San Francisco-based Canadian, ill.Gates, has been plundering the bass-heavy landscape for the better part of 16 years.
Whether itâ€™s his glitch-hop infused productions, bassline friendly DJ sets or headlining such seminal festivals as Burning Man, Shambala and the New Orleans Jazz Festival, ill.Gates is a brand within the bass community.
Headed to Australia next month, including headlining Earth Frequency alongside Tipper, Mr Gates took time out from his travels to have a chat about all manner of things, including the Sundance Film Festival, Eternal Recurrance and hanging with the â€˜realâ€™ Gates.
Youâ€™ve been DJing, producing since your teenage years; did you ever have any doubt that this was the career path you wanted to pursue?
I had NO idea that this would ever become my job. It was always something that just happened, like sleeping, eating or showering. At one point I was studying to be a graphic designer all the while doing music in my spare time. My design school got me this horrid internship at a wedding magazine where I would get punished for being too creative or else my boss would hit on me when I was 'good'... it was slowly crushing my soul. I had been reading a lot of Nietzsche at the time and came across this thought exercise called Eternal Recurrence that really helped me to makeâ€‚the decision to focus onâ€‚music full time. Eternal Recurrence works like this: imagine for a moment that you are dead, but your mind is still active somehow.
Now imagine that instead of going to heaven or to hell you are instead forced to watch your life play like a movie again and again and again and again. How would you feel about your decisions then? By which standard of judgement would you hold your actions? After considering Eternal Recurrence and the various options I had in life I was able to say 'Fuck it. I don't care if I'm poor my whole life, I don't care if I can't have a car or a kid or anything, I can not live with myself unless I am exploring my creativity full time." I never looked back.
How did you end up basing yourself in San Francisco; were you drawn to the bass heavy culture of the city?
Damn straight! The music was the main thingâ€‚that drew me to the city, but the people, food, art, lifestyle and weather are all exactly to my tastes as well. It really is a magical place.
Does the richness of the cityâ€™s bass scene give you a fertile sounding board for your ideas?
It's not so much of a sounding board for me. I actually try not to play in SF any more than I play elsewhere. It's easy to play yourself out in your hometown, no matter how good you are. I do plunder the city for inspiration on the daily, and there are many excellent musicians that I collab with. Collaborating makes writing music a lot more fun, and it makes the tunes come out differently each time, which is an essential part of my modus operandi.
It's a pet peeve of mine when artists rehash their most popular tune again and again until all of their material sounds the same. The individual tunes might sell well, but then when you see that artist live it sounds like one long, predictable track and it gets to be disappointing after a while. A diverse set creates a feeling of spontaneity that I find essential to getting my dance on.
You were at the Sundance Film Festival recently; what was your role: artist, fan or both?
I'm a HUGE cinephile so I would try to come here even if I weren't playing. Nonetheless I had this absolutely killer gig playing with Drake at a private event. It's so rad that Bing get these megastars to perform with the likes of me in these arty intimate spaces. I performed with Wiz Khalifa, Theophilus London, Cobra Starship and James Murphy during the week at Sundance ... definitely a good use of the marketing budget in my opinion!
You played a 2010 Microsoft party at Sundance, â€˜kicking itâ€™ with Bill Gates; what was that experience like?
Oh man, what a night! Bill is a real sweetheart, very easy to hang out with and very down-to-earth. We had a private performance from The Roots with John Legend to enjoy together too. The only bad thing about that night isâ€‚knowing I'll probably never top it.
As one of the pioneers of the glitch-hop sound, can you break down the genre for us - what exactly makes it glitch-hop?
The term or genre name 'glitch hop' actually really annoys me. Much of the genre is not glitchy at all, and most of it sounds more like slow breaks than hip hop. The word 'glitch' tends to turn a lot of people off too; it sounds like the music is going to be all pretentious and IDMey. Whatever you want to call the genre it seems like it's united by bass, modern production and BPMs between 80-110. I would love the genre to improve and gain more attention despite my not liking the name.
The subgenres that litter the EDM landscape - do you have a hard time keeping track of the new sounds originating out of bedrooms around the world?â€‚
Living with all the hipsters in San Francisco I hear pretty much everything as soon as it has a name, and often sooner. There are so many DJs and producers in the scene here that the pressure to differentiate yourself is just massive. People here are always looking for the next big thing and are usually over any genre far before it becomes popular. At some point you gotta just roll your eyes and say 'Fuck it: it's all just music. Do I like what I'm hearing or not?â€™â€
What are you thoughts on dubstep?
I love dubstep in all of its incarnations even if some of them make me cower and cringe. Dubstep as the lowest common denominator is a HUGE step forwards from house music or trance. As much as I hate Top 40 dubstep, I'd rather listen to that than hours and hours of evenly spaced kick drums with inaneâ€‚rave synths or filtered disco samples over the top. I think that the best thing about dubstep is the influence on other genres, though. Once the momentum started to really get going, it forced everyone else to up their game in response. It's also opened up the public consciousness to slower-sounding party music which is just great for me.
What is the next step for EDM; weâ€™re now in an era where people are growing up from birth with EDM as a mainstream genre; will this affect the direction of the scene?
It already has and it's about time. You can shake your head at the Skrillex fan pages all you like, but I just think it's great that real success is possible for electronic musicians now. So much of the EDM in the â€˜90s is just languishing in people's abandoned vinyl collections at this point and it's a bit sad. So many brilliant dubplates lost... So many epiphanies forgotten... I can't wait until people en masse consider producing to be as legitimately a part of music as playing guitar or singing.
ILL.GATES PERFORMS AT EARTH FREQUENCY, WHICH TAKES PLACE AT LANDCRUISER PARK, SUNSHINE COAST, FEBRUARY 17-20. earthfrequency.com.au