SNACK caught up with Scottish trance artist Will Atkinson on the very day that his debut album Last King of Scotland was released. We chatted about everything from club culture, Welsh cottages, album expectations, and of course becoming ‘The Last King of Scotland’.
How’s your day been so far?
My day has been absolutely hectic, literally, the phone’s not stopped once. After today’s release it’s all about promoting it, it’s pretty full-on. As well as the promo stuff, I’ve been out with a drone shooting video content for the album. I’ve been trying to film something special to promote it. It’s going to look absolutely epic.
We’ve also been finishing work on a live set to promote the album, I’m playing live from Platform in Glasgow which every dance fan in Scotland knows formerly as The Arches, it’s going to be absolutely mind-blowing: full live production, lights, 4k cameras, sweeping shots, drones, and all sorts. That’ll be going out on Sunday, 15th November.
How’s the feedback been so far for the album?
It honestly couldn’t be any better, people seem to be loving it, considering it’s the first day of release. I couldn’t have asked for a more positive response from people listening at home.
You’re known throughout the industry as being absolutely dedicated to your craft, the album is testament to that, at this point in your career, how does it feel to finally have it out there?
Trance means so much to me, I moved away from family, relationships, left college, left everything and built a new life in Glasgow – all in the name of trance, sacrificed my soul for the music.
It’s now paying dividends but I wouldn’t say this is singularly a trance album, there’s obviously trance tracks, but there’s Drum & Bass influence, Hard House, Ambient, Spoken Word, Progressive, and House. I hope people see it beyond the genre, and it gets picked up outside that audience; I’ve heard Danny Howard from Radio 1 is interested in playing a couple of tracks. It’s encouraging to see DJs outside the trance world taking notice, it’s genuinely exciting for it to be out there.
What was it that finally made you decide to knuckle down and knock it out? And in the process did you find that the creative process ended up being more reflective than you had anticipated?
I’ve been lucky enough to have music as a full time job for the last 10-12 years, but an artist album to me couldn’t just be 17 tracks thrown together. It was always going to be personal, it was an intimate process. It became a snapshot of who I am, and how I got here.
This was never going be something I took on lightly; up until this time I hadn’t been confident in my abilities to make those kind of life changing pieces of music. But in the last two years I feel I’ve really hit my stride, and I’ve been able to call on experiences and memories, and create music that helped me express them.
What influences did you call upon when making the album?
It almost feels like my music timeline, from music fan, to music addict, to someone that was just consumed by it all. Some of the influences on the album went beyond dance; also composers like Hans Zimmer, Jon Hopkins, James Horner (The Perfect Storm), to other inspirations like growing up in Orkney.
Each track is like a Kodak picture, they represent a moment in time, a moment or an experience; it feels like I’ve been writing this album my whole life. I’ve been saying that it’s been in creation for 30 years, since I first fell in love with music. I’ve put everything into this album, I honestly wouldn’t change a note.
Do you think your experience of living during the pandemic has changed the shape and sound of the album?
Absolutely, there’s no question, the album I had mapped out in March is nothing like the album I have mapped out now – there’s been so much restructure.
I’d say originally it was more dance floor focused, but now, I mean what is a dance floor? It’s almost become this ancient relic. So I’ve had to adapt.
The album will be consumed differently now; it’s in the gym, out running, in a house. There’s tracks I’ve moved from this album, and we’ll now look at adding them to the next one. The tracks that I wrote during lockdown definitely seem to be more suited to where we are right now.
How did you come to a decision on finalising the track listing?
The majority of it got finalised in Wales, John [Askew, Will’s manager] took me out of my comfort zone. In January he moved me down to a cottage in a Welsh valley. No signal. No Wi-fi. Honestly it was probably the most productive nine days of my career, and definitely one of the best weeks of my life.
We had ‘Telescope’, ‘If I Spoke Your Language’, ‘Beans’, and ‘Burning Out’, all in all, about 95 percent done at the end of it. It was such an amazing feeling to come out of that and know that we had pretty much finished the album.
I need to ask about the title, Last King of Scotland, it’s pretty epic, where did it come from?
I guess you could say the album campaign began at A State of Trance festival last year; walking onto the stage with a piper and wearing my kilt. Back then we hadn’t settled on a title, and we said it as a joke, a kind of brag, but the more we said it, the more it just seemed to fit with the album – it kind of added a bit of extra class.
What are you hoping that listeners take from the album?
I’d say that I’ve created it with the aim of paying homage to the epic dance albums of the past, I’ve embraced every sound. I hope that reflects with the quality of tracks. With icons like Paul van Dyk and Jes collaborating on the album, we were trying to bring that classic sound to long term fans, and by adding a modern twist, it meant that we could also create something that new fans would absolutely love as well.
Main image credit: Andy Cawley Photography