Today we highlight a multi-talented entrepreneur who has a hand in production, press, running a label, fashion and even soon to be tech and applications (but that’s all we can say about that). Greg Sills, known to some in the industry as GT or others as SWAGE, sat down with us here at Magnetic to talk about his experiences in the industry, plans for the future, love of astrophysics, and we premiere the video for his track 'Clockwork'.
How did you start your career in dance music?
- It all started when I was about 14, my buddy came over after going out to some rave back in '04 and said, “hey listen to this stuff, you’ll love it,” then played me some old school Sub Focus and Pendulum around the time when their Hold Your Colour album came out. I was instantly hooked on Drum and Bass. I feel like my mind goes a mile a minute, so I really liked that whole break beat vibe. I didn’t know that it was related to house music or anything else, I just thought it was this one thing. Years go by, and I was still listening to that and not really involved in the scene yet; I was listening to a lot of punk bands, playing guitar, and getting into trouble. Then late high school I went to EDC in 2008 at the Coliseum, and was like, “woah this is crazy, I can’t believe this is a thing.” I saw some of the names on the lineup and thought “drum and bass guys will be here, this is going to be awesome,” and then my buddies told me to check out some house acts too, so I started to get into that late 00’s electro vibe that was out at the time. Later on in college, my roommates and I started a music blog called Techibeats. We just started throwing shows in San Francisco and it just grew organically from there before moving back down to LA.
Was becoming an artist yourself always the plan?
- I’ve been doing music since I was 8 years old, whether it was musical theater or traveling in chamber choir to Austria, Vienna, or Greece in high school. On the other hand I was playing in punk bands and having a more aggressive outlet for my sound, and then I got into electronic music. I wouldn’t say it was always part of the plan it’s just always been who I am. Trying to deny that just wouldn’t be my character. I took a step back for a few years and just tried to focus on getting good at production, you know, working at it for 7 years and finally getting to a point where I’m in a good place with my music and my artist brand, and it’s getting really good reception, I couldn’t be happier with the progress.
Who has been an influence in your artistic progression?
- There’s a couple friends that I’ve got to give a special shout-out too for that, some of the realest cats out there; Ghastly, my roommate and best friend deserves everything that’s been coming to him lately and he has been a huge supporter of my music and a great dude. Datsik, such a rad dude, definitely helped me step my production up, so I owe him a lot. Getter, Dr. Fresch, Joyryde, Kayzo, Bais Haus from Ephwurd, too many cats to name. It feels good to gravitate towards genuinely supportive people who are also really good friends I wouldn’t be here without!
You have a lot of friends in really heavy bass influenced music, how does that affect your sound?
- I would definitely say my influence comes from my friends, people who support my music and play it out. Some of the happiest texts I get are when I send a homie a track and they are like ‘Yo dude this is sick, I’m going to play it out tonight.” With some of my friends being super bass house oriented I like to take influence from that and give it my own spin with what I initially grew up listening to which was break beat / drum and bass. I feel like I’m doing a good fusion of it that seems like it’s really catching on.
What are you most excited for with the SWAGE project?
- Seeing this project start to gain some traction is the most exciting thing. Hearing artists dropping my tunes. That for me is the biggest compliment in the world. As positive as it is, I always like receiving the J.K. Simmons treatment; one of my favorite movies is Whiplash. J.K. Simmons is this evil sort of music teacher that just treats students like shit, but it’s all to make them reach their full potential. I feel like different people react well to positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement, and when someone tells me, “this sucks, go home and do it again. Here is what you can do to make it better.” I take that and I head straight to the studio to work on it, and come back to them later with something better.
How do you feel about the clockwork video and what made you want to do a video like this for one of your biggest tracks?
- I've always really liked gears and space so it just became a natural progression of things I liked versus what worked within the video. My good buddy Alex Van Dyne hit me up and was like, "hey this is a dope tune" and he wanted to do a video. I shot him the stems to the track which he edited together. Dudes a wicked animator and great guy. Huge thanks to him for putting together something that I feel really reflects my brand and personal taste!
What approach do you take towards producing a track?
- I like for the music to come out organically. I’ll have one tune that I’ll strip almost all of the elements out of an arrangement and create a whole new song out of what originally was another project, which also creates a consistent vibe across all my tracks. With my newest single, 'Clockwork', originally I had this ticking clock sound that I really liked, but it wasn’t just right so I replaced it with another one, made a cool intro, and it just went really well with my sound. I definitely associate my brand with break beat / housey stuff, but I’m also trying to do this different thing with trap that I guess, for lack of a better term, has a kind of footwork / juke vibe. This cat G-buck I’ve been listening to has some really sick stuff like that. i definitely think it’s going to have its time sooner or later.
