Ireland native and trance enthusiast, Billy Gillies, has found huge success with his latest single DNA. DMNW had the chance to chat with him about his new single, his journey, musical influences (both past and present), and his thought process behind his incredible sets.
Chatting about DNA
DMNW: DNA has been doing so well, congratulations on all of your success on that!
Billy Gillies: Thank you so much.
DMNW: What about that track makes it special to you?
Billy: I think a captures the music I grew up listening to like the old school Tiësto, Armin van Buuren, like them big massive trance records…I wanted to just delve deep and bring back that sound that I used to love growing up. Just big captivating emotional vocals and Hannah did a great job, once Atlantic sent me her vocal I just had it in my head what I wanted to do with it. It came out quickly and I was happy with the result. Like the lead sound in DNA, I took inspiration from PPK’s ResuRection – not sure if you know the track, but that was one of the first dance tracks I ever listened to.
It was good to bring some of my influences from 15-20 years ago and bring that sound back – seems like it’s paid off. Like everywhere I’m playing it, I’m in Australia now and just turned down the music, and the whole crowd of like 22,000 people sang it. What a feeling, just like traveling all is way and seeing the reaction when I drop it is incredible, I couldn’t have asked for a better result with DNA. Everything‘s just been amazing no matter where I play it the crowd goes crazy and yeah I am so happy you turned out.
DMNW: I see why the crowd goes crazy – it’s a really beautiful track. I hear those like older influences, too. Do you think some of the older sound in this song is what is appealing and resonating to people so much right now?
Billy Gillies: Yeah, I think there’s a big gap in the market for like the older sound comes back and probably when people listen to it they get that nostalgic feeling you know the way music was years ago and that’s the feeling I get back when I listen to it. It takes me back to my childhood and all of the big dance records I loved growing up, so I think especially with the older crowd yeah, really resonates and probably hits a nerve with them. I played a gig two nights ago and I was like all 18-year-old students, I started with DNA and they were going crazy here as well, so it’s a pretty universal track, but with them old influences crammed into it, it works.
DMNW: Yes! I see how they could be more of a modern twist on the older influences; like I do hear the newer elements to it as well.
Billy Gillies: Yeah, it’s not just completely 90s. Brought in a new approach, a new sound design technique to that sound. I think it is nice and fresh, and I think music needs that nostalgic vibe to it and that’s where my vision is right now: to try and bring back that sound that I loved growing up so much but in a new fresh way that resonates with people. I think it’s paid off.
DMNW: What are some of the artists that you derived inspiration from?
Billy Gillies: Like I said, old school Tiësto – I was obsessed with him I had all the DVDs and every single CD. Apart from that (artists) like Armin Van Buren, Paul van Dyk…I love Judge Jules he is a UK DJ, he used to play every Friday night on BBC radio one and he played such a mixture of dance music like from house, techno, trance, anything went on his DJ show. It opened my mind to so many styles of dance music, like those DJs for me were my idols. They still are and I still look back at their DJ sets for inspiration when I need some.
DMNW: That’s so cool! Do you have any favorite shows that you played so far, like any favorite festival where the energy was really good?
Billy Gillies: I just played two of the biggest shows I’ve ever played in Sydney and Melbourne. Sydney was like 22,000 people in the main room and yes I couldn’t even see the back of the area, it was so long and just hearing the crowd sing back, like all my tracks and all, was just an incredible feeling. And Melbourne, they were loud, too, but it’s always a special one playing back home in Belfast. I had my show there about six weeks ago, and wow, the energy in that room was insane.
I played a 3 1/2 hour set and honestly, for every track that dropped they were just going crazy. I also love playing in Scotland, Glasgow feels pretty close to home because my dad is from Glasgow. Every time I go there the energy is just insane, my shows sell out fast, just like that, so energetic. The other gigs I mentioned they’re probably the highlights of my career so far but I appreciate every gig in some way no matter how big or small, if I feel the energy, then it’s an amazing gig for me. Just like that show in Seattle. It wasn’t the biggest club, or biggest crowd but like I felt the energy of the crowd
DMNW: Yeah, people were dancing!
Billy Gillies: Yeah, they were dancing all night, loving it, and not one person left until the end so yeah that’s what it’s all about for me as long as the crowd is having a good time no matter how big or small it is it’s a win.
Thinking about the sets
DMNW: Do you prefer playing the longer sets? Because in Seattle you played for 2 1/2 hours right? I know that a lot of festival sets can be shorter time slots.
Billy Gillies: Yeah, at festivals you can’t take your audience on a journey of all your different styles that you like, so at festivals as much as the love going on for an hour and banging it out, there are so loads of tracks that I would love to play and then I get messages – “Billy, why did you not play this?!” There are so many tracks that I want to play so when I’m playing for like 3-4 hours it just gives me a chance to take my fans on a journey of what I like musically. Both are good, I still like going on for an hour and hitting all the bangers and then leaving them crashing, but I love playing the longer sets.
DMNW: I feel like that specifically for trance, I feel like it gives it so much more room to progress and build. That was one thing that I noticed about your set, I was like oh my gosh like all of the transitions are so seamless like it just felt so cohesive.
Billy Gillies: And that’s it, and I never plan a set. I plan my first two tracks and then read the crowd and what they want and then I just freestyle it the whole way, I always find that’s best. I love just checking on my headphones and my mix will shoot the track that’s playing, it gives me a challenge but it always pays off when I never plan a set I just go off the vibe of the crowd and energy and then go down a certain direction that I think they want to go down…yeah, it always pays off.
DMNW: I feel like that like gives you so much creative flexibility, too.
