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KJ Sawka & ill.Gates: The Interview that will change your Life


“If you don't design your life, somebody else will design it for you with everything BUT your best interests at heart.” – Dylan

First off, if you're like any impatient human in 2016 and you constantly think you have limited time to do any task ever, click the link below to hear the most soul moving part of the interview explaining how to follow a dream and not regret your life in the end.

It will take you 13 minutes, but I promise you, it will change your life, otherwise, read on.

I first started writing for about 4 years ago and had the opportunity to travel the United States to festivals and shows, photograph my favorite artists in the DJ booth, and interview the most interesting figures in the electronic music realm. Time after time, I left the venue with a wealth of photos, voice recordings of interviews, and a sense of gratefulness and thanks that I had the opportunity that many people would kill for.

Looking back, what I never remember leaving interviews in the past with (until my life changing interview with KJ Sawka & ill.Gates) was a new outlook on the meaning of life. Sure this seems dramatic after re-reading what I just wrote, but below, you'll understand why this sit down with two of the most incredibly intelligent and open minded human beings I've ever had the pleasure of speaking with, changed my life.

It all started when I received a media pass to Dreamscape Festival in Darlington, MD, and linked up with KJ Sawka (Kevin Sawka), one of most respected musicians in the industry and drummer for legendary acts Pendulum & Destroid. He had recently developed a collaboration with production prodigy, and international Music Production teacher & instructor ill.Gates (Dylan Lane). They both had a vision of a jaw dropping, live, electronic music act, and ended up creating a record that embodied exactly who they are. From there, their first single, ”Unsung Heroes' rose to the top of every Bass Music, glitch hop, and dubstep chart you can think of. Take a listen below and take a peek at their promotional mini-movie for their new live act.

Now, I could go on for about a half an hour and give you a run down about the creation of the Music Video, the single itself, and why they think it's important to promote your music through various media, but that's not the parts of the interview I want to share with you today. I doubt they'll mind anyway, considering their huge successes they received from their single and music video already. If you are interested in their collaboration and how and why the music video was created, you can listen here:

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Kevin and Dylan take pride in the fact that they are one of the few acts out there in the electronic music world that performs live acts. The intense feeling of pressure playing purely live music, helps them push the boundaries of an overly saturated scene.

Kevin and Dylan take pride in playing live music at electronic dance music events

Kevin and Dylan take pride in playing live music at electronic dance music events

Moving forward, if you are a young producer, artist, or musician, or you're simply a fan of our website and stumbled across this article, I absolutely implore you to take a few minutes out of your day to read the following or listen to the audio excerpts below. If you need someone to untie the knots in your brain on  how to navigate your own path to happiness,  continue reading.

Kevin opened the gateway to a new outlook on life when he began talking about his label Impossible Records and their collaborative idea on their single, ‘Unsung Heros'.

“The whole concept of this record label (Impossible Records) is that nothing is impossible if you want it bad enough. If you grind it, if you kill it production wise, you can do what you want to do. It's exactly what Dylan and I talk about, what artists should do. Work their asses off to be exactly who they want to be. NOT Diplo, NOT Skrillex, NOT Excision, you do yourself. You be you. You DO YOU, as best as you can and you grind it hard. That's it. That's life. That's the unsung hero.” – Kevin

Absolutely moved by this response, I decided to explore this road a bit further and asked what does it really take to become that ‘Unsung Hero'? What can people do in this business as a young up-and-coming artist to really give themselves a chance?

“It's important to be inspired and imitate people who are doing things that you want to do successfully but ultimately, you need to take those parts and recombine them into something genuinely new.” – Dylan

Rolling forward with this, Kevin segwayed his thoughts into the conversation explaining that you not only have to tackle the musical production side of things but also the business perspective:

“You not only have to grind out your music and your productions, but you need to also grind business wise. You can't do just one. If you make good music and your a good person creating good relationships, you have a future in this business.” -Kevin

At this time, Architekt, a prodigal drummer and electronic dance music artist from Philadelphia (also on the Dreamscape Lineup) showed up in the artist trailer to talk to us about his first experiences meeting Kevin and why it's important to be assertive in this industry. 

