Interview: Celer

A husband and wife duo of Will and Danielle Long, Celer is one of those acts that don’t belong to any scene or movement, those that just exist on their own terms, completely secluded from anything any scene or industry may dictate. The project is still relatively unknown to wider audiences, it seems, although they sport a uniqueness and quality rarely seen together with such prolific output, which their discography definitely is. A plethora of both label- and self-released items, in all shapes, sizes and lengths, as well backing sounds for numerous art exhibitions worldwide, continue to stand as the project's legacy. That’s right – legacy, as the project was brought to a standstill by the worst possible cause, namely Danielles sudden death in July 2009. Will was reluctant to let everything fall through, though, and informed the fans, through frequent and surprisingly honest and emotional updates, of his intention to finish up and publish the remaining material created by the duo beforehand. Today, two years afterwards, releases and ideas are still flowing from Celer’s headquarters, so I was pretty excited to be given the opportunity to get in touch with Will and receive an update on the project's status and future.

Greetings, Will. I suppose there’s no easy way to start this interview, but let’s kick off with the usual things – what have you been doing lately?

First of all, thank you for this opportunity! Things have been busy lately, especially with moving to and settling in Tokyo. I’m trying to steadily work on new music, while continuing to get the unpublished works out too. There has only been a tiny amount of Celer releases this year, but Chubby Wolf has had three already, and there should be at least two more by the end of the year. Celer releases should catch up by the end of the year also, if everything stays on schedule.

There have also been a lot of performances in Tokyo recently, which I enjoy a lot, and I’ve been planning quite a lot for the upcoming September tour of Australia backing up Miko, as well.

You’ve recently announced that you’ll be doing a self-released Celer vinyl series. Could you brief us in detail on what you’ve decided for the releases so far? What’s going to be the concept?

Yes, the first LP of the series was released on 1st August. For these releases, it is a very simple concept and package. Each record is in a plain black sleeve, with black vinyl and black labels. There is no information printed, except handwritten credits on a black paper insert. There really is no concept, other than the black-on-black packaging.

The music is one tape loop per side of vinyl. There are eight different loops so far, which will take up the first four records of this series. It’s possible that there will be more, but for the moment, only four. As for the music, there’s no deep concept inside the tracks; it’s all music from reel-to-reel loops that I created while trying to find inspiration again and work with music more consistently. This series of loops, all from a similar time period, was the result, and gave me new inspiration.

This isn’t the first time that you’ve released material on vinyl; in fact, you have quite a few vinyl releases in your back catalogue. Furthermore, vinyl seems to be undergoing a worldwide resurgence as a medium. What do you prefer, vinyl or CD, and why – both as a listener and as an artist?

Vinyl is a very special format. I think it really all depends on the album, though. Some things fit a format perfectly, and others seem to be fine on many different formats. As an artist, it feels very good to release on different formats. Even if the master tracks of two different albums sound the same, the final results, when they are cut to vinyl, or dubbed to cassette, completely change the way the album is perceived. I think it’s something special if simply releasing an album on a particular format naturally changes the music.

As a listener, I don’t have any preference, as I enjoy both and buy both.

Celer was an incredibly prolific project. Your discography is definitely one of the richest I’ve ever seen. Where did Danielle and you manage to draw all that inspiration from?

It felt very natural, and just different from many other artists. We may not have always spent as much time as we should have making albums, but especially for myself, spontaneity has always been important. I still create music very quickly. It’s when I have to take a long time making something that it gets very slow, and I doubt the quality more and more the longer I spend working on things. Nowadays, if I work on something for a long time, I have to take a break until I’m not so familiar with it anymore, and then start again so that it feels fresh and seen from a new place. Regardless, there’s inspiration all around, all the time, always present, even if it’s a memory, or a wish.

You seem to be particularly fond of handmade, even entirely self-released stuff. In this day and age, where everything has to be packed, tagged and branded, this tendency is uncommon, to say the least. What’s your take on this?

You’re right, it’s certainly uncommon, and much less appreciated and publicized than label-released works, but I think that having handmade things is important. It shows care and effort, just in a different way than pressed CDs. Self-releasing music is a lot of work, but in small quantities, I think it’s worthwhile. Some things are nice when there are only a few made, and afterwards they are gone. It makes everything more fragile, personal, and temporary.

Artists hate genre pigeonholing as a general rule, but if you had to describe Celer in a few words, what would you say?

If I had to pick one sound style, I’d always hope that people would simply define Celer as ambient. Many other styles come through on different albums, but I’ve always identified mostly with the intention behind a new ambient style of sound.

One feature typical of Celer is the incredibly varying length of individual tracks. Unlike the vast majority of genre-related bands, who prefer the “droning” approach with a few elements that stretch through 5-7 minutes, Celer has done both albums with 35+ very short tracks (such as “Capri” (Humming Conch, 2009), one of my favourites), as well as releases with a single track lasting for more than an hour. Is this something that you consciously decide on, or do you let instincts guide you while composing?

