By Cam Lindsay
Cultivated in Ohio’s DIY noise community, Joe Williams has blossomed into an extraordinary songwriter teeming with vivid concepts and unbridled elasticity. Dropping his first name to assume the much snappier moniker of White Williams, this 23-year-old NYC-based wunderkind has prefab-ed an imposing collection of transmittable melodies, which he’s shaped with a multitude of influences. Constructed using a laptop and various analog gear, Williams taps into the 21st century’s glut of nostalgia to mess with the concept of modern music and find a unique niche for himself. Loaded to the ceiling with deviant synths and rhythmic programming, he turns the notion of new wave or glam upside down and inside out, exposing the possibilities of producing something new with a little radical tinkering. His airy revitalisation of Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy” reminds us of how dead cool that retro classic is, while he nicks Neu!’s algorithmic drum patterns for some titillation in the soaring glam of hook-crammed single “New Violence.” What will get people talking (and moving) though is the slack polyrhythm of “Going Down,” which recalls Remain in Light’s volatile cadence. Smoke introduces a wonky world with a series of striking songwriting examples that manages to surpass any notions of the past, present and future of music to somehow remain a timeless treasure.
You’ve gone through many changes as an artist, originally coming up through the Cleveland noise scene. How did you find your sound for Smoke?
A lot of hitting my head against the wall and learning about microphones, recording and software. I started experimenting with my parents’ computer when I was about 17 in high school and I had no one to help me research music. Continually hitting my head against the wall, I slowly found myself toying around with sounds. From their I got better at teaching myself, and picking up microphones and learning guitar for this project.
Your real name is Joe Williams. What’s up with the honky first name?
The only reason the name is the way it is is because there’s a jazz singer named Joe Williams already, and I just appreciate the alliteration. There are no connotations or characters or anything. There’s nothing in music that’s so preferential. I wouldn’t want to be anonymous but it wouldn’t change the way I do anything. That’s why when you lift the CD out of the case there’s a picture of my friend. It’s not a big concern for me to be any kind of personality. (Tigerbeat6)
Upcoming 2008 tour dates:
01/12 Cambridge, MA @ Middle East Upstairs
01/13 New Haven, CT @ BAR Nightclub
01/14 Providence, RI @ The Living Room
01/15 Montreal, QC @ La Sala Rossa
01/16 Toronto, Ontario @ Horseshoe Tavern
01/17 Detroit, MI @ Magic Stick
01/18 Cleveland Heights, OH @ Grog Shop
01/19 Chicago, IL @ Schubas Tavern (Tomorrow Never Knows fest)
01/20 Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock Club
01/23 Vancouver, BC @ Media Club
01/24 Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey
01/25 Portland, OR @ Holocene
01/26 San Francisco, CA @ Cafe du Nord
01/27 Los Angeles, CA @ Echo
01/29 San Diego, CA @ Casbah
01/31 Austin, TX @ Emo's
02/01 Denton, TX @ Hailey's
02/02 Houston, TX @ Walter's on Washington
02/04 Tallahassee, FL @ Club Downunder (FSU)
02/05 Atlanta, GA @ Drunken Unicorn (MJQ Concourse)
02/07 Chapel Hill, NC - Local 506
02/08 Baltimore, MD @ Ottobar
02/09 Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda's