Phantasmagoria is the first full-length project from Mr. Bill since 2018. Between making music, teaching others how to make music, the Mr. Bill Podcast, and performing – the guy knows how to stay busy. After picking up Ableton at just 18, Bill would eventually earn his Bachelor’s in Audio Engineering, and take his first steps to become one of the most prolific producers of our generation.
Phantasmagoria is an inventive and emotional journey through the gigantic mind of this legendary producer. In just under an hour, Mr. Bill shifts and cycles through the many talents he possesses across a multitude of genres. Always keeping you guessing, and always impressive, the project as a whole is one of our favorite releases of 2021 thus far.
We had the honor to chat with Mr. Bill about his dreams of being in a metal band, his favorite things about teaching, and, of course, Phantasmagoria.
Hayden McGuigan, Electric Hawk: You’ve been around music for most of your life, and before you began to explore Ableton, you were involved in metal bands. Are you still interested in that side of the music atmosphere? And would you ever consider making a comeback to hardcore music?
Mr. Bill: So I’ve actually had this dream of making a metal album for a long time. And now that I’m furthering my career and I kind of know some people in the metal industry, like Marc from Veil of Maya, and Jordan Rudess from Dream Theater, I think I’m getting closer to my dream of being a Devin Townsend-esque kind of producer in the studio. It’s something I definitely want to do, and it’s a dream I’ve had for a long time. It’s just finding the time to do it, I guess.
HM: To those that don’t know, you were born in Australia, but you’re currently living in the US. What would you say is the biggest difference is between the Australian and American electronic communities?
Mr. Bill: I would say in Australia it’s just more sort of Flume-y sounding, at least from my memory of it. I haven’t been back in a while, obviously, due to Coronavirus. But over here I’m more affiliated with the bass music scene. I guess in Australia, a lot from what I remember, bass music is not massive like it is in America. I was more affiliated with the psytrance community in Australia, so I’ve had very different experiences in both countries.
HM: So you’re heavily involved in sharing your vast production knowledge with the community. Between Ableton Live courses, sample packs, your HCA subscriptions, and more – what is your favorite thing about teaching?
Mr. Bill: Oh, man, I just love it when something just *clicks* for somebody, and you hear that response from them. I love getting those emails so much more than I like getting emails from people saying they like my music. Like I just put out my album, Phantasmagoria, and I’ve been getting a lot of messages from people saying, “This is such a cool thing that you’re doing, I love the music” or whatever. But I get way more of a kick out of somebody being like, “Yo, I did not know how to produce, at all, like six months ago, and now look at this thing that I’m making.” I’m just like…wow. Especially when they say it’s mostly due to my tutorials.
It’s just crazy to think that due to some video I made and uploaded when I was like 20 years old, over a decade ago, some of that work is still having an effect on people today. It’s just really powerful. Steve Duda talks about this thing, I think he calls it “meta music,” where because of his creation of Serum, it’s had such an effect on the music scene around him and it’s become such a pivotal part of electronic music production. I think in some way, my tutorials have had that effect on the electronic music scene. To a smaller degree, obviously, than Serum, but I find that really interesting to think about.
HM: The Mr. Bill podcast has been quite a success. You’ve had countless guests, including deadmau5, ZEE, ill.gates, Subtronics, Au5, Of the Trees, Andrew Huang, Mimi Page, Mersiv, and most recently Feed Me – just to name a few. So far, what has been your most memorable episode, and why?
Mr. Bill: Well, I think just due to the recency effect of remembering the last one I did more so than the earlier episodes because I’ve done so many now, the most memorable one I did is the one I just recorded with Daedelus. And honestly, I think that was one of the most interesting episodes I’ve recorded because we talked about such high-level conceptual things, more so than the usual like “what have you been up to” type stuff. We talked about very existential things and those are the episodes that I really like.
HM: Do you have any guests coming up that you’re extra excited about?
Mr. Bill: Yeah, I do actually. I don’t know if I want to mention the names because I kind of like leaving it as a secret for when they come out; but yeah, I’ve got some really interesting guests coming up.
HM: So, Mr. Bill, tell us the story behind Phantasmagoria.
Mr. Bill: This is a hard concept to explain, so it might be tricky to pare this down into text. The way I look at communication in general, of which music is a form of communication, I think, or expression, rather, is that you have an emotion that you want to express. It’s this very ethereal, intrinsic, and internal thing. The method that we use to convey it most frequently is language. And I think music and film and all sorts of other art concepts are a way of conveying it as well.
Phantasmagoria is a form of theater where the medium is, in its original form, a light used to cast projections. Imagine, you’re looking at a cave wall. Then behind you on the cave wall is a puppet show. Then behind that is a light, so the puppet show creates shadows on the cave wall. I just thought of music as being a similar thing.
It’s like this kind of weird, abstract barrier between the explanation of the feeling that you’re having, and the actual message. It’s as if you can never actually get that initial emotion directly to the intended receiver. I guess I see music in the same way. It’s like a weird, abstract conveyor of a message to an intended receiver. That’s where the name Phantasmagoria comes from. Or, at least, that’s the connection I make for it.
