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Gianina Mesina

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Wingz Takes Flight: The Debut Album ‘Ghost’ Is Here

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Wingz Takes Flight: The Debut Album ‘Ghost’ Is Here

Cool, calm, crisp and incisive. For half a decade now Wingz has graced the scene with his mercilessly methodical production, interwoven with soulful rhythms and grooves, ultimately soaring into the stratosphere of respected scene legend.

A true master of the craft, we’ve seen him release on a number of labels, moving effortlessly between the sounds and styles of the genre sphere, but it’s his development with Overview Music that has set him apart. A jewel in the stable of the Brighton/Bristol-based label, with many EPs, singles and star-studded collaborations under his belt, the Austrian artist based in Vienna undertook his biggest challenge yet and now releases his debut LP ‘Ghost’. A complete masterpiece that flies to the highest heavens and dives to the darkest depths, in a much-anticipated body of work that demonstrates his signature sound whilst flexing the full might of his production prowess. 

We sat down to reflect on the journey so far, translucent beings, BLT sandwiches, manga and everything music.

Howdy Markus, Congratulations on the album! How was the busy weekend of shows?

The launch party was on Friday, every one of my friends were happily invited to bring a USB stick and plug themselves in. It wasn’t a club thing, just a cool gig at Planet Wax. I just wanted it to be fun, have some bevs, and celebrate the album. I played in London the next day at Curated with Ed:it which was fun and my first time at Bermondsey Social Club. Then on Saturday, the obligatory Volks in Brighton.

You’ve been busy! So tell us, what’s the number one thing you have to have with you on your travels?

My Nintendo Switch Lite.

What do you play?

These days? Mostly just Mario Kart 8. I just finished Tears of the Kingdom (Legend of Zelda). Delta Rune, from the Undertale creator – very, very old school louche. I just bought Final Fantasy 6… I bring my laptop as well but on flights, you don’t really have a lot of space.

Anything to distract you from being on a Ryanair flight. Then before that, you played at your first Get In Step night and Overview in Prague…

Prague was fun – probably one of the best international Overview shows so far I reckon. The venue was pretty much catered towards the sounds of Overview and towards crowds with an ear for the sounds. Get In Step was really cool, played tunes from my friends, new tunes from myself and from the LP –   just like a good mixture. 

I always like to play varied sets so I always sneak in a few liquid tunes because I think it’s important to not have the same level of… not attitude but the same level of intensity, because I think if you play super high energy sets, mixing tunes every 32 bars, quick mixing and the same kind of sound, it’s not going to engage people because it’s losing its impact. It makes a lot of difference when you sneak in a smoother tune in between because then the next tune is going to hit that much harder.

You’ve been playing out for 12 years now. For all the budding DJ’s out there, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned?

I learned how to DJ in 2008 – some time ago ha ha! I started by getting into the intros slots at the local venues, joining the local crews. Yeah, I’d say just be yourself. Get your own selections together. Don’t copy anyone. Just find tunes you like and go from there. And start learning to read crowds and, especially as a local, you’ll probably have to cater a bit more to the crowd depending on the event and the venue. 

As an artist, you do have the freedom in your selection because you’re mostly getting booked for you and your sound. But playing as a local, you might have to be a bit more flexible depending on the crew.

And look at you now! But yes, learn how to read the crowd, read the vibe.

Haha. You also have to deal with your ego I think as well. Because obviously as a new DJ you want to prove yourself, et cetera. But you’re not proving anything if you play heavy tunes half past opening time. Warm-up in itself is an art form for me and some of the best sets I’ve seen were warm up sets. You’ve got to warm up the night and start it properly. Not a lot of people can do that justice actually, in my opinion.

Anyone in particular we should know about?

Just some locals in Vienna mostly, but I’ve been surprised many times in other countries. I usually get to events super early, go for dinner with the promoters and get down to the club right away. So I’m there from before it opens and I just check out the vibe and listen to the selections of the crew which is always really interesting. I can usually tell what they’re into and if my own set will be good or I’m going to alienate the crowd.

