I have seen Christopher Willits perform and interviewed him numerous times over the years. In many ways he epitomizes the multitasking of the modern electronic musician: i.e. collaborations with other artists, designing personalized software, teaching, touring, and recording. His new recording, Ancient Future [Ghostly International] is his second collaboration with Ryuichi Sakamoto. It differs from their first meeting (Ocean Fire), in that Sakamoto’s piano and Willits’ guitar are more recognizable as such throughout, but is no less textural and evocative for all that. In this video he explains a little about his process on Ancient Future. He was also kind enough to take on the additional task of answering the Guitar Moderne questionnaire.
Making of a Willits + Sakamoto track
What kind of music were you playing when you first became proficient on the instrument?
I began playing blues and noise. Hendrix was a massive influence. When I heard that sound of his guitar I felt like someone else understood the energy behind the music.
What led you to create experimental (non-mainstream) music?
My music and art is an expression of my spiritual and creative path. I like to explore open spaces, sounds and techniques that I have never heard about before.
Whose music inspires you? Past and Present.
I love music so much, I’m always learning so much from listening. I’m really into Rumba right now. The movement and weaving of drum patterns. I’m always listening to a bunch of jazz from Coltrane to Jeff Parker. I love Ricardo Villalobos. I have been digging into some old funk and soul not only for the music but also for production techniques. I listened to a bunch of records I love on my friend’s ridiculous Alexandria system and a Spiral Groove turntable. “Off the Wall” by Michael Jackson may have won the production award. The punch while retaining space, clarity and depth is awesome. There are infinite patterns to create and express and it’s so inspiring to hear how other people do it.
How did you get better at your current style?
Growing to me means expanding your vision while refining your path. I imagine what I want to create and make the time to create it. There’s a lot of discipline involved. Sometimes you don’t feel like working, but you trust the practice and once you are in it new things start to open up for you.
What are you trying covey with your music?
I wouldn’t say I’m really “trying” to convey anything, but my intention is to create a space of opening for people. A place and time to release fears, validate a connection to everything in this universe, simply feel and be in this present moment.
Which guitars, amps, effects, plug-ins and software do you use to create your music, and why?
I create my own guitar effects using Max For Live, and do everything in my computer with Ableton Live. Everything from granular synthesis to layered folding multi-delays that re-order what I am playing in real-time. I’m recently using a Neve 5017 Portico preamp for my guitar. It’s the best guitar preamp for going straight into an audio interface/computer that I have ever heard. It’s the exact tone I’ve wanted for a long time: clean with sustain and power.
Be sure to check out this series where Willits offers invaluable tips about playing modern guitar
Which do you enjoy more: recording or playing live and why?
I love both so much, but there is a shared energy in live performances that is unlike anything in life. I absolutely love playing live and being in the vibration with everyone.
How have you built up an audience for your music?
I think just through creating a lot of music and continuously getting it out to people and connecting with others. I just trust what feels right, made the music from my heart and did my best to get it out to others to hear.
With whom would you like to collaborate and why?
I would like to work with Yukimi Nagano from Little Dragon. My friend Scott who makes music as Tycho turned me onto them and I’m really into the sound of her voice.
What is your latest project? When will it be available and where can people in different parts of the world get it?
My latest project is a new album, Ancient Future, in collaboration with Ryuichi Sakamoto. You can order cds and vinyl directly from Ghostly International or find it a record store in the US or EU. Digital is available in the main outlets but I encourage to buy from my own shop since the money goes right back to us and the label and the quality of the files is much higher than iTunes, etc.