Interview: The Field

The Field - Photo by Lars Borges

The Field - Photo by Lars Borges

Axel Willner is a solitary individual, at least in the music-making sense. The man behind ambient project The Field – a name which evokes images of a lonely expanse and an unpopulated, wandering mind – said he begins writing music solely by himself and for himself.

“The music is made for myself in the beginning,” he explained, sitting on a folding chair backstage at Festsaal Kreuzberg last Thursday night.

Before taking the stage as part of the weeklong Krake Festival, Willner, a native of Sweden, shared in between sips of red wine how he came to live in Germany.

“I fell in love with a girl,” he said, smiling and shrugging, when asked the reason for relocating.

Here in Berlin, Willner has a home studio within the space he lives in. And when it comes to writing process, he said this is where he works out what he refers to as the “sketches” of his music: the initial ideas which later are fleshed out into the songs on the albums.

“The process itself is that I write all the sketches by myself and then I choose what I like and sometimes I introduce them to the label and see what they like,” he said. “And then we take it to the other step, which is bringing in the band, and then it’s another creative process of taking it from the sketches and making something new out of it.”

Willner said that the “something new” aspect can be somewhat unpredictable, for a few reasons. First, the two people who make up his live band are located in Stockholm, the distance between countries making it difficult to rehearse or solidify a specific way of playing a song. Additionally, because he never writes his sketches with the idea of a full band in mind, he said the sound is “something that gets developed along the way” and varies from show to show.

With the pending release of this year’s “Looping State of Mind,” The Field will now have three albums to its name, all of which Willner said are closely intertwined in style and feel.

However, although the newest album is a seamless step in sound from 2009’s “Yesterday and Today,” Willner said the process of writing it was more of a challenge for him than the first two records were.

“I was not in the mood of making music when I started,” he said. “I forced myself to make music and that’s not how I usually work.”

He did specify that it wasn’t the music that was difficult, rather being in the proper state of mind to write something.

“The music itself was not really forced. I was forced to just start to do some…that’s the difference,” he explained. “And I don’t think it doesn’t feel; you can’t hear it or anything. I still think that it was really solid and it turned out really good.”

In addition to writing music as the Field, Willner also works as a producer, which he explained is a catch-22 of sorts, because of his conflicting feelings about it, which are not easy to escape.

“What I do really like is, of course, producing stuff,” he said. “That’s really fun. Also the hardest to do.”

He likened it to a different kind of fun than playing, which he said is easy to do most of the time, instead hinting that though it might be the most challenging task, it can also be the one with the most payoff, which is why he does it.

With the newest album two months away from its official release date, not much thought has been put into the next album, but Willner is convinced there is a definite throughline to his music that will continue to be apparent on future releases.

“I like to keep it very open and see what happens next…of course I could just be a chef or something…and just do music for myself at home, listen to it by myself,” he said, trailing off. “But it’s both good and bad when you have people who actually listen to you in that way, because they expect something from you.”

He said that expectation can be a motivating factor, but ultimately it comes down to making something creative out of inspiration he encounters on a personal level.

“Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t,” he said. “If you’re lucky, it will work out.”

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