Five Minutes With: Billain
Billain is a relentlessly creative producer from Sarajevo. You will know when one of his tunes drop as you won’t be dancing. You’ll be standing there in shock. D&B needs more Billains. This is how it’s done….
Damian B hooked up with him for a chat about beats, war, his super big projects and the downfall of humanity.
Can you tell me about the new material? It sounds like you get locked down and lost in this world of yours when you produce.
Blockfield and Boogie are quite different areas of investigation, I approached them in groups of keywords of what I want to achieve with them. This is a pro forma self-briefing which helps a lot, and I learned to follow those in my sound design freelance jobs. Blockfield was visualized on my holiday on the shores of Brist, Croatia two years ago, immediately hooked up by the plot I started recording the sounds of the seaside.
I am that nerd: I bring my gear on holidays. Blockfield’s picture is exactly as drawn out of my head on the vinyl sleeve by my very good friend Mensur Demir Score, and you can hear all the sounds from vinyl sleeve on the track intro. Big otherworldly geometrical value floating in a distance, releasing pulses, being watched by a human like figure technically equipped and tired of walking towards it, barely walking through the shore of big stone blocks, heavy breathing, equipment on the suit sounds, seagulls flying scared, and then the action begins, and I let listener to build their own movie. ‘Boogie’ is much more simple and it goes like this in my notes: Boogie-electric-oldschool-808-rave-oldscratchtools-oldtransitions-radiosounds vs everythingelse-neurofunk-moderna.
What is it that makes you produce as you do. So much energy!
You can call it synesthesia in a way because all things that I made were and could be connected, when I painted I could hear sounds and vice versa. That’s why it was so easy for me to switch from my paintings to sound at the age of 16-17.
Now there are two or three things why this is the case. I got stuck in the middle of a war when the city was surrounded under the rain of shells where I saw all the possible bizarre things one could and can’t imagine and kind of surpassed that horror as a kid, that means that all that gore wasn’t scary anymore, I even remember I was absolutely amazed by the deep sounds of explosions – earth tremors, where I even escaped death on few occasions. So my childhood looked like a city ruin out of a Mad Max movie / post-apocalyptic thing which was (I hate to say it) cool. Another thing was having a proper sci-fi education, watched Odyssey at the age of 13 is highly recommendable, especially Carpenter’s The Thing.
The third thing is with all this, I was that weird quiet kid in the corner not listening to any of that other kid’s music, not belonging to any religion and politics, and I escaped from post-communist school’s indoctrinations full of professors suffering post traumas.
You are based in Sarajevo. How did D&B filter there? Regarding new music I know Velahavle but little else.
I am based in Sarajevo and that’s the fourth thing – you are right about an unusual angle. I come from a place where media singularity is possible. You see war held back Bosnia for three years plus regeneration is 10-15 years. Now that means that Bosnia is catching up with the world in a difference of 15 years but with the appearance of internet it receives everything from the future through it.
So you have ’90s standards of laid back people moaning around on coffees and ‘nostalgramizing’ themselves and a generation of super workers who create everything good but they’re unemployed. There is a big empty moral gap and people with no identity between. It’s all fed by politics, and the worse possible media.
Kontra appeared in 2000 and hosted a good foundation of the UK scene, right in Sarajevo, with Konflict – Kemal & Rob data , Optical, Matrix, Bad Company, Stakka & Skynet, Optiv, Impulse, Teebee, BSE, Adam F, Skc to name a few. It’s not a big scene. But the history of foundations are strong as I mentioned. 13 years of action is cool, and we’re still doing it. Velahavle is a cool band, and a nice experiment. Funny you mentioned, I constructed their second album, I would suggest everyone to check it…
If we came to check you out please give us some insight to local life.
You really want to visit Sarajevo? Perhaps make another festival (wink wink nudge nudge)? It’s next to Croatia’s Outlook. Eight hours by car. My main UK shocking argument is that beer is 1.5 to 2euros and cigarettes are 1.5 euros. In other words everything is cheap… And so are the gig ticket standards unfortunately. All the guys from UK think that they can set the price like anywhere else.
