was simply to make an EP rather than fully-fledged album, and a nice tie-in to their forthcoming book, Beyond the Boundary, to which I also contributed. However, over time, this project gradually evolved beyond an EP, and once the running time exceeded half an hour, I soon realised I was on the way to making a full album after all!

As an independent solo artist, when you embark on the making of an album, you know the journey isn’t going to always be the same. Ideas come from different sources. As somebody who experiences synaesthesia, making music is very much an artistic and emotional activity – I cannot detach sounds from colours and textures, and for me personally, that is integral to my output. Likewise are the books I read, or places I’ve been. I like to try and create certain atmospheres, moods and states of mind in my music.

While Beyond the Boundary uses a combination of orchestral/symphonic sounds as well as electronic, my other album project has been much more focused on electronic sounds. The original idea was to make an album using nothing but classic Korg synthesiser sounds, but once again, as the songs evolved, so did the sound palette, but the Korg is still very much at the core of these new songs, deliberately so. I’d heard and loved the sounds of the Wavestation or M1 on albums by artists including Gary Numan and Depche Mode, so to finally get my hands on these was an absolute pleasure – but the challenge was then to make something which didn’t sound (completely) retro.

The second album project is called Traces and to date, has gone through three or four evolutions. The creative process always takes you to unexpected places; round surprise corners. And more often than not, what you end up with, is quite far away from the idea you started out with!

My original plan for the album was for it to be a series of very short, minimal pieces; heavily atmospheric – like a series of musical snapshots. Almost like when you glance through a photo album, each picture from a different point in the past; of a different mood and time. My plan was initially for it to be totally free of concept and open to interpretation. As I got into working on the album, it was inevitable that longer, fuller tracks would emerge. And they did, however, the shorter tracks actually punctuated the album, forming brief transitions between the more layered tracks and longer pieces. And yes, a concept had started to emerge, despite my best intentions!

I’ll be talking more about Traces as the time grows closer to unleash it, but I really wanted the music to have a dream-like quality to it. Like a soundtrack to those vivid dreams where you briefly question whether it was a dream or not on waking, or when a flashback comes the following day. The psychological aspect of dreams has always fascinated me; like mini movies in your head – a crossover into an alternative reality. Authors such as Christopher Priest and Haruki Murakami portray about this so well in their work. Their novels really take you places; the characters so profound, the imagery so vibrant, the mood so dreamlike as they too cross that boundary between the subconscious and reality. This is really what Traces is about, as well as looking at our own invisible footprints of the past.

More soon… in the meantime, you can hear sample tracks from both Traces and Beyond the Boundary on my Soundcloud page.  And don't forget, you can buy Future Worlds and other albums on my Bandcamp page.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Synesthetic art & music

In its most basic (and presumably common) form, synesthesia is the association of colours and textures/sensations with words, numbers and sounds. This is something I’ve always been aware of, but it wasn’t until the late 90s when I realised that a) it had a name; and b) not everybody associated colours with words.

For synesthetes with a more severe condition, it can apparently be quite unpleasant and problematic (for example, certain everyday words could induce a feeling on nausea), but for me personally it’s been an interesting addition to my art and more recently, my music.

I can’t hear a song without “seeing” what colour(s) it is, and how the textures/forms change in my mind’s eye, while the song is playing. Back in 2004, I put this to the test and tried illustrating several Peter Gabriel songs, in order to try and capture the shapes, forms, textures and primarily what colours each song was for me. This work, “Talk In Pictures”, can be seen here.

As a passionate music fan, I can’t paint without having some music on. Perhaps without even realising it, my choice of music influences the colours I decide to use in the work. Clearly some albums are better for painting to than others, and often you have to choose the right album to match the mindset you need to create artwork to, or perhaps even something of the right kind of mood to what you’re trying to convey in the work.

Many albums have a consistent colour palette all the way through; others can be quite varied. I would also say that some albums can be quite monochromatic, and more ‘texture’ based; grainy, spikey, glassy, metallic, etc, with very little colour coming through. So for me, a song or album is more than just music – it can be a full-on sensory experience! It’s hard to imagine hearing music and not ‘seeing’ colours. Which sounds absolutely bonkers!

This isn't always the case, but sometimes, the choice of colour in an album's artwork can influence my perception of that album’s colours, so rather than my mind interpreting the colours, it's agreeing with  (or being influenced by) the artist or designer’s choice of colours for the design, as it clearly matches the colour of the music on offer (Depeche Mode’s “Exciter” being one such example, where I always hear the music in greens and black). 

What is perhaps more interesting for me, is the effect of synaesthesia whilst making music, as I’m now in control of what colours and textures I want in the music. In most cases, I’ll come up with a title first and base the song on that, it having set the mood. But before I’ve even laid a note down I have an idea in my mind of what colour I want it to be.

While this is only of real relevance to me, the next step is to find the right sounds – like a any musician would, except mine, also need to be the right colour! Sometimes it takes several attempts; one song I was working on recently had a lead melody that in my mind’s eye, was a kind of yellowy-white colour. But my first choice of sound, while the right colour, wasn’t the right sound; it’s texture too harsh. I eventually found another yellow/white sound that was softer, and absolutely right for the piece.

I have found that in many cases, a song has a consistent backwash of colours, for example a range of greens, with the lead vocal or melody being a lighter streak in say grey or white which cuts right through the middle of the greens. This is the sort of thing I was illustrating with the “Talk In Pictures” pieces.

I’ve said that for me, making music is the same as painting, just using sounds instead of colours – but I’m wrong, because it uses sounds AND colours… you just can’t see them in the end result! But I’ve figured out that my brain works in exactly the same way when painting or composing a song, and for me, synaesthesia is a crucial – if subtle – part of the creative process.

