in conversation with skinshape
from the print issue
By Greer Ross-McLennan
London-based underground musician Will Dorey on his inspirations and aspirations––and what it means to be a new artist in the UK right now.
How did you come up with the name? Any symbolism behind Skinshape?
The name is not really from anything specific, it's something I came up with a long time ago at the age of sixteen whilst sitting in my parents’ kitchen. I can't remember the other contending names I had in my mind but I remember the moment in my head.
So you used to be the bassist for Palace. How has switching to a solo career changed your approach to making music?
My approach has not changed at all. Some of the realities have changed, like with Palace I was spending a lot of time rehearsing and touring. Now I don't play live at all so there is neither of those things to think about. That may change one day but for now it's my reality. The only other thing to say about this is that I left Palace to allow more time to focus on my own music, and that is a decision which I am so happy that I made. I left the band on great terms though and the guys were very understanding, and we still see each other regularly.
You have cited inspiration from lots of different genres: sixties psychedelic rock, funk, afrobeat, etc. Tell me a little bit about that––did you grow up listening to certain albums? Do you find a lot of that inspiration finds its way into your work?
I started really discovering music around the age of 15, getting into the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin. That was a pivotal moment for me, and not long after I started listening to a lot of King Tubby and Augustus Pablo. The combination of those styles led to the start of Skinshape I can say, the psych element of both those styles fused together.
There are a lot of genres that I would say are influences for my music, but you may not hear them. That goes for reggae and afrobeat - when you hear Skinshape you might not hear those things. But what I am taking from them may be more elusive, it's the aesthetic, the 'sound,' some element of the rhythm or way of guitar playing, or even the broader scope of the production and the studio experimentation. Masters like Lee 'Scratch' Perry who invented a whole style, or the great Joe Meek whose far-out, ahead-of-its-time is a great inspiration, or Les Paul who practically invented multi-track recording.
The more direct influences are things like nineties trip-hop, US funk/soul and sixties folk music. They are more easy to pick out. But the beauty is in how one can put those all together, and if they can.
influences are things like nineties trip-hop, US funk/soul and sixties folk music ... the beauty is in how one can put those all together, and if they can.
What’s the typical song-writing progress for you?
Record some drum parts, or take a little drum sample from a song I heard, then fool around with a guitar, bass guitar or keyboard until I hear an idea that I like. Then I record it, and build up other parts around that idea. If I create two sections, then I have the basis for most songs that I make. Once the skeletal structure is there, I can perhaps lay down a vocal. If it works, great, if it doesn't I may choose to create an instrumental track if the parts are strong enough. Important note: I do not use any samples in my music, so if I use a drum sample to write to, I will always record my own parts later on and take out the sample.
You released [your fourth album] Filoxiny a couple of months ago; how would you say your style has evolved over the release of your four albums/EPs?
The fourth LP Filoxiny is incredibly far away from the first self-titled LP I put out back in 2014. I used to shun artists who change and develop a few years back, but now I embrace it and enjoy challenging myself with new concepts and incorporating new elements into my music whilst still trying to retain my own sound. The main element that runs through all the albums is the guitar sounds and the bass, and to some extent the drum parts. All the layers that run over that, and the quality of the recorded sound, has changed quite a lot. Naturally as you get older you see things in different ways, you learn more, and you improve on what you thought was not right in the past. Disclaimer: I am not one of those people who wants to go back and change my earlier material because it was 'not played well enough' or something like that. If at the time of me releasing it I was happy with it - then I am happy with it now even if I hear all the errors that I didn't hear then.
You’ve mentioned before that you’re not really into the whole fame-and-publicity circuit. How would you say being removed from the industry in that way affects your day-to-day as a musician?
Being removed from the industry is fantastic. Like many businesses it's an ugly one for the most part. I encourage all musicians who aren't 'wise to it' to get wise and be extremely careful about every piece of paper that they sign. It's too easy for an artist to sign away their rights to a big company for 'life' (literally). On the flipside, the systems in place regarding artists’ royalties and rights are very good in this country, and with the internet an artist can be extremely successful without any label at all. I would encourage all artists to 'stay independent' and only work with small labels! It's a much better way to go. I work with a select few people who I put my trust in, and my small but amazing team at Lewis Recordings have been helping me a lot, which I am very grateful for.
But anyway, I try to keep my life super chilled. I work on my music, and I release the records when they're done and that's pretty much it. I am happy keeping it simple, and being at arms length from the music industry helps me to keep it that way.
Finally, what do you have in store for 2019?
As for 2019, a year of hubris, development, hiatus and exclamation. May the sun shine strong and the oceans remain pure in this critical year. I myself, will delight in exploring more musical avenues, follow the wind to-and-fro between wistful waves and gentle springs. A time for tidings, indeed.