For our 25th instalment of our Frequent Players Guest Mix series, we reached out to producer and DJ, Will Lister. London based, Will Lister’s 2021 has already begun with a bang with the introduction of his new label Heald, Will has introduced us to a three part EP series that brings his recognisable dark, thought provoking music to the forefront.
We sat down with Will to learn more about his journey through his musical influences to how he sits down and creates the music he does. Check out the interview below and get locked into Frequent Players 025!
Foopatrol: Will welcome to Frequent Players! It’s a pleasure to have you here with us. How are you?
Will Lister: I’m all good thanks! Been a weird few months but definitely looking forward to summer now.
FP: Lets jump straight into where it all began for you, how long have you been DJing for and what made you want to pursue it as a career?
WL: I’ve probably been DJing since I was like 16 or so. I was part of a youth club from the age of about 12/13 that held music workshops and they randomly owned a pair of Technics they used for parties and stuff. As I got older I ended up leading some music making groups with some kids that were slightly younger. I then managed to get them to lend me the decks so I could practice on them at home so that was pretty lucky. Moving to London for uni and seeing the potential for amazing club nights was something that definitely made me want to take it more seriously.
FP: We read that in terms of musical influences you have been inspired by pretty much any genre. How have these influences helped create your own sound?
WL: I think having been influenced by a bunch of different music has meant I’ve tried to make a bunch of different music. When I was younger I was trying to recreate anything from super cinematic/orchestral sounds as well as listening to like deep house, and also being obsessed with bands like Foals or Bloc Party. I’m now at the stage where all those little production or music things I’ve learnt along the way influence the kind of sound I have now, definitely in ways I don’t even realise too.
FP: Were they any artists within those genres that you used to use as a reference more than others?
WL: I don’t really tend to use any artists as a direct reference as i like to follow my nose when writing music. There are definitely artists or albums that have had a big influence on me and will always be considered classics for me, but i don’t often sit down to write a track with a particular finished genre in mind. I’ll usually just work on creating a single sound or chord pattern I like then see how those feel and bounce off those to give the track it’s direction.
FP: As difficult as a time the last year has been, how has it been as a DJ getting through it. Were you able to put much focus in creating new works or did you use this time to focus on other things?
WL: I mean i haven’t DJ’d or even really thought about DJing until I needed to put this mix together. The past few months have definitely given me time to focus more on producing and pursuing that in different ways moving forward. Putting together the releases for my new label Heald has been my primary focus, and working on my productions alongside that.
FP: With the end of lockdown now in sight and dates of when we can see a return to live shows and club nights starting to pop up, how does that make you feel? It must be exciting to be able to look ahead at any future sets in the pipeline?
WL: Yeah its super exciting for sure, people definitely want the release of being able to go party. It’d be nice to move forward in a progressive way with promoters taking a punt on more unknown talent, as well as pushing for people from underrepresented backgrounds to be more involved. There was a lot of performative action last year, so now it’d be good to see putting their money where their mouth is. The appetite for clubbing will be greater than ever, festivals/parties are selling out without even announcing lineups so this is a great time to be pushing for more diversity and equal representation in this industry. Frankie from Discwoman has written a great piece on this for Dweller, so i’d suggest reading that.
FP: We wanted to touch on the music you produce also. Your most recent project featuring your new singles Gridlines and Shadow Stem, has this really dark, almost futuristic feeling behind it with what sounds like Sitars. It’s an insane mix of sounds, could you walk us through the process behind the tracks?
WL: The main theme behind writing Gridlines was the idea of pushing and pulling the tension in the track, almost stretching it, over the different sonic elements. I wanted the percussion to be rolling but also stick out every now and then, with the melodic sections to be quite expansive whilst driving the track along. Shadow Stem originally started as an attempt to make a track that I could mix from roughly 120bpm into 170 bpm which is why the intro percussion is so polyrhythmic. It then became this track which is a play on moods in that it starts tough and intense but then the big pad that comes in changes the mood quite drastically, and then back again with the more aggressive arp lines into the big sub drop. I wanted to create a sonic world with both these tracks, for elements to come and go and the tracks to develop and evolve.
FP: How are you able to create these sounds you use?
WL: I use a mix of hardware stuff and then processing in the box. I learnt Ableton last year for some work and ended up sticking with it to write in. There are certain things you can do way quicker in Ableton than in Logic. I often start tracks using a synth or drum machine or something and try to create a really captivating sound or melody or something. That can be as simple as a kick and a hi hat sound, or something more complicated like a 16 bar chord pattern with a bunch of changing parameters. It’s all totally replicable in the box without having any hardware but i really find inspiration in not starting tracks in front of a screen.
FP: Well we’re really looking forward to hearing your mix you have curated for us! Thanks so much for allowing us to visit your studio and being a part of the Frequent Players channel. Before we let you go is there anything you would like to share with our readers, listeners and followers?
WL: Have a good summer!