Interview: Winter Son

When you come from a background that mainly involves instruments, fellow band members and Slayer and Pulp covers it’s always interesting to see how the venture into straight up electronic based music might pan out when working solo. Enter Winter Son, a Manchester based producer who cut his teeth playing in a series of successful groups prior to starting the later project. Described by himself as something that’s grown from working on once a month to spending many hours a week on, we first learnt about his music from Daniel Avery, who at the time had made his track “Here Is A Ghost” a regular fixture in his Rinse FM shows. With no interviews online as Winter Son and the recent release of the Here Is A Ghost Remixed EP release featuring Houndstooth’s House of Black Lanterns, Will Azada and Orbis Terrarum, we thought it would be a good time to get to know him. We talked about the visual aspect of his music, scoring short horror movies, the process of releasing your own music and the reaction from finding out your track went off at Panorama Bar. 

Stream: Winter Son – Here Is A Ghost (This Is It Forever) 

Hey Tom, hope you’re well and thanks for taking out the time to chat with us. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think there’s an interview with you online as Winter Son yet, so I was hoping to get away with asking you to run through your musical background and how you first got into contact with electronic music. “Hey, the pleasure’s all mine. I don’t think there’s anything too in-depth online, so this question is a really good start! I started listening and paying attention to electronic music in the late ’90s. Me and all my friends just used to call it ‘dance music’ and we never knew what to do with it, or how to react when listening. We’d put on Aphex Twin’s Classics or New Forms by Roni Size and smoke weed for a few hours in the dark, thinking of how it was all made. It was mind bending as we didn’t have the internet, so we’d have to guess how the sounds were made. We were all playing in bands and covering Radiohead, Portishead and Pulp songs and then moved on to heavy stuff like Slayer, Tool and Deftones, but we started going to clubs to dance and go crazy. My first taste of a live DJ set was in 2000 watching Marcus Intalex & Ed Rush at Room in Hull. I still have the ticket! I’ve always played instruments and gigged in bands, and I don’t come from a background of DJing or being around DJs. I’m an instrument guy.”

You’ve produced music under the alias worriedaboutsatan in the past and currently also produce under Ghosting Season with Gavin Miller. I am keen to ask how the solo Winter Son project possibly grew out of this. Had the idea been on the cards for a while? What does this project mean to you? “I think I just wanted to make some music that was purely my own, which I’d never done before. I like tons of genres, and I had a bit of an itch to make some synthy techno! I think the good thing about electronic music is that you can do so much with it, there are no restrictions. I love how people like Legowelt and Atom™ have all of these pseudonyms and go off on tangents with their music. I don’t see why people can’t make up tens of different artist names and carry on releasing music. I’d been thinking for a few months that I’d love to have a go at writing something and playing live on my own, I’d never really experienced it before doing electronic music. I’ve done solo shows before doing classical guitar recitals, but this is something different! It’s grown from something I worked on once a month to spending many a hours every week and getting releases ready. It’s all gone a bit serious, and I love it.”

You recently scored the music for a short film called Shell Shock under Ghosting Season. Can you tell us a little bit about how that came about and the way you approached it. “I’ve worked with Dominic Brunt (the director) a few times, and I’ve known him for years. He’s on a TV programme called Emmerdale, and I used to work on the show in the script department, so we got talking about horror films (he’s a massive zombie film buff). He started making films a few years ago, and I asked if I could score all of his projects. Before I start writing the score I like to watch the movie through a few times and get a good feeling of what’s happening and the interactions between the characters. I like all the emotion to be brought out with music and I don’t like doing ‘underscoring’, I like the music to guide you and let you know exactly what’s happening. The music has to make a strong statement, otherwise I’d rather it be silent!”

In the press release for Here Is A Ghost you say that “[a]fter watching a lot of the first horror films from the 20s & 30s, I wanted to write something almost romantically paranormal, and influenced by the melancholic lives of some ghosts and spirits.” Is there always such a thorough thought process behind the music you make? “Yeah, I find it really hard to write music without it being based on a theme, even if it’s a really small one that’s personal to me! It makes it so much fun too, knowing that your music has a meaning and purpose. I like to imagine I’m scoring a scenario from real life, and I look back on memories a lot. I usually start reading about something and think ‘hmm, that would be a good focal point for an EP…’.”

