‘Improvisation is a true expression of your own consciousness’ | Interview with Will & Will

Will & Will are Scottish based collective based around the duo of David Scott and James Wilson. We discuss everything from their recently released debut EP to collaborations and influences. Their interview – similarly to their sound- reflects a spirit of communication, exploration and pure relaxation. Read our interview with the artists below.

Describe your sound in three words please!

Will A: Played. Always evolving. 

Will B: Accessible, challenging, analogue.

Tell us a few things about your debut EP Stormwashed.

Will A: The EP is a collection of tracks inspired by the slow and quiet existence that the lockdowns and restrictions have forced upon us.  We consciously tried to reflect that in the slow grooves and space in the tracks. Many of the melodies are hinted at but leave the listener to form their own link between the notes.

Much of the EP was recorded remotely and separately in early autumn 2020. Will B and I were lucky enough to spend some time working together on early ideas in an isolated house in the Highlands in summer 2020.  

Will B: Despite having all these instruments lying around – dilruba, xaphoon, sarod, guitar pedals, synths – we made a conscious choice to structure the tracks in a comforting way to bring out the gaps between the melodies and harmonies.  This meant going back to basics and building the structure around more sparse instrument choices for each track – drawing more on the influences of melodic jazz and RnB.

In what state of mind do you imagine your audience listening to your songs?

Will B: In a positive one I would hope – but that seems unlikely, things are quite challenging for everyone just now.  I hope that the EP can be a tonic for some.

Will A: I would like it would be a peaceful state of mind. And that they’re able to shut down the electronic noise, social media and other intrusions. Hopefully in this state, they can find something meaningful or that moves them in some way.

Your music collective, Will and Will, includes Etienne Bartholomew, playing the sitar. How did that blend happen and how did you all come together and decide to make music?

Will A: I was fortunate to have known Etienne for a very long time.  He lives an ascetic lifestyle in many ways. He plays hours of sitar each day which requires extreme dexterity and meditation to cope with the long sessions. In another time, I’m sure he would have been a shaman, healer or hermit.

We’ve played together in various groups and privately for a long time – we’d often spent late-night hours distracted by our ongoing discussions about the search for universal truths.  Covid restrictions and lockdown meant that Will B and I were separated by law from Etienne. That distance created the inspiration to send music back and forth as a form of communication.

Will B: It was surprising how well it worked. Will A suggested we get Etiene involved. Combining Rhodes, jazz beats, groovy bass lines, and sitar wasn’t what I envisioned for this EP at all. But straight after we heard it for the first time, it became a sound that we excited to explore in the future. 

You often have educator guests playing with you. How do these collaborations work? We’d like to know more about it.

Wil B: We are both students of so many musical forms – jazz, indian classical music, gnawa, western classical music – that the more we can collaborate with people that teach their art form, the easier it is to find the synergies and withdraw from your own biases and see your own art more objectively.  We both play so many different instruments that much of our work requires culling sounds and tones and being true to our core aesthetic – to create peaceful and melodious music.

Will A: We’ve already started work on a collaboration with a Moroccan Loutar player – this will be a helpful experience to draw back our sound to the days of early string instruments and to match this to the guitars and electric pianos that are the progeny of the early ouds, lutes and dulcimers.

If you could wake up and have a new skill, what would that be?

Will B: Singing. It would be a great element to add to our music. 

Will A: To swear off the addictive meditation of improvisation – much of my writing flows from my subconscious, usually between midnight and 4am – but I have limited autonomy and control of it and remain very jealous of those who can work at their craft day in and day out. Improvisation is a true expression of your own consciousness – but is also a grandiose form of winging it.

What is your favourite album of the previous year?

Will A: It’s a very close call – quite possibly the Berlin Philharmonic’s release of Haitink conducting Mahler 9 – it’s hard to imagine Mahler will be performed again in concert halls for some time here with the need for social distancing given the scale of orchestra required. That symphony encapsulates such a gamut of emotions with two 25 minute movements opening and concluding, and yet rather than a climactic finale it slides between music and silence, the audience not knowing when to begin the applause.  On Impulse!: John Coltrane is probably the other and whilst none of it is ‘new’ music (it’s a reissue) his work on that label set a bar for the power of modern music to intersect with all the other disciplines of human thought and expression.

Will B:   I really enjoyed Vulture Prince by Arooj Aftab. I love the ethos of record label New Amsterdam, and I hope they continue to release ambitious projects that bring international sounds to a wide audience. And if I had to pick a reissue, it would be Montara by Bobby Hutcherson – excellent grooves and the epitome of the fusion jazz sounds of ’75.

What else should we know about you?

Will A: We have a lot more music coming out soon. Some pieces will heavily experiment in the sounds and spirituality of Etienne’s sitar, while others will delve deeper into the beautiful moods of the Rhodes and the guitar.  

Will B: Our cover art is by the Scottish artist Christopher Wood. We love his style and hope to keep collaborating together in future.

Thanks Will & Will!

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