The Story Behind The Song: Billain – Colossus

billain - original colossus

He’s friendly. He’s looking into the stars. He’s a star child ancestor. He has the face of ancestor. We’re frustrated and fascinated about our history more than our future. We try to understand what we were. That’s probably what’s driven me to draw this. He’s reaching for the stars but he doesn’t realise he’s surrounded by bright light and he’s the only one who’s dark.

Hold on to that historic fascination… It’s a crucial piece of Billain’s complex creative jigsaw. First, though, meet Colossus. The above image was illustrated by Billain himself… first on paper, then transferred to iPad two years ago. He’s since been reinterpreted by Billain’s long-term comic drawing cohort Enis Čišić, and is more commonly recognised as this…

Colossus ep artwork by enis cisic

WAY before that – about six years ago – he arrived to Billain exclusively in dream form.

Not one of those ‘hahah let’s all have some fun and run around dreams’ This will be with me until I die.

“This picture drew me in so much it’s led to the whole EP,” says Billain who grew up in war-torn Sarajevo. “In the dream I was just faced with this huge red species. It’s one of those dreams you remember so well you’ll never ever forget it. Not one of those ‘hahah let’s all have some fun and run around dreams’ This will be with me until I die. Strong pictures. Strong imagination. Whether he came from the movies or my fascination of the classic sci-fi, I don’t know. But anyway, he helps me to understand what I believe to be a good sci-fi story. I was instantly on the case… How do I tell this story? What tracks do I need to tell this story explicitly.”

Five years, hundreds of projects and hours of drawing later, the Colossus EP lands.

By far his most extensive, boundary-demolishing release to date, Billain’s research and approach went deeper than most artists would ever dare.

“Colossus needed a bridge,” says the man who’s worked on major commercial sound design jobs, including work for Motorola, Mercedes and Nike. “I wanted to find a profound note. Something that could tell a old school sci-fi story. I listened to many tracks that had those type of strings so I could avoid what’s already been done. It must have been 40/50 tracks. I needed to think – ‘what is being made in drum & bass and what should I do?’”

It even led to the completely kick-less Autonomous. A track that Emperor recently described as giving him an aneurism.

“I’m so proud of that one,” says Billain. “So many people have sent me mad emails about it – saying I’ve discovered a new kind of track. It has no kicks whatsoever, it’s just concentrated subs. I think it’s even more violent because of this. I didn’t know if it was too much! It’s something new – even for my taste.”

From explicit dreams to next-level drum dynamics by way of a movie-level narrative, complete with stories he’s been writing and sharing on his Facebook page, Colossus sums up Billain’s creative and ambitious scope like no other release. But to understand where he really comes from and why he ticks the way he does, we have to go back to a dark time for the eastern Europe: the Bosnian war.

Between 1992 and 1996 Sarajevo was under siege. During this time a young Billain lost his grandfather in a sniper attack and his mother narrowly escaped death in one of the city’s largest massacres. All of the above, and every production you hear by him, is a direct result of this terrifying experience. Respectfully, it’s best told directly by Billain and Billain alone…

Once a detonation threw me off my feet into the air. I just got up and said ‘wow!’ Shrapnel flying around me but I never got touched. If that happened now I’d be terrified.

“The shell explosions going round all day and all night…. Huge explosions. I witnessed some crazy stuff. Mad Max, post-apocalyptic shit! I was one of those grubby little kids running round with custom jackets! Straight out of a movie, you know?

“You don’t understand so much as a kid. You can cope with just about anything! You don’t understand the weight of things happening around you. Once a detonation threw me off my feet into the air. I just got up and said ‘wow!’ Shrapnel flying around me but I never got touched. If that happened now I’d be terrified.

“So as a kid your life is a different a level. Your understanding of life is profound and expands ever since. Your imagination goes wilder and wilder. It’s endorsed by such events, it’s like it’s on steroids. The bridge between drawing and music made so much sense to me. I try to bring everything together; my drawings, my music, films and it’s here where it started. I was about seven, I got hold of lots of pens and paper. That was enough for me to explore things. I found out that it gave me a new expression. We’d be tucked away in the basement because the war was happening around us. I could drift around unknown places and unknown spaces.

“I imagine it would have been normal to draw parents, a house, a little swinging thing, flowers in the windows, smoke from the chimney. Me? I was fascinated by the human eye. One of my earliest drawings were eyes… Like fractals. An eye in an eye in an eye in an eye. I liked it so much I tried to do more. I still draw eyes now. I’m obsessed with eyes.

“It’s so interesting to see the nature of eyes. They’re one of the most profound contacts in our society. Along with words. Eyes are the main motion and question of so many arts. The unknown look of Mona Lisa… Why do we still talk about that hundreds of years later?”

If Billain’s creative assault continues the trajectory it’s on now, we may be discussing his art in hundreds of years to come. A true individual with humbling past and an exciting future beyond his musical roots. Billain, we salute you.