I was fortunate enough to sit down with Ilan Bluestone to discuss his upcoming album Scars back in January. I spoke with him about how it has been being on tour for six years straight while making a collection of songs like this. We talked about Tiesto, acupuncture, and where it all started for him, as well as a lot of other details about his inspiration and creative process. The album is out now! Take a listen below.
What was the first electronic song you ever heard that made you want to produce?
It has to be…”Komodo” by Mauro Picatto or Paul Van Dyk’s “Fallen Angel” or Ferry Corsten.
Your brother is very into Picatto right?
Yes, my brother is a huge…I mean my brothers were the ones who got me into music. They’re older than me. We look nothing alike funny enough. I look adopted haha. They have always been my influences though. They’ve always been the DJs and I was always the one who said I won’t stand on the decks. I was always the one who did lights. We used to throw parties, like private events, and I would always do the lights and stuff. So for me I was on the production side since the age of nine years old. I’ve always been like really inspired by music, I picked up the guitar when I was about nine years old. I was at my cousins house and my parents were like who’s playing the guitar, they saw it was me, and got one for my birthday. So it went from there, started playing one chord on the guitar, and that was that one chord that I strummed everyday. From there I started listening to music and trying to play the songs, and that’s how I figured out I needed to learn how to produce. When I was thirteen I asked my parents to get me a keyboard, they got me a keyboard. It was a banged up Yamaha keyboard which actually had a lot of cool sounds on it. It was kind of like Bieber’s new track. It was that Casio keyboard.
I know you’re inspired a lot by 80s music in general so, have you whipped that out recently?
Well, funnily enough, I have one track on the album in particular that people will be like “what is this?” It’s so not connected in a sense but still flows into the album somehow. It’s me, but it’s not me. It’s what I love producing for fun. And I had to throw it in the album. Anjunabeats were like “you’re going to put this on your album?” And I was like “hell yea” and my manager was like “hell yea”. I’ve got Giuseppe singing on it, the one who sang on “Frozen Ground”. We were in the studio together…I was in Los Angeles for two years and said I want to make an 80s record with him on it because he’s so retro. He’s so musical and he’s got a very unique voice. We were actually driving around in Los Angeles and we were listening to Sirius XM 80s classics and we were like, “why don’t we do something like this?” He was like, “that’s right up my alley!” We sat down, wrote out some chords, and he was like “I got this bro” and with his suave he was in the studio and like that it just popped out!
I feel like the songs where you just get an idea, write it all out really quickly, are some of the best songs…
Oh yea, we did the song in one day.
Oh wow! That’s awesome! Well, I also know you’ve had some health scares recently, and I wanted to check in on you about those, see how you’re doing.
It’s been very very rough. I had to have a MRI scan yesterday. Still have the marks on my arm. It’s not anything too serious, but they’re not too sure. I have stomach ulcers, and they don’t really know how those came about. Could have been from touring or over stressing myself with the album. I’ve been touring for last six years straight, and I’ve had a couple of months off here and there but nothing like really major time off. I’ve been producing this album on the road, which is why it’s taken so long, but I’ve also been testing out the album on the road.
It’s great. But people are like, [in American accent] “hey man, you’re touring and stuff but you don’t have your album yet, what’s going on?” Haha. I’m testing it out on the road. I’m making the tracks, testing out if they work, Because you know it’s that first time you play a track and if you see people dancing to it…sometimes people are like, what is this song? And they start dancing to it. You know that’s an anthem test with a big V on it. So, health has been getting better though. I’ve had to spend thousands of dollars being in the US though. My insurance wasn’t really covering it all, so it’s been a real pain in the ass. But the main thing is I”m slowly getting better. I know it, I feel it. I haven’t been as bad as I was. It’s been a rough journey, but I’m on the mends. Getting better slowly.
What do you do to take a break when you do have a chance to relax? I noticed you play Battlefield?
I battlefield one. Just play GTA, Battlefield, but I try as much as possible…for me relaxing is making music. So it’s not like I”m forced to make music, I actually enjoy doing it.
That’s great man. I saw you also like to chill with your cat, what’s his name again?
I actually hit up Tiesto and said I named my cat after him. He retweeted it and his label retweeted it. My cat had like 600-700 likes in half an hour.
