Will Killingsworth Interview (Ampere, Orchid, Vaccine, Bucket Full of Teeth)

OPFM: Can you list for us the bands/projects you've been in over the years and what instrument(s) you played?

LACERATION, 1994-1997, guitar/bass/vocals
ORCHID, 1997 - 2002, guitar
BUCKET FULL OF TEETH 2000 - 2002, guitar/vocals/noise
KOLLMORGEN, 1999 - 2000, solo project
AIR WAVE RECEIVER, 1999, guitar
THE GUTS, 1999-2000, guitar
ARCANA, 1999-2000, bass/vocals
AMPERE, 2002 - present, guitar
TORRINGTON, 2002, guitar
STOP THE CLOCK, 2002, guitar
PSALMANAZAR, 2003, drums
PUKER, 2003, drums
CUMPUNX, 2003, guitar/vocals
PROGZILLA, 2003, guitar/bass
WITCHDOCTOR, 2006, bass
FAILURES, 2007 - present, guitar
COMPLAINTS, 2007 - present, drums
VACCINE, 2009 - present, bass
RITUAL MESS, 2009 - Present, guitar/bass
LONGINGS, 2012 - present, guitar/vocals
THE TOLL, 2010 - present. guitar/vocals
NO FAITH, 2011 - present, vocals/noise
WON'T BELONG 2011 - present, drums

(for descriptions and assorted downloads go to http://willkillingsworth.com/index.php?/project/music/)

OPFM:. You've been recording in your studio since 2001. Did the development of learning to be a studio engineer come out of interest or was it simply a need to just be able to capture the music you were making without having to go through an intermediary?

WILL: Honestly I'm not sure it was really either of those things exactly, or at least I wasn't as self aware of my motivations.  I remember in my first band some friend of a friend brought over a 4-track and shittily recorded us at practice, and I thought, "maybe I should get one of those things."  From there, my next band drove maybe an hour to record with someone in their house who had a mixing board going into a 6-track cassette recorder.  It honestly sounded pretty good all things considered, so my next move up was buying the cheapest mixer that I could to use with my 4-track.  I think that was when I recorded all of the Laceration stuff, and with that whole project my impetus was kind of to be self-sufficient.  Besides spending a day to teach my friend who played drums the songs, I did everything else in that band for better or worse.  That sort of pseudo one-man-band concept was probably a result of living in Alabama, taking a year off between high school and college, and having increasingly limited options of who to play music with.  I also took the literal meaning and implications of DIY very seriously, so to me if I could record myself, then I should.  That all said, it wasn't until 4-5 years later maybe with the last Orchid record that I and the rest of the band had a crazy idea like "we want total control."  Nowadays I record all of my own stuff, partially because I want to, and partially because I think that I would have a hard time working with another engineer due to the amount of control that I am used to.  The reality of total control is both a blessing and a curse though, and not really my prime motivating factor.

OPFM: I imagine when you're recording a band other than your own a certain level of objectivity needs to be employed.  Let's say you aren't partial to a band's style of music or you just don't think the musicianship is up to par; how do you objectively approach making a band sound the best they can?

WILL: I definitely will try to play to a bands strengths when mixing.  For example if a drummer isn't super tight, but has a good energy I might try to push the overheads or room sound more, as opposed to making sure that every kick drum hit is super articulated.  Likewise if a bass player is sloppy it might be a matter of getting the bass to feel solid in the mix, but without perceiving every nuance.  In a lot of cases some subtle overdrive can also help add some energy to a performance or round out imperfections.  Of course the trick is not to do any of these things in a heavy handed manner, but one that feels natural.  But this is all in instances where such things are perhaps needed, and not really the norm for every recording.  Most of the time I'm thinking in the back of my head about how the band thinks they sound, conceptually, or how they perceive their recording sitting in with other recorded music.

OPFM: Do you think your approach and your studio (Dead Air Studios) has a specific sound? Meaning, do you think people hear a recording and know off the bat that you were the man behind the board?  

WILL:Hmmm, well, maybe?  I think that there are some things that I do that are specific, and it could happen in some styles where people request certain feels that are similar.  Something like a raw blown out hardcore recording for instance, I think that some of the sound and technique could be picked up on by a listener as having a similar vibe or sonic imprint due to the hardware I use to make that happen.  Beyond times like there where I'm taking similar approaches to achieving a particular sound, it seems unlikely to me.  At least, I'm never really trying to impart my own signature onto a recording or bands sound, maybe I do in the end unknowingly, but if so I'm unaware of it.

OPFM: Your newest project is LONGINGS, which features yourself on guitar/vocals, Megan on bass/vocals and Cole on drums.  You've played with Cole and Megan before in some of your past and current projects.  This band seems to have an influence somewhere between Joy Division and maybe some Mike Kirsch sounds thrown in.  Can you tell me how LONGINGS came about and what you hoped to musically tackle with it?

