In the traditional album cycle, artists record an album in a year, put it out and then tour for a year or two, rinse repeat. The music business has changed so much, those traditional cycles have almost lost total relevance and albums can be released instantly, every year or after four or five years if the artist does it right. We spoke to Denver-based bass producer, Illenium, about his upcoming album Awake, which will arrive on September 21, almost 18 months after his debut album Ashes last year.
Illenium got his start making remixes on SoundCloud, finding a niche with a melodic dubstep sound not too unlike Seven Lions. From there he incorporated trap, future bass and house into his repetoire, working with great vocals on his originals and his remixes. The plays and hype kept on rising and then tours and festival gigs started coming.
With the pre-order for his new album Awake going live today, he is gearing up for a new chapter in his careers. We speak to him about what fans can expect from the new album, the struggles with SoundCloud, his label Kasaya and more.
Pick up the pre-order here.
How is this album going to compare to the last one?
There's similarities and differences. A lot of strong vocals and melodies but more recorded elements than Ashes. The new album is a split between vocal stuff and chill instrumental tracks.
You are touring a lot more now. Have you found it more difficult to make music recovering from tours and travel?
It was difficult at first but then you get used to making music on the road and then refining it once I get home. It's still not the same as having days (or weeks) off in a row and being able to focus solely on creating though. My favorite place to create is my own studio.
As someone who got their start on SoundCloud, if you could make one change to the platform, what would it be?
It'd be nice if you could upload unofficial remixes without getting strikes on your account but I understand why they have to do that, so I don't think it will change. It's one of the side effects of the platform and audience getting so big (which is a good thing for musicians and producers).
What are your plans for Kasaya? Are you going to sign other artists?
At the moment no but the goal is to one-day do so.
You play unreleased music out quite a bit. How often to do you change songs based on the crowd reaction?
“Crawl Out Of Love” is a good example of an unreleased song I played that had such a positive reaction I've been including it in a lot of my sets since. My favorite songs are always ones I haven't released yet so it's hard for me not to play them. Also, if I'm playing a DJ set where people might not necessarily be there to see me I'll tailor my sets to fit a crowd's energy. It can be a challenge sometimes but that's why I like it.
You live with Said The Sky. How often are you guys giving each other feedback and tips on each other’s music?
All the time! Trevor is a musical genius and I ask for his feedback a ton. We did a song together on the new album too so I can't wait for people to hear that.
Both of your albums have been mostly vocal albums. Would you yourself start to do some vocals? Is there a reason why you don’t do too many instrumental tracks?
I'm not a great singer so I don't think I'll ever do my own vocals. I think I gravitate towards vocal melodies because it's what pulls me into a song and it's always the first thing to catch my ear. With that said the new album does have some instrumental parts to it too.
How do you choose the vocalists to work with?
I typically choose vocalists that I connect with and that cause me to feel some sort of emotion. I'm blessed to have met some extremely talented individuals who are the perfect complement to my music. If the vocal is from the heart and makes me feel something I'm immediately drawn to it.
Was there a collaboration that came together in an interesting way?
I wish I had a crazy story for this but most of my collabs come together just from meeting different people at shows or through mutual friends who introduced us. A lot of it does happen over the internet.
What is something people might not know about you?
I lived in France when I was younger and used to speak fluent French! Unfortunately once I moved away and got older I forgot it all.
What else do you have coming up beyond the album? Collabs with Marshmello, Slander? A tour?
The Awake tour starts in November, which will feature the songs from the album and some really cool production and live instrumentation. I made a ton of unreleased stuff that won't be on the album as well just to play out live. I'm super excited to show everyone the new set. It’s hard to not just play it all out now. I do have a few collabs going at the moment. A couple heavier ones and some melodic. There's one with Kill The Noise that will be released after the album drops.