This week’s URB podcast is a special delivery courtesy of William Burnett, better known as Willie Burns through the tradewinds of the house-loving underground. Burns has recently cropped onto the radar of the UK and European with his release on The Trilogy Tapes imprint, The Overlord EP, and isn’t looking to stop anytime soon.
Engaged heavily with music since his teens, Burnett hasn’t slowed down since his move to New York over a decade ago; DJing throughout the city, making fresh tracks and releasing new (and old) music on his own imprint, WT Records, which came to fruition a few years back. Between running a label, making tunes and working at legendary Brooklyn record shop The Thing, Burnett took the time to speak with URB about his previous experiences before moving to New York, as well as his various projects under his record label and his own releases. Oh, and he gave us an exclusive wax-laden mix, courtesy of the discography on his WT imprint. Check out the interview and mix after the jump.
URB: You’re a bit of a local legend here, but not many people may know who you are outside of New York and parts of Europe. Can you give us a small introduction to who you are?
WILLIE BURNS: My name is William Burnett. I’m 35 years old and am originally from San Antonio, TX. I run WT Records, established in 2009. I’ve been making music since I was 16 years old with bands, but releasing records since 2005. I’ve been DJing since 2000 and have been collecting records since I was a little kid.
URB: You’ve been here for over a decade now, tell us about your origins as to how you got into music, making music and what brought you to NYC.
WB: I always bought tapes with any money that was in my pocket, but when I got older, I realized you could buy used records for cheap. I did that when I was 15 years old, and about a year later I started playing guitar, then began to play in a band with a friend of mine, play shows and make songs. I did that until I was about 22/23, and we both moved to San Francisco and played in a band there. It was strangely too comfortable there, so we moved to Brooklyn afterwards in 1999 to a loft in North 3rd. I always had records around me, so naturally I just started DJing. You just start buying dance records here because they’re cheap and cool to search out. I started making electronic music after that.
URB: How have things changed, scene-wise and musically in New York since you’ve got here? You obviously have friends in different facets of the music world here and you work at one of the most legendary crate-digging spots in America.
WB: Well, now there’s less money and way more DJs, promoters, clubs, bars, etc. But there’s more young peeps liking electronic music; it’s become bigger. When I started here, you needed records to DJ and now everyone can be a DJ due to digital progressions. It’s more competition-based now, and you don’t have to put in as much legwork anymore. It could be a good thing, but it’s also more saturated. Before it was any nerdy guy who had a bunch of records to come and DJ, now it feels like you have to be cool while doing it.
URB: When did you decide to start up making your own music and what were your sonic influences when it came to your Speculator alias versus Willie Burns?
WB: DJ Speculator was and is just a DJ pseudonym, but Grackle was my first project. I realized it’s harder to be in a band than making music solo or have a girlfriend, so making electronic music was the next step for me. I never went to raves but my electronic music epiphany was going to Barcelona and seeing Miss Kittin & The Hacker live right before the electroclash wave. I never listened to techno in the ‘90s but I loved Chris & Cosey and Throbbing Gristle. I could relate to that and use it as something formative to my experience of that genre of music.
URB: When did you realize the moniker of Willie Burns was here to stay?
WB: Willie Burns happened just because of the [E-mu] SP-12 that I’ve got in the studio; DJ Overdose convinced me to buy it because I always wanted to make weird, different dance music. I just made these weird tracks and I was living with Ron Morelli at the time. I had my label and he saw me working and he put out my record on L.I.E.S. When Erol Alkan e-mailed me for a remix and then Will Bankhead from The Trilogy Tapes asked about some tracks.
URB: Tell us about the gear you’re using to make music, what’s your favorite and most reliable kit to use?
WB: It’s all SP-12 with one synthesizer over it. That’s pretty much it. It’s really limiting, you only have five seconds of sample time. You can make a track in ten minutes. You sit there, pick out your sounds and pound out five tracks in a night. It’s great because it’s so limiting. I like it better than an MPC because it would be time-consuming and totally confusing. I couldn’t figure out how to save shit.*laughs*
URB: Tell us how the rest of year is looking.
WB: I’m in New York mode, I want to go to the studio every night and just make breakbeat rave vibes and focus on WT. Actually, there’s a release coming out this week; WOZ, which is a 1980 re-issue of funk/jazz weirdo record. After that I’ll do a DJ compilation series with functional DJ records. There will be like 5-10 records of mine coming out this year. Grackle will come out on Emotional Response and I’ll also put a remix I’ve done for Heatsick. No travel, tours, just labels. Maybe do some domestic vibes on the West Coast.
URB Presents: Willie Burns Tracklist
Kinoeye “mean old world” WT01
Hunee “cut down trees” WT02
$tinkwork “MKB” WT01
Hunee “rare silk” WT02
Entro Senestre “gamma” WT03
Sir Stephen “strange nobility” WT05
Entro Senestre “la caccia” WT03
Sir Stephen “ancient ritual” WT05
Model Man “honesty doesn’t pay” WT04
Momentform “she’s into clubs” WT07
Model Man “shouldn’t i be dead by now?” WT04
Momentform “selected works” WT07
Model Man “model man” WT04
Alex Israel “GAZ 13″ WT06
Shawn O’ Sullivan “unarmed” WT09
Alex Israel “walking to guntersville” WT06
Kartei “lichtgarten” WT08
Shawn O’ Sullivan “freeflight” WT09
Kartei “dimension 11″ WT08
Shawn O’ Sullivan “what when how” WT09
Kartei “transponder” WT08
Woz “compassion” WT11
ex vivian “treetops” WT10
Woz “2nd attempt” WT11
ex vivian “disappear” WT10
ex vivian “untitled instrumental” WT10