You may have seen Ill Tone doing some performing on Granville during the Olympics, or at one of his various shows around the city, but now you will get an inside look at the man behind the lyrics.
Chris, Thanks for taking the time to meet with me.
Thanks for having me.
Let's get things started. Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you came from and how you got into music?
I'm from the Comox Valley. Originally, I listened to mostly rock music. A couple of my early favourites were the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Tom Petty. I heard a bit of hip hop when I was a little kid, but the Comox Valley isn't really the most hip hop place, know what I'm sayin'? It wasn't until I was about 12 years old that I heard something that really hit home with me and I started writing my own rhymes. I really sucked at writing rhymes at first.
Who were some of your major inspirations?
As far as the content that goes in to my songs is concerned, I use my own life experiences and interactions with the people around me as my inspiration. But as far as what music inspired me to make my own... Tha Alkaholiks "21 and Over" album was one of the first that I heard that made me say, "Wow, I wanna try writing some rhymes." From there, I discovered stuff like Nas' "ILLMATIC", and eventually got in to a lot of Canadian stuff like Classified and Sweatshop Union. Nowadays, most the music I listen to is based on how I can relate to it.
Word is that you battled with a pretty heavy drug addiction since age 10, can you elaborate?
Yeah, I got in to it early, that's for sure. It started out as stealing a few beers or some hard liquor every so often from my parents liquor cabinet to share with my friends. By age 12, I was already at a point where I would get blackout drunk, and by age 15, I was drinking 15 or so drinks a couple times a week... everyday in the summers. Eventually, I started "experimenting" with cocaine and ecstasy. It quickly became clear that my "experimentations" had failed and that I was hooked on the stuff. Dependency on chemicals has more to do with the person than the substance and I was always one of those people who could never stop. I'd go for days.
Fast forward a bit... I was in a few brutal car wrecks and found myself sitting in court facing 2 years of time. I got off with 2 years of probation, during which time I did my first stint in a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. I still had it in my mind that I'd be able to pick and choose what substances I could ingest upon leaving, which wasn't the case. I wasn't ready. I did alright for a year or so when I left and I managed to stick with alcohol while, for the most part, avoiding the coke and other chemical stuff.
When I was in my early 20's, I moved to the Lower Mainland from the Valley. At this point, I was drinking a lot, and eventually started back up with the other chemicals again. This was a time when crack had kind of taken over cocaine, especially in the city. One night, I couldn't find coke, so I tried the crack. Doesn't take long for a person's life to spiral outta control once they make that step. So I was back to drinking on a daily basis, smoking crack once or twice a week, doing ecstasy and MDMA whenever I could get my hands on it... sometimes as many as 15 - 20 pills in a night and sometimes for many days in a row, trying new types of drugs I'd never even heard of, regardless of whether or not I knew what they were gonna do to me. Pretty much every single relationship I had in my life was a complete disaster by the time I was 25.
In January of 2012, I checked in to my second residential treatment center. The people at that facility really helped me save my life. When I went in, I had a completely different outlook on the situation. I was ready to quit all of it. I was there for a couple months and have been clean since I got out. Right now, it's been a year and 2 months... which is by far the longest I've remained sober since age 10 or so.
Congratulations on being sober over 1 year, any advice for others who are currently struggling with the same affliction?
Don't give up. It seems hopeless at times but it does get better. I'm not gonna say everyday is easy, because it isn't. It's actually very far from easy. I still struggle some days and think about rippin and runnin again. Over time though, the good days get a lot better, and those good days remind a person what they are fighting through the bad ones for.
Tell us about your album debut on February 27th? Where can we find a copy?
My debut album, "Bringin' the Hope Back", is out on February 27th via URBNET Records. It was a long process to get this thing to a point that I could release it, but it's finally ready and I couldn't be more excited about it. It's heavily influenced by the struggles I've had with drugs, lyrically, but the subject matter does switch up a bit throughout. The genre of the music, although hip hop based, definitely bridges the gap between hip hop and rock... at least on some songs. I don't wanna give away too much though. You'll have to get it and see for yourself!
It is actually available right now by pre-order from URBNET's website at http://urbnet.com/artist-illtone.asp. You can pre-order physical copies and when it drops, you'll be able to download the album right from that page. You can get it on iTunes to. Also, I always have copies of my projects on me at my live shows, hint hint.
We heard that you collaborated with Jasmin Parkin of 'Mother Mother', what was that experience like?
Jasmin is a pro, and a sweetheart. I record and engineer my own music, and sometimes artists need a lot of direction in the studio. She definitely didn't need any. It was actually hard for me to keep up with her. The song she is featured on will be released on my upcoming album. I'm really happy with how it turned out... Jasmin's parts especially.
Also featured on the album is Kyprios, formerly of Sweatshop Union. Getting to work with Kyp was a cool experience to. He was getting set to record his verse before he did some of his own stuff at Fader Mountain Studios, so I headed down to sit in on the session. By the time I got there, he was pretty much finished because it only took him like 5 minutes to do. Dude is an absolute pro.
What are your next steps, where do you see Ill Tone in the next 5 years?
I can't predict the future, so I won't try. All I can hope is that I'm still making music and still loving what I do!
For the immediate future, I'm just focusing on my album release and my upcoming tour. I've been making a lot of beats lately and am sitting on 40 or 50, so there is no lack of material to work with for my next album. It's starting to come together in my mind.
Any parting advice for aspiring musicians?
For hip hop artists in particular, just be yourself. You don't have to pretend to be anything you ain't.
See Ill Tone live at The Red Room nn March 9. Performing with Masta Ace as part of his "Son of Yvonne" Canadian tour.
And pre-order his debut album now from URBNET's website at http://urbnet.com/artist-illtone.asp
Check him out online at: http://illtonemusic.com/