Beyond Others

Before the basement walls were riddled with sweat, the room was a dance floor to only four or five other students. Some dishonest dudes circle around and listen to the music in-between sets while standing in the back, noticing the girls that walk in. The girls aren’t bothered with the boring, un-danceable, music or the boy’s stalking eyes, as they attempt to make their way upstairs unnoticed. Will Hird towers over his equipment in the back corner, laptop under his arm, attempting to clear the beer littered folding table to make adequate room for his laptop and Akai APC 40. The jet-black rented speakers are sitting quietly at each side of the table, and through the passing smoke, acting like a lighthouse in this upstate New York basement, the apple logo on the back of Will’s laptop screen illuminates in the dark. One of the APC squares light up as he glides his pointer finger across the first pad, and simultaneously Circuit Dream, the title track off of the “Circuit Dream — EP” fills the room; not only with Will’s familiar comforting angelic voice samples, but the squatters from upstairs as well. Only after attracting a generous sized mob, Will drops the bass trembling crowd pleasers such as A$AP Rocky’s Wild for the Night and Young Scooter’s Colombia.

Will separates himself from the massive crowd of sweating creeps and partygoers. The crowd isn’t circled around him as he plays; they’re caged off in front of him, separated by the table. However this doesn’t separate him from the crowd. His set-list is crafted specifically for each show he plays, to depict a mood for the crowd while he plays the role of a puppet master. While the random hookups and vodka spilling commences, Will is content on his side of the table, with his sleep and honorable equipment safe from any misplaced beer spills. However he’s not alone behind the tables and looming speakers. Four or five friends surround him, taking swigs from 40-ouncers and wearing fake Fendi scarves over their faces as they hold their heads down and nod to the screaming bass, pounding at everyone’s ear drums. The quick flashes of the strobe light make me feel sick, but they also make the night feel like a series of cartoon strips. One moment Will’s hands are in the air, and the next they’re applying a flanger to Shlohmo’s Jeremih remix of Fuck U All The Time. “That was the most people I’ve ever played in front of. It was cool to see people dancing. I mean it’s only between like that and one or two other places, but that was the best. I definitely want to play at more places like that. Where ever I can play, I’ll play,” Will tells me later reflecting on the success of the show. I was at that show, and I have to agree that it was a fantastic time, one of Will’s best performances yet. His face buried behind the screen, the dim light from his laptop shining up on his face, projecting a shadow over his eyes while everybody is being blasted by his energizing, yet unexpected mixes that had been fashioned for the night. Finding a house or apartment for Will to keep his DJ’ing reputation at doesn’t seem like a problem at all. He has performed close to every weekend after coming back from spring break– all for free– and there are no signs of slowing down or stopping, which is a good thing for all of us here on campus. For Will, it’s all about the crowd’s reaction to his performance.

Will goes beyond what the average liberal arts school DJ would do, he fulfills song requests (if they fit in with the set), and only stops the music when the crowd has dispersed. Three of four fans remain, swaying and crushing red Solo cups with their black boots as they hang about, brainwashed by combination of liquor and Will’s music. Only when the last person stops dancing does Will close his laptop and unplug the varying wires from their corresponding slots. Will cautiously makes room for his MIDI controller and laptop in his backpack by removing the remaining 40-ounce and cracking it as slings his backpack over his shoulder. He makes an effort to find the owner of the house, thanks them for letting him play, and attempts to gather any homies that stuck around until the end of the show. We walk outside and he lights a cigarette, the perfect company to the 40-ounce and Jansport backpack stuffed with his career, as we begin to walk downtown.