HM: You’ve worked with countless artists over the years, both up and coming and well-established, and that trend continues on this project. Which collaboration would you say felt the most natural?
Mr. Bill: Definitely the ones with eliderp. That’s why there are so many of them. [Laughs]
HM: Which collaboration felt the most challenging?
Mr. Bill: I would say, either the one with Skope or Sorrow. Just because, I don’t know, I feel like those projects are just really technical in a lot of ways. Also, they have very strong opinions about things so there was a lot of head-butting. Especially in the Skope one.
But I think that’s really healthy and good because I want to work with somebody who has a strong opinion. I don’t want to work with someone who’s just like, “everything’s fine,” and whatever. That’s not why I do collabs. I do collabs to try and get this new result. I don’t do them to just try and write my own music with somebody watching, I could just do that on Twitch.
HM: Did any of the newer collaborators you worked with surprise you?
Mr. Bill: Yes, definitely eliderp. He’s 18 years old, and the dude’s just a f**king genius.
HM: I am a HUGE fan of Sorrow. How did that collaboration come about? Unless I’m ill-informed, I don’t believe you two have worked on a track together before now.
Mr. Bill: Yeah, we’ve never worked on a track together before. I just hit him up on Facebook and was like, “Hey man, got anything you want to work on?” He said yeah, then sent over some stems. Which was crazy because I’m also a huge fan of Sorrow. Dude is a legend.
He sent over stems, and I put in tons of work on it to try and impress him [Laughs]. Then when I sent the stems back, he was like, “Oh, yeah, this is cool.” He wrote one of the last drops for it, like the more Sorrow-ey dubstep drop at the end. Then he added a bunch of other parts to it, and I added my drop to the very, very end, and we called it done.
HM: If you had to pick one track from the album, which would you choose if you wanted to show someone your music who has never heard of your work?
Mr. Bill: Probably “Pleasure Seeker,” just because it’s the most accessible, and it seems to be the one that people are able to listen to and chill with the most.
Although it’s maybe not necessarily my favorite track off the album – which, by the way, changes every day – I think it is definitely the track that would pull somebody in the most and make them want to check out the rest of the album.
HM: Are there any conversations happening about a Phantasmagoria tour that you’re willing to fill us in on?
Mr. Bill: Honestly, not really. I think my management and I waited too long to book dates [Laughs]. Now, shit is booked up until like mid-2022 or something, so I think that’ll be a little bit too out of the range of the release date of Phantasmagoria to constitute it as a “Phantasmagoria tour.” Though I do have shows coming up and I’m going to be playing a lot of the album at those shows.
I have Infrasound on October 1st, and then I’m playing in St. Louis at 2720 Cherokee on October 8th, and 9th. Then I’ve got some shows at the end of October in Darlington, Maryland, and Baytown, Texas, at Nightmare Festival and Freaky Deaky, respectively. On the 31st of October, I have a show at Catch One in Los Angeles. November 14th at Red Rocks. November 19th, I’ll be in Austin, Texas at the Texas Music Ranch for a festival called Beyond Existence. Then I have Columbus, Ohio on November 20th.
There, I’m playing a show at a venue called Otherworld, which I’ve heard is similar to Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, but I’ve never been there myself so I’m excited to check that out. So yeah, I’ve got a couple of shows that are coming up, I guess. I wouldn’t necessarily constitute them as a tour, but yeah. If you want to see the album being played and you’re near any of those cities, come check it out.
HM: Well, Bill, I want to thank you for taking the time to chat with us. It was an honor. Aside from being an extremely talented producer, your contributions to this scene are astronomical, and you deserve the utmost respect and appreciation. Before we wrap this up, is there anything more you’d like to add?
Mr. Bill: Yeah, I suppose. At the two shows coming up soon, Infrasound and St. Louis, I’m playing IDM sets, which are pretty new for me. I haven’t done that in a while, so people should definitely come out and check that out if they haven’t seen me in a while. Those sets will be definitely different than the ones that I’ve historically been playing for the last couple of years, which have generally been heavier dubstep kind of stuff.
Another thing I’d like to introduce people to if they don’t already know is the Billegal universe. So go check out the Billegal Beats and Billegal Sounds. Billegal Beats is a record label I launched. We release a lot of like IDM, downtempo kind of music and glitch. Billegal Sounds is a sample pack company that I started which runs on Splice, currently, but we’re building our own platform for that at the moment. So yeah, if you’re a producer and you want to get some really high-quality samples, we’ve been releasing some pretty amazing packs from a lot of artists that I really respect and admire as sound designers. Thanks for having me, man. I appreciate this.
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From September 15 to October 15, the United States recognizes National Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s a time to celebrate the vibrant Hispanic and Latinx cultures and to uplift our neighbors from those communities. Also, this offers an opportunity to learn about the innumerable different Hispanic and Latinx influences on music. Check out this article for an overview of the long, rich history of Hispanic and Latinx music over the centuries.