34 Web Rockstars 1 Question: What do you listen to?

‘Web Rockstar’, in recent weeks the name has caused all kinds of trouble, some people saying the name is a whole load of rubbish and others stating that designers who have tagged the term don’t deserve it. Well I’ve contacted 30 34 Web Rockstars, Rockstars in it’s most general term linked to music. Generally design can be linked to music, whether it be to concentrate or grab inspiration from.

I wanted to know what music they listen to when their head is deep in to work. I asked whether they could name three tracks or explain what kind of music they need to work or what music inspires them the most.

Thank you to all who got involved in the post, I really appreciate it. My music choice when I’ve got my head down is the Gladiator OST and most important ‘The Battle’ Track. Hans Zimmer is an absolute god when it comes to working music.

mattmullenwegMatt Mullenweg – http://ma.tt

Success – Jay-Z and Nas
Wonderwall – Oasis
Mr. Carter – Lil Wayne and Jay-Z

gabriel-seguraGabriel Segura – http://cssmania.com

Below the 3 songs that are the most inspiring for me when designing !

Yiruma – River Flows in you
Counting Crows – Round Here
Remedy Drive – Daylight

chriswallace-bio-picChris Wallace – http://chris-wallace.com

Control by Mute Math – Really, their entire discography is just flat out sick, especially their version of the Transformers theme. Good song to do some sketch work to.

Diary of Jane by Breaking Benjamin – This song just flat out rocks, great for keeping things interesting while coding.

Voyager by Daft Punk – Definitely puts me in “design” mode, ready to conquer Photoshop. I love Daft Punk.

I’d also like to give mad props to UK designer and musician Elliot Jay Stocks, whose Sourhaze EP is super awesome to design to as well.

dancederholmDan Cederholm – http://simplebits.com

An excellent question 🙂

Best of Bread (album)
Pavement: Slanted & Enchanted (album)
Anything by Guided by Voices

stefsullivanStephanie Sullivan – http://w3conversions.com

That’s tough because it can vary a lot depending on the kind of work I’m doing. Sometimes, I need focus (I’m a code geek) and other times, upbeat and loud works well… Three types of songs that always work for me though would be:

Falling Slowly – Glen Hansard (or anything by Glen Hansard or Damien Rice)
The Art of Suicide – Emilie Autumn (Love Emilie, Tori Amos, any angsty gurl singer)
Why? – Bronski Beat (Jimmy Sommerville has one of the best voices evAR. I have a whole library of awesome 80’s new wave for “those days”)

Sorry… Picking three is just SO tough. 😀

tokenygaardToke Nygaard – http://cubancouncil.com

1: Sky.fm’s salsa station
2: M83
3: Metric
4: Chet Baker

andy-sowardsAndy Sowards – http://andysowards.com

Sure this is an easy one! (well, kinda hard cuz I listen to so much music)

I’ll pull some from my recent playlist lol, here are the 3 tracks!

Filter – I’m Not the Only One
Placebo – Follow the Cops Back Home
Loreena McKennitt – Egyptian

marc-perelMarc Perel – http://www.obox-design.com

Hey Gav, no worries mate.

This is a tough question actually, depends on the mood, I listen to sooo much music at work, lol.

Gold Fish (Artist) – Great NuJazz/AfroHouse music, we’ve been following them religiously since 2004 when they were just starting out.
Infected Mushrooms (Artist) – All their pre-2004 Tracks are so intricate and awesome, it takes you to another zone!
Any Soulcandi (local record label) and Café Del Mar album. – Both really great CD series, one local house music, the other European.  And at Obox we dig our House 😉

Other mentions – Sublime, The Roots, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Daft Punk, Paul van Dyk… aaaaaaahhhhh so much!

jeffrey-zeldmanJeffrey Zeldman – http://zeldman.com

Because of my musical background, I can’t work while listening to music. I pay too much attention to music to ignore it while designing or writing.

If I absolutely have to play music while working — for instance, to drown out a loud studio mate — it’s most likely to be something ambient and non-vocal, since I also can’t ignore lyrics while writing or designing.

Here are some typical playlists:




elliott-kemberElliott Kember – http://elliottkember.com

I listen to dance music – I like the way it’s consistent and rhythmic. I think it helps keep my mind focused in one direction, whereas usually it branches off into many directions at once.

