Throughout the years many creators simply cannot settle for the status quo, blazing trails in boundaries realms not yet known. When the direction is radically pure sonic progression, in audio and visual story telling the process is just as important.
A lot of interviews ask artists to describe themselves to people who haven’t heard of them before, but you have one of the most devoted fanbases in the drum and bass scene, and people who know Billain know Billain. Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans, new, old, in years yet to pass?
First of all, I am deeply thankful for this fanbase, because it is made of people who have courage to believe in different, cutting edge, rebellious ways of opposing many current trends which are migrating just to catch the short wave. The fans know that the creationism is not about that; I guess they can feel that, in the music I create for myself and of course for them. The opposing feel is to share a plethora of sci-fi money, and what they accepted from me is that I’m not about quick money.
What I could add is, to old or new fans, I will always strive to remain what I am, and in its core essence, my friends and foes all do know how little fucks I give about mediocre and static or quick money. To me everything is about good science fiction without a single atom of over-rinsed identity crisis assimilators, without molds and recyclers. Simple and honest. I think this is what everyone wants in their essence, but few has sanity to put their career on the line. I do.
I have that urge to say that we as artists need to educate curators. The problem with dnb curators in the industry are they are everywhere, as experts working in labels, managements, festivals, podcasts, portals. And those curators have probably listened to all of the genre or more genres for years, so they tend to believe in their expertise, and they build partnerships, and eventually they stop listening to 10 years of new progress that happens in 10 months, because the progress nowadays happens that quick, so it is impossible for them to be curators.
But this is the problem with whole music industry. Identity gets consumed by lack of curator’s sense or lack of extra ears. So for those who survive and take the slow lane, it is thanks to their fanbase that they become strong as ever. So the big love goes always first to the fanbase.
You’ve had an accompanying story to tell for most of your big solo releases, but Nomad’s Revenge isn’t just your debut album, it marks the first time that you’ve had this level of non-musical material to go with it. How would you describe this project, all-told? Is this like the inverse of a film and accompanying soundtrack, an album with an accompanying film, or do you regard it all as one singular piece?
Nomad’s Revenge is first of seven objects, of a bigger project that took great time in development. In its essence it is the beginning of the inverse end. I have the urge to make something on a whole new level and take bigger risk. To me this release is just a piece of an album, that works as an album.
To explain it; It feels like enriched EP that delivers the quality of the album and It serves to explain how the album world has changed, but instead of embracing the change the characters risk it by changing the outcome.
I honestly and wholeheartedly believe in risks, and this way of using clusters of albums I will go all the way. This is also the first time that rather to make a soundtrack that explains a sci-fi film, I want to create sci-fi film explaining the soundtrack, the other way around. But at the same time being capable of delivering it for clubs.
What are your feelings on storytelling, in and around music? This type of project is practically unheard of in the sphere of music, especially for electronic variants thereof.
Neurofunk is born in the west, but it grew up on the east, nurtured and educated further. And that’s good. Because we need progress. I always wanted to tell stories that I have dreamed of and I have always imagined stories that I would translate with drawing and with music.
To have that some time ago it was nonsensical unless it was a music video. When you think of music video, the role of music video is to deliver a narrative of a certain track, enveloping the whole album into that visual sensory. So you end up remembering the album because of the video.
Daft Punk connected several tracks into omnibus videos with Interstellar 5555 and that was the biggest dedication so far. Then I thought, okay we have artworks. And short comics inside and stories. But never that we had a full story being done that actually connects all the releases. Something more advanced, and I’m happy to share that this sci-fi story connected 6-7 releases so far, it goes deeper and more complex than any current thing. Therefore I am happy with the results. Every next step is an improvement of the previous one.
It was 3 years between the release of the Colonize EP on Eatbrain, to last fall’s Extraction EP on Bad Taste, now less than a year to Nomad’s Revenge. Is it safe to assume this album has been in the works for a while?
