The mastermind behind one of 2020’s best albums, Last King Of Scotland, electronic vanguard Will Atkinson holds one of the most respected and outstanding repertoires in the game. With more than two decades of studio production and performance under his belt, Will continues to serve as a highly-inspirational figurehead in this industry.
Taking a glance into the wondrous rabbit hole of Will’s discography quickly becomes an addiction. He’s one of the special select artists who have mastered their craft to cater towards any ear that favors tech, trance, techno, electronica, progressive…the list goes on. His ever-experimental sound burns a whole through the electronic stratosphere, roping in music lovers at every point of contact. A deep mind, creative soul, and wholesome heart, Will’s being seeps through the veins of his music time after time.
Though he is responsible for a wealth of treasured singles and collaborations, Will is only now debuting his first album. Take one listen through of the album and you’ll see just why saving this soundtrack until now was probably one of the best decisions of Will’s long standing career. Taking form as Last King Of Scotland, there’s no debate that this veteran has been carefully concocting the opportune time to release such a mammoth body of work.
An album of marvelous cinematic proportions, Last King Of Scotland features 17 jaw-dropping tracks. Opening up a tunnel of sound, the ravenous soundscape is launched from the very beginning. Maintaining a tempo of pure opulence, each of the 17 tracks build on top of one another and flow together on a velvety smooth yet adrenalizing scale. Last King Of Scotland also features fellow collaborators like Perpleer, Gary Go, and Cari Golden (just to name a few). It’s albums like this that propel the electronic scene forward and never fail to remind us of the astonishing talent that thrives within this genre.
Every single song off this album has a meaningful story behind it, and Will was happy to share these in our exclusive interview below.
Nocturnal Times: Congratulations on your new album Last King Of Scotland – the album pulls from a multitude of your experiences over recent years, including what you’ve dubbed your very own ‘Welsh Exile’ this year. Tell us more about the expectations you had going into this escape?
Will Atkinson: Writing this album was never going to be a quick process for me. I’m a control freak (I don’t collaborate much) and I obsess – probably too much – over the final product. Well we had about 6 tracks sort of finished for the album but I guess you could say I hit a plateau and let me social life lead me astray a little. I called it research and development – my manager John called it “I’m pulling you out of Scotland, kicking and screaming to finish this album” – so that’s what we did in January. No signal, no wifi. Complete isolation – before it became a thing. We were there with one purpose only. Write and finish the best music of my career. Capture it through our friend Charlie’s lens. And ultimately get my artist album over the line. It was so fruitful. Without a doubt the most creative 9 days of my life. We finished 6 tracks – effectively taking the album to 90%. And at the time, we were poised on what was to be the biggest year of my career. Of course all this would collapse weeks later, with the world gripped into a global pandemic. But at the time, the hope, sense of accomplishment and anticipation was real.
Nocturnal Times: As an artist who holds such a longstanding career in music already, is there a reason you’ve waited until now to produce your first-ever album?
Will Atkinson: I never took the decision to write an album lightly. Hence the reason it took me 30 years of my life to drop this. To me, it’s an intimate depiction of me as a human being, music lover – it’s my musical DNA. Where I’ve been, where I come from. Where I’m going. When you commit to something as grand as that, you’re all in or nothing. Why would you write, share, pour your heart and soul into a body of music that isn’t going to gratify 30 years of obsession, addiction and slavery to the sound you dedicated your life too. It has to be life changing. I want it to change peoples lives. That’s what music is about. And music has the power to do that. It’s how you harness it. Your tools, experience and application. It took a bit of a nudge from my manager but I feel 30 years on this planet, a lifetime dedicated to honing my craft – it’s probably good time to tell my story. And hopefully make an impact on the person that’s listening.
Nocturnal Times: Last King Of Scotland features 17 tracks that all add up to an insane energy. We’d like to call out one song in particular and ask for your thoughts behind it and that song is “Cigarettes & Kerosine.” As a personal favorite from the album, we’d love to hear the story behind this one!
Will Atkinson: I’ve been obsessed with Cari’s vocals since I heard her on Tocadisco’s “Smoke & Mirrors”. So the title is a subtle nod in that direction for sure. I must have played that record in every gig all summer in 2016 and beyond. I’ve never been so gripped on a vocal before. Cari can do not what many singers can. She holds back, gives you a slice but you are on your knees begging for the full cake and when you don’t get it, your’e still in heaven off the first slice. Effortless. And it almost has that element of swag. She sounds confident, in control and on a dancefloor, I feel that just commands energy. Goldfrapp – Ooh La La was always one of my favourite records and I think Alison Goldfrapp creates that similar energy. This is my “Ooh La La” record. The track itself I wanted to create something quite “German” sounding – something you’d expect to hear from Dumonde or Oliver Lieb back in the early 00s. I didn’t want any bass changes. I wanted attitude, mood and control. And a cascading climax. I am absolutely choking to play this out.
