Getting To Know The FPSF Locals: Guilla
Photo: Michael Starghill
For a long time now, I’ve pushed that hustle, is what I recognize more than anything else in the Houston music scene. I mean, in reality, anyone can start a band, and there are plenty of acts who make good music. But true unadulterated hustle goes a long way with me. I know how painful it can be to tour and play to no one, how hard it can be to give your art away, and how hard it is to catch a break in the industry. But about a year ago, I had stopped by Warehouse Live to see I think, the Melvins. When I was walking out, I asked the club GM, “what’s with the green room, it’s packed?” His reply was simply, “that’s a Guilla show..it’s always like that.” From that moment on, I kept an eye on the young rapper, and how hard he worked to promote his work and his shows. Last year he dropped his amazing EP, “Rap, Trap, & Drums;” and opened the city’s eyes on where hip hop in this town could go. Effectively proving that the “Screw” era is in the past, he’s appearing on this year’s Free Press Summer Fest. I caught up with him to get the skinny on what he has in store for everyone, and what his next move is.
FPH: For anyone out there who has never heard your music, how would you describe it to them?
GUILLA: I always have trouble answering this question quite honestly. It is an honest representation of my experiences and influences. Its a crossover of hip-hop, electronic, new age, and something else I can’t seem to put my finger on. I would call it my own style, but labeling it would probably make me not want to do it anymore.
FPH: Last year you dropped the “next level” EP “Rap, Trap, and Drums;” but from what you told me, it’s forward sound wasn’t what you had intended when you originally started the project. Can you explain the tragedy that occurred that forced you to change the way it sounded?
GUILLA: Haha, the tragedy!! Where does one start with this? First off, I don’t believe in accidents. My computer was a gift from the music gods that forced me to think outside of the box to be truly creative. Only one gig of ram was working which meant I could barely run one plugin at a time. My USB ports and CD drive stopped working so I could only export files via dropbox, and I could only use my finger mouse. The contacts on my power supply had ruptured somehow so if you nudged my computer slightly while it was on it would turn off. I ended up using the microphone on the laptop’s screen to record all the background chants in the songs. I was listening to a lot of pure moods at the time so I found inspiration in what I had access to while listening to songs like “Sadness” and “Return To Innocence” by Enigma.
FPH: That different sound shocked me to find out that all of those backing tracks are your vocals. Did you think anyone would see it as “next level” when you made it that way?
GUILLA: Honestly I knew I was on to something “cool”, but did not think it would be received the way it was. I saw a meme the other day that said being an artist is like always having the feeling of absolute confidence while battling crippling self doubt. Its those two polar opposite feelings that I personally can say I am always battling. But I understand that interpretation is everything, and opinions are like ass holes…..
FPH: You seem to be having a great 2023 so far with all the bigger shows and now FPSF, did you ever think you’d get on such a big festival when you started out?
GUILLA: Its’ a dream come true to play FPSF. I have wanted to go for the past 3 years, but you know what they say about starving artist. Its crazy, a year ago I was pissed off because I couldn’t afford to go!! Little did I know a year later I would be getting booked to play it. So this is my first Summer Fest in multiple ways… #Blessed(Big Sean Voice)
FPH: Though you’ve been getting more and more fans since opening for Riff Raff, the crowds at FPSF are pretty large. Are you daunted by such a large amount of people, or is that just more fans to get on your side?
GUILLA: I get an anxiety before I play, it doesn’t matter the size of the crowd. But it’s not nerves or of fear, just an overall unsettled feeling. My manager Blake Hunter hates it because I’m usually a bit on edge before I perform. As soon as I hit the stage though I feel like “this is what I am meant to do”. It’s like all the years of not being understood finally make sense. Its a feeling of freedom where I get to show people who I really am and have nothing to hide. Pure unadulterated Timothy Russell, something you won’t get from me off stage quite honestly.
FPH: You’re known for an energetic live set, do you have any surprises in store for your festival performance? What should Houston expect from you at the festival this year?
GUILLA: I am bringing out a few close friends to drop some tracks with me. Overall I don’t want to give too much away but be prepared to turn up. Also I have a new EP dropping this summer with features from some of Houston’s hottest artists. The project is called “Misfits & Melodies”. Expect to hear some new music from that EP, dropped at FPSF. Hell I may drop the entire project on y’all for real. I actually have one of my new tracks here that’s a song called “I Love Him” that was remixed by birdmagic and Android Genius.
I’d be lying if I said that Guilla’s high energy live show coupled with his great EP wasn’t something I thought you’d enjoy. He brings a whole new vibe to a live hip hop show when he performs, while doing things his own way and ushering in a new class of Houston hip hop. You should catch his set at the festival this year while you can still catch him. Because with the kind of hustle this guy has, he won’t be performing around Houston for much longer before he gets bigger than the size of our city.