Growing up as a young music nerd in LA, it’s not uncommon to be surrounded by a ton of other kids making beats. It’s a pretty basic formula, being in the constant presence of the industry’s greatest and having access to the best shows with convenience, it’s all sure to leave an impact on a teenage mind. Unfortunately most post-high-school producers seem to burn out and lose the magic, moving toward other paths and leaving their beat-making hobby behind as a phase. But that’s alright, as this scenario makes more room for those who never gave up or slowed down, and my good friend Cam Ward is a pretty prime example. If you’ve recognized the name “PILO” around the city on flyers for venues such as the Avalon and the Central, then you’re already aware of Cam’s presence as a promising force in the world of techno. When you’re 19 years old and getting backed up by BBC Radio 1, John Roman, Harvard Bass, Jerome LOL, Astronomar, the Gotta Dance Dirty family, and more…then you know something’s right. It must be satisfying to make a track in your bedroom one day and then find out it was played to a thousand people at a festival the following week! Pilo has been busier than ever this year, I’ve even seen him bust out his laptop and headphones in the backseat of the car on our way to a friend’s house because he didn’t want to waste even a few minutes on mixing down a song. And certainly that work ethic is paying off with a number of upcoming releases for majorly respectable labels, and one that is particularly noize-y (that should be a big enough hint). Anyway, let’s get familiar; read on for our chat.
Alright let’s start from the beginning here. You were born and raised in LA?
Nahh, I was born in Mississippi, quite odd huh? But I’ve been living in LA for about 12 years.
I did listen to music but what really inspired me was what I pictured when I made a track. Watching movies really gave me huge ideas on tracks because it gets me into an atmosphere that really got me thinking outside the box.
What kind of records were you growing up with as a little kid? Was there a certain point where you were introduced to electronic music and became hooked, or was it a random gradual addiction?
Definitely was a gradual addiction for me. This one is gonna give me a mad flashback! When I first started I was listening to Fatboy Slim, Orbital, The Wiseguys (Pre-Fake Blood), A Tribe Called Quest, Prodigy, Armand Van Helden, and many more. Fatboy Slim's albums like Better Living Through Chemistry, You've Come A Long Way, Baby, and his Pizzaboy/Norman cook stuff were amazing and so inspiring to me. I loved his '99 Essential mix with Pete Tong and Paul Oakenfold, a real great tracklist that made me understand the true vibes of Djing. As I started elementary school, I was introduced to Daft Punk's “Discovery” cassette which blew my mind away. I wouldn't stop digging for new records after that. But the real turning point that got me motivated was going to Coachella when I was around 11 years old; I got to see Fatboy Slim, Prodigy, Pete Tong, and many more that I wish I could remember. Besides electronic music I was a huge punk head; loved Siouxsie And The Banshees, the Buzzcocks, the Ramones, the Fall and so on.
Did you have any interest in DJing early on, or were you simply just making tracks? What were you listening to at the time of originally learning to produce?
I didn't have an idea of what I wanted to do live to be honest. I loved the idea of live sets and Djing via USB/CDs but I was more focused on learning everything about producing. This was like a new life for me when I started really getting deep, I would research for days to learn anything I could. My productions at the time weren't really successful in finishing complete songs but I really started finding my sound. I did listen to music but what really inspired me was what I pictured when I made a track. Watching movies really gave me huge ideas on tracks because it gets me into an atmosphere that really got me thinking outside the box. When I hear a sound, I think of a form or shape or even a color and I can really layer certain sounds together to make a complex structure of sounds.
How did you come up with the name?
Well I wanted to have a meaning behind my name. I see so many names that don't make sense at all.... there needs to be a connection with the name and the music you make.
Pilo came from the word 'pilo-motor-reflex' which is a chemical that your brain sends to your spine to create 'back chills' or the hair on your neck standing up when you usually hear a great track. I have had too many moments like that to count so I decided to use Pilo as my identity.
Before downloading your software of choice, did you have any sort of musical background? Self-taught? I heard you were a drummer of sorts, haha…
Ah yes, I was a percussionist for 4 years in high school and joined the marching band snare-line for a year. I did take music classes through elementary and middle school but nothing too big; I was more into art at the time.
Did you have many friends into the same kinds of music in high school, or was it entirely in your hands to dig for new tracks? How did you start meeting other producers, would you give any credit to the Internet?
Baah I wish I did. I had some homies in the beginning of high school who'd show me some different artists but nothing much, I had to do everything myself. When I first started posting productions on Soundcloud I would send to a few homies like Oli of Ego Troopers, Attaque, John Roman, and Vakkuum. So yes, crediting the Internet for sure.
LA is great; always something to do but the scene is a bit mainstream-oriented for my taste. There are often such great events that don’t get enough attention even with amazing line-ups.
It’s hard in the USA as an underage dance music fan due to age restrictions, but did you ever find a way into shows over the last few years to really see what it’s all about? Any specific shows or events you’ve attended while starting out that you can recall as influential or memorable?
A good tip I learned is to be close friends with the security guards! With that connection, you can get into anywhere. Almost all Check Yo Ponytail events have been 18+ so I’ve been stoked on those. HARD events are great because they gather amazing artists to play all in one night. Any chance I get to hear music I like on speakers is always a big inspiration to me.
But on the other hand, regardless of age, living in LA obviously has its advantages. What are some of the best elements of living in this city for you? What do you think of the scene for your sound at least, and could you see more younger people getting into it and supporting over time?
LA is great; always something to do but the scene is a bit mainstream-oriented for my taste. There are often such great events that don't get enough attention even with amazing line-ups. I don't see many young producers around my age in LA but hopefully soon that will change...
If I had the chance to create a venue for a Pilo set, it would definitely be like Tron Legacys club scene where you see Daft Punk playing.
