It’s a whole new chapter for producer/DJ MUST DIE! Fresh off performances at Lost Lands and Nocturnal Wonderland, the bass music stalwart is taking fans on a journey through UK rave, bass, techno, hardstyle and more on his Feral Fantasy tour. The producer, real name Lee Bates, is gearing up to release an album, and based on what he told us, his fans will be pleasantly surprised at the direction his music is heading.
We got to have a brief chat with Lee during some touring downtime and talked about how he first started making music, his heavy touring schedule, how he’s grown as an artist, his love for different genres and styles, and bass music having a moment.
Hey Lee! Thanks for chatting with us. First off, give us a little introduction to yourself, how you originally got into music and what’s led to where you are today?
“I got into music by being a very alone child. I had a computer and I was left alone, one of my friends had Frooty Loops before it was FL Studio. And we used to make joke music, I was like 11, maybe 10. Yeah, and, so I just got into making music through that. Well, it started before that with Sony Acid Pro. Basically I’ve always done it ever since I can remember.”
So, you’ve always been into DAW and just fucking around on the computer, right?
“Yeah, For a while, it would be the free programs where I was recording instruments, and, then once I found Acid Pro, I was like, oh, I can make electronic music, I’ve just been doing that ever since. I think in high school I did a few records under different projects, just extra-curricular stuff. But, to me, it was the main thing I was doing, school was kind of secondary to me. To me, I’ve been a professional musician since high school. I had a following in stuff, so, to me, that was what I was doing. Once that started happening in early high school, it was just like, this is what I do. So, I think I kind of just made those decisions myself, and then eventually started getting paid for it.”
You’ve been on the Feral Fantasy tour. I just saw your b2b with Tisoki at Nocturnal, exceptional. Tell us what made you decide to embark upon your own tour, what goes into planning your own tour and how is it different from playing festivals?
“He’s one of my really good friends, we’ve never b2b’d before. I was just talking to Willy Joy about this. A lot of the pre-conception is that we plan out these big tours, which is true, the agents do this. But, to me, I’m always on tour, like, it’s rare to see me have gaps in my tour schedule. So, to me, it helps me remember the era, where was I during when? What part of my life was this? To me, there’s no difference, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, the most modern thing and then those labels of what tour it is help me remember when to stop and start something new. It’s kind of like a bracketed framework of how my year is going. So, with the Feral Fantasy tour it’s in preparation and support of an album. And, that’s this era to me, but I’m judging it by album rather than by tour. So people will be like you’re on the Feral Fantasy tour, and I’m like ‘Am I? Great, that sounds great, we’re going to do that.’”
Tell me about the new music you’ve been working on and the upcoming album? I really enjoyed ‘U Should Know.’ The synths took me back and then the hardstyle part is just so energetic!
“The album is different from the last ones, sort of. So, the last album was a lot of me grabbing at things and being like, ‘I’m going to do it’ and people being like ‘don’t do it’ and ‘I’m going to do it.’ This album is me doing it. So, the first time was like what if Must Die! Did this? Now it’s like, Must Die! Did this. So, it’s a lot more concrete in its genres, it’s a lot more concrete in its purpose, which is dance music. The last album was a lot more freeform, we were in quarantine, there was a lot of exploration.
This was a lot of me being like, ‘Hey, it’s great to be back on tour. This is what I love about dance music. These are all the things I love about dance music. So, it’s a celebration of being back on the road, I think. And, as far as styles go, it’s not even half dubstep. It’s like, mostly just me doing the things that I love. All the things that people have been seeing me play live. I’ve been playing these songs for the majority of the tour. They keep getting built upon, but each section of my set is tailored around one of these songs. So, even if you didn’t know it, people have probably heard some of it by now.”
How have you evolved your sound over the years and how do you stand out in the bass music world? How do you make a name for yourself in such a crowded field?
“The sound has evolved due to just, I’m not a very stationary person, I’m a very nomadic person. Whether that’s in my life or musically, I tend to drift through things, drift around and float around, because that’s what keeps me engaged with life in general. So, with music, it’s the same, because music is my life, I like to keep it varied. And that’s just a part of me, always has been, I’ve never really been a purist about anything. So, finding new ways to flip between things is actually what I enjoy doing the most about my job. Which is why sometimes in the past, I’ve been so upset to be pigeonholed. Because, my whole identity as a person, when I’m alone looking in the mirror, is that I love lots and lots of things. And I love combining them and switching between them and I love living that kind of life.
