Ilan Bluestone is a worldwide touring trance artist based in London. He released his debut album ‘Scars’ in 2018 and has played some of the biggest festivals in the world, most recently Tomorrowland – so it’s a great pleasure to have interviewed him. We talk about his productions, discuss the DAW’s he uses, a potential Above & Beyond collaboration, working with El Waves and a lot more!
It’s been a while since you were down under, how was playing for an Australia crowd?
It’s been a while, last time I was here was Stereosonic like 5 years ago. But I fucking love it! What’s amazing is, everywhere I play, there’s an Australian flag – there’s always representation!
You’ve been apart of the Anjuna family for a while now, how has that impacted your career overall as an artist?
It’s definitely impacted and helped my career a lot, Anjuna have always been very supportive of my stuff. I’ve managed to get my own distinguished sound at this point. But yeah, overall they’ve been super supportive and it’s a great record label to be on!
Your album ‘Scars’ was incredible, the singles of the album had really unique artwork – what was the inspiration behind that?
I didn’t want Anjunabeats to do their normal artwork for the singles, I wanted to have something that was a bit more ‘me’ and if I’m doing an album I want it to be me, not Anjunabeats. So I wanted to have an album which represents everything I do in one package – with the graphics. People will think ‘Scars’ is quite a bad word, for me ‘Scars’ is to leave an imprint in a person in a good way. If people really enjoy the album, I feel like its almost scarred them for life and then you can pass the scars onto your friends. So that’s why I wanted to have fossils, because it’s like leaving an imprint. I really had to think of how am I going to do an album, especially my first, that is going to leave an impact. And I want it to scar people in a good way!
A lot of people who do listen to dance music and trance music specifically, have had something in their life which makes them have that emotion. A lot of my fans that I have met, have had something negative happen in their life. That could be a good thing or a bad thing that has caused a lot of emotion. It might be love, could be something in the family, someone passed away of something like that that has left an imprint. That’s what I wanted to do with the album, where they listen to it and it brings them up. I really wanted an album which lifts people into that next place.
What DAW are you using, any favourite plugins?
I used to be on a DAW called Cakewalk. Before that it was called SONAR, Gibson (owners of software) was acquired and I then saw the software wasn’t really getting updates anymore, and it still had tonnes of bugs. Everyone I knew was on Logic, so I moved to Logic. However, I only did two tracks off the album on there until I moved to Ableton. There is something about that 2D look. Cakewalk and Ableton have a very similar look when it comes down to that dark grey look as well as everything on the left. Ableton didn’t originally have that at first until I found you could change the bloody colours! So when I changed the colours I thought “fuck I can work on this because I hate that bright grey shit”. So I darkened all the colours and then I looked at it and it actually makes a lot of sense because Ableton has a very 2D look and then the more you look at it the less tired you feel. With Cakewalk and Logic, after 4-5 hours your eyes get heavy. Just looking at a screen in general tires you out but with Ableton I found that it’s so easy to just stare at it and then understand it more and more as I use it. So Ableton is definitely my favourite. I like a lot of the built-in plug-ins funnily enough. Everybody is using the same plug-ins, there are no plug-ins I’m using that not everyone else has, sylenth, massive, all of them. I use all of that shit as well as a bit of hardware which I like to incorporate into my tracks. In my album for example I used the OB-6, a nord lead, virus, so I try to integrate a lot of plugins and hardware as much as possible to create that warm lushness to it. There’s no special compressors, I’m using everything built in from Ableton. To me at least, it’s all about how you mix your records, all about the techniques used to mix it properly. It’s all about getting that right baseline, drum and synth inside! Overall though, in terms of producing, less is more in my opinion!
‘Mama Africa’ was your debut single of 2019, and it’s quite different to your previous releases. What inspired the track?
I’ve always been a fan of the ethnic/african/tribal kind of stuff and funnily enough, El Waves who I did ‘Will We Remain?’ with as well as another track ‘We Are The Universe’ – is actually from Ghana. She’s got a lot of characteristics to her voice that were not displayed on ‘Will We Remain?’, as well as not on ‘We Are The Universe’. I said to her that I want to do a track which is more from you (El Waves), from the soul, about bringing everybody together as one. Because there’s all these generic tracks out there in the EDM world are all about “love”, “touch me here”, ”touch me in the morning”, you know? The track is about bringing the people home, bringing them together – when we’re all on the dancefloor we’re together as one. With ‘Mama Africa’, the beginning of the track has her signing in African about bringing people together. I really wanted her to bring that in, in a way that people really feel it. I translated it into English and I actually wrote the whole melody for ‘Mama Africa’ from that. I really wanted to bring her soul out there with the track and I think I managed to do it.
Any chance for a Ilan Bluestone and Above & Beyond collaboration?
Yeah there’s been talks of it! Paavo and Jono have been around to my house quite a lot, Paavo lives quite close to me, about half an hour. We have been in the studio working on something together but whether or not it’s going to come out soon I don’t know, that’s up to the boys. I’m in no rush and at the end of the day, if it comes out it comes out.
Do you have any goals for the rest of the year?
Just looking for smash out more tracks, that’s for sure! I’ve got so many more songs coming. I’m just non stop in the studio, all my downtime is making beats.
Are there any projects or collaborations coming up that you could tease?
Funnily enough there’s this vocalist I found recently by accident. I was just walking into my friends house and he does UK garage music – he’s actually doing really well, shoutout DJ Selecta. Anyway, so he was playing this song that he did with this vocals and I didn’t really like the vocal but there was one specific part where I thought “oh my god I heard something there”. I really didn’t like the vocals at first with it’s cheesy lyrics but I heard the tone in his voice and I thought he sounded like Dave Gahan, the guy from Depeche Mode. He’s got that low 80’s style in his voice and I was like “fuck! He sounds in between a monk and a kinda an 80’s singer with a bit of an indie rock voice”. I called him up and invited him to the studio, and then we did a track together which is still a work in progress. Then I randomly did another track with him after I produced a collaboration with Maor Levi in like 48 hours. Maor is really quick on FL Studio and I do most of the melody and chord writing and a rough part of the groove. I’ll just export the stems and send them to Maor, I’ll come back in like 20mins and say “no, no, change that, get rid of that!” So when we collaboration we really smash it out quick.
Listen to Ilan Bluestone’s latest EP