William Burnett comes across as a reasonably unassuming character. The sort of guy who just goes about his business, quietly dedicating the main portion of his life to discovering, sharing and creating incredibly unique music through whichever means possible.
The last couple of years have seen his modest pursuits rewarded with his label WT Records becoming somewhat of an underground sensation and his Willie Burns alias (one of many) seeing releases on labels like L.I.E.S, Crème Organization and The Trilogy Tapes to name a few. No stranger to the airwaves, Burnett plays host to some of NYC’s best DJs on a weekly basis for his show WTBS Radio, where he also gets a chance to air the forgotten gems he’s picked up for the week at his home away from home, aka The Thing, the Brooklyn “junk store” he has worked at for the last 10 or so years.
Making his first appearance in Australia in January with the Animals Dancing crew, we were wowed by his mixing style and incredibly diverse selections. Things are always happening in a Willie Burns mix. This one is no different.
What have you been up to?
Hello.. lately I’ve just been working all day and trying to hit the studio at night. The Thing (junk store i work at) had a sewer back up and a roof leak, so I’ve been helping with that and trying to get all the ruined records out. We finally got the last of them out last week and now I just need to get all the fresh stuff out and get people digging again.
In terms of your creative process when you sit down in the studio and fire up your gear, are you generally mindful of what style of a track you’re trying to make or what label or alias it will be for, or does that stuff usually come a bit later for you?
It all depends really.. sometimes someone asks me for a record, so I have that in mind. When it’s Willie Burns, then i’ll generally load some new sounds into the SP12 and get working. Then maybe add some other stuff on it later. If it’s Black Deer or something else, i’ll generally start with guitar and 808 or a synth and 808 and go from there.. Sometimes the lines are blurred and I just have to see where it fits later on, or if it doesn’t then I call it something else. That is how i came up with PHOBIAN which is more hardware jam techno.
How would you explain your Black Deer project as opposed to the work you’re doing under Willie Burns of late?
Black Deer was initially a name that I came up with when I was trying to make some psych folk kind of acoustic guitar and synth things with Jorge Velez. We only did one song together, so I kind of took on the name. It’s kind of a continuation of Galaxy Toobin, but solo.. or maybe even a little Grackle in there. I really just liked the name and thought it sounded like a good native american pysch project.
Willie Burns was my attempt to make functional dance music, not sure if it worked still, but I’m getting closer. It started as a joke name, but it seems to have stuck.
They are really just different ways of working.. Willie Burns normally has some kind of boom boom boom in it and Black Deer usually has some guitars or some crazy effects..
On your label WT Records, you’ve managed to unearth a bunch of talented new producers from all corners of the globe like Art Crime, Tagwell Woods, Sabre, Nao Katafuchi and Caltrop to name a few. How are you generally coming in contact with new artists? Do you have a personal relationship developed with most of these guys in some way or another?
Again it’s all different. Some I met on the internet.. through myspace or message boards (shout out to globaldarkness). Others just sent me demos.. I met Nao through a friend at a party. Yeah, I still stay in contact with mostly everyone on the label. Chatting on the internet mostly, but we communicate. But yeah someone like Entro Senestre, that started with him sending me a CD through myspace and now however many years later, we share a studio and have released music together as Daywalker + CF.
Which releases do you have coming up next on the label? Do you plan to continue with the DJ Muscle series again this year?
I’m really not sure exactly. I am bugging a bunch of the people that already released on the label for more stuff, but nothing is solid yet. And funny you ask about the DJ Muscle compilation as I was just this week thinking I should maybe do another comp thing. I really don’t know. There is so much music coming out now that its kind of ridiculous, it all just gets lost, and a lot of it doesn’t even need to come out. So, with that in mind, I’m just waiting until something solidifies and then it will just happen.
You have described working in the basement amongst the thousands of unwanted crates of the records at The Thing in Greenpoint as your biggest influence. How would you explain the impact that store has had on you as an artist over your 10-plus years there?
Ha yeah.. it’s a great place. I find so many records there it’s crazy. I don’t know how to explain it. I just like to listen to records I don’t know and in a place with hundreds of thousands of records, it’s pretty easy to find something you don’t know. You aren’t going to find the records everyone wants, but you will make new discoveries that you can share with people. It’s just a great place to discover new and forgotten music.
What can you tell us about this mix? What was the idea behind the mix?
I haven’t made a mix in a while. I was doing them a lot for a while, but then i kind lost steam in the podcast department. There wasn’t a real idea behind the mix.. I just went through the 4 or 5 piles of records near the turntables and picked out ones that i wanted to hear or have been playing lately and tried to stick them together somehow. If I think too hard about it, it will get too complicated. It’s just new arrivals to my collection (new releases, thing records, and promos). I plugged in the thing to the thing with the records and pressed record as I tried to mix.
Nina Simone – Sinnerman
Head Front Panel #2
Tom Of England
Apartment Records (Six)
Love Is Crazy (Dub)
Big Audio Dynamite (Club Instrumental)
Chris Taylor – Into Your Eyes
Kenny Jason – Don’t Want It (Hot Mix 5)
Bop To The Trax vol. 2
Patti Austin (Maurice Fulton Mix)
Georgia – Like Comment