“‘You better come back full-time or don’t come back at all’. I was like, ‘Well there’s your answer’.”
“I had to bang it out!” exclaimed Willaris K. aka Jack McAllister smiling as he emerged from the back of the Undergrowth Stage at this year’s Bulmers Forbidden Fruit. His productions may be more cinematic and rolling, but he said the crowd were just too up for it.
The Australian artist is used to that however, as he says the Aussie crowds and the Irish crowds aren’t too dissimilar, telling me you wouldn’t get that reaction at certain boutique festivals Stateside.
Jack has enjoyed much success in his home down under, and his influence has started to creep across other continents. His most recent project ‘Alchemy’, a seven-track collection of beautifully-crafted cinematic pieces, came out on June 8.
In this interview he discusses quitting his job as an electrician to begin his quest to be an artist and how he plans to utilise his music ability when he’s too old to tour.
What do you think you’re bringing back to the sold-out Australian tour from doing this European stint?
I’ve definitely taken a few things on refining some of my originals, because other than the tracks that are out, the rest of them are just works in progress. So I just play them out and gauge reactions. People in this scene are into hearing brand new shit. So I think what I take from this is it more so gave me confidence in some of the tracks. Just there I played a couple unreleased ones and they just went off harder than in Australia.
[Laughs] Is it a bad test because everyone at this festival is so up for it?
Yeah everyone’s up for anything!
There’s a long history of Irish immigration to Australia.
I’m actually Irish. My ancestors are from Ireland.
More recently it seems like Melbourne is the spot? When the recession hit it was like if you can’t get a job, move to Australia. People go to Melbourne like it’s New York or Toronto now though.
There’s definitely a stigma around Melbourne. There’s a big creative scene over there. I grew up in a rural town on the coast of Australia. I’m an electrician by trade so I did that for five years and then I put out music in January of last year and so it started doing well so I quit my job and started pursuing music. But I think I’ve kind of exhausted the creative juices from my hometown, so I’m moving to Melbourne. But yeah the scene is thriving, especially in the house and techno world. That’s definitely where the most passionate fans are. Just going off my last tour I did three sold out shows in Melbourne and only one in Brisbane.
There are two sold out shows in the next tour too?
Yeah. So it’s not until like September or October but I announced the Melbourne one and that sold out in like four days. That’s definitely my biggest fanbase.
Was there any trepidation when you were thinking about quitting your day job?
Well, it was kind of a slow process because I did my apprenticeship and that started in 2012 and I was a resident DJ for that whole time. So pretty much I’d work during the week and practice writing music and music theory in the afternoons during the week and I would DJ on the weekends. So it was kind of a long transition. And then when it got up to it, it was January last year, and I’d always told my boss that when I finished my apprenticeship I would take 12 months leave and go travel around Europe. So I had a full Europe trip booked last year and then I put out ‘Alchemy’ in January of last year which was my first track and then it started doing well and I started having bookings come in and so I was thinking it would be wasting an opportunity if I go on this trip.
It took a while because I was pretty fucking conservative with it. I wasn’t going to quit my job until I knew it was 100 per cent on. So I had a bunch of bookings coming in and I went on the 12 months leave and cancelled the Europe trip and just started playing shows in March this year. And it came to the point where if I went back to work I may as well just throw this away. But I had record deals coming in, played a bunch of shows, had this trip booked and my boss said, “So are you coming back?”. So I was like, “I’m going to Ireland in June” and he was like, “You better come back full-time or don’t come back at all”. I was like, “Well there’s your answer”.
I read somewhere that you have 32 versions of ‘Dour Nights’. It’s such an emotive piece of music, how did you know when it was 100 per cent finished?
Pretty much when I got to the point where I had to put out a second single. It just came down to a deadline. I sat on it for so long. I just had people hitting me up all the time like “What’s your second single?”, and I always knew it was ‘Dour Nights’ but I’d send it to them like 40 per cent finished compared to what it is now and they were like, “Oh, I don’t know, I reckon you could do something else”. I always knew the end result in my head but it just took a long time to get there. I was going to meet with a label – it was Monday and I was going to fly to Sydney to meet a label on a Tuesday – and they’re like, “Yeah, bring your second single with you” and I was fucking half finished with it.
So I’m at home on that Monday and it was like 15 months after I started it. Just tweaking it, tweaking it, tweaking it… Just trying to crack it. Yeah it was that last day, I was working all morning getting nowhere and I was saying it to one of my mates and he was like, “Why don’t you try the audio you started with?” which is the intro lead and I threw that back in and then put that intro lead over the drop, pitched it up an octave and it just kind of unfolded in front of my eyes. But it definitely came from a deadline. I was pretty much forced!
I think it was in the same interview you said you take inspiration from film scores. You can hear that with your track progression, they’re like a sonic films that paint a narrative. Is that something you try to achieve?
Yeah 100 per cent. For me to stay interested in something that I’m working on then it has to take me emotionally in different directions rather than just writing some some club track and drop the drums in and out every so often. The first EP, ‘Alchemy’ and ‘Dour Nights’ and all of that, there were definitely tracks that I’d start as really sparse and then just go fucking banging. Like juxtapose that banging section with really sparse breakdown and just rip back in. So that was like the main idea with the first EP. I don’t know. I think things will change, I think music will evolve and I might do a club release EP and then do an ambient release.
So would scoring a film be an ultimate goal for you?
I think when I’m like washed up and 40 years old. Something to stay in music so I don’t have to jump around and act like an idiot. I’d sit in a comfy studio and just score film. But for now I’m definitely more focused on my project. EP comes out on Friday June 8. And then I’ve got two more clubby, techno EPs coming out later this year. After that I will be diving into my album. Yeah, but when I’ve had enough of fucking travelling around it’d be nice to just set up in a studio with a cup of tea.