ill.Gates is a man of many talents. From running his own label, Producer Dojo, and putting on weekly live music classes at The Weekly Download, he never stops. Now, he starts a new journey with his new album The Arrival along with a brand new tour. Boasting epic collaborations with Conrank, Mimi Page, Jordana, RIP Kenny, and more – this is the most stacked collaborative LP of the year.
Electric Hawk got to sit down with the production pioneer to talk about his new album, tour, and more, in this Exclusive Interview.
Selbe Dittman, Electric Hawk: What’s the story behind this album? What was your source of inspiration?
ill.Gates: This is the third installment of the airport series. It started with Terminally Ill (which was all hits) then continued with Departures (the weird stuff). Now, it culminates with The Arrival: an album of all songs that are both big AND experimental. I was trying to expand my style and get weird in a way my fans connect with so I can play the tracks every set. I will DEFINITELY be playing The Arrival songs at live shows.
SD: There are lots of epic collaborations on this album. How did these collaborations come about?
iG: I make music with most of my friends sooner or later. It’s just how I relate to people really. All I do is work on music and run the Dojo. So, it’s one of the best ways for me to hang out and be social while still driving my projects forwards.
iG: The Future I actually started back in 2017 but was never really happy with, so when I ended up in regular contact with Jordana (who is an OG in the Drum and Bass scene, she used to be on Liquid Sky) I asked if she wanted to turn my idea into a collab and then get Mimi Page in on the action as well. Jordana is a melodic genius, so she played all kinds of cool parts I never would have come up with.
Then I remade all her parts with my hardware synths and got Mimi Page’s amazing vocals and chords in on top. I’m very happy with the way it came out and I learned a ton in the process. Drum and Bass is a WHOLE other game when it comes to mixdowns. That mixdown took the longest on the album but I love the way it came out and have had a much easier time mixing Drum and Bass songs since.
iG: The original for “Trapezoid” was made in one magic four-hour session when UHNK came to visit the Dojo studio in LA. RIP KENNY and Kraddy were there too and it was a whole vibe. They didn’t want to be credited but they still helped.
iG: “NPFO” started as a cheeky timer beat remix of “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” by the Dead Kennedys. They are my favorite punk band and I feel like their music is more relevant now than ever. I mean Give Me Convenience Or Give Me Death is a PROPHETIC album title for 2020. Anyway, I handed off the timer beat to RIP Kenny and he did his thing, adding all kinds of guitars and distorted basslines. The whole thing got SO MUCH ATTITUDE I knew we had something special.
He came down to stay at the Dojo studio in LA and we finished it up, adding all kinds of twists and turns and getting the mixdown to be shockingly loud. We had a bit of trouble licensing the sample but eventually, Jello and the Dead Kennedys agreed to let us use it if we didn’t put their name on it and we donated all the proceeds to charity. The charity we chose is the ACLU, so when you stream or buy that tune you can know you’re supporting the civil liberties of ALL Americans.
“Look What I Got”
iG: “Look What I Got” is by EyeOnEyez, who is a protégé of mine from back before the Dojo started. He’s gone on to work with all these famous rappers like Gucci Mane, Rick Ross, Wu-Tang members, and now 42 Dugg. He hooks me up with remix gigs and I’m very grateful. I’m super proud of how far he’s come!
“Give It Up”
iG: “Give It Up” is a collaboration with Stephan Jacobs (also part of the House act Bosa) who is a BFF of mine and an incredibly talented musician. He’s on some of the biggest hits from Terminally Ill – like “Flying,” and “Bounce.” We made “Give It Up” back at the big Dojo studio in LA. It was really fun but we didn’t really think the track was that great until I started playing it out. For some reason, it causes SCREAMING from the audience every time. Goes to show you can never really judge your own work.
“Bangers and Mash”
iG: I met Conrank at a live show and we hit it off right away. I love his energy and attitude and we knew right away that we were going to do a collaboration. He sent me a sketch with the “Bangers and Mash” sample + main riff. I just went to town and made it into a full song, trying to get it as obnoxiously loud as possible. This one is also guaranteed to cause screaming in a live context.
“No Man’s Land”
iG: “No Man’s Land” is actually from 2012 if you can believe it! I made this one with my BFF and housemate R/D. Even though it never got distributed to Spotify, it was always a hit in my live sets so I figured it was time it got a proper release. I’m amazed that the mixdown we did still stands up nearly ten years later. R/D is a wizard!
SD: Is there one collaboration that stands out to you against the others? What makes it so special?
iG: That would DEFINITELY be “Endless”. That collab was magic from the start. It was also started as a timer beat exercise but I knew right away that the melodies and vibe were special. Around the time of NAMM, ill-Esha and Andrew Huang were in LA and they both stopped by the Dojo. Andrew Huang was staying for a few days so we figured we’d all get down on a collab. Ludlow (formerly Elfkowitz) was also there and so was ill-Esha’s man, Frost. I made stems from the timer beat and we all just started tearing them apart.
ill-Esha and Andrew Huang went off on some vocals and Ludlow and I did the intro together. I spent a lot of time with Andrew workshopping his verse and we developed a technique together I call ‘breath doubles’ where you record your doubles on the rap verse and then SKIP those lines to take a breath when you record the main verse take.