WILL: Actually I've recorded Cole several times, but this is our first time playing together, which has been great.  The band came about in a couple of ways really.  Meghan and I are always brainstorming future music projects that we'd like to do, some of which we've done as one off things just for fun (see http://thepinsandneedles.bandcamp.com/ for an example), others who knows if we'll ever do, and some we actually try to see through as functioning bands.  The concept of LONGINGS is the direct result of Meghan and I being into a pretty obscure 80s German band and wanting to do something similar.  Almost immediately though our musical path diverged in ways from that concept and now we're just kind of following our inspiration and creative ideas to see where they lead us.  The last band we had done together (WON'T BELONG) was determined to sound like old Boston Hardcore like SSD, but with Meghan doing vocals.  I still think that that idea is really awesome and cool, and I think we more or less achieved it, but it made crafting songs surprisingly difficult because we were so focused on that vision.  Anyways, I think that the approach with LONGINGS is pretty exciting and I honestly don't know exactly where we'll end up, which is cool.  Meghan and I have been listening to lots of stuff from bands like WIRE, BAUHAUS,  THE RATS,  SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES, THE CHAMELEONS, X, THE WIPERS, FRED BANANA COMBO,  CHRISTIAN DEATH, OF A MESH, GUN CLUB, etc etc which I think all play a role in it somewhere.  My goal is to create something that is dark, punk, and melodic, hopefully while being catchy and relatable.  You're the second person to mention hearing a Kirsch influence in our songs, which I think must be some sort of subconscious thing on our end, or the reality of our many other influences also playing a role in this band, which again is part of the exciting element of doing it all. 

OPFM: One of my favorite projects that you've done is BUCKET FULL OF TEETH.  The songs had a ton or variety within their structure, almost like you were taking a lot of risks and just nailing it right every time.  Can you talk about the project a little bit, how it came to be/ what the idea behind it was?

WILL: Well, as appears to be a common thread with bands I start, BFOT was created out of a shared love for a single band.  The bassist Brad (who had played in ORCHID with me) and I had always loved
SUPPRESSION and thought that it would be cool to try to play something along those lines.  I had recorded Matt from THE CANCER KIDS and thought that he would be a good fit, so we asked him to play drums and that was that.  The band quickly evolved from being anything too similar to SUPPRESSION though and basically became us trying to push our musical boundaries while remaining essentially a grind band.  There was a funny shared moment of realization though when we recorded the music for the 1st 7" and we were all convinced that we had created something that was really out there, and then when listening back to it, it sounded surprisingly straight-forward.  Sure maybe some of the riffs were based around noise, or the like, but overall musically it wasn't really as diverse or weird as it felt when we wrote it.  From there I really tried to push the boundaries even further, and to make it sound more experimental.  I had been listening to a lot of the John Zorn grindy stuff (NAKED CITY / PAINKILLER), and a lot of prog rock (YES, KING CRIMSON, GENTLE GIANT, etc), along with shit like THE MELVINS, etc, and just other weird shit, so my revised vision of pushing boundaries became to take what I found to be interesting and inspiring about that music and to work it into a punk/grind context.  I was also trying to pull even from the world of JOAN OF ARC, who's album THE GAP I think is an amazing piece of work and is somehow jarring and weird, but at the same time extremely musical, relatable, and just a fucking awesome record that can work and be interesting on all of these multiple levels.  BFOT was the only band I've ever been in where I would try to map out song structures in my head and on paper conceptually without a guitar in my hand.  To me the 3rd 7" is where we really hit our stride and were able to pull all of these ideas off to the best of our ability.  I'm not sure that every sonic experiment we made was as successful as you make it sound (thanks though!), but I do think that we created something fairly unique.  I'm honestly surprised when people bring it up to me that they are into it, because I don't really know where in the world it fits in, if that makes any sense, and I guess I kind of assume that everyone has forgotten about it?  Maybe not though!?

OPFM: You mentioned before that you used to live in Alabama.  Why did you move out East and make it a new home of sorts?

WILL: Since many of my own friends seem to think that I was born and raised in Alabama, before I accidentally perpetuate that concept I should perhaps mention that that is not the case.  I grew up outside of Boston and lived there until 8th grade when I moved to live with my father in rural California (2 hours or so north of L.A.).  I only lived in CA for two years and then my father, who was originally from Alabama, decided to move back there, and I lived with him outside of Birmingham for four years.  I came to Western Mass for college and I think ended up staying partially because it was the only place that felt like home at that point.  I didn't want to move back to Alabama, although I had had an overall good experience there, and I didn't really have any ties to Boston except my mother.  A lot of people in this area gravitate towards New York City, but I've just never had any interest in living there.  The more that I've stuck around the Amherst area though the more I feel connected to it and realize how ideal it is in many ways.  The music scene has really consistently grown and developed over the past ten or more years.  I think that in this area we're just isolated enough to feel like a small community and benefit from the close ties that that creates and cross-genre bonds that you don't find as often in larger cities.  At the same time, it's within easy striking distance of so many cities (Boston, Providence, Hartford, Albany, New York, Brattleboro, Burlington, and even Philly, Syracuse or Montreal).  So, while I might live surrounded by the woods there's only really as much isolation as you want there to be, which is great for me.