he’s not the first and he won’t be the last, but will saul is turning his attention to the possibilities of pop or, to be more apt, towards the possibilites of what pop can be. on june 7th you’ll find out how he fares when a debut album as close lands on k7! it features a healthy and heavyweight selection of collaborators from underground bossmen like october, al tourettes and appleblim to veteran vocalists like joe dukie of fat freddie’s drop and many more. you may have already heard some of the remixes, too, from saul’s aus label family members george fitzgerald and the mighty midland, but it’s the originals like ‘beam me up’ with its stirring bass undercurrent, accessible but not obvious hooks and percolating atmosphere that have already turned heads everywhere from the fabric dance floor to radio 1′s hallways: proof then that saul has managed to nail crossover appeal with underground aplomb.
saul has also put together a special sounding live show as close, with al tourettes on drums and some spectacular visuals to top it off. i’ll let the man himself fill you in on the details of all that and more…
how are you, what’s been keeping you busy this year?
i’m very well thanks. getting the close album project signed, released and ready and developing the live show for this has kept me pretty busy this year, along with aus/simple as usual… having a child was also pretty all consuming but thousands of people have children every day so nothing out of the ordinary but for me was obviously very special. i’m also getting married in a few weeks so a fair amount of stress and planning has been ploughed into this recently as well!
how are you settling into life as a producer, dj and daddy? you getting used to it now? has it changed your working methods at all?
henry (my son) is 19 months old now but only really started sleeping through to 5/6am a few months ago. previously he would be up between 5-10 times a night. after a few months of this everyday life starts to get a bit trippy and very intense! sleep depravation is a bizarre beast and does start to erode your quality of life so trying to be clear headed and creative in the day was a struggle at times. my partner and i would be in bed by 9pm most nights… and you form a very close relationship with coffee.
having a child hasn’t changed my working methods/routines at all its just given me a slightly smaller window to work in as i like to get home to put the boy to bed every night. i also fly home straight after my gigs or as early as possible the following day so i can spend as much of the weekend as possible with my family. afterparties are a thing of the past… almost.
when did the close project first come to mind, and when did you start producing under that alias in earnest?
it started to come to mind about half way through writing the album. i wouldn’t say that i approached the tracks any differently once i started thinking the album/project may be under a different name it was more that i was approaching the whole album as an album, a different/new approach to making music (for me) in the first place if that makes any sense… i just decided it would make more sense to call it something else.
what’s the thinking behind it? why use a new name?
the close project has developed really organically to be honest. i realised through the writing process that i was collaborating on a number of levels with vocalists, musicians and other producers much more so than for a straight up will saul 12″ as i really wanted to push myself to achieve a higher quality of finished song/track. the idea to call the project a different name felt right as there was so many collaborations taking place. the name close fitted the feel and sound i was trying to achieve with the music intimacy, warmth, delicacy & detail. also the name has lots of really nice visual connotations that i felt would work really well with the artwork and live show so overall it felt like an interesting concept that could be developed on a number of creative levels…
and how does close stuff differ to stuff under your own name; need you get in a different headspace to write as close, or? does it have different goals and influences?
close is really just the project name for my albums going forward as i explained above. i do approach writing music for an album very differently to a dancefloor 12”though. firstly i tied to write an album that i’d want to listen to myself. the way i consume music is perhaps slightly old school in the sense that i still buy albums and listen to them from start to finish. i like to listen to an album in the car for a few weeks and really get into it and get under its skin. a sign of a great album for me is not always an album that you listen to initially and love but one that on the third and fourth listen you are completely hooked and then you can’t get enough of it for a while… so i set out to try and write an album that you could keep coming back to and that worked cohesively from start to finish.
whether i’ve achieved that or not is not really my call but that was my goal. nothing has been written with the dancefloor in mind although some of the tracks may translate. i really tried to ensure that with the instrumentals there was a lot of detail and layers that you could uncover after multiple listens… all of the hooks evolve over 16 bars and keep developing so as to not feel at all linear. different tempos/styles and of course songs and vocals. as a lot of the tracks are focused around a song/vocal then the writing process does differ greatly.