Billy Gillies: It really does, because when I’m in the studio I’m always making music thinking about my DJ sets, so I played to different crowds that like the more floaty trance and all that, and then I play to crowds that like really fast bangers and stuff, I’ve got a big playlist of my own music in different styles to adapt to different crowds. I like being open-minded to music as much as possible. I’m known to be a trance DJ, but yeah there are so many influences even from Beyonce to Kings of Leon that I try to cram into my music. It’s one big story that makes sense to me – it’s not just one style, it all comes together in one big experience at shows so that is always my thought process when making music.
DMNW: As someone who was there, I feel like everyone in the crowd was fully receiving that people were so into it, it’s just so cool to see people feeling the music like that and of course, it looked like you were having a great time on stage.
Billy Gillies: I loved it, so yeah I played there I think it was like six months ago and honestly it was an amazing night. Sometimes in the more intimate shows like that, you just get a better connection with the crowd because at some big shows you’re like way in the back and you can hardly see if the crowd is dancing and enjoying it, but at the intimate shows it feels like you’re part of the crowd sometimes, you just get that good feeling and buzz off the crowd. I enjoyed that one.
DMNW: Do you have like a preshow ritual that you do?
Billy Gillies: A pre-show ritual, not really, I would always go on my laptop and my Rekordbox and make sure the USBs are working. It happened before like at a big festival in Amsterdam, I was literally on like 2 minutes before and I handed my USB to the DJ and he turned around with a big white face and said “Billy, none of these USBs are working.”
It was on live stream on the internet and everything and it was like a crowd of 2ooo people so I had to run quickly back, get in my bag, and reburn the USBs in 2 minutes. Then I ran back up on the decks, you can see it all on camera there is a video of it on YouTube, and then plugged them in and it eventually worked. My ritual is just making sure that my USBs are properly burned.
DMNW: That sounds so stressful!
Billy Gillies” Those are the things you go through when you’re a DJ, but it’s all about how you recover, though there’s always gonna be like the slight mistake, it’s all about your recovery as a DJ and how you react to things. It’s all about quick thinking so I’m always ready for a mistake.
DMNW: So you’re on tour right now, correct?
Billy Gillies: Yeah, I’m in Australia right now. Before Australia, I played EDC Orlando, Dream State in Los Angeles and then Seattle…then I traveled back to Ireland for like 24 hours and then three days to Australia and then played Sydney, Melbourne, and the Gold Coast so far here. I’ve got another show tomorrow night with Maddox in Melbourne, and then I play Brisbane on Saturday, and then I fly back home for Christmas like three weeks. It’s been amazing being on tour for a month and honestly every show has just been so good. Every time I play DNA, no matter where I’m playing, the crowd always goes insane. It’s been amazing, like I sometimes have to pinch myself, but in these moments it’s just everything that I’ve ever thought of like growing up and now I am here, and it’s bigger than I ever could have dreamed of so yeah…it’s been amazing.
Taking a look back
DMNW: I saw that you had your tracks played by DJ Judge Jules on BBC Radio 1, I was wondering if you ever think back to your younger self or like if you recall when you were younger to hear your tracks played there?
Billy Gillies: Oh, it was insane, I was only like 20 and DJ Judge Jules, who was one of my favorite DJs at the time, I would be listening to Radio 1 with my friends on a Friday night and he would just mix it in, and wow, I still remember the feeling of just hearing my track coming on one of the UKs biggest radio stations. That always gave me a thought like yeah I could do something in this scene, so I just continued to work hard and I’m really happy with where I am at the moment. Coming up though, you need sweet goals and accomplishments, with DJ support so when you get that it gives you the confidence to go back into the studio and get some music done.
DMNW: That seems kind of like a full circle moment, how does that feeling compare to now playing for 22,000 people?
Billy Gillies: Wow, yeah, just playing in front of 22,000 people is insane, it’s a feeling that is hard to explain. Especially when you’ve envisioned it all your life, and then just to finally be in that type of moment. It’s just something that you have to take in as much as possible, but yeah I’m enjoying every second of it. it feels like I’m only at the start of my career still, I’ve only given 25% of what I have to give in this scene, right now it’s really exciting for me I feel like it’s just the start of my journey, and just to see my fanbase build up more and more every month it’s just incredible, and to see where ill be in 5 years, but I hope to be doing my sell-out shows across the world in big stadiums, and yeah I’ve got the vision, its just all about keeping up the hard work.
DMNW: Yeah, absolutely! How long have you been producing?
Billy Gillies: I’m 33 now, I’ve been producing since I was like 19. So, yeah – quite a long time. In my 20’s I was a bit of a party animal, I thought producing was just my hobby. It wasn’t until I reached about 28 that I was like right, I really wanna knuckle down and see if I can make a career out of this. I deactivated Facebook and everything, went into the studio for 6 months on end and just produced, produced, produced. Then I got signed by a smaller trance label called After Dark in 2018.
I got some releases on there and started building a wee bit of traction. Then I got booked for a big trance event, after those releases in Amsterdam and Holland, in 2019 called Luminosity, and yeah that brings in a crowd from around the world. There were people from America, Australia, and Argentina going to that event. I played that set, no one knew of me back then and then a month later I checked SoundCloud and it was the most listened-to set of that whole festival.
I was even beating all of my idols, like Paul Van Dyk, so I was like what is going on here. After that set I started getting booked for places like Buenos Aires in Argentina and Australia; I got booked for Melbourne in 2019 not long after that set. Things started kicking off from there. It’s been a good journey, and I just wanna continue the hard work now, continue to build my fanbase as much as possible, and make the best music I can.
DMNW: That is so exciting! That’s so cool to see how far you have come and to think of how much you have to look forward to as well. I look forward to seeing everything of yours that comes out in the future.
A huge thank you to Billy Gillies and Atlantic Records for the interview.
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