Coming from a background of renowned success in production, Dylan as aforementioned, is a teacher and professor of music production. He wanted to include that being unique is very important in your music. After you establish yourself with the knowledge and technical abilities to produce music, young producers need to focus their efforts on being original:

“Nobodies going to be interested in your knock off or your copy of another artist. But what they are going to be interested in is a combination of your influences that your filtering through your individual life experiences to create something new.” – Dylan

Dylan also commented that you're never going to get out of that production prison until you focus on your strengths and do what YOU want to do as a musician.

“You're not really going to transcend that bedroom producer persona until you can do something that nobody else is doing. Don't worry about filling in your weaknesses, worry about leveraging your strengths and individuality. Sound the most like yourself that you can.”  -Dylan

Following your dream can be a challenge. As an up-and-coming producer just starting out, you don't have much financial support since all of your efforts are being pushed towards your dream. Dylan explains that this is a wonderful thing rather than a curse.

Being self-made people in the music industry, Dylan and Kevin know what it's like to struggle through your early years as an artist. They wanted you to know that no matter what you're aspiring to be, your struggles are the most important times of your life. They shape who you are and what you stand for. Gaining guidance and a sense of humility through these dire straits is a very important step in the process:

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“If you're a self-made person, it's important to be poor and chase a dream at some point in your life. If you're always comfortable you'll never know what makes you different from everybody else, you'll never know what makes you, YOU.” – Dylan

Kevin added some very important personal advice that he received from one of his idols as he was an aspiring musician:

“Michael Shrieve, the drummer from Santana took me under his wing and he said, ‘KJ, if you stay in Seattle, you're going to rot in Seattle', and that hit hard with me.” – Kevin

After I prodded a bit more into what else went into that conversation with Michael Shrieve, Kevin explained in more detail why it was so important to get out of his current atmosphere:

“You're made up of the average of the five most important people around you. If you're spending the most time with people not doing what they want to do, you need to get out of that environment. If you don't, you're not going to do what YOU want to do.” – Kevin

With the conversation circling around your environment as a producer and aligning yourself with like minded individuals, Dylan explained that there will always be nay-sayers and people who will try to tell you that being a musician isn't realistic:

“You need to realize there are going to be people that will tell you your dreams are crazy and that it's not realistic to do what you want to do. They will tell you to play it safe. But when you think about it, you can't take that shit from people, because really, if you have a dream and you don't do it and you find yourself in some mortgage in the suburbs with some Job that you hate, you're going to look back and say, that was the wrong f**king decision.” – Dylan

Adding to this blunt, but extremely sage advice, he offered a different explanation of what this meant. This time around, his dialect offered a more vivid and hard hitting perspective on not following your dreams:

“If you look back one day and say, I didn't follow my dream, you're going to look back and have that wooden splinter in your mind that you can't get rid of. That splinter is saying, hey, I slayed this safe thing, maybe I could of slayed being a musician or an artist or an author or anything else. That's way more riskier to live with than working towards your dream.” – Dylan



Wrapping up the interview and the life altering guidance I received from the duo, they wanted everyone to know that there shouldn't be any boss of your own path, other than yourself.

You need to follow your dreams and not stick that wooden splinter in your mind for the rest of your life. Kevin really ended the interview with the perfect 4 word suggestion:

“Rule your own life.” – Kevin

Side Note: This world is filled with knowledge and accessing this knowledge gives us power. Dylan was nice enough to share some reading material that improved his life and pushed him to be his best self that he can. Check out some of his recommendations here and continue your path towards your dream.

Tim Ferriss – ‘The 4 Hour Work Week'

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Julia Cameron – ‘The Artists Way'

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – ‘Flow'

Malcolm Gladwell – ‘Outliers'

Steven Pressfield – ‘The War of Art'

Alan Watts – ‘The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are'

Kurt Vonnegut – ‘Breakfast of Champions'

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