Through his impeccable DJ sets, his CLOSE moniker and his steady guiding of the Aus Music imprint, Will Saul has become an imposing figure in electronic music.
Yet, at heart, the producer thrives on a sense of close community. Recently moving back to his native West Country, Will Saul continually surrounds himself with like minds, probing spirits who share similar tastes or outlooks.
It's a tendency which comes through in fantastic fashion on his forthcoming DJ Kicks mix for the iK7 imprint. All the tracks on the release are exclusive, allowing Will Saul to craft something entirely unique for the much loved mix series.
Commissioned some two years ago, it's an epic undertaking but one which is rooted in a specific locality - at one point, Saul tells Clash that this is a "West Country breaks mix".
Billed as "a fresh concept which represented the way I DJ" the mix is due to be released on June 16th. Here's a track by track guide to Will Saul's titanic DJ Kicks mix.
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1. Will Saul & Komon - 'Bendy'
Called 'Bendy' after the long, loping pitch-shifted pads in the track. I wanted to start the mix really slow, this track is about 105bpm from memory and build from there and who better to set the tone of my own mix than me - and Komon of course! Since moving back to the West Country three years ago I've developed some amazing new friendships with people I knew very distantly or had worked with in the past. Keiren 'Komon' released on Aus last year and is a mainstay on my label. I work loads with him and we'll be releasing together for many years no doubt about that… we just have a great time in the studio, very similar tastes and never a crossed word.
2. Animal Hands - 'Beacon Island'
Animal Hands are singer-songwriter and all round musical genius Will Samson and his production partner Florian. Will sang on an EP with Tom Demac that we released at the end of last year on Aus and he has an incredible falsetto voice. The full track on the vinyl of the 'DJ Kicks' album is long and epic and well worth checking out but I only used about a minute of their track in the mix - I just wanted Will's haunting vocal textures, to be honest. I also actually used the rough version they sent over first rather than the polished second version as I wanted the rough edges and grainy feel they captured on the vocals originally... he is definitely someone I hope to work with I the future - would love him to sing on some of my own music. If you get a chance to see him live then do as he's breathtaking!
3. Komon & Appleblim - The Visionary State
Another of my West Country crew! Laurie Appleblim is a legend and has one of the warmest hearts in the business. I met Laurie many years ago now and its fair to say that he gave me an insight into the first wave of producers that were coming from dub-step but making 4/4 rhythms via his Dub-step Allstars comp on Tempa. The press called it post-dubstep. Producers like Martyn, Ramadanman (now Pearson Sound), TRG (now Cosmin TRG) and also Komonazmuk (now Komon) featured heavily on this mix and to me it sounded as fresh as hell. I reached out to him and we became good friends. He also introduced me to David Kennedy / Pearson Sound (we released the first ever Pearson Sound track 'Indelible' on an Aus comp called 'All Night Long') and we released tracks by Ramadanman and Appleblim on Aus. David then introduced me to Harry 'Midland' and it goes on…. Laurie has a penchant for the psychedelic and this really comes through in this delightfully woozy track he made with Komon.
4. Joe Gray - 'Tozai'
Joe is someone I've known for over a decade. He was one third of Precision Cuts, the live breakbeat act that we released a couple of singles by on Simple Records (one of my record labels - now dormant) many years ago. He moved to Japan and pretty much opted out of music about five years ago so I was thrilled when he sent me this piece of music as he's always had an amazing ear for weird and wonderful melody. This track was written on an iPad on his daily commute to work on the underground in Tokyo... I get a kick out of thinking about Joe totally surrounded by the madness and hustle and bustle yet zoned out in his own little world creating this epic chord progression...
5. Cottam - 'Healing Process'
Paul Cottam is an amazing man. Father of three and full time Dad for his youngest son Jacob. This means he doesn't get much time to make music. Paul also suffers from multiple sclerosis so is quite often unable to make music or in the right head space to be creative. I would dearly love to release more of Paul's music and was thrilled to get a track from him for this mix.
