We got the chance to pick the brain of Teacher, Performer, Entrepreneur, and all around Industry legend ILL Gates a little bit recently, about all sorts of stuff so we thought we’d share the fruits with you guys. Get after it.
So I’m sure you get lame Bill Gates jokes all the time, but have you gotten any angry emails from users about windows 10 lately? Seriously, though, love the name, did it just kind of come to mind or is there a little bit of a story behind it?
Nothing too crazy just made a long list of a couple hundred name ideas and that was the one that fit the best. Every now and then someone tries to convince me that Bill Gates is a reptile or some shit, but otherwise, most people don’t even notice the pun. I thought it was pretty obvious, but you know people, right?
You had a busy past year or so, releasing “The ill.Methodology” album, More Tea EP, and the Unsung Heroes EPs as well as constantly playing shows. How do you feel those projects now?
Albums and EPs are always a bit of a double-edged sword in that usually only one track makes a big impact whereas the rest just kind of slide by under the radar. Then two months later people start calling the release ‘old’. The ill.Methodology album was 19 tracks and represented years of work, so it hurts my heart to see how many tracks got overlooked. I decided at that point that I would release tracks individually and try to make as big a deal about each one as I could, then collect all the best ones into my full-length album later. This strategy has worked much better than putting all of my eggs in one basket.
You’re not on a huge tour this summer, but you are still a little busy with shows all over the US, including recently playing Organic Fest, any other shows you’re looking forward to?
I’ve been trying to spend a lot more of 2016 in the studio making new music, and it’s been largely successful so far. My set is back to being largely composed of unreleased ill.GATES tunes, and I have a series of very strong releases lined up going into 2017. This strategy meant cherry picking only the best gigs and flying out for them individually. It has been amazing. Shambhala, Burning Man, Organic Fest, Sub Octave Fest, and all of the sweet city gigs have been great, and I’ve even managed to put some new pins in the map. I was especially impressed with the Flash Bang crew in Mississippi. They managed to pull off a really high-level street party in Jackson Mississippi and I don’t think they even have bar shows for EDM there normally. It was awesome to see a fat sound system, 3d mapped stage, and all kinds of live MIDI artists playing for people who had never witnessed anything like that before. I feel they made a real impact on those people’s lives and I love being part of stuff like that.
Speaking of being busy, between all the music related stuff you must not have time for a lot else, are there some favorite nonmusic hobbies or activities you always try to make time for while you’re at home?
I read a LOT. Science fiction is especially dear to my heart and I consume at least 7-10 short stories a week via free audio fiction podcasts such as Lightspeed Magazine, Escape Pod, Starship Sofa and Drabblecast. I also enjoy Selected Shorts, Pseudopod, Snap Judgement and the Tim Ferriss Podcast pretty extensively, and for new music weekly you can’t beat the Noisia Radio Podcast. Also: I go bowling a lot and I straight murder the mic at karaoke.
Not only are you a career artist but you are also an educator, particularly with Ableton, known for giving workshops and classes on production at home and even when you’re touring, can you talk a little bit about what you teach and what inspired you to start?
Teaching is just something I’ve always done. My mom is a teacher and my dad is a musician so I didn’t fall far from the tree. It helps me to make better music because it forces me to clearly formulate what exactly it is that I’m trying to do in the studio. I make up all kinds of rules and games for myself that help me to be more creative and I feel it’s a big reason why my music has been able to grow and change so much over the years. My students are the best too, I love seeing them achieve their dreams, there is no better feeling.
Watch out for a compilation called ‘The Class of 808’ to hear some of my star pupils wrecking shop. I’m really proud of them.
Your workshops also have to do with the music business itself, with electronic music, in particular, becoming more and more popular more younger people are trying to make it in the “game”, what advice would you give to someone reading this article trying to take the path to get to where you’re at right now?
Go to ProducerDJ.com and start with the free section. There are tons of workshops, sample packs, and templates that will get you started right now. Start with the first ill.Methodology workshop.
Speaking of electronic music blowing up, you have been involved in it for over a decade and got in when it was just beginning to grow, what do you think has changed the most for artists/the industry since you have been in the scene both good and bad?
The growth has only been a good thing in my opinion. The EDM scene used to be really creatively limited and stifling… nothing but 4/4 kick drums lined up like marching Nazis. Now things are so outside of the box that there aren’t even really any genres anymore. What used to be completely unacceptable is now totally normal and artists are free to break so many rules that they have to make up their own. We are all learning to sound less like other people and more like ourselves and I think it’s amazing.
Electronic music has a huge collaboration scene, and you’ve worked with dozens of artists if not hundreds throughout your long career. How do you think all the collaboration helps the scene as a whole? Favorite people to work with? Someone you haven’t gotten to work with yet but would want to?
Collaborations are the best way to learn electronic music production and the best way to make sure your tracks get done. It’s also good in that it forces you to sound different than your normal solo stuff. If you’re doing all original sets it is very important for it not to be homogenous so this really benefits your live show as well. My top 3 collaborators are probably Bassnectar, KJ Sawka, and Mr. Bill but I have deeply enjoyed working with everyone I have collaborated with over the years. I love working with Masia One and Mayor Apeshit when it comes to vocals and recently got to do a tune with Dub FX and Hugo the Poet where they forced me to do a rap verse myself. I would never have done that on my own and now I’m hooked. I’ve been rapping at all of my shows lately and it’s super fun.
I’d love to collaborate with TroyBoi, Santigold and What So Not, but that’ll probably never happen. A guy can dream tho!
You’re very well known for being not only a DJ on stage but also a VJ, can you talk about why you feel that makes a difference in your set/ what equipment and techniques you use to create your sound/visuals live?
To get the videos for my songs I usually just hire people to make me videos, or else just download YouTube videos and edit them in Ableton. When I play live I use a software called Mix Emergency to keep all of the videos in sync with Serato and to control my live camera feeds for the finger drumming sections. Then all of the actual proper live stuff comes out of Ableton which is running in the background.
Do you have anything new coming up in the future, or any other big plans for the fans?
I have a bunch of new stuff that is due out imminently.
“The Class Of 808” is a compilation of my students that I put together, and it also has a huge monster dubstep tune that I made out of one of my dad’s old blues records. That one started as a collab with the students but I ended up taking over and pulling a ton of additional sessions (standard practice for my collabs really).
“Bounce” is a single/remix EP that I made with Stephan Jacobs and Mayor Apeshit. If you’ve seen me play live in the last year you’ll recognize it. It will likely be coming out in October or November, just waiting on cover art and the Zeke Beats remix to come back.
“Terminally ILL” is my new full length, it is a collection of all of my best work over the last year and features a few previously unreleased tunes that have proven themselves to be crowd pleasers in my live sets.
“Slumberless” is a new single I made with Mr. Bill, again sampling my dad’s old record collection. We remixed this cursed Billie Holiday suicide song that was banned on the radio until 2002. Deeply haunting and definitely different from anything else I’ve done.
“Departures” is another EP of all of the stranger tunes I’ve made that don’t fit anywhere else. I make a lot of stuff that never sees the light of day, even in my live sets. This one’s been a long time coming so I think it should do well.
Huge thank you to Mr. Gates for being a good sport and giving us all these solid answers, check out his stuff and stay tuned for more info on released from ILL Gates and other interviews like this one.