The times I’ve heard ill-esha perform have all been amazing considering she is an overlooked artist. After our conversation, I gained more insight about her career as an artist, her passion for the arts, and views on equality. She was one of the many acts lighting the Incendia Stage on fire at Zen Awakening as she closed Saturday. Check out our Sunday afternoon sit down!!
Festival Squad: Some of your musical influences are Flume, Cashmere Cat, The Weeknd, Timbaland, and The Neptunes. I’d say they’re all artists with killer beats and emotionally charged music. What aspects of their styles influence your music?
ill-esha: It’s definitely all about the groove and beats and that like real interplay with humanity and technology together. For me, that’s what inspires me like I’m a musician of instruments and a lifelong sort of contributor to that side of music and technology has always been fascinating to me as well. So I really like how all these producers still have like human loose pocket and energy. But with like all the coolest most future sounds in it. That’s what I love.
FS: Closing festivals and touring with artists like Bassnectar and Big Gigantic is a pretty big deal. Is there a musical ceiling for you? Like any goal where you’d be like, I can now leave music.
ill-esha: Definitely if I was to work with somebody like Bjork I could at least say I’ve kind of accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. You know like I’m so inspired just by working with amazing musicians and I like all I can ask for is to work with them.
FS: As a female artist in a majority male industry what are some specific hurdles you’ve had to climb? Any advice for your female enthusiasts?
ill-esha: Other women won’t even be interviewed about it and I will keep talking about it because it needs to be talked about until it doesn’t need to be talked about. It’s really just a case of us needing to stop categorizing people by anything, skin color, sexual orientation, gender. These are kind of archaic construct that we just don’t need to have anymore. And um you know I was… (in walks two human fans)
Fans 1&2: Just wanted to say hi. Yeah. Thank you for your set last night
ill-esha: Thank you.
Fan 2: Sorry about the creeper.
ill: Yeah that’s funny. I’m just in the middle of a question about that right now. So yeah…
Fan 1: Did anything ever happen to that guy?
ill: No. (FS: Wait what?) But yeah…
Fan 2: Did you ever find out his name by chance?
ill-esha: Oh yeah…
Fan 2: Oh awesome. I’m glad to know that now because I’m definitely gonna have something to say about that.
Fan 1: Because I’m friends with the people who throw the festival and stuff so…
ill-esha: Yeah, yeah. No it would be good to like… I am going to say something to the festival.
Fans 1&2: Yeah definitely, I hope you do. Because that was wrong of them to let an artist be you know…
ill-esha: You can maybe just like contribute a story so they know that I don’t want to be like oh I’m on this man witch hunt
Fans 1&2: No we got your back for sure. No not all, that was super inappropriate.
ill-esha: That’s what everybody thought.
FS: I was like watching from the dome so I was on the side the whole time so I didn’t know.
Fan 2: I was looking her right in the face the whole time and I could just tell she was trying to smile and keep the show going. She did a really good job.
ill-esha: Yeah the guy basically assaulted me during my set. (FS: What!?) Luckily it was really close to the end. But he just came on stage, and everybody because he was being that intimate, they just assumed that because some people recognized him they just allowed him to get on. And the sound guys we’re right out of my sight lines. So I couldn’t see anyone. And then they were like “If you had given me a look…” I was like I couldn’t see anyone to look at and even my friend was just like… I finally managed to work in an executioner move to what I was doing and then he started coming up and the entire Native Tribe that’s here…
Fan 1: Yeah I talked to my friends and I went and told them “Yeah something is not going on right back there.”
ill-esha: And then he came up and was like “You need to leave the stage. We don’t appreciate how you’re touching this woman like this is not appropriate.”
Fan 2: You’re awesome. I love you and I’ll be seeing you soon.