Nocturnal Times: Can you walk us through the production of perhaps the most challenging song from Last King Of Scotland?
Will Atkinson: My manager challenging me to write a track in 6 hours during our exile into the Welsh valleys. Allocated 15 samples (and a bonus sample of me shouting “I’ve got hummus running through my veins” in the middle of a forest), given 6 hours to write a full track incorporating all these samples and whatever gets finished within those 6 hours is final. No changes. Not a single tweak. Whatever the result is, that goes onto your artist album. The result? Beans.
Nocturnal Times: If you had to sum up the album in just 1-2 sentences, what would it be?
Will Atkinson: It’s ground I grew up on. The air that I breathe. It is a sonic walkthrough of my life. Where I come from. Where I am. And where I’m going.
Nocturnal Times: We read that “If I Spoke Your Language” is not only one of your favorite songs off the album, but of your whole career. At what point did it really strike you that this was something very special?
Will Atkinson: For sure. The track originally started out as a kind of progressive indie record. But Gary’s vocals are just breathtaking. I think it really had that daytime radio feel. It wouldn’t sound out of place on a Take That album. My manager John manage to persuade them to give me a shot at working with the stems. I ripped it apart. Took it down a chugging deeper route. With a massive cinematic opening. And sort of laid on the emotion a little more for the chorus. I don’t think this is the most club orientated track on the album. But I feel that’s why I love it so much. I made this with no club related inhibitions – I really lost myself in this record. It’s a really mature record. No gimmicks. Just a proper record. But I still feel every inch of emotion from it – if not, more than a standard club record. And I think the whole geographical DNA of this record – it literally has roots in 4 different countries. John closed the deal at ADE Amsterdam. I started it in England. Finished it in Wales. Then filmed the music video in Scotland. The whole project start to finish just oozes class. From the record to the movie. To the story itself.
Nocturnal Times: We loved reading the inspiration behind “Drowning In Dunes Of Time.” One thing that struck us about this track is that you were after some “atmospheric soundscapery to layer over the documentary we had just shot.” Can you tell us more about this documentary and if readers can expect to see the film anytime soon?
Will Atkinson: The full documentary is live on my YouTube channel! Make sure you turn your phone off. Immerse yourself into it. Like we lived it. It’s isn’t glossed over. No big frills. Not like the music videos or live streams. It’s 3 guys in a cottage. Pursuing a passion of music captured through a lens.
Nocturnal Times: Which song from Last King Of Scotland would you like to be the first song you play back at a show when they return??
Will Atkinson: Kismet Energy I think is a good one. It encapsulates everything I’m about in a live setting. It pays respect to the past, my journey and early influences. But it’s also a very current representation of me as an artist, DJ & clubber. Everything I love about the harder sounds of Dance music.
Nocturnal Times: If you could go back on tour tomorrow, where would a few of your first tour stops be and why?
Will Atkinson: Anywhere in Mexico City. I played my favourite show of my career there in September 2019. There is something about South America. The hot blooded, carnival like atmosphere. I played Mexico City with my manager John Askew – we were closing the second stage. Although it was the second stage of the festival, it was still a decent sized stage. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed at the turn out. Maybe 300 people max? In a club, that looks good but in an open park, it doesn’t. John started his set and I’ll never forget what I saw. Hundreds of people running down to our stage. They must have left the main arena – which probably held 20k people – the place started to fill. By the time I came on to perform my closing set, there must have been 10k people in front of me. I started my set with an edit I made of an old Techno track: Cave – Carnival which has a huge carnival style drum solo. To hear this on a massive sound system, the place went bananas. I’ve got goosebumps right now talking about it. Then my first track kicked in – Heavy Gear – and I thought the stage as going to collapse. It sounded like Javier Hernandez scoring in the 93rd minute in a world cup final. Every kick, every riff, every time I raised my hands – screams, shouts, chants. It’s the most insane atmosphere I’ve ever experienced not only as a DJ, but a human being. That night changed my life. I can’t wait to get back.
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