Interview: 5 minutes with Willaris. K
Jack McAllister, better known as Willaris. K is one of Australia’s best new electronic talents. His music blends ambience and melody with heaving, nocturnal beats – it’s dark and cathartic in equal measure. His breakthrough debut single ‘Alchemy’ was released last year and swiftly caught the attention of renowned Aussie radio station, triple j. Soon after, he dropped two more tracks, ‘River Song’ and ‘Dour Nights’, the latter track was named Pete Tong’s ‘Essential New Tune’ on his revered BBC Radio 1 show.
Now, Willaris. K has finally dropped his latest mesmerising body of work, Alchemy, a full 7-track EP that moves between thick industrial techno and sparse pensive melodic moments. The Alchemy EP features his previous singles as well as four new tracks, which together explore themes of transience, movement, darkness and currents. Having made his Coachella debut this year, the rising producer will head out on an highly-anticipated Australian tour, before setting his sights to Europe and the States. With a wealth of material in the pipeline to come from the Aussie producer over the next few months, Willaris. K is continuing to cement his status as an artist to watch for 2018.
We caught up with Willaris. K on experimenting, production techniques and future goals:
Set the tone for us. Why the arts?
I was always surrounded by music growing up, mainly because of my dad. I played a few instruments growing up but it didn’t really stick until around 2014 when I started DJing in clubs. From there I started experimenting with edits then slowly began writing my own ideas.
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
It always varies. Sometimes I start by playing with different chords and melodies on the piano then take the midi into Ableton, and other times I’ll just open my laptop and start messing around. Off the top of my head most of the ideas on Alchemy started with the sound.
Tell us about your debut EP Alchemy?
It’s 7 tracks that were written between February 2016 and early 2018. Basically a snapshot of that time for me which was transitioning from being a full time electrician to a full time musician. It’s been influenced heavily by the live show, I’ve been playing most of the tracks in some form for the last 15 months and the track order is a reflection of the live show-flow. A lot of intense moments contrasted by down moments!
What’s on your current playlist?
I loved the A.A.L album, the DJ Koze album, Kids See Ghosts, etc. I was getting around a lot of ambient stuff while I was travelling too.
You recently completed your first headline tour of Australia. Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
I suppose me enjoying myself on stage eliminates any weirdness in the room and people feel comfortable. I just love hearing all of my ideas really loud in that environment, seeing people going mad to things they’ve never heard before is a good feeling.
What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?
I just try to always follow my intuition and not stick to any procedures or habits. Things like recording a synth with a bunch of weird processing, then resampling it usually gets me into interesting territory. The possibilities are endless when you start manipulating audio, usually the best ideas come from unexpected places then you can always revert back to what you know once there’s something new and interesting happening.
Take us through a day in the studio.
Depends what I’ve got on, lately I’ve been away a lot and before that I was prepping for the tour, now I’m in album mode for a few months. I have to go outside first thing in the morning to really switch on then I’ll come back and turn my gear on and dive in. I’m pretty into starting an idea, smashing out as much as I can it in that moment then move on to something else. If I’m not getting anywhere creatively then I’ll just start manipulating sounds/writing drum beats and building up my library.
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, ‘This is what I want to do’?
It was always a thought since I started DJing in 2014, but not a serious one until I cancelled my trip to Europe last year to pursue music instead.
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
Beers, Gin and Tonic and towels!
What gets your creative juices flowing?
Definitely new sounds when you start working on an idea.
Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
My main bits of hardware are the Sub 37, Minilogue, Digitakt, Tanzmaus and Boutique Juno. Software I use Ableton, Soundtoys and the Arturia Collection.
Any side projects you’re working on?
I’ve got a bunch of ideas laying around that I think could be good for other artists/vocalists but not anything in particular. All of my focus is on Willaris. K stuff at the moment.
How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
The live shows have helped a lot because I’ve been able to gauge reactions on works-in-progress, and then go back and refine. I’ve become a better producer as well mainly due to the fact that I do this full time now rather than when I can.
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?
More music, my Australian headline tour with a new live show, a remix or two and hopefully more shows in the US, UK and Europe!
Order Alchemy EP by Willaris. K
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[Image credit: Golden Vessel]