A lot of 'colour' went into crafting my latest album, Future Worlds - I'd certainly be curious to hear what fellow synesthetes think of it...
Future Worlds, by The Light Dreams

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The Light Dreams – Future Worlds

Future Worlds – track by track

Future Worlds is the name of my new instrumental album of science fiction-inspired music, and the first piece I have composed as Honorary Interstellar Musician for the recently-formed Institute for Interstellar Studies™ (

I like the idea of instrumental music being open to listener’s own interpretation, but as an artist, I always associate music with images, colours and concepts, so in turn, I like my music to have an idea to drive it as part of the creative process, which listeners can then either take or leave. Each track on Future Worlds has a specific theme or vision in mind, reflected in the title.

Souvenir of Earth is a downbeat and reflective start, taking both its inspiration and title from Karen Thompson Walker’s debut novel, The Age of Miracles, which my wife had bought for me last year. The story depicts the impact on society and the environment following the slowing of the Earth’s rotation. The destruction or loss of our home world is a regular topic in SF literature, and I wanted to create a piece to match that mood, leaving Earth as just a memory. This was the first track I made and starting point for the whole album.

To the Stars was one of the first tracks I composed after being invited to join the Institute for Interstellar Studies™, and I wanted to reflect the forward thinking goals and ambitions of the Institute. I had recently made a 25-minute evolving soundscape entitled Chrysalis, which was more of an experimental demo, but there was one section I particularly liked, which I adapted as the main melody in “To the Stars”.

Utopia – whether it’s the city of Diaspar in Arthur C. Clarke’s The City and the Stars, H.G. Wells’ When the Sleeper Awakes or almost any given Philip K. Dick scenario, beneath the perfect, blissful society and lifestyle there is always a dark undercurrent or conspiracy.

Colony ­– many space and science fiction artists have painted radical visions of what man’s colonies on other planets could be like. “Colony” is one of the more dynamic tracks on the album starts out as a heavily electronic piece and gradually morphs into a thunderous orchestral score. I first started using symphonic sounds when I created the soundtrack to artist David A. Hardy’s English edit of 1957 Russian film, Road to the Stars. I enjoyed working with these powerful sounds so much, I decided to fuse orchestral and electronic styles together for Future Worlds.

The World Outside – is actually the title to my own digital painting that I used as the album cover. I wanted a sparse sound and cold atmosphere, which could depict either the first sight of a new world outside a freshly-landed spacecraft, or a beautiful yet inhospitable alien terrain beyond the confines of a colony.

Second Sun – I was reading 50 Years in Space by the late Sir Patrick Moore and David A. Hardy, which contains one of my (many) favourite Hardy paintings, Antares. It’s one of those pieces that you feel you could step right into, with beautiful cascading waterfalls set against a vibrant double sunset. It’s also one of the brighter tracks on the album – thinking to the end of the film, Sunshine, when the dying sun is ‘rebooted” and warmth and sunlight returns to the Earth.

Icefall is one of the more orchestral tracks and combines the cold atmosphere of a solar winter with the underlying message of climate change and the melting of the polar ice caps.

Beneath the Surface continues the ecological theme, this time focusing on the endangered life under the sea. This is perhaps the album’s most epic track, with a gradual build and mid-point transition with echoes of Vangelis’ work and Mike Oldfield’s Songs of Distant Earth (which was inspired by the Arthur C. Clarke novel of the same name)

Cities in the Sky goes in a darker, industrial direction with thunderous drums and metallic drones. The concept of the floating city is no stranger to SF, and I wanted to produce a menacing piece that could capture the vast spectacle of enormous, monstrous floating machine-like cities.

Flightpath is about the adventure of space flight, such as the journey between warring worlds as depicted in Joe Haldeman’s Forever War or the plight of the Leonora Christine starship in Poul Anderson’s Tau Zero.

Earthlight – the partial illumination of a dark part of the surface of the Moon via light reflected from the Earth, and also a term for the appearance of the Earth as seen from the Moon during the lunar night – and an early Arthur C. Clarke novel!

Sea of Flames is an apocalyptic vision of the sun closing in on the Earth and setting alight to everything, including the oceans – a haunting close to the album.

I usually like albums to be around 40-45 minutes in duration – I think that’s just the right length to digest. However, I had so many ideas on the go whilst making Future Worlds, even after completing my planned twelve tracks, there were two pieces that I really liked and decided to include them as bonus tracks. In the one sense, the album starts off with man leaving the Earth and taking to the stars – almost like a first act.  So for the second act, we’re setting foot on a new world for the first time, and starting over there. This was the general thinking behind the two additional tracks, which are only available with the album download on my Bandcamp page.

First Steps started off as an energetic dance track entitled “Contact”, but it wasn’t the right style for the rest of the album, so I slowed it right down and changed it from an all-electronic piece to all-orchestral, the final track sounding almost Terminator-like in approach.

Origins is a slow building track, with layer upon layer of music gradually emerging and evolving into a dramatic, but optimistic crescendo. It’s also the only track on the album to feature vocal samples.

Sometimes when you start work on an album, it often takes unexpected turns and ends up going in a completely different direction to what you originally set out to. But with Future Worlds, I’d say it has turned out exactly how I intended, as an emotive and thought-provoking soundscape with a mixture of moods and atmospheres through a powerful blend of electronic and symphonic music. I’m certainly proud to associate the album with the Institute for Interstellar Studies.™ 

Future Worlds is available now as a digital album from (with 2 exclusive bonus tracks and PDF booklet) and will be available on Amazon and iTunes from 18th March.