The differences in track lengths (and numbers of tracks) were commonly very random, and not always intentional. Sometimes it just fit with the type of album, or at least what we felt fit with the intention the best. For instance, there is a version of “Capri” that is one single track, but it was thought of as being too fluid in the final stage, so we picked a more mixed-up version, made up of all the source tracks instead. By the way, I’m working on a reissue of “Capri”, which is remastered, in a triple vinyl package, and with about 30 minutes of bonus tracks.

The songwriting process is complicated enough in these waters for a single person as it is, let alone a couple. What was it like working with Danielle, how did you cooperate, decide on things, concepts etc.?

Cooperation was easy, spontaneous, and not always planned. Sometimes things just came out as they should, without too much effort or decision-making. We never thought too long about how to present something, or how to go about making the music. It often just happened naturally, and was left as it was.

When composing new music, did you just record material spontaneously, only to sort it through later, or did you take it one release at a time? How conscious was the entire creative process between you two?

Some albums were recorded very quickly and spontaneously, but most often different parts would be recorded, some staying unused for a long time, then fit together later on, when the time felt right and the material was inspiring. At times, there was a clear idea and concept, but in those instances, the results were usually achieved much quicker.

Many artists in this field are dealing with dark and oppressive topics, with negative or mixed feelings at best. However, the works of Celer seem to be radiating an overwhelmingly positive vibe. What’s the philosophy behind Celer, so to speak?

There was never a particular philosophy, as we started making music solely for a creative interest, and to find a new way of expression; to have the opportunity, most of all, to blend different forms of art together to make something entirely different and presentable. I would think that, despite some sombre omnipresence, in every place of darkness there’s also beauty. However, in every place of beauty, darkness is also always present in some way or form.

How did Celer start in the first place? I know that it was a complete symbiosis between you and Danielle, but what came first? Did you get to know each other better through creating music, or was it your relationship that made it logical that you should try doing a musical project together?

We actually began making music and art before we were together, so when we started, we just never stopped. It was continuous as it had been before in other forms, but with the positive response from listeners and labels around the world, it seemed welcomed and enjoyable. I think it was more than getting to know each other better though, as the pressures of demand and work ethic was a negative aspect of it all, and very trying on our relationship at many times. In retrospect, I think that it would have been better in many ways if we had kept it separate, but at the same time, the things that remain and continue are part of an important history, and meaningful time in both our lives.

What does the name “Celer” mean anyway? How did you come up with it and why choose that one in particular?

It’s actually French for to conceal, but the name was chosen relatively randomly, almost by accident, when someone showed interest in the music and asked for a name. It became something of a joke later, as it was chosen so casually, but considering the defining nature of the word, it completely mirrored our composition styles in many ways.

Celer’s mission was cut short by Danielle’s tragic and utterly untimely death. Yet you’ve shown to be an incredibly open individual, informing the fan base about all the decisions that you made concerning the future of Celer. Was it easier or harder on you, wearing your heart on your sleeve like that? I find your overtness admirable.

It was definitely very difficult at times, but it’s also something that got me through many difficult times just through being able to work on things continuously and keep going, keeping myself creative and energised. The most difficult part was deciding how to continue and where to go from that point, but at the moment, I feel very comfortable and accepting of what was, and what will be in the future.

The decision to continue and release the remainder of the recorded material must have been a hard one to make. Yet you’ve kept all activities almost completely unhindered, to the point where one couldn’t even tell that Celer has officially ceased to exist. What does it look like now? How much material do you have left, approximately? Will you release all the material, or is your intention to only publish what you deem worthy?

There are still many works that are unpublished, of course, some complete, some incomplete, some I’ve made on my own throughout time together and recently, and works that Danielle made on her own (which will be published as Chubby Wolf). I’ll most likely just continue on as naturally as possible and release in response to interest, as always. It’s unlikely that I’ll reject any offers, but the biggest problem is just finding enough time to do everything, as it’s as much of a time-consuming job as it’s always been.

Other than the topics we’ve talked about, what are your future plans for Celer? You mentioned to me a while ago that you’ll be doing some tours?

Yes, I still plan to continue on as I have before and release the remaining material of Celer and Chubby Wolf, but also solo works as they come. Some of those will be under the Celer name, since, as you can imagine, even though it is just me now, the name is difficult to get away from; besides, it’s comforting in many ways. Even though things have changed, the meanings and intentions remain the same. Life and even love may change, but the feelings always stay true to inspiration.

I also perform regularly in Tokyo, and hopefully in many other places in the future as well.

After you’ve completed all your work with Celer, what will follow? Will you try and continue with some other project, or is it too soon to tell?

I’m not sure if there is any way to say that Celer will ever be complete. I feel like reissues and new material could go on forever. I do have plans for other projects as well, though, including many collaborations with artists such as Miko, and also a drum machine-based project called Fendi, though nothing is completed yet. It’s an entirely different style and intention.

For the end, an obligatory question I pose to all of my interviewees, and one that bears much more weight in your case – what is the one thing you’d like Celer to be remembered for?

I’m not even sure, although I can imagine that what I’d want is probably not what Celer will actually be remembered for the most. It will likely be that project with a lot of releases.