Today we welcome Thomas Barnett and Ecilo to the mag, these guys are behind the Visillusion label out of Detroit which has been causing a stir in the past year with a string of hot records – we thought it was high time we found out what makes them tick.
How did you to come to start working together, with oceans and literally half the earth between you? what’s the story?
TB: Reza aka Ecilo (below) began sending me demos a year or so ago after we nurtured a friendship online, he was quite clever at first, not really mentioning that he was an artist himself so much as him just curious being about the scene here in Detroit. Then he asked me if I wanted to listen to something he made & I said “of course” and it was actually pretty good! Not quite ready for release, but damned close. So our attention & convos quickly switched from chit-chat to production techniques & tips on making his really awesome demos into BANGERS! Not long after we noticed we had a nice formula & chemistry we decided to go ahead and launch the digital label. One of my long time DJ partners, Victor Gallegos, joined the team & I had a nice record on Chez Damier’s label (Balance), along with another vinyl release of “Nude Photo” a few weeks later, so the timing was right last Summer to kick things off digitally when we did in August.
Ecilo: Yes I sent a lot of stuff to Thomas and he was always giving me feedback and helping me with the sound, up until last august. He shared his vision for Visillusion with me and I have learn a lot from him, trying to suck all production techniques to get that authentic Detroit sound from him.
Tell me a little about your history, I know Thomas has been around since the early days of the scene but for those who might not know?
TB: I won’t go into it that much so we can learn more about Ecilo, but my history began in Detroit with my first vinyl coming out when I was 19 years old on Transmat in Early 1987. I later introduced my first alter ego “Subterfuge”, then I started the label “Visillusion” in 1995 with the first vinyl releases coming in 1996.
Ecilo: I was born and raised in Jakarta, started djing in 2008. I was more House back then – my selection was more Chicago House and New York sound until a friend of mine introduced me to Detroit. Steven played one record from Detroit and it totally change my life. My first release is under a name Reza Ecilo but it didn’t do really well because at the time I was still trying to figure out what kind of sound that I wanted to make. Shortly after I starting working under Ecilo, and my first release under this name was with Germany label Plastic City in 2017.
What is your core sound, has that changed over the years? if so what influences and changes have you gone through?
TB: I like to think our core sound is a science fiction & funk blend of spacey, disco, with industrial strength acid & electro topping off our Techno sandwiches. I can’t say the sound has changed much because some of our most recent releases have been tracks from my vault that I produced as far back as 1999 & 2000.
Who are your peers, who inspires you?
TB: I’ll let Ecilo give this one a spin…
Ecilo: I was always inspired by lots of people – artists and producers from all over. My main Influence is Parliament Funkadelic, Quincy Jones, RZA, Andre 3000,Thomas Barnett, Mike Banks, Robert Hood, DJ Sneak but the list is long.
There have been some re-releases of classic tracks a lot of people thought were by Derrick May..what’s the story there?
TB: That bird needs to keep his name in the press so he can keep getting gigs since he doesn’t know how to make tracks any more, or whatever his current excuse is for re-issuing so many classics. He takes the other writer’s names off of these re-issues. I’m guessing is because he doesn’t think anyone will notice, just like back in the day. A crook is going to crook. That’s the story with that. I am still curious why “KAOS Juice Bar Mix” to this day never mentioned the actual composer, Blake Baxter…
With what’s happened between you and him, it must give you a different view on the whole Detroit scene and the explosion of the sound worldwide. How have you been able to keep your positive attitude or has it had an impact over the years?
TB: Drugs & alcohol. Ha! And when that gets old, training with the body bag… Ask anyone that knows me, I’m a pretty positive guy & I’m the one that usually brings up people when they are down. But I can’t say that getting hurt like this after trusting your business partner ever feels good.
What motivated you to launch Visillusion and bring something fresh, after all that has gone on?
TB: The brass ring, Shangri-La, fantastical things like that… I have never stopped making music, even if a few years would transpire with me not having a release I would always continue to write & produce. To the point where I have dozens upon dozens of tracks in the vault right now, and I’ve been feeling very inspired the past half year or so, so my output has just ramped up big time as well, just adding to the vault. So the primary motivation for me is just to share this music with the world by any means necessary.
How are your local scenes, Detroit and Jakarta what’s happening these days?
TB: Detroit has been in a serious re-building stage with a lot of business coming into the city once again after half a century of decay, the dance music, house/techno scene has always been there tho. And we have a festival at the end of every May that is really quite nice when you also consider all the amazing after-parties going on as well.
Ecilo: Jakarta as a scene is growing fast right now! I hope it keeps on growing too. We have a lot of small places open right now, running small nights and event and it helps the scene.
It’s good to hear the city is on the rise again, what do you think of urban regeneration (gentrification) and the effect is has on pushing out local music scenes? There have been some issues all over the world with big clubs being closed? Ecilo, does this kind of thing happen on your side of the globe.?
TB: The thing is that we have a small enough scene that adapts pretty well so as one club closes due to gentrification, for example like the The Works in Detroit, that leaves an opening for another underground spot to fill in.
