Hailing from Vancouver, BC, ill-esha has for over a decade been an integral part of the North American electronic dance music scene. Beginning as a vocalist, she soon added MCing and DJing to her repertoire, creating a dynamic and unique live show which has headlined alongside artists such as Andy C, Klute, Dieselboy, Vibesquad, LTJ Bukem, Tipper, T-Power & De La Soul. She has performed across North America, Europe and Asia; in clubs, at festivals, and even on TV shows on MTV Canada and the CBC.
In 2001 her first 12” single was released on New York label Breakbeat Science; since then ill-esha has worked steadily as a producer and vocalist on labels like Dub Police, Haunted Audio, Simplify & Muti Music; hitting #1 singles download on Juno and commanding six spots of the top ten in the inaugural Beatport Glitch Hop charts. One of the founding members of the premier online community GlitchHopForum.com, her remixes are hugely popular, popping up in DJ sets across the globe. Her show is a fiery combination of original beats, glitch edits and live vocals, not to be missed. We had a chance to catch up with the multi-talented ill-esha during our stay at SnowGlobe Music Festival 2011 for NYE in South Lake Tahoe and heres what she had to say:
Being a Canadian DJ/Producer/Vocalist, how does the EDM scene in your home country tend to differentiate from that in the U.S.?
In Canada, we are a lot further apart geographically so it has kind of created a little bit of a delay compared to the states. In California alone there are just so many cities next to each other. They’ve built these reciprocal communities, whereas in Vancouver if you go on tour, you’re doing a ten hour drive and then another eight hour drive… I think it’s starting to get more connected especially with the way the internet and stuff is today. The differences have shrunk a little bit, but there are still these very concentrated pockets of scenes versus a more connected scene.
Being a child of the 80’s, who were some of your musical influences growing up?
Well, I was always into female singers because I was singing since I was very little. I really got into all of the stuff Timbaland was doing. The early 90’s was right when I was going into high-school so Brandy and Aaliyah were huge. Still today I can look at my stuff and look back and feel like I knew where I came from. All the great Motown and soul singers and all that stuff; rhythm-based vocal R&B music has always been a big influence on me; however, in the 90’s I was also into grunge, punk-rock, and metal. I’ve kind of checked out everything that’s why I like electronic music so much – because you don’t have to fit within this narrow boundary; there are influences from all over the place.
So in general, you’d say it was hip-hop/R&B, then grunge?
Yeah, first in high-school was all the hip-hop and R&B and then I got angry and listened to lots of Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, and Tool. Then I sort of flip-flopped and started going to raves and started getting back into that stuff through electronic music.
That’s been one of the most amazing experiences. Lightening in a Bottle I think is the greatest festival I’ve been to just because it’s all done with so much love. Everything – from every security guard to every performer it was all just very gracious and open hearted.
You started off as a progressive vocalist, quickly began to mix your own DJ sets, and shortly thereafter were producing your own tracks. You possess all of the key ingredients to be a successful solo act, might this have an effect when choosing whether or not to participate in collaborations?
I mean, I love working with people because you can always get triggered by someone else’s weird ideas to create something that you otherwise wouldn’t on your own. I don’t get to as often as I’d like because of my travel schedule; but, I would say I actually prefer working with others. I do a lot of work with Antiserum; we’re going to play up against each other tonight which I’m really excited about, and I’m starting some new projects with ChrisB, Gladkill, Stephan Jacobs… pretty much everyone on Headtron. I have been a more solo person; the kind of one woman show thing, but I feel like next year I’m ready to a be a part of a huge web of incestuous musical visions.
“Incestuous musical visions,” I like that… Who are some people that you would love to work with but haven’t?
Oh wow, well I mean, if we’re playing fantasy football league here… I would love to make music with great creative female producers like Imogen Heap and Björk – those are huge influences on me as well. Making a track with Aphex Twin would be pretty incredible, kind of going back to the roots of things. I’d also really like to work with Eskmo – I really like the space in his music and I really like how he’s doing a sort of singing/live sampling show too.
In typical rollingTUFF™ fashion, what would you say are your top five favorite tracks that you are listening to right now, at this very moment?
I’ve really been loving the new Om Unit stuff, he just did an EP and there’s a track called Vibrations, it’s kind of been stuck in my set. There’s a lot of good music that’s been coming out of Vancouver, Victoria, and the whole pacific-northwest region. Monolithium has been doing some really dope tracks, he just put out a couple EPs. Who else… Everybody on Headtron is absolutely killing it right now. ChrisB has been doing some genius ambient compositions as well as heavy glitch-hop bangers so, those guys are really inspiring me. It’s hard to say favorite tracks because for so many people in this style of music, I feel like you’re kind of just putting out a continuous vibe, especially the people who are touring all the time; you’re always making new stuff but, I would definitely say Headtron is influencing me huge right now. Russ Liquid and Opiou, I just did a show for The Do Lab with the both of them and we were all doing live stuff and jamming. I’ve also really been getting into Shapeshifter, they are huge in New Zealand. They’re a really huge live drum and bass band but, I’ve always loved live bands and the integration of that.
In terms of what you’re listening to, do you have any surprises up your sleeve that people may not expect?
At the moment – no, just because I have so little time. When we were driving up here we were talking about how listening to music for pleasure has become this very rare thing for artists because you spend all of your available time just tinkering with stuff. But, I would say that I definitely listen to a lot more mellow stuff than the stuff that you’d see me play at shows because it’s all about atmosphere, time, and a place. Lightening in a bottle at 5pm was a pretty good representation of what I listen to all the time.