Over the better part of a decade the musical seamstress ill-esha has been weaving her way throughout the realms of the music world. Starting her path in the Drum and Bass scene she has now worn herself a niche of her own over the years. With a unique live performance style she is definitely an artist you need to get to know. Thankfully enough this is a great time to get introduced to the music and world of ill-esha. She just released her newest LP ‘Imaginary Friends’ last week and has also been kind enough to chat with us a little bit over here at The Dankles. Tucked in below are a few sporadic tracks from ill-esha seen as her new LP isn’t out on the web for free but you will still be able to get a nice feel for what this unlimitedly talented producer has to offer.
TD: We’ll start this off pretty basic; how about you tell us a little about yourself (name, age, where you’re from, etc.)?
ill-esha: I’m Elle.. a lady usually never tells her age, however I am not always particularly ladylike, I proudly just turned 30 From Vancouver, BC, Canada, currently living in Denver, Colorado.
TD: A few of us just had the opportunity to make it out to Lunacy Festival in Santa Barbara, did you enjoy your time down there last weekend?
ill-esha: What a beautiful festival full of friends and talented acts. I enjoyed it hugely, there was a great selection of bands and DJs and the staging was lovely.
TD: You ended your earlier set with a song entitled ‘Open Heart Surgery’, the song truly pulled me in and I was wondering if you could tell us a little more about what went into making that track in particular?
ill-esha: That track is about a night in my life that kind of pressed the reset button on my consciousness. A spiritual awakening after some bonding experiences with friends made me realize the simplicity of true happiness and just shifted my perspective to one of endless gratitude. An open heart.
TD: You have been in the game for a while, how have things in the industry changed around you as you have evolved over the years?
ill-esha: The tempos change, the egos stay the same.. haha.. There is definitely a little bit of a tribal mentality now depending on what technology you use.. the CD-DJs, the vinyl purists, the controllerists.. Back when I started your only option was vinyl and I was on that for 9 years before starting to use Serato; I recently started using a Novation Twitch controller instead of vinyl and immediately started getting hate mails accusing me of “switching to Ableton arrangement view”. Of course, back in the day everyone just focused on hating genres instead; nowadays everything’s more blended together. On a POSITIVE note.. The advent of social media technologies has enabled our communities to link globally. I work with artists I’ve never met, but we can still create new music and get to know each other. Before, you’d really have to make connections in person and then get their email address to stay in contact.
TD: Considering you came on the scene as a D & B vocalist could you have ever pictured yourself being in the position you are now with your music?
ill-esha: Never! You know, it’s funny, because I never set an intention for most of my avenues into music. I always wanted to be a background player, I played bass in high school, but was urged to sing by my bandmates and later on by my friends who were DJs. I started DJing because I wanted to see DJs that did vocals and couldn’t find enough of them, and then started producing to let out the constant music in my head after I’d already backed down on electronic music and was doing other stuff. Nothing even really started clicking for me until I stopped having any expectations – which is one of those life lesson gems, I think
TD: Being from Vancouver and residing down in Colorado do you have a lot of time to go back up North to play shows//see friends?
ill-esha: Not as much as I’d like. I’m pretty busy with traveling out here, so when I get time off I’m usually heading straight for the studio.
TD: You have worked on some sweet projects with other producers in the past; can we look to see anything new in those regards coming down the pipes from you?
ill-esha: Well recently moving to Colorado, I’m really hoping to spend more time working with some of the very talented artists this state has produced, I just finished some tracks with Gladkill, Thriftworks and ChrisB. as well that I’m digging.
TD: You have had the chance to work with a lot of big names in the industry over the years, is there anyone that you still haven’t had the chance to sit down with that you would like to?
ill-esha: I’d love to work with my friend and great inspiration Vibesquad. Just did some tour dates with Break Science and loved their vibes, so hoping to collab with them in the future; Sub Swara and I have also tried to connect but the timing hasn’t worked out yet. Of course I would love to produce for some of my favorite vocalists like The Weeknd or Frank Ocean as well.
TD: You seem to draw influences for you music from almost every end of the spectrum, is there an artist or style of music that pushes you to keep at what you’re doing day in and day out?
ill-esha: Watching Imogen Heap live really inspired me, her show is hugely dynamic and improvisational: she uses technology to sample and otherwise involve her audience, she’s a kick-ass producer and musician. It really raised the bar and reminded me that there is so much that we can do as electronic music producers, always, to push the live show to another level.
TD: During your live sets you’re notorious for incorporating your voice into the music, do you usually plan things like that out or do you like to just let things flow from time to time?
ill-esha: There are definitely some songs of mine that are pre-written that I perform live, but pretty much everything else is freestyle. That’s been part of what I do since day one.
TD: When you’re just hanging around or driving in the car who are a few producers someone might catch you bumping at a red light?
ill-esha: I’m a big fan of psychedelic downtempo/future hip hop stuff, so I listen to a lot of Thriftworks, heRobust, Shlohmo, and trippy minimal R&B like The Weeknd.
TD: Aside from playing shows and producing music I’m sure you have other hobbies, what other pleasures do you find in life?
ill-esha: Absolutely love cooking, hiking in the mountains, snowboarding, yoga, and am fascinated by the more abstract sides of science, archaeology and astronomy.
TD: This is also a big time of the year for you! Your most recent LP ‘Imaginary Friends’ is dropping on Muti Music, care to drop some knowledge on that for us?
ill-esha: This is a daydream sequence, kind of. I am not a very visual person so I fantasize aurally (ooh la la), and I’ve spent a lot of time traveling alone and thinking about good times and friends back home. As well I take pieces of the adventures I have had and weave them in there.. I’m so happy to be releasing again on Muti, one of my original inspirations for getting into midtempo.
TD: Did anything special go into the production of ‘Imaginary Friends’ that you didn’t incorporate whilst making your previous releases?
ill-esha: Last year was the first year I had access to a field recorder instead of just recording found objects in my studio. I’ve always loved organic sounds but this time I was able to collect them from recordings I’d made on trips to Costa Rica and other places to really invoke a living and breathing experience.
Listen: Imaginary Friends – ill-esha
Listen: Lakeside – ill-esha
Listen: Mood Swings – ill-esha
Last time you were in the studio?
ill-esha: I’m writing this from there, so right now.
Last time you were at the zoo?
ill-esha: I can’t even remember.. Does the Atlanta airport count as a zoo?
Last time you attended a show you didn’t play at?
ill-esha: A week ago or so, Denver always is crackin’ with shows and places to be and I love to support the local scene which is full of great people. My friends at Sub.mission have something almost every day!
Last time in an exotic country?
ill-esha: Just got back from Israel at the end of July.
Last time you weren’t satisfied with a set?
ill-esha: I threw down a jam for my wonderful friends at the Grassroots store plugged into an interface with a half-second audio latency (delay) that none of us could fix. So I had to mix for the first time using the waveform visuals. No fun for the stubborn oldskooler!
Last CD/vinyl you bought?
New: heRobust 7″ vinyl on Saturate Records
Used: A pile of old funk records from the dollar bin at Amoeba in SF