TEN QUESTIONS WITH WILL LONG
Though Celer has appeared many times in textura's pages in both review and interview capacities, this is the first time Will Long has been featured alone. The reason for that is sadly all too well-known to Celer devotees: the death of Will's partner Danielle Bacquet-Long in mid-2009 effectively brought about the end of Celer as a unit involved in the creation of new material; instead, Will is now operating in a curatorial capacity as he oversees the ongoing release of material the group produced prior to Dani's passing. While he honours her memory in that regard, Will is also channeling his energies into other projects, the most notable of which is currently Two Acorns, the label he recently established and on which the Celer-Yui Onodera collaboration, Generic City, appears. Will recently spoke with us to bring us up-to-date on all things Celer, how things are faring in his own world, and other related topics.
1. I hope I don't sound insensitive in starting off by asking how you are doing in general, now that it's been a bit more than a year since Dani passed away. I can't even begin to imagine how devastating July of 2009 must have been for you, given the incredible bond the two of you shared. Have you found that the work you've immersed yourself in since then has been a salvation of sorts?
The question is fine; it's not a problem for me. The time since July of 2009 has been understandably difficult and unstable. After it happened, I spent the next five months in the same house in California, but it was too devastating staying in the same place. I was hardly able to do anything; I wasn't working and not really making too much progress even working on releasing our music as usual. It was upside-down in just about every way. In November I packed everything up, and moved back to my family's home, to spend some time with them and try to reorganize myself.
Even though it was good being around family, and having a way to focus and organize myself and all my things in a different environment, it became a very similar situation. In May I moved to Wyoming, for what was supposed to be a temporary six-month job in a national park. However, that didn't work out either for many different reasons, but I think when July came around, everything really fell apart, and I packed up one day and just left.
After arriving back home, I had already arranged a job teaching English in Jakarta, Indonesia, which would be for a one-year term, and left in mid-August for that, hoping that it would be rejuvenating, and being in such a different place, it would be inspiring and new. However, barely three weeks after arriving and starting my job, I had to return home immediately due to serious family illness. Even though that was an enormous letdown, it was necessary to be there for family and help them.
So at the present time, I'm still at my family's home, temporarily again, but I feel now I'm able to be more focused and align myself with everyday life, even though it is often difficult. In the time being here I have managed to continue to work full time on releasing our music, and have also been able to complete the first release for my label, Two Acorns, which is a great accomplishment for me.
Even though it is difficult not having a place to call home of my own, where it is comfortable and where there's enough room and privacy to focus on work, I know it will come eventually; it just takes time (so everyone tells me).
Honestly I believe that if I didn't have these things of ours that we created, and that she created, with the capability to publish them and make them known to people, to keep her spirit around, I probably wouldn't be here. It's been one of my saving graces, along with the support of my friends, who have always understood my feelings about these things, even if some of them disagree that it's the easiest way to do things. It's what is most important to me. I just hope people's interest in these works continues.
2. I'm going to ask you a question that I'm sure has crossed many a person's mind and though I'm guessing it's already been asked I'll ask it anyway: given that the Celer project formally began in 2006 and officially ended in terms of the production of new works in July of 2009, how did the two of you manage to produce such a staggering amount of recordings in the relatively brief three-year span? It would seem as if the two of you would have had to devote every waking moment to the production of new material.
It's really difficult to explain it very well, but I'm sure there are many reasons. I guess we worked very untraditionally, not always working on purely one thing at a time; some things were much simpler than others, and also we used just about everything we made, not wasting anything. Everything could be bended or made into something that could be useful and had purpose. We had a very improvisational way of composing, but not in the traditional sense. We'd just go with what sounded good, mix and layer, and repeat. A lot of the early self-releases especially, sometimes we weren't even being completely serious with them. It wasn't until after at least the first year of our self-releases that we thought anyone else even cared about hearing it. It was just something we did for each other, and gave to friends, without really any expectation but that it was who we were.
3. One of the most amazing things about the Celer catalogue is that each recording both manages to sound unique (despite the fact that they were all recorded in a relatively concentrated span of time) and retains that indelible Celer signature. How much of a conscious effort did you and Dani put forth in ensuring that each recording would have its own unique character, or is that something that naturally happened, almost by accident?
We would always try to reinvent ourselves somewhat when we made new pieces. We'd use much of the same equipment for everything, maybe adding something or taking something away each time. Sometimes we'd find a comfortable setup and keep it for several albums until the process got boring. Usually after making something we'd be tired of the particular sound and change to something else. Much of it was by accident, just experimenting with different things and different methods, but we always kept similarities of what we were doing in the different themes throughout. Keeping concepts and themes present that were different and interesting to us was also really important. It was sort of like saying the same words over and over, but you do it a bit differently every time, and it depends how you do it, not necessarily what they are.