6. Youandewan - 'Ego'
This track will feature on the debut artist album from Youandewan early next year on Aus! Ewan is an incredibly talented keys player and has the knack of making things sound dusty and 'lived in' - I think he sounds a little bit like Theo Parrish or Moodyman - always rough edges - but thats half of the charm of the way he produces.
7. Jabru - 'Church' ft. Joel Culpepper
You would have to have a heart of stone not to be a tiny bit moved Joel's vocal… Ade 'Jabru' is also from the West Country, Exeter to be specific, and I met him at the doomed Bloc festival in London, where we were stuck in a car together for about four hours unable to leave the site. He proceeded to play me about 20 of his own unreleased tracks and I was quietly blown away. We've kept in touch and I hope to work with him a lot in the future - a real talent.
8. Lrusse - 'Presence'
I play loads of Lrusse's tracks in my sets. Really heavy drums and the tracks always chug along beautifully. An ace melancholic chords progression in this track and I'm a sucker for those 'weepy/sad' chords… oh, and he's also from Bristol.
9.Walton - 'Birds'
Walton is signed to Hyperdub and I'm pretty sure has another album in the pipeline for them otherwise I'd have tried to snap him up for Aus. I've loved everything he's produced and I think he's massively underrated to be honest. Absolutely killer switch from a 4/4 rhythm to a funk/boogie break in this track which flips the hypnotic house groove in my mix at just the right time i.e before everyone drifts off…
10. Leon Vynehall - 'Time'
For my money Mr. Vynehall is one of the most talented producers around at the moment. He deserves to be huge and probably will be. He never sticks to one type of track and shows great versatility as a producer yet he has a real 'sound' of his own. This is not an easy feat I can assure you. He can make dance floor 'bangers' (check out his track 'Brother' on Aus) but can also craft lush, deep listening moments - his concept album for Martyn's 3024 label, which is based around trips to school in his Mum's car and the music she played, is a sublime listen. Also a lovely, unassuming guy and a great DJ.
11. Will Saul & Komon - 'Two For One'
There was a loose concept behind this track….create a track that after the breakdown all the elements change (drums/perc/pads etc)…so nothing remains yet it still sounds cohesive…effectively two tracks in one, hence the name…..since writing my CLOSE album which was heavy on collabs and lots of elaborate studio recording and kit I have stripped my set-up back to just a few drum machines, a Moog Minitaur bass synth and a load of highly tweakable Moog & Eventide pedals. The laptop is only really used to record and edit your live jams. So much fun and this was the set up used to make this track and quite a few more that will be coming out over the coming months.
12. Sei A - 'Reserve'
Andy (Sei A) releases on my labels Aus & Simple and is another hugely underrated producer in my opinion. I kind of feel that producers that don't just churn out the same record time and time again stay slightly under the radar and Andy is a prime example of this. There's quite a few breakbeats in this mix and this is the first.
13. Axel Boman - 'Dubbeldub/Close' ft. elements of Tikiman - 'Born In A Rolling Barrel'
I've always had a real penchant for dub and this track from Axel starts off a little 'dubbed out' section that is supposed to act like a little palette cleansing pause before changing up a few gears and picking up the pace. I tried the accapella from my CLOSE track with Tikiman over the top of Axel's track briefly and it worked a treat… Thrilled that Axel was able to do something especially for the compilation as he's one of my favourite producers and I always play at least two of his records in every DJ set.
14. Sei A - 'JTR'
A completely different feel to Sei A's earlier track and should highlight what a versatile producer he is. Perhaps the most unexpected breakdown ever in this track and that's partly why I love it.