What are some of your favorite parties around here and why? And if you had the chance to tour far and wide, are there any venues or parties you’d love to check off the list?
I love IHEARTCOMIX, The Well, Lil Death, and hopefully I can attend Rhonda in the future. I would love to play anywhere in Europe; the parties and venues I love are endless. Any chance I would get would be more than enough or me.
How would you describe your sound at the moment? What sort of settings do you think your current work is most fitting toward?
I'm the worst at explaining my sound because I just keep trying new stuff, but if you ask anyone that knows me, 'LOUD' and 'DISTORTION' come into mind. I like to make music that keeps a good groove through out the whole track. Not a fan of the 'break down, build up, drop' structure. If I had the chance to create a venue for a Pilo set, it would definitely be like Tron Legacy's club scene where you see Daft Punk playing.
Which release of yours was the first to get picked up by a label? Who signed it? Was that when Bad Life picked you up?
Actually my first signing was with Bad Life!
Do you produce entirely off of Ableton, or do you work in the various studios of friends? Have any other artists lent a helping hand?
I do everything in Ableton. I’m very familiar with Logic and Pro Tools, but I hope to start working with analog equipment and record stuff to tape machines. I love the how raw it can make your productions. My good friends Velcro help me out a lot with cleaning my sound.
Let’s talk a little about the collaborations between you and other LA-based producers. I remember I was at Victor Hugo’s place (
) and saw your name on his list in the studio, without even knowing you two would work together. How did you guys meet and what was the result?
My good Belgium-based friends Ego Troopers (Oli and Mozes) sent my stuff to Victor and he hit me up on Skype. He came to my set at the Avalon and we got to chat for a bit, eventually resulting in a studio session, which came out real good.
I search everywhere… record stores, blogs and Soundcloud, etc. Good music is everywhere!
I also saw that he invited you along with a couple of other homies of ours (James Del Barco & Steve Huerta) to play his Bump City Records party in Mexico, I assume that was a blast…
It was an amazing! It was my first gig out of the country. It was a great experience to share with great artists such as James and Steve. They really killed it!
Now that the hype has been rising, you’ve been working steady on a bunch of new material. What’s coming up soon from you? And who will be releasing it?
I have a remix for Harvard Bass' new EP 'Erasers & Chalk.' It’ll be released on Twin Turbo. I also have two EPs coming soon on two very big labels that I have loved for quite a long time.
Do you find it weird to be in a new situation where you are being asked to finish music in a certain time-frame, or has that not affected you? Are you selective when it comes to remixes, or are you open to anything?
I love it! It keeps me busy and it pushes me to do better in limited time. As for remixes, it depends who offers it. I always like to challenge myself on remixes and see how I can transform something into my own.
If you could spend a day in the studio with any producer from the past or present, who would it be? Name your top 3.
808 state, Norman Cook, & Modeselektor.
What are a few of your favorite recent tracks? Do you have any favorites that never ever leave your cd wallet no matter what? What upcoming EPs should we be looking out for?
Man, I’m addicted to “Getting Me Down” by Blawan; he did such a good job with the vocals and his simplicity really hooks everything together. Daniel Avery’s new 'Taste' EP was delicious and those tracks always work the crowd. There are too many releases to name but all I can say is look out and look deep because the quality of music coming out this past year is ridiculously good.
Apart from promos, where do you usually look for new music? Do you rely on the Internet for everything, or do you go to record stores or listen to radio?
I search everywhere... record stores, blogs and Soundcloud, etc. Good music is everywhere! You just need to look hard enough.
Speaking of radio, Tiga’s been playing one of your demos on BBC Radio 1. I don’t think I need to ask about how that makes you feel but let’s hear a bit about the release…what’s it called and when is it out?
The track is called “Ubstraktion” and I plan on releasing it on Twin Turbo with a few other tracks. No release dates or news on it yet but be prepared! He has been playing an old version that I have sent out to a few friends, but the new version is almost done and is sounding really good. I'm quite excited.
When you eventually need some fresh air and a break from the music hustle, what do you do to clear your head? Do you ever find inspiration beyond music?
Oh man, I have so much work to do and I want to do it efficiently. I plan on to just take a two-week break, travel around with friends, and grow my vinyl collection. Any travelling experience is really inspirational to me.
Looking toward the future, what are some long-term Pilo goals? Where would you love to travel in time to come, and how do you hope to expand yourself?
Most important at the moment for me is to finish up all these tracks in my hard drive. I have some interesting releases coming up and it’s lining up really well. At the same time, I’m in college working for my associates in audio engineering; that is my goal at the moment while working on my career. After I graduate though, I’m going to Belgium, Amsterdam, and England to meet up with some good friends of mine. Lastly I’m aiming to get a small tour with some buddies... it might take a bit of time but I'm really trying to get something small to happen for my fans out there!
What’s the best advice anyone’s ever given to you (doesn’t have to be directly about music btw)?
I’ve gotten so much good advice from so many great people in my life that I would have to write a huge list down haha. But really I was taught to be independent and strong, don't let anyone tell you what’s wrong and what’s right because you’re the only person to be the judge of that. And most importantly, in this age of all these new producers, true sound comes from the love you have for the culture and never from a fad. Once you have a deep connection with music and continue to mature with it, you can only move forward.
Now before we wrap this up, is there anything we’ve left out that you’d like to plug? Any release dates or new things / gigs coming up soon to be aware of? Any shout outs?
I have a gig on October 12th at Control (at the Avalon) with buddies Evan Koncan and Velcro. Gonna be a packed night, so come early! Also shout out to my boy Justin Jay! He is killing it and has a big future with dirtybird.
Alright man, see ya soon. Thanks!