Future Leader #5 – Ian Dillon

Ian Dillon is an up and coming DJ/Producer from the UK. With releases on Media Blackout and Evoked Recordings, Ian is starting to make waves within the industry with his unique take on the progressive house genre. Here at This is Progressive, we pride ourselves on being at the cutting edge of the scene, nurturing artists we feel will be influential in years to come and Ian is no exception. Ian took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to speak to us…

Hi Ian, I so glad you can spare some time to chat to us. Would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?

Thank you for inviting me, I’m a 31 year old DJ/Producer hailing originally from Bolton but now residing in North Wales. To briefly summarise myself, I’m basically a music and technology enthusiast borderline geek, avid sports fan and passionate foodie!. I’m a happy go lucky type of person.

In your biography, you mention the Global Underground CDs as influential to you starting a career in music. What was it about them that captured your attention? 

Yeah, this came about through my best mate in school, I was into the whole Oasis and brit pop band culture and he passed me one of his headphones one morning while we where sat in morning registration and I literally got hooked, every registration we’d have 20 minutes of stealth listening to this CD, which was GU009 Sasha in San Francisco. It mesmerised me, then I got hold of a copy for myself and heard CD 2. I bought every limited edition boxed set with the extended box sleeve and editors notes. The sounds that stood out for me were Sasha, Digweeds’ darker approach, Nick Warren and Dave Seaman. The fact they would go to a city somewhere in the world and capture a snapshot of what they did and the stories that accompanied it were just the stuff of legend. Particularly the Space Ibiza sleeve notes and shenanigans.  I look back with fond memories definitely.

Do you remember your first gig? How did it go?

Oh first actual gig?! That was at University in Lancaster. By pure chance, a friend phoned me and said the uni nightclub had nothing going on that night and they’re looking if anyone who wanted to play. I jumped at the chance, it was a Sunday night, there was probably 45 people in and I played prog house and trance for about six hours! It went down really well, so much so, I was asked by the manager if I wanted a job as a resident DJ. That was a different ball game though, going from playing music I wanted to play, to doing Wednesdays and Fridays encompassing every musical genre known to man! But I feel I learned a great deal from that experience.

You have a few releases out now. How did you find the process of approaching labels? 

I’ve been fortunate to have labels get in touch with myself over recent months. But the process I find is to source the labels you know have a track record of releasing the specific genre you have produced. I tend to choose two or three and do research on what format the label want the demo sent, who is in charge of that area and then I send a personal email saying why I’d like to be potentially considered. It makes a difference knowing someone’s name and not just a generic here’s my new track with a private soundcloud link addressed to 90 other labels. I try to be a specific to a label. It’s all a learning curve for me and thats part of the process.

Can you tell us about your studio set up? Which DAW are you using and do you have any favourite toys?

Primarily I use Ableton live 9 for the bulk of my work, I like the work flow and speed with which I can get all the sounds together. I’ve also  just purchased Logic Pro X, as a many of my colleagues use it and more often than not I’ll receive a whole arrangement from Logic. So I’m gradually learning that at the moment. Favourite toys, I’m a massive fan of the uh-e products especially Zebra2 & Diva.

Zebra2 is just an awesome soft synth. Simple clean layout, but infinitely tweakable and surprisingly simple to create complex sounds and a really nice engine. Diva is a beast, but I have to be selective as it is CPU intensive.  NI’s Absynth is another fave especially for creating ethereal soundscapes and Arturia’s minimoog virtual synth, great for the lower frequency bass tones. I could go on all interview  here so I’ll stop at those three!

You’ve also got a few remixes out. How did you get approached for them and what work process have you adopted for writing remixes compared to originals? 

Social Media has been one of the key elements. Understandably, living on a hill in a geographically isolated area this was something I had no choice but to do. I’m grateful for Facebook and Twitter for this, as I’m literally able to converse with like minded artists from all over the world. Without these tools I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to even be considered. The process of putting together a remix for me, is quite simple, I like to get a feel for the track and more often than not try to keep a similar vibe, using as many of the remix parts to stay true to how the original was intended. Normally the percussion and bass I’ll write myself along with alternative pad and melodies. Often I’ll shift the arrangement as I like to create a gradual build with subtle changes.

Can you tell us about the radio show? Its called Concept isn’t it..

Yes Concept. This came about again by social media. Cardiff based internet radio station pure dance network’s owner messaged me enquiring if I would like a slot. I jumped at the chance to regularly play 2 hours of what I consider to be a progressive sound every other week. It’s been going six months now and is going really well. I’ve been extremely fortunate to get guests involved, which again was a chance conversation emerging from a desperate plea from myself online.

