William Yates records under the name Memotone, and his debut album, I Sleep.At Waking is out on Black Acre in October. With influences as varied as John Cage, Ryuichi Sakamoto, DJ Shadow and J-Dilla, as well as having lived in a 400 year old haunted cottage in the middle of nowhere, its fair to say that a lot of different ideas feed into his music. He spoke to KMag about gathering music, putting it together and how he builds his sound.
Hi William, how are you? Tell us more about the I Sleep.At Waking album.
Hello K-mag. I am very well thank-you. I hope you can say the same. When I started making music on my own my biggest ambition was (and still is) to find something, some combination of sound or arrangement that was previously undiscovered. Over the past four or five years I have come to understand just how difficult that is. Especially if you still want your music to be accepted by even a minority of society. So even though it is still the dream, I have tailored the ambition to suit more realistic goals. I wanted to make something that tipped its hat in two directions. Contemporary classical and instrumental meets dark electronics/sound design dance music. I’ve been willing to let it grow naturally without constriction to specific genres. After many hours on the phone talking about the album and just things generally Black Acre warmed to the idea of something beyond
the comfort zone. I am proud of that though.
How did the name come about?
After I had written almost half of the album I was given a book by my dad. 'Fernando Pessoa - Selected Poems'. I started to read it and instantly related to the ideas and emotions. It was almost as if Pessoa has written the poems to go with the feeling and moods I was trying to incorporate into my album. Then I got to the poem 'I Sleep. At Waking-' and was held absolutely still for a good ten minutes. So after being positively moved I decided a good way to pay tribute to and open people up to the work of Fernando Pessoa was to title the album after his poem. I have also had the full poem printed in the sleeve of the CD. Not only is it a great poem but the title and mood are very appropriate for the music.
You have a rather unusual living situation. How has this impacted on making the record?
I have actually recenty moved to Brighton but yes... During the album process (and all other previous music adventures) I was living in my family home on the Dorset/Wiltshire boarder. Surrounded by woods, hills and barley fields. I am sure the landscape inspired quite a lot of the music. It's very hard to represent such an incredible atmosphere though.
Have you gathered ambient recordings from your surroundings?
I have indeed. Another way in which my environment has affected my album. There is a lot of mic recorded instrumentation on the album. Whilst obviously the instrument is the main focus of the recording I have allowed for background noises in some cases and always try to let a location’s own acoustics or structure into the recording. In this sense my whole record is built on the foundations of my house and it's surrounding woodland (where I did a lot of recording).
How does your diverse range of influences impact on your work?
Well, firstly it keeps my ears open to all sorts of things. Which definitely has a positive impact. I could be playing something on the piano and slow it down then take a section of it and loop it at a different BPM to what it was recorded at and then re-record it playing from a speaker system in a bathroom for a close reverb onto a scratchy old Dictaphone and then time stretch it leaving me with a beautiful undulating resonance which I could gradually pitch shift creating the sound bed to a whole track. I think without listening to a lot of music my ideas of how to create sounds would be far more limited. Secondly it keeps my brain fresh with new ideas and inspiration. There is always the danger of being 'too' inspired though. So much so that you feel you want to emulate a sound because of how amazing you think it is.
You play a range of instruments - how does the sound you create get built up into the finished product?
It would be easier for me if I could relate some singular method of how I go about making music. But I don't have one. Each piece brings its own challenges and solutions. That is the joy of making music. Having said that, usually I come up with a single melody first (more often than not on the piano) and then I transpose that melody to the instrument which I think best suits it's mood. I then record it as a solo line at a bpm that the melody itself dictates and I then tap out. Once I have this main artery in place I can build the body around it. Sometimes the artery is a sound, field recording or even just a rhythm instead of a melody but I always start with my introducing sound of the track and work through gradually adding layer and length. I very rarely make the main theme of a track first and add a start and a finish.
The fact I've collected a lot of instruments over the years is a huge benefit to me and every time I use one in a piece of music I learn something new about it and feel I have improved my understanding of it and am more able to manipulate it to suit my playing ability and desired effect. Or it has manipulated me. Either way I'm happy. I just hope it has interesting results for anyone who lends an ear.
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