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Axel Willner on recording sessions, not polishing songs off and getting sick of The Field
words Sven Hultberg Carlsson
Beatnik had a chat with The Field, an ambient techno producer who specializes in climactic songs built from loops. Just as his third album, Looping State of Mind, hit the shelves, The Field seemed only marginally excited.The Field: Arpeggiated Love
For a man pursuing his dreams, Axel Willner can get surprisingly tired of his job.
“I get sick of it all the time. I’ve been really sick of it lately, actually, which is weird because I just released an album, which should make this a time when I’m really excited about it,” Willner, the producer behind The Field, a dance music project, relays from Berlin, his new home.
But, he then admits, inspiration comes and goes. Leaving Stockholm for Germany to make music—electronic that is consistently praised around the world—ain’t all that bad, after all.
People who ditch Stockholm for Berlin usually crave the kind of free-spirited openness the Swedish capital seems to lack, which of course there is an abundance of further south.
But in a way, Willner made the reverse switch, at least in terms of recording: half-anarchic sessions in Sweden were replaced by German oderliness in the form of an engineer at his service, predetermined recording times, and a proper studio.
“Having an engineer made a huge difference when recording for Looping State of Mind. We were always ready to record. It was also far more structured. We set times for our recording sessions. That was very unlike living in a studio for a week and seeing where we’d end up.”
The was what happened when Willner, with friends, set out to record his second album, Yesterday and Today, in 2009.
“We borrowed a friend’s cottage on an island outside Stockholm for a week. We brought all the equipment we had, and a few more instruments that we had borrowed, and recorded everything ourselves in this studio we had built for ourselves.”
It was the kind of environment that’s conducive to spontaneously recording beefed-up covers of British pop bands.The Field: Everybody's Got to Learn Some Time (Korgis Cover)
The recording of Looping State of Mind changed Willner’s creative process i other ways, too. The raw, immediate feel of From Here We Go Sublime and Yesterday and Today has been replaced with a more deliberate product.
“My first album was recorded live and mixed live. I left it that way; I don’t like it too polished. It’s dangerous to start modifying things like that, you get stuck changing all these minor details.
“Now, I have forced myself to go back to ‘finished’ songs because my process is very different. But I still want to get as much done as I get can, quickly. Not because I’m tired and lazy, but to retain the initial feeling I had when I started working on the song.”The Field: Is This Power
“Another thing that separates Looping State of Mind from the other two albums is that it was taken more from a live context, and not the other way around. We adjusted the recordings to what we’re able to do on the stage. But we’re still trying to find the shape of the songs on stage.”
As for the live show, Willner began by hitting away at a laptop and sampler, all by his lonesome. But, having grown up playing in bands since his early teens, soon realized that the typical bedroom-producer show wasn’t his bag. Since the release of Yesterday and Today, all live shows are with a band.
“There will always be that need to see men sweating on a stage—don’t ask me why. Techno and electronic music is not something to see, but to experience. We’re not the most active group of guys on stage, but at least it looks like we’re doing something.
“Playing live steals a lot of creativity. When The Field gets boring—which never really happens, though I do get tired of it—I make sure to do something else instead. The Field has to come naturally, I can’t just go in the studio with the intention to make music for The Field. It doesn’t work that way.”
The Field on Kompakt FM
Buy Looping State of Mind