I was pretty busy with my day job and had left sorting the show till last minute. As a consequence I was struggling to fill the second hour, so I asked if anyone fancied doing a slot for the second part. That’s when to my sheer disbelief, one of my musical heroes, John Johnson replied. He prrovided a stunning mix and has been assisting me since then. He is the reason I’ve had the likes of Greyloop, Suffused, Luke Brancaccio, Jimmy V, Amber Long and Alex D Fer, Kel & Xiasou to name a few feature. Couldn’t have done any it without his help and guidance. I’m eternally grateful for that.

And talking of John Johnson, you’ve remixed one of his new tracks. That must have been the best and the most stressful experience all at once! What did you immediately think on receiving track stems from such an established artist? 

When I was asked it felt unreal that one of my idols would ask this. As you can imagine I was on cloud nine, then reality sets in, cue panic and doubt, what if I do a really poor job or they don’t like it?  Am I even good enough? All you can do is try your best, but yes I inevitably felt pressured. Ultimately though it really was a highlight and something I cherish.

You’ve sent us an amazing mix, full of sounds and energy and as someone who sees your posts over the last week or so, it was a pretty tough job for you. Can you tell us the story behind this mix? 

I spent the best part of a month getting tracks ready for this, waited patiently for tracks I wanted to be released and kindly received a few promos from a variety of producers. I wanted it to be representative of not only the music I play on my show which tends to be the deeper hypnotic sound, but also whats typical of when I’m out playing live. So I tried to condense it in a structured harmonic way how I’d play a four hour set. Thats why the second hour of the mix gets a little darker and I nudge the tempo up a fraction. This represents how I feel a progressive mix should be. I think I mixed it about 15/20 times, all of which I was sort of happy with or there were subtle nuances that I knew where there an I could pinpoint. And every day there seemed to be a stack of new releases that I then wanted to feature so yeah this mix was tough only in what tracks I had to leave out.

I understand you still have a full time job as well as the music. How do you find the time for both? 

I think with anything that’s a labour of love, you make time for it. My job does involve occasionally unsociable and depending on the season, long hours. But  producing and DJing are my passions and have been for 14 years. Recently, the music side of things has become busier, which is great, i’ll just have to stay up later to fit everything in!

Well, thats the end of the interview Ian. It’s been a joy to chat to you and we all wish you much success for the future. So I guess my final question should be whats next for Ian Dillon this year? 

Likewise, it’s been a pleasure and thank you for having me. Next up for me,  I have a few new projects in the pipeline both my own productions, collaborative work and remixes. Guest mixes for Hypnotica and Golden Wings music radio later this month. Confirmation of a number of guests for concept, I wont name names just yet as I’m still waiting on a couple but I have some big names onboard later this year that I’m really excited about and the other plan is playing out a bit more regularly.  And maybe just maybe, get a venue to accommodate Concept.


01// Ridgewalkers Feat El – Find (Simon Sheppard Remix) [CD-R]

02// Adnan Jakubovic – Life Is Too Short (Omar Fayyad Remix) [Perfect Session Records]

03// Dio S – Looking The Stars (Julian Rodriguez Remix) [Perfect Session Records]

04// Ri9or – Dissolve In Your Eyes (Cut Knob Remix) [Stellar Fountain Records]

05// Graham Lloris- Longing  (Yuriy From Russia Remix) [Abstract Space Records]

06// Yuriy From Russia – God of Agraba (Original Mix) [Clinique Recordings]

07// Dale Middleton – Audit & Purge (Original Mix) [Sexonwax Recordings]

08// Soulfinder feat. Amanda Dempsey – Out Of Time  (East Cafe Remix) [Pitch Music]

09// Tiga Vs Audion   – Let’s Go Dancing (Maya Jane Coles Dancing in the Dark Remix) [Turbo   Recordings]

10// Robert R.Hardy – Underground Connections (Sonsez Erman Night Mix) [Electronic Tree]

11// East Cafe – Outback (John Johnson’s Space Lab Mix) [CD-R]

12// Rich Curtis – Freeloader (Cid Inc. Remix) [Change Audio]

13// Andy Weed – Discovery (Original Mix) [Reelaux Digital]

14// Phi Phi & Airwave – Back On Track (Rise And Fall Remix) [Bonzai Progressive]

15// Blusoul – Falling (Praveen Archary Remix) [3rd Avenue]

16// Ivan Lu – Fog (Original Mix) [Inmost Records]

17// Miraculu M – Juggernaut (John Johnson Speaker Attack Mix) [CD-R]