Steve Howell – A Book of Condolences



It is with a heavy heart and with much sorrow that I have to report the passing of an incredibly dear friend of mine, and of this blog, Steve Howell. Steve was the quiet man behind Hollow Sun, a site that was initially all about sharing his incredible samples of classic synths for free and that eventually turned into a brand synonymous with quality instruments and sample libraries.

Steve was one of the industry’s good guys. From lugging around Tony Banks’ Mellotron when Genesis were but a mere sparkle in prog rock’s eye, to working with Peter Gabriel on his Passion album, from teaching at the Gateway School of Music & Recording Technology to designing sounds and user interfaces for some of Akai’s most important and influential samplers, from helping users around the world to make the most of their instruments to helping the likes of Holly Johnson make his debut solo album, Steve’s impact in the industry is not only considerable but long lasting and deeply appreciated by many.

It is because of this that I wanted to open this book of condolence so that our community could share their thoughts and sympathies and so that his dear wife and amazing daughter could see what he meant to us all and how he helped us make music, something his daughter does so well herself now. Steve was so incredibly proud of her and considered her to be his greatest musical achievement by far.

Please leave your thoughts here in the comments below. Once I have come to terms with this terrible news, I will put my thoughts and feelings into words and tell you all about a man I met quite by chance many years ago, who became a dear friend, colleague and inspired me to do many things, including this very blog.

Farewell Steve, my fellow curmudgeon…

Stephen Howell and the Subharchord from Ina Pillat on Vimeo.


comments so far
  • Morten says:

    When it affects you that a person you don’t know have passed away, it sure means his work have had an impact on you. Through his work I’ve finally found the kind of sounds I’ve always been looking for. Rest in Peace


  • David Salter says:

    So sad. Steve was without doubt a gentleman who was generous of his time and knowledge.

    My condolences to his family.

  • I’ve known Stephen for eight years or so, and counted him as a generous friend with all the time in the world to help the synth brotherhood explore the world of electronic sound creation. He even contributed to my DIY modular journey by donating a rack to house my rather dodgy electronic creations in. And of course the Novachord – a unique software instrument from a unique hardware instrument, very efficiently summing Stephen’s instrument work up – he did stuff that very few do these days, and created instruments rather than just a big stack of samples. They are playable and versatile, and I use a lot of them constantly in my music making. He brought a lot to the party, and will remain in the minds of many of us as a kind-hearted eccentric doing things his own way. RIP Stephen.

  • Glyn Barnes says:

    I read the sad news on the cakewalk forums a few days ago but I have just found this book of condolences.

    Like so many here I never met Steven but through forums I know he had a remarkable sense of humour and wit.

    His sound libraries were, and will continue to a source of inspirations for so many.

    RIP Steven.

  • Paul Nagle says:

    Steve was a true gentleman as many will know. When I mentioned to him I was struggling to knock up my first Kontakt script for some sample instruments I was making, he generously helped out not only with scripts but with example graphics and the assurance of continued help if required. All freely-offered – in these days when almost nobody has any time or interest above the superficial.
    You’ll be sorely missed Steve, RIP.

  • Matt Bowdler (The Unfinished) says:

    Regretfully, my interactions with Steve were few and far between.

    But I did have the great pleasure of writing some demo tracks for his wonderful Drumbox library. During our email conversation, Steve was nothing short of a charm to deal with: witty, passionate and kind.

    A very sad loss for us all.

    My thoughts go out to his family and friends.

  • Constantin Aliferis says:

    Very sad news….Mr Howell left the world of musical sound
    in so much better state due to his amazing body of work.

    His sounds will live on and will be his remarkable legacy.

  • Beano Jameson says:

    I came here tonight because I hadn’t had any mails about some wonderful new Hollow Sun creations in quite a while. So sorry to hear about Steve. I’ve had some great conversations with him about all the inspirations behind the Music Laboratory Machines, which I would be unable to make music without, as there are no other synths which can create the sounds Steve imagined for us all. Steve, you’ve done an amazing job creating amazing instruments and opening doors to amazing new musical worlds. You will be missed by lots of people, me included, another who never ever met you, but knew you through your amazing work and friendly banter with everyone. Fly high big man

  • Tom Luth says:

    I was terribly saddened to learn of Steve’s passing. I did not know him personally, but had exchanged a few e-mails and found him to be both extremely knowledgable and helpful. I only learned of Hollow Sun less than a year ago, but found the various modules wonderful, and been assembling a collection of these for my own arsenal. I’ve been very impressed by the amount of work that went into these, and the attention to detail that went into designing them. I hope his legacy can continue and that others can get to know these wonderful toys/tools. Of course, my heart goes out to Steve’s friends and family, and I offer my sincere condelences.

