Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.
Andrew Williams is a DJ and electronic music creator from Edmonton. He combines sounds, beats and musical textures in a highly listenable, danceable format that encompasses a wide variety of different genres of electronic music. I talked to him about creativity, the growth of electronic music in Canada and how he finds creative inspiration.
His interest in DJing and electronic music was sparked by seeing a video of Mixmaster Mike (of the Beastie Boys) doing a DJ routine, and he’s been spellbound ever since. “When I was 17, I got a job at a record store that sold vinyl almost exclusively to DJs and I went from there. That was over a decade ago. Since then, I’ve taken a path from throwing shows to playing shows to more recently making music.”
The Dunmore Park project is something that Andrew created over the past two years. He explains, “The idea behind it was to combine melodies and textures from all over the world as well as melodies from back in time. I took classical melodies and melodies from the 60s and combined them with a modern aesthetic and modern technology. It’s a collage of textures and influences that I wanted to put out to the world. It varies in tempo and style but I often say it has one foot on the dance floor and one foot in the living room.”
A strong sense of place is an important part of his music. Andrew points out, “Almost all of my songs start with an image in mind. It can be a place that I’ve been or a place that I’ve imagined. I take that imagery and try to figure out how it would sound. For example, last summer I was really interested in certain sounds and textures to do with the desert. I was writing music and songs that would reflect that. I used some of the instruments and the textures that I thought would apply. “
When Andrew’s working on music, he enjoys the limitations imposed on him by the hardware that he uses. He says, “I really like using hardware because of its limitations. Once you’re working on hardware, you really can’t do it all. You can only do what’s possible on that device and put yourself within those limitations.”
On the flip side, he also enjoys the ways in which connectivity has opened up music creation. Andrew elaborates, “The fact that your phone can record sounds from anywhere opens up more other possibilities for sounds. For example, I’ll sometimes record ambiance from different locations and use that as bed layers on the tracks.”
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It’s also important for Andrew that his music has a memorable melody or a hook that connects with people. He says, “Music that’s entirely based on beats or a giant kick drum can sometimes be very disposable. It may sound great at a club, but it may not have a lot of replay value. If you use a melody, a hook or lyrics there’s a greater chance that you’ll connect with people either from a storytelling perspective or a melodic perspective. I always go with the melody first, the beat second. That being said, I spend a lot of time making sure that my music also sounds good on a dance floor.”
Electronic music is becoming increasingly relevant as a standalone art form and not one strictly confined to club dance floors. Andrew says, “I think. a lot of people are just starting to realize that this music can be complex, meaningful and nuanced. You just have to go to the masters and the people doing it at a higher level.”
Although he’s been a part of the electronic music scene for quite a few years, it has only been more recently that he’s felt happy enough with his music to release it. Andrew says, “Most of my struggle was defining what I actually wanted to say, defining what my sound was, and what I thought was good. It was only when I launched the Dunmore Park project that I said, ‘This is the artistic contribution that I want to make to the scene, this is what I want to put forward and this is what I think I can do a little bit differently than someone else.’ “
Andrew has a positive view of the Albertan (and Canadian electronic music scene). He elaborates, “Two years ago, a few friends and I launched the Alberta Electronic Music Conference. We bring together of a lot of the most experienced minds and top talents in Canada to share ideas, share the music that they’re making and share their experiences as artists. We’re in this period where the electronic music scene in Canada is growing in terms of festivals, promoters and venues. I think Canada’s electronic music scene is still in its teenage years in that we’re still figuring out a lot of things, but we have a lot of potential.”
Staying in Edmonton is a decision that he feels has made a positive impact on his career. Andrew says, “Even though Edmonton is not known as the electronic music capital of the world, the people I’ve been able to work with and the relationships and connections I’ve been able to form, I wouldn’t be able to form in the same way in a larger city that has more competition or more established groups.”
Going forward, Andrew has some specific goals that he wants to reach. He says, “I’m working on a hybrid DJ/live show that I’ve been kind of demoing for the last year in small ways. I’m preparing for the next level of that for the spring and summer touring season. From the studio perspective, I’m working on an album and a number of different EPs that will start to see the light of day in early 2018.”