Belgian occult rocker WIll Z., recently released his album Dark Tales of Will Z. on Headspin Records. The album is a doozy, inspired by the psychedelic world of Syd Barrett and the doomy leanings of early Black Sabbath. Will was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule and talk to us for a gear review. Read on and watch the site for a song stream from Will in the near future!
What one piece of gear do you use to obtain your signature sound? Will Z.: The Korg MS20 is definitely my favourite synth. I used it on most of the songs of my last album, Dark Tales of Will Z. It's a simple but complex instrument. Elementary but full of possibilities. From the past but the future.
What about it makes it so important to you? Will Z.: This synth plays a major role on The Book of AM, a 'cult' acid-folk album, recorded during the '70s in the island of Mallorca and supported by Daevid Allen of Gong. In 2011, I met Leslie, Juan and Carmeta, original members of this project, to produce and record with them the unreleased Parts 3 and 4 of The Book of AM. During the sessions, I tried to copy with instruments at my disposal (Microkorg and Siel DK700) the incredible filters and portamento of Korg MS20.
How long have you had it, how do you use it, would you ever change it? Will Z.: In 2013, Korg had the excellent idea to create a MS20 replica. It became quickly my favourite synth which fits perfectly with different musical genres I like and play, from psychedelic rock and krautrock to drone, experimental and stoner. I use it as a background instrument to create textures or as a lead to play a theme or a solo. I have looked for it and finally found it so I'll never change it.
What are the major pros and cons? Will Z.: The pros are the possibilities of the instrument and the incredible retro and futurist sounds (at the same time), capable of stirring the soul. The cons are the difficulty to switch from one sound to another because you don't have patch memory. All you have is your hands, your brain and a paper where you can write down the settings of sounds you have created, and that's why it's difficult to play it live: it takes few minutes to change oscillators, filters parameters, to plug jacks on the patch field...
How was this gear used during the recording of your latest album? Will Z.:On Dark Tales, I used it as a lead synth, of course, as a theremin on couple of songs (with specific settings - with filters and peak – you can copy perfectly the theremin sound), and as a drone (plugged directly into a Turbo Rat distortion pedal). Some people who listen to tracks like "Total Darkness," "Trouble Me" or "My Dark Side," only hear guitars with Fuzz Face and Turbo Rat, but I played guitars as well as synthesizers to create a powerful magma on these numbers.
How do you recreate your album (guitar/vocal/bass) tones in your live set? Will Z.: In-studio it's easy to record everything with overdubs. Except drums and guest performances, I played all instruments on Dark Tales. The live version is performed by oG (bass), Sammy Goldstein (drums) and me. I had to make a choice, and after different "lineups" rehearsals, I thought the better solution to recreate the full energy of the album was to have me on guitar. However, I have recorded synth drones and lines on a Boss loop station I can control with my foot, to develop the global sound. With oG, we have recently created a dark performance based on my two last opus, 12 Visions and Dark Tales of Will Z. featuring loops, glissando guitars and Korg MS20.
Any final thoughts or comments on the gear? Will Z.: In the end, I don't think the gear is really important. Of course, when you're a musician, you have a clear picture of what you want to create and how you want to do it, sounds you like or don't, influences... But the most important thing is to follow your vision, to capture it with what you have around and to share it with people.