4. I'm assuming that you're the one who is overseeing the management of Dani's artistic legacy and the release of her future work under the Chubby Wolf name. What, if any, work might we be seeing from her in the coming days?
Yes, I'm overseeing all of her works, of her music, photography, and writing. All of her music will be released, on labels such as Digitalis, Mystery Sea, Infraction, Dragon's Eye, Teosinthe, Home Normal, Low Point, Mandorla, and, of course, my own Two Acorns label.
For her own releases, except for just the first ones, she never was able to pick the artwork, so I just try to make them as closely as possible to what I think she would have wanted, and I believe I'll be able to present them in a way she'd be proud of. Thankfully her titles and writing are so abundant that there is no need to do any work on or change that; it exists purely and perfectly just as it is. She often titled things as we made them, which is convenient and meaningful in retrospect.
In addition to releasing her music, I also plan to publish books of her photography (particularly from her travels in India and Nepal), as well as a collection of her writing (which is enormous), in book form on Two Acorns. She always considered herself much more of a writer and poet than a musician, and I think the huge amount of work that will come out in beautiful editions will testify to that, while not diminishing her musical works. I think that her music works will give incredible insight to her unique individuality, creativity, and musical capabilities, which in my opinion branch out even farther than anything we ever accomplished as Celer. In many ways her solo work is much darker, but I think it tells much more about her as an individual, and of many of her own struggles, inspirations, and quips.
5. I notice that you are scheduled to play two live shows in Japan in late November. Is this the first time since Dani passed on that you're performing live? Will you be playing alone, how will you be billed, and what are your feelings about playing live again without her?
Yes, I've been meaning to go to Japan for a long time, and I'm glad to finally be able to go to see my friends and play some shows. I will be billed as Celer, which I hadn't planned to do, as it isn't the same without Dani, but at the same time it was necessary because I'm afraid most people wouldn't know me by only my name.
I'll be playing four shows, three of which will be collaborative performances with Yui Onodera, in which we'll give a live representation of our album Generic City. At one of these shows I'll play alone as well; however, I'll simply be playing several particular Celer pieces from our Honey Moon album on Stunned Records. I will also be playing a collaborative show with Corey Fuller and Opitope, which will be a three-hour performance at a temple. The final show will also be with Hiroki Sasajima, who's a good friend and artist I admire a lot.
6. It's hard to believe that, considering the torrential outpouring of creativity that occurred during Celer's production period, you would not continue production work in some new capacity and under a different alias, whether alone or in partnership with someone. Is that something you're planning on doing?
Yes, and this is something I've struggled with heavily as well. Given the incredible amount of time that Dani and I spent making new music and working on old music constantly to form it into something new, its been very difficult to find myself unable to create anything that I'm remotely happy with. I tried many times after July of 2009, and though I was able to create a few one-off tracks for compilations and remixes, really nothing more than that held together. I was so used to having unlimited inspiration and being filled with life and love, that suddenly finding yourself without it was very confusing. However since then I've come to understand and accept it as how things are. It isn't that I don't feel the same way for Dani, but not being able to make things with her, in some way of collaboration, I just find it impossible to make anything that feels special, even as a tribute to her, which is equally frustrating. Still though, I find comfort in just being happy with what I've been able to do, and maybe through that there isn't a need to do anything beyond seeing everything to its completion. Sometimes I feel that I've accomplished all that I really want to, musically. I just want to see it through, and be on the production end. If nothing ever comes up, I'm happy with what we've done.
She was able to easily record her own music solo, but it wasn't ever something I was really interested in, because it was so much more fun doing it together for me. I always loved her solo music and encouraged her too. She didn't need me for that, and besides I was always so busy just handling Celer-related things that I didn't have any extra time anyway.
Right now I really don't have any plans for creating anything new by myself, however possibly there will be some sort of collaboration. There is the follow-up to Generic City with Yui Onodera, which began but stopped in July 2009. As of right now it is unmixed and simply exists as raw and remixed material. I've also been talking with Miko (PLOP) about a collaborative album, but we've yet to officially begin anything and are just talking about ideas.
Possibly now it is just the time for me to focus on releasing our music and artistic works, run my label, and handle all Celer-related things. In many ways too, that's all I have time to do. Its completely consuming (in good ways), and I can't stop myself from working as hard as I can on it constantly, so maybe for now it is good for me to focus on that.
7. Based on the list of released and to-be-released works displayed on the Celer MySpace page, there are still twenty-three Celer recordings to be released (by my count seventy-three have been issued to date). How do you go about determining the order in which to release the remainder of the Celer catalogue?
