Q&A with Will Wiesenfeld of BATHS
BATHS is just one of several monikers that L.A. producer Will Wiesenfeld has been creating music under for years. Baths’ style is very much of the Lo-Fi, electro-hip hop wave that is producing so many good new producers including one of our favorites Toro Y Moi. Last year, he released the Baths debut album Cerulean to critical acclaim; making end-of-year top ten lists around the world, including here at The Blue Indian.
Wiesenfeld is just kicking off an tour of the East Coast and William Haun spoke to him as he was packing for the tour. You can catch him this Monday, February 7th at The Masquerade in Atlanta with Star Slinger and Braids.
Click the link below to play the interview or right-click it and choose “Save Target As…” to save it to your computer.
Don’t want to listen to the whole 15-minute long interview? You can read the full text transcript below:
TBI (William Haun): I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me and I’m really looking forward to seeing you next Monday when you come through Atlanta at The Masquerade.
Will Wiesenfeld: I’m excited about that too. This whole tour I’m freaking out about. I’m stressing right now just because I’m packing everything but I’m super excited to have it actually start happening. I’m so ready for it.
W: It’s not, but it’s my first headlining tour. I toured the East coast opening for El Ten Eleven but then this is going to be the first time where I’m headlining the show. So it’s very cool.
TBI: You put Cerulean out last summer and you’ve had your past work under different monikers and this one really launched you into the limelight. Can you talk about the reception that album has received?
W: It’s been sort of unreal. I talked with label manager Shaun about the whole thing and we sort of looked at this album as being a debut album and taking it easy. Slowly introducing me to press and to people. and fans. We did not expect anywhere near the response that it’s had. It’s been exponentially more than we were prepared for. Originally, with vinyl we were going to do the smallest 500 vinyl run of it to see how it sells and now we’re on our 3rd pressing of 1000. So it’s crazy, totally crazy. The response online and with fans at shows – it’s awesome.
TBI: Everybody brings up how young you are when discussing or writing about your music. Are you still 21?
W: I’m 21, I’ll be 22 in April.
TBI: Being so young, what do you think about the fame and all the great reception to your music?
W: It’s amazing. I have to take each thing as it comes because it’s overwhelming when I think about all the different things that are happening. My schedule reflects the same sort of thing because I’m always doing something or always on the phone or always emailing. I am crazy busy all the time.
It’s very new to me – that type of thing. I’ve never been this active with music or a career before. It’s very cool and it does make it feel like this is my career that I’m actually getting completely started with the life that I’ve always wanted for myself. So it’s magical and amazing but very, very hectic and busy.
TBI: You’ve been making music since you were very, very young. Could you talk about some of the instruments you started on and how you evolved into electronic music?
W: I was classically trained on piano from age four to around 12 and I had a falling out of sorts with classical music. It was all mechanical for me; I didn’t really have any emotion in what I was doing. It was just sort of running through the motions. A year after that or so, when I actually sat down at the piano again, it was the most liberating because I only played stuff that I wanted to. I only played original music – things that I had written or just wrote at the spur of the moment. It was a much more liberating, wonderful, natural feeling for me. I realized that I like making music – recording music and writing music.
So that started happening and I discovered Bjork around that time. That dictated how I started writing music and the things and aesthetics that I worked towards in making music. Even though I would always use real instruments like piano and guitar and viola and whatever else like my voice and stuff; I was working towards an electronic aesthetic and always recording in the computer and manipulating them and moving them around. That process of recording and composing music just happened side by side. They’re inseparable for me – it’s how I compose. (watch a video of Will explaining how composes a song layer by layer)
TBI: Your Daytrotter Session completely took me by surprise. A lot of times with electronic musicians, when they do these sessions, it’s pretty much the same thing as their album. Not much variance.
W: That’s the whole thing – it’s that I’m terrified of that. So that’s why I wanted to do the piano because I want to show the different side of stuff.
TBI: When you played “Plea” for Daytrotter it was all on the piano with you singing and it started me thinking about your process in creating these songs. Do you start with piano and your voice and take it to the computer and manipulate it?
W: It is always, always different with every song. Like “Plea,” the piano only happened after the fact. That entire song was written from a mess of guitar parts. I think it started out as 12 layers of recorded guitar and then I cut some of those out and filter things. It’s always different. Sometimes a song can start from just a song title and then I’ll write lyrics first and then music comes after that fact. Or sometimes it starts with a sonic idea and I have a thing in my head about how I want this type of bassline to disappear under this sort of drum sound. I’ll start recording in an attempt to create that and maybe something else will formulate out of it. It’s all open ended. Always different.
TBI: In a way that makes it more interesting for you in that you’re not always doing the same formula to come up with a song.
W: That’s the whole thing – it would kill me to completely do the same thing twice. This album Cerulean is the first album to the world of my music but for me it’s like my 22nd full-length recording. Which is kind of crazy. I had this kind of thing for myself where with each recording I want to try something very different. I don’t want to stick to the same aesthetic on each album.
