You might have been to Sri Lanka before. But we seriously doubt that you have visited any wicked DNB party over there. That’s because there is just not too many of them and the Ceylon island is still tabula rasa in that regard. Name IYRE is promising a better future though. This talented producer has flirted with DNB only for a couple of years now, and in that short period of time he managed to take on the catalogues of labels as big as Fokuz Recordings. And not only that. His name appeared on this year’s nominations in one of the categories of the famous Drum & Bass Arena Awards. And he deserves that. Sasith Gamage has his own style and he approaches music with enthusiasm – while keeping up with the top notch craftsmanship.
You can find your tracks on the YouTube channel UKF Drum & Bass. We were listening to a few weeks old set on Data Transmission (and we love it!). You already cooperate with top labels and you are rocking it. The first question is – why DNB? What exactly do you enjoy and why does it appeal to you? What is so different and specific about this genre that it enchanted you?
I was always a metalhead and electronic music did not seem to appeal to me as a genre back then, until I discovered Skrillex and how his music related to rock and roll or metal. He was able to seamlessly integrate metal music with electronic music, this specific song Get Up from the collaborative album released by the nu metal act KORN, completely changed my perception. That album (The Path of Totality) had acts such as Skrillex, Noisia, 12th Planet, Alvin Risk, Kill the Noise, Feed Me etc working together with KORN to create some of the most meticulously produced Fusion Metal albums of all time, in my opinion. This was my gateway to electronic music.
I initially started producing with Dubstep, I tried to experiment and learn the trades of dubstep, I started with FL studio and since then it’s been a blur. I was a late comer to DNB. I did my research across the genres and subgenres when I discovered Pendulum. Witchcraft was the first track I heard and something clicked inside my brain. That was in 2016 and I’ve never looked back. I was previously into neuro with a different alias but decided to rebrand and re-establish myself in the liquid, deep and techy aspects of DNB where I felt my strong points were.
Pendulum brought many people to 175bpm, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that you are one of them. Where does your stage name come from? What does “Eye Ree” mean and why did you choose it?
IYRE is derived from the word IYER which is a vedic/sanskrit word for ‘Healer’. I wanted a short name that has an edgy vibe to it, and of course my bro HumaNature also helped me to choose the name. We had rounded around 15 names and IYRE made the cut. In Caribbean culture, Eye ree is used as a synonym for having a good time, and most of my friends from the scene actually thought IYRE was derived from eye ree. Quite unintentional, but worked for my advantage.
Name that also has a story and a deeper meaning. Great! DNB is huge today and it is not easy to succeed in the genre. How much talent do you think is needed and how much does the craft do? Do you distinguish between these two components? How do you work with them?
Talent is obviously required to excel in any genre, musicality, or musical sense is an essential ingredient to a musician. That being said, you need to put in work. You need to learn every single day, and you need to apply what you learn into what you make. You need to focus on the tiny details which make a good sounding track great. In addition, you also need to focus on building relationships and connections with other artists, labels and promoters. You need to focus on marketing, and maintaining a certain image which will appeal to your target audience. Obviously you need not to portray yourself as someone that you’re not in reality, but it’s necessary to show people who you are as a person as much as you are as a producer. Fans and friends like to associate us as people as much as they want to associate us as producers, artists or DJs, which in return makes us more grounded and connected.
It seems like you are into deep of what you are up to. And you take production seriously. Not much is happening in DNB in Sri Lanka. You talk about yourself as the only producer there. What are your feelings as a solitaire? Is this position frustrating for you or are you happy to be a pioneer?
I’m obviously very pleased to be a pioneer. I’m also very proud to represent the South Asian region, not just Sri Lanka as a producer. I use whichever chance I get to shed some light on the fact that our region has a rich culture which can be seamlessly infused with genres like DNB and Jungle. In tracks like Asrama and Zainab, and even in Raindrops On My Skin I have tried my level best to infuse our cultures into the music.
That being said, living so far away yet so close from where the scene is actually existing is very frustrating. There are instances where I wish I was in Europe or in the UK. Goldfat Records, which is a huge part of my life at the moment, even started their own event series collaboratively with a few other labels (Community DNB), and I sincerely wish I was there to rave with the guys. Not being able to play live is a real hindrance at the moment, but things could change in the future. I’m on the lookout for regional events that I would love to be a part of, maybe towards India and South East Asia. There are a few opportunities that have presented themself which I’m not allowed to talk about just yet, that could help me to get into playing gigs soon. Very hopeful!
How do you deal with the COVID situation, which has long limited travel, music events, movement of people and culture in general? How is life in Sri Lanka now in this regard?
We have had a few spikes, and Sri Lanka has had continuous lockdowns. It has been frustrating for the most part. I usually love to travel to remote locations such as mountains, to go on hikes, camping etc. but chances have been limited. Thankfully I had music, and also time to work on new music.
How important do you think it is for a producer to be an active DJ at the same time? How do you think these two activities affect and intersect each other?
