The electronic music DJ who is beating a path to the top
INTERVIEW: ILAN BLUESTONE
Back to the wall attitude: Ilan Bluestone’s talent has taken him from Borehamwood to Bangalore
Friday nights tend to be a mixed bag for DJ and music producer Ilan Bluestone. One week he will be lighting the Shabbat candles with his extended family in Hertfordshire. The next will find him on stage at one of the biggest nightclubs in the world, playing his music to thousands of fans.
Bluestone is riding the wave of an electronic dance music revolution — one that last month took him from Borehamwood to Bangalore. With five number one hits to his name on the world’s largest online electronic music store, Beatport, and more than 10,000 Twitter followers, his star is on the rise.
But the 28-year-old says he still finds it “surreal” when people tell him they love his music. “I just got back from a huge tour across India where I was playing for crowds of 4,000. They were begging me to sign their faces and their clothes and telling me what an influence I had on their lives.
“I had the same thing in Ministry of Sound in London the other day. Two guys drove up from Devon wearing custom-made ‘Ilan Bluestone’ T-shirts. It was bizarre.”
Fame has been a revelation to the DJ, who still produces his music from his bedroom studio in his parents’ house. “While they’re sleeping, I’m banging trance music next door. It doesn’t disturb them — at least, they say it doesn’t.”
Born in Israel, he lived in Caesarea until he was 11. By the time his family moved back to England, he had acquired an Israeli-inspired taste for electro-beats.
“It’s massive over there,” he says. “I was pretty much raised on dance tracks.
“When I was nine, I remember picking up my cousin’s guitar and instinctively playing it. My mum noticed and got me some lessons and then bought me a keyboard synthesiser for my barmitzvah. I’ve been making my own music ever since.”
Bluestone describes himself as a one-man band, composing and producing all his tracks. He plays every instrument separately, then records and layers the track on his computer, skills he learned studying music technology at Leeds Metropolitan University “just in case the career didn’t work out”.
But his transition from music-maker to global performing artist came recently, doubtless a result of the explosion of electronic dance music (or EDM to aficionados) into the mainstream.
Acts like Daft Punk, David Guetta and Armin van Buuren (a friend and endorser of Bluestone’s work) have cemented EDM firmly on the musical map. And where once underground sounds reached large audiences via pirate radio, EDM has flourished thanks to social media.
“There is a huge online community called ‘Trance Family’ with bases all around the world,” he explains. “People go on Beatport everyday to buy and share music and are constantly tweeting each other. I even got a tweet a few months ago from a random [American] football player who plays in the NFL. He said I was a massive inspiration for him and he’d bring me out to Los Angeles to watch a game. I then got sent a football shirt with ‘Bluestone’ printed on the back.”
He began headlining electronic music festivals and club nights three years ago after his record label Anjunabeats arranged a gig for him in Kamchatka, Russia. “I was always more interested in making music than the DJ side of things,” he says. “But I started noticing that all the big producers did DJ sets and the crowds went absolutely wild.
“I had a number one in Russia, so went over there. My performance skills literally had to rise from nothing to major star in a day. Since then, I’ve been performing regularly at London clubs like Ministry of Sound and Pacha.
The surge of EDM into popular consciousness has been aided by some of the world’s biggest stars, including the likes of Rihanna and the Black Eyed Peas, who have lent their vocals to massive dance tracks. But while stellar performers are flanked by an ensemble of backing singers, musicians and dancers, the DJ goes it alone, facing huge audiences with just a pair of headphones and his sound equipment for company.
“The weirdest moment came after I did a gig in London last year,” Bluestone recalls. “A girl from Kenya asked me if I would sign her flag, which I did. Then another guy excitedly asked me to sign his and threw his flag on the table.
“I looked at it and realised it was a Palestinian flag. I grabbed him and said: ‘I’m signing this out of respect for you and your people, but for my people too, because I’m Israeli and I hope my music brings peace to the both of us.’”
As well as recording and performing in London, Bluestone is making final preparations for his North American tour, where he will do a set in every state, before heading to Australia later in the year. Oh, and he is “being flown out to Ibiza in the summer to perform a private gig at Ushuaia nightclub”. The occasion? A rather swish barmitzvah.