Q: I can almost safely assume that you emotionally invest in your music. You dig in and find beats and notes that really hit you. I’m wondering if there’s anything that’s personally affected the making of Ragnarok or even personally affected you to create music in general.
Ill Clinton: I lost my grandfather last May and during the creation of this project I felt like I was attempting to make peace with that. The concept of Ragnarok is kind of how I have viewed the past 6 years or so of my life. I spent a handful of years after high school in a drug induced blur. It’s been 6 years this October since I decided to take back control of my life and pretty much create a better version of myself. I’m an artist naturally, no matter the medium. Music has always been a huge part of my life, so creating it just became second nature.
Q: What are you main musical influences and how do they transpire to your actual final product? What were the influences for Ragnarok?
IQ: I’ve figured out that nature is one of my biggest influences recently, there is a peace I find in being in it that I have been trying to portray for a while now. I cant really explain it. I also find hearing really dope beats other producers make to be inspiring. Every time I make a beat I have a vision of something going on in my head that that beat would be the perfect soundtrack too. I approached this project with an open mind, and told myself not to stick to the normal script.
[For a comprehensive explanation of Ragnarok scroll to the bottom of the article!]
Ill Clinton’s “I’m Ill”
Q: What’s your favorite album of all-time and why?
IQ: Redman’s Dare iz a Darkside, I discovered this album years after it came out, Redman takes you to another fuckin’ world here. The production, song concepts, all stand the test of time. Innovation at its finest. Anytime I’ve been asked this question, I don’t even hesitate.
Q: You’ve explained the Norse mythology references and ideas. Why Norse mythology? Does it relate to you more than other mythologies?
IQ: It was something I really knew nothing about previous to making this project. I learned some Greek mythology in high school, that also has some really interesting concepts. Scandinavia is like this part of the world that is a giant mystery to me. I see pictures of these places and read stories about Vikings, its just some cool shit. I’m also half German, so maybe it’s just ingrained in my DNA.
Q: What is the story behind Depths, your newest album? How was it created, concepts behind the works, etc.?
IQ: I’ve always been real intrigued by the ocean, the animals in it, the different species that live at different levels of the ocean. I remember watching a documentary exploring the sea floor and being blown away by the life that lives so far down there. It takes a different creature to survive in that element and that’s something I can relate to. Gotta adapt. I wanted to create an album that explored the depths of me, my mind. Really bring an honest, personal feeling to the table. I wanted each song to make the listener feel a certain way, be able to connect to their own emotions through my music, or maybe even understand what I was feeling….if that makes any sense. I wanted to create a solid body of music. There was a certain mood I found myself in when this was created, and it shows.
Q: What does Depths mean to you? When creating it, was there a singular idea that drove the album?
IQ: To me, it’s about exploring beyond the surface of anything. It’s a play on words in a way. When you decide to go deeper than that and actually try to explain yourself, what you are feeling through your music, rather than just making a beat. Music has always been about feeling to me. I have no classical training in music; I just always knew that it made me feel a certain way. Depths is about going beyond the surface. Leave it all out there, if they don’t like it…fuck it. That’s me…. a part of me at least.
Q: When approaching this album, were there any new ideas or approaches that were different from before?
IQ: I think over the past few instrumental projects I have worked on I’ve been sort of more focused on creating a single body of work, rather than a bunch of individual beats. I kind of gave up on the idea of making a “beat tape” in the classic sense, where the beats were seeking a home on a rappers album, or something. When I made SKYWALKEN, I felt like that really achieved the sound I was looking for, when I started working on Depths I knew that I wanted to take that and expand on it totally. I wanted this project to be the sum of all the experimentation I had been doing, really showcasing the way my sound has developed. I wanted it to sound different than anything else. I wanted it to have a feeling like nothing else.
Q: What are your main influences? Whether other artists or people in your life, what drives you?
IQ: I think my main influence is stress. The whole process of creating, whether musically or through other mediums, is very stress relieving to me. It’s almost like if I don’t create I’m gonna lose my mind. There are a lot of other producers out there that I listen to and I think that is a big influence. Any music I hear that is different or innovative is very influencing. I wanna push my own limits, also. Making music is definitely a meditative process for me, it really helps me. My girl, my day to day life, I don’t know, I want to create something timeless. I have dreams.
Q: Is there a dream collaboration or a dream venue to play at? What is your goal being an artist? Is there even a goal?
IQ: Dream collaboration, huh? If it’s with a MC I gotta say Redman. That dude has been my favorite MC for a long time. He’s a huge influence on me. If it’s a producer? I gotta say right now, above all the greats, Dr. Quandary. That dude has shown me that you can extract human emotion through sounds. He has def been a big influence on my sound. I don’t think much about a venue, I’m not built to be on stage. I’m a humble dude. My goal as an artist is just to be honest and put out what’s true to you. That way I don’t have to wake up regretting anything. I’ll let the people who hear my music decide. The goal will always be to create the greatest beat of all time.
Q: Any last words?
IQ: Yeah, Peace to John E Cab. Us Natives Records, go cop our music usnatives.bandcamp.com. Instrumentals from the soul. Nothing less. Thank you.
Interview given & written by Dylan Tracy
OurVinyl | Contributor
Ill Clinton’s in-depth explanation of Ragnarok
The idea behind Ragnarok is based on the old Norse Mythology of the term “Ragnarok”. Which is basically the destruction of the current world and the re-creation of a new one. With that in mind, I developed the tape into two parts, Side A being the destruction and Side B being the re-creation. I created each track, not only to stand out individually, but to tell a story. I wasn’t necessarily creating individual songs, but maybe one big song. I wanted Side A (Tracks 1-7) to have a darker, more destructive feel. I wanted the listener to understand the concept of the album and give it the feel of a movie soundtrack. I wanted the listener to be able to close their eyes and picture the world (any world) coming to an end. The fall of the times, so to say. I guess when people think “destruction” they probably think of buildings falling down, guns firing, etc. Thats fine, but picture more of an ancient world. Axes being swung, spells being cast, dragons being slayed – haha! – a fantasy world. Whatever works for you as the listener is fine, though. Its all in your head. I just want to give you an opportunity to put some music on and escape for a little while I also tried to give the project more of a vintage feel, based more in fantasy and experimenting than anything. A real lo-fi sound. So when you listen to the first side, listen to it from start to finish. [That goes for the project as a whole, also.]
The making of Side B (Tracks 8-14) was more of a challenge for me. I think i have mastered the “dark sound” so i gotta say Side A was more of a natural process. With Side B, I challenged myself to try and create a more “uplifting” sound. Being that the concept of Side B is “Re-creation”, I had no other choice. I was trying to create a new world, a more peaceful world. I want the listener to relax. I felt like Side B was a huge learning experience for me. It gave me a better understanding of sounds, samples, drums and new ways of incorporating them. It was a clean slate, a chance for me to experiment as a producer and open up my mind to new, different production techniques. Like with any project i work on, i really aim to set a mood. With this project I knew that beyond that, I also had to create a story Arc, which was challenging for me. I wanted it to play through as a complete project. Ultimately, take a half hour and play it all the way through. That will give you the best experience. When I let my girlfriend listen to the final product, without any knowledge of the concept she said “Wow, the 2nd side was way happier.” After hearing that, I felt comfortable calling it Ragnarok. All in all, creating this project was the most fun i have had to date with instrumental music. All the research i did on Norse Mythology was really an eye opening experience. It gave me a chance to learn about new things. Ive become fascinated with it. I hope to explore Scandinavia in person one day. The End….?