ill.Gates is a Toronto-born San Francisco based composer, performer and educator. Over the past decade, he has established a global fanbase and a reputation as one of the most dynamic electronic music artists around. His first full-length release, Autopirate (Muti Music, 2008) charted on iTunes and dominated on Beatport, the epic 18 track album The ill.Methodology (Muti Music, 2011) cracked the number 1 spot on iTunes and remains a strong seller. His collaborations with Bassnectar have had epic success and remain some of the top selling electronic tunes on many retails and streaming outlets.
We caught up with the man himself to dig a little deeper into the history of his DJ setups.
– What got you into DJing?
I started producing back when you had to use hardware. It was very annoying and expensive to use 90’s production hardware to play live so I said ‘fuck it’ and bought a set of decks. My life has never been the same.
– What kit did you learn to DJ on?
I’ve used a lot of things over the years, but my very first sets were played on one of those ghetto blasters with two tape decks. I would cue the tapes up the night before so they were all at the perfect spots to start and then go back and forth between the two cassette decks on the ghetto blaster. I would also experiment with sampling, cutting in pieces of movie dialogue I had mic’d off of my parents TV. It sounded horrible but everyone has to start somewhere, right?
– What was the next step for you tech wise, why did you change and how did you find the transition?
I started taking LSD and going to raves when I was 13 years old and decided immediately that I should quit being an actor and invest all of my savings in a set of turntables and a mixer. That was great until I realized that I would need a constant supply of vinyl, which was also very expensive. I financed my vinyl habit with various black market entrepreneurial activities until I turned 18 and the risks became a lot more real. At least I got to buy an MPC with $2000 in $5 bills before I called it quits. You should have seen the look on the guitar store dude’s face.
– What is your set up now and why did you choose it?
I’m currently using a Serato/Ableton/MixEmergency setup that allows me to VJ, DJ and do live performance from one computer. It took a lot of testing, and has been through many incarnations on the way to it’s current form but it really works well and everything fits in my carry on baggage. I recently swore off of Pioneer equipment after they started trying to bully Serato users into switching to Pioneer’s Rekordbox software. Fuck that.
– Where do you see DJ technology going forward?
I’d love to see more controllers that are both professional and portable. Right now there are a million controllers out there, but very very few that sit in the sweet nexus of pro audio and portability.
In the long term I see things heading into an increasingly live direction. Now that the tech is getting there artists are getting in touch with showmanship again… it’s really cool to see. The public has spoken: push play sets suck! Seeing the creative ways people are breaking through that cliche is amazing.
– Whats the best set up to learn DJing on and why?
The setup you already have. Even if it’s just using Traktor on an iPhone or chopping up audio in a cracked copy of Ableton the only limit is your own discipline. You don’t need a ton of equipment to make good music, far from it! Often having too much equipment will paralyse you in a see of infinite options. Don’t try to do everything… try to do ONE THING better than anyone else.