Q+A: 5 minutes with WMD

Announcing his forthcoming album titled Deliquesce, shaggy-haired producer WMD has shared something new. Released under the Natural Blonde imprint, his new single, ‘Nowhere’, is a melancholic heart-tugger in which the producer seems to have found comfort in introspection, capturing a passing moment. “I had a cabin on a little private lake,” he tells us. “I remember starting the song on acoustic guitar one evening while watching the sun set over the mountains”.

Stream / Download: WMD – ‘Nowhere’

The track embodies the sound of surrender. Letting go with every pluck of the guitar, the record lulls us into an easy calm. A gently-paced drum rhythm marches forward all the while subtle string bows accent the overall feel of the composition. 

We asked WMD a few whys and whats:

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

Growing up, I always had the idea that I wanted to do something with music. My parents always had musical instruments around the house for me to pick up and mess around with whenever I wanted to so from a really early age, I got comfortable experimenting with creating little melodies on the piano or guitar. I’ve always felt like the arts have been a safe place for me as somebody on the autism spectrum as well. As both an audience member and producer, the arts give me somewhere that’s removed from myself.

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

It can really be either one for me. Sometimes I’ll find a sound that gives me an idea immediately, while other times I’ll have a pretty fully formed idea going in but needing to translate the sounds from my mind as I go along. The latter process is usually a lot more challenging/frustrating to take on, but ultimately more rewarding.

I sometimes think about it like trying to translate a language, that you don’t fully understand, for somebody. When you reach a feeling of mutual understanding (when the musical idea matches what I actually end up with), it’s immensely satisfying.

What’s on your current playlist?

Blue Bell Knoll by the Cocteau Twins.

No Shape by Perfume Genius.

Rather Ripped by Sonic Youth. 

Hats by The Blue Nile.

Bryter Layter by Nick Drake.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

I spend a lot of time with my modular synthesizer, mangling guitar or piano samples to create huge pad / synth sounds. Modular is endlessly inspiring to me, and I’ve found it’s super rewarding to just mess around with. I’ve also always liked using guitars in my music as textural instruments in addition to melodic ones.

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

If I’m working on a specific song, I like having a little list of daily recording objectives to keep me on task (stuff like “find a piano sound for this section” or “fix bass tone here”) I like keeping them vague enough as not to sound like homework, but still give me an idea of what I should have done by the end of that day. I usually wake up, make some tea, and get going pretty much immediately.

Other than that, I’m always experimenting with sounds and writing little melodies in my free time. I recently moved my entire studio into my living room to “live in” my creative space a bit more. Since doing that, I find myself recording musical ideas throughout the day whenever they happen!

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

When I got to be around 13, I started writing my first full songs, and as a teenager it was the first thing I felt like I was any good at. Something clicked and from then on music was the only thing I wanted to do with my free time. There was a lot of comfort in creating my own little three-minute world that I could take myself to, and music turned into a way of expressing feelings I didn’t even know I was having. I still feel that way to this day.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Taking a break and watching a movie, reading, or going for a walk always helps me get out of my own head when I’m feeling stuck on a project. For me, I’ve never had any luck trying to force my own creativity. Stepping away from music for a bit definitely reinvigorates me to get creating again. 

There was a time during the early stages of the pandemic when I was finding it really hard to create anything at all. Something that really helped get me out of that roadblock was remembering how during some of the most prolific parts of my life, most of my day was spent NOT working on music, whether that was because of work or school. Once I started pacing out my days with a large break in the middle, where I did something completely removed from music, I found myself writing a lot more frequently.

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

I’ve collected a lot of new gear in the time between my last album and this one. My two main creative tools going into Deliquesce were my ever-evolving modular synthesizer setup and a 1971 Fender Rhodes electric piano I picked up on a trip to Santa Barbara last October. Even if I don’t use the Rhodes in the finished recording, the convenience of having a keyboard like that, that I can just sit down and play, is amazing for getting musical ideas down quickly. The DAW I’ve used for the last ten years is Ableton Live, and it’s the best tool I’ve ever used for music, hands down. More than a way of recording external instruments, I feel like Ableton is one of the only DAW’s that you can also use as an instrument on its own.

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?

Since I entered the industry when I was 14 years old, I’ve definitely refined my craft. Most of my improvement has just been about me getting more comfortable translating my ideas into songs and getting more efficient at it.

Break down the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

My new album Deliquesce will be released in February of next year. I’ll be releasing two accompanying singles before this year ends!

Famous last words?

Every day I’m in awe that I get to do music as a full-time job. It’s the greatest honour of my life that people resonate with what I make.

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Image credit: Michael Erickson