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Tea-riffic experiments in sound

2016 Apr 15     
2 Bit Thugs

iDJ meets a Canadian producer who draws inspiration from trap, Chinese folk music and big dogs called Jenkins

DJing, VJing, tutorial-running, sample-sharing, dog-lovng, tea-supping man-about-town ill.Gates is the real deal. His shows are a multi-platform whirlwind of live A/V controllers. His website hosts an array of tutorials, classes and workshops for aspiring producers. His productions are a cauldron of all things broken, glitchy, bassy and spacey.

For his inspirations? As you’ll soon find, they can come from animal, vegetable or mineral. Like a tea traveller, for instance, who has a vision of importing tea culture of the east to the west and some 30-year-old source recordings from remote Chinese villages...


“I have a tea traveller friend named Nathan,” says Gates, real name Dylan Lane, who has a handsome collection of pu-erhs and ya shi xiang dan cong, a leaf more commonly known to tea-heads as duck shit. “He met a retired producer in Taiwan, Alex Peng, who had a collection of DAT tapes and let us use them, with one proviso - that we promoted Taiwanese culture and tea drinking.”

Fusing never-heard-before Chinese folk recordings with a springy 808s, Eastern strings, trap-toned stabs and samples from Bruce Lee, Alan Watts and Jackie Chan, Taiwanese culture and tea drinking has never been represented in such a funky way. Available now with a range of remixes from Liquid Stranger, David Starfire, Mr Bill, Sonia Calico and Jason Hou, More Tea is the first track to come from his third artist album Terminally Ill, which is out this summer.

We caught up with him to chat albums, field recordings, dogs and comedy rap...

Let’s talk about the field recordings...

"I love them! Three-dimensional sounds recorded in a space, contrasted with synthesized elements, have vibrant life of their own. No matter how well we model things in the synthesized realm there’s no substitute for a good mic and physical sounds. They create a sense of personality. I hate painting by numbers: you need to get your hands dirty and make as much as possible."

What’s the strangest sound you’ve recorded?

"I've got a new song with KJ Sawka that will be on my forthcoming album. His little dog loves going under the studio desk, but felt threatened by my feet. It kept growling at me, so we decided to sample it. We put a bit pitch bend on it, turned it into a riser, and now KJ’s dog is secretly in the song.

"That’s not the first time I’ve secretly put a dog in a song, either. On the remix I did of Minnesota ft G Jones’ Thunderdome, I wanted to echo the synthesized bark I made with Bassnectar on Expanded with a real dog, so I took to Twitter and asked my fans to record a large dog. One fan came back with a bark from a dog called Jenkins. It’s awesome. I love working with fans like that."


That's two dog stories... any more?

"I had a dog called Tricky who I loved dearly. She was nearing the end of her days and I had to play some shows in Israel. My wife stayed home with her, and just before I got ready to play, I checked my emails and found out Tricky had died. It was heartbreaking. I really wanted to get into the studio, write a song and process that emotion. I went to my friend Captain Hook’s studio and we dedicated a track to Tricky: Open Your Eyes. It’s one of my best tracks. It’s beautiful to play live, seeing everyone react to music Tricky inspired."


RIP Tricky. That’s sad! We need to end on a high... you’ve met Bill Gates haven’t you?

"I have. It was a trip! He’s a legit dude. People are convinced he’s this diabolical, New World Order depopulationist, but he’s genuine and cares about making the world a better place. I only picked the name because it was ironic and funny and a bit hipster-ish - he wasn’t a hero of mine before, but he is now."

Time for some hero talk yourself: what can we expect from Terminally Ill?

"Well, as always there are a lot of collabs with the likes of KJ Sawka, Stephan Jacobs and Screenager. There’s some stuff I wrote in Australia with Opiuo and Spoonbill. There’s also this stuff I wrote with Dub FX and Hugo The Poet at a music retreat where, long story short, they had me rapping on one my own tunes. It’s a first for me but I love a good challenge. Who knows? Maybe I’ll do a comedy rap EP in the future..."

Words: Dave Jenkins

More Tea is out now; the album Terminally Ill will follow this summer. Follow Ill Gates: Soundcloud Facebook Twitter website





Tags: Ill Gates, EDM, trap, bass music, Bassnectar