My career path from the Railway to the Salt Baths (and the composition of ambiance).

Between 2007–2010 I worked as a railway signalling technician. Progressing from trainee to certified installer, this involved me working mostly night shifts in Central London, wiring traffic lights for trains, dressed in a bright orange outfit. A lot of our work at the time was focused on two new platforms being built in Stratford for the 2012 London Olympics — What became the Olympic Village was a muddy wasteland when I worked there. This was not part of a planned career path. Previously I was working in a bar. A regular in the bar mentioned openings at his company VolkerRail (cheers, Des). I interviewed and got the job. Seize the opportunity — done deal.

After two years of night shifts, weekend work, winter stints in Glasgow and crawling around trackside with a screwdriver in my hand, the initial draw of the competitive salary began to lose it’s edge and lack of job satisfaction and creative engagement began to take hold.

I met my wife in 2009 and she was a real catalyst for my decision to change the current path I was on…excuse the cliche — true story.

By August 2010 i found a job that bridged my railway engineering & electrical skills into a more customer facing role in the slightly more personable industry of health and wellness. I believe I was hired as a “Spa Technician”, but I can’t quite remember or confirm due to the lack of paperwork and removal of the Gumtree ad. In hindsight, the title was fairly insignificant considering my responsibilities.

I was employed by the “largest floatation tank centre in the world”, nestled next to London’s popular Borough Market. If you’re lost, I suggest reading this. We had nine operating tanks in one spot which I was now responsible for maintaining. We also had a manufacturing operation that sold our tanks to spa owners around the globe. I was the installer. Between these two responsibilities, my role also spanned from building the filtration systems of new tanks, repairing on-site facilities, customer service, receptionist and general evangelist — I enjoyed it.

Product Photoshoot in London, 2011.

Product Photoshoot in London, 2011.

This array of duties gave me incredible insight into worlds previously unexplored. I often traveled solo and my efforts would directly affect the company’s reputation. I installed tanks in the basements of Swiss riches, spas in Asia and private retreats in California — around twenty in total. Assembling a 1350 kg (2977 lbs) meditation machine full of salt water into a millionaire’s basement was worlds away from the previous years of clambering through ballast to unscrew a shit blasted magnet on a rainy night — yes, of course that’s what happens when you flush the chain!

Our center in London had an incredibly wide variety of customers. Academics, creatives, yogis, and actors. One occasion I had to remove a necklace from a towel wrapped Ruby Wax. I used to set up the float room for Naomi Harris when she would visit between shooting for her first appearance as Money Penny in the Bond hit, Skyfall. I invited many musicians along, partly out of admiration for the artists, partly for our exposure and partly in hope to inspire them: Dan Snaith (Caribou), Peter Broderick and even an album launch press event for my favourite label, Kompakt Records. I started to realise I had found genuine passion in my work and my proactiveness was being fed by the enjoyment of making a difference. This is what was missing previously.

Whether my passion was for mindfulness, exploring thoughts or tranquility itself? Whatever it was, this combined with a strong desire to create music was the perfect recipe for me to focus on making a thing that might be useful, as well as finally finding an outlet for channeling some creativity.

The centre would play music for the first ten minutes of a customer’s sixty minute float session. This ten minute musical intro was streamed through underwater speakers to the listener and designed to relax and ease the customer into a tranquil forty minutes of meditative bliss. The only problem; bad, new age music that resonated and thumped its way through the warm salt solution. It embarrassed me. My last task before leaving someone to float would be to get their music choice from an illustrated, laminated card playlist with six choices like “Mystic Angel” and “Healing Crystal”. It was the weakest part of the experience with the least thought gone into it.

There it was, my goal was to create six new ten minute tracks for people to use in the tanks at the start of their float. The tracks would also be used as default music on the tanks we sold. I raised some funds via Kickstarter so I could get some much needed production gear, promotional wear and a mastering engineer for the project’s final polish.

I then spent the second half of 2012 making use of my free access to floatation tanks (when the centre was quiet) and began experimenting, sonically, playing and recording frequencies underwater. I submerged my sealed dictaphone into the salty water, recorded, and assessed my results. Noting resonating spikes, testing timing and cycles of repetition, and so on. I then implemented my findings across the six tracks.

One of my main rules for this album was not to drive the listeners’ emotions too far. That would be intrusive and too manipulative for the environment I intended it for. Instead, the work needed to be about space, time and timbre, leaving the imagination to do the rest.

I used to work the Sunday evening shift quite often and between myself and whoever else was on duty (normally my good friend Felicity from Australia), we would help each other to get sixty minutes of tank time each. When it was my turn, laying below London street level, in a womb-like cocoon, I would play back my weeks work through the tank and take mental notes for changes. I would then work on the material in my free time the following week and repeat the process until finished.

I released the six track album in November of 2013. The ambient genius and owner of Room 40, Lawrence English, took care of the final polishing (mastering) and to date, it’s had over 40k streams online. That was my journey from the railway to the salt baths, with a composition of ambiance.

Make something.