Ecilo : It happens also in my country, we don’t have a lot of big clubs – but I believe in the future and that things are gonna be growing more, I am always positive about that.
What are your views on the state of the music scene worldwide?
TB: I enjoy watching the trends come & go, ebb & flow, and I really have been a by-stander for so long that I just observe & also very often I ignore it. I don’t want to let other influences seep into my creative process whenever I can avoid it. And I haven’t been out of the country that much this past decade to really have a hand’s on reply, but as soon as I am touring more places again I will have to get back to you guys on this one. =)
Ecilo: I believe our music worldwide is always growing stronger, but I also see a lot of DJ’s / producers who spend most of their time on a strong social media presence rather than working on their skill in the studio, really funny!
What kind of producer are you, What kinda kit are you packing in the studio?
TB: My studio is a top secret & has been after the several robberies I have endured in my early career while living in Detroit. So the current Batcave location & gear will, as of now, remain in a ‘for your eyes only’ situation. But I work fast & I also work very slow, some tracks come out in 15-20 minutes like “INDIGENOUS” did, and “CHERRY BOMB” did, and others will never be finished, lol, as in I have tracks that I have worked on for literally years looking for that perfect funk.
Ecilo: I don’t have expensive studio, my tools right now comprise mostly my computer, a good set of monitors and one secret synth.
Ahh come on Ecilo? What’s the secret synth? what’s next on your list of things to buy?
Ecilo : Ok I’ll tell u now hahahaa, my secret synth is an OBXa, I love the fat sound of the synth. Next on my list I think I am gonna buy another Drum Machine because I like to have a Hybrid Live Set with my partner Jones coming soon. Jones just released Visillusion 005 EP with me, and I will do more stuff with him this year. I really enjoying working with him, he is a good collaborator with a great characteristic sound.
Thomas, do you find the tracks which come together quickly are better? or can the ones which have a hard birth still be something you love in the end?
TB: I like this question because it is a philosophical one & I’ll explain why. I do think the quickly composed ones are better because that usually means that all the elements just cosmically fell into place. I like to trick myself into believing that a project that is going on the 3 year mark might feel good just to finish & that all that time helped the initial groove… But that is just what we call “jacking off” or masturbating with the music.
What are your go to tools to get your unique sound going?
TB: It really can be different every time. I have moved a lot, & I have done so much pre-production work on just my laptop sometimes that when I get to the actual gear I already know most of how I plan for the track to sound like, and I just go do it. I can knock out some of my work pretty fast once I do actually begin, it is getting me started that sometimes holds me back. I like to have the song finished in my mind before I even record the first kick drum or melody.
Ecilo, how do you tend to work on new ideas? do you have a good idea of what its going to turn out like? or are you more experimental?
Ecilo : I always push myself everyday so I’m not typical producer based on mood, so either I try to find idea, or the idea comes from everywhere, or if I m stuck i m gonna learn more production technique everyday. Because I wanna be one of the greatest so I should push myself more.
What’s the future for the label? staying digital or pressing some vinyl?
TB: Visillusion will always offer vinyl releases and we intend to bring many of these digital releases to the vinyl world with slightly different mixes in the near future…But until then we have so much music ready to go that we aren’t really waiting for anything & following our detailed plans of global domination by releasing digital releases on sort of a schedule.
With your cross continental collaboration – what are the difficulties or working in different time zones, how do you guys make it work with Visillusion?
TB: Great question. This is basically how it works, we both are 12 hours apart, so when Ecilo wakes up I am going to sleep. He works the update for his music and etc… until I wake up, then we meet online or via long phone calls on WhatsApp & he updates me with what all went on while I was sleeping, then when he goes to sleep for the night I am up & at it, so we really make a great 24 hour around the clock team. And in today’s busy world, that is very helpful to keep us on top of our game.
Ecilo : Most of the problem is time, we have 12 hours difference between us. But it is not big problem. Actually I am lucky have Thomas Barnett as a mentor not everyone can have that real legend as a mentor. I’m talking real legend here not a fake one.
What’s next for you guys as DJs any big gigs on the schedule?
TB: The biggest gigs on the schedule at the moment, before the Summer schedule kicks in, will be showcasing the Visillusion talent at a couple Movement Festival after-parties in Detroit, then once we get the logistics worked out, Ecilo & I will be hitting the road to throw down our sounds to the global underground.
Ecilo : Yeah right now we are focusing on a schedule for a Visillusion tour of Europe. Beside that right now I am the Music Director at Kilo Lounge Jakarta also playing a residency there. If anyone is in Jakarta people can find me at Kilo Lounge Jakarta every weekend I am not away on tour.
What’s next for the label? any exciting records in the works?
TB: We just dropped the “DETROIT v JAKARTA EP” (Visillusion VSD-005), In May we have the “FORBIDDEN REVOLUTION EP” (VSD-006), and after that in June the “PIMPIN EP” (VSD-007).
Ecilo : Since the last time our EP got played by legendary DJs like Mark Farina, Ben Sims, and Dave Clarke, right now I am more focus on our upcoming EP – we have a lot of great stuff coming soon.