Here at Free Breaks Blog we would like to ILL.GATES for a very insightful interview and for sharing the premiere stream of Mr Bills’ 2 step garage/breaks refix of his new single ‘More tea’, listen below and read on!!!!
How long have you been making beats and how did you get into it?
I’ve been making electronic music ever since my parents bought me a Casio Concertmate 800 when I was 7. I was supposed to use it for the built in piano lessons, but I quickly figured out that it had a sampler in it and spent far more time sampling pots and pans than playing the piano. Once I figured out that I could sample my own farts and play them back at my friends with the push of a button I was hooked. I have been happily sampling farts ever since and have since sold actual farts to Microsoft as part of a “Comedy Ringtone” package I did for the Windows Phone OS. That gig was a big part of what got me my work visa to move to the USA actually. Dream big people! Fart samples 4 life!
What’s behind the name ill.Gates?
I love Hip Hop and I am a big nerd. I was originally calling this alias “Tao Jones” but the pun was lost on most people because nobody reads books. I then made a list of several hundred names and ill.GATES was the one that stuck.
Fun fact: the period in the middle of my name stands for ‘Motherfucking’, as in “ILL Motherfucking Gates”.
Where do you draw inspiration from when producing new tunes?
I think inspiration is for amateurs. I just try to show up every day and do my best. Much of the time I will start a session feeling like I’m a terrible musician and everything I make is garbage, but after a few hours the momentum starts to build and then something magical will happen. If you wait to feel inspired before you start working you’ll just procrastinate forever.
And when you’re not making beats what do you like to do?
Sex and drugs are always a good time, but I also like to cook, read, meditate and drink tea. I also spend a LOT of time at airports, so I listen to audiobooks and podcasts constantly. I am really into the Tim Ferriss Podcast and Noisia Radio, and then for fiction I listen to The Drabblecast, Selected Shorts and tons of sci-fi at Escape Pod, Light Speed and Clarkesworld. I also love bowling and eating Japanese Food. Travel is way up there too. I recently sub-letted my place and lived in 8 different countries for 4 months. It was life changing.
The main thing I’ve come to realize is artists are input/output systems. If you spend your time watching TV or reading whatever comes up on your facebook feed you are much less likely to have interesting and original ideas in the studio. If you focus on your immediate “competitors” and try to emulate or outdo them you are just going to blend in with everyone else. Forget about the guy next to you, go listen to some Chopin or Jimi Hendrix or the Buena Vista Social Club instead.
Immersing yourself in truly great art, ideas and experiences is what fuels growth.
Tell us about this new release
This release ‘More Tea’ is a departure that feels like home. It’s new and different compared to much of my recent output, but really it is a lot closer to what originally inspired me to create the ill.GATES alias. I think this is reflected in the choice of remixers as well.
It all started when my friend Nathan mailed me some tea from Taiwan. I didn’t know him then, but he was a fan, and he ran this operation where he would travel around the world meeting tea farmers and mailing tea back to his online supporters. I wrote him back and he invited me to do a tour of Taiwan. I couldn’t turn that down so the next thing you know my girl and I are riding unlicensed scooters and eating squid on a stick.
Years later Nathan got access to all of these really cool DAT tapes made by a Taiwanese producer named Alex Peng. He had gone around China recording villagers singing and playing various Chinese instruments and allowed Nathan to use them for his “Urban Teahouse Remix Project” because he felt it was promoting Chinese culture and tea drinking and that the original musicians from 25 years ago would be in support of that.
So Nathan flew my girl and I to Austin last year, fed us tea until we were bouncing off of the walls, and I wrote More Tea in one long session. It came out really easily. Some songs are agony to finish… a game of inches. More Tea is definitely not one of those tunes. It just sort of effortlessly happened. I love it when sessions are like that. You can hear it in the track too, nothing sounds forced or stressed out or like it’s ‘trying’ to be anything. It felt like the song always existed and I was just putting it down.
Once the track was finished I reached out to some of my favourite producers and they turned in a really fantastic batch of remixes. Liquid Stranger made a big festival dub remix that goes over great on dancefloors. Mr Bill made a really cool Two Step Garagey Breaks kind of thing with really amazing percussion, and then David Starfire did a West Coast remix that is perfect for Burning Man or a cool loft party or whatever.
These remixes are amazing for sure, but we really felt that the EP would not be complete without some asian remixers on the job. Nathan hooked us up with a really amazing producer from Taiwan called Sonia Calico. She makes really dope Trip Hoppy Trap kind of beats and made 3 or 4 different remixes before she handed in the final. She is fantastically talented and really has her own sound. Very cool.