I like to think it stops the mind fidgeting by giving it something trivial to do. Anything more complex and I start to think about the music, which wreaks havoc with my concentration.

Dance music is really just white noise.
I particularly like trance and house for this – Tiesto’s In Search of Sunrise 7 is my favourite coding music, and Cream is good, although pretty much any trance album will do.

cindy-liCindy Li – http://cindyli.com

Gavin, Thank you. I’d be honored.

What music keeps you going?
Lately to “reawaken” myself is the Ting Ting’s the song “That’s not my name” or “Shut Up and Let Me Go”  or ABBA’s “Waterloo”

What music do you listen to when your head is deep into your work?
I pick songs that were mainly in the Jazz/Swing category. This is partly because I used to swing dance.

Three tracks; This is a difficult one!
Michael Bublé –  Pretty much anything on his “Call Me Irresponsible” album. My favorite song is “The Best is yet to come” “Summer Wind”
Norah Jones – “Shoot the moon”
Ray Gelato –  “My Kind of Girl”

Can you tell I’m a bit of a romantic and old fashioned? 😉

john-chowJohn Chow – http://johnchow.com

When I am working, I don’t listen to music. I prefer to work with no background noise. When not working, I like pop, house, trance and fusion jazz.

josh-pylesJosh Pyles – http://www.pixelmatrixdesign.com

Ohhh this is tough for me. Hmm…

1. M. Ward – Never Had Nobody Like You
2. City Sleeps – Not an Angel

When all else fails:
3. Thrice – Paper Tigers

There’s so many songs I like, but I think these 3 are my best “keep me going” songs.

kevin-cornellKevin Cornell – http://www.bearskinrug.co.uk

Surething – I’d be honored 🙂

Let’s see… this is tough… I’d have to say…

1. Airbag – Radiohead
2. Sentimental Man – The Dismemberment Plan
3. Impossible Germany – Wilco

matt-brettMatt Brett – http://www.mattbrett.com

Nice, one question I can handle!

I don’t really have a short answer for this, to be honest.  I listen to music constantly while at my desk – my Last.fm profile (http://www.last.fm/user/MattBrett) is a testament to that.  I go through phases, though.  More often than not, I’m listening to instrumental film, tv, and video game scores.  Among my favourites are the Battlestar Galactica series, The Bourne Identity, and the Elder Scrolls Morrowind and Oblivion.  When it comes to actual bands, I listen to a lot of ska and reggae, but mostly punk rock.  A Wilhelm Scream always fit the bill.  As do The Aggrolites, and The Slackers.

So how about that?  3 soundtracks and 3 bands.

michael-dunlopMichael Dunlop – http://incomediary.com

I’m a huge fan of Piano Music, it helps mostly with the late nights, I would highly recommend Scott Davis, I have two of his CD’s, my favourite song being Swiftwater which you can listen to on Youtube.

I find listening to Piano music to be better for my productivity over other music because there are no words for me to sing along to so I don’t get interupted. I also love Jazz and my two favourite peaces are Tenderly and Dave Brubeck’s Take Five!

matthew-smithMatthew Smith – http://squaredeye.com

Oh, that’s easy 😛

1. DJ Tiesto’s ClubLife Podcast (not so much a track, but definitely a great hour of music every week)
2. Sigur Ros : Glosoli
3. Explosions in the Sky : First Breath after a Coma.

tim-van-dammeTim Van Damme – http://maxvoltar.be

I’m always up for a little questionnaire 🙂

Music that keeps me going:

Amusement Parks on Fire – Out of the Angeles
Vitalic – La Rock 01
dEUS – Instant Street


Jeff Croft –http://jeffcroft.com

I don’t listen to music while working — it’s too distracting, for me.  I’m virtually incapable of listening to music passively. If music is playing, I focus on it, and usually end up signing, drumming on my desk, or even dancing around the room. As such, it’s not particularly helpful for getting things done. I’m jealous of those who can rock headphones all day! I wish I could!

ryan-taylorRyan Taylor – http://www.havocinspired.co.uk

Well I seem to have a very random and eclectic taste when it comes to music. I have no specific type of music that I listen to when working so I suppose three songs I seem to be listening to regularly at the minute would be:

