By Ralph Roberts
Trance Trailblazer Will Atkinson discussed his album The Last King of Scotland and his recent live stream.
How did it feel to release your debut artist album, Last King of Scotland, earlier this month?
In short it’s a massive relief. Committing myself to an artist album was never something I took lightly. It’s such an intimate process – like a journal – pouring in every experience, feeling, emotion – for some stranger to judge and intemperate in their own way. So, to spend as long as I did perfecting, fine tuning, obsessing to the point where there wasn’t a single note Id change, I’m immensely proud.
What has the reaction been like from fans?
The reaction has blown my mind. All expectations I had in my head have been blown to pieces. I’m extremely humbled and incredibly grateful for everyone and anyone that’s taken the time to stream/listen/buy a copy.
What’s the inspiration behind the title?
Scotland is the ground that I grew up on. The air that I breathe. My music is so rooted to my surroundings. I only have to get halfway up the A9 and a million melodies come into my head. It would be treason not to dedicate this album to the country this incredible country I call home.
The 17-track album features some huge names like Paul Van Dyk, Gary Go and DC Breaks. How did these collaborations come about?
When it came to collaborations, I wanted to find a balance between artists. Some have inspired me; some I’ve grown up listening too. Others are incredible songwriters. But all of them are compatible – they all compliment my sound. For me that is the most important factor when it comes to collaborating. Not doing it for the sake of doing it. Otherwise, it’s not art.
What’s your favourite track from the album and why?
I guess that’s like asking a mother to choose her favourite child. Or asking me if I prefer a mountain of Indian food or an avalanche of Chinese. Give me it all. I love it. Obligatory prawn toast to start. Ham and chicken chow mein. Chicken satay – on the skewers of course – I’m not an animal. Fried rice. Salt and Chilli chips. An extra tub of satay sauce – I want to be swimming in it ideally – and 2 cans of ice cold coca cola. Sorry what was the question again?
We can’t dance together right now, so tell us how you’ve decided to mark the launch of the album?
When Covid-19 decimated the music industry – like just about every other – my gig schedule fell on its arse. I had the biggest year of my career shaping and a mammoth album tour spanning pretty much every continent. Of course that all fell away. So how do you launch an entire body of work that you’ve spent most of your life leading up too. With no prospect of any gigs or live events, the only option I had left was to record a unique live stream.
The live stream looked epic! What’s the response been like?
It only seemed right to take it back inside those hallowed brick walls of The Arches. When I moved to Glasgow from Orkney in 2008, it felt like every other night out ended up here. What started out as a hobby turned into an addiction. The addiction led to an education. A pilgrimage to this clubbing mecca we all know and love. Nowhere could be more fitting. I have to say, I had mixed emotions reading back all the comments. So many stories, experiences, shared by people, tagging their circles of friends, clubbers – bringing all that together felt even more special than the stream itself. And it really brought home just how special The Arches was. An institution in it’s own right. Friendships forged, memories set in stone. There was only one place I could have launched this album. Egypt has the Pyramids. China has the Great Wall. Glasgow has oor Arches.
Growing up in Orkney, Scotland, who inspired you to make electronic music?
My mum. She put me onto Judge Jules’ Radio 1 show in the late 90s. From there I fell in love with Trance. Then subsequently Techno through a northern Irish Dj called Fergie – he used to do Friday nights. My childhood was spent sitting with a Sony tape cassette recording my idols every weekend. Then spending the rest of the week playing it back to the point where I could mouth along to the presenter.
When the time comes, what track from the album are you most excited to play live?
I think Kismet Energy. Going back to the last question, if I had to choose one, I think this might be it. The melody came to me in a dream when I was on down time in Palm Springs between gigs. I woke up jet lagged at 5am, out of a deep dream, scrambled out of bed with the chords still stuck in my head. Frantically grabbed my laptop, waking my girlfriend in the process. Ran onto the balcony and pieced the chord structure together – whilst the sun started rising over the San Bernardino mountains. I’ll always remember that moment. Satisfaction, relief and an unquenchable thirst to finish the track there and then. From that moment I already had the track finished in my head. The track wrote itself. So it ended up turning into a driving melodic Hard House kind of vibe. I’ve always wanted to make a Hard House record – I grew up listening to loads of it. This dreamy chord structure just fits perfectly. It’s a nod to the past – the era I just missed out on. I would have loved to have been clubbing around the 2000 era. So this is the past reimagined through my eyes. Here’s what you could have won. And probably the one track I’m most looking forward to unleashing live.
We ask all our artists the same closing question. What is the craziest thing you have seen from behind the decks?
Last year I opened up with the WWF Undertaker Theme tune in front of about 2500 people in Belfast. Rigged out in full gear, make up and hat. That’s definitely up there. Or my mate Krissy spewing his absolute ringer in front of Above & Beyond – a bin backstage whilst I was warming up for them. Strangely I haven’t warmed up for them since.