But in contrary, the biggest heads played here and the top price is 2-5 euros for entrance. If you put more, nobody is coming to the gig. We were in debts, but never owning to artists, and they all remember the Bosnian kitchen.
You’re a visual artist too. Do you still illustrate?
True. From the age of seven I was obsessed with that. I still draw something from time to time. But now it’s more of a very rare hobby thing. I used to draw, even painted graffiti: having crews and dropping mural styles and bombs. We are among few that established the graffiti scene here. But this sport was expensive if you want to paint big colourful wildstyles every week. Or 3D which I preferred the most. You can’t live here from painting.
Plus you can’t do everything, you can lose time and energy on both sides of art. But some design knowledge is still present. I did quite a nice pack of logos for various artists and labels.
Tell me some of your history regarding releases and labels.
Bad Taste, Rise Audio , Breed12inches, Citrus, Syndrome Audio, C2D, Civil music, Mindtech, Trustinmusic, Fatality, Menart. All different labels and great people running them. And I still can’t get a whole picture of UK thing trough the talks…. I am aware of the competitive energy happening in a country under heavy packed pressure of so much labels. But I’m here for the music, isn’t that what everyone says? My techniques are pretty different from the D&B standards as I can conclude from all the comments people send to me, and it has never been more important than now.
How do you consume music? And how do you hear new music?
Promos, but also promos used to be in a more simple system, now you got a promo guy running a promo site with promo prices. And I need to have a promo email so I can have a normal life email. I’m getting tired of telling what is locked and not locked or can I unlock someone’s tune with his friends lobby talk ha ha. It’s hard to be a part of D&B music nowadays with all these small label strategies: Big labels with sub-labels etc. So when my head gets full from time to time I chase around old music of all kinds, and I’m hooked again by cool 80s arpeggios and analog synths.
Speaking of which do you use ‘old’ gear still?
Analog, I even could easily start to wear one of those t-shirts to justify my passion like an idiot. Once I met the warm sound and the punch myths became plausible in every aspect of music production regarding drums and basslines, I got addicted. Software is a must of course: it’s the 21st century but one that chooses the path of software life and nothing else is a fool willing who never learns the foundations of it to discover new combinations.
Life is full of things that are more than just a bunch of wobwabs and wibwooons. I got lots of gear now and im chasing the radical and rare things now, people selling some here, they don’t know what they have. Plus I record everything from my environment, it’s another sound design addiction.
So the old techniques are still relevant?
Old techniques still globally apply, I can see some artists now getting back to old sound, doing another revision of the techsteppy era. The scene is full of cycles, D&B growing interesting. I mean I am impressed by the life-length of the genre, still encouraging everyone to try something different or to do an old trick but better. So my answer would be ‘All tricks included’.
You like films, right? If so what sort and maybe name a few?
Agh, well I’m not gonna say anything new when I say Stanley Kubrick, John Carpenter, Ridley Scott (the old version of Ridley, the new one likes money.) Quentin is still a cool guy, especially for discovering Christoph Waltz – one need to give that guy serious credits for such acting. I’m waiting for a new Neil Blomkamp move and Christopher Nolan can surprise on few occasions. Everything else in sci fi today looks like a stock of animation and sound showreel, I mean is it just me or all the sound things in Transformers were practiced way earlier in neurofunk? It’s the genre with most sound design in music nowadays. D&B is basically beta tester genre for synths and FX.
What’s happening in 2013 for you?
I have super big projects on the way! They are patents/innovations in a way. Music with innovations is more important than standards. Well innovations set the standard so there you go.
Three years of development, a team of cool people behind it, Mensur Demir is one of them and DMR display is my visual copilot. Time is relative, you can always be a producer that made 500 tracks to impress with a discography, but are they all something new? I’m a slow guy. Travels are cool but I’m most productive at home. I hate not working. There are loads of releases, I’m not joking! It’s the labels that are sometimes slower than me, not to blame them but the distribution queue
Finally: what could you say to us that is exclusive to this interview?
I think I hate humankind. I really don’t belong here to be honest. If some of those ancestors come in peace I would be the first guy to leave, I would never even turn my head.
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