In an overwhelmingly image-conscious grind scene, Will Killingsworth stands out as a major player who hasn’t relied on flashy rhetoric and gimmicks – he’s talented and tasteful, that’s all. Perhaps best known as the guitarist of Orchid, Will’s contributions to the common good are extensive. His current band Ampere has put out excellent emotional grind for about five years now. Ampere’s newest release is a split with Funeral Diner, coreleased by Electric Human Project and Killingsworth’s own Clean Plate Records. I recently had the opportunity to see Ampere at Tribeca’s perennially broke mold factory/show space ABC No Rio and…well…you know…asked him a few questions…
You’ve been doing grind for over a decade now. What is it that keeps you interested with this? How has your music developed over the years?
Well, there are definitely similarities in all my bands. I’ve done four main bands in the past ten years. I think Bucket Full of Teeth was the largest departure from Orchid in terms of doing more experimental stuff. I don’t even mean experimental in terms of doing things no one has ever done before, just experimenting for us. Ampere was supposed to be more of a fun band with friends. I think it ended up being a combination of Orchid and Bucket Full of Teeth. It uses things that I’ve learned from both and puts them together. There are times where I wonder if Ampere is too similar to Orchid, but I’m not really one of those guys who go back and listen to their own records. And when I do go back to my older music, I’ll sometimes think that old and new are related to an extent, but very different in terms of playing and song writing. But I think if anything, Ampere is the most focused, hard working band I’ve done so far in terms of honing a specific song writing agenda.
What is that songwriting process like?
Usually it starts with me spending hours writing and rewriting a guitar riff, working on riffs either in isolation or putting them together into a song, and then presenting it to the band. Then comes a long process of planning everything exactly how we want it. We don’t really skip over any detail and it’s all for a forty second long song. We’ll spend four or five practices, each one being like five hours long, just to get to the point where we’re all happy with a song. Everybody brings something to it. And usually I try not to be a stickler with my original idea, as longs as it works or sounds like what I’m looking for. It’s kind of a ridiculous amount of work and it seems outlandish but if I’m happy with the end result then it doesn’t seem like a waste of time.
Yeah, you guys played a really short set today. You probably played for a shorter time than the opening band.
I think the longest we’ll usually play is fifteen minutes. To me it’s really cool to see a band when I’m uncertain if they’re done playing or not but still really enjoyed what I just witnessed. As opposed to bands that are like “two more songs!!!” and I’m like “…uh…really?” I’ve been really influenced in terms of wanting to be fast or quick…I don’t mean fast tempos, but fast as in brevity. I guess with a lot of music I have a short attention span.
(More interview and mp3 samples below)
You’ve released a lot of interesting vinyl pressings over the years…different sizes, different shapes, etched drawings, limited pressings. What draws you to this?
Well, most of us in Ampere have put out records before, so it’s interesting for us personally. But with different formats, it’s like - how can you make it unique? What can I make that is special, more so for the band than for anybody else. I mean, there’s a point in time when it’s like, “how many more seven-inches can we put out?” It’s just hard to get excited about another seven inch, just in terms of the format. In terms of limited pressings, we really haven’t done too much stuff that’s really hard to find. As a label I at least hope to break even. I’ve done things where I’ve pressed a thousand records and maybe five-hundred will sell and the rest never sell. That’s just frustrating financially. So it’s nice when you put out a pressing of like three-hundred or four-hundred so that the people that really want it and pay attention have a chance to get it.
So it’s partially directed toward people who are into collecting vinyl?
I mean as a label it’s just rewarding to press something and have people get excited about it…and have it sell (laughs). And then when you have one that just sits there, it’s sad. It’s not necessarily about collecting. I mean, most of the limited stuff I’ve done will sell at first and then I’ll be sitting on twenty copies for months. So it’s not like this ridiculous thirty minute window of time to get a record. It also makes things more special. Like there’s a Cancer Kids seven-inch that was pressed for two shows. The record was just one of their unreleased songs, but they hadn’t played any shows in five years, so it made the show more of an event. It’s nice to have that and look back on it years later. For me it’s cool to have something that’s a piece of history, like a tour seven-inch, where there are three-hundred copies for the road and a few copies for our mail order. People can come see the band, buy the record and actually own a part of that tour. And it’s the same for us in the band. I like that idea of records serving as a sort of memory. For instance there’s an eleven-inch of a live “in studio” recording with us, Death to Tyrants, Wasteland and Daniel Striped Tiger. We were playing a bunch of shows together at that time and now I can look back on that record and have really fond memories, even though it really wasn’t that long ago. It encapsulates a certain point in time, friends I was seeing at that moment.
Other than the obvious, what other musical interests do you have? What unexpected influences do you bring into the band?
It varies with whatever I’m listening to at any given time. A lot comes from other friends’ bands. Even if it’s not a direct connection, in my mind there’s some sort of influence there. I guess I mostly listen to hardcore, but I remember a few years ago I really tried to listen to more things outside of that. It was like seven years ago, I was going through more of an indie phase, and also listened to some interesting progressive stuff. Some of that came out in Bucket Full of Teeth, but that was still mostly influenced by punk and hardcore. At the time I was listening to a lot of John Zorn stuff, various prog music, stuff that I didn’t actually think was very good, but worthwhile for a new idea or two, the kind of things that I hadn’t been exposed to. A lot of that music I wouldn’t listen to today but at the time I thought it was interesting. Ultimately it just doesn’t get me going.
You just took what you wanted from that and brought it into grind?
Maybe in terms of technical feats. I’m sure some of that technical stuff has influenced Ampere’s writing in terms of time signatures and stuff like that. Rather than trying to write something that feels mathy, I try to write something that feels organic and natural. There are tons of technical bands out there that sound boring because it just sounds like they just wrote some crazy riffs. It sounds crazy, but it doesn’t sound that good to me. I’m trying to keep things interesting and new but then make it feel natural. I just want to feel some sort of life in a riff.
Is there any new stuff you’re excited about? New projects, new bands you’re doing?
Yeah, there’s a new band that I’m doing with a few of my friends, Matt who played drums in Bucket Full of Teeth and The Cancer Kids, and Andrew who sang in Cut The Shit on bass, and Mark McCoy from the Das Oath and Charles Bronson on vocals. We’re working on a solo seven-inch. All the songs are written.
Is there a website or anything…
There’s absolutely no information yet, and the songs are still incomplete in terms of vocals.
Is there a name for it?
The name of the band is Failures.
A few Ampere mp3 samples for y'all:
At Its Heart & At Its Head (from Sinaloa split) | Things I'd Rather Not Have Learned (from Wolves split) | My Favorite Movie (from Wolves split) | Now We Rise & We Are Everywhere (from All Our Tomorrows End Today)
Thanks to Alex Cap!