Yes, I try to keep the page there (our first ever ‘website') accurate as to what is coming out and what there is. There may be a few additions/deletions, but for the most part it is accurate.
I try to release things as closely to the order that they were made as possible; however, with so many varying release schedules from labels, it's pretty much impossible to have them come out in the correct order. Thankfully it's easy to determine the dates that we created every track simply by the file creation dates, so I'm always able to include that in the liner notes to help explain more of the background behind the pieces.
8. And are those twenty-four recordings in a finished state, or are you bringing them to the state of completion that you and Dani already had decided upon?
Yes, those recordings are all in complete states; however, many of them require mastering, and if necessary they can be mixed to accommodate different formats. For instance, the two recent releases on Basses Frequences, Panoramic Dreams Bathed in Seldomness and Weavings of a Rapid Disenchantment, were initially just a single album (though it was longer than would fit on a single CD). When Jerome asked me for material to release, I sent him the pieces as a whole, offering to exclude whichever tracks he didn't like so much. Remarkably he liked all of them, and two of the tracks (which were originally just one in three parts) became the Weavings of a Rapid Disenchantment ten-inch.
In other situations, there are albums that we made several different versions of. A particular album upcoming on a Japanese label originally had five different versions, with different track mixes, track order, lengths, and so on. Even though we never finally decided upon a single version for the release (it was completed very close to her death) it was completely normal to agree upon one of the individual versions for the label, for whichever one we both agreed would be suitable.
Other than that, I really make no changes to our original material, except for minor mixing changes, mastering, and such things.
This is particularly apparent for some Chubby Wolf material as well. Dani would commonly record several different versions of a single album, then move on to the next thing without ever choosing one. In particular, her album The Last Voices consists of three CDs, and four mini-CDs. It was originally an eighty-five-minute track, which was split in half and put on the first two CDs. The third CD is a forty-five-minute ‘club mix' of the first piece, and the mini-CDs are thirty-plus tracks of eighty-five minutes of different source material, processed in different ways. In the end I think, if it is possible, I'll release the entire album as a whole, instead of choosing one thing and cutting out the rest. Though it will be enormous, all the material is important. She also almost never did any of the more business-like communication with labels. It's good that I did that, because now it's my full-time job.
9. The inaugural release on your new label Two Acorns, the Celer collaboration with Yui Onodera called Generic City, is a wonderful addition to the Celer discography. But why did you decide to establish your own label when any number of existing labels would have jumped at the chance to release it?
That's wonderful that you like Generic City. I think in our entire history of making music we spent longer on that release than any other, and in the end I think all three of us were really happy with the result. Being able to use Dani's photography for the cover and having my good friend mondii create a package design and artwork layout made it even more special.
I had been planning to start my own label to release our works, and in the end it felt like Generic City would be an appropriate album to begin with. Everything really came together at the right time and made it perfect for the inauguration of the label.
10. Related to that is the general question about why anyone would choose to start up a new label in 2010 anyway, given how much of a challenge it is to make running a label a profitable venture when illegal downloading is so rampant and production costs are high. And do you plan on releasing the work of other artists after Generic City or will the label exclusively focus on issuing Celer-related material?
Yes, there are plenty of amazing labels out there, and I'm sure one of the last things that the music world needs now is yet another label. It is difficult for it to be profitable, but that isn't its purpose anyway. Regarding illegal downloading, it is rampant for all Celer music, particularly the out of print self-releases, but it's not something to worry about. I'd never want our music to be experienced as only a download, in a format that is so easily disposable. It should be something beautiful that you can hold in your hand, keep on your bookshelf, and cherish, as to me these things all put together are just as important as the music itself.
Another of my reasons for starting the label was to be able to release the remainder of our unpublished works, but also to be able to reissue our original handmade self-releases in proper CD editions, with expansive artwork and remastered in editions which won't be limited and won't disappear. One of the most important goals for the label for me is keeping our music alive for people to hear, and hear what Danielle and I created, and that Danielle created on her own.
I will be releasing works from other artists as well as Celer and Chubby Wolf, an unpublished album or a reissue of an older one. The second release for Two Acorns will be by IL GRANDE SILENZIO, the duo of Atsuo Ogawa (banjo) and Minoru Sato (self-built machine), whose album is both brilliant and completely original. It is really like nothing I have ever heard, which made me instantly want to release it.
In closing I'd like to thank you for your incredible generosity, and kindness in hosting this interview. It's very special, and I'm very grateful for textura. You've been with Celer since the beginning.
I, Anatomy (Streamline)
Works Cited (CD unless noted)
The Die That's Caste (con-v)