Fans may recognise the name Axel Willner as the man (with the moniker) who is responsible for some of the most seminal electronic albums of the noughties, including From Here We go Sublime, 2009’s Looping State of Mind and, more recently, Cupid’s Head. He’s testament to what the continued sharpening of an electronic music making (and proverbial) axe, for the better part of a decade, can deliver. Shifting from metal and rock bands in his early twenties to honing his love for production, primarily with modular synths. Leaving him more recently to carve a niche in hypnotic minimalist beats while performing, for the last decade, as DJ/producer/musician The Field.
What most may not know (unless they are following him via Instagram) is that Willner might just as easily chosen a very different path, as becoming a chef featured prominently as a career choice when he found himself embarking on his journey post school days.
“I do love food and I enjoy cooking and so on. If I would have made up my mind more as a teenager then I think I would have gone to restaurant school but I was a dreamer, I didn’t really do that. I just did like a very generic sort of school and, I don’t know. My wife, she’s a chef now, so I can always work with her but, I don’t know, it’s a rather hectic kind of job. It’s fun on a private level.”
So, rather than mixing ingredients in the kitchen, he’s instead found himself a technical master of mixing at the production desk, continuing of course to insist on the accidental arrival at this destination.
“I don’t think I ever took the decision, I think I just slipped in on a banana peel. I have always been making music since my pre-teens and I never had, like, a vision that I have got to be a rock star, you know? That was never really a dream. But of course if that came along I wouldn’t say no, and I didn’t. It happens now that I’m here…” he says.
Willner finds his competing musical forays often calls for balance. While immersed in his production work, with all the precision and patience that is required, he can be, at times, unable to focus simultaneously on the equally demanding craft of assembling his live shows and arranging the logistics of touring, a work of art in itself. As he talks on the phone from Berlin, Willner volunteers that he’s currently head down, completing his new album.
“I haven’t toured too much this year, I’ve been taking that side quite easy, focusing on making the new album. That takes a lot of creativity and I can’t really tour at the same time because that sucks a lot of creativity and energy, so it’s better to block out time just to focus on one thing.”
And what will this new album present for his audience?
“Again, it’s not dark really, but it is a spin off of Cupid’s Head. It’s also a little bit harder, but it’s also like two sides, I would say one is quite ambient and the other is a little bit more ‘bangin’,” he says, with a laugh. “If I could use that word.”
He readily admits, however, that his approach to the production process for this new offering has often been a little disjointed. One might gather this is due to an inability, perhaps (or a distinct choice?), not to multi-task to best effect.
“All focus is either on playing live or being in the studio. I cannot make myself prepared mentally but I do block out time and do really make myself focus on it and that is why, sometimes, it is really hard. I just want to do something else, because I also juggle other things around too, like other music projects, so it’s really a bit schizophrenic sometimes, to channel what you feel sometimes to different projects but…” he confesses, “I have to force myself to sit down and really focus.”
However, when he does manage to locate his starting point, he believes everything can begin to ‘flow’.
“It’s always tricky to do, but it’s sort of reaching the threshold and getting over that and then it all comes. So, actually, it takes time to just get into the mood, and that is when I reach that point it goes actually quite fast.”
“To reach that point can be like an eternity but when I reach that, it could be like a month or two months, or three months. It depends. It depends on how focused I get, and it’s really like opening the gates. “
Cyclic considers it a good thing when Willner tells us that his album is nearly complete, seeing as he’s now in the touring part of his year. With shows recently throughout the States, and last weekend in Beijing, and Shanghai this one, he hits Australian shores this week right on time for the Melbourne Festival. And, with a little luck, he suggests, there might be a beach holiday built into his scheduling for good measure.
“I look forward to seeing Melbourne again, I like that city a lot and, I don’t know, maybe go to the beach and have some good food and chill, because I think we’re going to stay a little bit extra this time – have a few days at least of hanging around. And also go to Perth, which I find quite exciting, because it’s such an isolated place. I want to feel its atmosphere and see how it is.”
The Field plays the following shows in Australia:
SYDNEY: THURSDAY, OCTOBER 22 @ Goodgod w/- Barker (Ostgut Ton / Leisure System – Berlin) + Noise In My Head (DJ sets).
MELBOURNE: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 23 @ Melbourne Festival Hub, doors open 11pm.
PERTH: SATURDAY, OCTOBER 24 @ Jimmy’s Den w/- Barker (Ostgut Ton / Leisure System – Berlin) (DJ set) + Basic Mind.