All Along the Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix (Ever since I saw Watchmen)

Volcano – Damian Rice (Theres a live version on YouTube that is just awesome)

CrushCrushCrush – Paramore (I’ve got a thing for Hayley Williams ;-))

steven-snellSteven Snell – http://vandelaydesign.com

It’s hard to say because I listen to a lot of different music depending on what type of mood I’m in at the moment. It’s always rock of some sort, sometimes I prefer heavier music and other times not. A few albums that I have been listening to a lot recently are Skillet, Comatose – Remedy Drive, Daylight is Coming – and Blindside, Silence.

rogie-king1Rogie King – http://komodomedia.com

Here’s my three tracks:

Step One Two – Kaskade
Light – Benassi Bros.
Human After All – Daft Punk
A State of Trance 2008 for an album
di.fm’s Progressive or Trance streaming audio

kyle-steedKyle Steed – http://kylesteed.com

Let me see if I can name real quick 3 tracks that I love to listen to when I’m working.

1. M83 – Lower Your Eyelids To Die With The Sun
2. AIR – Space Maker
3. The Album Leaf – Eastern Glow

cameron-mollCameron Moll – http://www.cameronmoll.com

My music library — and musical tastes for that matter — is constantly evolving, changing, growing. Right now, I find anything from Explosions in the Sky is the perfect music to design by. Top picks are “First Breath After Coma” (best song title ever, isn’t it?) and “Your Hand in Mine”. I’ll reserve the third pick for a song I have yet to discover from Explosions in the Sky.


Collis Ta’eed – http://envato.com

Oh sadly I don’t actually listen to much music so I probably won’t be much help on this one (weird I know!)

Amy Mahon – http://www.amymahon.com


Songs I love the most when working… For this I had to cheat by looking at my iTunes play count!  Here they are:

Melt My Heart To Stone – Adele
I usually click on this one because it’s at the top of my playlist, but it’s a good chilled out tune nevertheless!  I can’t listen to anything too abrasive when I’m fixing CSS for IE6.

Crush – Dave Matthews Band
I don’t think I could ever get sick of this song!  I think I probably sing along without realizing it when it comes on.  Definitely a good tune for when I’m deep into my work.

You Get What You Give – New Radicals
This song always gets me in a good mood, particularly when I’m really stressed out by demanding clients and fast approaching deadlines.


Paul Boag – http://boagworld.com

I rarely listen to music while I work and when I do it is normally randmly selected music picked by my followers on Twitter using Spotify.

Max Stanworth – http://designshard.com

max-stanworthThe music I listen to most would probably be classed as Rock, and depending on the my mood this can change. So the 3 songs that currently get me motivated the most are:

Elbow – One Day Like This
I first heard this song on the channel 4 “Autumn” advert, and made me feel very uplifted.

Richard Thompson – Coyotes
On the album for the “Grizzly Man” documentary, the saddest documentary I’ve ever seen, yet rather inspiring film and song

Arctic Monkeys – Flourescent Adolescent
But if that all fails i just listen to the whole Alkaline Trio Discography! I can listen to their stuff from start to finish all day every day.”

david-sleightDavid Sleight – http://www.stuntbox.com

When I’m in full-on design or code mode — as opposed to managing or writing — I’m more or less constantly plugged into music, and genres can and will run all over the map. (I have what friends euphemistically refer to as, “eclectic” taste. Shuffle mode turns up 70s punk and Philip Glass in equal measure.) Here are a few tracks I’ve been turning to lately when I’m in need of a good creative kick in the pants:

I’m a Man – Black Strobe
Elctroclash + Bo Diddley = Many levels of awesome.

People Who Died – Jim Carroll
A song that answers the question, “What could possibly go wrong?” with the reply, “Everything.”

ToyBoy – Stuck in the Sound
Check, check, check, shake!

mark-jardineMark Jardine – http://markjardine.com

If I really need to get into the creative flow, I always turn to Muse or NIN. It was really hard to choose individual songs because I usually play a range of tracks in a playlist, but these 3 songs occasionally get the repeat treatment when they come up while working.

