First up, we need to talk about ‘M.E.A’. It’s doing brilliantly at the moment! It’s receiving a ton of DJ support and is gradually climbing up the charts.
Could you tell us a little about the process of building the track, was it something that you had been working on for a while?
Illyus – I went up to Barrientos’ studio on a random day and he had a session opened. It was originally called something stupid like they always are. He had this idea to reference a tune we both love and instantly I was hooked. So we sat down and got cracking with it. We had a totally different vocal at first which didn’t blend to well with the sample, so once we got the instrumental ready we knew we had to find a different vocal for it.
Barrientos – Yeah I had basically started this idea, and actually ended up getting a little bit fed up of listening to it. So I wasn’t sure if it was any good or not. But it’s always great when Illyus comes round and gets excited about an idea, it always means I’m onto something!
Could you tell us about any specific plug-ins or VST’s that you found particularly useful in creating ‘M.E.A’?
Illyus – To get the EQing spot on we used FabFilter Pro Q2. It was quite tough, and it always is when working with such a busy sample but our idea was always to keep the track raw. Another effective tool we used was the H-Delay by Waves, as it allowed us to get the wet stuff right for the vocal. All the tails had to be spot on.
Barrientos – I really wanted to get the bassline sounding like an authentic house track, so I went and used my Novation K-Station and used a bass patch that has a gorgeous, warm tonality to it. I don’t use it often for tracks unless they need a bit of roundness to the sound.
When was the first time you played it out? What was the reaction like?
Illyus – Man the first time we played it was at the Toolroom party in London. Honestly in our full set it was the main one that went off, mental scenes! The setting was great too because the sun was just going down. Perfect moment for a new record.
Barrientos – yeah that was the first time we played it when got back the mastered version. I was pleasantly surprised how well it went down, and it was definitely the biggest reaction of our set.
Since you released ‘I Love You So Much’ on Toolroom back in 2016, it seems like you guys have really taken off as an act. How has your relationship with the label developed since then?
Illyus – They wined and dined us, and we just couldn’t resist. Nah, in all fairness the Toolroom family is great. Everyone at the head-quarters is a mate and there are a few nutters there too… Shout out to Mikey and Matt! Overall it’s nice to have people believing in your work, they allow us to bounce ideas over and sometimes give us that touch of harshness we need.
Barrientos – this time round it feels like we are properly integrated into the family. Everyone at Toolroom know what we are about now, with our music, our DJ sets, and our personalities. Everything is clicking with us now, and it’s really great to see the belief from everyone in the office.
Ivan, tell us about your experience juggling your role as a full-time student whilst pursuing your ever-growing music career?
Barrientos – that’s a tough road to go down to be honest. I’ve went through two degrees now, whilst trying to pursue a music career, and just generally improve as a musician. A lot of the time, it’s finding the energy at the end of the day to fire up the computer and write some ideas. Everybody is capable of doing it. You just need to really want it. That drive to be a musician is what has spurred me on all these years to get where I am. I undertook a 4-year PhD, and set myself a goal within that time frame, that probably wasn’t realistic. But I got a bit of luck on my side. I well and truly burnt myself out by the end of it all, and would never do it again haha! I guess all things happen for a reason…
Secondly, what advice would you give other full-time students who are looking to find success in the music industry?
Illyus – it’s all about the hard work. Before we met each other, we were individually working our arses off trying to get good at producing and writing, and once we started working together we tried even harder. Even now, we know we can do better and we still want to progress even further.
Barrientos – Enjoy what you do. Don’t write music because you want to get signed to a label, write music because you want to and always have fun experimenting with that!
Apart from ‘M.E.A’, what other track is regularly making its way into your sets at the moment?
Illyus – I just can’t get away from Cozzy D’s ‘Jungle Bells’. Love that mad sample he’s uses as the hook. Cozzy’s some laugh too, so that’s a double bonus.
