Home Interviews Interview: Ewan Rill

Interview: Ewan Rill

30 min read

Ewan Rill has been a mainstay of the progressive house underground since first appearing in 2011 with a release on Balkan Connection. Now a decade later the Russian artist stands as one of the genre's most prolific artists, with a discography of more than 1250 credits and appearances on esteemed imprints such as Hernan Cattaneo's Sudbeat Music and Nick Warren's The Soundgarden. Now continuing a great start to 2021, Ewan returns to Deepwibe Underground with 'Soft and Wet'. We had a chance to catch up with Ewan for an exclusive interview just prior to the release. Enjoy!

Hi Ewan, thanks for joining us.  What is your current mood and what was the last piece of music you listened to?

Hi Mitch! A pleasure to be here. My mood at the moment is being in search of myself, it’s a constant and unstoppable process. A lot of things happening around, but I’m always here, in front of myself, trying to understand who I am, and where I should take my next step.

The last piece was some old Guy J original; I was listening to it trying to recollect those brilliant feelings from the past.

What are your plans for the coming week?

At the beginning of the week, I will spend some time with my students teaching them production. Later on, I’m planning to leave in Ekaterinburg to play some gigs, to meet my friends and people who want to hear a fresh DJ set from me.

Talk to us about growing up and living in Russia, how has it affected your musical taste and the music you make?

I was born in Siberia, in the capital of Kuzbass, a great city called Kemerovo. There was a lot of amazing friends, who loved electronic music, a great opportunity. The end of the 90s was a hard time, some night clubs and bars were full of criminals, it was not safe to visit those places or even play there. A few times I had to look down the barrel of a gun when some of our clients were trying to order a popular Russian chanson (an equivalent of prison blues) track for the third time. Later my friends and I were able to build our society by making big events like festivals.

At the beginning of the 00s, there was a lot of small projects like parties in old factory buildings; we used to have some rising clubs with music played on vinyl and later we had one small yet brilliant club called “Mix”. A lot of great names was playing at this club, such as Barry Gilbey and Sara Gilbey (Mara Project), Dino Ramirez, David Moreno (Ibiza), Chris Scott (Echomen), a lot of the favored DJ's from Russia. That time we were like in heaven.

All people in the club were like a family, this was a golden time in our club culture. From childhood, I was in love with some electronic music bands such as Orbital, Underworld, The Prodigy. At the beginning of the 00s, I was inspired by music from Deep Dish, Sander Kleinenberg, Max Graham, and many other artists who did a great job. Of course, I was falling in love with progressive house, it was the bomb, a perfect time to see how deep and powerful this style of music was. It helped me understand that this style of music would be my favorite direction to grow with.

What music from your youth had the biggest effect on where you are today? Are there certain tracks or albums which profoundly influenced you?

I think all tracks by Sander Kleinenberg were really great for me, I also always liked Sasha, Nick Warren & Jody Wisternoff (Way Out West), Hernan Cattaneo, Matthew Dekay, Dean Coleman, 16 Bit Lolitas, Steve Porter(Agent 001), Silicone Soul, Mashtronic, Redanka, Behrouz, John Creamer and Stefan K, Darren Emerson, Satoshi Tomiie, Peace Division, Dino Lenny, Audiofly, Pryda, Tiga, Wally Lopez, in the morning when we prefer to play some progressive trance tracks my playlists were full of Above & Beyond. All tracks from Yoshitoshi, Plastic Fantastic, Baroque, Bedrock.

How would you describe the music you make and what do you want it to convey to the listener?

I think my music is something in the middle between usual tracks and brilliants. I’m always playing with a lot of styles and images of music. Of course, progressive wasn’t the only style in my collections, there was a lot of techno, trance and breakbeat. So when I'm trying to make something all that experience gives me a lot of ideas. Sometimes I don’t control where I will be and what energy flows there. Experiments and new ways are what I’m trying to share with my listeners, and of course, I prefer to do dancefloor-oriented music, I was playing for more than 20 years as a DJ, so for me, all things happening at the dancefloor are the most important part.

 Which producers inspire you most at the moment and why?

 Cid Inc is doing a great job, he is in the future now, translating good vibes to us, of course, Guy J is making music full of love, it's very futuristic, too. Also, I’m always excited to see fresh tracks from Guy Mantzur & Sahar Z, Mike Griego, Kasper Koman, Navar, Subandrio, Alex O’Rion, DNYO, Dmitry Molosh. In the last few years, there have been more talented artists coming and growing very fast.

 Your new EP ‘Soft and Wet’ was recently released on Deepwibe Underground, you must be quite excited. Tell us about the release and how it showcases your individualities?

Soft and Wet is about cyberpunk culture. This sort of art is inspiring me from the fantastic books I read in the past. Soft and Wet stands for some organic forms of life, it's some kind of human being. The name of the track comes from my old tracks such as Wetware, Software and Hardware. Thinking about the future is a lot like being at home for me. I miss the technology from the future, that’s why I always talk about them with my musical language.

This is your fifth original project for Deepwibe Underground, what is it that makes the label such a good home for your music?