D&B Sherlock, doing your research. But crucially, what’s the number one thing on your rider?

My number one thing… I have peanuts or cashews. Maybe a banana. It’s usually number one but I didn’t want to say alcohol right away.

I know of one artist who asked for a BLT sandwich with toasted bread, the works.

They’re clearly not getting dinner beforehand.

Probably not. If you could have anything in the world on your rider, what would you ask for?

Good question… let’s circle back.

Let’s talk about Ghost. How long have you been working on it? What’s the story behind this one?

The oldest tune on the album is about two years old. I started it around two years ago, and I’ve been writing tunes, like all the time since it is my full time job, basically. Thanks to Patreon. The tunes just started to pile up and I just tried out, which ones go well together. And I just went from there, like, starting to develop kind of a theme for it. Which is why the name is Ghost, which is a play on being introverted in the club scene. 

Yeah, I’m super introverted. I sometimes have a hard time talking to people. I stand by in the crowd – nowadays, it’s a lot better but I’m still more often just floating about like a ghost. A translucent being. Being there, but nobody really sees you.

Ghosts and introverts are powerful beings indeed. Did you have this theme in mind when coming up with the order of the tracks on the LP? 

The way I did the tracklisting for the LP, some of the titles do reflect my thoughts behind the whole thing after being in the scene for, like 16 years. Parting is kind of like a breakup song almost – very melancholic and sad. I wanted it to almost be like old SpectralSoul or Calibre. 

The track Ghost especially does reflect this, which is why I named the album after that. It’s an intro skit, very atmospheric and kind of Burial-esque with the pads and atmosphere.. because most albums have this little intro skit maybe some interludes as well in between. For me, I wanted to have a fuselighter to setup the rest of the album. Also when I wrote the track I wrote this big ambient part, the whole intro before I even started the drop, which was very unorthodox for me at that time. 

Usually I’m very straightforward when it comes to making tunes because I’m super sound design driven. So usually 80% of the time when I make music, or sit in front of the computer, I make sounds. So I’ll make drum loops and make bases and make pads, whatever so that when I’m creative, I can work quickly and get an idea down before it runs away. I probably spend most of my time on drums because it’s very important for drums to sound right, especially in minimal, they can make or break a tune for me. I’m very particular about that.

What do you look for in a good drum rack?

Good sounding hits. Kicks and snares. There’s a lot of room to play with. Simple grooves and stuff. As a sound designer, if there’s a snare I don’t like that can break a tune for me. I know it’s all about vibes and everything. But if I don’t like the snare I’m not gonna play the tune. Yeah, I’m very…

We’ll have to do a new UKF feature: Rate My Snare with Wingz.

Haha everyone’s going to hate me! But yeah it’s everything for me.

How was it working with Collette Warren?

As always it’s fun working with her. It’s pretty straightforward. She usually comes up with something pretty quickly. It’s always nice working with her as it doesn’t take ages until she gets back to me which is always nice, because usually it tends to take a bit longer. Especially when you’re working with vocalists overseas, as you don’t have a chance to be in the same studio which is what you want ideally… but I don’t have the luxury of being British.

Jury’s out on that.

I was just thinking about that. But yes the track title came from her lyrics. I wrote the idea in January 2022. It’s just like a million revisions and making sure everything sounds samey in terms of mixdown levels and production value. A lot of back and forth, especially the last six months before the deadline.

You of course have a very special relationship with Overview. How has Peter pushed you and inspired you over the last few years?

It’s more that he gives me freedom. On Overview, I have full control over artwork, promotion tracklisting, stuff like that. On an album but also on all releases as which is a thing which I feel doesn’t really exist a lot these days. Unless you’re on Critical, which is the only one I can think of right now where you do have a say on these things if you want. And I think that’s really cool. 

I’ve been with Pete from the start, even before Overview. The reason I went to Overview with him after Lifestyle Music was because he was my contact that I always spoke to there. He kept pushing me, getting me international shows – I don’t think I would have the profile I have in the UK as much if it wouldn’t have been for Overview. Just working with him is easy and he allows me creative freedom and he doesn’t demand crazy changes.

