Will Saul has been at the forefront of electronic music for nearly 20 years. He has released well over 150 records across his two labels—Aus Music and Simple Records—from the likes of Joy Orbison, Carl Craig, Pearson Sound, Leon Vynehall, and Actress, as well as EPs that helped to break the careers of talents like Bicep, Dusky, Midland, and George FitzGerald. This natural A&R instinct has seen him become head of A&R at !K7, responsible for all artist signings and in charge of curating the DJ Kicks series. Few people in contemporary electronic music boast a better record of unearthing new and exciting artists.
Saul began working in music aged 19 when he began a full-time role as A&R with Sony Music. Upon his 2003 departure, he set up Simple, his first label, and became part of the team that founded London's Phonica Records. February 2005 saw the release of the Simple One label compilation before Saul shared Space Between, his debut artist album, later that year. Saul then started Aus Music in 2006 with Sideshow (Fink on Ninja Tune), aiming to explore the more leftfield and experimental side of house, techno, dub, and downtempo.
As an artist in his own right, Saul has remixed artists like Little Dragon, Kelis, Pearson Sound, and Fink; while as a producer he's shared singles and EPs on labels such as Kompakt and !K7 as well his own, as well as two full-length artist albums. As a DJ, he's held residencies at some of the world's finest clubs, including The End in London, Studio 80 in Amsterdam, and a label residency at Fabric. He's also contributed entries to Radio One's Essential Mix and DJ Kicks.
His podcast for XLR8R feels typically composed and calculated—and nuanced given that three or four tracks are often in play at any given time. Saul has been working on it for some time, selecting records and pondering over track combinations. Records come from many of those artists with whom Saul has worked—among them Midland, Marquis Hawkes, and Youandewan, including some unreleased gems—plus some of Saul's staples right now. Specific track combinations were then tested in clubs, and those that proved worthy were submitted to the podcast. The result is a slick house and techno mix that's sure not to be forgotten about anytime soon.
What have you been up to recently?
Been back in the studio a lot more over the last year and finally, I'm able to release the fruits of my labour....there will be a steady stream of EPs on Aus and some other choice labels for the foreseeable future. "Never Enough" is a new one of mine that's fresh off the press and features in this mix—this will come out early next year on Phonica Records as part of a three-track EP. Other than that, I've been holding down all my various roles in life—father of three, head of A&R at !K7, head of Aus Music and manager for a select group of very talented artists—Nathan Micay/Bwana, DJ Tennis, Falty DL, Juan Maclean, Marquis Hawkes, and Matt Karmil.
You seem to have a knack for unearthing new talent. What is that you look for in an artist before signing them to Aus or Simple?
To be honest it's very much a gut feeling—whether or not I'm moved by the music; if a piece of music makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up then that's what I tend to follow. I think I have learned to distil what turns me on about music down to "a memorable hook." Something that you go away needing to hear again. I have worked with a huge variety of artists over the years and I really love the process of getting to know an artist and what makes them tick creatively. Helping an artist grow and develop is a very rewarding process.
What’s next on the production front for you?
To just keep on writing as much music as possible really as I feel very comfortable in the studio at the moment.
Can we expect a new album soon?
I very recently decided to try and write another album over the Autumn so hopefully one will have surfaced by this time next year.
When and where was this particular mix recorded?
It has been recorded steadily over the last couple of months in a variety of settings—from my kitchen table to aeroplanes to my garden in the current heatwave we've had this summer. I have some really nice B&O speakers and a nice old Marantz amp in my living room and we bought a cheap disco light for my six-year old's birthday party so I test mixes out at high volume with the disco light on and if my kids like them then it generally means they work.
How did you select the records you included?
I group tracks in my mind that I feel work together aesthetically. Old and new but mostly this mix is a reflection of what I'm playing and into now with a few unreleased/forthcoming/exclusive tracks from friends or Aus artists. I tend to think about mixes as much as actually working on them as once I have the groups and rough sequence set in my head then it should be plain sailing. I then road test these groups in a club setting to make sure people actually like them and react to them in the way I hope—but ultimately as this mix won't be listened to in a club I will add a lot more detail/layers at arrangement stage as I want this mix to be as much for the head as the body.
