WILMA ARCHER The X-Press Interview

English record producer and multi-instrumentalist Will Archer has been hard at work releasing his debut solo album under new moniker Wilma Archer. A Western Circular draws inspiration from American novelist John Fante exploring themes of greed and loyalty, while its often classical and jazz-informed sonic universe references everything from Frank Zappa to Arthur Russell. Guest appearances include the likes of MF Doom and Future Islands’ Samuel T. Herring. BRAYDEN EDWARDS chats to Archer about using a fruit bowl to make sounds and messages that are communicated wordlessly.

Congratulations on the release of your first studio album as Wilma Archer. What was the most difficult part to finish, or to feel that was finished?

Accepting that after a few years of writing, it was becoming obvious that it was still a few years away from being finished.

Your journey as a musician hasn’t followed the path of most solo producers or singer-songwriters, were there any artists in particular you modelled yourself on?

Not being a singer-songwriter myself (at least publicly), there was no contemporary model I was following – but the composers I admire are John Martyn, Frank Zappa, Robert Wyatt and Yasuaki Shimizu.

Given you are a multi-instrumentalist and producer, where does the origin of a song usually come from? Does it still originate from something like a guitar or piano and you build it from there or are they born out something more obscure?

A rhythmic cue is usually the starting point for something new. Although harmonically, the guitar and piano are the standard starting points. Just because my ability on other instruments are limited compared to the piano or guitar, where you can adapt the voicing so easily. One song on the album started with banging on a metallic fruit bowl.

Your style seems adaptable to a diverse range of vocal styles. How do you go about deciding who you want to work with and feature on the tracks? 

(When you’re) living with multiple versions of certain songs over a few years, trying and failing with different approaches paves the way.

With so many different styles explored and guest vocalists involved, how did you feel you tied the album together thematically?

By sticking to the same palette: a huge amount of cello/woodwind, and the arrangements are thick. I don’t really feel as if there’s an array of styles or genre – to my ear it still sounds as if it was created by the same person. The bulk of the album is instrumental, and certainly the fundamental message of the album is communicated wordlessly. If you’re relying on lyrics to explain how you’re supposed to feel when listening, then this album won’t be to your taste.  The vocal contributions are decorative and always secondary to the instrumentation.

You said the title of the album and many of the concepts on it were inspired by the author John Fante, was there something in his message that you felt gave you some kind of meaning or understanding symbolised the message of the album?

My gran forced me to join her at church when I was very young. She was devoutly catholic. That environment of programmed fear always stayed with me, which I saw in the constant battle between a manically god-fearing or defiant Arturo bandini in Fante’s books.

Tell us about your other project Wilma Vritra, with US rapper and Odd Future founder Pyramid Vritra. How did that come about and are you likely to work together on that again?

We started talking. I went out to see him for a week, and we recorded at his place in long beach, then at Cosmic Zoo. We’ll do more. We did a lot of new stuff when he was over here last year.

And what’s next for you? Any more music, projects or collabs coming up that we can look forward to?

Always working. I find albums take time and life events to make (well), but writing or producing for other artists is instantly gratifying. They are the vehicle to present the music to an audience, rather than spending an age attempting to verbalise/visually present something that is inherently non-verbal.


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