What’s your best experience with your performances so far?
- I opened for Datsik at Yost to a packed house and it was the sickest crowd I’ve ever played to, so hearing the audience reaction during my set was a great feeling, just the biggest adrenaline rush. It was funny because I got food poisoning earlier that week and I was just in my head like, “No not this week, any week but this one,” and I was really worried. The day of I was still feeling a little crappy from the Chipotle thing a lot of people got sick from a few months back, but I went and played it, had a killer show, and hopefully soon I’m going to be booking more shows. I’m kind of just working on pushing content, building the brand and creating a demand for the music right now.
Are there any artists you would like to collaborate with?
Wuki, he’s one of my favorite cats making beats right now. He’s had a huge year and I’m a big fan of his tunes. Joyryde would be another awesome one too! Love his stuff. Also, whoever wrote the song for Too Many Cooks I want to collab with.
Do you have any advice for upcoming artists?
- I guess it goes for either artists or anyone for that matter. Play nice on the playground with the other kids and take your time with things. Don’t try to rush your career because it’s not a race. A lot of train hopping producers trying to make what’s popular or have this notion that the dance music bubble is going to burst one day. There’s a lot to be said about where EDM will head but as far as music in general goes, I don’t think the club / festival / event industry will be going anywhere unless suddenly there are no more young people that want to go out and have fun, which I don’t see happening anytime soon. So no need to rush things. Relationships are also key in any facet of the entertainment industry. Going out of your comfort zone and meeting new people makes a big difference, making the effort to maintain relationships and meet people is critical. No one does it alone. Also just be yourself and don’t forget where you came from or the people who have helped you along the way.
What brought you from Techibeats to YourEDM?
- I moved down here with my partner from Techibeats and we put some time and effort into it, but eventually we decided to part ways. YourEDM reached out to me in the early days wanting to develop a record label and having experience running that for Techibeats, I jumped at the opportunity. Since then, I’ve become somewhat of a dot connector, representing the company in a positive light as a partner and co-owner. I feel like it’s important to have the peacemaker on the team, which is what I try to be at times. Leaving Techibeats was a real learning experience and I’m really happy with where I’ve gone. Whenever one door closes another one opens.
What was one of your most important jobs running the record label?
- Developing one on one relationships with artists and being able to coordinate promo with someone’s team. Having them entrust you with music, because you know artists put their soul, time and effort into a track and if you're going to give that to a label you want to make sure they are taking the best care of that. It’s by no means the biggest label but we try to coordinate promo with the blog and provide up and coming artists with the experience of working with a label.
How did you get involved in fashion?
- Last year Steve Gordon and Geoff Shames were kind of at a standstill with NGHTBRND and wanted to bring in new blood, they had me jump on board and learning fashion was a whole new set of skills I was totally new to. So I was excited to enter a new realm of business and industry and it even helped me develop my own sense of style.
What is your favorite thing to do outside of music?
- I love film. At one point in my life after high school I had two roads I wanted to go down, either go into acting and directing or go work in the music industry and I remember the decision right there; I got accepted to film school and I was trying to choose between that in LA or go to SF and study marketing and do music. I bit the bullet and I am really happy with the choice I made. If it wasn’t that, I would be studying astrophysics, which is a huge passion of mine. The reason I didn’t go into astrophysics is just because we are so limited by the technology of our time. It sounds like a child’s dream, but I would love to visit other stars because I think they are the most awesome concept you can imagine. They’re basically organic engines created by nature, with different species, but all with similar compositions. They live and die and give birth to a new generation of stars. It’s crazy. Interstellar is my favorite movie ever. Kip Thorn, the astrophysicist that did the scientific consulting for that movie wrote a whole book about the physics behind it and how they really tried to stay true to real world physics and the theoretical concepts that go behind it all, while still staying true (mostly) to factual science. No movie before Interstellar has portrayed a black hole more accurately. You can’t directly observe black holes, you can only observe the gravitation effects they have on objects close to it, because light can’t escape it. But every movie before that depicted it as a hole in space, but this film depicts it for what it is as a spherical object with a strong light bending gravitational force. Sorry for going off on a tangent like that, just some of my favorite things to learn about when I’m not focusing on music or any of my other projects.
[cover photo by Allen Daniel]