This label is really a great place to share my tracks, Sergey, its owner, is a very kind person, he is also trying to buy my attention with chocolates, that he always brings to me from Europe, its all about sweeties! :)  Of course, not only that, it's pleasure to work with people who are open and share the romance with music and electronic culture. In Russia I have met so many talented friends and just people who share themselves fully, it evokes a feeling of deep respect.

Was there anything that inspired these four tracks? And where does your inspiration come from generally?

Those 4 tracks were from different parts of 2020, of course, this year was sad for the club culture, that’s why in Soft and Wet and also in Excalibur we can hear this synth-like voice trying to call us. Excalibur also gives us a romantic feeling from the times of ancient Rome. One of the things that inspires me a lot is nature. Yes, I’m a person of the future, I like technologies, but only when it comes along with life, with organic and with nature. And those times when humanity was moving around by horses, by ships, and was closer to nature — for me it is important, too. That’s why you can find these dialogues with beautiful melodies and some crazy sound effects or even artificial life in my style, that feeling when a byte is trying to become alive.

What does your set-up like? Do you favor physical gear over digital? And what studio tools featured heavily in the writing of this EP?

I like to work with virtual instruments because it wasn’t a cheap thing to buy analog gear in Russia, that’s why I’ve spent half of my life in programs. So I’m like a “software guy”, I like this term from Cid Inc :) At present, I have 2 Ableton Push 2 (one was bought, the second one was gifted by Ableton), controllers from Novation and Touche. Before it was a time when no one believed in virtual instruments, but I was waiting for the new era to come. So now I’m very excited about new features that give us MPE and new Vst instruments, that sometimes sounds so unique. About Vst’s my favorite is The Legend, Omnisphere, U-he products, UVI products, but even solely Ableton Live sometimes is enough for me to build something exciting. Also, I was working in many daws in childhood.

 Your one of the more prolific progressive house artists of today and yet your remixes always sound quite original and not like a bootleg version of the original which can often happen. Is this something you are conscience of when working on a remix? Always trying to create something which is relatable to the original but also stands on its own creatively?

Yes, I’m like in a challenge, when someone comes asking for the remix I am trying to do my best to win a chance, to show something exciting, a lot of things depend on the original because sometimes the melodies are too sweet, or it's hard to pick something to work with. But when I meet great tracks it’s always a big pleasure to show my own vision. A lot of producers are simply trying to make a song, for me, it is important to make a dancefloor bomb, that’s why my tracks can be more powerful or extra exciting in some aspects. I know that it’s more of an occupational hazard and can be far from pure art, but I prefer this way.

 How do you see yourself continuing to evolve as an artist in the coming years?

I think I need to find this perfect place for my feelings, I need some unique melodies or sounds. Iwas always trying to learn the piano, study new controllers, go outside the borders. But it was happening for many years, now I’m concentrated to find some special ideas, to make a brilliant track, maybe to make people very excited about the sound. It's really hard to make the next step, but I don’t have any other goals to reach for.

 How have you been dealing with COVID-19? How has it affected your daily life, music production and overall inspiration to write new music?

I still haven’t dealt with the virus, and I'm very glad that it's possible to find your own place to be safe. I was traveling and playing a lot in 2020, also my teaching courses went online last year, so It hasn’t affected much for me, only one thing I really miss is playing at some big festivals in Europe because I have a lot of friends even trying to prepare some events in Amsterdam. But at the moment we all are waiting. I really worry about other people, but most of all they should become more conscious.

 What is the current situation with the pandemic in Russia?

Of course, people become tired, but here we have some places that didn’t stop working at all. Now we all wear masks, using all things to stay safe, but many people become lazy about it and feel completely free from this problem. We don’t have a panic here and maybe because of our immune system, maybe because of our great medics and strong medicine from the past century we don’t have a lot of problem with it. People are dancing as if nothing happened.

 Once nightlife eventually resumes globally what kind of effect do you think this period in our history will have on the clubbing experience?

I think yes, on one hand, we are quickly forgetting about everything, on the other hand, we've still learned to appreciate what we have. Love for music has become a bit purer and more sincere.

What is your favourite food?

Fried eggs, brilliant taste with bread and salt :) I like Japanese, Indian, Italian, Georgian and Greek, I prefer to eat all and a lot, especially after gigs, where I shared a lot of energy. Of course, I prefer to be in good condition and don’t mess with sugar a lot. Also last years I was trying to reduce alcohol in my life.

 Iphone or Android?

I like both and hate them both, but now I’m using Android. Both have their bad sides but nowadays technologies are closer to each other.

What does the remainder of 2021 hold for you? Anything you can share with us?

 I think it will be completely full of the teaching process, I have my Certification from Ableton and need to help many students to grow. In my own production, there will be a lot of releases, but I will try to restrain myself and release only the best material. Of course, there will be some huge labels. But at the moment I have my favorite goal, that I was trying to reach for many years, I can’t disclose it because I want to achieve it on my own, and not to indicate it in an interview. One other big project is that I was trying to build an opportunity to create my own platform for performances in Amsterdam not only in ADE time but always.

'Soft and Wet' is available for pre-order now via Deepwibe Underground: https://bit.ly/33tJr6L

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