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Hollow sun: High Noon

Stephen Howell, after exploring his love of synthesis during his teens, worked on classic releases like the AKAI Headrush and Alesis Fusion in his early twenties due to a fortunate encounter with an AKAI executive. However, exhausted from business dealings and frequent travel, he chose to strike out independently.

PART THREE – It’s high noon in the career of our tour guide Stephen Howell!

Welcome back!

So far, we’ve found Stephen being awarded a scholarship to a Preparatory school. Singing at Windsor Castle for the Royal family. Being chosen by the composer Benjamin Britten to sing in one of his operas!

Then as he grew into his teenage years, we discover his love of synthesis. Becoming involved in the local live band scene and becoming a reviewer for various magazines.

Moving into his early twenties, a chance meeting with an AKAI executive eventually leads him to developing the architecture and sound libraries of classic releases like the AKAI Headrush delay pedal and the Alesis Fusion and many others.

To be or not to be?

In Shakespeare’s play “As you like it” Jaques delivers a dramatic speech in poetic form describing the seven ages of man – these are: infancy, schoolboy, teenager, youth, middle age, old age, extreme old age.

Whether you have read the play or not you’ll probably recognise the opening two lines: “All the worlds a stage, And all the men and women merely players.” Brief modern exposition on each stage can be found here. But for our purposes it is the fourth stage of life: youth that interests us.

brash courage, raw passion mixed with the impetuous temper that is characterized by unwarranted rebellion.
Image shows an illustrated scene from As You Like It by Shakespeare from the article Hollow Sun: High Noon courtesy of
Credit: “As You Like it” – Oxford World’s Classics

“Unwarranted rebellion” is admittedly strong language, and it would be a stretch to put our choirboy from Wales into that category. But add to this forth age: exploration and the willingness to try new things and we get an outline of what Stephen was like in his youth.

The commitments

Recounting in an interview with the website (now defunct.) Stephen related that he went against his father’s wishes and left his steady job at the British agricultural department (now DEFRA) to pursue his love of synthesis and music full time.

It was a risky move, but perhaps not as risky as it might be today. The emergence of IT as an employment sector together with the significant economic and social changes of the time provided many opportunities, especially for a young person.

Take the test!

Image shows a Venn diagram from the website from the article Hollow Sun: High Noon courtesy of

How can we take some inspiration from the life we are learning about in this series? Perhaps the above test will help; not just for the answers we provide but in how we provide them.

Stephen had worked for AKAI, Roland, Korg, Alesis, Novation and others in product and library development for many years. But remember; this is High Noon where traditionally paces are counted; guns are drawn and shots are fired, so let’s close this article with another.

All too many hours spent flying to various noisy NAMM trade shows coupled with the often-necessary but unpleasant side of business had left Stephen feeling tired of it all and he was ready to strike out on his own.

This would involve a move to somewhere quieter where a new and exciting journey would begin all over again. One, like as before that would be on his own terms…

That’s a wrap! Return for part four Eventide of this exclusive series only at! 

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