I had an opportunity to interview Mr. Bill, a talented electronic music producer who recently released the third season of his innovative “The Art of Mr. Bill” tutorial video series, and is considered to be one of the foremost experts on Ableton Live production.
Each season in this series is split into ten videos, each an hour in length, that take watchers from the absolute beginnings of the making of a track to the final product, covering a variety of tricks and techniques along the way. This unique approach to teaching offers something most tutorials fail to capture: a glimpse into the complex reasoning and context behind every decision a producer makes.
Mr. Bill’s educational ventures have seen support from ill.gates and Tom Cosm, who are the two biggest names in Ableton Live education, as well as West Coast bass producer Vespers, and his music has been supported by artists like Plaid and Minnesota. He is extremely knowledgeable about music production and teaching others, and makes for a great interview on either topic. He also just relocated halfway around the world from Sydney to Denver, and this video series is his first release from the new studio he built.
Here’s the interview:
First of all, could you tell us, who’s actually the Person behind Mr. Bill and where are you from?
I’m originally from Sydney, Australia, but then I lived in Melbourne, Australia for a bit, but recently moved to Denver, Colorado… I’m essentially just a dude that likes to make technical, weird music 🙂
How long have you been making music and how did you got involved into producing in the first place?
I’ve been making music since I was about 5 or so, but that was just silly little things I’d play on a keyboard or something, I started taking it more seriously when I was about 13 or 14 and my mum bought me a guitar and I decided to learn it properly, after that I went and studied drums for a while, then I did a bachelor in audio engineering at SAE Sydney after being introduced to the idea of electronic music production by a friend of mine.
Any specific bands/artists who has inspired you?
Electronically, people like Squarepusher, Aphex Twin, Luke Vibert, Venetian Snares, etc. Bandwise, things like Tool, Veil Of Maya, All Shall Perish(any of the real technical metal bands really), Animals As Leaders etc… And of course… Metallica.
What kind is your studio setup (hardware/sofware)?
It’s mostly software, I do most things inside the box using Ableton Live, then rather than having nice hardware I preference toward nice peripherals, like gaming mice and keyboards and really nice monitoring 🙂
What’s your favorite hardware/software instrument/effect plugin(s)? And why?
Probably Zebra 2 if you weighed up every aspect of every plug-in and how much I use things. Well, I mean Ableton Live is obviously up there… But as for plug-ins, yeah I’d say Zebra 2, it’s just so versatile, and sounds so nice and I’ve gotten so much use out of it over the years.
You’re working with Ableton Live, right? Why’s that? What got you into Live?
That is correct. Well originally I was using Garage Band, and FL Studio and things like that, but not really getting good results, then my friend introduced me to Ableton Live and showed me the basics, and the rest is history really. I guess I just clicked with that program the most, then started naturally learning more and more about it over time.
What’s your opinion on FL Studio?
Personally, I can’t really use it, but if Circuit Bent, The Mollusk, Goosebumpz, Savant, Freddy Todd, etc can do what they do in FL Studio then, it must be at least “good enough”, right? Personally, from seeing Circuit Bent use it a lot I think it *looks* really pretty xD Also, the inbuilt granuliser in it sounds nuts.
How much time per day do you spent on producing music?
If you weighed it out over an entire year, maybe an hour a day, some days I don’t write at all, some days I write for 12 hours, it depends really how I’m feeling. I try to do at least a few *solid* sessions a week though, and by solid session, I mean like a good 3 or 4 hour session.
What’s your opinion on producers using synth presets to make music rather than designing their own sounds?
If that’s what you wanna’ do, and it makes you happy, then go for it I guess, but personally, I don’t really see the gain in it. I like the feeling of achievement from writing music, and the idea of exploring your own path and discovering and creating new things. I don’t think using
presets completely nullifys that experience, but it makes it weaker for me personally.
I’ve also heard you’re creating awesome tutorials as well. How did you got inspired to start sharing your knowledge to new/other producers?
Well, my friend introduced me to Tom Cosm’s tutorials, and it helped me a lot back in the day, so I figured (after doing an audio engineering degree), why not spread some of the knowledge I acquired whilst doing that with budding producers and help them the same way Tom helped me 🙂 Worst case scenario, I get a few nasty YouTube comments and some producers learn some stuff and start pumping better music into the scene. Win Win ^_^
What’s your opinion on “Loudness War”: do you prefer louder-than-others-but-crushed, or more dynamic stuff?
Again, it’s a preference thing obviously. I honestly like both, depending on the genre. However, if I ever do crush something to the point of it being stupidly loud and distorted, it’s almost never to compete with the volumes of other music, it’s purely because that style generally *needs* to sound that way, and I’ll do it for that reason. But generally, if I’m listening to music all day for pleasure, I’ll listen to something a bit more dynamic, like chill. Ryanosaurus’s new album has amazing dynamics, I enjoyed listening to the way he mixed/mastered that 🙂
How does the modern EDM sound (i.e music made by AVICII, Garrix, Guetta, Deadmau5, etc) in your opinion?
Well, I don’t like AVICII, Garrix or Guetta, but I love Deadmau5 & Skrillex, so I guess it’s a pick and choose sort’ve thing. I honestly feel like what Deadmau5 & Skrillex do is so vastly different from AVICII, Garrix & Guetta, I don’t really feel like they’re on the same page (for me anyway).
What’s your opinion: what’s the next popular sub-genre in electronic music that will go mainstream and reach the masses?
Well, it seems to be garage or this future thing at the moment. I feel like the rise of artists like Flume has taken the direction of EDM in a more chill direction, which I’m stoked about honestly!
If you could name only one tip for beginners in electronic music production, what would that be?
Watch tutorials on YouTube, it’ll save you a shitload of time!
Any future plans on your music or tutorials?
Write more albums. Make more tutorials 🙂 Nothing really to say here I guess. I’ll obviously always be doing this, I can’t really say for sure how it’ll sound, or what the tutorials will be, but yeah, I’m definitely going to be doing this for a while I think.
Where can we check out your music and tutorials?
For tutorials, go to www.mrbillstunes.com. For all my music, go to my Bandcamp page. However, if you just want to keep up to date with what I’m doing, follow me on Facebook (I seem to update that the most often) or Twitter if you just wanna hear my silly quick thoughts every now and then or Instagram if you wanna see the silly shit I’m doing on a daily basis or Snapchat if you wanna send me silly pictures/videos – mrbillstunes
Many thanks for the interview, Mr. Bill!