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How Illenium became one of the most influential figures in future bass [Interview]

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A short three years ago, Nick Miller emerged onto the burgeoning melodic dubstep scene with the launch of his artist moniker, Illenium. The Denver native introduced his project with a pair of originals called “Drop Our Hearts Part I & Part II,” the latter of which was a collaboration with Said the Sky. While this two-sided offering certainly leaned in a hardened direction, Illenium quickly shifted his compositional focus to highlighting his talent to create stirring melodies.

As the rising producer consistently released catalog-building remixes and originals that showcased his emotionally evoking, powerful style, his overall sound began to take the form of what is now widely known as future bass. In February 2016, Illenium released his debut, 10-track album, Ashes, via his newly-formed label, Kasaya, and Vancouver’s Seeking Blue imprint. Ashes successfully garnered millions of plays on both SoundCloud and Spotify in the first few months, and more importantly, further established Millers position in the dance world as an impactful artist.

While Illenium had already developed a devout fanbase of “Illenials” behind his music through his initial releases, his remix of The Chainsmokers’ “Don’t Let Me Down” was arguably the release that catapulted him into the commercial eye. Originally unofficial, the future bass prodigy’s revision quickly gained enough traction among the online dance music community to later earn a spot in The Chainsmokers’ official remix package. Since its release in March of last year, Miller’s remix has surpassed 165 million plays on YouTube and 63 million on SoundCloud.

Following up such a successful release was no easy feat, but Illenium soon returned with “Rush Over Me,” a powerful collaboration with previous partner Said The Sky and melodic dubstep pioneer Seven Lions. Miller closed out his career year with another remix built for the Internet community, a dazzling spin on Flume’s “Say It.”

Future bass originally arose as a bridging sub-genre for the edgier, commercial dance fans and the bassheads who still found guilty pleasures in gorgeous melodies. As hordes pop producers have manufactured cookie-cutter hits with future bass elements intertwined, many initial fans of the genre are finding the sound to become hackneyed, overplayed, and abused. As some fans have resultantly turned their back to the genre’s future, Illenium could be its saving grace.

Not only has Miller continually proven his ability to engage with the community that lifted future bass into the spotlight, he’s also amplified the power behind the genre with his live show. Accompanied on stage with a set up of CDJs, a drum pad, and keyboards, Illenium has developed his own hybrid set up to give fans a new experience that retains the fluidityl of a DJ set.

Looking back on 2016, Illenium propelled his project into a new level between his debut album, major sold out dates on his live tour, and viral remixes. Ahead of his performance at Miam’s Life In Color, we sat down with the future bass pioneer while he reflected on his career-changing year and what the next 365 days – and beyond – hold for his burgeoning artist project.

Read our interview with Illenium below the fold.

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Give us a little bit of insight in your background and the early days when you started producing.
It started out as something I just did for fun with my friends. I really loved having a creative outlet, and then it turned into something I couldn’t really live without.

Who were your biggest musical inspirations when you were first starting out?
Bassnectar, Seven Lions, Adventure Club. But, lately I’ve been feeling really inspired by non-EDM stuff and trying to incorporate a lot of organic elements into my music.

2016 was quite the year for you between releasing your debut album, Ashes, to racking up over 150 million plays on YouTube on your remix of “Don’t Let Me Down.” What have been some of the defining moments of last year?
There have been so many. I did my first headlining tour this year so that was definitely a highlight. Being able to play my music out to people that it genuinely connects with is a dream come true. I also had the opportunity to play a bunch of amazing festivals and see a lot of places I’ve never been before. Closing out the year at Snowglobe was the perfect way to wrap up an incredible year. Really happy with my fan base and just can’t wait to keep the momentum up.

You launched your own label, Kasaya Recordings, to release Ashes in tandem with Seeking Blue. What prompted you to start your own label and what are the 2017 plans for it?
I decided to launch Kasaya because I really wanted to keep releasing my music for free, and I wanted a legitimate place release my music where I still had a lot control over what happened with it. I decided to co-release it with Seeking Blue because they’ve always been such a big support of my music and are the nicest people ever. They are all about the music and I could tell that they really loved it and would do everything they could for it. It was really the best situation I could have asked for. In 2017, I’m hoping to try and expand the label, but really the main plan is to host my own music there. Running a label takes a lot of work so hopefully once the framework is well situated I can start helping promote other artists too.

On the live side, your show consists of a hybrid set up of drum pads, keyboards, and CDJs. Why did you decide to go that route instead of just DJing and how has the reception been?
I wanted to incorporate some elements other than DJing because honestly it’s just more fun for me that way. I really like trying to incorporate as many live elements in to dance music that I can. I’ve been trying to bring singers to as many shows as I can. My good friend Said the Sky has also been coming with me to some shows and playing live piano. It always makes it a little more exciting to have that element of a real live performance where things can go wrong. Everything has gone really well though.

Finally, what can fans expect in 2017 both on the music front and touring front?
In 2017, I’m aiming to get another album out into the world. My new single, “Fractures,” is coming out this February. We’ve got tons of festivals coming up and hopefully we’ll get another tour going this year. So far I’ve announced Bonnaroo, Middlelands, Electric Forest, Crush SF, Phoenix Lights, and Seasons Festival. Tons more to be announced though :)

Illenium will be performing at this weekend’s Life In Color 10th Anniversary in Miami. Tickets are available here.

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