Colin Towns can be excused the enthusiasm he has for the musicians in his new band, Blue Touch Paper.

His drummer, the indecently talented, German-born Benny Greb, though not a household name, is a musician whose YouTube clips attract views in the hundreds of thousands. Percussionist Stephan Maass flits effortlessly between stadium rock and African music, and saxophonist Mark Lockheart, guitarist Chris Montague and bassist Edward Maclean are all players for whom adaptability is a way of life.

"They're amazing. The only thing they haven't got going for them is their keyboard player," says Towns. "They have to put up with me."

He's being unduly hard on himself. Blue Touch Paper may be the first band Towns has actually played in for almost 30 years – his last regular gig as a working keyboard player was with former Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan's band Gillan – but he hasn't lost his touch or failed to keep up with technological advances in the interim. His "day job" has seen to that.

As one of the most prolific composers of film and television soundtracks in Europe, Towns has amassed a vast library of sounds and samples and as Blue Touch Paper's debut album, Stand Well Back, demonstrates, he has the chops to put them to use in music that keeps the band members on their toes.

"I've always seen my role as a writer to create situations where musicians are taken somewhere they wouldn't normally go," says Towns, whose work in jazz with his own Mask Orchestra and with the top class NDR and HR radio orchestras in Germany has produced some of the finest writing and arranging of the past 20 years. "Even in jazz I've found that, if you give musicians a set of chords to play over they'll play what they know. It may be fantastic and they may have a huge vocabulary but it'll still be what they know."

With Blue Touch Paper he wanted to draw on the jazz tradition and introduce elements of rock music, classical and world music, and at the same time throw out the rule book that jazz has acquired but didn't need in its early stages of development.

"I didn't want it to be jazz-rock, because that has associations that are very 1970s," he says. "But I wanted all of those elements and to use electronic advancements. I like to look back and look forward and I wanted to create something that reflects the fact that we are living in the 21st century. If you look at the old blues singers, they were singing about their lives. We're not blues singers but our music can still tell people about the way we live. I don't think what we're doing is particularly radical but it's not playing safe and I love the fact that we can use space because space can be as musical as something that's full-on and busy."

Since parting with Gillan in the mid 1980s after eight albums that he composed for as well as played on, Towns has, he says, been lucky. He's never been one for networking but he has been in the right place at the right time. While working on the soundtrack to Bellman and True for George Harrison's Handmade films he was approached by the then head of drama serials at the BBC, Michael Wearing, and commissioned to write the music for Blind Justice, a series that lifted the lid on many of the legal scandals of the time.

From there the work started pouring in. Our Friends in the North, Dalziel & Pascoe, Cold Blood and more recently the beautifully played tango that provides the theme tune for Doc Martin are just some of the themes and soundtracks that have allowed Towns to subsidise the music he creates on his own initiative. When he wants to put together something for his Mask Orchestra he actually saves up, as he did as a teenager buying new keyboards and copious books on arranging theory, to pay for the musicians and release the music on his own label, Provocateur.

Blue Touch Paper is an idea that he's wanted to bring to fruition for ages, he says. Writing the music wasn't a problem as he writes all the time, whether it's for commission or his own use, and the pieces that survive his "come back to them after three months and see if they still stand up" sifting process were starting to build up.

"Finding the right players and getting them to commit to the band, because I see it as a long-term project and have most of the next CD written, took a while," he says. "But once we settled on the personnel it became really exciting. I was in Wales working on a Shakespeare play a few months ago and one of the actors said, 'Wow, you've got Benny Greb on drums, how did you manage that?' And I thought, this isn't some musician in the know's response; if we can generate this interest among the wider audience, that'll be fantastic."

Much of the music on Stand Well Back has a cinematic quality and Towns concedes that, even when not working to moving images, he's always looking for something visual that will trigger his imagination.

"Crazy Man on Platform 13 doesn't have a story behind it – the crazy man is probably me; I'm crazy and I'm often on platform 13 in St Pancras because that's where the Canterbury train leaves from – but other tracks could have sprung from something I've seen," he says. "I like drama in music but I also like humour. Not necessarily musical jokes but something that makes people smile. We have a new piece we'll probably start the second half with and it starts in one place and ends up somewhere different, and I like that. The last thing I want is for people to feel that we're predictable."

Blue Touch Paper play the Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, on Friday. Stand Well Back is out now on Provocateur Records.