He lets you do your thing.

He trusts his artists, Ollie is the same.

Spill the beans. Tell us a fact about Peter that people might not know.

He’s always late. I was playing a show in Bristol and we went on a boat ride that day before the night. The boat almost took off without him, he made it literally at the last minute. And the whole thing was his idea! Everyone was there, the Captain said he was going to the toilet and when he came out that we were going to leave, and that’s when Pete came. He’s a funny one, we gave each other a lot of flack over it. It’s like a love/hate relationship. I can be very annoying to him and him to me.

Like an old married couple.

Yeah we work well together, we are also fairly similar in mindset – being in it for the love of the music and not to maximise profit. That’s why I work with Overview because they do it for the love.

Being authentic.

Yeah don’t betray your principles, don’t bend yourself to be liked, staying true to yourself – I think that’s very important. I try to do that constantly, authenticity is a really big thing for me. 

And that shines through in your music. You’ve walked us through your process in the past. Now after over a decade, how do you think your production style has changed?

I’ve definitely matured. I went from mostly just writing DJ tools, very simple rollers to more introspective pieces that are more musical. I’ve been trying to implement more emotions into the music and give a bit more of a standalone listening experience or gratification. I’ve been really paying attention to atmospheres and themes these days. I still make club tunes. But yeah I think all the above just elevates a tune from just being a DJ tool, to being a tune with substance; when you consider its theme or story or context. 

I think it’s one of the things you can’t really learn in a quick-fire Patreon or 1:1 lessons. That’s one thing you have to learn for yourself and understand why or how elements work this way, in this context. For me, drum and bass is very contextual. I started to realise this when I would get remix stems for tunes, I would listen to the sounds on their own and think they’re actually not that great. But in the whole context of the track everything sounds good, because it worked well together. Drum and bass especially but I think probably all music, is very contextual. That’s what experience teaches you. It takes years to master or…  to understand this for yourself. This is also where you learn your signature sound from because of the decisions you make in these aspects.

Can we expect some more ambient from you in the future?

Ahhh not really ambient, I still need some sort of drums! I’ve been making a bit of future garage on the side.

Incoming Wingz future garage?

Absolutely fucking not haha. But in all seriousness, I would alienate half my audience. No, I just like doing it. I have tunes on Soundcloud but I’m not going to tell you what alias they’re under.

I just really like doing it on the side because you can pay a lot more attention to the vibe and texture and just have fun with it. It’s not important to have a crazy mixdown. I’ve just been too busy with drum and bass. But I’m definitely going to continue producing it, it helps me unwind.

It’s something special to make music just for the pleasure of it.

Yeah, you can feel pressure in your production when there’s a deadline looming. Or you have to finish a full release and jump back and forth between the tracks. I think the last 15% of completing a track is always where most people are really struggling, to give it that sheen on top. It can be insanely difficult. Way more difficult than getting an idea together in my opinion. Giving it the kind of little ear candy you need; more sweeps and risers, better transitions, little effects and the bits and bobs.

The sprinkles on top. Hopefully, one day that we’ll be blessed with some ambient from you.

Maybe when I’m 40.

We’ll look forward to it! Alright, let’s circle back. What’s the one thing on your rider you would ask for if you could have anything in the world?

I think… a secluded room with a small light and tons of manga to read.

You’ve got to tell us: top three manga? Or top two or one…

That’s actually difficult. Evangelion obviously as my all time favourite anime/manga. I also love Berserk for when you want to feel despair and be sad.

Thanks – always need recommendations! And finally, what else have you got in store for 2024 that we should be aware of?

At the moment I want to let the album breathe. But I’m sitting on a lot of collabs with lots of plans around that, but these will probably be in autumn as I want the LP to shine right now. It’s been in the works for two years and it needs to simmer for at least a little bit! On the side, I’m still working on tunes pretty much every day so lots to come but for now I hope everyone enjoys the album.

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