  • I’ve been a fan of Steve and his work for some time. I’m deeply saddened to hear about his passing. He made inspiring libraries to help us create, and has played a small hand in many of our creations. He’ll be greatly missed!

  • I had the pleasure of knowing fellow Welshman, Stephen for about 7 years. He was an incredibly talented guy, and generous to a fault. I was deeply shocked and saddened by his passing. My thoughts are with his wife, Angela, and his wonderfully talented daughter, Alice.
    Goodbye, my friend, RIP.

  • David Badger says:

    I didn’t know Steve personally. I dropped him a line by e-mail when I was finishing off my Masters degree (I wrote about the Radiophonic Workshop) to thank him for his marvellous and idiosyncratic Hollow Sun Music Machines.

    I assumed he’d be too busy to reply to a humble student. To my astonishment, the very next day, I received a long, informal and very chatty reply, full of good humour and fond reminiscence. It’s something of a testament to someone’s character – in this rather cut-throat, financially-motivated climate – that a company owner would take such care over a single enthusiast/customer. He did strike me as a genuinely nice, interesting guy. We owe it to him to keep creating wonderful sounds with the tools he’s bequeathed to us.

  • Justin Casey says:

    Through working with Stephen on the RMI ElectraPiano project, another project that never got quite off the ground, and various email communication across the pond, I could tell that he was a genuinely warm and caring person, and deeply, deeply passionate about his work and the creation and sharing of music. He once gifted me a copy of one of his reed organ sample sets after reading a post of mine in an unrelated thread on KVR about how I missed an old Magnus organ I once had, and bestowed upon me irreplaceable advice and knowledge. A truly generous person in an industry that too often seems to try and quell such altruism. The music world has lost someone very important, and he will be missed.

  • Steve was a gentleman, a great friend. A very, very sad news.

    Le mie più sincere condoglianze alla famiglia.

  • Tim Grigg (thefruitfarmer) says:

    Steve was a great guy. I knew him on line and he seemed to inject some kind of extra life and energy into his sample packs and the electronic instruments he worked with too. Always interesting to chat with and, at the end of the day, able to accept difference between people.

  • Mandy Walsh says:

    I feel very honoured to have known Steve. Privileged to have spent time in his company. Loved his sense of humour, he always made me laugh.
    Rest in peace steve 😉

  • Sharif Malik says:

    I can say without hesitation that Stephen has put a creative fire in me more than any other sound designer out there. It’s no wonder that tears of happiness come to my eyes when I think of him, and I think of him often.

    What he created never failed to carry something of the sacred inside of it. I know this was because just beneath his lighthearted surface, was a man who was sacred.

    The guy had an all too rare sense of timelessness, and wonder that he was somehow able to translate, and share with the rest of us. He empowered us! His creations were like Christmas morning, and you never knew when the next one was just about to drop.

    funny thing is, I never knew Stephen personally. It was only through his blog, writings, and instruments that I truly came to know his heart over the years. I’m not sure what else to say. I just miss him dearly.

  • Thomas says:

    His work and inspirational sounds have touched so many. Thank you, Steve. Condolences to his loved ones. May they grieve for a time, then find comfort and treasure in many fond memories.

  • Tim Rainey says:

    Condolences to the family. Steve was a unique talent. RIP

  • ivan says:

    Bye, Foxy.

  • Angela Howell says:

    I would like to thank each and every one of you for your outpourings of love and appreciation for my husband, Steve. A beautiful service was held for him, and the day was full of love and pride. For those who were not able to be there, here are some of the things my daughter and I wrote about Steve, which were mentioned in the service (using Rob’s introductory comments):
    Lots of people know about Steve’s work, and he was greatly loved and admired for his passion for music and sound production. His many friends have said that his impact in the industry was not only considerable, but long lasting and deeply appreciated by many. He was always recognised not only for his immense talent, but also for his kindness, support, and generosity that he always offered. 
But there was the other side to Steve, and that was us. We feel blessed that we had so much time with him, as an incredibly close young family. Because Steve worked from home, we were able to spend every hour of every day together – just the three of us. So although he has gone far far too soon, we feel grateful that we had the time together that many families don’t have. Steve was an extraordinary man in every sense of the word. We loved, laughed and cried together – but mostly laughed – with his razor sharp wit and his outlook on life! He found humour in every situation, making us laugh even right at the end. He meant the world to us, and there was something so wonderful in knowing he was always there.

    The thought of life without my darling husband is unbearable to me. I told him I wanted us to grow old together, and he said to me – with his usual humour that accompanied every sentence – “Of course we will. All being well we can drive each other nuts for years to come ;)” That was just one year ago. Steve sweetheart, I will always love you with all my heart.

    But darling Steve you hid your suffering from us to spare us – you were so incredibly brave. You lived your life your way, you took risks, you were stubborn, and we know you wouldn’t have wanted it any other way!

