Cyclic Selects: Will Guthrie


Will Guthrie is an Australian drummer/percussionist living in France. He plays solo using different combinations of drums, percussion, amplification and electronics, and leads the contemporary percussion / gamelan group ENSEMBLE NIST-NAH. His music has been released on labels such as Black Truffle, Editions Mego, Ipecac, Erstwhile, Clean Feed, Gaffer Records, Hasana Editions, 23five, iDEAL and his own label Antboy Music.

We’ve been fans of his work for a long time, regularly inspired by his invention and reinvention of what percussion can be. He often works with the likes of Oren Ambarchi, James Rushford, Jean-Luc Guionnet, Mark Fell, Roscoe Mitchell, Anthony Pateras, Chulki Hong, Jérôme Noetinger, and Keith Rowe amongst numerous others. He’s also a co founder of Melbourne’s long running improvised music night The Make It Up Club. You can read our review of Infoldings here, one of two albums he released with Rotherham based artist Mark Fell (SND) last year. He has just released two new albums, Electric Rag (Ali Buh Baeh Records / Editions Memoire) with Jean-Luc Guionnet, which incorproates free improvisation and experimental sound research, and his post everything work People Pleaser Part 2 (Kythibong records). You can read our review of 2017’s incredible People Pleaser Part 1 here.

With such a fascinating approach to sound, and a diverse range of musical interests we always felt he’d be an ideal candidate for a Cyclic Selects and he hasn’t disappointed.

Phil Trealor’s Feeling to Thought – ‘Shades of Bhairav’ – from the film Beyond El Roco – Sydney Australia – 1990
No top 10 of mine could be complete without at least one contribution from the great Mark Simmonds. Mark was a Sydney based tenor saxophonist who led bands under the name of the Freeboppers, active throughout the late 70’s until the late 90’s. I played with Mark at a young age in Melbourne inner city bars and clubs in the mid 90’s as a youngster jazz nerd, and learnt more in 10 or so gigs with him, than I did anywhere else before or since. Mark was an absolute master saxophone player, who’s circular breathing is enough to get any drummer all hot and bothered and willing and able to rise to the intensity the music demands ! I also became very close to all the other musicians in this video, Dave Ades ( VALE ! ), Phil Trealor and Steve Elphick who always treated me with enormous warmth and encouragement even though I was considerably younger. The musicians on this video shaped what I am today without a doubt. RESPECT !

Prince Live – Play that funky Music – Hollywood Swinging – Fantastic Voyage 4/28/11
Prince was ever present growing up, even though I never really listened to him directly until later on. I never saw him live but this video has me wishing I did! Prince leads the band in the most incredible sophisticated yet simple and organic way. I am very attached to the idea of a music that can be led onstage, where the musicians can be directed on the fly, somewhere in-between improvised, organised and composed, where certain things need to happen in certain songs, but the order, ins and outs can all be changed up each time. Some of the great jazz musicians I have worked with know how do this, and it comes from playing popular music, in bars, clubs, 3 sets or more a night, music for the people ! It’s maybe a dying art, but I loved playing with people like that and am grateful for growing up playing to indifferent, drunk and/or both audiences where I learnt how music could be both challenging while accesible. When I left Australia for Europe I was dying to play my own music, more experimental in nature, in places that were more susceptible to focussed listening and a certain ‘European’ appreciation of art and culture, whereas the longer I stay here the more I crave the dingy smokey sleazy bars and pubs where I learnt how to play. So yeah Prince rules, and if you can make ‘Play That Funky Music’ sound great then you’re a god to me !

Roxanne Shante – Go On Girl
Rhythmic sophistication at it’s finest. I have always practiced a lot, listening along with rappers, playing the phrases they rap on the drums. Without really realising it at the time, playing along to rappers like Roxanne, Chuck D, Inspectah Deck, Ghostface, Nas, MF Doom, Young Thug, Freddie Gibbs, Benny The Butcher (the list goes on) has had a massive influence on my music. Roxanne has such an amazing cutting voice, nasal and nasty, the flow in insane and the production on this is so gritty, I absolutely love it. Rap and Hip-hop play a massive part in my musical listening, and although I have breaks from it, it’s something I never stray away from for too long.

Lucrecia Dalt & Aaron Dilloway – Tender Cuts
Really nice sounds from these two, whose recent work reminds me of Paul De Marinis’ incredible album ‘Music As A Second Language’, who described his treatment of the human voice as ‘”the singing of voices more ancient than language.” I have loved Dilloway’s stuff for years. We organised a show for him in Nantes where I live, and he literally stripped the paint from the walls in a brutal show of how to use a PA to it’s fullest. For me Aaron is very much a part of the great American experimental and electronic music tradition. Their determination, relative lack of support from institutions, and hence resilience has always been inspiring to me, and also shows how musicians could be part of mutual scenes, sharing bills, participating in each other’s projects and co-producing concerts, while guarding their individual and unique artistic practices.

