Chatting Lustre, live synths and virtual raves with Willaris. K

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Chatting Lustre, live synths and virtual raves with Willaris. K

Hey man! Thanks for your time. How’s everything going? You holding things down in isolation okay? 


I’ve been pretty packed finishing a couple of remixes and working on some last-minute mixes. I’ve been pretty distracted actually, which I guess is good! 


I suppose having so much new music coming out probably leaves you with a lot to do from home anyway.


Yeah, it’s still a weird time to put out music, because playing live is still a big thing for me. It’s weird to not be able to play the tracks out, but I’ve been pretty busy working anyway.


I feel like that live element is pretty crucial to a Willaris. K record, too. You’re one of those acts that people go to at a festival for that crazy electronic experience, so I guess it would throw you in the lurch a bit.


Totally. But also, it’s not as bad, because Lustre is the much more of a sitting-at-home, headphones-on kind of record out of the two. The next record is much more club-oriented and heavy. It’s basically tracks from the live show that I never intended on releasing. Lustre is a lot more ambient, and there’s a lot less banging techno stuff.


You’re basically releasing two EPs over the span of two months. Did you always have the concept in mind, or was there a moment that kind of made that decision for you?


The original intention was to make an album, that’s what I was writing for the whole time, and then throughout writing I kind of realised that the six songs on Lustre just worked so well together. The club EP (Full Noise) was definitely a much later idea. One of the tracks on there I made in like May 2017, and that was always a live show track that I never really intended on releasing. And then when I made the lead single, at Shangri-La in Malibu last year. 


That’s Rick Rubin’s studio, yeah?


Yeah. I went there to make ‘Chapel’. It’s got a rap feature and it’s pretty heavy, and when I wrote that the whole idea of the EP just came about so quickly. I realised I could release a couple of other things from the live show I’ve been playing for a while, as well as some of the other collaborations I’ve been sitting on for a while. The double EP thing is quite recent, probably like the end of last year. 



One of the highlights that I wanted to talk about from Lustre is ‘Cobaki Sky’ – it sounds like you’re really channeling Jon Hopkins on that track. Can you tell us a bit about how you went about arranging so many dense sonic elements together on that track?


Yeah, I suppose that one was definitely inspired by that dark progressive sound, but the funny thing about that is that I did a prequel to it at the end of 2018 as the B side for ‘Natural Selection’. I was in Sydney with George Nicholas (Seekae) and we were about to start mixing ‘Natural Selection’, and we were playing around with the lead synth and put it into a seperate audio track and looped it and pitched it down, and that became the pulse of the track.


When I got home, I had another idea that I made the week before that I thought would work together, so I kind of just merged the two projects and that’s where it came from. The arrangement was definitely based on my live show and knowing how it  flows – having that intro part that you can mix out of another track and then having that big breakdown moment before it goes off again. 


Is that something you’re always thinking about when writing songs? Are you always considering how things will sound live even in the studio? 


I think it’s always there subconsciously with the heavier tracks, because that’s always the intended environments for them. Like, that part with the pad, where it all gets stripped back for the breakdown and then it comes back and goes in hard again. I love those moments in live shows. 


There’s also a lot of ambient and pretty stuff on the EP – ‘Indifferent’ with Gordi is another highlight. How did that collaboration come together?


Well, me and Gordi have the same manager, and for a couple of years I just assumed we wouldn’t work together because we had the same manager – I don’t know why. But then I went to Sydney and met Sophie and we were just drinking and talking shit, playing each other ambient tracks, and I showed her the instrumental at like 3am in the lounge room. I sent her the track the next morning, and she wrote that vocal part over four months, just refining it, then we tracked it together in Sydney. 


That was the first time I recorded vocals, and when that vocal first came in, it was like my stomach was in a knot, it was just so intense. I’d never had that feeling before, it was pretty wild, especially because I was so familiar with the instrumental, and then hearing what she did with it… Sophie did the vocal part so quick too, like there was no back and forth. It was all pretty much recorded in 15 minutes.



Your music has always had some pretty dynamic ideas and quite intelligent arrangements. Do you come from a classically trained background? What swayed you towards electronic music?


I played drums in high school, and I played guitar for a bit. My early musical influences definitely came from my dad, he was always in tonnes of bands growing up, and he was always playing real interesting rock shit in the house. I didn’t get into electronic music till I was 15 or something, and then I started DJing when I was 19. I guess I was just listening to a lot of shit with interesting arrangements growing up, and then I probably subconsciously learnt a lot through DJing and playing live too, because you’re always thinking about whatever is going on in your tracks.


That’s what makes a great producer though, isn’t it? It’s not necessarily about being technical, but more just having a good understanding of how everything works together. 


Yeah, totally. 


Do you use hardware or software to make your stuff? Are you a massive gear head at all? 


I’ve got a bit of gear, but I’m not an obsessive, I just want to make good songs. I made all of Alchemy on software, but now I’m using a combination of everything, like sampling, hardware, software, You always know you can get that raw sound with hardware. The main things I use are a Moog Sub 37, some Elektron stuff, and an ARP Odyssey. I’ve actually been using my iPad a lot recently, I’ve got this app where you can write really interesting sequences and multiple playheads to come up with crazy patterns, and I’ve been sending those sequences to synth apps, like that Moog app. 


Is that something you implement into your live sets?


Until now, no. It’s always been pretty raw. It’s mainly been a lot of sequencing and effects stuff in the live show, I haven’t really added that hardware element yet. But that’s the new development in the live show though – all the bass is going to be Sub 37 now. I’m just chipping at it slowly. I’m not out here trying to make my live set like actually live just yet, but that’s definitely the end goal. You can’t compare it to that live raw hardware sound – I saw Chemical Brothers last year, and their show is fucking insane. 


You’re taking part in Untitled Group’s Virtual Day Party tomorrow. Can you tell us about what you did for that? 


Yeah, I played a DJ set in this warehouse, which was kind of near Collingwood. There’s just like this big open space, and I’m just like dead in the middle with a film and lighting crew. I think I’m on around 5, just before Dom Dolla, and it’s just me playing an hour DJ set. I played a couple of unreleased things and then just a few things I’m listening to at the moment, like the Against All Logic album.


That’s such a sick release isn’t it?


It’s so dope.


Do you think you’ll tune in and watch your set, or is that too weird?


Yeah, I’m keen to watch it. I reckon it’ll be funny! Just a full hour of me, standing in the middle of an empty warehouse, DJing solo. But yeah, I am keen to see it, especially to see how the unreleased tracks go down. It’ll be sick.



Lustre is out now via Soothsayer. Tune into Willaris. K’s Virtual Day Party set tomorrow here