Barrientos – Vozmediano – Raw Beat. This track absolutely bangs, and if you haven’t played it out already… then hurry up and do it!
What’s the best piece of advice you could offer to producers who wish approach disco as a grounds for sampling and flipping?
Illyus – don’t get too stressed about making it all sound clean or warping everything. The disco stuff was recorded live for a reason, so try to capture that in your music especially when it comes to disco. Let the reigns go a bit and allow the sample to do the talking.
Barrientos – stop sampling Loleatta Holloway, please. There are hundreds and thousands of disco records out there. Spend a day digging.
Tell us a little bit about how you guys tackle your studio workflow. Do you have any great tips for maximising your creative output?
Illyus – Do not work 24/7 on music. For other producers that may work but we take ourselves away from the studio to recharge, and allow ourselves to gain inspirations from various sources. Then when we come together we’re buzzing to get started on new ideas that we may be have started individually or together. We tend to work really quickly so we don’t allow ourselves to get tired of an idea, our aim always is to see the finished article within a week max. The biggest tip from myself though would have to be enjoy it, love what you do and don’t do it for any other reason.
Barrientos – put your phone away for a while! We are all guilty of being on our phones too much, so it’s especially important to turn it off for an hour or two. I would never spend more than 3 – 4 hours working on a track to be honest, you need to let your ears rest. I never work on something that I wrote 4 months ago. You need to go with your gut feeling if a track is working or not. Be honest with yourself!
You have a certain sound and aesthetic and maybe even technique that defines your music. What suggestion would you give to less established producers trying to carve their own sound?
Illyus – it took us a while to develop our sound, so patience and belief in your skill set are massively important. Another thing is don’t allow yourself to make too many different records. What I mean by that is have an element of consistency in the short term because that will allow you to take people on a journey in the long term.
Barrientos – yeah I totally agree. It takes a while to create your own sound. It’s healthy to take inspirations from others, but don’t just copy that sound. It’s also always fun to get a synth and patch it with your own sounds. I used to spend hours upon end creating new sounds that nobody else would have. I don’t have as much time anymore, though I really should start doing that again.
What would you say are the crucial pieces of hardware and software that you need for your sound?
Illyus – the old hardware and software debate… I just think good music is good music and whatever way you create it, run wild. We swear by Logic, Maschine and our UAD soundcard but someone else might tell you something else. Make sure you are comfortable in your studio because once you are all that good shit will come out.
Barrientos – a good set of monitors and a good soundcard. An average set of monitors will only get you so far. It’s pricey, but it’s completely worth it in the long run. I don’t really think UAD is crucial, but it’s definitely worth the price tag. I actually think some of the FabFilter plug-ins are pretty necessary, they’re amazing and worth the price.
What’s next purchase for the studio? Any bits of tech you have an eye on buying and why?
Illyus – We have individual studios so I’m currently jealous because Barrientos has kitted his out again this year, so I need to get my finger out again. I actually want something really simple… a new desk is needed. A few years back I bought this custom made Sefour desk and it’s been a tough, solid member of the family but it’s time to bin the thing.
Barrientos – yeah I’ve made a bunch of upgrades this year to my studio, including Neumann KH-120A monitors and an Apollo Twin Duo MKII. I also bought a Korg Minilogue at the start of the year so I reckon I’m done with hardware for a while. Would probably buy the Korg Prologue if I had some cash to spare! Software wise I’ve got my eye on some Kontakt libraries. I always having a play with Albion 1 last week and it’s caught my interest.
What else have you got lined up for 2018 that you can tell us about?
Illyus – Our next release is with Defected! The record is called ‘Scream’ and it’s one of those that when we play it, we can’t help but go wild ourselves. Another massive achievement will be when our remix of A-Trak & Todd Terry’s single comes out.
Barrientos – I can’t wait for our remix of Purple Disco Machine’s ‘Dished’ to come out. It’s gonna be massive!