This is my #1 way to get good delivery on an intense rap because then the lungs are always full for every line. It totally worked and his vocal came out amazing. The drop came way later, and so did ill-Esha’s final vocal, and then the mixdown on that one was just BRUTAL. I spent for EVER getting it just right but it’s one of those tunes that sounds great anywhere you play it. I’ll be playing that one for the rest of my life.
EH: Tell me more about the track with Jordana and Mimi Page. What inspired you to work with them and have them be a part of this album?
iG: We met under, shall we say, “less than ideal” circumstances, and ended up spending a lot of time talking about super serious and negative things on the phone. They had both been taken advantage of and marginalized for much of their careers and I found it really upsetting. Too often female artists end up getting sidelined and don’t get recognized for being PRODUCERS and not just players or singers – often relegated to a ‘featuring’ credit or even not credited at all! It’s wack and I hate it.
I wanted to do a tune with them that would help us all heal from the negative situation that brought us together and also give them an opportunity to really shine with full co-producer credits on the record. When I gave them the space to do their thing, the results were incredible! I’m very happy with the way that tune came out. I love the animated music video we got from Adam Hatch over at Adult Swim, and I think that the song has this powerful femininity to it that really resonates with people. The future is female!
SD: How do the tracks off of this new album differ from what you’ve made before? How would you define your sound on this album?
iG: As I said before it’s all about the evolution of style. I get really bored repeating myself and am always trying to forge new ground. It’s more practical from a marketing perspective to try to carve yourself a niche, but I find single genre performances a bit boring, to be honest. I am always trying to find better, more honest, and direct creative processes, and to challenge myself to explore the roads less traveled so that I can bring a fresh experience to my fans every time they see me.
SD: Tell us more about your tour. What can fans expect from that?
iG: I am beyond stoked about this tour. I’ve got more new songs than I can play in any single set, and I’ve got music videos to go with each and every song when I play live. Serato video and the Pioneer systems are FINALLY playing nice together so I get to bring back my audiovisual sets and MAN do I ever have a show in store.
I didn’t advertise it as an A/V experience but so far it’s looking good and I should be able to do my video thing at nearly all of the shows. It’s one thing to play your songs and have a VJ work on top of you, but it’s quite another to be doing all your own audio AND video from the same performance system. This is going to be a WHOLE new ill.Gates experience and I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to bring it live at this level.
SD: The support for this tour is incredible. What did you look for when recruiting support?
iG: I am VERY picky about who I play with on tour. They need to be ridiculously skilled as musicians, but also to ALWAYS put the needs of the audience first. Music is medicine and it’s our role as performers to serve the crowd at the highest level. I have the utmost confidence in my co-performers for this tour.
EH: Are you excited to be playing shows again? What does it feel like to get back into the swing of things?
iG: I’m actually writing this from Canada and have yet to be back in the swing of things. The government here pays for everyone’s health care so they’re a lot tighter about anything that could rack up the bills. This means heavy taxes on smokes and booze, it means tourists can’t come in if they’ve got a DUI, and it means they’re way more hardcore about the pandemic. They ALMOST opened up last month, but then Delta happened and now all the shows are postponed again.
I get that it’s for the best but I am ITCHING to get back up on stage and hear all my new tracks on a PA again. I’m going to have to take precautions not to test positive so I don’t have to cancel any tour dates, but whatever it takes – it’s worth it to get to do my thing again. I was born to rock sound systems and the wait has been BRUTAL. The good news for you is that you’re going to get the best show I’ve ever put together. If you lock me down in a studio for over a year, you better believe I’m making a metric fuck-ton of new material.
SD: What’s something you’ve learned during your time in the industry that new and upcoming producers should know?
iG: The most important thing isn’t marketing, managers, agents, or any of that. Sure, it’s all NECESSARY, but it’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is the ability to make people love you. There’s a ton of brilliant musicians out there so ONLY focusing on the music isn’t enough. You 100% need to make the best music you can, but what actually opens the doors of the music industry is learning how to make people like you.
So pay it forwards, don’t be afraid of internships, and when you reach out to someone new, ask them what you can do FOR THEM, not the other way around. There are far too many entitled newcomers rocking up with their palms out for anyone established to pay attention. It doesn’t matter how good you are if people get a bad vibe from you. So yes, focus on the music first, and sure, the business side is essential. But if you’re REALLY serious about making it in the music industry, you need to focus on how you and your music can serve others and make a positive contribution to the scene.
ill.Gates is another artist in our space that deserves the utmost respect and recognition. Aside from all of the amazing things he does for producers, ill.Gates is a champion of the underground and a positive force in our community. Thank you, Dylan, for taking the time to sit down and chat with us. We wish you nothing but the best in your future endeavors.
Listen to The Arrival below:
Looking for new music? Keep up with our weekly Spotify Playlist, Fresh Hunts. Updated every Friday with all the latest releases. Whether it’s the newest drops from ill.Gates, some old-school, or underground…we just want you to hear it.
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