For this first album it took me 5 months to make everything including stories, storyboard and work with my amazing colleagues in creating this visual piece of a short film. Few other albums are taking a bit more times because they all have that new edge to it. The narrative is nonlinear but all of the same story in different timelines, coming together as pieces of puzzle.
Life is a place where people should explore and educate each other, but also spark enormous curiosities and engage with new ways. Money makes the dnb scene fight, turns crews into soulless accountants, accumulates dramas and trolling, cyberbullying and so forth. I tend to stay on the other side no matter the costs. Lesser gigs, no problem, lesser chances, no problem. You are the creator of your own chances.
And to creative control? I give a Yugoslavian big No to egopricks. Because of these clearly drawn goals, it takes longer than usual to deliver the material that is following the tracks, to reach the people’s hearts and mind, and to gather honest respects.
The tracks are not that hard to work on. Some of them take 20 hours, other 100 hours. But the visuals and story take months. Many do not understand that there is no joy in chasing the industry. So to explain why it takes time, you have to understand what other logistics are behind the process of getting a material somewhere, once it is finished.
Where do ideas for an undertaking of this magnitude start? Is this a story that you’ve wanted to tell for years, but just haven’t had the resources?
I like the old James Cameron approach. If it takes time and technology, I leave it to grow (Avatar was a waiting process); it wouldn’t leave a big trace if it would be just of clubbing use. That is quite a small audience and narrow vision. You look at early Photek, Goldie, Kemal, Teebee, Noisia, and you can see the sensibility at work. They dared to risk things, but genuinely enjoyed while doing that too.
I mean it is a controlled masochism. But also the times were different. It is vivid and visually strong. Then you fast forward. What happened with new wave? Did your balls dropped off? Well, we all need to make a living, so the visions have been standardized, the industry pushes with no mercy. But at the end of all of these arguments, you could have easily apply for accounting or get into influencers business. I don’t need to follow today’s rules. And that gives me a clean page to think, which always have a lot of ideas.
And before you know it, you don’t really have joyful alternatives if you want to be in a place where you don’t even have a message other than to run constantly with new releases collecting badges, trying to prove yourself worthy in a wrong competitive spirit. I rather put my integrity in front of everything. Some places understand that and I stay there, others don’t and I leave. It’s quite simple. Reality plays a role of ideas. For me it is important to work with places that are not looking to turn this into “Disneytitle” or “Apple effect” of exploitation and manipulation, and do respect artist integrity.
People in crews fuse their integrity and become all the same, if the core is sucking everyone’s idea. That is dangerous for artists. So that is one of many reasons why it takes time to build big neuroprojects, so to speak. It takes courage and It takes a big fight even when everyone is there to say it’s wrong; you will prove them right with work, work and only work.
Small people talk about other people. Big people talk about ideas.
How many different collaborators brought Nomad’s Revenge to life, across what kinds of creative mediums?
This was a unique experience for all of us, I always loved to work with lots of people that have free wavelengths of imagination. From Enis Cisic, Mj Noble, Yan Caspar Hirschbruehl, Geordie Thirdd, Tom Crotty, David Watson, Jovan Shpira Obradovic, Fidel Nadarevic, Ben Hook, Orifice Vulgatron, Vorso, Nate Kohuli… the list goes on.
We as creators have attraction to each other’s creative outputs and collaborate on all levels. Some people I worked with are just pure geniuses, from Yan to Ben and from David and Tom Crotty and Enis Cisic and Geordie. I have proven them that they can interconnect the formats, even if the media is so different, as long as the “crossroad” has been crafted.
That is the burden I take quite passively, but then engage understanding that these people took their valuable time, to create something they can be proud of, because to me it is of utmost importance to join forces with amazing people, and help each other propel our knowledge. The pitch between all of us is based on the understanding that we have to work on the side but also push the envelope to keep the sanity. That’s where the magic happens. To all of these lads it becomes a special place.
This Album gave birth to CyberNeuro. CyberNeuro is a cross-disciplinary visual and audio aesthetics that is not tied to strict genres, but enjoys multiple things that to our and new generation is certainly a same medium.
