When Phonica first opened its doors for business back in 2003, Will Saul was one of the founding team members who helped mould the store into what it is today. Will has been at the forefront of the electronic music community for more than twenty years now. As the man behind the AUS Music and Simple Records, as well as the highly influential DJ Kicks series, Will has certainly made his mark on the scene.
Having cut his teeth as a DJ with residencies at Fabric and The End in London, as well as Studio 80 in Amsterdam, Will has gone on to release a respectable amount of music to back his credentials as a producer.
To coincide with Will’s brand new ‘Lakeside EP‘ on our very own Phonica main label, Will provided us with a long overdue recording for our Mix Series. Be sure to check out Will’s mix, interview and tracklist below.
Check out the previous mixes in the series here:
Hey Will, thanks for joining us! First up, can you please shed a little light on the mix. Were there any particular themes or influences behind it?
This is a good condensed snapshot of what I would play from start to finish in a club set in an ideal scenario…. I do go all over the place in my sets and I haven’t quite worked out whether that’s a good thing or bad thing tbh! Hopefully, the flow holds up….also I do love music in my music – you will not hear a minimal, stripped back set from me! I have gone for a kind of sci-fi/futuristic approach in a melodic context with this mix. I always end up including forthcoming/unreleased music from Aus as its lovely to be able to present music that no one else other than the artist and I will have heard. The joy of hearing something that you love for the first time is a special moment that I remember well as a young clubber and an avid recorder of DJ’s on the radio so hopefully, I’m able to pass that feeling on here and in my sets. The Move D ‘Dots’ track is from a forthcoming album on Aus that I am very proud to be releasing. I also tried to pick a few tracks that I discovered when I worked at Phonica that have gone on to remain in my record box… Recloose ‘Up & Up’, Marco Passarani ‘Clair’ (although I only use the opening chords briefly in this mix but go check out this record as its a beauty) and Liquid People ‘Son Of Dragon’ (my love of this record was cemented when I saw Derrick May close a very eclectic set in Sheffield with it not long after buying it when it was released first on Soul Heaven).
Are any of the records in this mix recent discoveries? If so, where did you stumble across them and what drew you to them?
Yes, the Larry Levan Dub mix of La Compagnie Creole was discovered by paying close attention to the Phonica Instagram! It’s great that you guys post so many recommendations so regularly on your page and I regularly discover gems this way. I live hours away from any record shops and miss coming in to the store and losing myself for a few hours listening to as much as possible form the shelves… of course you can trawl the web site and I do this as regularly as possible along with some other sites such as Hard Wax but the immediate recommendations on the Instagram feed is very useful.
Could you tell us a little bit about your background, perhaps where you grew up and what first got you interested in electronic music?
I grew up in the middle of the countryside just outside Glastonbury in Somerset in the South West of England. I’m 40 now so when I was growing up the only way of discovering things musically was via parents (my Mum and Dad had good taste in music but were by no means avid collectors), friends at school (I developed a healthy taste for hip hop and rap – particularly Public Enemy and Ice T aged about 11 from my friend Rob’s tape collection, on the radio (I would tape radio shows) and cycling for half an hour to buy music magazines (you would find reviewers taste that you trusted) and then spending your pocket money at Tor Records which was my local (ish) record shop. This was primarily a second-hand store and as it was in Glastonbury which was the heart of ‘new age’ and all things hippy was chock full of second-hand prog rock (Can/Tangerine Dream) and soundtracks from the likes of Vangelis, and Tomita. I definitely annoyed that shop by listening to many more records than I bought on their one knackered belt driven turntable! The internet as we know it today was not a thing at all so discovery was a very different process but far more rewarding as a result of the work you had to put in to get your music.
Some people may not know this about you, but your connection to Phonica goes all the way back to the shop’s opening in 2003. Can you tell us a couple of the key tracks that will forever remind you of your time working here?
My connection to Phonica actually goes back to before the opening of Phonica as I used to work at a record shop in Berwick Street market called Koobla which was managed by Simon Rigg – who left Koobla to set up Phonica…he took me with him! I discovered so much music whilst working at Phonica and Koobla. When I first started working at Koobla I was very much into breaks, hip hop and the west London broken beat and Nu-Jazz scenes and not that much into house and techno. I’d not long set up my first label Simple Records when I started working at Koobla and it started out as a breaks and broken beats label but I very quickly had my eyes and ears opened to the wonderful world of house and techno and as my taste broadened so did the record labels sound. Matthew Jonson and his Typerope label were just starting and I was blown away by his early releases and got him to do his first remix for Simple. My A&R decisions were hugely informed by working at the shop as you got a feeling for artists impact and popularity by the customers reactions and you could see real time which artists were connecting and selling. I would dearly love to work in the shop a day a week now! It was an invaluable grounding for me and totally shaped my taste and labels.
You’ve very recently provided us with your Lakeside EP on the Phonica main label. It’s great to finally have you on board! In your own words, can you tell us a bit about the EP?
It’s honestly such a proud moment to release on Phonica – it feels like coming home! The record is very much a celebration of happy times through euphoric melody. I wrote the record as kind of a homage to my 93-year-old granny Joanie who has been a huge part of my life and still continues to be a huge support to me and my family – hence the name of the lead track ‘For Joanie’. Its called the Lakeside EP as that was the name of my grandparents’ house and my earliest, happiest memories are at that house.
What are your favourite record labels out there at the moment?
ESP, Versatile, Touch From A Distance, Graded, Sex Tags UFO, Idle Hands, Peach Discs, Arcola, Pearson Sound, Apron, Hinge Finger, Illian Tape
And how about your own label, AUS Music – are there any exciting releases coming that you’re able to tell us about?
Yes, lots this year actually. We will have new releases from the Dutch artist Tracey and something new very soon from Cinthie. More from Haider who I think is an exceptional talent. Albums from Move D and Youandewan and someone else that I am hugely excited about but can’t quite talk about as the deal hasn’t been done. I hope to have my next artist album finished soon and ready for release this autumn.
What’s your preferred method for finding new music – do you still enjoy digging around in dusty crates or are you more of an order online kind of guy?
Due to where I live (I moved back to Somerset from London when we had our first child 8 years ago) I do most of my digging online but lord knows I miss those dusty crates! I have actually found that Spotify is an excellent discovery tool – checking out artists own playlists and trusted record label playlists where they’re listing their favourite music is a good way to find new music. The Spotify algorithm then takes over and you end up in all kinds Spotify wormholes which I actually quite enjoy. Obviously digging via record shops web sites and I’m lucky enough to get sent a lot of music as head of A&R at !K7 and Aus. Nothing will replace the recommendations from a grumpy record shop worker but times and circumstances change and one must adapt.
Bjarki – Two Braindness
Chataux Flight – C-Lo
Osborne – Integrate
La Compagnie Creole – AIE (Larry Levan Dub Mix) / Cinematic Orchestra – A Promise
Disco Nihlist – Coffee & A Worn Paper Back
K-Lone – Sleepwalker
Recloose – Up & Up
Thundercat – Friend Zone (Ross From Friends Remix)
Tracey – PHTCPHRK
Move D – Dots
Brother Nebula – Infinity2
Quavius – That Beat
Funkineven – Jedi
Shanti Celeste & Hodge – Pips
Bambouno – Tour
Youandewan & Huerta – Who R U
Tracey – TRR
2 Pisceans – Didn’t Take Long
Skudge – Quasi
Unknown – Unknown
Marco Passarani – Clair
Lone – Odeo 88
Wajeed – Strength
Liquid People – Son Of Dragon