This album in particular – it’s really cool that it’s the big one that really happened for me – but a lot of people think that I’m a very hip-hop person, which I’m not. In interviews I have to clarify that a lot – that I have no understanding of the history of hip-hop or anything. I listen to some, but it’s not my primary listening or anything, it’s just an aesthetic I dove into for this album. I know for the next album that I’ll start working on later this year, that it’s going to be a completely different thing. I hear it as being much darker and almost dancier. I have tons of ideas and I’m really excited to start working on it.
TBI: On a couple of your songs you have samples of voices – like on “Maximalist” there’s this lady talking about “it takes a lot of courage to go out there and radiate your essence.” What is your source for these sorts of sounds?
W: All of those spoken samples are from YouTube videos. As I was making the song I felt it would be a perfect place for a sample of some type. For all of “Aminals” I searched all of YouTube for children and animals and children talking about animals. For that “Maximalist” song I searched for like “ascendance” and “spirit guidance” and really silly things like that. I found that amazing clip of that woman and her husband talking about ascendance and it was just really epic and hilarious. When you take it from that and you put it into the context of the song it’s almost like felt even more than when she actually said it. When you put it in a song like that and it’s almost even taken with a grain of salt it feels much bigger.
TBI: I’m always interested in how artists collaborate so I wanted to ask you about your “Lovely Blood” music video. How did that come about? Was the video done for your song or your song set to their video?
W: The guys who directed the video are friends of mine. I went to high school with friends of the guy who made. His name is Alex Takacs and he was a huge fan of my music for a very long time – four or five years ago, I think. We were looking for the right opportunity to start working together and this seemed like the perfect thing and the perfect timing since it was an actual professional release on a label.
We brainstormed a lot of the video together but the entire concept is his. He did all these preliminary sketches and storyboarded the entire video. It was crazy the stuff he put together for it. I went into it saying to him that “I’m very nervous about talking to you about music videos” because I feel like I have a very close-minded aesthetic to what I want visually for myself. I was just very nervous about talking him about it in case his ideas were so far in the wrong direction. He presented the idea to me and it was more deeply me than things that I had come up with for the video. It was astounding. I was so excited and so thrilled that I said “You need to take over completely so that I don’t have any creative control. You need to do everything so just go, go do it.” I got to do the shoot with him, I was there as the production assistant. It was four days in Santa Cruz and it was a very, very crazy weekend. It turned into something really magical and he’s really brilliant and made everything work. I think the goal with him is to have a working creative partnership – I only want to do music videos with him and Joe Nankin, his other creative partner. They’re both amazing, super talented guys.
W: Her name is Jesselisa Moretti. She is the girlfriend of Matthew David who owns Leaving Records and who is very close friends with Shaun of Anticon. So it’s sort of through a link of people. She’s done amazing work in the past and she sent 14 or 15 original works of art just based on a couple of things I talked to her about for Cerulean – colors and concepts. They were just beautiful and gorgeous. We came to a mutual decision on that particular image and we just went from there.
TBI: You’ve done a lot of remixes; you did one for Asthmatic Kitty’s Fol Chen (download it FREE on their In Ruins EP). What are some of the remixes you are most proud of or were most excited about collaborating on with other musicians?
W: The ones that I’m the most proud of and happiest with have just happened and they’re not out yet. I got to remix Lali Puna, one of my favorite bands in the entire world – I’m obsessed with them. It was the best opportunity ever to be able to do that. I was able to remix Gold Panda as well. I think that’s coming out in late February. For that release, I did a remix and then Star Slinger, the guy who is opening for me on tour, did a remix and his is INCREDIBLE. I think mine is good and I think I did a very good job and I’m very excited about it but I think Star Slinger’s will be a hit. I think it will become a huge song.
When things were first starting up for me I did tons of remixes and I would take them left and right because I wanted to see what I could do and practice. I got very tired of them very quickly and felt creatively drained so I cut back a lot and almost didn’t do any. The only ones that I’m doing now are ones that I really, really feel passionate about and really want to do. I think the best ones are yet to come.
TBI: You have all kinds of material under the Geotic name. How do you differentiate that from the Baths project in your own mind?
W: To be honest, it’s sort of like passive listening. You can listen to it attentively if you’d like but it’s more like background music and ambient. Sort of comfort and relaxation music where you listen to it in any setting and just have it on. The conception was me trying to make music to fall asleep to. Whereas Baths is my main creative musical focus and that’s active listening music. So I separate them like that – active listening vs. passive listening.
Geotic – Unwind
TBI: You mentioned another album you’ll be working on later in the year. Can you give us a peek into what that is going to be?
W: I haven’t started recording it yet so I don’t know. But it’s going to be hopefully much darker and almost antithetical to how positive Cerulean was but in a sense that it’s still very accessible and a very listenable album, but just a darker subject material.
For this tour I have something called Pop Music/False B-sides which is a 13 song digital download. I have download codes for that I’ll be selling on tour for $5. It’s original songs that happened after Cerulean. It’s sort of like an umbrella release for all those different things.