Neil Hales: ‘Take me back to the birth of Acid House, the magical years of raving!’

Electronic music producer Neil Hales tells all in our Q&A

Neil Hales (Photo: James Bianchi)
Neil Hales (Photo: James Bianchi)

Neil Hales, aka Acidulant, is an electronic music producer from Malta whose passion revolves around synthesizers and experimentation in different genres and electronic sounds. Hales is one half RAIM, a collaboration with Sound Synthesis, which has releases on Balkan Vinyl and Japanese label Plus Records. Co-founder of Electronic Music Malta (EMM), he performs tonight at Spazju Kreattiv at 9pm with Dutch trombonist Wolter Wierbos as part of the Away from the Comfort Zone project within the Circuits Festival, organised by EMM.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

I go straight to the fridge for some fresh cold water to drink. What I have planned for the rest of the day decides what comes after that – if I’m working I simply get ready for work and that’s it, if I am on my off days from my day job, then I walk straight into the studio.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

It’s a very short quote and it can be applied to basically everything you do in life: “Work smart not hard”.

What do you never leave the house without?

Everywhere I go I use my car, so I make sure my car keys are with me when leaving the house. Other than that I try to not leave my phone behind.

Pick three words that describe yourself

Happy, friendly, acid...

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

I am still am able to juggle a professional aviation career and a highly active music career.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

I can never be tired of buying more synths, but lately I’m not buying lots of music equipment, only irresistibly cheap ones, therefore my guiltiest pleasure right now is looking at online music shops knowing I’m not buying anything. Such a waste of time but it gives me such pleasure.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

You are the master of your own universe, choose your own path. Start by loving yourself and believing in yourself, the more you are able to push yourself to be a better version of whatever you are doing.

Property and cars aside what’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?

Synthesisers: TB-303s and my modular system.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?

I wish I knew that certain classic synths were going to become so expensive, I would have tried to buy a few of them earlier.

Who’s your inspiration?

My parents, doing things the hard way, working hard for our family to give me a better future. Seeing all this inspires me to always be positive, whatever I do.

What has been your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge musically was that of releasing music on highly acclaimed record labels. My target was always there from the very start but I had something telling me I was not ready, and I should be patient and continue working hard. Years passed and from my first releases on small labels and after many small challenges later, now I find myself releasing on labels I always dreamt about.. thank you I Love Acid and R&S Records for supporting Acidulant.

If you weren’t in aviation or music, what would you be doing?

I would most probably be working with animals, perhaps even on a farm. Strange but it’s something that would for sure bring me much joy.

If you could have dinner with any person, dead or alive, who would it be?

Definitely dinner with family and friends over any other celebrity. Sharing best moments with those people who are closest to you and that have supported you all this way is truly priceless. That said I would definitely love to have one last dinner with my uncle who sadly passed away this year.

What’s your worst habit?

I always fall asleep with everything still on – my TV, my correction glasses, the lights! Once I even slept with my laptop on my lap and it almost cost me a fortune.

What are you like when you’re drunk?

I don’t drink spirits, only wine over dinner and I can’t even remember the last time I got drunk!

Who would you have play you in a film?

Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit). He is a great actor and in most of his films he portrays characters that really inspire me.

What music would you have played at your funeral?

Apparat – Silizium E.P … something I keep reminding everyone about when this comes up in our very interesting discussions.

What is your most treasured material possession?

My TB-303s. I use them every day and I can’t really imagine my music studio without them. They are a piece of me and even just looking at them brings back so many great memories.

What is your earliest memory?

Jumping in the pool and playing around at White Rocks with my parents and my uncle.

Who would you most like to meet?

Definitely Eric Cantona. Attitude backed with results, and he took no crap from any one, a true Manchester United hero.

What’s your favourite food?

Seafood pasta but to be maybe more general, Italian cuisine tops my charts.

Who’s your favourite person on social media right now?

Without any hesitation it’s Wayne Flask, a writer and activist who is never shy of challenging these bullies here in Malta who are truly ruining our beloved island with their greed. This author really inspires me to never give in no matter the obstacles and even if the odds are stacked against you.

If you could travel in time, where would you go?

I’d go back to the birth of Acid House – 88-89. The magical years of raving. Please take me back!

What book are you reading right now?

I rarely read books, my reading pleasures are most of the time news or science articles. The last thing I was reading was actually how MDMA combined with psychotherapy may help treat post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

I would choose the power to be able to fly. Being up there is perhaps the best feeling of freedom you can get while looking at our beautiful planet in the most extraordinary way.

What’s one thing you want to do before you die?

Make sure the 303 has new batteries installed before they lock it in the coffin with me so I can play Acid in my afterlife.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

Sound Synthesis, who is an impressive Maltese artist, MOY, We’re Going Deep Label, I Love Acid, Warp Records, Analogical Force and many more.

In the shower or when you’re working out, what do you sing/listen to?

I rarely work out; my workouts are in the studio, dancing and jumping around. In the shower usually I try to have a break from music and just try and listen to the sound of water.