You may also remember a video that went viral where the producer is performing on a spherical MIDI controller?
Anyway, the fellow in that video is Jason Hou, who also happened to be a fan of my workshop series ‘The ill.Methodology’. He had reached out to me to thank me for the workshops and when I checked out his soundcloud I was really impressed. He definitely has his own creative aesthetic and it is really impressive. He blends traditional Chinese music with Industrial, Classical and Dubstep influences to create a truly unique sound. His remix is all in 6/4 time signature but still works on a dancefloor. Very advanced.
This whole process has really opened me up to a lot more electronic music coming out of Asia. Apparently all the Chinese kids are smoking weed and fucking with Ableton now so we can expect a whole lot more Asian electronic music in the immediate future. I’m really excited about it. Electronic music has been such a little rich white boy club for way too long.
It’s tough out there in the music industry, any words of advice for new artists?
Take The Plunge
Nobody likes a tourist. If you are just getting your toes wet to see if ‘this whole music thing is going to pan out’ it’s a huge turn off for anyone in the business. The music industry was built on passion and boldness. Having a day job lets everyone in the music industry know that music is not your #1 priority in life. Yuck. Whether you make a living from music or not you need to make sure that music is the first thing people think about when your name comes up.
Let’s say you are a magic music industry fairy and you have an amazing opportunity to give to someone who ‘deserves it’. Who deserves it more, the hobbyist who works at the bank or the girl who sleeps under her studio desk five nights a week? There are so many people in the way that it is really difficult to get ahead in this business. You have to really, really, REALLY want it to be successful. You have to want it more than financial security, more than a nice car, more than kids, more than sleep, more than your friends, more than sex and ESPECIALLY more than partying. If I am going to hand someone an opportunity I need to make sure it counts and nothing says ‘I waste opportunities’ like squandering your precious moments on earth working some shitty job you hate.
Grow a pair and take the plunge, you won’t regret it.
Pay It Forward
OK: so you’re committed, you’re in it to win it, you’ve made some great music but you’re all alone in the business and nobody gives a shit about your music. If only you could get on the radar of someone who can help you make connections… How? Giving everyone in the music industry copies of your album? Hell no! Ain’t nobody got time fo’ that! Paying your way in via music lessons or consulting? Fuck no! That’s A) insulting, B) lame and C) we don’t need your money. So what DO you have that someone established in the music industry might want… hmmm….. ?
If you are a successful person chances are you are busier than a rabbit in mating season and would LOVE to offload some of the boring stupid shit that is in your way. This is why whenever you watch music business documentaries you will often hear of famous producers and bands getting their start running errands at the recording studios that they eventually ended up buying. You don’t have to just fetch coffee or whatever though, you can help people in other ways. For me it was teaching people about Ableton and making music tools. I built a sound library for Bassnectar, I shared my templates with Pretty Lights, Beats Antique, Dj Vadim and all kinds of other people. Now whenever I need a favour I can just email those dudes and t hey will hook me up hours later.
Now while we are on the subject of calling in favours: studies have shown that asking people for a small favour will actually INCREASE your worth in their esteem. Paying it forward is a great policy, but you also need to make sure you’re not being a doormat or a sycophant. Find your balance and watch the doors swing open!
Don’t Be A Dick
I really do wish that I didn’t have to belabour this point but it’s a sad fact that I have seen musician after musician destroy their careers by being dicks. Yes: you’re special. Yes: you’re talented. Yes: your art has the power to transform lives, BUT; the magic vanishes as soon as you get all cunty about it, it really does. How many times have you heard ‘I used to like ARTIST X but then I met them at a show and they were all cunty to me and now I can’t enjoy their music anymore’? It happens ALL THE TIME.
Here’s the thing: when a fan (or another musician) comes up to give you praise, chances are that they have made a ‘big friction’ deal’ of it in their mind and have a raging case of the butterflies. Studies have shown that emotions are all basically forms of excitation. The only difference between is in the interpretation of that excitation. This means that you need to be very aware that you are playing with fire when you touch people inside. The line between super fan and deranged hater is both fine and blurry, be aware of that and know when the best ‘presence’ is a palpable absence. If you aren’t going to give fan interaction your all, then just let the music do the talking and try to maintain a sense of mystery. It’s also a good idea to remember than you meet the same people on the way down that you do on the way up.
Hopefully these tips will help you on your way to the top. Stay strong, stay passionate and above all: don’t be boring.