Will Hird, the worry free 21-year-old sophomore from Amherst, Massachusetts, wasn’t always sticking to one hobby growing up. Before he attended Skidmore College, he found himself interested in drawing. Whether he was sketching a landscape so the vivid picture would last in his mind, or depicting an emotion through drawing a portrait of a close friend, Will was besotted with drawing. Drawing wasn’t the only liberating escape for Will, he is also the owner of a golden retriever (one of his favorite types of dogs) and two cats. “They’re getting kind of old now, but they’re still cool” Will tells me a tad too loudly in the library as he steals a sip from a friends water bottle. Besides the love for animals, perhaps his drawing background is one of the aspects that led him to apply to Skidmore. Drawing allowed Will to let his creative mind be free, active, and liberated. I have never seen any of Will’s drawings, but I am positive they are pristine, boundless, and ingenious, just as is his music production.

Seeing Will take his somber and slow steps to his next class during the mid-day rush are intriguing. Although it may not be apparent through his constant joke cracking and over all non-serious tone in every day conversation, Will is calculated and takes his time with everything he does. Each step is meaningful, taking him a little bit closer to where he wants to be. Each pen stroke is brushed with affection, expressing a new emotion with each line. Each drum kick is placed with care, allowing him to absorb the listener with each measure. Will’s quirky and comical behavior is in direct opposition with his genuine, serious, and well structured production that comes from his music project: Bey()nd.

Will was fortunate enough as a child to have been exposed to music. He took piano lessons, and played for five or six years before moving into, what he calls: “a classic guitar phase”. His mixtures of piano and guitar lessons play a decent role in his current music production, as he was able to learn the basics of music structure and composition. However, even more inspiring than the over-priced at home music lessons are his friends from his hometown of Amherst. “Three of my friends from home were in this band since middle school, they’re called Client 9, and those three kids in particular have been some of my biggest inspirations.” Will put down the cigarette he was rolling after using the tip of his Adidas hoodie to attempt and pack the jarring hand rolled cigarette tight. One of Will’s three friends from Client 9 went on to create his own sound design company in Colorado, and although Will admits he wouldn’t want to follow the exact same footsteps, it’s inspiring to see friends succeed in the music and sound engineering world. Seeing Client 9 play live shows around Will’s hometown has inspired him to play shows of his own at Skidmore, and although he has yet to let his music inspire others in Massachusetts, he hopes to play there, for his friends, soon.

The spacious and fresh-air niche sound that Will has accomplished in his music did not appear from thin air. It required experimentation and inspiration. Listening to a lot of contemporary electronic artists has helped Will incorporate his different styles, elements, and sounds into his music. The experience of hearing something decay, but knowing it has definition and substance, is the experience of Will’s go-to style. Specifically the 80’s synths, the bells and mallets that pluck and breathe along with the listener, and drum samples, delayed and fading into one another, are the sound of Bey()nd. “I have a lot of artists on my iTunes that are so bad. The 80’s were cool for music, but there were also a lot of things that came out that were a disaster”. Will’s sound is reminiscent of the Ghostly records signee Com Truise, another producer who samples and replicates the 80’s ‘experience’ through music. The inspiration wasn’t always there for Will, as he was dabbling in making music of his own on and off since middle school. But since then, Will has only built upon his music and the style he strives to locate. “Most of the stuff I was making before Skidmore was not very good, but necessary”, he tells me as he stretches his arms out, finding his hands on the back of his head. “It’s always been a really fun and exciting process”. Looking back, Will is able to laugh at his older music, while the dreadfully harsh kicks and ear piercing snares of his past tracks live in his iTunes, he has moved on.

