Under his own name and alias Celer, American-born Tokyo-based producer Will Long has built up a steady output of deep house and ambient releases. Mentored by collaborator and friend Terre Thaemlitz, aka DJ Sprinkles, Long's minimalist house cuts resonate on a deeper conceptual level, often injecting vocal samples from political and cultural spheres into his expansive soundscapes. Following on from Long's gorgeous long play debut in 2016, Long Trax 2 'presents as an ongoing criticism of cultural stasis, conveyed via minimal synthesizers, sampler, and rhythm machine.' Following its release last Friday, we caught up with Will to talk about the ideas and sounds which inspire his music production.
How would you describe the sound on your new EP Long Trax 2?
It was the closest I could come to an interpretation of and homage to the kind of house music that I love, with a message that's important to me concerning ongoing cultural and social issues.
The record has been described as ‘an ongoing criticism of cultural stasis.’ Can you expand on this a little bit? What ideas are you wanting to explore on the record?
I want people to know the history of the problems that we continually face, in order to find a way to change those problems, rather than being endlessly hopeful with little or no understanding of how those same issues have been tackled in the past. You can't fix a problem unless you know the causes. Simply being positive isn't enough. We need to be constructive, learn from our mistakes, and know how to prevent repeating them. Otherwise we'll end up making them over and over.
How important is it for you that your music carries a political edge?
I really don't like the word "political", because as I said before these are social and cultural issues. For example, on the track "No More", I sampled the freedom rider Samuel Block. He talks about the sheriff of his town threatening to throw him in jail, beat him, run him out of town, etc.. all because he was bringing other black voters to the voting booths to vote for the first time. In the end he rejected the sheriff, and brought people to vote regardless.
If this lesson is considered something "political", then we're farther behind than I thought.
Why was Smalltown Supersound the appropriate label for its release?
They got in contact me and offered to release it.
You have worked closely alongside Terre Thaemlitz throughout your career. How has this collaboration influenced your work?
I've only worked with Terre on one album so far, but Terre has been a positive influence in my house music, ambient music, and as a friend in general for many years.
How has Terre influenced my work? For my house music, I probably would have 10 listeners on Soundcloud without Terre.
How does living in Tokyo impact the music you produce and your approaches to making music? Are you influenced by the music scene in the city?
Yes, there are lots of secondhand instrument shops and record stores, and being a foreigner makes you somewhat of an social outcast while simultaneously sticking out like a sore thumb. A little self-deprecation is useful for grounding.
No, I don't think I'm influenced by the music scene in Tokyo.
Can you tell us a little bit about your alias Celer? What’s different about your musical output and methods under this name?
It's different in basically every way. It's ambient music I make with tape or computer, whereas with house music I use synthesizers, samplers, and a rhythm machine.
I'm not sure how to say the output is different. Maybe.. it's no different in that it's also putting your heart and soul into something and begging people to listen to it.
What’s in store for your label Two Acorns. Any upcoming releases?
I don't have any plans at the moment.
What music are you listening to at the moment? Are there any artists who you find particularly inspiring for your own sound?
Vil-N-X "What Cha Gonna Do", Michael Jackson "Off the Wall", Charles Mingus "The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady", Jenny Hval "Blood Bitch", Herbie Hancock "Mr. Hands", Gil Scott-Heron "Pieces of a Man", Terre Thaemlitz "Deproduction", Sapphire Slows, Betty Davis, Keiji Haino "To Start With, Let's Remove the Color", Melt Banana "Teeny Shiny", and The Delfonics "La La Means I Love You" is what I'm listening to lately.
What else have you got planned for the rest of 2018?
I'd like to read more books, study low-income housing solutions, be a good friend to everyone I know, and learn how to play chords by sight without having to look at the cheat sheet.
Long Trax 2 was released on Smalltown Supersound on 16th March 2018.