Celer image

Six years after my first talk was published on Chain DLK, I had the pleasure to interact again with the American Tokyo-based musician, writer, and photographer William Thomas Long, one of the more prolific and maybe underrated ambient producers in the guise of Celer. On this last conversation, we mostly focused on the recent releases Malaria (Two Acorns) and In Light Of Blues (Room40), but the number of awesome releases pushed out by Will in the last years, following our first talk – when he just released Sky Limits (Baskaru/Two Acorns) – was really impressive. Have a check!

Chain D.L.K.: Welcome back to Chain DLK webspace, Will! I hope you’re doing well!

Celer: Thanks, I appreciate it.

Chain D.L.K.: More than 6 years passed after our first interview. That talk occurred on the release of the touching “Sky Limits”… I know it’s difficult to make a recap of six years in a bunch of lines, but do you want to try to highlight some important happenings that occurred during this long time span?

Celer: I think I’ve already done that over the last 6 years. Sometimes it’s not easy to look back, and the music I’ve made in that time is a way to write those happenings, as a way to process it and continue forward.

Chain D.L.K.: I kept on following your productions and I have to say that I got continuously surprised by what someone named ‘artistic incontinence’. How do you keep your creative flame alive?

Celer: In my case, creativity is not something I try to keep alive; rather it is more cathartic and reactive, a response to my experiences, feelings, or routines. If I’m motivated by something to create a response to that which it creates, I can’t hold it back any more than I can motivate myself when I don’t feel anything at all. And both sides can be equally frustrating, for different reasons. There is no routine, and it thrives simply on spontaneity and inspiration (inspiration which can be positive or negative – a motivator).

Chain D.L.K.: Maybe we can focus on the very last albums I heard (even if maybe till the moment I wrote to the moment you’ll reply, you could have signed many other releases). In these times, you cannot but expect a focus on “Malaria”. I got really entranced while listening to it… Can you tell us more about the story behind it?

Celer: Malaria is based on the journals, letters, and photographs of my grandfather, James Jenkins, from the Philippines in the 1940s. Some others have incorrectly assumed that he was a soldier, but in fact, he was a construction worker who worked on ship dry-docks and built airfields.

During this time in the Philippines, he contracted malaria and spent quite a while recuperating. During this time he also received a Dear John letter, shortly before his return to the US.

Though I made Malaria in 2018, in 2020 I felt tremendous parallels with this experience, maybe surprisingly the smallest of which is Covid-19 and is meant to be misleading by simultaneously titling the album Malaria – in both of these cases it simply creates a backdrop for the similar circumstances, living alone in a foreign country, experiencing ghosting with a long-term relationship, and witnessing the outside world pass by in isolation. It seems to me that the most important thing to learn is that nothing ever changes.

Chain D.L.K.: I enjoyed the tropical exoticism of the cover artwork. It looks like an ironic counterpoint, or am I wrong?

Celer: The photographs were taken by him and colorized by hand with watercolors.

It seemed appropriate to me. Alone and over saturated.

Chain D.L.K.: Just out of curiosity, was that song by Comedian Harmonists quoted in the same-titled “Auf wiedersehen, my dear” mentioned in Jenkins’ letters?

Celer: He didn’t mention it specifically, but I thought it appropriate. It as well as the Louis Armstrong track were taken from his collection of 78 rpm records, and I played them back on his portable hand-crank turntable.

Chain D.L.K.: Are there any hidden items that aren’t easy to catch by the listeners on the longest suites of this release (“Eventual Needs” and “Uselessness of the Caused”)? What did you have in mind while recording them?

Celer: Eventual Needs is about realizing how much you need someone after they’re already gone, as well as the title being manipulated from the Tame Impala song Eventually, which ironically is part of the story by representing false justification for the idea that “everything eventually works out”.

Uselessness of the Caused means just that – that what was caused was, in the end, uselessness. It doesn’t mean that everything is regret, but squandered and destroyed potential. My image was sitting inside an airplane, half-dozing off looking out the open jump-door at the hundreds of islands passing below.

My initial idea for this entire album was a screenplay, and this would have been the final scene, a single shot for 50 minutes. I also thought about a booklet animation, but this didn’t happen either.

Coming back to your question, I don’t know, do you hear something else in there?

Chain D.L.K.: Let’s jump to another of your recent outputs, “In Light of Blues”… a first detail some of your followers could have noticed is the shorter length of each track. How come?

Celer: I didn’t have a particular reason. At that time, I didn’t have the stamina to work with loops. In retrospect, I think I wanted those moments to pass as quickly as possible.

Chain D.L.K.: I enjoyed the description attached to the album description. It reminded some of those introspective short novels by Ballard. Can you tell us more about it?

Celer: It’s mostly about staying alive at a time when you really don’t want to, existing in a haze between drunken stupor and waves of anxiety attacks, while trying to maintain a routine (keeping breathing) even when you can’t tell the days apart.

Or, I don’t really know what it’s about. Ask me again, I’ll probably have to make up something different.

Chain D.L.K.: Melancholy, memories, the passing of time… Would you say that are these the keywords and the interpretative keys of this release?

Celer: And every release… or life, in general, to put it more simply.

Chain D.L.K.: “Malaria” started by a showering rain, “In Light Of Blues” quotes fog… what’s the function of weather in your creative process?

Celer: It’s not really about weather, most importantly, they’re just symbols.

Chain D.L.K.: “The Rue Des Eglantiers As A Pillow”… what a title! What does it refer to?

Celer: Being drunk on a Paris street with your face against the cold, wet, filthy stone street.

Chain D.L.K.: All people who meet your music got astonished by the way you “entraps” feelings and emotions into waves and spread them over in a way that can render those some emotions and feelings… Have you ever felt frustrated for something that you couldn’t really turn into sound?

Celer: I can relate, at least as far as feeling trapped.

Sure, I’ve been frustrated by that. It’s like how you see the best photo opportunities when you don’t have a camera. But there’s a reason why some things get made, and others don’t. What needs to will get made. There’s no way to avoid it.

Chain D.L.K.: Any work in progress?

Celer: I’m spending most of this year working on remastered CD and vinyl reissues of older material, back from the beginning. Last year and this year are covering 2006-2007, and I’ll continue onward next year with the same. I haven’t recorded anything new this year, and don’t have any plans at the moment. But who knows what will happen tomorrow.

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