ABOVE: WILL PHILLIPS, AKA TOURIST.
The Internet is a hard place to get noticed these days, but that's just what's happening for Tourist., the working moniker of London producer Will Phillips. "It's a weird, subversive, huge library," Phillips notes, correctly, though his music manages to stand out from the sonic cacophony. Blending samples and distortions with DIY recordings of the people and places around him, Tourist.'s latest effort is a collection of super-lush electronic landscapes that draw from the digital and actual in equal measure. Ahead of the release of his second EP, Tonight (out now on Monday Records, and streaming below), we spoke with the charmingly self-deprecating producer about his recording life, stress dreams, and what's on tap for 2013.
AGE: very recently 26
SIRITUAL HOMETOWN: Brighton
CURRENT ACTIVITY: I've got a gig tomorrow in Paris, so I'm just doing a bit of preparation for that, making sure I've packed my bags. I'm the kind of guy who forgets passports.
STYLE OF MUSIC: When you listen to it, clearly it's electronic. I like atmosphere. I like drops and builds. It's just a stream of my consciousness, really. Some of it is rubbish and some of it's okay. I guess I would say it's "honest electronic music."
MUSICAL BACKGROUND: I play the piano, but I've always been more interested in technology. Computers are great things to make music with. The goal for me and for most artists is to get what you like, the feeling or whatever it is you're trying to express, down as quickly as you can.
THE JUMP FROM PIANO TO ELECTRONIC MUSIC: I think it's a result of being a gadget guy. When I was a kid I always used to love reading gadget magazines. I suppose I never really morphed from a pianist into some guy who synthesizes. They were simultaneous. My love for music was very much influenced by the changing landscape of technology.
WHAT'S IN A NAME: Tourist. was the beginning of me saying, "I'm going to do my own stuff. I'm going to hold off on remixes." And why did I choose the name? I don't really know. I always feel like a bit of an outsider in life. Maybe everyone feels like that. I always feel like a tourist wherever I am. I don't know. I think most of us do.
RECORDING THE EP: I had a holiday in Berlin last October and I came back with absolute enthusiasm for music. I finished the record by the middle of December, so that's about 10 weeks. I probably wrote about eight or nine tracks, and then refined it to the four that I thought were really essential.
GOOD FORTUNE: Most of the time [the tracks] are just happy accidents. I try really hard to make mistakes and accidents because usually that's where the magic happens—usually—there's no rule. I don't really have a method. It absolutely depends so I'm going to struggle to give you a blueprint. I'm not a hunter-gatherer; I'm just a gatherer.
TECHNOLOGY: One of the wonderful things about technology is that anything is an instrument now. Anything! You can sample birdsong. You can sample a conversation with someone. It's really liberating, actually, but also incredibly daunting at the same time. If anything's an instrument, then where do you start? It's about being able to say "no" to things a lot of the time.
FIELDWORK: I like doing a lot of field recordings. What I mean by that is just using my iPhone to record things that are around me. I'm quite antisocial. You'll find me in a pub and everyone will be having a conversation, but I'll just be recording the conversation. Maybe, I would have a restraining order—that's what you do in the States, isn't it?
The first record I did, Placid Acid, is kind of swathed in the sounds of Brighton. Brighton's on the South coast of England, so it's near the sea. I used to love going down to the beach and just sitting there in the morning. Placid Acid features that. The new EP is really swathed in the sounds of London.
INFLUENCES: It's weird, but I don't really tend to listen to a lot of music other than my own. I find that when I gather up loads and loads of other music and sit around listening to it, I just get quite depressed. It kind of makes me not want to write music because I think, "Oh, I could never do anything like that," but that's just the torturous life of a pathetic artist.
One of my favorite albums from last year was Chilly Gonzales' Solo Piano II. I have a real passion for melody. I don't really discriminate types of music, but melody has always been the drawing thing for me. I listen to New Order and Joy Division and I like garage, drum-'n'-bass, and house music. There's so much music that I listen to, but as I said, I try not to do that when I'm composing because it distracts me. I listen to a David Bowie record and I'm like, "Oh, God. I might as well suck it in and go work in insurance."
GUILTY PLEASURE: I like ABBA. I'm into ABBA in a big way, maybe, in a not-guilty way. Maybe I'm proud of it.
LAST DREAM: Last night I had a dream—because I'm going to Paris tomorrow—that my Mac got crushed. I lost everything and I realized this morning that I don't have a backup of any of my stuff, which I really need to do. I woke up in utter horror. You know how sometimes people will dream that they have a Ferrari and they have to look out their front door? I had to look at my Mac and make sure that everything was okay.
WHAT'S NEXT: The big plans are I'm soon going to be recording with some vocalists, so you will hear songs with Tourist. I'm in talks with some really cool people at the moment and I'm absolutely excited about getting in and writing some songs. My music is at a point now where it deserves to be pushed.
TONIGHT IS OUT NOW. FOR MORE ON TOURIST., VISIT HIS SOUNDCLOUD.