Will Ozanne, otherwise known as Gang Colours set the internet alight last year, when his acclaimed EP In Your Gut Like A Knife made its first appearance. We caught up with Will ahead of the release of his debut album The Keychain Collection to find out more about his history, where exactly he’s come from, and just what Ghostpoet had to do with him signing to Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label.
Your first album is released this week, what should we expect from it? How are you feeling about its release?
I’m really excited to have this opportunity to release an album especially on a great independent label like Brownswood. The album is a modest collection of electronic beats mixed with live piano and vocal recordings from myself. I’m happy with how the album has turned out, and I think it will give the audience a nice introduction into some of the sounds and textures I am fond of.
Can you tell us a bit about your musical background? What kind of a role has music played in your life, and what got you to the point that you’re at today?
Well, I started piano lessons from primary school and took on guitar lessons as well when I got to secondary school. Both of which I dropped when I started college, I guess it wasn’t cool anymore. I didn’t get very far in terms of grades in either instrument but Idid gain a lot from it and still regularly play both instruments today (mostly piano!).
Where do you tend to find inspiration to write a song?
Most of the time I will be sat at the piano working on a melody and it will evolve gradually from there. Then other times I could be watching a film, talking with someone or reading a book and an interesting cluster of words might pop up. That could then trigger some random memory in my head, so i’ll make a note of it and come back to it later when i’m sat at the piano and see where it goes.
What/who are you artistic influences?
I think the main influences that have made an impact on my music would be artists such as Dizzee Rascal and The Streets. I remember being pretty immersed in the US hip hop and RnB scene before those guys came into my life and changed the way I thought about music forever. I loved the originality and the ‘englishness’ of it all – and I can still listen to their debut albums today and draw inspiration.
Can you tell the story of your album?
It started well over a year ago with the track ‘Tissues & Fivers’. That was the first track I had ever been able to successfully involve one of my own piano recordings. I knew that this was a path I wanted to head in so I continued to write tracks relatively sparsely over the following 6 months or so until I had enough tracks to form a comprehensive piece of work. It wasn’t always an easy process – for me it can sometimes take a while to form a story out of the sounds you have created/recorded. But it’s always worth your sweat in the end though!
Did you have a particular image in mind of what you wanted the album to represent and to be?
I always knew that I wanted to involve live piano recordings and vocals but I didn’t really know how it was going to sound. Before I started properly writing the album I had only just bought a mic and was kind of working out how to record things ‘properly’ and as time went on I did pick up some tips, but it was all trial and error, really. I also knew that I wanted an electronic percussive presence too so with that rough plan I went ahead and started experimenting. It kind of came together pretty naturally and I am happy with the end result.
What’s your favourite track on the record?
Well so much as I like a good instrumental piece, I also like it when the piano and vocals all come together coercively in a track. The track ‘Forgive Me’ does this nicely in my opinion. The theme on this track is one of regret and I like that this idea might not seem so obvious at first listen. This might be due to some of the vocals being somewhat encrypted by the effects that have been applied to the vocals in the track. So the whole lyric might not be so easy to work out on the first listen. I won’t spoil it by giving away exactly what it is, but I will say that in the live show the vocals are much more clear, so I guess you’ll have to come and see the live show and find out what i’m really on about!
And what about playing live? Is it something that you enjoy, or are you happier when you’re left to your own devices to record? What’s your live set-up like?
I’m not really sure – I guess i’m hoping that I can share the album and the live show with as many people as I can. And as long as there is demand for it then I would welcome the opportunity to take it around the world. I’m looking forward to developing the show and also my sound – I have many areas and ideas that i’ve yet to explore and will do so in forthcoming releases.
The live set up is currently two people – me and my friend Ryan. He controls all kinds of bits and bobs in Ableton using an NI Macshine as a controller while I play piano and sing and also play about with a Roland 404 sampler.
You’re releasing the record through Brownswood recordings, how did that union come about and how has it been to work with them?
It was Ghostpoet who made the initial introductions. He asked if i’d like to do a remix for his track ‘Cash and Carry me Home’, so I jumped at the opportunity and that kind of started a dialogue between me and Alex the A&R at Brownswood. He encouraged me to continue sending over tracks his way, then eventually he phoned up and asked if I would be interested in having a release out on the label. My time at Brownswood has been great, i’m very proud to be a part of the family.
I read that you take your Dictaphone everywhere with you, so what’s the most improbable sound you’ve recorded?
Some of my favourite recordings are from nights out, purely because all the drunk activity makes me laugh. But those recordings aren’t particularly user friendly. I got some nice textures and sounds recorded when I went on a trip to Amsterdam a couple years back that I still use in my productions.
I also read that you studied digital music at University – how much of an influence has that had over you and how you approach music in general?
I think my time at University forced me to explore sides of music production that I might not have done on my own. It also made me make the change from PC to Mac and Fruity Loops to Logic as it was a requirement of the course, pretty much. It’s hard to say whether it had a profound impact on the sound of my music, as some of the beats I used to make on Fruity Loops sound like the beats that I make today! But I think my time at uni allowed me to refine my production skills and techniques which has been very helpful.
What’s been your happiest/proudest/weirdest musical moment to date?
There have been many nice little moments on the journey so far but I guess one that sticks out to me is probably when I first heard Gilles played my track ‘No Clear Reason’ on his radio show. I was buzzing. Some of my friends found out and the next day we listened back to it together, that was a nice moment. Now when I hear my track on the radio these days it definitely brings a smile to my face but nothing anywhere near like that first buzz!
What are you listening to and loving at the moment?
Recently I’ve been giving the New Look LP a good rinsing. It is nuts!
The Keychain Collection is available now through Brownswood.