The Great Destroyer – NIN
Hysteria – Muse
Time is Running Out – Muse

ryan-carsonRyan Carson – http://carsonified.com

One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer by John Lee Hooker
Comptine d’un autre été by Yann Tiersen
Heartbeats by José González

josh-smibertJoshua Smibert – http://fuelbrandnetwork.com

When I am really concentrating or am trying to grasp a concept… I more often than not, turn off all music.  I use the quiet as a sounding board to repeat back my thoughts. On the other hand, when I don’t have to think too hard, but have to get something done, some Armin Van Burin helps me.  Basically anything with electronic or consistent beats seems to speed up arduous tasks like emails & contracts….that or Metal.  When I am in a slump and need to force myself to think outside the box, I’ll listen to Greenday, The offspring, Panic at the Disco or LIT.  Something with some kick.

3 Tracks I have gone back to for years are ‘Mr. Blue Sky’ by ELO, ‘I’m not sick but not well’ by LIT & a newer one, ’You’re gonna go far Kid’ by The Offspring.

rob-palmerRob Palmer – http://branded07.com

I actually listen to a range of music while working as I have my iTunes on shuffle, but my top three listened to songs from that list are;

Turn the Page – by Metallica

November Rain – Guns N Roses

Alive – Pearl Jam


Chris Pirillo – http://chris.pirillo.com

Pandora 😉

Paul Smith – http://neverodd.co.uk


Rob Dougan – Will You Follow Me?
My teenage years were spent falling in love with both indie and orchestral film scores. I adored everything from Jesus Jones and The Supernaturals through to James Horner and Danny Elfman. Rob Dougan’s album Furious Angels combines both, although Will You Follow Me? is purely orchestral. It’s uplifting, fulfilling, gracious and note perfect.

Death Cab For Cutie – I Will Possess Your Heart
My favourite place in the world is New York, so whenever a song gets stuck in my head while I’m there, the two become linked and I’ll play the song to fill the voids in between visits. Not that Death Cab For Cutie are from NYC (they’re from the West Coast) but the vibe of the song fits the city.

Electronic – Feel Every Beat
Another song from my college years – specifically the cellar bar in Perry’s, Darlington with my friend Adrian Taylor. Electronic (Bernard Sumner from New Order and Johnny Marr from The Smiths) deserved to be bigger and brighter than they were, they were the grown up side of Madchester. Great energy and harmony, very mellow.

gracesmithGrace Smith – http://www.gracesmith.co.uk

It really depends on my mood but i like electro-indie best, as i find it both inspirational and relaxing. My three fave tracks to work to would be:

1. Pnau – With You Forever
2. Empire Of The Sun – Walking On A Dream
3. Bat For Lashes – Daniel

Published by


Head of Interaction and Service Design at DigitalDWP.

38 thoughts on “34 Web Rockstars 1 Question: What do you listen to?”

  1. Gavin,

    Thanks again for thinking of me for this post. While it’s true I wouldn’t consider myself a “Rockstar” I see your play on words here. But it is quite an honor to be included within the same post as Zeldman, Carson and Moll. SHEESH! I’m not even in the same boat as those guys. But I digress, we’re all a part of the bigger community, and that’s what I’m all about.

  2. Surely there’s some sort of law that says you can’t write a post with “Rockstar” in the title without mentioning Adii? Or was he number 35, and he didn’t answer? 😛

  3. This is a great post.

    I constantly have my Ipod going all day at work. 😀

    Yes it gets distracting while im trying to design something… But it can also be inspiring or calming depending on what you are listening to. I personally have a W-I-D-E range of music on my Ipod, so this quiz would have been hard for me to answer. 😀

    Good post.

  4. My sentiments exactly Kyle. The fact that you said SHEESH kinda blows me away too (brother from another mother?) – I say that word all the time! I’d like to say thanks for including me in the list of very well respected designers as well.

    @Justin Thank God. Seems Coldplay would be the defacto standard in all designer’s tackle box. Not mine. I listen to girl music apparently. Me and Elliot Kember that is.

    Gavin, thanks for asking and compiling this list. Great idea.