    Alice wrote – “Daddy, I’m reminded now of the difficulty I always had writing Father’s Day cards, because there are no words that can begin to describe how much I love, adore, and worship you. I wanted to write a poem for you, but without you, the rhyme and pattern has gone from my life. I love you more than anyone can ever know, and I am so proud to call myself your daughter.”

    Say not Good Night, – but in some brighter clime, Bid us Good Morning. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  • Rod O'Brien says:

    I never met Steven in person but we exchanged a few emails back and forth after I purchased some of his synth and I really appreciated his help and his dedication.
    He will be sorely missed. My condolences to his family and I will remember his spirit and his kindenss eveytime I fire up a Hollow Sun Instrument.

  • It was indeed a beautiful and fitting funeral Angela..the comments read out by the priest from John Gould were spot on and as someone who was there at the time he was producing the most amazing scores for a school play really appreciated hearing that, how he started out and how amazing he was from early on..only to build on that in later life and make what he did into such a specialised and niche market and do it with such was a touching farewell and an apt one.

  • James Gardner says:

    I’ve very belatedly heard the shocking and sad news of Steve’s passing. While I didn’t meet the man I thoroughly enjoyed all of our online interactions and his hilarious curmudgeonly comments while making the H-1. I’m extremely sorry to hear that this highly skilled, knowledgeable and funny character has left us, and I send my condolences to his wife and daughter.

  • Paul Janes says:

    I was shocked and sad to learn of Steve’s passing. I was lucky enough to do some work with him in the mid 90’s. He was always a joy to speak to and although I never met him in person we had many long phone conversations about music, synths, samplers and life in general. Steve was an inspiration to me and I’m sure to many others. His legacy will live on. My thoughts go out to his family.

  • jered sorkin says:

    I did not know Steve personally, but derived many hours of happiness and experimentation from his work over the years. I’m very sorry to hear of his passing, my condolences to his family.

  • I’ve just read this terrible news and I’m shocked. It’s so hard to believe that he’s no longer with us… I still remember some e-mails we exchanged years ago about samples and synths (of course) and about languages as well. I wish I would have met him personally, it would have been a pleasure to talk to him about these subjects and to see how he created his excellent sample libraries, that have given me countless hours of fun and have been great sources of inspiration to me.

    Rest in peace, Steve. You will be sorely missed. All my condolences to the family of this great man.

  • Kevin Jakeman says:

    Sorry to hear of Steve’s passing, he was a very talented guy who brought these old instruments to life for all of us musicians, that had dreamed of owning theses machines but would never have been able to.
    RIP Steve.

  • Like others here, I never met Steve but felt like I got to know him a bit through various emails, which were always laced with his bittersweet humour. When I went on the site tonight and read the news, I was completely shocked. What a tragedy to lose a guy like Steve so young, and with clearly tons left to do, and not just for us musos out here. I will genuinely miss a man I never met, just bought some samples off. RIP Steve, and my heartfelt sympathies to his family and friends.

  • I had the distinct pleasure to be able to compose demos for several of Steve’s instruments over the years and to have a release on his short lived label. He will be missed. My interactions with him across the net were also interesting and over the few years we worked together discussed far more than just music. Farewell friend – may you now be sampling the sounds of where ever you are.

    Thoughts and prayers for the family. May you soon find peace on your road.

  • Ian Pratt says:

    I was lucky enough to have been at school with Steve and he gave me great support and inspiration which led to me becoming a sound engineer. He actually made me my first ever audio mixer and struggled on to complete it despite being under the weather. He was just that sort of chap. Sincere condolances to his family and friends. E

  • Cole Jolley says:

    I only corresponded with him once, when I happened across the wonderful sample libraries from Hollow Sun for the first time, but wow what an impact they had on me. I’m always happy to pull them up for inspiration, and I always looked forward to the latest email describing the next new thing he had pulled together. That’s a wonderful legacy to leave to the world and he will be very much missed, by me and by many others.

  • Doojster says:

    Very sad news indeed. Like many others I never knew Steve other than through email updates (which often made me chuckle) and the Hollow Sun products (which are excellent). Condolences to his family and friends.

    His legacy will live on through the Hollow Sun instruments loved by the users to make music.

  • Cato says:

    I’m very saddened just having heard of Steve’s passing. Over the past few years, after having discovered and become an avid user/supporter of his amazing Hollow Sun instruments, I was fortunate enough to enjoy some great email exchanges with Steve that quickly had content and a feeling like we’d met in person and gotten to be friends in ‘the real world’. My deepest condolences go out to his family, especially to his wife and daughter, and friends. I will be looking forward to continue supporting Steve’s legacy in whichever form it continues. It’s clear to me that the memories of Steve as a person, as well as his amazing work, will continue to enrich and inspire people’s lives and work long into the future.

