One of the most anticipated debut artist albums of 2020 arrived recently, as genius Scottish producer Will Atkinson delivered a seventeen-track LP that’s nothing less than a masterpiece.
A body of music that seamlessly fuses trance, techno & drum n’ bass with progressive & poetry, ambient & acid and harmony & hard dance, it immediately vies for the tag of ‘timeless’.
We spoke to Will about how the album came about, and a lot more.
T.H.E – Hi Will, thanks for joining us for a chat! The ‘Last King Of Scotland’ – your debut album – is fully out now, congrats on that. What’s the response been like from your audience?
Will Atkinson – Thanks very much. To be honest I’m blown away by how well it’s been received. Chart positions aside, I’m genuinely very humbled and at a loss for words really. I knew it was going to get some decent traction and expected it to turn heads, but to be sitting now on millions of streams, sold out CDs and breaching the main album charts – it’s just nice to see the time invested in being justified and received on a global scale.
T.H.E – Which tracks have you sensed have been getting the greatest heat?
Will Atkinson – Cigarettes & Kerosene and Rush seem to be getting the most noise from what I’ve seen on my socials and all my friends and family I’ve spoken to. But generally speaking, there is love right across the board for every track.
T.H.E – Tell us about the genesis of the album’s title? What lies behind it?
Will Atkinson – It’s basically paying homage to the soil that I grew up on. The country I love. A place I call home. It’s the air that I breathe. It has inspired my music in so many ways. It’s all I know.
T.H.E – The sense of patriotism behind it is certainly evident. Do you feel that certain tracks are particularly Scottish in vibe?
Will Atkinson – Well apart from the fact the album starts out in full bagpipe glory, all these tracks are based on people, places, experiences – not all in Scotland – but most my music I close my eyes and all I see is Scotland. So you could say 90% of the album is inspired some way or another by my home.
T.H.E – What prompted you to include, essentially, poetry on the album?
Will Atkinson – I’ve known Rory most my adult life. We came of age together. Went to college together. Got caught up in some pretty messed up stuff when we moved to Glasgow. We came out the other side (somehow) but we’ve always bounced music off each other. Whether he’s been reciting lyrics at 6 am on a couch somewhere, or peak flight showing him melody ideas. I and Rory are alike in many ways. Mainly though I think we’d both be lost without music. It’s our salvation. It’s got us through shit. Rory has always had a spark when it comes to lyrics. He paints a sobering and realistic picture of life as a young guy in Scotland. It’s relatable on every level. It’s so real. We’ve made some good stuff in the past. It seemed right to have him on this album. There’s so much more to me than Trance. I want to ask questions, I want people to relate, connect – it’s my sonic walkthrough of life. You can’t just express that through one style. Rory completely captured the vibe perfectly.
T.H.E – You moved from the Orkney Islands to Glasgow to begin your career. What age were you when you did that and was it a big culture shock?
Will Atkinson – Hugely. It went from building rafts, football in fields, drinking on beaches with my best friends to all night flat parties, raves in industrial units, talking to strangers in kitchens about music, clubs – anything and everything – pretty much a whole culture switch in a year. Hedonism, happy go lucky – it was like watching the volcano from afar wanting to know what goes on in the middle of it then suddenly I’m in the epicentre – living it, loving it. I also saw poverty, despair and felt what it was like to lose people close to me. It felt like the bubble wrap was removed. No stabilisers. I’ve been taught a few lessons about trust, wit and keeping a close circle. All valuable lessons.
T.H.E – How did you meet Gary Go (the vocalist on ‘If I Spoke Your Language’) and how did it end up becoming the first official single from the album?
Will Atkinson – This record was born in Amsterdam. ADE to be precise. John met with Gary’s management and somehow persuaded them to give me the shot at the stems of this track – originally entitled “Venus”. In January 2020, myself, John and our friend, Charlie escaped from what was known
as reality and isolated ourselves in the middle of a Welsh valley for 10 days – before isolation was cool! No signal, no wifi – cut off from the outside world. The only purpose – write music, write my album and capture it through Charlie’s camera. The record came to life. What started off as a remix of Gary’s own track “Venus” soon turned into an Indie fizzing, melancholically infused Trance collaboration. A little back and forth with Gary for extra adlibs and a harmony stem – I must have harassed the poor guy for 6 months only to find the harmony had been included in the original stems all along – If I Spoke Your Language was born. Chords to make the heart thump, lyrics to make your eyes well up. This is not only one of my favourites off the album, but of my whole career.
T.H.E – You’ve had something of a reputation as a maverick producer in terms of the elements you place in tracks. Is this something you’ve continued into your debut album, and if so on what numbers specifically?
Will Atkinson – I’m just doing me, to be honest. Making the music I can’t find. The music that grips me, breaks my heart, the way it did when I was 10 years old.
T.H.E – Tell us something about your set at Platform (formerly The Arches)? How did that come about?
Will Atkinson – It only seemed right to take it back inside those hallowed brick walls of The Arches. When I moved to Glasgow from Orkney in 2008, it felt like every other night out ended up here. What started out as a hobby turned into an addiction. The addiction led to education. A pilgrimage to this clubbing mecca we all know and love. Nowhere could be more fitting. I have to say, I had mixed emotions reading back all the comments. So many stories, experiences, shared by people, tagging their circles of friends, clubbers – bringing all that together felt even more special than the stream itself. And it really brought home just how special The Arches was. An institution in its own right. Friendships forged, memories set in stone. There was only one place I could have launched this album. Egypt has the Pyramids. China has the Great Wall. Glasgow has door Arches.
T.H.E – Finally, if you had to point our readers to just one track from the album for them to get a flavour, which one would it be!?
Will Atkinson – I think Kismet Energy expresses perfectly my journey – where I’ve been, what I grew up loving and where I am right now.