Bombino Concert, Agadez
If I played guitar it’d be like this. Amazing electric guitar sound that I absolutely love, borderline feedback, borderline too loud, comme il faut ! The Tuareg people are considered the gypsies of the Sahara desert, and their music is absolutely incredible. In recent times I have been playing with an amazing Tunisien singer named Ghassen Chiba, who is introducing me to lots music that I am loving from North and West Africa, helping me fill in some of the gaps in my very basic knowledge of the various African musics that I try to practice on the drums and enjoy listening to.

J.Dilla – One Eleven (Homework/Extended Edit)
All the tracks on J.Dilla’s classic album ‘Donuts’ are just perfect in length, except one craves more … and more … thankfully peeps got busy and looped each track 10000 times so we can all bliss out for hours on end … J.Dilla, Madlib, Knxwledge, RZA, Terminator X and the Bomb Squad, producers on this level, seem to be able to embody the whole history, and future, of the Afro-American social and musical experience, taping into all multi faceted richness of the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s brilliantly coined term: Great Black Music, Ancient to the future.

Weasel Walter – Roxanne (The Police cover)
Brilliantly shit cover by the Flying Luttenbacher’s drummer Weasel Walter. I was blown away when I saw Walter’s band QUOK with Tim Dahl and the great guitarist Ava Mendoza, who I have since played a lot with. Their rough as guts no-wave free jazz spazz was brilliant, and reminded a lot of the grunge / thrash / punk / shit-rock bands I seeing at underage shows in Melbourne back in my teenage skater days. Bands like The Meanies, The Hard-Ons, early Spiderbait, No Comply and a host of others that were way weirder. That scene in turn led me to No-Wave, and the free funk of Ornette Coleman’s ‘Prime Time’, James’ Blood’ Ulmer and Ronald ‘Shannon’ Jackson, who bridged rock and punk aesthetics with jazz, free-jazz, resulting in polyrhythmic, polymetric harmolodic good times to be had by all.

Frances Ashman – Pandora
Absolutely lovely song, from the amazing film ‘Nil By Mouth’. This song always gets me nostalgic and dreamy. I remember hearing it when watching the film, and it’s moody atmosphere is perfect for the violence portrayed in the grim scenes of the movie. To be honest It’s not like the production, the song or the singing is that great, it’s just really touching and I love this woman’s voice. Apparently she never did much after this one song, as after a traumatic life event she changed career paths from music making to acting. Glad she did this !

Indonesia – Music of Mangkunêgaran Solo, Java
No top 10 could / would be complete without music from Indonesia. The various trips to Indonesia I have done, and my involvement with Gamelan has left a huge mark on my life, both musically and socially. After playing in various (on a very amateur level) Javanese Gamelan groups over the years, I started Ensemble Nist-Nah in 2019 which is a 10 person strong group, all of us based in France. We are playing contemporary experimental works for Javanese Gamelan, also with other percussion and drums (sometimes two of us at the same time). Although the music is influenced and informed by various music(s) from Indonesia we do not play traditional musics. Since the lineup has been stabilised, I have been blessed to work with some truly amazing creative musicians, whose dedication to the group has been truly heart warming, and we have amazingly, managed to keep playing and working on the music even throughout incredibly disruptive and intermitant Covid times. They say that Gamelan is the social fabrique of a healthy society, in that all players are essential and valued regardless of their individual skills and contribution. I’d agree.

Whitehouse – Wriggle Like A Fucking Eel – cover
Probably not so cool to like Whitehouse anymore, but considering I’ve joined the club of white middle aged, slightly overweight men, I figure we’re all good. Seeing people like Whitehouse, Rudolf Eb.Er, Masonna, Zbigniew Karkowski, Junko, Mattin and Tim Goldie was no walk in the park, but give me extreme (even extremely bad) over mediocre anyday. Thankfully I got to see noise stuff back in the day that was genuinely physically, mentally, socially and sonically disturbing. True true it’s a (naughty little) boys club out there, but my love of overwhelmingly loud, powerful and full sounding music is europhic, erotic and spiritual, it takes me back to opiates, and has more to do with Coltrane than sweaty social misfits … some drummer came up with the genius idea of overdubing drums on this one … Njoy.

Zidan Ibrahim زيدان إبراهيم – ما هماك عذابنا
Because everyone needs some Sudanese pop in their lives …

Electric Rag by Will Guthrie and Jean-Luc Guionnet is out now via Ali Buh Baeh Records / Editions Memoire. You can find it here. People Pleaser Pt II is out now via Kythibong records. You can find it here.


About Author

Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.