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Gaining SUBstance: KJ Sawka & ill.Gates Shaping Future Bass Producers (Exclusive Interview)

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[divider]Guiding New Producers With ill.Methodology[/divider]

Both KJ and ill.Gates are getting involved with shaping the next generation of bass producers. KJ has a budding new label, with some artists already in rotation, others that are developing. Ill.Gates has long been teaching the ways of Ableton in his ill.Methodology Workshops, both in online tutorials and in person.

A couple days after the Unsung Heroes tour came through Foundation Nightclub, the duo hosted a special ill.Methodology workshop in Seattle. The intimate event (with special guest Santana drummer Michael Shrieve!) was set up to answer the question, “What actually goes into producing a track?”

Both KJ and ill.Gates spent more time talking about Ableton tweaks and their workflows than super-secret synth tricks. It was refreshing, as most bedroom producers’ primary stumbling blocks are misuse of tools and bad time management. A few notable takeaways from the KJ/Ill.Gates workshop:

  • Both producers strongly encourage making new project files at each step of the production. This reduces CPU usage, and allows you to jump back easily to different points in your production.
  • Whenever possible bounce software instrument parts to audio when making new projects. In addition to the CPU savings, this method opens up all of Ableton’s granular audio-only tools, perfect for mangling, distorting, and troubleshooting.
  • KJ suggests clipping off the ends of live recorded drums to give them a more immediate, drum machine feel. His layering is also very interesting, with different drum samples layered onto different hits rather than building “stacks.” Both techniques combined create an intense, pulsing drum sound.
  • ill.Gates suggests creating melodies in threes, using the most basic synth sound you can. If all melodies can be played together and sound good, you can cut them in and out to create a more cogent, interesting melody. This also ensures they’ll sound even better when put to hungry synth patches.
  • He also suggests dissecting and rearranging midi files of classical or classic songs to create a melody when experiencing writers block.
  • Both suggest taking the time to learn the basics of music theory, as well as the basics of Ableton and workflow.

“I’d like to see producers dive into their musicianship… I’d like to see a little more deep production and deep thought process on music because those songs are gonna last a lot longer than simple-minded production. And so that’s kinda what we try to do, we try to give these guys the tools that they need to do their best work.” -KJ Sawka


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Hailing from the golden hills of California, Tina lives for sunny days in Seattle. With an expansive taste and hunger for both food and music, she loves all things from Celine Dion to Slipknot (and of course EDM).

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Important things happen in Pacific Northwest nightlife, and DMNW will send you alerts!