ill.Gates is a force of nature. If you’ve been anywhere near the bass music scene in the last decade, you’ve likely heard his name. With humble beginnings as funky breaks producer The Phat Conductor, he transitioned into the eerie world of glitch hop in the late 2000s and hasn’t looked back. From his electric live sets, both solo and with former Pendulum drummer KJ Sawka, and his website Producer DJ, where he imparts his knowledge with eager EDM producers all over the world, it’s no surprise that he’s considerably one of the most forward thinking producers in the game. It’s undeniable that ill.Gates pours passion and heart into his work, and we were lucky enough to have a quick chat with him to talk all things ILL.
You have described that music saved you. What are some of your earliest musical influences and how do you think they reflect in your work?
Ill Gates: I was always really into super experimental/industrial music like Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails, Download, Haujobb, Autechre, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, etc. but then also rap music like Public Enemy, Rakim, Nas, Wu Tang and Eminem. I would DJ vinyl for my breakdance crew and scratch with the noise records as DJ tools. I was also really into Jamaican music, dub especially… Eventually they all met in the middle.
Knowing your past history with Microsoft, we were curious how the production process differs from making a ringtone package in comparison to making a track?
I: I only really did the one gig with Microsoft, but it was pretty fun overall. At first they gave me a very specific set of chords and asked me to make all kinds of variations on it for their pack. Then once they learned to trust me they allowed me to propose my own ringtone packs, world music, hiphop, funk, etc. Eventually I got them to agree to doing a comedy pack and sold them a fart for $1500. It was a real high point in my life.
When I’m writing my own music the map is a lot less clearly defined. I have to figure it out as i go along and take all kinds of wrong turns along the way. Sometimes I scrap whole days worth of work and start over. I usually think I’m a worthless human being and hate myself at least once during the process and then nobody gives me $1500 for farting at the end.
When making a new track, how would you describe your creative process?
I: It’s a lot like starting a fire. I get a bunch of flammable things in a pile and try to set them up in such a way that they want to ignite. Then I start striking matches and watching them die in my cold fingers. Eventually one of them lights up and I get very excited. I try to calm myself and blow on the fire gently at first. Once it’s going I start blowing harder and harder until it has a life of it’s own. Then I just have to stay awake until it’s done.
In an interview from last year, you mention that your top 3 places to travel for inspiration are Japan, Cuba, and Bali? How do those places spark inspiration for you, and how does that reflect in your music?
I: I love Japan because of their fetishism of excellence. It doesn’t matter if you’re a CEO or a dishwasher. You do your best and take pride in your work.
Cuba is a thriving ruin. It reminds me that with the right attitude and the right friends not even the world can hold you back.
Bali is magic. I feel like a child lost in another dimension.
We love your website! It’s highly interactive and informational. What inspired you to design your website in this manner? It often seems artists have minimal biographical information and then links to their social media profiles. What made you decide to go into such detail?
I: I love to connect with the people who listen to my music. I want them to know that musicians are human too, and that there really isn’t anything different about us other than the way we choose to spend our lives. I want them to choose to spend their time on things that grow.
What inspired you to create ProducerDJ? How did the process for developing this program come about?
I: I’ve always been into teaching and sharing my knowledge. My mom is a teacher and my dad is a professional guitarist. This apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
I started by teaching people in person, but then the demand grew too much. Then I did workshops to teach more than one person at a time but the demand grew too much. Then I started the website so I could build a vault of knowledge. The demand is still to much, but at least there is a growing vault now!
Now my students are taking shit over so I started a record label for them called Producer Dojo. I don’t like to brag about my own music, but I LOVE bragging about theirs! I am so proud of them. Watch out for EPs from Matter, Mitch Brady and Spiderhound in the near future.
What are your goals for the future of ProducerDJ? Do you have any plans to further expansion or develop the website?
I: In addition to the label I just mentioned I’ve turned the site into a training camp at ProducerDJ Club. Rather than just put out workshops and templates I made the site into an exclusive club where students can reach out to me and get feedback and training. They can interact with each other, share their work and struggles, and generally just team up and improve. We’ve only just opened it to the public this week. I’m really excited!
You are known throughout the industry for your work ethic in continually developing your production techniques every year. What are some of the new things you want to learn this year? What are you most looking forward to right now in 2017?
I: Good question! People always ask me about what I’m teaching but never about what I’m learning!
Lately I’ve been very focused on a new style of production that fuses the finger drumming/MPC style of beat making with the new school production trickery of ableton. I’ve been working with Maschine and Ableton and just ordered a new MPC live. I also got a gig at this craaaaaaaaazy studio in New York that I can’t say too much about. Basically: it was worth me moving to New York and I’m working on BIG THINGS.
What are some final things that you want your fans to know?
You’re never alone. Life is ugly sometimes but that’s what makes it special. Whatever happens in this crazy world we have each other, and we have our stories. Let’s go make some memories.
Big ups to ill.Gates for taking time out of his incredibly busy schedule to chat with DMNW. This guy is a force to watch, and we have a feeling we’re gonna be hearing a lot from this guy in 2017. We’re certainly looking forward to his festival performance at Shambhala’s 20th Anniversary this year. Anyone got any favourite ill.Gates stories? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Get all the latest Pacific Northwest nightlife news, directly to your inbox.