I have a cat too, named Peanut…
The thing is, we named the cat Tiesto because I’ve always wanted a cat and to name it Tise. So Tiesto is the actual name but the thing is, calling the cat like “Tiesto come here” it just doesn’t roll off the tongue that well. However, if you say Tise, it rolls off the tongue a bit better. Recently, my girlfriend has been calling him Poop.
We call our cat poopers. [both laugh]
But now…she’s German, so now I’ve turned it into Pooperling. It just rolls off the tongue. He answers to it too, more than Tiesto. His actual name is still Tiesto, and he’s a cool cat.
That’s a great name [laughs]. So besides music and hanging with your cat, I also saw you do acupuncture to ease the stress. How was that?
So good. It’s amazing. So I’ve never been into eastern medicine. But my mum was like, “I’ve got a friend, go see Ronny the Doctor, he’s awesome, he’ll stick some pins in your bum.” I was like, “listen, that sounds really wrong, I don’t believe in that. I’m all about taking a few medications and getting better.” So, I used to have really bad left leg pain, and I knew I needed to cure it. It’s because I used to sit at the computer like this [puts leg up under his right leg, almost cross-legged], like that. So I used to get really bad pains down my left leg. Then I went to get acupuncture, the guy told me to relax, he cracked me into place, it felt great, and then the next thing you know he was putting needles in me. And I hate needles. Anything to do with needles…I hate needles. He told me I wouldn’t feel anything and to just relax. After he started doing it, I waited and then I started feeling really zoned out, and really relaxed. He then said, “I’m going to stick one pin and it will trigger the pain in your leg.” And I was like, “I don’t want to feel the pain in my leg.” But he said I had to and he put the pin in my leg and my leg started flopping like a fish on the table. Ever since then, I have never had any pain in that leg. I go to him for a lot of things now. He’s amazing.
That’s good, trying new things.
I highly recommend it to you guys as well. Just go for the sake of it.
We’ll check it out!
So coming back to the album though, I know we talked about how you work on the album on the road and are able to test it out while your touring, but how do you know a track – in your experience – has the “it” factor.
Just from the reaction from the crowd.
So what was the reaction from the crowd from like “Frozen Ground”?
It was a very…that was one of my second ever vocal tracks properly. But for me writing vocals and playing a vocal track out is a real test. Do people connect, do people understand the vocals…you know Giuseppe has quite a raspy yet indie voice. And his accent is from Northern England. So it’s a test to see if the Americans, or the Canadians, or whoever can connect and understand the lyrics. Once I was watching the crowd and seeing how they react and they were looking at each other, kind of like “what’s going on?” But I knew this one was a hit. When I sit in the studio…normally my mum would walk in, when I used to live at home, and say [in mum voice] “I like this”. But now that I”m living just me and my girl, it’s kind of like I know when a track is a hit. I’ve gotten past the stage where my anthem test is I could feel it. I get goosebumps. If I get goosebumps, I feel like other people will. I can listen to other genres as well and see if it’s going to be a hit. I have kind of a formula for recognizing it. From an A&R perspective, I can tell when a track is a hit.
Is that why you want to start your own record label?
Oh yes. I’m going to start my own record label. I’ll probably call it Bluestone Records or something like that. I will also be hiring every sick producer around the world to join me.
Have you always had that dream to eventually make a record label?
It’s only been recently that I’ve aspired to do that. Look at my inbox on my phone. That’s no joke. People send me so many demos. I’ve got 23,000 inbox and about 80% of them are demos. I also get USBs given to me all the time. I just don’t have time. I want to have a team, maybe three people, who listen to all the demos come in. Once they’re happy with a few tracks, they’ll send them to me and I’ll give it the stamp. That’s what Above & Beyond do. It has to go through a ladder to get there. The more I’ve been involved in the labels, the more I’ve learned how they work. You have to really go through the ranks before the track gets somewhere. I’m happy to be where I am at the moment though. I’m still learning and get better at what I do. I’m excited, it’s a big future.
How does it feel to finally be releasing your debut album?
What was your favorite track to work on?
What was the track that gave you the most trouble?
Which track do you like playing out live the most?
Again hard to pick a favorite because each track means so much to me, but I believe, ‘Let Me Know’ and ‘Will We Remain’ work so well on the dance floor. Although, Noa hasn’t been tested out so can’t wait to see how that one goes down!
The album is finally out! You can listen to the album here.