With a heavy heart I learnt about the passing of my friend, the legendary sound designer Stephen Howell this morning. I first learnt about Steve’s existence through his sterling contributions to Alesis’s ill fated Fusion synthesiser that he virtually transformed with his exacting and inspiring sound sets and sample libraries. I was surprised to then discover that he was a fellow Welsh man and had formerly lived next door to my good friend and long term collaborator Tim Lewis aka Thighpaulsandra in Cardiff way back when.
Steve’s legacy stretched way beyond software and into hardware with his long term involvement with Akai Professional and their esteemed sampler line. He worked on the interface design for numerous models throughout the 1990’s and was even involved with the stupendous DPS24. Steve also had a hand in inventing pedal based looping with his idea to utilise available memory in Akai’s groundbreaking Headrush delay pedal. Steve wrote an interesting (and sad) blog entry about the death of his friend and collaborator Jack Sugino of Akai in which he explains much about his involvement.
His Kontakt based sample libraries released under his Hollow Sun moniker were an astonishing collection of innovative and unusual instruments that we used extensively in the rock opera Pop’pea. You can read about that crazy show here.
I had communicated with Steve numerous times over the internet before our first physical meeting at a gig by my band Rocketgoldstar at the tail end of 2012 in Cardiff. Steve wrote about that encounter on his blog here. From that point on, we regular communicated and we spent a fabulous and silly evening back in January this year that Steve blogged about here.
I’m so sad to learn of Steve’s untimely passing and I extend my heartfelt sympathies and love to his friends and family especially his wonderfully talented 17 year old daughter Alice. I would also like to thank Rob Puricelli (aka Failed Muso) for letting me know about Steve’s sudden illness and for keeping me informed. Rob has also opened a book of condolences on his site here.