Originally published: The Stool Pigeon
Is that a Dictaphone in Will Ozanne’s pocket, or is he just pleased to see us? Oh…
It’s the day after the night before and Gang Colours, aka Will Ozanne, is harbouring a bastard behind the eyes. Having played to a packed-out crowd at Pop, a late night cocktail lounge in his hometown of Southampton, he’s had to endure a day of telephone interviews with a hangover. “It was self-inflicted,” he explains of his alcohol-based war wounds. “I only have myself to blame. I knew I had to do a lot of these.”
Despite all this, Will’s answers are — a bit like his debut LP The Keychain Collection — well-formed, comprehensible and recollective, but free to roam in tangents and metaphors. Take, for example, the beautiful ‘Tissues & Fivers’, a track written about things his grandma’s dog used to eat, which opens with a plaintive piano akin to Radiohead’s ‘Codex’ before being layered with dubbed-out glitches.
“I used to collect keyrings as a child whenever I used to go on holiday,” he explains of the album’s title. “I’d keep them in my grandfather’s old cigar box and I liked the idea that each one told a different story. I wanted that to come through in the album — I wanted each track to say something, not just be random.”
At first glance, many of the track titles appear very telling (‘Heavy Petting’, ‘Forgive Me’, ‘To Repel Ghosts’, ‘I Don’t Want You Calling’) in their subject matter, but the lyrics keep their cards held tightly to their chest. Instead, Ozanne chooses to use his vocal as an evocative tool to undulate and haunt the electronic mix of soundbites, while the beats are left to supply a sense of narrative thrust.
“Everyone has written about love and lust. I just tried to keep it on the low — I didn’t want to overdo it. I wanted to touch on the subject with the experiences, but I wanted the beat to do the talking,” he says.
Ozanne carries a Dictaphone everywhere with him, recording the world as it goes by. Each soundbite is as good as a photo for him — but more useful. The wash of a coastline, the squeak of a chair, friends juiced up after a night out — each one a sonic ‘Kodak moment’ that’s been fed into a computer and weaved into The Keychain Collection.
“It’s really important to catch those moments,” he explains. “Like when you think that you have your camera there to capture that image that will never happen again. A picture can tell a thousand stories, but a recording is what it is. It’s exactly the story that is happening there and then. I find it really interesting having the audio opposed to the visual.”
Curiously, Ozanne cites The Streets’ ‘Has It Come To This?’ as an early example of the kind of music that spoke to him. Sat in the back of his mum’s car returning home from school, there was something about Mike Skinner’s stoned, stumbling verses and mellow UKG groove that felt more tangible than the US hip hop and rap artists that he was listening to at the time. “I just thought it was so English and I could relate to it all,” he enthuses. “The emotion and the stories… I’m forever trying to find that.”
Records like The Streets’ Original Pirate Material and Dizzee Rascal’s Boy In Da Corner would go onto inspire the bedroom producer to find his own voice, narrative and sound. “They were all elements that I wanted to get across in my samples, which are all UK garage derived,” he says. “And, obviously, my voice is English — so I guess that’s as English as you can get.”
His debut EP, 2010’s ‘In Your Gut Like a Knife’, played on his dancier tastes, sampling UK garage, trip-hop and dubstep — anything that had its roots set in home soil. “But the natural progression for me was to use my own vocals and piano pieces on the album. I wanted it to be personal.”
The Keychain Collection, then, emerges as the musical representation of Will Ozanne’s England: as he sees it, hears it, and reproduces it with snippets of audio ‘moments’. Tracks like ‘Botley In Bloom’ evoke his home village in spring, while ‘On Compton Bay’ ruminates on a childhood holiday spent off the south-west coast of the Isle of Wight; both blossoming as electronic manifestations of moments in his mind’s eye. Though intimate, these are tracks accessible and open enough for the listener to forge their own connections with, and enjoy their island of Isness.