Before his much anticipated second appearance in Chicago at Reggie’s on July 7th, the man/the myth/the legend known as ill.Gates took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with us about life in San Francisco, his upcoming releases with Bassnectar and solo work, his infamous ill.Methodology workshops and much more. Ladies and Gentlemen…..lets begin!
TD: Tell us a little about yourself.
iG: I go by ill.Gates among other things. I was born in Toronto, Canada, moved to two other places in Canada, then moved to San Francisco this year. It took a lot of paper work and hoop jumping and what not to square things over at homeland security and immigration, but it’s all done. I’m now registered as ill.Gates Incorporated in America and I am the sole proprietor for ill.Gates Inc. which I employ myself. So ill.Gates hires me, and that makes it okay for me to work in the US.
TD: How is the music scene in San Francisco compared to Toronto?
iG: The music scene here for the music I make is the best anywhere; that was a big part of why I moved here. Also, Lorin [Bassnectar] is my best friend, we work on music all the time together. It’s quite difficult to do it remotely, so we always kind of had planned on me getting down here, but the whole visa thing was a pain in the ass. Now thats done, we’ve been working a lot more extensively together. We’re [currently] working on a new EP together and might think of a new name for the project. I’m not sure. We haven’t been able to think of the right name and it’s just like….we’ve put so much time and energy into branding both Bassnectar and ill.Gates that it’s like, starting a whole new brand is a bit much. We’re thinking about it, but we really gotta wait until the right name appears. So if you or any of your readers have any brilliant suggestions let me know! (shoot ill.Gates & Bassnectar a twitter messege with your ideas!)
Download: Do It Like This - Bassnectar & ill.Gates
TD:. Absolutely! When would we expect your new album with Lorin to come out?
iG: I’m still working on it now; it’s gonna be about a 5 track EP. I have about 6 or 7 songs in various stages of completion and I’m just trying to hustle and see if I can come up with a couple more. That EP should come out late summer maybe early fall, depending. It will definitely be out by October I think, because I plan on doing a tour Halloween through Christmas. It’s just one of those things, where you say a date and something bad will happen and then people will be like, “Where’s is it you asshole?” So I like to give vague dates because, it stops people from getting upset.
TD: When will you have one thats personally yours?
iG: Oh that’s what I was talking about. The one with Lorin is after that. There’s a remix album of ill.Methology too, and there are more EPs. I feel, by the time you have all the bonus tracks from ill.Methology, it’s like 21 tracks which is a bit excessive for a lot of people. I was kind of hoping for it to be the go to ill.Gates record where there’s just tons of different stuff on it — something for everyone. If you wanna know who ill.Gates is, that’s the reference point. Plus it shares the title with my workshop series and educational projects. So its kind of like my credentials as an educator and also my music promotes my educational projects and templates and vice versa. The remix album almost took three years. I put it out in November I think and I’ve already heard so many people say that it’s old. A little piece of me died inside when I heard that, so I’m def working in smaller, kinda bite size, ADD chunks for songs. I might do another big album at some point, but I’m probably going to do EPs for a while cause people just don’t have the attention span for real album anymore.
TD: So you talked about the ill.Methodology workshops. What was your motivation for making these events?
iG: I’ve always just been an open person with sharing my knowledge and skills. A lot of other musicians see this as a competition and in a lot of ways it is….I come from break dance, battle hip-hop, and battle teaching. When I started, I used to be the Phat Conductor; I was like 15 in a break dance crew. I saw the way that competition is collaboration in someways. Even if you look at it like an ecosystem; it’s like yeah, these organisms are in competition but they have a place in the larger system and it’s really the health of the system that’s important. I’ve always been a technically minded person in terms of production. As a result, I’ve had all kinds of people asking me questions all the time like “How do you do this,” or “Can you come by an finish a tune for me”… blah blah blah. Before I was really doing well on my own musically, people would hire me to finish their tunes for them, because a lot of people can start tunes but not a lot can finish them. People who were too busy or whatever would hire me to wrap up their tunes for them so I would do that. This singer from the band The Department of Motion told me that I should start charging people for this since it takes time away from my music. So I started mentoring people, then eventually I had too much on my plate to justify giving anyone one-on-one time at a reasonable price. So then I started doing group workshops. Now it’s like… I’m writing my own music and touring, last year I was on the road for nine months out of the year. It’s tough for me to find time to focus on my own music at this point so I’ve been working on taking the project online. My larger goal is to create a community where people are open about it. When people find out about electronic music, or any music really, it’s about word of mouth or digital word of mouth because, you know somebody is into it. If I can make more people be interested in music production, they’ll probably tell their friends, then the’ll come to my shows and come to everybody else’s shows. It just creates a culture of abundance because, the proportion of electronic music listeners in North America is much less than other countries. The UK and Australia are smaller places population wise but, they have big scenes because everybody and their dog listens to that. They don’t wanna listen to Rihanna and get bottle service on the weekend, they wanna listen to bass music and get crazy. So much of the traditional pop music industry is here; we don’t really have a tradition of underground pirate radio or everyone and their dog being a DJ/producer like they are in the UK, Australia or Europe. To kind of fill in the gap, I’m trying to get more and more people into this music and really spread the message that you don’t have to listen to this huge music industry machine churning out this bland crap with the same chord progressions but using different words. There’s great music in your own backyard if you chose to stop for a second and check it out you’ll find they’re more interesting things going on.
