Billain: Back to Colonize
If NASA discovered a planet like Billain they’d no doubt be thrilled to bits but slightly perturbed by the data that their instruments started to relay back. As would be pretty uncategorizable by conventional standards. Where to start decoding?
With the recent Colonize ep, that’s where.
Hi Billain how’s things? How’s things in your country? What music you checking?
Heelloooos, it’s all good. To be honest I don’t really know what is happening outside of my studio, everything is inputs, outputs and internet.
Outside of the studio, well, Bosnia is lame and lazy as usual. Humans drooling over TV series’ and only now discovering healthy food, and politics politics politics.
Have you seen Parasyte, it’s a Japanese anime? Well somebody made a Blade Runner clone track for it which sounds pretty good. Aside of that, just checking briefly what’s new out there.
So how did Colonize come about as a concept?
Well I see Colonize as the beginning of a multi-format Sci-Fi story I am creating. The first bit of it is this latest release.
I’m a big fan of the old Sci-Fi comics from the 50s, 60s and 70s, you know – the ones with that ‘classic’ iconic, retro kind of look – and wanted to do something similar to that with Colonize.
So I got in touch with Enis Čišić, who’d recently done some work with Marvel on the new “Avengers: Millennium” comic series and we started chatting with László Tringli – Eatbrain’s resident artist – about this concept and basically came up with this teaser trailer, which sort of gives you an idea of where we want to go with this project…
We tried to tie the tunes in with Laszlo’s artwork as well, if you play the outro to ‘Feed for Speed’ and look at the art at the same time, you hear what you see: the vehicle stopping, the door opening, sand tumbling around the protagonist, Broel’s, feet as he walks towards the temple which is emitting a strange signal whilst the weather starts picking up. It’s great!
I did all the sound design before any of the visuals so it was important that Laszlo came through with the goods, which as you can see, he definitely did.
On the Colonisation topic, don’t you think humanity should stop destroying the planet and go colonize other places? How hard can it be? Just go, set up buildings, drill, stay indoors on computers… they do that nowadays here anyway.
With the income derived from the global weapons, we could, as a planet and peoples, have colonized new worlds, discovered new sciences, created new energy sources, expanded on and utilised quantum physics effectively, made all kinds of different forms of travel possible.
But no: we are highly intelligent animals who fall back on the trusty atavisms of attacking people who are different from us and protecting own – it is the sick and twisted irony of human evolution that individualism rules, and that some people have all the power whilst others have nothing – this kind of thinking is leading us to destruction.
I think we will perish in front of the computers to be honest, but with the speed of AI development, we could at least leave something behind that is much wiser than us.
I was listening to the ep and I thought about… peace. Not because of the direct sound, just a thought in general. How do you find peace, what do you do?
It is like space, which seems peaceful but it is not. There is no such thing as peace, one person’s peace is chaos to another. I found this perception on life living through the Bosnian war when I was 10, and found drawing as a way to drown out the sounds of the mortars and the gore of war.
The drawings gave me a sense of peace despite the world going to shit around me. To me peace is a state of mind.
I always want to ask you: is it hard to restrain yourself to a D&B template? I feel like the energy could go anywhere, and to any BPM.
Well I created a different moniker, ΔΞTHΞK to explore ideas outside of DNB, and have found recently that the things I was doing with those tunes has been feeding back into what I do as Billain.
But the main problem for me fully expressing myself is that that the music industry is there to make money, and as a result is scared of any kind of idea that it doesn’t understand or that can’t be distilled into simple language the masses can get behind. The best ideas often don’t conform with standard release practices you see. People get frightened and intimidated by things they don’t get.
And I feel as if I am getting to a point when I can feed some of the anger I have harnessed with the Aethek stuff, back into the Billain stuff – vie basically got to the point where the idea of tempering my ideas or being conservative so I can sell stuff is like cutting off my arm. It’s just something I’m not interested in doing anymore.
I come to the conclusion that taking risks is the only thing to do nowadays. People would be wrong to say that innovation in D&B is dead: we just need to compromise a bit to take things forward again.
You work with Kodin on ‘Feed… ‘ can you tell us about this partnership and about the tune?
We are old friends and have been trying to sort some tracks together for a long time now. His production style is mental, just like mine, to the extent that we are always nerd-talking about production. Tracks speak to us in a different language.
We both seemed to engage the most with incomplete loops and ideas that have been sitting around on each other’s hard-drives for ages. They are ones we both saw as having the most potential for us to collaborate on.