  • epiphaneia says:

    I am not good at that… I just want to say, rest in peace, Steve, rest in peace. You were, indeed, one of “the industry´s good ones”, and it was always a pleasure to exchange viewpoints, opinions, chit chats… and sounds – with you. I hope the place you are at now is full of the most incredibly beautiful noises.

  • Chris S says:

    I only heard about this today… Steve was not only one of the best sound designers that I know of – and I don’t say this lightly, I’ve told him that when he was alive… – but also a very nice and kind person. RIP.

  • Severin Faust says:

    Although I did not have the opportunity to meet Steve personally, I wanted to pay my deep respect for the work he has done. My whole music affinty grew with the recordings of early Genesis and PG.

    Thank you!

  • Allan Castellanos says:

    I think he went to another dimension 🙂

  • Henk Bol says:

    It is with deep sadness that I heard of Stephen Howell passing. After discovering his great inspiring website and become a user of his amazing Hollow Sun instruments, I hope his legacy will live on. My sincere condolances to his family and friends.

  • NilsOlav says:

    I was sad and touched when I learned today, in the latest issue of Sound on Sound magazine, that Stephen had passed away. His attention to detail, quirkiness of sounds and profound knowledge will be greatly missed. I only knew Stephen through the Hollow Sun website, but I have become more and more attached to the sounds he was offering, and I found use for quite a few of them in my music. My thoughts goes to his family and friends. He made a difference.

  • Thierry Verger says:

    It’s been a few years that i discovered Hollow Sun and their fantastic librarys already . Very original with outstanding creativity and quality ! pretty cheap as well! I bought most of them and was waiting for the next one to come …

    I’m not surprised to learn that the guy behind was a great person too !

    All my condolences to his family and friends. You will be deeply missed …

    Sincerly ,

  • David Wise says:

    I have just visited the Hollow Sun Website looking forward to see which creative and inspiring gem might be coming along next – only to find out this terribly sad news.
    I would like to extend my thoughts and condolences to family and friends.
    I’m sure Stephen Howell’s instruments will continue to inspire our music, sound and compositions for many, many years.

  • Dan Mayorga says:

    I was shocked to find out today of Steve Howell’s passing. I really enjoy his Kontakt instruments and was always looking forward to new releases from Hollow Sun. I hope someone will keep his legacy going.

    Condolences to his family.

  • Andreas says:

    I found out about this just now and I am shocked.
    I have been greatly inspired by Steve’s Hollow Sun work and had some very friendly e-mail conversations with him in the past.
    R.I.P. Steve, you and your outstanding work will be greatly missed.
    My heartfelt condolences to Steve’s family.

  • I’ve just heard the deeply shocking and sad news of Steve’s untimely passing. I only knew Steve through the Alesis Fusion Synth forum and his wonderful vintage Hollow Sun sounds he made freely available for owners of that synth and also of course his equally welcome regular posts on that forum. He had a wonderfully acerbic wit, a wealth of musical tips and advice born from knowledge and experience and enthusiasm for the music industry and his beloved vintage sounds and he was generous to a fault with all of it … a true gentleman.
    It’s testimony to the man that so many want to leave a few words in his memory and he will be sorely missed.
    Thank you Rob for making this book of condolences available.
    My heartfelt condolences to Steve’s family.

  • Craig Tracy says:

    I only just read of this sad news. My condolences to Steve’s family.

    Hollowsun was something of an inspiration for my own sampling endeavours. I read many of his insightful forum posts and observed his amazing career from afar. His contribution to the music industry was significant and shall remain long-lasting. RIP Steve.

  • Mark Jacobs says:

    I have only just learnt of Steve’s passing, a real shock. I have not long discovered the excellent Hollow Sun sample sets, and love them. Peace and love to family and friends

  • James Ting says:

    I just came across the Hollow sun library and heard some demos on the site, I must say I love it. As a computer musician, it is kind of sad to realize the creator of such great sample library has just left us 2 months ago.
    Rest in peace. My heartfelt condolences to Steve’s family.

  • This with a shock that returning to today, wondering why there isn’t any news, that I learn about Stephen passing. He is responsible for some of the most important sounds in my palette. He was always helpul when I encoutered problems. As Morten said in the comments, when someone’s passing you don’t know personnaly touches you, it means a lot to the sense of his work. I feel somehow amputated.

  • Juan Diego Peral says:

    Create sounds that may be universal, based on electronic instruments most colorful and rare, without losing the personality, is very difficult. When I listened to their sounds, once existed, were obvious. But that was because he was a master and an irreplaceable creative. The art is to inspire and evoke. Steve Howell did precisely that, and thanks to his work and legacy continue to do so. A deep embrace for the family.

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