A while back you mentioned that the visual aspect of your music is really important to you and that you’re always looking out for creepy books, horror movies and old buildings, and the CD package coming with a page from a ghost story was a nice touch too. Can you possibly expand on this interest and the visual aspect of your music a bit more for us? “I think it goes back to the work I do scoring films and TV programmes, as I’m so used to having a visual idea in my head and letting it guide the music writing. When I’m writing I’m always thinking how the music would look if it were an imagine or film. I want people to experience more than sound with music too, I want to put people in a location and a certain time, creating a vivid world. I’m not really into the idea of just releasing a track or an EP, I want to create a whole universe around it and let people into the inspiration behind the music. I love doing too, I get really proud of packaging! ”

Daniel Avery has been stressing that “Here Is A Ghost” has been a real highlights in his sets and I remember seeing you post that Baikal had gotten a great reaction from it when played at Panorama Bar. Did you have any idea how well the track would lend itself to the club when you finished the tune? How was your own experience of hearing it out? “Not at all! I didn’t really think anyone would listen to it all that much! I made it in around five hours whilst Gavin (who runs the label and part of Ghosting Season) did paperwork for his job in the studio. I sent it to a few people randomly and Avery and Baikal got back to me with all these amazing comments and feedback. I don’t know them personally, they were just people I admire and enjoy musically. The first time I heard it in a club was when I played it live. I play drums live at my gigs, and people air drummed to the massive claps.”

From your streams I’ve seen you use Roland TR-808s, Junos, Korg MS-20s, xoxboxs and an assortment of other hardware based products. Is a computer even part of your production process or is it a more jam based affair when it comes to making music under Winter Son? “I do a bit of everything when I’m in the studio. I like my instruments and jamming, so I like having the keyboards, drums and guitars around me. I use a computer to record everything, but most sounds are made using instruments that I play in live. I wouldn’t say I’m an analogue or digital person as I like to use both as and when I feel like it. I have some amazing bits of software that I love to use, and the same goes for hardware. “Here Is A Ghost” is 100% hardware, but that’s just what came out on the day! The soundtrack work is mostly computer based, but that’s because it has a very particular sound to it I don’t think you can easily get with hardware. When I’m doing Winter Son stuff I start with a simple drum pattern or maybe a little arpeggio from a synth and then jam around for a few hours. Sometimes you waste a day messing around, but sometimes it clicks and before you know it the best four hours of your life have gone by!”

From what we’ve gathered you and Josef K seem to spend a lot of time in the studio together. How did you guys meet and what’s the relationship like whilst working on tracks?  “It’s really cool! He’s very different to me as he’s 100% DJ through and through. And a very good one he is, I might add. Jozef seriously knows his craft and is highly experienced in track selection and everything else that goes into being a DJ. The dynamic he brings is very much like that of an old skool producer – he might not know how every bit of kit works, but he knows what sound he wants, and what will work. He knows what will destroy a dance floor (in a good way!) even before we’ve played a single note. We met at a very dark techno night in Germany’s most prestigious nightclub…”

Can you tell us a little bit about your label This Is It Forever? As someone who has been self releasing their music since 2011 you must be pretty clued up into the advantages and disadvantages of doing so. I can imagine it taking a fair bit of confidence to start. “It’s been so much fun doing the label. I don’t really do a great deal as it’s largely Gavin’s thing, but I get to see what happens on a day to day basis and offer my insights into signings etc! It’s definitely a challenge as you’re instantly up against every other label, but we’ve found that it’s best to work with people and not against them. I think the main focus is to offer people something unique with the packaging and to highlight that music can be presented in a loving and personal way. Gavin works mostly with people he feels close with on a personal level, and I think this is massively admirable. There don’t seem to be any genre constraints too, and there’s been everything from classical to techno to prog rock releases so far.”

Stream: Winter Son – Almost A Phantom (House Of Black Lanterns Remix) (This Is It Forever)

You recently released the remix package to “Here Is A Ghost” which features some great names. How were the artists chosen? “Just like with the label’s mentality, I wanted to work with my friends and people who I love musically. I’ve known Dylan from House Of Black Lanterns for a good while, since when he was making music as King Cannibal. The guys from Orbis Terrarum have become good friends too over the past six months or so. They’re just starting out and are making some amazing stuff that’s coming out. Will Azada I’d never spoken to before, but thought I’d drop him a line after his Hypercolour release, which I died for. We ended up talking about synths and got on really well!”

What else can we expect from you from the rest of the year? “I’ve been in the studio absolutely tons already this year, and produced an unspeakable amount of stuff! I’ve done music as worriedaboutsatan, Ghosting Season, Winter Son and done a lot of soundtrack work! For the Winter Son side I’ll be having a good few releases (maybe even an album…) coming out, and plenty of live dates too with my 808. I can’t be bothered to sleep, so I’m just going to make sounds. I’ve got EPs signed to Let’s Play House, Stem Records, Kinda Soul and another This Is It Forever release on the horizon.”

And finally, a Truants fave, what is your favourite drink and when was the last time you danced? “I love those Zombie drinks! The ones that are on fire and in fat glasses. Definitely into those in a big way! Last time I danced was the other weekend in a nightclub called Spiders, to Gary Numan’s “Cars”. We were all stood in a circle just nodding ours heads. Imagine those goth kids from South Park and you’re not far off.”

Riccardo Villella
Riccardo Villella

OG at Truants / Graphic Designer / DJ as Melmoth Twitter Soundcloud

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