I think it’s very important, since then a producer hears how his tracks sound like in a club environment. It changes perspective and provides a sense of how the music could be shaped to suit well for a club scenario. It also helps from an engineering perspective and provides an analysis of your own sound, the levels and frequencies you use to sit inside the spectrum. Also when you DJ and when you mix your music with other music, you will get more inspired to create tracks with unique elements that can create beautiful blends in a DJing scenario. Some artists prefer to be just DJs or producers, but I feel as if those two go hand in hand.
On your Instagram, you mention HumaNature as your mentor. Who is the biggest inspiration for you in DNB production and why? Which DJ would you like to perform on one stage and why?
Yes, HumaNature and DNB Academy definitely helped me immensely, and it still does. I’m a full student and I feel as if in terms of drum and bass related education, DNB Academy is the undisputed. He was helpful in creating the alias IYRE as well, it was his idea that pushed me towards rebranding and creating this new alias. A genius move on his behalf. He has been in the industry for so long, has seen things, and advised me to rebrand, and one year later here we are.
I’m also extremely grateful for Goldfat. They elevated and shaped me to the artist that I am today. It’s a family environment and for the first time in my dnb career, I felt a sense of belonging, that I’m a part of a special crew destined to do great things. I feed off of the energy of those guys. Mitekiss and Mr. Porter have been incredible mentors to me. They are practically my Drum and Bass university. In terms of inspiration per say, I draw a lot of inspiration from genres outside DNB. Except for the promo list material that I get to listen to on my Email, I don’t get to hear much of DNB except when I produce or DJ. I draw a lot of inspiration from Progressive Metal and Technical Death Metal. Bands like Tesseract, Skyharbor, Periphery, Meshuggah, Ne-Obliviscaris, Black Crown Initiate, Opeth, Dream Theatre, Gojira and many more have been huge influences. Out of these bands, Tesseract is my biggest inspiration. I draw off a lot from their poly rhythmic style of writing and also how they infuse a huge ambiance to the music. You would clearly pick those elements if you listen to a Tess song and mine.
In a DNB environment, I would say acts such as Artificial Intelligence, Monty, Mitekiss, Brainwork, BOP, Monrroe, and the entire Goldfat Roster are huge favorites of mine. I also love synthwave and 80’s synthpop, Retro kind of music. Occasionally do enjoy trap, garage and a bit of classical Indian and Sinhala music as well. I would love to perform with guys like Alex Perez, Monty or Kasra since my taste in DNB has drastically changed from what it was. I’m in the lookout for a moody vibe rather than a brighter vibe. I would also love to rave with my bros and sisters from Goldfat. That’s just life goals at this point.
There is no doubt, you are aiming high enough. What do you currently do? Are you planning to make production and DJing into something you will do full time in the future?
I work full time as a Business Analyst at the moment, and music was something that I started as a hobby back in 2012, but now I’m correct to say that it has become an equally important part of my life. Right now, I don’t intend to pursue it as a full time career, but if I was in Europe or the UK, I would definitely have considered it. That being said, I feel as if it’s more sustainable to have a career in an 8 to 5 job, since then I’m not pressured to DNB for the sake of earning. I can create the absolute best music possible without having to worry about an income, which is a huge plus point in my eyes.
This year you are nominated for the Drum & BassArena Awards as Best Newcomer. What was the first thing that came to your mind when you found out about the nomination? If the nomination turns into a win, how and with whom will you celebrate it?
It was definitely a surprise, I did not expect a nomination. I have thought and spoken about it with my friends as to how it would be like if I’m nominated but that was just for fun and dreams. The nomination was far off from my head but then it did actually happen to my huge surprise.
I don’t intend to win, honestly speaking, but it’s nice to see that I’m being appreciated by my friends and fans alike. I also do not consider this nomination to be any form of a validation to the work I have done so far musically, this is just the cherry you place on top of a well baked icing cake, just to make it look a little nicer. I’m much more worried about how good the cake is.
Huge props to my brothers and sisters who have been nominated as well, it’s a resemblance of the hard work they have put in throughout the year.
In any case, you had our vote in that category. What are your artistic goals? What can we expect from you next year?
My main priority at this point is to work on my debut EP with Goldfat. Me along with Mitekiss and Mr. Porter are working together to release a few tracks that we can really be proud of. Other than that, I’m just planning to go with the flow and see where it can lead me. I want to start playing live as soon as I can as well. I’m also collaborating with a lot of artists at the moment, so I’m looking forward to sharing those songs as well.
Planning to start my own patreon community too in the very near future, because I feel as if I can provide a very unique perspective to DNB as a genre, since I’m coming as an outsider to that culture. Let’s see ! There’s a few more things in the works, but I will let you guys know when they happen and when.
We wish you the best of luck, success and joy and we can’t wait for all the new tracks that will come out of your studio!
Thank you for having me!
You can follow IYRE on all the social networks.