When picking artists to look back on the year that’s been, Billain was a no brainer. And not just for his reflections on the recent past, but also his thoughts on the future… Both near and far.
Billain’s fascination with the future – as a sound designer, illustrator, artist and writer – has been well established for several years. But this year his passion, thoughts and interests in all things cyber, tech and future science have come a lot more into the fore thanks to his sci-fi narrative for his Colonize EP, recent blog posts like this and tunes that set brave new benchmarks; like the out-there time signature and drum arrangement of Kingston Drone or the 400 dragster sampling Feed For Speed.
Currently in the midst of creating new drum arrangements, and working with VR companies on some seriously exciting but currently top secret projects, Billain took time to reflect on what he believes to be the fastest year of all of our lives…
The immersion is happening and it’s happening soon. I understand Johnny Mnemonic more and understand the meaning of social isolation. Music is connected to this culture wholly; it is linked with neurofunk and cyberpunk and everything else.
2015 According To… Billain
“This has been the fastest year I have ever perceived. As I get busier and busier my time has sped up naturally, but I have this feeling that a lot of us are experiencing this increased speed.
“It’s due to the sheer amount of incoming information from all sides. We try to cope, catching up with all aspects of things we like and things we do and things we’re interested in, so much so that our year isn’t perceived like it used to be. The information chaos has sped up our time…
“Right now we are on the corner of new trends and new patterns; 2015 was an exciting peak of everything that’s been happening technologically and musically so far. Especially in drum & bass music. We’ve had a wonderful string of releases on all the labels. We’ve got new radio stations, new podcasts, new concept EPs and LPs. It seems people are investing more time into their work and the finer details of it.
“It’s been a great year for surprise returns, too: it felt right that Skynet came back this year. Rob Data too. They’ve been back for a while but this year felt like their official return. To have those pioneers return validates things in a way. We haven’t lost our original spirit. In fact, neurofunk has had a great year in general.
“Anime has enjoyed a renaissance this year, too. This is no coincidence as there is more and more awareness of cyberpunk culture… It’s already happening for many of us. I was involved in some research for virtual reality companies and had a glimpse of it. The immersion is happening and it’s happening soon. I understand Johnny Mnemonic more and understand the meaning of social isolation. Music is connected to this culture wholly; it is linked with neurofunk and cyberpunk and everything else. Our music makes more and more sense the more we head into the new technological age. Look at Need For Speed; they’re fanatically signing more and more of our music. They can’t ignore it.
“The next generation is helping this; they can perceive more and more information now. Neurofunk is no longer complex music to them. We used to say it’s complex, but for the new listeners it isn’t as new benchmarks are being set all the time. Look at June Miller and Mefjus’s Saus, my Autonomous or Joe Ford and Icicle’s Crossbreed. These new benchmarks dictate what is acceptable and how label’s develop their ideologies.
“I would love to see more confident experimentalism in drum & bass. Look at Warp. They are the best proof of what persistence can do; they have consistently released the weirdest and most far out experimental music. They are the very forefront. Drum & bass should look at their model a little more. I know you can’t repeat history and we can’t repeat what Warp have done but we can have the same open mind as them and not have such strict remits. Neurofunk has flourished because it had the sound design exploration as its key root. Everyone loves sound design because of the cinematic feeling of it. That sci-fi experience. That’s why D&B has been here for 20 years and it will continue to keep up with the future.
“But then we also have its bigger brother; experimental electronica where men like Amon Tobin leads the charge. No rules of tempo. No formulas. Freedom of sound expressions. That spirit can’t perish like other genres because is there is no one set root, it’s constantly developing new ones.
“So now I’m wondering what happens in 2016: What is happening with the vinyl industry again? Some people say it’s good but the major labels are hogging the queue to get their Pink Floyd re-releases and putting underground labels second, third, fourth place in the queue. That affects underground music hugely. So everyone is trying to search for different formats.
“I know one thing that will be a persistent theme in 2016: Virtual Reality. I know production software firms are preparing something new with VR. Imagine it: you put your VR glasses on and you will never need another monitor, just speakers. On my glasses I’ll have a stretched 50” monitor. Or multiple ones. Like Minority Report. I can zoom into something and tweak knobs by hands. It’s revolutionary. The workflow will change forever. Mouse and keyboards will be redundant. Tracks will sound different as a result of this new technical approach…. We’re heading into an exciting time.”
Two artists who’ve excited Billain in 2015:
“I’ve been back on The Planets. The classical pieces he wrote can’t be repeated and have clearly had a huge effect on the likes of Stanley Kubrick. I need to distance myself from the electronic noise sometimes; it’s chaotic to keep your head straight in drum & bass… Holst gives me that piece while inspiring me at the same time.”
“Lorn is classical in the way he uses synths. I love what he and Pilot Priest do. It’s Bladerunner in sonic form. They inspire me to switch off the DAW and get on the Juno and just play simple twisted notes like Vangelis… And take it in new directions. That’s what Lorn is doing with tracks like Acid Rain. Highly recommended.”