  5. There isn’t enough ‘rock’ in that list to justify the term rockstar (web or other)… oh well… perhaps music by the likes of Motorhead, Slayer, Social Distortion etc isn’t good for a designer aiming to be a rockstar? just saying…

  6. Music I totally expected the guys/gals above to say, but didn’t:

    Shakira – My hips don’t lie
    Five – When the lights go out
    Britney Spears – Overprotected
    Christina Aguilera – Genie in a bottle
    Willa Ford – I wanna be bad
    Journey – Separate Ways http://bit.ly/27bp2l
    Justin Timberlake – I’m bringin sexy back
    Rihanna – Umbrella
    The soundtrack to Bloodsport
    Madonna – Like a virgin
    Tommy Seebach – Apache http://bit.ly/15pjI

    Ok, I’m done listing my faves…er…

  7. Interesting list… and particularly interesting for the pretty much complete lack of any mention of ‘classical’ or ‘art’ music. It doesn’t surprise me much – my own listening when coding tends more to cheesy pop or dance music than what I listen to when I’m actually paying attention, but I find it interesting, this confirmation of my own thoughts on this matter. I’d be interested to know if the respondents in general listen to the same music when they’re *not* working. Obviously there are days when one feels like one thing more than another, but is there any type of music in particular that they feel they could *never* work to, even if they listen to it at other times?

  8. Interesting post! Discovered some new music as well.

    I have to agree with Mark Jardine in that Muse is one of my favorites while working. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Regina Spektor and similar artists(Pandora!) lately.

  9. Anything by The Durutti Column gets me going. Philip Glass too. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Interesting post!

  10. I’m with Zeldman. If I need to relax, I put on Pink Floyd, but then, I end up listening to it and my code (or designs) just sit there.

  11. Yes, there’s a thread dedicated to this on every design bulletin board out there. Good link bait. You seemed to be requesting threes, but you didn’t invite me, so I’m giving 10 that are on high rotation.

    Up Jumped the Devil – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

    Pull a U – The Kills

    Cold Hard Facts – The Nomads

    She’s Like Heroin to Me – The Gun Club

    Cocaine Blues – Johnny Cash

    I Want to Take You Higher – The Ike & Tina Turner Review

    Wreck My Flow – The Dirtbombs

    Bad Word for a Good Thing – The Friggs

    Johanna – Iggy Pop & James Williamson

    Shake That Bush Again – The Mooney Suzuki

    That’s what I got for you.

    You might like this, let Wordle turn your Last.fm playlist into a Tag Cloud:

    For an example, here’s mine:


  12. Indeed, some pretty interesting answers here. Most surprisingly were the folks who said they simply can’t listen to music while working. I will get distracted by the sheer awesomeness coming out of my speakers from time-to-time, but I’m pretty good with passively listening. I can’t work without music, though. Makes the day feel 10x longer.

    Thanks for having me!

  13. Best music for webheds to work to – Sigur Ros, Boards of Canada, Laura Nyro, Mose Allison.

    and for head down ears up coding >> a live archival Grateful Dead show, played in its entirety on the Shakedown Stream podcast on mvyradio ~ http://bit.ly/KdnVv

  14. great idea for a post, Gavin 🙂 One of the things I love about Twitter – giving away a little personal piece of people, like the taste of music.

    I am surprised about there not being as much ROCK in this list as I expected… oh well, some of us do rock along to their design and coding work \m/
    interesting read – thanks 🙂

  15. I’m actually finding that dubstep (as in the genre) is amazing to work to. The basslines get me going but it’s ‘dull’ enough that I don’t pay too much attention to it.

  16. I think this is a really interesting subject. I recently did a (non-scientific) experiment called “One Song, One Sketch” whereby I listen to a random track and do a quick doodle in my Moleskine.

    I have setup a Flickr Group, and would love to see other people’s examples.

  17. for me the three best albums for any kind of work:

    – Pavement “Crooked Rain Crooked Rain” (1994)
    – Bon Iver “For Emma,…” (2008)
    – Sonic Youth “The Eternal” (2009)

    Yep, that’s it…

  18. mostly i listen music during work its charge me, i don’t feel tired when i listen music while work 🙂

  19. Thanks for this cool post. Anyway i found your blog on yahoo and find it very useful. I’ll be sure to come back again for more!

  20. Pingback: Composing the New Canon: Music, Harmony, Proportion | codeManiac - Snippets, Templates, API and the best developer content

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