Think of the genre “EDM” and one name comes to mind no matter what: ILLENIUM.
He’s one of the biggest artists on the planet, performing at sold-out venues all across the globe and headlining huge festivals like EDC, îLESONIQ, and his own curated destination festival, Ember Shores.
But he’s also a longtime supporter of harm reduction, as in 2012, he suffered an overdose after a battle with addiction, even writing “Take You Down” about his fight. Now he’s partnering with End Overdose to provide resources and life-saving medication to ravers at all of his shows and events.
But he’s never one to stop moving and just released his electrifying fifth studio album, a self-titled LP called ILLENIUM full of rock and metal influences from the music that’s inspired him throughout his whole life.
EDM Maniac’s own Marissa Gobel—content creator and ILLENIUM superfan—sat down with the world-renowned artist at a round table event for the release of the album. They spoke about his many high-profile collaborations, his production process on the new LP, and how he prioritizes his mental health on tour:
EDM Maniac: Multiple songs from the new album were released as singles in the last year, but also have been teased at shows for quite some time. We first heard “From the Ashes” at Exchange LA in November 2021, “Shivering,” at Miami Ultra in March 2022, and “All That Really Matters” at The Gorge in May 2022. Did you already have an idea where the new album was headed when these songs were first created?
ILLENIUM: I pretty much went straight to the studio after my Trilogy Las Vegas show. Honestly, that was really impactful for me. I was super inspired in 2021 and I was really excited about this sound.
So I’d say from August 2021 all the way until November 2022 I finished everything. That’s when I needed it done to for the vinyl to actually come out on the date that the album comes out, which we’ve never done before. I just really wanted that because I didn’t do any vinyl for Fallen Embers so I wanted to make this readily available.
That’s kind of always how I work. I finish something and then I’ll get really excited about it or people are talking about it and I’ll wanna make something different. I’m like, “Oh, I wanna mess with this.”
I like doing albums because I can do way more variety, but it’s also challenging because I want to play stuff out, so I end up playing things two years before typically. So it’s a balance. Even the Wooli and Grabbitz collaboration we played in 2021. I do feel bad for the fans. That’s why sometimes I’m like, “Oh, let’s not play it out.”
EDM Maniac: No, we love it, keep it coming! Your new album has multiple features with a range of artists, including Avril Lavigne, Grabbitz, All Time Low, and Said the Sky. How do you determine the artists you want to work with when creating new music and how does that shape the overall production or songwriting process?
ILLENIUM: I always work with people that I’m a fan of. A lot of the rock stuff is what I listen to most in my free time. Like a lot of Spiritbox and Motionless In White and All Time Low and all those icons.
So when I approach an album and have a sound in mind, I obviously want to work with the people that I listen to and love all the time.
It was so fun to be able to blend the sounds in some of the songs like “Nothing Ever After.” They go all over the place and it has metal core and it has trance and crazy mid-tempo dubstep stuff.
And with Avril, that song just works for me as a pop punk song and I don’t want to distract from her voice and Travis [Barker’s] sick drums. Sometimes when I come in, I don’t want to do too much, but then there’s some songs I really want to push to the max.
The Said the Sky collaboration is one of my favorites, too. We just had a very simple chorus written and then we were messing around with drops and found something that sounded different. We hit the lowest B flat in that song we’ve ever done. But it freaking smacks in this studio and that was just fun.
EDM Maniac: With festival season underway and your upcoming North American tour, you’re gonna be traveling quite a bit with little rest in between each stop. How do you prioritize your physical and mental health to make sure that you and your fans are experiencing the best version of yourself for each performance?
ILLENIUM: I think it has to be done in stints. I know I have a lot of time in August to chill. I have time right now to do prep and work out and get in shape and really be prepared because, yeah, the first week is insane. It’s gonna be crazy.
There’s going to be times when I’m exhausted, but if I get in good enough shape—and at the end of the day I’m passionate about the music and the shows, that’s what drives me: fun shows and seeing fans. That shit gives me so much energy.
All images from ILLENIUM, second image credit SheaFlynn and ChrisYoder