Where are you from and how long have you been DJing?
I’m from Melbourne, Australia. I currently reside in the inner-west, an area known for its diverse culture.
I’ve been DJ’ing on and off for almost the same time I’ve been making music in one form or another, around 12 years.
Does the stage name “Achilles” have a special meaning?
While I find Greek mythology quite fascinating, Achilles is simply my last name. My macro-brand and the name of my studio where I am now doing audio engineering work (iliad Studios) is drawn from it.
Where I grew up, we studied Homer’s Iliad in high school, so most have some sort of basic understanding of it and the story of the Trojan war. Many people still struggle to pronounce the name correctly though.
Tell us about your early passions and influences. Was there a specific track or sound that drew you into DJing?
I got into dance music as an early teen and went through all sorts of crazy musical phases. Everything from euro-dance to hardcore gabber. From there it evolved into what it is today, an all-round appreciation for many different styles. I’m a big fan of other genres outside of dance music like punk rock, hip hop and even classical scores.
One thing I have learned over the years is that good music is good music, regardless of genre, but sadly it’s impossible to be an “expert” on every genre, even within electronic dance music. This becomes even more apparent in the production world, as you need to focus on your specific sound and vibe that you are good at and enjoy the most in order to be initially successful.
There was a natural progression after I started making music that lead to DJing. I grew up heavily into hip hop, before I really got into EDM. Urban music and the beat-making sub-culture shares many similarities with dance music when you break them down side-by-side.
As I grew older through my senior high-school years I was solidly sold on EDM as being the scene I wanted to be active in as a producer though. I looked up to the masters of my era like Armin, Axwell, Calvin Harris, Hardwell, Fedde Le Grand, Avicii, Nicky Romero etc. It was around this time that the ‘great EDM explosion’ was occurring in the USA and shaping the future of the international scene as we know it today.
It is worth mentioning here too that there is a distinctive “Melbourne sound” which has had an impact in one way or another on probably every DJ/Producer to come out of Melbourne in the last 15 years.
Before I was of age my friends and I would go to underage festivals and I even DJed at one or two of them. Looking back, it was such a cringey period of teenage life but it’s all part of growing up. I think it’s important to not take yourself too seriously and never stop learning.
What was your first dj setup like? When did you know it was time for an upgrade and how has your setup evolved?
I saved up my pocket money as a kid to buy some terrible Numark CD decks and a tiny 2-channel mixer. That was my beginning. I used to cover the BPM read-outs with tape to train myself to beat-match without any aids. I am entirely self-taught, but having an existing knowledge of musical theory and piano definitely helped and it grew from there.
Within a year or two I saved up some more pocket-money and could eventually upgrade to a 2nd-hand CDJ-1000MK3 and CDJ-800. This was around the time the first CDJ-2000 came out, and my goal was always to get used to the “club standard”.
I had a massive CD library that I used to organize meticulously, burn at 1x speed and print out labels for every CD. Looking back, what a waste of time that was. Within a couple of years almost every pro DJ had changed entirely over to USBs. But I’m glad I was able to “experience” the tail end of that era. It taught me a lot of essential discipline with regards to library management that I’ve never forgotten and has served me in good stead.
What were some of your goals when starting out as a Producer/DJ and challenges faced in achieving them? How have these goals and challenges changed over time?
I think my core goals have never really changed in this regard. I’ve always said, if I can make a living from studio work and creating music then I have no desire to be rich and famous. Everything else is a bonus. You cannot enter the music industry with money as the primary goal because it simply does not provide in that regard. The only way to have any sort of career in it is if you love it and have a passion for it so much so that it does not feel like ‘work’.
I become who I need to become in any given situation, and I have a lot of fun DJing and playing music, but on a personal satisfaction level the actual writing of music as the core process is what means the most to me.
The biggest ongoing challenge I have I would say is separating the music, which I love, with certain other elements of the scene, which I don’t. On a personal level I’m not a huge fan of clubbing and the hardcore party night-life as a ‘civilian’, even though that is probably the stereotypical assumption for someone of my age and talents.
I think the whole ‘living for the weekend’ mentality is flawed, because if whatever you’re doing from Monday to Friday is so soul-numbing to you that you need relish the weekend that much, then you’re doing something wrong Monday to Friday.