15. October - 'KR-100 Dub'
Jules 'October' is another close friend of mine, Bristol based and someone I've worked with a lot since moving back to Somerset (I grew up just outside Glastonbury but moved to London aged eighteen). Again, someone that was introduced to me by Appleblim. Jules is a real analogue purist and works mostly outside of the computer on outboard fx, sequencers and synths. He has an album coming out on Skudge's label soon which deserves to be a game changer for him.
16. David Clement - 'Follow Me Home (Lee Jones 89 Mix)'
I pretty much set up Aus Music to release albums by Lee Jones and Sideshow (Fink's alter ago). They went to uni together many many moons ago in York and I worked with Fin(k) at Sony Music many many moons ago. Lee was one half of the very popular house duo MyMy (alongside Beghain resident and Ostgut label manager Nick Hoppner) and also produced as Hefner. Lee has a knack for capturing wistful, quirky and often playful combinations of melody, samples and percussion which gives him a very distinct sound. If you haven't already checked out his album 'Electronic Frank' then you should.
17. Marquis Hawkes - 'Life Struggle'
Such a distinct track from a shady character… no one knows who Marquis Hawkes is (I do but I'm keeping it a secret) but lots of people really like what he's producing at the moment. This is a killer track that will work a peak-time dancefloor into a frenzy.
18. Bicep - 'Nova'
Named after the popular Vauxhall car… really. I work regularly with the Bicep boys on Aus Music and like most people initially discovered their impeccable taste through their excellent blog that frequently unearths hidden dance music gems but is also very tongue-in-cheek. Which is exactly how the guys are - they never take themselves too seriously but they do take their music VERY seriously. This track also has a breakbeat… second theme of the piece developing here… basically it's a West Country breaks mix.
19. Will Saul - 'Pedal Power'
This was written not long after finishing my CLOSE album and was me trying to write something a bit more stripped back and jacking. Back to the dance floor for some light relief.
20. Legowelt - 'Etherial Techno Will Never Die'
Perhaps the greatest track name ever? I've always been a big Legowelt fan, his use of melody and chord progressions are always weird and wonderful and the track he's produced for me is no exception. His productions always sound really lo-fi in the best possible way.
21. George FitzGerald - 'Wanting Needing'
George FitzGerald is another of my old Aus family - I say 'old' as he has now signed an album deal with Domino, so sadly not able to release with us anymore. One of our biggest records on Aus was his 'Child' EP. He's up to his eyes in writing his album for Domino and has been for a while so I was very surprised when he sent me this beautiful track for the comp. George only wanted his track to appear in the mix and not be available on any other format. Kind of like a VIP dub plate (in junglist times of old) that only he and I will ever have, which I love the idea of. George is able to strip back his music to just the key hooks and strongest ideas and make them sing; for me this is a sign of a very talented producer.
22. Gerry Read - 'Baseball'
Gerry Read remixed George's 'Child' track for Aus a few years ago and he has been on my radar ever since. He writes weird and clunky rythyms that are just so groovy. He came to a show I played in Norwich last year and went away and wrote a track called 'Shrubby' with me and Aus in mind. I loved the track and signed it and we released it earlier this year. We have another EP coming from him later in the year. I believe he still works on the basic software Fruity Loops which goes to show that it doesn't matter what you use to make your music - if you have genius ideas then they will come out no matter what.
23. Escape - 'Flinch'
Escape is an incredible new artist from Glasgow that I have just signed an album from for Aus. He's never released any music before so this is his first track to see the light of day. We will release an EP from him in the autumn and his album early next year.
24. Second Storey - Oxygene
Second Storey is signed to Fabric's excellent label Houndstooth. He has an album coming out in the autumn. He used to record under the name Al Tourettes. Al has been instrumental in me setting up my live show for CLOSE. He's an Ableton wizard (he teaches it) so helped me break down existing tracks into a playable live format - he's also an amazing drummer and plays the drums in the CLOSE show. We have a collaborative EP (CLOSE & Second Storey) coming out on Aus in August.
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'DJ Kicks - Will Saul' is set to be released on June 16th.