Name: Will Long
Occupation: Proofreader / Musician
Current Release: Xièxie on Two Acorns
Recommendations: Turkish Delight (1973) / Je t'aime, je t'aime (1968)
Website: Find out more about Will on his website www.celer.jp
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Music was always a major interest, as was film and just about any other art I could find when I was growing up. Coming from Mississippi, a place that despite its history of the blues, is largely vacant of creative culture, I was always trying to find something different than Grateful Dead cover bands and 70's rock to listen to. Growing up in a conservative evangelical family that didn't allow music without pre-approved lyrics, I had to be creative to find music to listen to, but it helped me discover film scores, electronic music, broadway, and jazz. Once I went to college, I started driving to shows. Mississippi may be in the middle of nowhere, but it’s a few hours from New Orleans, Memphis, Dallas, Austin, Houston, and Atlanta. With those options, despite the distance and painful driving hours, shows came around sometimes.
I started making music in the early 2000's. I was living alone in apartments, going to college studying literature and history, and working in a library. I had been making mixtapes to mail to friends for a while, and after getting a Mac Powerbook, I started learning to use free music software. After a while, the formats started to come together, and eventually I started playing with reel to reel tape. I don't remember having any specific goal in mind - there's something unconscious about the motivation. Like writing, or taking photos, it was just another way to take something out of myself, the need for some kind of expression. I remember being really interested in alternative techniques for making music, like speed changes, tape manipulation, and the possibilities from sampling. It was some way to create, or re-create a feeling.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
I had absolutely no formal training in music and it’s been a process of educating myself from the beginning. I don't think copying is always intentional. There are always influences, otherwise we wouldn't do anything. In fact, I don't believe that anything that I've done musically is original or completely mine. I don't feel any possession over music, but rather that something in the experience it relates to is my own. It's still free for interpretation. Just as a piece of music may be made with some specific memory or imagination in mind, people can see it from my perspective, or adapt it to their own. I think it's more about experience than development, as if we're all trying to attain some end-all perfect point. It's the struggle along the way that creates the story.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
For the first few years I was making everything with my partner Danielle, though our roles in the musical and artistic process varied. When we started, it was more grasping ideas, and then creating music around it. Often, during the times when I made the music and the releases completely myself, I focused more on some experience or memory. As time went on, that idea of "a couple in love" creating music seemed more like a legend and less a reality, becoming more unintentionally representative than our ideas or reality. Everything strays, and sometimes you manipulate your own reality to protect yourself. When she died, I went through my identity crisis with music, I didn't know if I even wanted to continue making music, but over time I settled and moved on. There's always a mix of reality and my imagination, and creating music is much like my own diary. Things always change, and we can't predict anything about the future. Every time I've tried, I've been wrong.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
Studio? I've never had a studio in the normal idea of the word, it has always just been a room or a place in my house. When I started I had about 3 pieces of gear. When I lived in California, I couldn't keep anything because cats would piss on anything left on the floor. In 2011, before I moved to Japan, I got rid of everything I had. 8 years later I still don't have monitors, and most of the stuff I do have is always packed up in a closet because this is Japan, and there is little free space. You don't need an enormous studio with tons of expensive gear to make music. If you have it, that's great, but do what you can with what you have. Music shouldn't be dependent on income or space. To be honest, most studios I've ever been to have felt more dead than a cemetery, and I even like cemeteries.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
I'm not an illustrator, but I appreciate the visual aspect to working on music with computers. It's easy to get lost when you're just listening, and I like seeing where things are, as if I'm drawing a picture, can erase, or move something here or there. I'm not super interested in technology, but I appreciate it as a tool, and how we can use it to realize things that are impossible otherwise. I appreciate the mystery of technology, the unpredictability, and that it can be pushed beyond limits. I'm not a purist one way or the other, I appreciate all sides.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
I wouldn't have gotten far if I hadn't discovered free software in the beginning, when I was able to use what I could find for free to input anything possible, twist it in any way that it would bend, and see what came out. It was a blank slate with endless possibilities, and some of that first software that I ever used I still use today. You have to use the tools that you're familiar with, and use them well. When you can pick up some new tools to learn, use them too.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I'm a solo musician so I rarely engage with other creative people, much less jamming, and to be honest even when I'm around musicians, talking about music or gear is one of the least interesting subjects. Running my own label and producing my releases, I'm able to work with designers, engineers, illustrators, pressing plants, and so on, and I appreciate all of those aspects. It all works together to create the realization of an idea.