You enjoy Neurofunk tunes while wearing Antireal / Damascus /Acronym cyberpunk merch and you can imagine it followed by a halfstep in the middle and complex scifi visuals. You understand all of these movements, but you see them as one medium. Things are fusing naturally there, neurosamples in halfsteps; it even used to be called neuro-hop, then you have these synth-sensible atmospherics like synthwave, so I have nothing against this marriage then to embrace their new beginning.
It really got me into thinking and I have found it to be my way to explain to people what music I am making. So I would tell them it’s a neurofunk music with cyberpunk aesthetics – CyberNeuro, remember where you’ve heard it first. But there are many others aware of it. Now, Nomad’s Revenge means a lot to all of us. I am glad that people like Amon Tobin, Edit, Noisia understand it and support it.
Were there any techniques of sound design which you learned or perfected in the course of making the album? How would you weigh the effort which went into making it, against your previous works?
I always wanted to describe my little invention/sound design method; it doesn’t come with simple short name. This idea that I have come up with is reinvention of radiodrama, so to speak. I gave it the name RHPEM, not really simple name but in short, it stands for Reeingineered Human-Passive Echolocation Method.
I guess we all know what echolocation is. Well, humans have passive echolocation (your orientation is based on what you hear in your environment, as you process it into positional image). Active echolocation is when you emit a sound and pickup its reflection like bats do.
RHPEM is a sound design method for fine description and enrichment of environments based on very few images of the given scene for narrative enhancement of immersion. You have an image or an artwork. You then understand from which angle you are looking, as an observer if you are in that reality. Then you imagine to be repositioned somewhere else, and try to do the math of how it sounds if there are buildings and some other objects and how distanced you are in this artwork from the central situation.
In the Nomads’s Revenge artwork: RHPEM is when I would position you slightly behind Kira and Broel, or in their vicinity, and sound design the scene around your head based on the image of the artwork. So it is basically a reposition of the listener/artwork immersion. You have this in previous tracks of mine as well (end of Colossus, end of Feed For Speed, Blockfield), but I have never spoken about it because to me it was not a big deal before.
In Nomad’s Travel (eight track on the album), you have yourself positioned in the cockpit between two seats, which explains why you hear Broel on the left seat and Kira on the right seat, and you can echolocate that the deck is medium-sized, metal flooring and how does the food machine serve liquid food. All elements, the scanners, the navigation, the comms are audible, plus the texture of their seats as they are moving to the slightest cloth of hand gestures are somehow pushed to make believe you are seeing the actual sound ripped from the picture. That is RHPEM.
You work in the film and television industries, doing sound design for movies and commercials, is that correct? What are you doing for work these days, and how does that impact the making of your music?
Yeah. Well, my biggest stepping stone was definitely a Hollywood one. Working for Pacific Rim sequel and Hunter Killer was an amazing experience. Working on music of this level creates a deeper understanding of visual storytelling, and I was always in love with that fact, because once you find yourself in this situation you understand what you can singlehandedly bring to the scene you want to be a part of, but also be aware that radical ideas are not accepted at first.
The attempts to unify, simplify and create a conservative stabile platform of molded income will never bring ingenuity, just milk until new product has been pitched by now already-ruling heads, stuck in a loop that works as long as you are able to brainwash the same song, multiplied by the number of new talents’ production indoctrination. Perhaps learning all the different angles from movie side, gaming side, and many different platforms is the only way to think outside of the box.
What does the future hold for Billain? Is there anything that you want to be doing, that you aren’t presently?
I guess everything that I am currently doing, I would like to be in a position to do more. I like making short movies and science fiction in the dnb scene. and will continue to walk this narrative path. The new studio is fully built and operational. Guests are coming in and we are starting to jam on various different interesting new takes. I’ll keep on indirectly education perhaps a bit more.
Billain’s ” Nomads Revenge ” Has been nominated for album of the year for the DNB Arena Awards this year.
You can vote for Billain’s Album here. https://awards.breakbeat.co.uk/2019/round-2/
Photo’s by Billain & Vedad Krkbesevic