Behind The Beat| Brillz Discusses his Signature Sound and the EDM Community
Work Hard Play Hard
UC Santa Barbara, the school I go to, is notorious for its massive parties and a student body who strongly believes in the saying “Work hard, play hard.” And what better music is there to “play hard” to than trap? Featuring heavy bass and rhythms inspired by hip-hop, this music leaves me no choice but to tear up the dance floor and feel pumped every time I hear it. This past Thursday, residents of Santa Barbara were blessed with the presence of Brillz, a hugely successful trap master (who also happens to be my favorite) who made a tour stop in our small town.
Brillz is an incredibly gifted and wise producer. Armed with around 20 years of experience in the electronic music scene and tons of passion, each of his productions carry the sound of an enthusiastic and creative artist. Not to mention another highly admirable fact – this guy turns up harder than most people and he does it completely sober! As the club grew progressively louder and wilder in anticipation of his set, I was lucky enough to sit down with Brillz and discuss a range of topics, including his advice and opinions on the EDM community, artists he’d like to work with, and what kinds of stuff he would have on a deserted island.
OTB: Ok, so first question: in a previous interview you said you were drawn to bass music for its community. what sets this community apart from other communities in the EDM world?
Brillz: It’s not really the bass community, it’s the underground dance community. When I said I was attracted to it I was really just talking about dance music in general. If you’re a dope producer you could make a tune, put it online, and if it’s dope the cream rises to the top and there’s no corporate bullshit to get in your way. If you can make good music it’ll get heard. And if you’re a good producer, other producers will support you. The metaphor that I got inspired by is that everyone stands on each other’s shoulders – if you’re new, people bring you up because it’s exciting for a new producer to introduce himself and his vision, and if you’re dope everyone supports each other! In pop music I feel like it’s everyone for themselves, and in hip-hop music there are camps and such. There are so many politics to get yourself out there in the major label world that it’s just a turn off.
OTB: I completely agree to that statement. So going off that last question, what are the biggest obstacles you’ve had to overcome to be successful?
Brillz: The biggest obstacles were really just the 9 years that I was in LA trying to figure out who I was and what kind of music I should make. Really the biggest obstacle was realizing that I shouldn’t write and make music that I think people would want to hear or do things that I thought would get me success and to just do what I am passionate about, what I want to hear, and to not give a fuck if people like it or not. That’s the catch-22. So that was the biggest obstacle to overcome – that fear of just doing my own thing and letting whatever happens. Once I did that, good things started happening.
OTB: Well I think that worked out pretty well for you! So my next question is about your remix of “Talk To Me,” by Kill The Noise – it seems like that was really your breaking point of success. Out of all the tracks you’ve produced since then, what do you think is the most defining of your career?
Brillz: I think there’s a handful. Off the Twonk album, “Rvtchet Bitch” has been pretty defining. I think the “Clarity” remix that I did for Zedd was a pretty big one that a lot of people were playing in the trap scene. The “Dirt of Your Shoulders” trap remix I did off the Jay-Z record has been pretty dope in my sets so I think those three have been pretty definitive. I think that early on that first remix I had, the “Roots” remix as well.
OTB: Good Stuff, I love all of those! Ok, so here’s something a bit disturbing – lately I’ve seen several posts and articles floating around social media saying “trap is dead.” what do you have to say to people who agree with this statement?
Brillz: You know what they say, “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.” (Laughs) Actually, that’s a little harsh. I would say that people love predicting the future, but I’m going out there and I’m playing my stuff and a lot of people are digging it, so come to my show and you’ll see it’s alive and well!
OTB: I can agree with that, good to hear! Alright so it seems like 2014 is a busy year for you – you’re headlining your own tour! What else does this year have in store for you? Anything new?
Brillz: Yup! New records, new EPs, new music, new remixes, pretty much a whole new release of tons of tracks, and a lot of new stuff.
OTB: That brings me to my next question – over the past couple years, several major artists across all genres have switched up their style/sound. Could you see yourself producing different genres of music or are you going to stick with your original style of bass music?
Brillz: For the Brillz project my productions will always sound like Brillz. I may use different tempos, I may use different sounds, I may work with vocalists but it will still always be Brillz. But the whole idea for Brillz is that it’s not attached to one genre – it’s more of an energy, a vibe, a feeling, an experience. I bring that into all the tracks I produce so if I do mess around with different music you can expect it will be under a different name and a whole new entity that doesn’t sound like Brillz.
OTB: That’s what I like to hear! Going off of that, I recall that you also said Kurt Cobain was one of your inspirations – would you ever do a cool trap remix of a Nirvana song?
Brillz: I don’t think I would, I’ve heard a couple of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” remixes but I don’t think I’d go there. I would just leave that stuff alone, to be honest.
OTB: Speaking of inspirational artists, are there any in particular you’d like to collaborate with?
Brillz: My dream collaboration would be to produce a Wu-Tang record. I’d work with RZA and just do bass music-meets-dirty Wu-Tang beats and have my heroes going off on that shit!
OTB: Mmmm I love me some Wu-Tang. Moving onto a different topic, a few months ago you wrote a brilliant opinion piece on drugs in the electronic scene – I absolutely loved reading it! I was wondering if you have any more nuggets of wisdom for young ravers?
Brillz: I would say that if you’re new, and you’re getting into it, and you find yourself obsessed with and feeling like you belong to it, I really hope it’s because of the music and not because you want to get fucked up and do drugs. Like I wrote in the essay, music culture and drug culture have always gone hand-in-hand. Before music culture, religion and drug culture went together. This music is a new kind of spirituality for us, and it’s easy to get caught up in it all. I just want to say that I’m not any kind of authority on anything, and I don’t expect to tell people what to do or not to do and I don’t judge anyone. It’s just that the reason I’m into it is for the music, and I’ve seen a lot of people come into it to enjoy the music but they get caught up, and then someone could die. That is a really sad fact, and the main reason I wrote that thing was because I don’t want it to happen. It’s about the people you’re with and your friends – watch each other’s backs, get educated, drink water!
OTB: Thank you for reiterating the importance of the music and people educating themselves! Ok, time for the last question: if you were stranded on a desert islands, which three items would you have with you?
Brillz: Hm, on a desert island…I gotta think! Let’s see, an acoustic guitar, a knife of some sort, probably a machete because I’ll need it to cut things and hunt, and maybe the “Lost” series. Actually, I wouldn’t have a DVD player….maybe then I would bring a genie bottle so I could wish for some more things!
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