I discovered Simon Illa through his non-stop production work with one of my favorite hip hop acts, Kyle Lucas. Once I did some research I began to find that Simon’s resume seems to be endless. The work he does transcends the traditional music scene with work on projects like NBC’s “Tribute to 9/11” (which he earned an Emmy nomination for) and even tour production for the NFL.
Among all the production work on his plate, Simon also recently released a book titled Tracking Identity which is a memoir by Brad Gilbert.
Finally with a short break between projects, Simon sat down with me and shared ten albums that impacted his life.
Fall Out Boy – Take This to Your Grave
“Actually the second FOB album I bought after From Under The Cork Tree. If there are two things I have always loved, it’s massive guitars and great lyrics. This album has both wrapped up in such amazing arrangements and production!”
“Pennywise has long been somewhat of a musical bible to my life. I first heard them in skate videos my friends and I used to watch. It really introduced me to California/skate punk. Pennywise brings a lyrical element that speaks to living for the day and questioning everything from authority to religion. Strangely, I had never had a chance to see them live until a few weeks ago at Masquerade in Atlanta. Dream come true!”
“Sometimes Chino has fallen below the radar as he has not ever really made mainstream rap records. Besides his version of Radiohead’s “Creep” in the 90’s, Chino’s skills have unfortunately gone unnoticed. He was doing shit lyrically that artists after him did and got credit for. He was blatantly offensive and blunt before it was made popular by artists like Eminem and 50.”
“Although I am a fan of pretty much all of their albums, it was a documentary based on the making of this album that inspired me to become a record producer. They took everything I loved about their sound, great songs, great lyrics, great arrangements and managed to fit it into a new more sleek/commercial sound. I am glad to see they have gone back to their old sound lately but it was LITERALLY because of this album that I chose the career I did. Props to producer Bob Rock!”
“My brother introduced me to SP when I was really young and when they released this album, I was just getting into my emo phase. Well…not really a phase…still there. Anywho, not as heavy sonically (very dreamy actually) but just as heavy lyrically. Something about sad songs does it for me dammit. I even got to produce/play piano on a live cover of “Thirty Three” with Nate Currin a few years ago.”
“Odd that a little kid from the cornfields of Illinois fell in love with this album. Pop/R&B at its finest. I can’t even describe the love I have for this album. Synths/Drum Machines/Vocal Arrangements on point! Check out the song Maryann… then check out all the other early NE albums!”
“My brother and grandmother introduced me to this album. Aside from her “In the Arms of the Angel” track (not on this album), this album is musical perfection. With production and instrumentation ahead of its time, it’s so well put together. Her vocal tone and vocal arrangements are so amazing. Albums like these have lead me to have the versatile production credits I have accrued during my career thus far.”
“After I moved to the East Coast, my appreciation for Wu Tang skyrocketed. One of my friends gave me a copy of Ironman and I instantly claimed Ghostface as my favorite of the Clan. He is the epitome of my belief that is not what you say, its how you say it. Sometimes I have no idea what the fuck he is talking about but I feel it and that is what matters, right? “Daytona 500” is my favorite on this record but “Wildflower” is a nice track for the kids…” (he laughs)
“More California Punk, Green Day leans more pop/punk. This album came out before their massive commercial success with Dookie (which is also great) but this is a bit more unpolished and raw. Go listen to this on the first nice day in spring… that’s what I do.”
“My dad was a great guitar player as well as a fan of Jimi. He gave me this album when I was a kid. There is something great in Jimi’s recordings. So far from perfect, they captured most of those songs live. Those recordings contain more raw emotion and vibe than most records being over processed nowadays. I used to play this album on loop while I slept.”
“A break out album for singer/songwriter/and now friend of mine, Cary captures the same lyrical emo-ness I love but in a more alternative/acoustic format. I have told Cary several times that I feel like if I had become an artist instead of a producer, I would have ended up at his musical vibe sonically. Late night listening at its finest.”
Simon is currently working on a new EP with Kyle Lucas. You can check out the first single from that below!
Jon Kunis- “Killing Me” Co-written and Produced by Simon Illa
Simon Illa solo project