It’s become increasingly difficult to pinpoint the scene that Colorado-based producer Gila belongs to. Once a talented jazz drummer, his destructive beat experiments mutate the frameworks of Southern rap, electronica, techno and beyond.
Originally half of alternative rap duo Gorgeous Children alongside MC Face Vega, his solo breakout has seen him picked up by labels like LuckyMe, XL Recordings and Benji B’s Deviation. With each of his projects comes a new, and often punishing, take on outsider club music, as Gila’s masterful exploration of weight and space in sound can be realised by both heavyset and minimalist structures.
His new release, Trench Tones, marks a debut for London’s Lex Records, and sees Gila again demonstrate the sonic range of his palette through four twisted electronic ventures. Acting as a precursor to his full debut album due later this year, we caught up with Gila to discuss his production and the ongoing ideas behind his sound.
You’ve found home on a number of heavyweight labels like Lucky Me, XL, and Deviation, what brought you to Lex Records for Trench Tones?
Lex approached me in the fall of 2018, and were curious to hear what I had been working on. At the time, I wasn’t necessarily looking to work with a label, as I had enjoyed a successful release on my own imprint Hunnaban Inc. earlier that year. That said, once I began working with the great people at Lex, it became clear they were genuinely invested in my music, and had a vision for the future that included an LP physical release. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up and one I’m very thankful for.
Though we’ve come to expect heavy struck beats, it’s often hard to label your style. Sometimes tracks feel dreamy, sometimes they feel super dark, would you say your music connects to a particular movement, scene or era?
I’m certainly indebted to the genius work of the many artists who have come before me, but my work is more connected to whatever my mental state is at the moment of creation, rather than an allegiance to any movement or scene. Living in Denver, I’m insulated from a lot of the transient tropes or hype surrounding many of the scenes here in the States, or abroad. I think that ultimately this helps me make music that is more honest to my own ears and sensibilities.
The record’s title is Trench Tones. I read in another interview that ‘Trench’ is how you try to describe your sound, are you still trying to figure out what that means?
Yes, it’s an ongoing journey of self-discovery through the trenches. The whole trench-as-genre idea came about as a tongue-in-cheek response to music being errantly labeled as ‘Trap’. My brother GENG (of PTP) and I were running around calling shit ‘Tarp’ for some time, but Trench felt like a more apt label for the music I’ve been making for the better part of a decade.
A track like ‘Tons’ could cross over to both the techno and hip-hop worlds, which right now I don’t think we’re seeing too often. Have you always had an open ear to electronic music and different genres?
Absolutely, I started out making hip-hop beats and so that will always be an essential part of my music’s DNA, whether it’s obvious or not. As a DJ, I enjoy playing a wide variety of music, and some of my favourite music has always been techno, or techno-adjacent, so I’ve been experimenting with writing songs that blend multiple influences in one. I feel like this serves to contextualise what inspires me, as well as giving others a functional DJ tool that could allow them to go in a variety of directions in their sets.
Are there any influences disconnected to your sound, or even outside of music, that have helped shape you as an artist?
I wouldn’t say so. I definitely enjoy things like…. plants, and food, and people, but I’m not smart enough to convert my passion for them into music in any meaningful or literal way. I’ve never been a conceptual artist really, and I actually find that the best music I make is disconnected from intent or influence. I would say what has shaped me most as an artist are the fleeting times I’ve managed to remove myself from my head and work as a vessel for new ideas to pass through naturally.
You struck out on your own in 2014 following your work as Gorgeous Children, would you ever collaborate with a vocalist or another artist on a extended project again?
Absolutely. Face and I just recorded a bunch of new Gorgeous Children tracks, and we’ll release it all this summer. I’ve also got many many tracks in the bag with my brother Jordy, and you’ll see me all over the next few Haleek Maul releases as well. Collaborating with rappers/vocalists is one of my favourite things to do so I’m excited for what awaits!
The closing track of the EP, ‘Shoulder’, is a beautiful and lifting soundscape. Could you see yourself ever doing a record of beatless episodes/skits?
I have a ton of songs in a similar vein. It’s always a freeing exercise to throw out the grid entirely and focus on the natural rhythms that appear within textures and field recordings. A lot of the time I lack the focus or resolve to see a song through to completion, but that’s rare when I make more meandering, beatless songs. What was the question again? Oh, yes, I can and will make some ambient-leaning albums in the near future!
Is Trench Tones a clue to the direction your going in for your full debut album later this year?
Definitely, on the EP I wanted to showcase a handful of different ideas in a (hopefully) cohesive way in order to lay the groundwork for the LP, which will expand on all the concepts and introduce many new ones along the way. My goal always is to stay True To The Trench (TTTT) in everything I do, and I think this next record will be a testament to that.
Trench Tones is out now on Lex Records.
Buy it here.
Featured Image: Steven John