ill-esha: Thank you. That was hilarious timing. I was trying to decide whether I was gonna talk about that or not, but I guess I’m not trying to put the festival on blast because obviously it’s not their fault. Yeah, so being a woman! (We share laughs) Yeah I mean that is a major hurdle. Just there’s always gonna be that separation where guys see you as a woman first then kind of like compromise the perceptions of your ability based as such. So you know I’ve done entire live sets with keyboards, instruments, controllers and afterwards I get off stage and somebody says oh I didn’t recognize any of those tracks you played who made them. And it’s just like I’m standing there with a keyboard and a bunch of custom gear playing and singing them. And it’s the furthest thing from your mind that I could have made them because of my gender. That’s the biggest hurdle. I still like put out releases, I put out entire albums with no vocals on them just so nobody can assume I’m a singer. People still say so what did you do on this exactly? So that’s a big hurdle. And then there’s just the being asked if I need help setting up or am I lost every time I go here or you know like last night being touched during my performance in like an extremely extremely inappropriate way. This guy went on after my set was finished and I had already pushed him away. I was trying to speak with some fans who were trying to give me gifts and typical after set things and he was storming in acting like he was my boyfriend or manager going, “Sorry she doesn’t want to accept anything blah blah blah”. And I’m just going who are you? And he’s just like “Babe I’m just trying to protect you”. And I was just like babe I don’t even literally know who you are. The fans are even kind of getting upset saying, “I think she can speak for herself. I think she can make her own decisions about what she wants.”
FS: Not good vibes.
ill-esha: I mean it’s amazing to me that not only does this happen, but we are in the middle of this movement of women to speak up about these things that happen and in the thick of this some guy still thinks that the right thing to do is to climb on stage while I’m in the middle of singing and touch me. So yeah it’s pretty intense. And the timing, I was like well I guess I am going to talk about it. By no means do I hold the festival responsible for that, but I think we are in a really interesting time where women are finally speaking out. And even the most enlightened supportive men I know are just so amazed going. There’s got to be just people joining in on this hunt like this is just obviously some sort of trend and I’m saying no actually what it is it happens all the time. But finally people are being told it’s OK to speak up and so now the dominoes are falling. So I’m interested to see what happens over the next couple of years now that you know in Hollywood and in music in all these fields like guys finally…
FS: It’s a lot of stuff goin down. It’s not good.
ill-esha: It’s mind blowing. Yeah that’s not where I’m at. It’s 2017 and I still have to speak up about you know even things like getting on the mike just to say like hey this is an original. I kind of hate it when DJ’s do that all the time, but for me I feel like I actually need to say it because otherwise people just think I did it.
FS: Yeah I mean I guess especially in your line of music you know like a lot of people are playing other people’s tracks or whatever and I guess it’s like you want to have the recognition. It’s like I did make this.
ill-esha: Yeah and the roles that are carved out for women in our seen are like painters dancers and singers and nothing wrong with any of those things but it’s just traditional and so they just assume that I’m doing one of those things when I check in for a festival; they ask am I a painter or who are you dancing with. You know no one ever makes the assumption when I say I’m an artist I’m one of the headliners or the performer unless they already know who I am. So I know it’s kind of like, it’s hard. Like again I’m not trying to crack down on a dancer, but just to walk in and just immediately, oh ok that’s it, that’s a girl she must be dancing. It’s like no I mean and that’s part of the reason why there aren’t more women like those roles are not easy for them to fall into. There’s sort of oppression at every turn and most girls it’s not that they aren’t strong and they just decide hey I don’t want to be at this party that no one wants me at and that party is the music industry. My grandmother survived the Holocaust and she continued to live a very long life and almost had this sarcastic spite. I think it kept her going through the bad times. She’d make fun of everyone at the nursing home and she would make fun of all her friends. And I think that in a way I carry that torch from her and she is where I got my musical talent, but you know all these years of all these things happening I’m like you know what, not only am I not quitting, I’m going to remain here I’m going to learn more skills and I’m going to like infiltrate every corner where I’m not supposed to be. You must be is you know you shouldn’t be there.
FS: Where you’re not supposed to be is the key. I shouldn’t be here, well I’m gonna be here.
ill-esha: I’ll make your sample pack. I’ll ghost produce tracks for guys. I will not stop (laughing) until I’m in every corner where I wasn’t invited. Someone needs to do it!
FS: Are there any venues and/or festivals that you hope to play at sometime soon? Which one’s specifically?
ill-esha: It would be awesome to play at Coachella, Lightening in a Bottle and Shambhala again. Maybe Glastonbury. Other festivals in Europe and Australia and Tribal Gathering in Panama as well.
“I’m not really an observer. I’m very much a participant of the arts.” The multi-talented ill-esha dabbles in other arts as well. If she’s in your town or at your local festival she is definitely an act to see. Find out more about ill-esha from her socials below for more ill info!!
Stay up to date with ill-esha’s social media outlets!