I’ve always been religious, spiritual and more of an intellectual and philosophical kind of thinker. As a result, there are just certain elements of the most hardcore parts of the entertainment industry that are simply not compatible with my core values and morals. So reconciling that has always been a challenge but not an impossible one to overcome. I have found people respect honesty and integrity above all other judgements or preconceived ideas they may have about you.
You’ve been successful streaming music. What advice can you give to a new DJ with interests in live streaming?
Streaming for me has been the single most rewarding thing I’ve done in my music career considering the short amount of time I’ve done it. It’s been an absolute roller coaster and it’s not stopping any time soon. And I’m extremely grateful for everyone who’s shown support along the way.
Having said that, there is a massive unseen side to streaming that non-streamers simply do not understand. Even streaming 3 times a week, for say 4 hours a stream, can easily take up an entire full-time work week’s worth of hours in prep, if you take your stream seriously.
The work-load is massive, particularly at the beginning, and you need to wear literally every hat you can think of. I have watched many pro-level DJs struggle immensely with the platform because there are so many pitfalls and the learning curve is steep. When I started, I had no idea what I was doing and am constantly still learning. I’m still very new to this in the grand scheme of things.
Having said that, this is my advice to other DJs thinking of streaming. It’s two-fold:
1) Whatever amount work/time/effort you think it takes, quadruple it. And even then it’s probably not a large enough figure. So, know what you’re getting yourself into. You can chose to not take it too seriously and that’s fine, but those kind of streamers don’t tend to last very long.
You need to have a passion for whatever it is you’re streaming, not just the act of streaming itself. You need to be comfortable in front of the camera. You need to be an actor to a large extent as well. There will be good days and bad days, and you gotta push through the bad ones with immense mental fortitude.
2) What sets you apart from the vast amount of other streamers out there? What separates you from the noise? Simply being a DJ is not enough. You need to be unique and you need to keep viewers hooked for hours on end. The act of DJing, in the form that most of us do it, selecting records and playing them out in a tasteful, seamless fashion, is not hard. It doesn’t make you especially talented or set you apart from the crowd. After doing it for a while you should be able to do the technical parts of it effortlessly, with your eyes closed so to speak. It’s an acquired skill that anyone can learn with the right training and practice.
So how do you turn that into something unique? Ask yourself: Why would people want to watch/listen to you and not the thousands of other streamers playing at the same time as you? Where do you fit in? What’s your demographic/time-zone? Do you put emotion and passion into your performances? Do you work extra magic with the tools and features available to you as a DJ? Do you play digital records only or do you play vinyl as well? How well do you know your music library and the history behind the records you’re playing? Are you a producer/artist as well or just another DJ (this is a big one)? What is your branding and social media presence like outside of Twitch? What visual presence does your stream provide to the viewers? Are you aware of the sub-cultures of the internet and where you fit it? Are you comfortable acting and performing in front of the camera and on the mic? How well can you handle trolls and hecklers?
Streaming can be incredibly fun and rewarding if done right, but it can also break people mentally and physically. So just be aware of what you’re getting into.
When preparing for a live performance, how do you approach preparation (ex. Track selection, music organization, programming, etc.)?
I could write an entire series of articles on this and I have tutored people on this subject and DJing as a whole. In my opinion, individual record preparation and library management is the single most important thing you need to do as a DJ but especially as a streaming DJ. Why? Because, unlike a normal gig, you need to juggle many other things simultaneously when streaming including, but not limited to, monitoring and engaging the chat, changing camera angles, troubleshooting on the fly, managing any stream perks you have be using, and the list goes on.
Instead of downloading massive amounts of music and leaving it to lie in your rekordbox with no cue points, no colour-coding, no hot cues, no mytags, and poor naming conventions (like many beginner DJs do), focus on quality > quantity. It’s better to have 100 well-prepped records in your rekordbox than 1000 unprepped records.
In short, and without giving away too many of my secrets (), every record in my library has colour-coded and labelled memory cues and hot cues at certain important parts of the record. In this way, I’m able to devote the maximum amount of time to the non-DJing aspects of the stream, whilst simultaneously being as flexible as possible to change set direction if required. It also saves me in emergencies and during quick changes of direction I’m able to quickly recover.
