Q+A: 5 minutes with Headphone Activist

For many creatives, music is a means to express what they struggle to articulate in other ways. It is true that the medium enables a fluid translation from heart to waveform, that is to say, from raw emotion to audible composition. Perhaps it’s because feelings are often complicated and layered.

Expressing complex emotions through strata of layered dreamscapes, introspective ambient producer Headphone Activist stacks gentle tone on top of gentle tone to form drifting, moody, and nostalgic compositions. Listening to his single, ‘driving through the fog’, we hear these qualities exemplified. 

To know more, we asked Headphone Activist a few questions, and, ready to answer, he touched on music production as a therapeutic process, the inspiration behind his latest works, joining the 24seven label family, and more.

Stream / Download: Headphone Activist – ‘driving through the fog’

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

For most of my life, I have found that it is very difficult for me to connect with people’s “social cues”. If I am in a room full of people or at a party, it’s not that I wouldn’t like to include myself, I personally just find that every time I attempt to, I can’t really seem to keep the momentum of a conversation the way others naturally do. 

So music/creating art has always been my outlet that I can keep momentum with and feel like I do know what I am doing. The result makes me feel connected to something bigger and gives me peace of mind. 

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

It’s the sound 90% of the time. Most of my writing sessions are me working through something in my life: anxiety, stress, sadness. Pretty much, when I sit down to work on music, I am working out a problem in my head. As I am making music, I find that the sound helps me find some sort of personal resolution within myself. 

Randomly, I might have a concept or idea that I am working towards with creating a new record. Personally, though, I think my favourite songs were made while I was working through something. The end result; I have a new song, my head is clear, and I can go about my day in peace.

When composing ‘driving through the fog‘, what were you working through? 

This latest body of work (driving through the fog’, ‘She Will Leave Me For Another’, ‘aftermath’) – these records highlight me addressing some of my long-term fears and the fallouts, of how those fears/problems have made me feel.

The idea of the record is capturing the feeling after a breakup, the ending of a friendship, a shift in my reality, and then trying to move forward and feeling like everything is foggy or difficult to navigate.

It was specifically a breakup in my past that was the main inspiration for ‘driving through the fog’.

did you draw inspiration from any other musicians for this song ? 


Antent’s music was a huge inspiration in helping me with the direction I wanted the tone of the record to go.

For my melodies and key work, I was listening to a lot of sevenlies

If you liked my recent ambient work, then go and listen to their discographies. 

Most of these records you have released have been on the label “24seven”. Can you tell us more about signing with them/how that experience has been so far?

I officially signed with 24 in June this year. I had put together a demo of ideas I had been working on since February for them, ‘She Will Leave Me For Another’ and ‘driving through the fog’ were both in that original email.

The process of working with them has been really great. Everything is super easy in regards to how we figure out artwork, roll-outs, release mapping and our approach to sharing music with people is very similar so it’s very easy for us to brainstorm and strategize on ways of getting the music out there.

Also to add, the label’s audience has been super receptive and supportive of my sound, which is another added bonus.

24seven’s approach is very similar to how I work on my independent releases, so it has been very refreshing to work with them, to say the least.

A strong, harmonically-layered ambient drone centres your latest song. What pulled you toward this tonal sound design?

I think it’s 2 major events for me.

Aphex Twin‘s selected ambient works. During lockdown, I would ride my bike to get out of the house. On one of the days I was out, I had those albums playing for the whole 12-mile ride. By the time I got home, I knew that was the direction I wanted my project/sound to go. Since then I have just been working more and more on my ambient sound design. 

Dreamscape: Then around January this year I found out about Dreamscape. Their label’s roster is impressive, to say the least, and the music that they curate is at the very minimum quality. I listened to the label’s YouTube mixes/Spotify playlists to learn more about their artists and find inspiration for my own work.

2 of their main artists (Øneheart & Antent) had put out an awesome sample library to help other artists with formulating their sound. I highly recommend their collaboration sample pack. It was a huge help in getting my new ambient sound up and running. You can check the pack and more of the sample packs they have put out over on their boosty *Paterons”.

Øneheart & Antent – Ambient Sample Pack Vol.1

Antent on boosty

I also officially released my first single with Dreamscape last month (‘sleeping through a rainstorm’).

Keep an eye out for 2 more Dreamscape records I have rolling out in August!

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

I used to work mostly at night, but since the year started I have been more health-conscious because of the new lifestyle changes. This is what my schedule is like today:

Usually up by 10 am, take my dogs out for a walk/drink my coffee. I’m in the studio by noon. From there, I will either work on new ideas, polish up rough drafts, or search the internet for inspiration to help get new ideas going. 

Lately, on my morning walks, I have been listening to a lot of  Willix. His use of vocals/the washed-out feeling in this record reminds me so much of what I love about Clams Casino and Flume‘s music. 

In the evenings, I will usually start unplugging from writing by responding to emails/messages or cooking something for dinner.

Typically, I spend anywhere from 6 to 8 hours a day working on music, but the process is always changing, It’s really the only way I can keep things interesting. 

Give readers 3 words to describe your latest project.

Honest. Sad. Nostalgic. 

What’s on your current playlist?

I update it weekly, but lately aside from who I have already mentioned, I have been listening to a lot of mezh, knonzzz, Øneheart, Bonjr, a vow, pxlse., Leapyear, Inertia, and my head is empty.

What can we expect from you this year?

I have another 7 or so records rolling out before the end of the year, mostly inspired by autumn and fall. those should all be online by the end of October. 

Working on some collabs at the moment as well. Most of my time will be divided between getting all of that wrapped up… possibly a soundscape EP as well. But we will see if I can get that together in time for the end of the year.

Listen to ‘driving through the fog’:

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