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BOTW Interview: Close

It’s hard not to feel admiration for Aus Music and Simple Records figurehead Will Saul – aka Close. For his first release under his new moniker, Getting Closer, he’s managed to simultaneously remove his identity from the process and yet still be fundamental to it; imbuing the album with a deeply held love for all things house, techno and pop that have inspired him over the years, while never demanding centre stage. Here, he gives Alex Cull a snapshot of considerate Japanese clubs, their insane Korean counterparts, and how Getting Closer is only the beginning.

PlanetNotion: You’ve toured a lot as DJ over the years. Where’s been your favourite place to play?
Will Saul: Tokyo. In fact, Japan in general is probably my favourite place to play, just because the promoters and the clubs take sound and detail so seriously. You always get really phenomenal sound systems in clubs; it’s always a pleasure to play there. I played at a club that used to be called Yellow, but now it’s Eleven, and you had your own toilet in the DJ booth. It was like a little latrine just sitting in the corner. You get in there for soundcheck and you’re thinking, ‘where are the toilets?’ I had a five-hour show and I was wondering, ‘how am I going to get to the toilet?’ I ended up going to this toilet [Ed: Not the one in the booth] and it was a good trot away from the DJ room and I was like, ‘how am I going to get to the toilet?’ I asked someone and they pointed to this little door in the booth and I was like, ‘no way!’ That gives a tiny little window into the world of Japanese clubbing. They take all the little details very seriously; you never have any problems with sound.

PN: Not to stereotype, but I can imagine clubs out there being very futuristic.
WS: It is. The whole of Tokyo is as you’d imagine it in terms of it being so futuristic. It’s mind blowing. That’s why I always love going there, because it is like a different world.

PN: And booth-contained toilets aside, what’s been the strangest place you’ve ever played? It’s got to be pretty hard to top a latrine in a DJ booth, surely?
WS: You say that, however I did have an experience in Seoul in South Korea where I was lowered into the booth in a hydraulic lift and I didn’t know anything about this until I was driving to the club. It was a New Year’s Eve show a few years ago and the promoter was like, ‘I thought it might be nice to lower you into the club in a hydraulic lift’. I was like, ‘really? How’s that going to work in terms of me getting my first CD out? Surely, I’d come down in this hydraulic lift to a massive response and then fumble around a bit while I find my first CD, put it in the machine, cue it up and press play. Isn’t that going to be a little bit awkward?’ And he just says, ‘no. It’ll be fine.’

So, I got to the club and there are guys playing Beyoncé, and there’s semi-naked men and women on stage, and I’m just thinking, ‘this is really not going to go down well’. 15 minutes before I’m due to come on, I’m looking at the stage wondering how I’m going to enter and where this hydraulic lift is going to come from. A few minutes later, they take me out of the club and into a multi-storey car park on the floor above and then suddenly the entire corner of the club – the entire stage – is lifted up into this car park. So, you’ve got the DJ, the turntables, the monitors, the lighting guy, everything is just sat in the corner of a multi-storey car park. The whole stage was just lifted up into the ceiling, meaning you can just walk over, put your music in and then the whole stage comes down with you into the club. Wicked, but quite bizarre.

PN: You’ve worked as an A&R quite a bit over the years, has that informed the way you’ve approached bringing Close into the public eye?
WS: The idea behind the project being called something else started organically, in the sense that there were a lot of people involved with it. I’d been doing a lot of collaborations and I didn’t feel comfortable just calling it a Will Saul album. As I started thinking about how it would be nice to come up with a collective name for the whole thing, at that point I was also thinking about how, rather than releasing it on one of my own labels, now I’d like to make it something bigger. At that point, I started thinking about how to send it out to other labels and I didn’t necessarily want my name attached to it.

It was then that my experience kicked in and I decided to create something that has a little bit of momentum behind it already but maybe has a little bit of mystery; in the sense that there’s a couple of remixes out there that people can already have heard and liked. I think you want to make A&R people feel like they’ve discovered something new and exciting, but also the most important thing for me was not having my name attached so people listening wouldn’t think, ‘oh, that’s a Will Saul record. It’s probably going to sound like this.’

PN: I remember the first time I listened to the record I didn’t know it was you. I went through a few tracks, thought they were good and read the press release, and then I was like, ‘oh, it’s Will Saul!’
WS: That’s exactly the point in that when you listen to it, you don’t have any preconceptions. So, in terms of getting signed, I didn’t want people to listen to it and think, ‘this is a dance producer trying to make a pop record’. In that respect, I think it worked quite well and got interest from a few good record labels.

PN: I take it !K7 were one of those. What made you choose to go and work with them?
WS: It was mostly just going and meeting the team there: Phil, the A&R there, and Tess, the label manager. I just connected with them, and obviously the pedigree of the record label was a factor, they’ve released a lot of great music over the years. I felt that stylistically it was a good fit for the album and they were totally into it. They really shared the same vision as to what I wanted to do with it.

PN: Going back to A&R slightly, who are you most proud of discovering over the years? Feel free to go for more than one if it’s tricky.
WS: It is tricky. I’d say that’s almost like trying to name your favourite child. I think I’m most proud of the record label itself at the moment because there’s a good haul of artists that have all developed with us: Midland, George FitzGerald, Dusky, Bicep. They’ve all released some of their first records with us and it’s a big group of friends who are all in touch with each other. I’ve always based the record label around a crew of people because I think that’s integral to creating a sound and a vibe and a certain aesthetic musically. Now, it’s at the stage where all of the acts involved seem to be taking off at the same time and it’s reaching a lot more people than it did before, which is a really nice place. There’s a great momentum building up which is, in my experience, really hard to achieve. You can’t force these things; it’s so difficult to put those pieces of the puzzle together deliberately in terms of picking up all those acts at a nascent time in their careers.

PN: We touched upon this earlier but with the moniker of Close, which has certain elements of collaboration; to you personally, what are the connotations of Close?
WS: I’d actually decided on the name of the album, Getting Closer, first because I wanted the name to represent intimacy and soul and warmth. I also wanted it to represent the process of the writing and musical collaborations and me getting closer to a lot of people. It was at that point that I started thinking I should perhaps call this something else and that maybe it would be nice to do something anonymous to begin with. The whole thing fell into place as a concept. I certainly didn’t sit there and plan it all out first; I let the music dictate things. The name just seemed to fit with the detail and the warmth that I was trying to create with the music.

PN: Do you see it being a project with longevity in mind?

WS: I do actually, yeah. It’s going to be my album project name that I’ll continue to write my albums under and collaborate with lots of people.

PN: Stylistically, can you see it staying in one place?
WS: Stylistically, I think it will always represent what I love about music, which is that soulfulness, warmth, detail and intricacy that I attempt to make. You can sit down and listen to it in one and not skip through it. Whether I succeed at that, I’m not sure, but that’s how I try to sound. It’s not necessarily the most sensible approach, but it is informed by how I listen to albums; I love listening to albums in the car and really getting into the feeling that the artist had when they were writing it.

- Alex Cull

Getting Closer is available from June 10 on !K7. You can order it here.

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