What was the process behind it—was it recorded in one take?
As I use Ableton for my mixes it definitely wasn't recorded in one take. I test out mixes in the clip view as the reality is that I can make pretty much make any mix work in a club context but I like to make sure that the mixes stand up to repeat listens on headphones and then I get into the heavy editing and EQ'ing to really smooth things out and make the mixes flow. I don't really use fx beyond the EQ a great deal—some occasional reverb and delay to shut off a mix transition smoothly but nothing beyond this.
Was there a particular idea you were looking to convey?
The idea of this mix was to create the kind of set I would have played when I was a resident at The End in London way back. I really learned to craft my sets in that club as I regularly played the opening slot and I often played open to close in the bar on their legendary Funktion One system. This meant I would often move around stylistically and sit in "vibes" of music for 30 mins or so before moving onto another "feeling" in order to maintain the energy and interest levels of the crowd. The transition tracks between sections then become really important as they maintain the flow—so really this is a "Homage to the End" mix. The last few mixes I've recorded have also been for commercial release so it was nice to have no time constraints although I was conscious to not go too long and bore people!
What equipment did you record it on?
Just Ableton. I tend to heavily re-edit tracks and do quite a bit of layering three-tracks in the mix.
What else do you have coming up this year?
Some exciting albums will be announced on !K7 for later this year and the first half of next year that I've been working on (in an A&R context) for most of this year. Same goes for DJ Kicks—the next five are a really interesting and diverse run of artists that I'm very proud of. I hope to squeeze in one more Inside Out compilation on Aus this year if not there will be three in the first half of next year...looking forward to announcing these. There will also be a few artist albums on Aus next year.
Due to temporary issues regarding the GDPR, EU readers can download the podcast here.
01. Dynamo Dreesen & Porn Sword "Tobacco Wormhole" [Acido Records]
02. Kornel Kovacs "The Bells" (Intro Version) [Studio Barnhus]
03. I-Cube "Etire En Avent" [Versatile]
04. Dauwd "Macadam Therapy" (Rouge Mécanique Walking Remix) [Technicolour]
05. Forest Floor "Forest Floor" [Rhythm Section]
06. Ketiov "Rhythm #6" [Running Back]
07. Matt Karmil "KO" [Aus]
08. Move D "IFreak" [Unreleased]
09. Kasper Marott "Metaxes Carnival" (Tandoori’s Voodoo Mixx) [Monkeytown]
10. Moodymann "Come 2 Me" [Mahogoni]
11. Nathan Micay (Bwana) "Hang Up On The Hang Low" [Unreleased]
12. Black Lodge "Hotline" [Arcola]
13. Will Saul "Never Enough" [Phonica Records]
14. Konduku "Kizilirmak" "Nous’klaer Audio"
15. NY House’n Authority "Apt. 2B" [Nu Groove Records]
16. Sideshow feat Paul St.Hillaire "If Alone" (Chateau Flight Dub Mix) [Aus ]
17. Kornel Kovacs "Babasonic" [UTTU]
18. Desert Sound Colony "Glixen" [Touch From A Distance]
19. RDMA "Utopia & Visions" [Greta Cottage Workshop]
20. Elbee Bad "Eye Wanna Go Back (In 2 The Future)" [La Rhon]
21. Kowton "Glock & Roll" [Whit.ies]
22. Tee Mango "Losing Control" [Clone]
23. Falcon Black Ops "Ten" [UTTU]
24. DJ Bone "We Control The Beat" [Subject Detroit]
25. Marquis Hawkes "Tough Love" [Houndstooth]
26. Unkown "Untitled" [Unreleased]
27. Mount Kimbie "Blue Train Lines" (Nina Kraviz Mix - Tool 2) [Warp]
28. Youandewan "Thewizzwasfordillymissus" [Aus]
29. Ibrahimovic "Annelund" [Ibrahimovic]
30. Youandewan "Ideal Passage" [Aus]
31. Tracy "1999" [Intergraded]
32. Haider "Retrofuturist" [Breaker Breaker]
33. Will Saul "By Your Side" [Aus]