No Outlandish Story: Memotone

William Yates recently released ‘I Sleep. At Waking’ via the ever on-point Black Acre imprint. Throughout his adventurous debut long-player, multi-instrumentalist Yates adeptly fuses his love for classical music with refined electronic touches, further expanding his sonic versatility. Recorded in a 19th century haunted cottage, the record contains layer-upon-layer of crafted intricacies that allow the listener to discover something new with each visit.

Ahead of his performance at Above The Clouds this Thursday, we caught up with Yates to discuss the creation of said album, his families haunted house, sheltering in the physicality of music and much more…

Hi Will, how’s it going? Can you tell us about your new album and the process that went into making it.
Hello Josh, musically it’s going very well at the moment thank-you. The album is a deeper exploration into live instrumental performance and sound recording techniques coupled with home grown production and analogue synthesis. I wanted a ‘limitless’ (only limited by my own ability and understanding) creative space and I think I gave myself one. Well, I and Black Acre managed to create one. It’s not as far as I think I could push my sound but it is a lot further into the unknown than my previous releases on Black Acre and I am proud of that.

There’s a genuine depth to the album and I seem to find something new every time I listen to it, is this the sort of thing you were trying to achieve?
Certainly. I spent hours on the intricacies. I think the whole album rests on them.

You quite obviously have a wide variety of influences but are there any specific records or artists that informed the creation of this album?
I do enjoy a lot of time spent listening and looking. Music, literature, film and art among the most obvious spenders of that time. There is a book called ‘House of Leaves’ by an author called Mark Z. Danielewski which was quite a strong inspiration when I started the album, but as it evolved and picked up it’s own momentum it started to create it’s own inspiration. Musically the influences came from a wide variety. I was listening to dark, deep dance music (Demdike Stare, Vex’d, Downliners Sekt), along with dark ambient electronica like Deaf Centre and Alexander Burn. Continuous influence from the likes of Max Richter, Brian Eno, DJ Shadow, Amon Tobin, Colleen and Lukid also all helped to inform the album. Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky is a must see film and directly inspired the second track on the album of the same title.

Where did your involvement with music instruments begin and how has it progressed over the years?
As a child we had instruments in the house (an upright piano, guitars and a flute) and I was always fascinated by them and the people who could play them. It gave me an incredible sense of euphoria (probably the first real deep emotion I ever felt) watching someone playing a piano when I was about 3. I didn’t realise at the time but it was probably the trigger to the rest of my life. Music is a shelter I can physically climb inside. My love for playing instruments and fiddling with sound has progressed fairly naturally and there is no outlandish story to uncoil. I just love playing, listening and completely submerging in music.

What’s this haunted house all about?
Well, my family home (on the outskirts of a wood in the middle of nowhere) is over 350 years old (not sure of the exact date but it’s somewhere in the early eighteen hundreds) and so, to someone who will allow ghost’s into there world, it would surely be haunted. I am sadly too logical a person to believe in the physicality of ghosts, but I do allow myself the pleasure of possibility and certainly seek the unexplained. There is a magical feeling to the surrounding landscape of my family home (where I was actually born) and I can’t help but be influenced by it.

You’re living in Brighton now right? How are things going down there?
I am indeed. Brighton is a great place. The underground music scene has something to be desired though. I am sure with a bit of investigation
there are interesting things going on all the time, I just haven’t found them yet. But in the case of general existence, Brighton is a pretty good place to do it. Also my road is very quite indeed so recording is not an issue thankfully (apart from the other music enthusiasts in the house!)

Is music a full-time career for you?
It is. I do commercial work as well as my own music stuff. Which I actually really enjoy. Working to a brief has it’s own special benefits (not only money.)I try and gig a couple of times a month also which just helps the stability of income. I’m a struggling artist, but I don’t mind. I’m doing what I love and getting by!

How did you hook up with the guys from Black Acre and have you found a home there?
It was actually through the label I was on previously (and which I release my ‘Hands EP’ on since being with Black Acre) called A Future Without. I made a track at the end of 2010, Multicolour to be precise, and Ross Tones (Throwing Snow) who runs AFW with Will Plowman, sent the soundcloud link to Ian (head of Black Acre) who emailed me almost straight away asking if I wanted to do a vinyl release of the track. The bond grew from there. It turns out me and Ian actually get on really well together! Black Acre are a great label and I am grateful they were willing to take a leap of faith with my album, being as it is, a little removed from anything they had released before.

How would you say your recorded music and live shows compare to with other – is every Memotone live show completely different?
I can not comfortably compare my music and live show to other peoples in ancritical way. However I can describe my live performance a little for people who may not have seen it. I do a live show with no laptop. I use live instrumentation and live loops bedded with MPC made beats and samples. It’s kind of like what James Blake/Mount Kimbie do, just with no vocals and only one guy. Each show is different of course. As it’s live the music has a life of it’s own and I allow room for improvisation. Hopefully this creates and interesting and enjoyable live show, but you will have to judge for yourselves!

Where can we catch you playing over the coming weeks?
Above The Clouds this Thursday at The Old Blue Last. Also, I’m playing at Club Gretchen in Berlin on the 9th of October which I am really excited about. Then I’m doing a private party in Shoreditch House which should be interesting, but sadly it’s invite only. Then I am playing at The Old Blue Last for a night put on by SquelchandClap in November. I’m also playing for the ‘Sofar Sounds’ Christmas party in London on the 15th of December. They put on incredible, intimate gigs in peoples living-rooms all over the world. Everyone sit’s on the floor in silence for the performances. I played one last month in a studio apartment in London and it was one of the best gigs I’ve ever played. Everyone silently listening and watching. Just a great atmosphere! If you want to come along to that one however, you will have to join there mailing list and put your name up for selection, as they are all very limited capacity events!

Josh Thomas