So, that’s how things have changed over time, but, how to tell it’s me? I think that I have a bit of a spine about things, I do not buckle. I’ve never been one to buckle under pressure. Let’s say if the general tone of the scene, heavy dubstep, let’s say someone who’s good like Marauda or Svdden Death, live really heavy dubstep. That’s king, like at Lost Lands, that’s what people are going to see. I’m really prone to being like, cool, no. That’s really cool, I love that music, good on them, Svdden Death is one of my favorite artists ever, but, that’s not what I make, and that’s not what I want to make right now. Right now I’m listening to a bunch of 150 BPM techno tunes, that’s what I want to make. So, then I’ll do that, and I think people will push back and you can kind of tell it’s me when it’s kind of going against the grain, but I like to be a little subversive.”
What’s your take on the state of the industry? Does it feel like everything is back to normal? Where do you think the music is headed, both in bass/dubstep and dance in general?
“I think musically, this is such an exciting time. In dubstep in particular, there’s such a massive amount of upfront talent. It makes me really happy, for the first time ever, it makes me really happy to see people like Svdden Death, Subtronics, Eptic, people who really fucking care actually succeeding, it hasn’t really happened yet until now. So that’s really nice. We had the original run of the massive dubstep superstars like Skrillex and Nero, they cared obviously. But, post-that, it was kind of bleak. We had a lot of propped up acts that were kind of just manufactured.
And, then it’s really cool to see the kids I’ve watched come up win! So, I’m super stoked on that, and Covid helped a ton, because these people got to go back and work on it, work on it, work on it and they did, and it’s obviously showing. I’m really happy to be friends with those people and be a part of that. But…we’ve got work to do, still. During Covid, we lost a lot of independence, there were a lot of independent venues closing, a lot of people lost a lot of money and had to take these big deals which ended up making them essentially complete corporate shills.
So, it would be nice to see people stand up for your local scene. Like, go to your local shows, maybe actually give them money. Go see your local DJs because they’re good. That’s my thoughts on the scene, other than that, things are good. Musically, things are cool, there’s still a bunch of bullshit, there’s always going to be a bunch of bullshit. Half the acts that we know of when we think of dubstep fucking suck. And, it’s true, I’m not trying to be a dick, but half of the popular people are just like, literally bad at making music. But, half of them are really good! So, it’s better than it used to be, but it’s not as good as it could be. So, we’re on the right path.”
What else can fans expect from you for the rest of the year and as we head into 2023?
“I think, I’m going to put out this record, put out a few things that I’ve worked on on the side as well, some remixes and stuff. And, I think I’m just going to fuck off to Hawaii for a couple of weeks and just let everyone else handle it. I’ve had enough, I’ve been on the road all year long and I’ve been so social. And, for me that’s really hard, I’m definitely a sit inside with a book kind of person. That’s my social life, if people want to expect stuff from me, expect radio silence. Nah, I’m kidding, I’m going to be touring, I just announced a bunch of dates with Subtronics. I’ve got a lot going, the Feral Fantasy tour is still going on forever, but, I’ll be around, you’ll catch me at an airport or something.”
Thanks, Lee! Any words or advice for the fans?
“Yeah, man, I stand with Ukraine, baby! Women’s rights.”
Check out the latest from Must Die!, “KEEP U SAFE” out now on MUST DIE! MUSIC. As Lee discussed in the interview, the Feral Fantasy tour continues, get tickets here for the following dates.
October 14 – Saskatoon, SK – Coors Events Centre
October 15 – Edmonton, AB – Union Hall
October 21 – Pelham, TN – The Caverns
October 22 – Pelham, TN – The Caverns
November 3 – Fort Collins, CO – Aggie Theatre
November 4 – Seattle, WA – Neumos
November 19 – Honolulu, HI – HB Social Club
December 1 – San Francisco, CA – DNA Lounge
December 2 – Denver, CO – Cervantes Ballroom