xel Willner, better known to electronic music trainspotters as the Field, has realized one of 2007's defining moments in From Here We Go Sublime, his debut full-length on Kompakt. A masterpiece of trickily-manipulated millisecond samples and deft programming, Willner's layering of sounds is so complex it's almost architectural. Luckily, a sense of graceful beauty underlies the manic construction, and instead of a monument to the ego, Willner's created a monster of beat-driven bliss that touches all your happy buttons at once.
Taking some time out from a packed schedule, the ambient-trance man of the hour exchanged a couple of e-mails over the past few months with Stylus, revealing his punk-rock past and pescetarian eating habits, among other things...
First off, I'd just like to thank you for taking the time to talk with us. We've been really digging on your debut album From Here We Go Sublime over at Stylus—it's been a firm staff favorite from the moment we heard it. Has the overwhelmingly positive reception the record has gotten before it's even dropped been a real surprise to you?
It has been a real surprise. Since it is a bit different than (most) other techno, I thought that people wouldn’t like it.
If you'll forgive the generalization, it seems to me that you've come out of nowhere with such a strong record. I know you've had some CD-r releases and a few compilation appearances in the past few years, but how long have you been making tracks as the Field, and how did you get started? Is this material all pretty much from the last year or so, or are there older recordings represented here?
Mostly it is "new" tracks made between 2004-2006, but there are older tracks as well and one track originally recorded under a different alias.
Do you plan to continue operating under other aliases as well as the Field?
That's the plan, but at this point I don't have my guitar at home, so it´s hard to make any of the other music that I need to make as the contrast to the Field.
OK, personal question time... do you enjoy living in Stockholm? And, if so, what do you especially like about it?
I like living here a lot. The surrounding water and the possibility (of) swimming in the city are worth gold, and there are always nice food, drinks, and people.
Have you traveled much, through music or otherwise? If so, was there any place you really liked?
I´ve done both, and I lived abroad as a kid. I like Copenhagen!
Any interesting eating habits to report? Are you a vegetarian or a rabid meat-eater? Do you like cauliflower? Vietnamese food?
No, not that (many) interesting habits, but I am a semi-vegetarian, because I eat fish and seafood—and I love Vietnamese food!
What are some of your interests outside of music?
I like film, but I don't take (the) time to watch movies nowadays. Some of my favorites are Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 12 Monkeys and David Lynch. Also, I play badminton every Tuesday.
Your website is called Garmonbozia. Are you a big Twin Peaks fan? I heard that gum you like is going to come back in style...
Hehe, I am a big Twin Peaks fan. "I.am.the.arm..."
What were your formative musical experiences? Did you have any schooling or professional training, or did you just get started in the bedroom, so to speak?
No professional training except some musical theory a couple of years ago when I was studying sound engineering. It all started in my early teens, inspired by the Misfits and Dead Kennedys amongst other punk groups—I screamed and played the guitar in different punk collabs. I stopped screaming but kept on playing the guitar, (which) I still do. There is some guitar with e-bow on the (Field) record.
So, besides the e-bow guitar, were there any other live instruments you used?
Just that (e-bow) on "Mobilia," and that's the only live source on the recording unfortunately.
I'm quite surprised that you got started as a punk rocker! There seems to be very little in the way of aggression or teen angst in your music. I would've thought maybe classical or jazz, considering the complexity of your tracks. Did you go straight from loving the Misfits to listening to electronic music, or did you get into other things along the way?
Hehe, no the journey was long, since I started to listen to the Misfits around the age of 12. Many things passed during the way and most of it I still like today: American indie-rock, post-rock, modern classical, and more...
Yes, I was and I still am. I really love Seefeel!
What's your favorite album ever, if you have one?
I think it would be Zauberberg, by Gas.
What conditions do you work under? Are you a night owl or an early riser? Do you have any special methods to your madness, or things that you always do before working?
I work under both, I guess, and there´s no special methods or (anything), but I tend to make music when something is going on in my life. Big feelings and so on. It can be a song (that) I hear connected to a memory, which gives me a certain feeling that I then want to (re-)create out of that particular track, but with something (added) that's my own.
Not to get you to reveal any secrets of the trade, but what kind of equipment and processes do you use? The sounds on the album are extremely distinctive and unique, and it's the first time in a long while where I've really wondered about how an artist goes about making and layering sounds.
I use the computer as a sampler and I steal milliseconds from a track that I then rearrange and add new sounds and effects to.
There are some really clever sample manipulations on the record—Kate Bush, the Four Tops, Lionel Richie, etc. How much of your material is sample-based? How do you feel about the legality and difficulty of using and licensing samples?
Most of the record is sample-based. The difficulty is pretty silly, when it is in this context, milliseconds (in which) you can't really hear what the original is, but if they knew I would probably get in trouble!
A big part of what makes From Here We Go Sublime such an inspiring album to listen to revolves around your use of organic sounds, particularly the human voice, and especially the female voice... do you have a special relationship with vocals, or a specific feeling that they convey that you wanted to capture?
The special relationship with vocals is that I don’t really like them, hehe. But I really like cut(-up)voices in my music. It´s more of an instrument than a voice, and it gives (the music) a special feeling.
Your remixes seem to be generating a lot of excitement—how do you feel about doing a remix vs. doing your own material?
It´s a totally different approach. The process of getting something out of the original is faster and it doesn´t always work, but it´s fun to do them and a change of pace.
So, what's next for the Field?
At this point I (will keep) work(ing) at my usual job and play in Europe some.
Have you done any DJing gigs, or will you in the future?
I have, but I´m no good at beat matching...
Is your live show strictly laptop, or do you have instruments or dancing puppets or anything off-the-wall?
Laptop, but with some live effects. I try to have visuals when I play but that is (usually) here in Sweden because the guys doing it can´t always travel with me.
You've already released "Sun & Ice" as a single, as well as having "Over the Ice" on Total 7—what will your next single release be, if you call tell me?
We´ll see. The only thing I know about now is a remix by me of Gui Boratto’s track "Hera" that will be out on Kompakt in mid-May.
Well thanks so much for your time, and we wish you well.
All the best.
The Field @ MySpace