The pulsating of the massive plug-in synths for Ableton enters into the ears and finds way to the center of the brain and suddenly all of the discombobulated sounds begin makes sense. The jumping synth and the sprinting hi-hat begin to juxtapose each other as the track waltzes on. My eyes are closed, and the blooming Miami experience emerging from my headphones is exactly how it should be, resonating in harmony with my body, and mood, at least for the moment. The experience is close to that of laying naked in the sand– I’ve never done it, but it sounds like a swell thing to do while listening to “Pecan Tree”– The comforting waves of fading drum and synth fizz and bump off of each other like a mass of crowded bubbles, lightly touching then separating, while some pop and disappear, some remain throughout the track. Maybe the saw tooth synth is to blame, or the walloping drums that are reminiscent of club music being played on a homely track for Will’s niche sound. The Roland 808 drum kit, mixed with some Lex Luger pieces (given to Will by one of the Client 9 members), could easily be heard in a multi-colored studio which doubles as a dance floor and shitty bar in Brooklyn, but they are manipulated in a resourceful way that makes them feel fitting to the track. Even through the sandpaper ear covers of the library headphones– although my head is being squeezed by two pieces of plastic– Will’s music can transport one to higher ground, away from where they currently stand. Just as his production process is an escape for him, the result is an escape for us. Pecan Tree,

An open Ableton project was left deserted, for the time being, on Will’s computer. I have decent knowledge of Ableton, so I decided to take a peek at his work in progress. Various colors and jagged lines filled the song building area, most of the plug-ins and effects contained names and settings that were unknown to me, his process was foreign to how I am used to using Ableton. Because he is using his own techniques of composition and mastering, it would be difficult to replicate his wave-like style. Will’s latest SoundCloud upload is home to an obese synth which lethargically sways back and forth while a fast paced, higher pitch synth plays on top. A voice is chopped into these intermingled tracks, and the unknown voice, whether he or she is truly speaking words or just creating seemingly random sounds, makes for a flawless mix of all of these variables coming together. A closed hi-hat shakes wildly, dancing along with the track, hit and recovered what sounds like a hundred times over, before a new synth introduces itself with a string of light, and suddenly everything else drops out. Slowly, a new synth fades itself in- painting subtle colors to closed eyes, from purple, to orange- my mind and ears are active throughout the whole process.

Basketball shorts, a pair of perforated orange shower flip-flops, and Daisy cookie wrappers are spread across the floor of Will’s room. He grabs a peach Steaz from the mini-fridge and cracks the pop-top on the aluminum can (he gave me a sip and that shit is amazing) while falling backwards on the leather black couch. He reaches his foot out and presses the Xbox 360 power button with his big toe while grabbing the Xbox controller with his right hand. His roommate, Danny, slides off of his dorm room bed like a 6’ 6” tall lizard and falls onto the couch on top Will. Danny is sprawled out over Will, as if he were dead, limbs folding over themselves like a ragdoll, before he suddenly pops up and yells “yutters, boooooy!” while fixing himself into his own seat. Will’s computer is shining in the back of the room, Ableton Live open and focusing on the newest track, ready for any tweaks that may need to be made. He drops the controller after seeing that Xbox live was having some trouble starting up, and kicks aside the Daisy cookie wrappers as he pussyfoots around the rest of the trash to make his way to his computer. As easily as the Xbox was turned on, it was abandoned for the computer. And just as easily yet again, Ableton starts up and the building process begins. In my generation producing music can come as often as playing Xbox, it’s just a matter of which is more accessible at the time given. But because the two are just as easy to start, doesn’t mean that the music is can be made by anyone. My generation is capable of creating and playing music at a more efficient rate than ever before, but the results vary based on the amount of time given to the music. Will doesn’t sit down for five minutes and create an average track, no. Will commits himself to several hours and sessions a week, thriving to complete a song and find the sound he hunts for on each track. This is the difference. The real music, versus the fake music. The ones who sit and create for hours, versus the ones who simply want to have high quality tracks created for them, just to get more Twitter followers and be Instagram famous.

There are three Will Hird personalities that the Skidmore campus experiences as far as I’m concerned. The ‘standard Tim and Eric-esque’ Will, the ‘production’ Will, and the ‘playing a show’ Will. With each as generous and caring as the last, Will is always down to chill, no matter which stage you catch him in. The “normal” Will that everyone sees walking around campus belongs on an Adult Swim show. A 15-minute per episode television show that would revolve around dad jokes and being innocent like a naive golden retriever puppy. The production personality and playing a live show side go hand in hand. The occasional sip from a dented red Solo cup doesn’t stop Will from taking his music seriously. As Toto by Africa mixes into Young Thug’s Danny Glover, Will pops and locks his shoulders and elbows into various positions, similar to the recently fashioned cooking dance, courtesy of Lil B.

