How I Make Music… by William Wilding of The Native Hipsters
The folks behind There Goes Concorde Again are still at it, in fact they have a new album out now. We asked Hipster guru William Wilding to let us into the creative process behind some of the strangest and most endearing music of the last 25 years. Over to you William?
You must love music, otherwise you wouldn’t be on this site, you’d be tweeting complete twoddle about Katy Price, or in some hideous ‘shoot em up’ online reality/fantasy mega quest.
That’s why I’m guessing you’ll be sympathetic to my plight. You see, every so often I get the urge to make music, I just can’t help myself. I’ve tried eating something sweet and hoping the feeling will pass, but it doesn’t, so there’s no choice but to get stuck in.
There is no band and I can’t play any instruments. For years I struggled by with three punk chords and some attitude, but my fingertips are now as soft as a babies arse, so electric guitar is no longer an option, and I burnt my green tambourine in an unfortunate Mormon baiting incident (which I’m not proud of).
Luckily the invention of tape recorders, and computers means that even a totally unskilled idiot like me can create noise. It means that the chance encounter of an abandoned piano on a recycling tip can be used to create a piece that will send Phillip Glass howling off to the medicine cabinet. Or that the road works outside your house, are no longer a disruption to your days recording, but a chance to lay down a monstrous back beat.
I’m a big fan of Kurt Schwitters. I like to make my songs in a similar style. My main partner in creation is serendipity. So when I’m planning a recording, the first step is to spend several months/years amassing a large library of unrelated noise and sound from which I can choose bits to collage together. I get this raw material from all manner of places. Friends, people I happen to bump into, online contacts, anyway I can. For instance, this latest CD has, amongst others, the fabulous Tony Visconti on guitar and recorder, recorded in a Texas Hotel room and emailed to me. If you’re a musician you can send me something for the next recording if you like.
Any fool can sample a bit of something and then cut and paste a repetitive beat. So of course I do a lot of that. But its good to get ideas coming in at oblique angles, so there are short term collaborations, and invitations to contribute, but that’s as far as it goes. I’ve long since realised that if I work with other people, I end up insulting them, or offending them, or threatening them with witchcraft. So its best to work mainly alone.
At the same time I start to write lyrics. Once I’ve written some songs/poems (usually about 10 times more than I can use), I get my long term collaborator and singer, Blatt to record all of them. During this process she will also contribute changes and ideas to the lyrics to make them stronger. At this point we have only a bare idea of what they may turn into. We don’t even have a beat, let alone a tune. In any case, I might end up chopping some ‘songs’ into several bits, re-ordering them, adding a ‘chorus’ from another piece, whatever I think works. So I don’t want any backing music to mess that process up.
Back in my studio I start to place the recorded lyrics next to all manner of different backings and soundscapes, listening for some magic to leap out at me. I have various recorders to play back on. I find it easier to use unrelated machines, because that allows you to store different recordings on different mediums and play them back in separate time and space.
I have 3 cassette machines, of various ages and abilities ( I prefer the old cranky ones that create their own hiss noises), a couple of CD players, a digital 8 track, an old 4 track cassette Portastudio, A Teac 2 track, an Akai 2 track, mixing desk, and loads of treatments and toys. Plus of course a Tascam 24 track digital workstation to mix down onto. I tried using some software on my Mac, but I like to have oldschool knobs and faders, and the Tascam 2488 combines these with all the digital nonsense I can manage.
This process can go on for months, as I trawl through years and boxes of sound on cassette, CD, reel to reel, wax cylinder… (that’s a lie, there’s nothing on wax cylinder). Some stuff 35 years old, other stuff just recorded. Recordings I made at a folk club in Braintree Essex, in 1975, placed next to some mad heavy metal trash guitar played by my mate Dermot in a flooded basement in 2001. It all gets incorporated into the pot.
Each track gets assembled in the same jigsaw way, with everything from the vocals, backings and tunes, to the lead solos, recorded by different people, on different mediums, at different times. You may think that this is going to sound like a cat in a blender, and sometimes it does, and that’s how I like it. Obviously its not to everyone’s taste, so don’t expect to hear it on daytime radio. But bizarrely, every so often it has three verses and a chorus.
All this stuff eventually gets laid down next to each other on the Teac 24 track. When I have enough pieces finished ( about 2 years later ) I release it on CD. It sounds easy, but by the end of 23,807 remixes, your brain has mushed right up and your ears are made of cardboard, with cucumbers growing out of them.
But by then, you just have to trust that your judgement and taste buds haven’t let you down, and put your plastic money where your heart is.
The latest product (our third album) is called ‘Original Copy’ and was released at the start of May 2012. It cost me about £600 to release, (not counting hours and hours of personal time ), and I’ve sold about £450 worth so far, so its well on the way to breaking even. Which in this very un commercial area, of a crowded downsized market, is good enough. Its not ever going to make me a living, but then, I’m not doing it because I want to make money. I don’t have a choice, every so often I have to make a noise. Its either that, or reading about Katie Price.
The next product is planned for 2018, so feel free to send your contributions in now. Hear stuff from the latest album, and the two previous CDs on our website www.nativehipsters.co.uk
We’re also on SoundCloud and Spotify. Oh, and I almost forgot, you can buy the CD on our website as well – via the very secure paypal buttons.