Mick Wills: No More Compromises

Words by: Paul Corey
Posted: 7/7/14 14:08

Mick Wills: No More CompromisesFor an example of a DJ who constantly goes beyond the call of duty, it’s not necessary to look much further than Mick Wills. One only has to so much as glance at the track lists which accompany the many mixes he has posted on Soundcloud to realize that here is a person with a passion for what he does, and a compulsion to do things on his own terms.

He, and his peers, have these things in common, but what separates them further from the rest of the field they operate within, is a mission to bring a cross-section of below-the radar beats that borders on the messianic.

I made contact with Mick through the temporal autonomous zone of social networking and he was kind enough to give my questions his full attention.

You put a lot of mixes up on Soundcloud, and also provide full tracklists for most of them. Why do you think this is important? You’re definitely in the minority.
Why not? I don‘t want to hide anything or make a big mystery regarding good music or what I think is good music. Music is for everybody, and if people are interested in tracks that I play there shouldn‘t be a huge barrier to find out what is this or that.

Plus it‘s also some kind of respect to the artists who made the tracks and maybe even a bit of promotion for them. Especially when I play new stuff.

And since I play a lot of my own cuts and edits in my sets, it‘s of course also kind of a promotion for myself. I actually have really no idea what DJs that make such a big mystery about their selection of tracks are afraid of. I mean if you are a DJ and have your very own style nobody can copy you anyway. It will always sound different, no?

Music is for everybody, and if people are interested in tracks that I play there shouldn‘t be a huge barrier to find out what is this or that. Plus it‘s also some kind of respect to the artists who made the tracks and maybe even a bit of promotion for them...Has it been easy to “always stay true to your taste” as said in the blurb for your recent Deathmetaldiscoclub mix?
No, not at all. It took me quite some time to become the DJ that I am now. Back in the days when I was still with Gigolo I compromised a lot, especially when I played in bigger clubs or at festivals. It was always some kind of balancing act between staying true to my taste and pleasing the audience and also representing the label.

I remember the first time when I really thought “fuck it, I don‘t care!“ at the Mayday in 2005. I played stuff like ‘Loneliness’ by The Conservatives, ‘Profondo Rosso’ by City Center, ‘Enfant Terrible’ by Autonervous, ‘Overkill’ by Rude 66 and ‘Future State’ by Future State. That kind of sound was very exotic for a big event like the Mayday, but the result was that not everybody was dancing. ;-) Some people even fled from the dance floor! Well, you have to start somewhere...

Nowadays it‘s different though. Usually I can play what I want, and if I can‘t, I do it anyway. So, no more compromises for me. Every morning I do my research and check new vinyl releases with the result that my selection of records that I buy is quite strict. If I can‘t imagine playing a track more than twice I don‘t buy the record. I‘m always looking for a true, honest and special sound. But, on the other hand, I don‘t hesitate to spend money on a double album or even a box-set if there is a great track on it. It was not always like that. Back in the early 90s, for example, I bought every single release on Harthouse, just to have the whole collection. And well, not every release on that label was great... ;-)

Mick Wills
As you get older, do you find yourself becoming more or less tolerant of the world around you, and does this have any impact on your work?

Of course... with age and years of experience you become a bit more relaxed and tolerant. But still, I always try to do a good job. It‘s just the perfectionist in me. I guess sometimes I‘m even too critical of myself, but then again I exactly know how my own music, the stuff that I play or the remixes and edits that I do, have to sound.

In a recent interview you did for mixmag.info, you started by mentioning Thomas Oergel and the Oz Club. How important do you think it is for a DJ to be influenced in the same way as you were, and do you remember a particular moment or episode that musically swept you off your feet?
Back in the days Thomas Oergel definitely was my personal introduction into club music. And I guess most DJs or musicians had a similar kick-off experience like that once. Okay, there are also people that only want to become a DJ because they want to be famous, earn a lot of money, collect a lot of likes or try to be more interesting than they in fact are. But well, that‘s another story.

Regarding myself, when he played tracks like Information Society‘s ‘Running’, Inner City´s ‘Big Fun’, Karen Finley´s ‘Tales Of Taboo’ or ‘Love-N-Music’ by Ris, it was definitely very intense.

How important do you think a sense of place is as far as your music is concerned? You are based in Stuttgart, is it a fertile working environment?
I think nowadays it doesn‘t really matter where you are located, as long as you have the Internet you are connected to the world and the world is a village. The only important thing is to have an airport close by. And well, it takes me around 15 minutes to get to the airport, so...

Is it difficult to surprise people on the dance floor these days, and if not, how is it achieved?
I don‘t think it is that difficult. But I definitely think, or better know, that it is a lot of work. ;-) Over the last few years I have spent hours and hours on doing research and making cuts and edits. So through the years I have created my very own style. And promoters who invite me to play at their events book me because of this. So in general they know what they will get but they maybe expect something totally surprising, which is pretty cool because I love surprises. Maybe I should check my Harthouse collection again one of these days... ;-)

What’s your criteria for re-editing?
A lot of great tracks and songs, especially from the past, but also more recently, were not really written or produced for the club. So by doing an edit I make them suitable for the dance floor and also easier to mix since some stuff is played by hand. Sometimes also a track has really good parts but also worse parts in it or a track is simply too short. This also shouts out for an edit. Plus I love long transitions, so I do cuts to get a longer intro and outro. And because of the technical possibilities we have in 2014 it‘s pretty easy. So doing this in has become totally normal for me as a DJ and producer. Imagine 30 years ago, you had to cut a tape and put it together again, etc. It must have taken ages until an edit was done. It’s much easier and quicker now.

I think track selection is a bit more important than technical abilities. However, I also think that without technical skills you can hardly built up a good wave/mood/flow in your set within two or three hours...A good DJ should have technical skills equal to selective insight. Do you agree with this or is technical ability overrated, and what does a DJ have to do in order to be considered an artist?
For me both are important, although I think track selection is a bit more important than technical abilities. However, I also think that without technical skills you can hardly built up a good wave/mood/flow in your set within two or three hours.

Also if you know your stuff you can concentrate more on track selection. Plus the audience on the dance floor could be easily confused (in a bad way) if you mess up every second transition. I guess a DJ is an artist if he or she is recognized by the audience as such, and if he or she has his or her very own and unique style.

Have you ever thought about running your own label? If so how would you envisage it?
Actually, I or better me and Isabella, (my partner in crime), have been thinking about doing a label for years now. We even already have a name and a concept for it. But well it hasn‘t happened yet. If you want to run a label seriously you have to put a lot of time and effort into it (track selection, artwork, administration, promotion, etc).

Since I have another job that requires 100% attention, my time is pretty limited. I‘m actually kind of happy when I can manage to finish a remix on time or at least without a considerable delay. But if we ever do a label then it will be for the very open minded, because we both don‘t like to focus on only one genre.

You’ve been described as “... one of the few artist djs left, someone for whom the music is still all that matters.” What’s your take on this and who are your peers?
Well, first of all it feels good to be described like that. It‘s some kind of recognition of what I‘m doing and focusing on. Plus it proves that the way I’ve been doing my thing and still continue doing it is the right way for me.

My peers are definitely Intergalactic Gary and Traxx. We respect each other a lot, share the same passion for music and love to combine different genres in one set. It‘s always very intense when we meet each other. We are literally LOST IN MUSIC then...

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