Fusing visual art with electronic music production, artist Wil Bolton is definitely a man of multiple talents. Previously releasing his LP Sumida Colours via delightful unconventional music sharing platform/ record label KrysaliSound earlier this year, the composer has also shared his new album Above the Neon Glow. Both works are inspired by field recordings and you can definitely visualize familiar imagery within an instant of listening to Wil Bolton’s sound. Sumida Colors was inspired by famous Japanese visual artist Hokusai’s block print The Great Wave off Kanagawa. The composer paid homage to this iconic artwork by walking through the streets of Sumida and captured visual footage of the city that fit into the colour scheme of the artwork and recorded sounds that captured the ethereal beauty of the city.
We chatted with multi-faceted artist Wil Bolton below.
Describe your sound for us. What do you want people to feel when they hear your music?
I make melodic, textural ambient music with field recordings, guitars, modular and analogue synthesizers, acoustic instruments and a bunch of effects pedals.
My work is mostly inspired by the environmental sounds I use in my tracks, so for me, they are tied to a specific place and atmosphere. But I hope they offer the listener an immersive experience and the chance to pause and drift off for a while.
Which 3 artists have influenced you the most growing up?
The Cure, The Velvet Underground, My Bloody Valentine.
How did you discover your particular sound?
Beyond playing guitar in a few bands at school, I began my music career producing melodic, glitchy electronica and IDM under the name Cheju. But gradually moved away from beats and MIDI programming and started to incorporate more guitars, acoustic instruments, analogue synths and field recordings into my work. When I began creating music under my own name, it was the field recordings and use of loopers and effects pedals that really brought me to my current sound. I focused more on texture and moving away from the grid, using asynchronous loops to build evolving webs of sound.
Tell us about one of the first struggles you faced (as a group or a solo artist) and how you overcame it?
Finding an outlet for my music back in the early 2000s was quite a struggle and I have always found sending demos to labels very stressful. I initially overcame this by starting my own label with a friend to release our own music alongside other artists. Nowadays I still occasionally approach labels with demo material but am very lucky and thankful to be mostly invited by labels who would like to work with me.
What are the most important pieces of equipment to you?
My growing modular synthesizer system Fender Bass VI and Squier Jazzmaster guitar are very important, but I think the most vital bits of gear are my field recorder and pedalboard. I have quite a few effects pedals and begin each new project with a fresh selection of them on my board, trying out new combinations and orders of effects.
Music for the individual or the masses – which do you want to create?
Definitely the individual first, although I think all artists however niche or experimental want to reach the widest possible audience without compromising their work.
Do you have a favourite memory of your career so far?
The launch gig for my album Under a Name that Hides Her on Hibernate Recordings back in 2012. It was an intimate concert in a gorgeous old church in Cragg Vale (Yorkshire, UK). I played live versions of the album tracks alongside amazing sets from Pimmon and riverrun. It really was a special evening, with tea and homemade cake and the venue was lit with candles and wonderful video projections by Antonymes.
If you could work with, or perform alongside any artist living or passed, who would it be?
The filmmaker Jonas Mekas.
What kind of message are you trying to send with your music?
I don’t really have a specific message and would prefer the listener to find their own meaning, but I hope it helps them to slow down and see the beauty in the unexpected or overlooked details of everyday life and scenery.
What can we expect from you in the near future? Any upcoming projects or gigs in the pipeline that you would like to tell us about?
I had the privilege of doing two-week-long studio residencies at EMS (Elektronmusikstudion) in Stockholm before and between lockdowns. I recorded material on their vintage Buchla and Serge modular systems and will release an album next year.
Follow Wil Bolton: