We spoke to trail blazing trance producer Will Atkinson around the recent release of his debut album on legendary Dutch label Black Hole Recordings. A mammoth 17-track project, ‘Last King of Scotland’ is a testament to the extraordinary talent honed by the thirty-year-old and quickly reached No. 2 in Beatport’s Top 100 chart and topped their Top 100 Trance Releases. Spanning the realms of trance, techno, drum’n’bass and spoken word, the album is a genre-defying debut that blends harder sounds with more progressive, melodic stylings…
Where are you based?
Currently, I’m in sunny Govan. A stones through away from the Clyde River. Sitting in my studio answering my third interview of the day! That no mean city they call Glasgow. Glesvegas!
How did it feel to release your debut artist album, The Last King of Scotland, last month?
It was a pure mix of emotions actually. Overly proud, a little relieved. But also sad and sort of Stockholm Syndrome. This has been a labour of love for the last 2 years. I’ve fallen in love with, out of love. It’s kept me driven, focused and inspired throughout this horrific year. Now I feel a bit lost! Like the vulnerable mother. Watching their kid walk into school for the first time. It’s flew the nest, into the wilderness. To be devoured by whomever it falls upon. I couldn’t have asked for a better reception to be honest. The reactions and support around the world have completely blown my expectations to pieces.
What is behind the album title?
It’s pretty much an acknowledgment, a nod – to the country I love. The place that inspires me. You can travel the globe week in week out. But nothing beats the feeling of home. And little self proclamation as well just for good measure!
Did you do anything special to celebrate the album launch?
Yes. I officially launched the album from arguably Scotland’s iconic venues, The Arches. “It only seemed right to take it back inside those hallowed brick walls of The Arches. When I moved to Glasgow from Orkney in 2008, it felt like every other night out ended up here. What started out as a hobby turned into an addiction. The addiction led to an education. A pilgrimage to this clubbing mecca we all know and love. Nowhere could be more fitting. I have to say, I had mixed emotions reading back all the comments. So many stories, experiences, shared by people, tagging their circles of friends, clubbers – bringing all that together felt even more special than the stream itself. And it really brought home just how special The Arches was. An institution in it’s own right. Friendships forged, memories set in stone. There was only one place I could have launched this album. Egypt has the Pyramids. China has the Great Wall. Glasgow has “Oor Arches.”
From Paul Van Dyk to Gary Go, theres a host of huge collaborations on the album. How did these come about?
I worked with a plethora of international artists on this album. Hailing from Berlin to LA. London to Oban. Some were heroes, others were friends. Then some were just insanely talented songwriters. But all with one thing in common. The potential enrich my sound and add a new, exciting twist. Otherwise, is there any point in collaborating? I’m a control freak when it comes to the studio. Thus I’m not ideal for collaborating with. I need to have my stamp on everything. I know how I want it to sound. The track is already finished in my head before I’ve even written it. If I don’t realise that vision, then the track is dead in the water for me. So collaborating is difficult for me. Unless I am passionate about the artist, and the potential outweighs the compromise. All these artists ticked that box. Some tracks began as singles. Awakening with Paul was a melody I had sitting on my computer for around 8 years. Until it finally came to life as a demo for Vandit. Then Paul decided to join me on the record and collaborate. Other tracks started out as indie demos. Happy Hours was an Ed Sheehan style pop record before drafted in DC Breaks who turned it into a rib rattling D&B masterpiece. The track with Gary Go was originally a sort of progressive indie track. My manager John brokered a deal at ADE, Amsterdam. Basically give me a shot at the stems and subsequently turning it into a brooding crossover Trance meets cinematic Rock cut. Each collaboration has its own wee story. But they are all with artists that excite and energise my sound.
Whats your creative process like?
It’s pretty temperamental to be honest. It comes in random waves so I always need to near my laptop if I’m not in the studio. Some of the best melodies have come to me in a dream. There have been tracks finished backstage before I walk out in front of 5000 people. Other tracks have been started on airport floors and finished in hotel rooms. I have no control. But one thing I’ve noticed is if if I’m going through a particularly rough time, I’m able to channel this into the most emotional and thought provoking music. It’s like a supernatural ability. The only problem is I have to go suffer or experience unwanted feeling to channel it. Other times I’ll be in the kitchen making a cup of tea, hear an advert from the TV and bang – I’ll have an instant hair raising topline melody. I can tap inspiration from a multitude of sources. But emotions and experiences are most fruitful for me.
Can you tell us about your approach to production and recording?
After the bolt of inspiration – which could be a melody, a bassline, a hook idea – then comes the groundwork. Putting the scaffolding up to host this ultimate vision. From there it’s like a process of jenga. Building the foundations, taking away, adding. Until you find the winning formula. And achieve that ultimate vision.
Who inspired you to make electronic music?
Initially my mum. She got me into Judge Jules. From there, I distinctly remember hearing one of his live sets from Creamfields 2001 I think it was. He played a track called Angelic – Stay With Me. It was a live broadcast and I’ll never forget the reaction. The screams. Whistles. Horns. I was 11 years old. So I wasn’t aware there was a producer sitting in a room making these sounds gel in harmony, but I knew I wanted the ability to create that energy and emotion.
When the time comes, where are you most excited about playing live?
Mexico for it’s electric, hot blooded atmopshere. But closer to home, Glasgow. Here we fucking go.
And what track from the album are you most excited to play in front of fans?
Kismet Energy. It’s a high octane, euphorically driven Hard House track. It sums up my journey from the past. My influences. An era that shaped me but reimagined through my eyes. As I wasn’t actually old enough to live it.
What can we expect next from Will Atkinson?
I’m putting the finishing touches on one last single to close out this shitter of a year. It’s a 145bpm power Trancer. The melody will break your heart. There are multiple climaxes. You’ll be left a hollowed out shell after listening to it. There’s a strong sense of hope, maybe a feeling of loss. 7 or so minutes of relentless ecstasy. It’s called The Last Rave On Earth.
‘Will Atkinson’s album ‘The Last King of Scotland’ is Out Now on Black Hole Recordings. Get it here: https://will.complete.me/