Illyus & Barrientos are the odd couple of Glaswegian dance music. Brought together by Glasgow Underground’s Kevin McKay, their disparate backgrounds (one was growing up in the local hip-hop scene while the other was still taking classical piano lessons) make them unlikely partners. Put them in a studio, though, and they have a knack for whipping up the kind of unashamedly big, floor-filling modern house tunes that have propelled them to somewhat dizzying levels of acclaim.
We had the chance to talk with Illyus & Barrientos and share some thoughts about their present.
Electronic Groove: Hi guys, thanks for the time to chat with us. You were both exposed to a variety of different music growing up, how has this shaped you into the producers you are today?
Illyus: Thanks to you. It shaped me 100%. Being involved in a hip-hop scene pushed me into a musical direction immediately. From the early days of making mix tapes then to buying an MPC, and finally moving into studio work. Sampling is obviously a massive part of the hip-hop culture and you can see that it has transformed into house music for years even before our time. It’s another massive feature that is vital to our musical direction.
Barrientos: Having such a broad mix definitely shaped what I’m doing today. I think having a varied taste in music allows you to become far more open minded for new styles of music. Production wise, it lets you channel a lot of influences into the music you make. House music has the ability to be simplistic or complex – and that mixture is something we’ve always tried to achieve in our music.
EG: When did you realize you could make a career out of music?
Illyus: There was never really a plan to have a career. I just decided I love music and followed a path I believed in. One thing is for sure though you need to give it 100%. Only your full attention will do.
Barrientos: I guess when you see major DJs from clubs and radio taking your music seriously. If it’s good enough for them to play and praise, and it should be something that we can take seriously.
EG: What is the process of you working together in the studio?
Illyus: We work various ways. Sometimes Barrientos will come up with class idea and give it to me and I’ll develop it in a way that moves it into a full arrangement but that also works the other way round. If I find a sample I really want to use, Barrientos takes it away and turns it into magic. What you might get from that is that we’re not always in the studio together but when we are, we always work at a ridiculous pace. It seems to be the best way for us so we don’t get sick of the project we work on.
Barrientos: Illyus has summed it up pretty nicely! One thing we never do is rest on what we’ve got. Once we get a record signed, we immediately think about what we’re going to write next… then we write it. Some ideas turn out to be shit, but other ideas turn out to be gems. Getting into a constant cycle of creativity is the best way to write good music.
“I think having a varied taste in music allows you to become far more open minded for new styles of music”
EG: Three words that describe your sound?
Illyus: Need more Cowbell.
Barrientos: Raw, house and jams.
EG: What’s your emergency record, the one you always carry with you and can always rely on?
Barrientos: David Pher – Normcore (Gruuv). We had a good laugh with David about this recently at our show in London where I told him it’s my go-to crowd-pleaser and it’s been on my USB’s since 2014!
EG: What sets Glasgow aside from other cities when it comes to electronic music?
Illyus: We have legends, young and untapped talent always doing amazing things. You look at institutions like Soma Records and what they have created in their journey, you have young guys like Denis Sulta and untapped guys like Tiptoes. The thing is there’s always someone making moves and the best about it is Glasgow will always support you. It’s probably because they can see no matter how hard you party they realize you’re also working non-stop. That’s the main ingredient I reckon – ‘work hard, play hard’.
Barrientos: Glasgow has this incredible energy. It’s difficult to put into words sometimes. Everybody here loves to do their own thing, and they absolutely fucking nail it as well. When you look at the amount of talented DJs, musicians and promoters coming out of our city, nobody can deny that there’s something special going on here.
EG: What are some of your favorite places in Glasgow to go when you are home and not working?
Illyus: I’m a big coffee fan and love a little place in Patrick called ‘Meadow Road’, as well as a new place in Shawlands called ‘Southside Roasters’. Just take the laptop with me, develop some ideas and have all sorts of coffee. There’s a great record shop too called ‘Palais de Danse’ to check out. The city really has it all.
Barrientos: I love going to the CCA for a few drinks, love the atmosphere and there’s always a great DJ playing some weird music. I also hit up the ‘Old Toll Bar’ the other night in Govan, and that is one ridiculously cool bar. After that, I love hitting up the Glasgow Film Theatre for a bit of cultural cinema!
“Once we get a record signed, we immediately think about what we’re going to write next”
EG: What do you have coming up for the rest of 2017?
Illyus: Various releases tied up with a number of labels. We also might put something out ourselves (watch this space). Also really looking forward to Hideout Festival and the Sail Beats week in Greece, those events just look incredible.
Barrientos: Definitely looking forward to gigging in some gorgeous, warm locations. I’m also super excited about our forthcoming releases on DFTD, Glasgow Underground, and Exploited Records. We’ve got other stuff in the pipeline, so keep an eye out!
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