will you dj as close or…?
i don’t think i’ll dj as close – i can just do this under my own name… the live show is me on various machines and controllers and my good friend al tourettes on a full set of roland drums and a couple of roland spd percussion pads. the roland drums allow you to load in samples so we were able to create and tweak each drum sound for each track as we wanted to get pretty close to how the drums sounded in the original track albeit played by and reinterpreted by a real drummer. i vowed never to stand on a stage on my own behind my laptop as i personally find this very boring to watch.
i wanted there to be an element of performance in the live show that the crowd can connect with some real musicianship and with al drumming you can literally see the rhythm. there is then a full a/v show that is al & i behind a huge ultrathin gauze screen with lighting behind and in front of the screen and a super high spec projector beaming an hours worth of exclusively filmed content onto the screen.
we have a lighting guy that is controlling the lighting and visuals in real time and my ableton is also hooked up to the lighting guys laptop via midi so the music is synced to the visuals at certain points. the lighting behind and in front of the screen (and al & i) means that the lighting guy can effectively control when you see us in the images/on the screen as when you backlight us you can fully see us (as the gauze is very fine and effectively seethrough when back lit) but when you cut the back lighting you can’t see us at all. this plays with your perception of depth and also makes the images almost holographic at points. pretty trippy!
i understand you’ve had an album ready for about a year now, why the delay?
once i decided that i wanted to try and get it signed to a bigger label than aus/simple i hatched a cunning plan… firstly, i wanted the a&r people at the labels i sent the album demo to to listen to it without any preconceptions or preconceived ideas about how my music sounded so i decided to send it out anonymously to begin with…
also, i’ve been in the game long enough to know that a little intrigue and mystery behind something can build excitement and interest so i created the teaser web site and engineered the remixes of little dragon, fink and scuba to build some momentum around the project so by the time i sent the demo out there was a little buzz around close.
we then had a quiet a few labels interested and then finally when we decided on !k7 we had to negotiate the contract… all of the above processes take a bit of time.
would you like to release more albums on your labels, would you relish the different challenges or you happy to stay a 12s/ep imprint?
to do albums properly is a lot of work – a full time job for someone and ideally someone and an assistant. i really want to focus my time on making music going forward so for the label in its current position it’s not possible to do albums really.
having said that i’m in the process of negotiating a deal with a bigger label (can’t say who this is as the deal is not done) that will hopefully see them invest in the labels and take on all the admin/accounting and promo and leave me to a&r the labels. they will also give me a budget to sign acts for albums. fingers crossed this comes off as this is obviously a dream come true…
so has there been a dearth of will saul stuff because you’ve focussed on close, then? or are you/will you still make stuff under your given name?
completely – writing the album was very time consuming and as i don’t produce music full time – i run the labels as well as i’ve said – there’s only so much music i can make… and that music has been the close album. i will still make tracks as will saul… I’m yearning to make some stripped back dancefloor tracks to be honest as I’ve spent so long slowly crafting an album that is not aimed at the dancefloor.
in terms of your labels this year there have mainly been releases by repeat artists (midland, george, cottam) are you keen to keep that sort of family vibe or…?
definitely. i really like working with artists and seeing them develop. it’s better for the label and the artist. in the case of midland we released his first music and i was getting demos from him for a year or so before we released his first solo record so i really feel i’ve seen him flourish as a producer and that’s really rewarding. you also become good friends in the process so overall it’s great to see people you care about do so well. i try and add one new member to the family each year and last that year was bicep. this year it’s leon vynehall and komon who are both just about to release 12”s on aus.
what else you got coming up/are you looking forward to?
my wedding and honeymoon! followed by lots of touring and some really exciting releases on aus & simple….