I had the very good fortune to visit Wales last week and enjoy the hospitality of one Stephen Howell, lord and master of the Hollow Sun software house.
Now, Hollow Sun is a name often bandied about on this 'ere blog of mine as I have been both customer and fan of this excellent wee Welsh company and it's products, in particular their Music Laboratory Machines, for some time now. In fact, the next Geigertek album will be called "Hollow Sun" - it's such a great title!!! For the last few years, they have been churning out sample packs and sample-based gizmos and contraptions of a consistently high quality that range from the brilliantly functional to the downright brilliantly bonkers. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the Oxford English Dictionary were to ever add the words Hollow Sun to their definition of quirky.
I've been corresponding with Stephen via e-mail for a while and, naturally, I jumped at his invitation to visit the hallowed halls of Hollow Sun Towers, based in the utterly gorgeous market town of Cowbridge, which lies something of a stone's throw from Cardiff. Stephen has been through a numbers of changes in recent times and a part of that was new premises for his business, and so it was that he said he would like some photographs done "in my style". He also mentioned an interest in doing something of an homage to a painting called "Not To Be Reproduced" by the famous surrealist artist, Rene Magritte. I was more than happy to oblige.
A most enjoyable five hour jaunt to the other side country ensued and I was greeted by this tweed jacketed, hat-wearing, pipe-smoking, mad, angry loony of a Welshman (apparently his crusty old butler, Mortimer, was away visiting a poorly aunt or something). Many hours of constant conversation followed, so much so that we nearly forgot to take photographs!!! Stephen is a most interesting man having been in the music biz since forever, notably working for Akai Japan (designing instruments and creating sound libraries for their samplers) and Alesis (he did the drum sounds for their hugely successful SR18 drum machine), as well as working with people such as Holly Johnson (of Frankie Goes To Hollywood fame) and Peter Gabriel (yes, THAT Peter Gabriel). He shamelessly dropped names and kept me thoroughly entertained. He also showed me round his Synthesizers.com modular synthesizer - a fabulous machine and I now want one. I finally got my hotel room at 4.30am (fortunately they let people stay out late!!!) and set my alarm for 8.30am so that I may enjoy the excellent breakfast the locals told me they served. My alarm duly went off at 8.30am and I hit what I thought was the snooze button. At 10.15am I realised I hadn't hit the snooze button at all and I had missed breakfast. Bugger. But never mind, being an individual of positive thought, I had a luxuriant shower, checked out and found myself an excellent dirty burger van (you know, those vans you see selling burgers, hot dogs and strong tea - they do the best food in the world!!!) which served a truly fabulous dirty burger which I adorned with burger relish and happily devoured with a mug of tea so strong, you could stand your spoon up in it - just how I like :-)
After a short walk around the main streets and back streets of Cowbridge, I returned to Hollow Sun Towers shortly thereafter, whereupon Stephen introduced me to the latest Hollow Sun product, Pulstar. It's part of a new line they are calling "Alien Devices" which have rather unique and innovative user interfaces and some seriously interesting sound shaping facilities which can be used for just about any modern music genre. The basic concept is that of the ability to explore strange new worlds, seek out new civilisations......yeah, I got caught up in it to. I have a copy of Pulstar and I can tell you that it more than perfectly aligns itself with the Music Laboratory Machines, and Stephen told me that the series will expand over time to create a kind of semi-modular system with instruments devoted to specific tasks. Can't wait.
Anyway, here's the photographs and of course, that Rene Magritte homage that does seem to be garnering some attention :-)