‘Feed for Speed’ was one of them for example. Basically, It started off as a loop at Kodin’s studio a couple of years ago, we chatted about it for a while and I made a couple of suggestions that kick started the process off.
We tried to pull the track together with this cut up bassline, and an extra synth he had just added, I added this snare which really started to compliment the synths and the tune really started to come together. I said to Kodin “I think I got this.”
We then started exchanging stems like mad, idea after the idea, no restrictions.
… “this part is cool, but this other one is better”
… “well let’s put them both then and lets have four fucking drops!”
It got to the point when we were like “this track needs to be in the need for speed underground”.
So we decided to f*ck off a load of synth reeses we had made and started to replace them with the sound of dragster cars and heavy cylinderwork – which I had always wanted to experiment with, to have an actual racing track, the real racetrack, which load of other artists had tried and failed to do in the past because they all had to compromise too much, but both Kodin and I wanted to take more risks so just completely ran with the idea.
You can hear the sounds of the cars and stuff throughout. The name is sort of a parody of the idea that really kick started the tune into the motion.
To finish it up we had a look at what everyone else was doing, realised that everyone is using these really specific arpeggio sounds but no one was thinking of incorporating acid sounds into uptempo music anymore, so we tried out a few sequences and found that the track improved instantly.
Acid is one driver to the tune, car sounds are the second and a dense groove the third.
Where do you DJ out? I feel like it must be a great set: full of intensity, a lot of chaos.
I have a few go-to personal favourite tunes that I like to drop everywhere, but also Ialso tend to play D&B from all eras, nothing is off-limits to me.
Intensity is what it’s all about, a good groove on the right speakers makes all the difference.
I also like to surprise the audience, employ fast switch-ups, and just generally experiment with people to be honest.
Controlled chaos is my mantra.
Take us behind ‘Kingston Drone’, it’s perfect: when did you create this tune? I would love to have been there when you made it.
You remember those Jamaican mafia guys in the movie Predator 2? There is just something really amazing about tough Jamaican mobsters / mercenaries in science fiction, but not a lot of those movies with them in.
The tune is about imagining these great character in the future, playing on the decks on top of a drone really. I wanted people to have questions about their characters; where do they live in the galaxy?
What do they do?
The answers are all in future chapters of the story, it’s mad really. I applied what I’d learned from making ‘Autonomous’ for my Colossus EP was how deadly that the tough 16th note bass line can be.
It’s like a warrior dance especially when combined with those fast Jamaican vocal chops. The intro pad is a great vintage ambient type sound thatI really enjoyed making to join up, in my opinion, two different D&B eras, old and new and to make the drop more unexpected! Which I think surely delivers a movie style story twist that you either love to the fullest or hate, it’s as simple as that.
And the title track… tell us what you were thinking.
‘Colonize’ was a very focused tune with lots of different new approaches and techniques, some overt and some more subtle – there is a lot going on under the surface, it’s really quite detailed and complex under all of those layers.
The track consists of less ideas than normal, as I really wanted to simplify my thoughts into something solid. The main melody was made on the plane, on a flight to a gig somewhere I can’t remember.
I remember being on stage that night and just thinking about this tune, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
All I wanted to do was fly back home the next day and finish it. I was really hyped up about it. I even learned some new techniques whilst I was making it. So it was a really useful, as well as enjoyable track to make.
This tune was the spark that ignited the idea behind the EP and the story; it really helped to kick my imagination into overdrive.
What is something you saw recently that made you stop and think, good or bad?
Passports and borders…They just don’t make any sense don’t they? It’s sort of like when people were punished for witchcraft back in the day, it made sense then, but now you just laugh at the absurdity of it all. It’s the same with borders:
“Who goes there?”
“Jonathan, master swordsmen, son of Benneth the second, I bring goods from my kingdom”
“Did trolls follow you?”
“Yes, but I ambushed and killed them.
“Ok, lower the bridge, welcome Jonathan!”
It’s just lame and irritating and one day the whole idea will just break apart and pop like a bubble as the population increase and technology reaches a singularity where your only passport will be your individuality and your state will be the internet. I really want to believe something like this will happen, because I don’t believe in lots of traditional things.
I declare myself as an alien for that matter, so human systems eternally confuse me.
I have to see you DJ one day so when will it be?
I would like to say soon, but that word is becoming cheesy nowadays ha ha. But it will happen! Small scenes are like being in a family.
Any last thoughts for us Billain, and hellos?
Thanks to all the fans for being loyal and supportive and patient. There are lots of regulars on on my page, some I even played Left 4 Dead 2 – like I say, we are like a family.