DMCWORLD speaks to trail blazing trance producer Will Atkinson about 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… it’s worth diving into!
Photos by Andy Cawley Photography
Your debut album, released last month on Black Hole Recordings, is titled Last King of Scotland. Whereabouts in Scotland are you from?
I’m an Island boy living the city life. Grew up on Orkney. Corrupted in Glasgow.
How did Scotlands dance music scene shape who you are now?
Going back to the last question, I didn’t really know anything about a scene growing up in Orkney till I moved away at the age of 18. Before then, I was playing in fields, building rafts, sheds, and taping BBC Radio One dance parties on a Sony Radio Cassette. Then I moved to Greenock. Took a course in Sound Engineering. Got my HND then left the course halfway in. Then 2010 happened. A fucking whirlwind 10 months. Moving to Glasgow. Nightclubs. Flat parties. Talking to strangers in grungy units on the outskirts of the city centre. Then there was Sub Club and eventually, my baptism into The Arches. Long nights turning into longer days. Out every weekend. Usually Thursday to Sunday. A million memories made, forgotten. Me and my mate subsequently being evicted from my first flat. Losing friends around me. Making mistakes. Yet gripped and immersed into a culture. It tuned me, and shaped me into the producer I am today. Orkney galvanised my sound, Glasgow vandalised it.
You’re a huge live addition to any line-up, with years of experience making music in the studio and you even hosted your own dance show as part of BBC Radio 1s coveted Residency series – where of these do you feel most at home?
Lost in the music. Whether that’s in my studio in Cessnock, Glasgow. Or in BBC Broadcasting House. Or on a stage in front of 10k people. The common denominator here is a feeling of freedom, loss of consciousness – almost out of body. This is home for me, musically speaking.
Can you tell us about the recording process?
Biggest cliche going but it’s different every time for every track. Some ideas are born in a jet lagged dream. Others in a hotel room, on an airport floor. Some tracks are finished on a laptop backstage, 5 minutes before I step in front of 5000 people. Some start out as demos in Los Angeles. Others are originally indie rock ideas. Then my manager somehow convinces an artist to give their stems to me. Bless them. Each record has a different story. A different route. But all lead to the same destination. Music pack full of every emotion I feel on a day-to-day basis. It’s like my journal process. Channelling pain, anger, happiness, experiences, people – brought to colour in sound.
What track from your debut album are you most proud of?
If I Spoke Your Language – with Gary Go. The track originally started out as a kind of progressive indie record. But Gary’s vocals are just breath taking. I think it really had that daytime radio feel. It wouldn’t sound out of place on a Take That album. My manager John managed to persuade them to give me a shot at working with the stems. I ripped it apart. Took it down a chugging deeper route. With a massive cinematic opening. And sort of laid on the emotion a little more for the chorus. I don’t think this is the most club orientated track on the album. But I feel that’s why I love it so much. I made this with no club related inhibitions – I really lost myself in this record. It’s a really mature record. No gimmicks. Just a proper record. But I still feel every inch of emotion from it – if not, more than a standard club record. And I think the whole geographical DNA of this record – it literally has roots in 4 different countries. John closed the deal at ADE Amsterdam. I started it in England. Finished it in Wales. Then filmed the music video in Scotland. The whole project start to finish just oozes class. From the record to the movie. To the story itself.
You collaborate with a really diverse range of artists on the album – from Paul Van Dyk to Gary Go. How did these collaborations come about?
When it came to collaborations, I wanted to find a balance between artists. Some have inspired me; some I’ve grown up listening to. Others are incredible songwriters. But all of them are compatible – they all complement my sound. For me that is the most important factor when it comes to collaborating. Not doing it for the sake of doing it. Otherwise, it’s not art.
How did you celebrate Last King of Scotland dropping while dancefloors remain out of bounds?
With the art of clubbing together now almost a long-lost relic, I had to think of something equally as impactive, safe – something that could justify a lifetime of work. 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 its 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”.
Once things return to normal, if you could play a gig anywhere in the world where would it be?
Mexico City. No place does it better. Hot blooded, carnival like atmosphere. The people are so receptive and welcoming. They instil every ounce of trust in you which allows me to express myself and take the energy exactly where I want. I can’t wait to get back. Closer to home, I can’t wait fully send it in Glasgow.
What can fans expect next year from Will Atkinson?
Heartbreak and a fractured skull. I’m not physical. My music is.