Interview: ill.Gates

ill gates

Canada-born, California-based EDM legend Ill.Gates will be at Island Vibe Festival later in the month for what promises to be one seriously bass-heavy party. From headlining festivals, to working with some of the best in the business and teaching up-and-comers, Gates has it covered.

What is the scene like for bass-heavy music in San Francisco right now?

San Francisco has an incredible scene for bass music. Period. Or maybe even exclamation mark. Yeah… I’ll go with exclamation mark! It’s awesome. People there are very forward-thinking and always want to hear whatever’s new and innovative. There are massive events and street festivals all the time and the people do not tolerate unoriginal music or poor sound systems. We are also lucky enough to have the American branch of PK Sound based in SF, so you can often find their sound systems bumping at special events.

The only thing you can complain about really is that the fetishism of new original music and high quality sound systems kind of ruins travel to much of the rest of the world. Trends move very fast, so whatever is new to the rest of the world is already old news in the Bay. Definitely a first world problem.

How do you keep up to speed on new technology and software as it emerges?

It has gotten to the point that many of the companies and innovators simply contact me directly as their gear is being developed and/ or send me demo units. I read a lot about new stuff online as well. Blogs like djtechtools.com are excellent sources of reviews and there’s always the ableton forum as well.

What’s your favourite piece of DJ equipment that you own?

I’d have to say my MIDI Fighters are the most fun. I love Ableton Push for melodic performances, but the MIDI Fighter just slays it. It’s like an MPC made of arcade buttons, and then suddenly all those hours logged on ‘Street Fighter II’ at the arcade are musically useful. Go order one now. Trust me.

Another string to your bow is the role of musical educator. What form does this take?

Lately it’s nearly all online. Since I signed on with Circle (agency) I have been gigging more than ever before so it is very difficult to financially justify the time it takes to do a workshop. When I have a workshop online it can eventually generate the residual income to justify it to my management but grinding it out doing physical workshops doesn’t really make sense any more.

I am, however, treating this Australian visit as more of a vacation than a business venture so I will take the time to teach for the love of it when I’m there.

What is the biggest misconception about DJing that you would like to see change?

I would like to see audiences appreciating actual live electronic music more. People like Mad Zach, Araab Musik, Sibot, Shake Beats, AmpLive etc. are absolutely epic when it comes to finger drumming live. It’s amazing. To make a whole song happen ACTUALLY LIVE with no quantise or looping or anything to fall back on is magic. Audiences don’t really understand that it actually takes years of practice to be able to truly do it live.

I’d like to see more appreciation for the art and craft of finger drumming, and I’d like to see more people doing it. DJing is great, but being able to actually play instruments live on a stage is pretty amazing too.

Do you have any plans for releasing new material any time soon?

I’m basically doing one track at a time these days because nobody has the attention span for a whole release any more. I’m planning to keep going like that, and then put out mixtapes of all the favourites every now and then. That seems to be the format people are responding to. You can get a new release every month or so at illgates.com or on my soundcloud. Bon appetit!

What drives you to continually find new sounds and styles?

Hack artists ruin every subgenre as soon as it gets popular, so if you like the feeling that music gives you then there is no other option but to constantly seek out new sounds and forms of expressing yourself. Music saved my life. Literally. I owe it to the world to return the favour. I’ve also got absolutely nothing else on my resume so I’d better give this thing my all if I want to support myself.

There really is something to be said for music as a full time profession. If you’ve got no safety net at all you really have to hustle to stay relevant. Artists and trends come and go so fast these days that it’s adapt or die.

You’ve played some huge festivals like Burning Man and Shambala, but what can fans expect from your show at Island Vibe?

I love Jamaican music. Love it. I have all kinds of remixes, dub versions, etc in my back pocket I’ve been dying to bust out for ages and I see Island Vibe as my best chance for it. In my previous trips to Australia I typically stayed away from playing tracks with vocals (Aussies tend to think it ‘commercial’, lol) so I’ll have a chance to explore some new territory this time around. I can’t wait!

And finally, what are your plans for dealing with the Queensland heat? Beer or water?

Coopers Pale Ale, obviously… cheers!

Ill.Gates plays Island Vibe October 25-27. He also plays the joint IV After Party/ Earth Frequency Launch Party at the Hi-Fi November 2.

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