In the world of electronic dance music, there’s more than meets the eye.
Born with a rare eye disease and pronounced legally blind at age 17, Aether has crafted a unique and mesmerizing catalog of music. He’s also a bright example for visually impaired creatives.
Hailing from Scotland, the producer, composer and sound designer developed a passionate love for all things music throughout his childhood and spent a lot of his teenage years exploring music production in his bedroom.
Across his 10-year career, he has dabbled in contemporary piano, ambient and electronic dance music while continuously evolving his craft. Despite his visual condition, Retinitis Pigmentosa, which leads to a number of obstacles that complicate the creative process, Aether has always emerged victorious.
His latest project comes in the form of Moonstone, an enthralling Monstercat EP inspired by the way gemstones evolve into new formations. All four of its tracks were created in the order they appear on the final record, mimicking the crystalline evolution process by transforming the previous track’s foundation into the next.
From the ethereal ambiances and lo-fi grooves of “Aquamarine” to the gritty, garage-influenced breaks on “Sapphire,” Moonstone is a true stunner. Ahead of the project’s release, EDM.com caught up with Aether to discuss the EP, his creative process as a visually impaired artist and much more.
EDM.com: You just shared your latest EP Moonstone via Monstercat. What was the main creative inspiration behind it?
Aether: I originally set out to create an ambient EP, but I wanted to push myself a little further with this project and so I decided to see if I can sample my ambient EP and turn it into something completely new and refreshing. The result was Moonstone.
EDM.com: Tell us more about your journey navigating the music industry as a visually impaired producer. What is your condition called and how does it affect or hinder your ability to create?
Aether: I was born with a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa. It’s a genetic degenerative disease that deteriorates my vision over time, starting with my peripheral and night vision. The primary way it hinders my ability to write music is mostly just struggling with viewing gridlines and reading small UI on plugins.
EDM.com: Do you use any specialized hardware or software tools that help guide you through production and engineering? If so, what do these look like?
Aether: I have dabbled with some, my grandfather also has Retinitis Pigmentosa so he was blind through my whole life. He spent a lot of time on his computer and showed me some software that could read out whatever your mouse cursor is hovering over. So for example button names, text paragraphs, folder names, et cetera.
I also tried out magnification devices but I didn’t feel those beneficial enough to keep in my rotation. Currently I try to create workflows that don’t require any additional assistance and that’s why I took building some hardware modular synths. This gives me full control and I don’t have to worry about losing my mouse cursor—although having this inverted is helpful—or trying to learn what value I have set as a parameter on a UI. Hardware I can feel the position of the parameter.
EDM.com: Are there any parts of one’s experience as a visually impaired person in music that you wish people knew more about?
Aether: To be honest not really. I’m just very grateful that in spite of my condition, I’m still able to tell stories and explore the beautiful world of sound. If anything I would just encourage more visually impaired, or any other disabled people to not let their disabilities control them. Make the most with what you’ve got, you’ll be surprised where it can lead if you truly believe in yourself.
EDM.com: How would you describe the evolution of your sound since the launch of your career 10 years ago, and what have been some of the main driving influences behind that evolution?
Aether: Fundamentally I think my sound still falls under the “ethereal” sound palette as I call it. Although I have branched off into other genres (contemporary romantic, ambient, video game soundtracks to name a few) I think the core of my sound remains. I just learned a lot about how to control it. I learned to enjoy the experience rather than getting frustrated by it too. Overall I’m very proud of everything I’ve achieved in those 10 years and I’m very excited to see what the next 10 will bring!
Right now, my biggest artistic influence is LORN. I’ve followed his music for around eight years and hearing what he writes now, his incredible control of sound, his use of distortion and compression, everything he’s released recently has left me awe-inspired. I strive to attain that level of control.
EDM.com: What does your music creation and production process look like? Have you developed any specific workflows that people might find unique or unconventional?
Aether: Honestly I would love if I did have something cool to share here, but for me I start 99% of my music with a melody. A melody to me is the memory of the song, so its much easier to shape a song when you have the most ear-catching part.
I know there’s crazy drum solos and other incredible elements to music, I don’t want to take that away from anyone, but for me and the styles of music I write, melody is the key. From there it really depends on the style of music. If it’s electronic then I’ll go to drums next. If it’s ambient then I’ll process the melody, if it’s soundtracks then I’ll continue adding more melodies and progression. A lot of these things are interchangeable too.
EDM.com: Pulling from your unique experience and insights as a visually impaired artist and sound engineer, are there any unusual tips you’d give to a fellow producer asking for advice?
Aether: Use your ears, not your eyes. I know with how beautiful EQs can look these days it’s easy to be very mathematical with it. But honestly if you just listen to the difference, that’s as important, if not more important, than cutting/boosting certain frequency ranges.
EDM.com: Do you have any future plans that you’re excited about and would like to share?
Aether: I have only just begin the music train for this year. If all goes well there could be a lot of albums releasing this year. I have two personal albums and two soundtracks in the works. They are all pretty much finished at the point of writing this too, so I’m excited to continue to share more stories with you all. Thank you for listening and thank you for reading.