06-04-2014 | 10.14
Pieter Willems’ beard is the first thing I recognize when I meet him on Rembrandt Plein for a chat. It is the same beard that I saw at the controls a week or two ago as Will of Will and Ink, but on this occasion he dons it as Presk. “I do Will and Ink and I do Presk. They’re quite different from each other but that’s also why it’s fun.” We came together to talk about the latter project and his upcoming performance at Trouw. His last EP, Saluki, was an undeniable success, as it bounced between genres. The name taken from a breed of greyhound reflects something of the producers’ personal interests. “I really like dogs, especially greyhounds and while I was working on that track, a television program about salukis came on and it just stuck. It’s got a musical sound to it, and the track has a kind of jumpy feel to it. “ He will be at Trouw on the 11th of April, alongside Nautiluss and Iron Galaxy for the Audio Culture guys. A label he has had releases on in the past and looks set to have in the near future, but I soon find out that the connection runs even deeper than that…
What is your relationship with Audio Culture?
I was on their first commercial release with Cinnaman, which featured remixes from Doc Daneeka and Jon Convex, but I also produced the ‘actual’ first release. A teaser for the label in the form of a whitelabel. It had catalogue number 000. I did it anonymously at first but eventually people found out. Those guys are good friends of mine, so I’ve always felt connected to the label. I really like working with labels where I know the people who run them. I definitely need that personal connection. Especially with the Presk project, which is my personal playground.
A constant element in your music is the way that it transverses genres and avoids classification. How would you define a Presk production?
That’s something that’s been on mind for a while. When I first started out, I thought; ‘should I go in the direction of techno, to get booked for more techno sets or should I be more UK sounding’, but I never seemed to get it straight into one genre.
... that’s a good thing, right?
Yes, now I embrace it. Ideas pop in my head, when I hear something. Also when I play DJ sets, I can hear things in the record, which will remind me of something else in a completely different genre. That’s how my mind works, I guess.
I gather from previous interviews that your musical education has been very technical. Does that influence your music much or do you approach it strictly form a DJ’s perspective?
Both. I did have to loose a lot of training I had in music production, because we were taught how to record a band in the correct manner, instead of doing crazy things with effects and processing. I had to stop thinking in those terms and figure out if it sounded nice for myself. The compositional training was important in the end. Thinking about form and function and how a track should progress is the kind of stuff that is really important to me.
I can hear a lot of these compositional techniques in your music. The way you never just repeat a loop directly, gives the songs constant developing characters.
Exactly, that’s what I work on the most. The loop, the basic idea, I get done pretty quickly, but then to transform them into tracks can take up a lot of time. I have a lot of loops that I just can’t get into a song and will never get finished. I can sometimes revisit it a year later, and something might happen. The Saluki EP was like that. The basic ideas were pretty old, and I eventually got round to giving it the attention it needed.
There is also a heavy focus on the sub bass spectrum in your music. What influenced the predilection with the lower frequency range?
I guess that’s my Drum and Bass background. When I was fifteen years old, I discovered Drum and Bass and just a little bit before that I discovered I could make music on my own computer. Drum and Bass always kinda stuck with me, especially the bass lines. After studying music I got a bit bored with the abstract experimental stuff that we focussed on, and went back to making dance floor tracks. That was around the time Dubstep was starting to blow up. I didn’t care that much for the classic dubstep sound but for me the 2562 records (A Made Up Sound) were very important along with Martyn and his 3024 label. It was a housey sound with warm chords, but cut up for the groove. And they relied especially on a big, boomy low end. I still like that. I sometimes like it a bit too much, and I usually have to cut something away otherwise they can’t press it on vinyl.
It seems that you draw your influences from other music. Where will you be drawing your influences from next, especially since you’ll be starting work on some new music?
I do listen to a lot of music now and not always club-music. There’ll be an element, like a guitar that sounds really peculiar, and I will try and recreate that, maybe not with a guitar but I’ll try and capture that same feeling. I also tend to get into a certain mood, with reading books and going to exhibitions. It helps you get out of the daily-life mindset and I find that I can easily tap into what I find interesting. The influences at the time will have an effect on my decisions. For example, I’m listening to a lot of Kassem Mosse and I am pretty certain that will influence me in terms of sound. But next year it could be completely different.
Is it a conscious decision you make?
I try to, but the moment I switch on a synthesizer and press a key it’s gone. My mind switches into a different mode and I can’t be rational about the choices I make. I more-or-less go with the flow. And sometimes I take a step back and think about what I’m doing, and that also helps. I’ve noticed I want to do this more to develop my ideas. It’s not necessarily a conscious decision, but I do notice, subconsciously, the things I listen to, influences me. I eventually hear it in my music, but I don’t start out with that idea in mind. For example with Hesitate, which was released on Fourth Wave, I was listening to a lot of Kerrier District (Luke Vibert) at the time and I can still hear it, but at no point did I consciously want to sit down and make a Kerrier District track.
In a previous interview, there was mention of you only performing live. Is that still the case?
No, I’ve always DJ’d, but back then I focussed more on live sets. I’ve been playing records for a long time, but I never felt comfortable enough to do it for a crowd until about two years ago. I enjoy it now more than a live set. It has a lot to do with the music I was making and not being able to squeeze it into a specific genre. If I were to get booked for a gig, I would feel like playing house music, and the audience might want to hear pounding UK bass. I felt there was this gap between what I wanted to do and what the audience wanted to hear, because I fell into this weird void between genres. But then I thought ‘Fuck it’, I’ll embrace the fact that I mix different genres together and I’ll keep doing it in DJ sets. And now I enjoy it more, because I can go into many different directions.
And you’ll be bringing a DJ Set to Trouw?
What sort of stuff will you be bringing along for Trouw’s audience?
It’s very hard to say, but it’s always between the continuum of Techno, which has more of a groove to it and House. Not the trending Deep House of the moment, but the more broken beat kind of stuff. Sometimes I’ll throw the odd UK garage tune in there. It varies a lot and I like playing with USB sticks for that reason. I can put a lot of music on them, and whenever I have that ‘Ohh’ moment of recognizing an amazing follow up track, I can always pull it out.
Are there any tracks that are blowing your mind at the moment?
I do like a lot of new stuff from Ben La Desh. He is a Dutch guy from Rotterdam, who makes House music. I basically love everything he makes. I also like going into record shops and gathering a few records to listen to, regardless of who made it. It keeps your collection fresh and very personal. If it clicks with me within 10s and if I still like it after 30s I’ll buy it.
What’s next for Presk?
I am working on a new release for Audio Culture. I just have to find the time to work on it properly. I am hoping it will be out after the summer. Presk was taking a back seat over 2013 as Will and Ink took up most of the year. I made a lot of music, but never did much with it. I am now sorting out the little bits I did and looking for labels to release them on and Audio Culture will be one of them. The next big step will be a release for Nuno’s (Dos Santos) Something Happening Somewhere label. I’ve put a lot of effort into that EP. One of the tracks is really a composition. I composed it a bit too much and it could have been an album track, but the other two are very much dance floor tracks. I’m really happy with the EP. Whereas Saluki was raw, which I do like, I took a different angle and developed the compositions a bit more. They contrast each other nicely but it still very much has a Presk sound to it.
Text: Mischa Mathys