As for set-prep, these days I generally organize a setlist because of the different themed nights I do (Tech House Tuesday, Progressive & Trance Thursday and Mainstage Saturday). As far as is possible, everything is mixed in key and structured so as to take the listener on a journey.
Freestyling can also be very fun and often on unscheduled nights or if I have to extend a set, I’ll just go nuts with it and have fun. If you’re having fun, your viewers can sense that and will have fun also. Tagging and labelling your records in rekordbox helps with freestyling as well when you’re looking to sort through large libraries quickly to find what you want.
In comparison to music production, what makes DJing interesting for you?
DJing is how the producer performs. The producer can show off their hours toiling away in the studio by showcasing their music to a crowd, often music that has never seen the light of day outside of their set. The two art forms go hand in hand and compliment each other. Any EDM artist needs to be a DJ, and these days any serious DJ needs to produce in order to take their career to the next level. There are exceptions to those rules of course, but that’s the way it goes in general.
DJing is interesting for me because there is so much you can do with a pair of decks and a mixer beyond mixing one track into the next. Creative DJing is a whole other topic in itself, but even the more simple techniques like mixing in key and mashing up acapellas on top of an existing instrumental track can be incredibly satisfying to pull off At the top of the spectrum, you have incredibly talented artists like James Hype and Laidback Luke who really push the boundaries of what constitutes DJing.
Being a DJ helps give you an edge as a producer, and vice versa. You will be a much better DJ as a producer, and a much better producer as a DJ. When I study and analyze commercial records in rekordbox as part of set prep, it’s quite clear to me which tracks were produced by DJs and which weren’t.
As we all know, there is a massive misconception in the general public as to the relationship between “DJ,” “Producer” and “Artist.” And I think we are all partly to blame for that. But hey, it could be worse.
What are some of the most important pieces of gear in your studio?
There is so much I could mention but I’ll just pick a few key items at random to highlight.
Macbook Pro – literally nothing would get done without this
49” monitor – because trying to work on a laptop screen is bad for your eyes and worse for your neck
KRK studio monitors & sub – the very transducers by which the electrical signal is converted to sonic energy, are kind of important, for obvious reasons
Sonarworks Reference software – this software has changed my mixdowns greatly and helps open your eyes (ears) to the inadequacies of your monitoring environment
Yamaha digital piano – this has been with me since I was a small child (thanks mum & dad) and has been through a lot yet it’s still going strong. A testament to Yamaha build quality.
Notepad and pen – one of my struggles in the studio is staying focused with all the surrounding distractions. Writing things down and planning out your day helps.
FL Studio – This is the first music software I ever used and 12 years later it’s still a powerhouse in my studio. I now use Ableton as well but FL Studio is still my main DAW.
What tools do you use for music production?
Too many to write a thorough list here, however I recently set up my SoundBetter profile for my professional work and answered this question in more detail in the Q&A there: https://soundbetter.com/profiles/173746-achilles-(iliad-studios)
I will say though, that as producers and audio engineer we generally tend to own a lot more tools than we actually need to get the job done. At the end of the day, it’s the user, not the tools. Your ears are your most valuable tools.
Your song “Enemy” is a banger! What are some other upcoming releases you’re excited about?
Thank you! The next release is dropping on the 13th of August with my good friend Robbie Hutton, a singer-songwriter from Scotland. It’s a UK-Dance record called “Too Late”. Pre-save/stream link is here: https://runfree.lnk.to/TooLate and if any DJs would like the extended mix before the release date just send me a DM. After that, it will be available on beatport.
I have a whole bunch of records and collabs currently in progress at the moment that will be dropping towards the latter part of this year and beyond, some of which I have dropped in my streams. But everything in this music industry takes time so there’s nothing I can announce specifically just yet. But if you follow all the socials at you can keep up to date with it all.
Are there any other thoughts or input you’d like to share with the transitions community?
I was very surprised when I was approached to be the first Artist Spotlight so thank you to EXEC and Gyll for the opportunity. It’s much appreciated.
EXEC and Gyll have something that a lot of other founders/promoters don’t, and that is a high standard of all-round professionalism.
A lot of these kinds of communities lack professionalism and deteriorate into nothing more than poorly-organized follow-for-follow schemes.
But not Transitions. I think it’s the start of something cool and can potentially be a strong force in the streaming world.
So too all my fellow members, please don’t stuff it up! Give, and you shall receive.