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DJ interview


photo: Robert Crouch

If you're looking for anything resembling traditional song structure, stop now. If your idea of chillout is ethereal grooves and such - new age music with enchanting vocals and Enya-esque melodies - cease and desist in your reading. But if you want some truly ambient stuff, some get-in-and-be-absorbed music that really fits the album title, then you've come to the right place. Willits + Sakamoto have really managed to capture the flavor of senses-surrounding ambience while still maintaining a kind of primordial musical quality. And the feeling really is one of eternal bliss under water. At times the music borders on the nirvana of white noise experimental, but never with abrasion - always keeping the transcendent pure ambience in command. Sublime soundscaping not to be missed. Five stars. -- DJfix's Kristofer Upjohn reviews WILLITS + SAKAMOTO "OCEAN FIRE"

Once we'd read Kris' five star review, we had to know more! Turns out, as his PR person was kind enough to share with us, "Sakamoto is a living legend in music. His numerous releases in Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO), and his Grammy Award-winning solo work has inspired two generations of fans and artists. San Francisco’s Christopher Willits is a young talented artist who has shown he can do just about anything. In the late-90s, Willits began integrating his guitar playing with unique custom digital processing, and has since been instrumental in redefining the sound palette of the guitar."

We then got a chance to ask Chris Willits a few questions via email, and here are his answers, just as he typed them back to us...

Why guitars and computers?

"why" is a great question. i'm always asked about the "how".. for years i used long chains of stomp boxs to mess with my guitar sound, but it was always this linear chain of events and i pretty much knew what to expect. using software i sculpt, i can influence a nonlinear process that feels more organic, more natural to me. i can alter and design and generate more complexity in the sound.

so i hear this music in my head, i need to produce this music/sound that i imagine, and guitar + computer is the tool that allows me to share these with others.

What was it like working with Sakamoto?

From the moment we met, Sakamoto felt like an old friend to me. Before we started to play music we did not even talk about what kind of music that we wanted to make together.. we just trusted the process and let it grow from the ground up. then before we knew it we were both in a trace.

it was really effortless, the whole collaboration together. more than anything, it's cool to have a new friend like him.

How did you two meet and decide to make music together?

i was invited to participate in Sakamoto's project called "chain music", against the war in iraq, and after that we just kept talking about music and meditation and all of this cool stuff. then when i was in NYC for a show, he invited me over to the studio, we hung out and decide to jump in and make some stuff together for the fun of it. no expectations, it just felt so natural.

Is that really you writing and posting on your website

ha ha, who else would it be? i have not yet hit (and never hope to hit) that awkward threshold of success when a manager pretends to be me.. or whatever. yeah it's me.. and i love talking to people who are into what i'm doing. i've met some amazing people.

Where are you right now, and was is it like around you?

right now i'm at this cafe in san francisco. it's close to my home in bernal heights.. it's a gorgeous part of the city. amazing day outside. trying to knock out this interview so i can go stare at the sun for a while.

What have you been doing all day today?

welll... had some crazy dreams.. i think because i watched Paprika last night.. cool animation about merging dreams. then i woke up, made some matcha, ate a banana, drank the tea, meditated, stretched, thought about pushing off anything i needed to do today, and just read all day in the sun.. decided not to since you and a few other people are waiting for these interviews.. ha ha.

then i just decided to make some music.. testing out some ideas for my next record with ghostly. i'm seeing what sounds need to sit next to each other.. letting it happen very naturally. then i needed lunch, and here i am ! that pretty much overs it.

What are some things you like to do for fun? Or other passions you have?

dreaming, kicking it with friends, meditating, going to hot springs around the bay area, hiking, reading, expanding my consciousness.

How did you first get involved with music... what made you decide to make music?

when i was 12-13 my consciousness suddenly exploded.. i knew that i needed to make art. i knew that was my path in life.

i played piano when i was younger but it was really boring and felt really forced.. then after i started listening to all of this jimi hendrix and zeppelin and black sabbath and king crimson and everything else that my parents had in their record collection, my dad surprised me and bought me a guitar. from that moment on all i wanted to do was play guitar, make crazy sounds with it, and paint and just make art. these visions and sounds in my head began to get louder and more vivid. now i'm producing those sounds. i love it. i am very happy.

What was the last music you listened to, and tell us what you thought of it.

let's see.. it was Fela Kuti last night. so funky. i love his stuff. such huge expansive political soul music.

How many guitars do you own and what are they (if its not too many to list):

theres a few to list, but i especially love my fender strat with a humbuker in the neck, and fender jaguar baritone. i don't even mess with other guitars anymore.. love the sounds, they feel great.

Do you get nervous (or have a ritual or some lucky thing you bring with you) before you're going to do a live show?

its funny i used to get nervous when i was younger. but i think after you play enough live shows the nervousness turns into excitement. that excitement i get though, that energy around a show, is so powerful. i breathe into it and use it as a charge for sonic communication. so fun. i'm glad i started playing live when i was younger, since i think it got all of the anxiety out of the way early.

i don't have any lucky thing i bring, except maybe my guitar? but i always make sure that i'm not full of food, meditate a bit, drink some tea. I get really high when i'm playing so i need to make sure i'm pretty grounded before i begin.

Anything else you'd like to say to the and readers?

sure thing.. :) there are multiple dimensions coexisting. you create your reality. every moment and every thought shapes the universe around you. you are an active participant in this universe. if you want your life to be filled with art and happiness and health, then just do it. you really can do it. you may not get rich quick, or at all, but we all need to follow your love. manifest the reality that sustains your creativity and love. remember that the plants are our teachers. make friends with plants. listen to them, they are talking to us.

To listen to Willits, try these sites:

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