“A collaboration would be sick” Will professes as he warily picks a tuft of tobacco from a stray American Spirit pouch. Will has done collaborative tracks with other artists before, such as Steve Shaw– also a student from Skidmore– and once in the past with the drummer from Client 9. “I don’t have a mic or anything, but I would like to work with Katie Martucci eventually. I did a remix for one of her songs, and I definitely want to do some more stuff with her. I think she’d be down.” Psymon Spine’s track “Eric’s Basement & Secret Tunnels” features the voice of Katie Martucci, a track that Will remixed four months ago. The original is fitting of a minimal dance tune, with spotty offbeat synth-work and Katie’s chilling voice over a summer day’s jumpy bass rift, it’s no wonder Will chose to restructure the song in his, palm tree swinging, Miami vice style. “I want to work with a girl who has a good voice, there’s something different about working with someone else. It takes you out of your comfort zone, and I like that,” he says while pressing his thumbs to the rolling paper and rotating crushed tobacco between his fingers. His MIDI keyboard lies like a battered bridge between two pieces of dorm room furniture in the back of the room, as if it, too, is waiting to give part in a new collaboration; jealous of the attention given to the almost finished cigarette. Through remixing one of Katie’s songs, Will has already tested the waters of a potential collaboration. Only having a sample of collaboration through a remix with Katie won’t do it for Will. Wanting to work with an angelic voice, one such as Katie’s doesn’t come off as a surprise. He has manipulated his various chosen samples to sound like the gentle pipes of a goddess, but has not yet had the opportunity to be in the same room with one, for the opportunity to create together. Through integrating his dizzy, yet massive samples with Katie’s naturally velvety voice, a potential collaboration is destine to be a recipe for excellence.

After the party is finished, and Will successfully played for the last standing fan, the Bey()nd experience is not over. In multiple ways, Will is far cooler than Santa Clause. Instead of just giving gifts once a year, Will makes sure to often supply our iTunes libraries with plenty of freshly prepared tracks. “I’ve always loved sharing my music. Just very basic stuff, like posting my new tracks on Facebook and Twitter. I love hearing peoples reactions” Will admits as he scrolls through his Facebook feed, stopping to look at a Fader article on Migo’s involvement with a shootout in Miami. I usually am not a fan of, what I call, self-social media advertising. Posting your own art or music in a forceful way, and demanding “likes” from your friends. With various social media websites and applications, music advertisement has become the new spam mail. With so many horrible tracks cluttering my Facebook and Twitter feeds, it’s always a blessing to find the gold ore, a new Bey()nd track, in the piles of amateur dub-step, pop, and trap bullshit. When artists share their tracks modestly and without forcing the listener to “repost” or “retweet” their track, by default the artist is ranked above the others. Will’s active social media presence portrays him as an active producer who cares about his listeners. He’s not out to get profit for his music; he does it for his fans, and for himself. By giving out all of his music for free, he’s giving back to the world and his fans.

Will’s generosity through his music is something the music world could benefit from. Instead of posting mediocre, unfinished EPs and albums on Bandcamp with a price tag of 10 bucks, Will gives his music away for free. He does not have the intent of gaining a following now for the future, just to make money at a later point in his career, like an insurance of fans. By giving his music away for free, he is beyond other modern producers. All he desires is to play shows for larger crowds, for the crowd to enjoy themselves at his shows, and for people to listen. Perhaps his serious, production side, has become his so-called get away, a way to relieve himself from the stresses of school and life. Giving away his original music for free, and playing shows both on and off campus for free are a genuine “thank you” to his friends and fans for supporting him.