ILLA is Unbreakable

Simon Illa’s interview was unique from the get go. It’s always an awesome experience to speak to a fellow OI’er, someone living with Osteogenesis Imperfecta. The interview you are about to read couldn’t be written in a normal format because let’s face it, if once you get to know Simon you will realize that following the mainstream is not his beat.

So what kind of an interview do you get when the interviewer is a little latina diva on wheels and the interviewee is a short stature young man with an ego that can plug up any hole in the ozone? A great time and some interesting answers.

Audacity: What was your attitude like as a kid, throughout your teens, 20s and what’s it like now as you begin your 30s?

Simon: My attitude toward things has not changed to much on things. I have always been a driven person, who goes after what I want in life. Obviously some of my personal experiences such as the loss of my mother when I was 3, my father when I was 23, and my grandmother (who I grew up with) just a few years ago really shaped who I am and how I look at life as something you have to own… if I am making sense…haha.

Simon’s mother was killed before his very own eyes and his father committed suicide. He explains in his video at myspace.com . You can click on our link at myspace and find Simon’s there!

Audacity: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Simon: When I was very young, I had thought of being a doctor. My grandmother was a nurse and always suggested I would make a great doctor… but as soon as I discovered my musical talents I knew I wanted to be in the music business and the doctor thing went out the window.

Audacity: How did the music industry grab your attention?

Simon: My dad, who was a great musician, bought me a documentary on rock group Metallica and how they made one of their greatest selling albums… a documentary of making a record, in the studio. I must have watched it a thousand times. I knew that I wanted to make records. That was when I was about 13 or 14.

Audacity: Do you ever use your disability as a unique angle?

Simon: The only way I really see its use is that people rarely forget me which in this business is a great thing. I must note that it is my skills as a writer/producer/musician that has gotten me this far… everyone has a gimmick. But the great thing is that once I get hired to work on a record, my physical “differences” are no longer a part of the equation. Then it’s all on my talents. That’s the beauty of the job, it’s not about what I am physically, it’s all about the music, and I always say, my music sounds the same with your eyes closed.

Audacity: What is your regular work day like?

Simon: There is no “regular” work day… depending on where I am, it is usually sleep, wake up, go into the studio for a whole day and then back to sleep. Then there are days of meetings and traveling.

It can get crazy, I remember a few months ago, flying to Cleveland for a weekend of studio work, flying back to Philly (Philadelphia) for a day, flying to Miami for 3 days of studio work, meetings, and a huge magazine interview, back to Philly and then flying to Atlanta for three days of more meetings… it can get crazy to say the least.

Also, depending on the client, a work day may start at 9 am or 11pm, it varies from project to project. Can’t forget to mention getting tons of phone calls.

Audacity: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Simon: A few Grammy nominations, a win or two would be good… Cover of Rolling Stone Magazine and maybe another condo in Miami.

Audacity: Have you helped other disabled people who might be musicians, songwriters and musical engineers

?

Simon: I help anyone as much as I can who are striving to be in the music business, disabled or not.

Audacity: Some people with disabilities say that the music industry discriminates against them because they are disabled.
Do you agree?

Simon: Depends on what aspect of the music business you are getting into. I know perfectly “able-bodied” people that get discriminated against in this business, especially those trying to be recording artists. I know that if the talent is there whether that person is disabled or not, it will find a way to the top. It’s not an easy business to thrive in.

Audacity: Has your disability helped or hurt you in your profession?

Simon: I don’t think it has done either. If it has done anything, I think that it helped me realize that I have a real talent at what I do. Also, my personal drive has proven so many people’s stereotypes wrong, there is a great deal of satisfaction in that.

Audacity: What do you consider your weaknesses and your strengths?

Simon:Like any creative individual, I am always my toughest critic and nothing is ever good enough for me… that’s why I always strive to do better but it adds stress to the job and my life in general.

My strength is my networking and my way of working with singers and musicians. I am definitely a people person. I can get along with just about anybody and I have incredible patience… all of which I have found are the cornerstone of being a great record producer.

Audacity: You wrote on your myspace that you are the definition of a hustler, why?

Simon: I did not personally write that… that was a quote from Urban Hitz Magazine in Australia. My interpretation of that is that they are saying, here’s a guy with more odds stacked against him than the average person making their way into the music business and he is doing big things.

The word hustler has taken on a new meaning in the world of urban culture.

Audacity: What is the one question you wish other interviewers would ask you?

Simon: Do you think your physical “situation” had more to do with who you are than your personal life experiences?

*On the telephone, Simon and I discussed or rather debated this issue after he stated that it was his personal life experiences. After reaching a stalemate, he stated that his disability has much to do with who he is but he doesn’t make it a point to revert to his disability to make major decisions in his life.

He said usually others point it out for him. For example, his lawyer reminded him that he needed to prepare financially for any medical emergency that would allow him to maintain the lifestyle he has now.

But it’s his personal experiences that drive him to perfection and his disability takes a backseat to that.

Audacity: Are you married? Seeing someone?
Simon: Not married, not seeing anyone right now… are you askin me out??? hahaha kidding.

Audacity: Do you have children?

Simon: Not that I know of… I do travel a lot… kidding again… no, I don’t have children… someday…maybe.

Audacity: Where do you live? Do you live alone?

Simon: I live in a penthouse condo in downtown Philadelphia. I lived alone for about six years but my good childhood friend, Patrick moved to Philly and he is a great musician and he has been co-writing on a few records with me.

But personally, I take care of myself, although I travel with a bodyguard now when I fly to other cities as more and more people are recognizing me.

Audacity: What are some of the hobbies and interests that you have in your spare time?

Simon: Unfortunately I don’t get much spare time. In the spring and summer, I like to break away on occasion and go to a few baseball games… I am a Phillies fan, plus I produced music for Major League Baseball, so there are always free tickets available to me.

I also spend my available free time driving around (in the chair) listening to my ipod.

Audacity: What is your favorite type of music?

Simon: all kinds…

Audacity: Who is your biggest inspiration?
Simon: My parents and my grandmother. My parents, especially my mother, who never had a chance to do what she wanted to do in life. I was always told that I am very similar to my mother even though I never really knew her. My father was a great guitar player and my grandmother always allowed me to find my own limits.

After several hours on the phone, Simon, a funny, outspoken man was asked do you think you are a role model for other people with physical disabilities.

Simon said, if pursuing my dreams and living my life doing what I know how to do best inspires, motivates or gets someone else with a physical disability or without a physical disability to go after their dreams, then that’s good too but I don’t live my life to inspire others. I live my life for me.

You can catch Simon Illa on the cable show TLC, The Learning Channel, tonight on Miami Ink as he gets a tattoo that symbolizes his love for his family.

Questions and comments: email us at nathasha@audacitymagazine.com .