TD: What do you think about people who say that EDM is becoming too mainstream?
iG: I’d say they’re right. But, Bob Marley is mainstream. Nirvana and Rage Against the Machine are too. People have all these ideas about mainstream and selling out when it’s not really relevant. It’s like, what does it sound like? What does it make you feel? If it gives you an intense emotional experience and can make your life more enjoyable and fulfilling then who cares where it came from? I’m happy to see real success is possible in EDM now because there’s only so long you can DJ in bars for a couple hundred bucks without getting burned out on it. That’s why so many EDM DJs drop off by the time they hit their 30s, at least in the past. In the 90s people hit their 30s and realize they need to be realistic and they go get some fucking job doing real estate or alphabetizing insurance forms or some shit then they fall off. Now that real success is possible, people can pursue electronic music as a viable career and make grown folks money in the process; so they’re gonna stick around for longer and we’re gonna hear richer, more competent music that can only come from a lifetime of full-time music. That wasn’t really possible before. I’m really happy to see that’s possible now, and there are a lot of people in it for the long haul. They can maybe buy a house someday. Before, you’d have to have some side job where it’s like working some job you hate or selling drugs or something. It’s nice to have full-time music as a possibility…as a life option!
TD: When did you decide you wanted to do music full time?
iG: I was about 20, and I got my first records out and stuff. I was taking graphic design in Canada. Everyone was like, oh you like to DJ, that’s cute. It wasn’t a viable life choice at that point so I was gonna fall back on graphic design. As things became more soul crushing and less creative I eventually got this placement at a wedding magazine where I had this horrible boss who chewed me out for being too creative all the time [and would say], “No, you need to use more frilly script fonts and clip art and go for a more traditional look this issue.” She would always either chew me out when I was being too creative, or else when I actually sucked it up and did some total crap because thats what they wanted then she would hit on me and kiss my cheek and leave these wet, soft, old lady lip marks that are still giving me the creeps. Then I was like, wow, how realistic is it to do something that you hate? Time is the most precious thing we have. What are you going to buy with all that money if you’ve given away your life. You can make all the money in the world, that you potentially hate, what’s the point? How are you gonna live your life if it’s sold to some company that you hate? It is more realistic for me to do something that I like. I had a couple records out and had done my first coast to coast tour. I was sitting in this graveyard cause that’s where I used to go to think, even though it was all full of crack heads, but I was like, fuck it, I don’t care if I’m poor. I just can’t suck corporate dick for the rest of my life, I can’t live with myself If I do that. I just never went back to work and I was really, really poor for about 8 years and now things are okay!
TD: From that experience, do you enjoy producing music or playing at shows?
iG: Producing. That has always been my biggest passion. The process of creation and exploring. It’s just so fun when you start a day with nothing and at the end of the day there’s this new thing that exists. I find it really satisfying. It’s really great to introduce these things to the world and see the joy it brings to people.
TD: What do you use to produce music and what equipment do you use live?
iG: I use Ableton Live, and pretty much the computer. I have a bunch of midi controllers. One for entering drum information, one for keys, one for arcade buttons and touch strips and all this stuff. It’s basically all different ways to control the computer. In addition to my computer, I run a system called Qyna, which is a system that is used to make weird, morphing, crazy sounds like in Wall-E or Transformers. It just takes more processing than a normal computer so it’s a separate outboard dedicated to music that doesn’t run an operating system. It just runs sound design programming. For the sounds that are way too crazy to make on a computer, I make them on Qyna.
TD: You’re about to make a return to Chicago to play at Reggie’s on July 7th. From what you’ve heard and previously experienced, what do you think separate’s Chicago from other big music scene cities?
iG: Chicago is a lot like Toronto where I grew up. I’ve only played there once, but just from meeting everybody there it feels like my home front. I like the no bull shit attitude people have there; how people are a little more hard edged and the diversity. They seem to like a lot of different things, not just what is familiar; kind of forward thinking and open to new music and new genres and new takes on what they already know. It’s a huge city and there’s a lot of possibilities. Last time, I had never been there before. People really dug it and I felt at home there. I feel like I understand people culturally from growing up in Toronto. I’m really looking forward to coming back; the 2nd time is always completely different!
There you have it! Big thank to ill.Gates for taking the time to talk with us and come check out his performance on July 7th at Reggie’s presented by Face Melt Chicago. If you’re a producer, you should absolutely sign up for his ill.Methodology workshop where he teaches the tips and tricks of Ableton.