Will Cuming, aka LANKS, gave us his insight into the wonderful music world in this weeks’ Savvy Seven. Currently touring his new single Golden Age and challenging yourself as an artist, and shares his top tips for surviving in the industry.
- Who was your first musical inspiration? Why?
I think there were a few, but the one that stands out in my head right now is Miles Davis. Miles was constantly challenging himself and reinventing himself and his approach to art. He was melodic, had killer phrasing and was admired for his maturity and approach to space.
He would play a note, like at the start of his solo in Freddie Freeloader, he would play the root note of the chord straight, with no syncopation. Jazz lecturers at Uni would always tell us that to do that was incredibly uncool, but Miles would just play it with so much intention, and then leave a few bars of space and you can imagine him standing there, just staring you down like, ‘Yeah, what of it, man?’
He always had great musicians in his bands also, and he challenged them and brought the best out of a lot of them, forcing them to really dig deeper and move away from their comfortable positions. The greatest thing was that his playing was never overcomplicated. Some people would even laugh about his lack of technical ability, but they really miss out. He could speak through his trumpet, and sing to you in such a human way.
- How did you get started in music, and did you ever think you’d get this far?
I started playing music really young, and was writing music from the age of 12. I practiced every day in high school, and then went straight from school to study music improvisation at the Victorian College of the Arts. I was playing in bands, playing my original music throughout this whole time, and then starting experimenting more with electronic music during my second year of uni.
A couple of years after uni, I had a month off from one of my bands while some of the members were recording with their other band Eagle and the Worm. During this time, I sat down and wrote and recorded a bunch of sketches and tunes, which a few months later became the debut LANKS EP, Thousand Piece Puzzle. From there, it all progressed naturally and has been a steady build to where it is now.
I think I always had it in my mind that I could achieve what I have achieved and potentially much more, so I don’t really put limits on where I can go, but I focus more on the process of improving than the result. If you set goals, you are never really that happy I find, but if your only aim is process-driven, like writing a song every day, then you have more fun and improve without stressing yourself out on whether it goes platinum or the industry will love you or whatever. I honestly think I’m just getting started in terms of what I can achieve, and I don’t mean that arrogantly, I believe everyone has the ability to do amazing things if they just work hard at it.
- What has been one of your most defining moments in your career?
I don’t think I have really had the big defining moments yet, but there have been some great ones nevertheless. Selling out the last couple of shows in Melbourne has been great, and then having people sing back the lyrics to your songs. That’s when you realise you are genuinely connecting on a human level. It is an amazing feeling, and I divide my art creation into two main aims. The first is selfish, I love creating, and truthfully I go little mad whenever I stop. It makes me feel good. The second part is about people, I love connecting with people and this has been an amazing way to connect to all sorts of people all over the world, and to have that experience is truly something unique. My fans and I really share parts of our lives then, despite all the factors that separate us, geographically or culturally.
- How has your music practice changed over time?
A lot of it has stayed the same. My maturity is helping me develop ideas further than I could before. I used to be so scared of ruining the magic that might have existed in a good sketch/demo. But now I can focus longer and push through those little roadblocks that rise up regularly.
I also spend more time practising writing now than when I was younger. I used to be all about practising my instrument and while I still like to do that on various instruments I spend more time writing now.
- My top business tip for new artists is…
My top business tip is to focus on these 2 points, because if you do these and stay true to who you are and be a nice person as you do them, then I believe you will do great:
- Make great art – give yourself time to be creative and really dig deep. Don’t just come up with an idea and settle.Often your best ideas take time to find. Don’t wait for inspiration to find you, go out there and find it.
- Make fans – every part of your job besides making art is to find ways to reach fans. Sending your music to radio, blogs, supporting other bands, getting involved with the music community, all these things are important steps to help you connect with people and find the people who love your art. Even when it comes to signing to labels and the industry side of things, the reason you’re signing is to have a team of people committed to reaching fans, and helping you create the best art possible. Without fans, the industry wouldn’t exist, so don’t forget that.
- My biggest career mistake has been…
I don’t regret any choices I’ve made really, not for a second. Of course, there are things that could have been done better, but I wouldn’t have learned and grown had I not experienced all of that. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you’re not, then you’re being safe and not taking risks, and you will not grow. You will also be boring and bored. Get out there and make a mistake, people, we’re all human.
- In my opinion, the most important issue facing the music industry is…
Navigating the new parameters. The internet and new technologies have changed everything really quickly, and for everyone. Publicists, labels, radio broadcasters, writers, musicians, producers, engineers, literally everyone. Keep learning and keep an open mind and you have a chance. You don’t have to do it the same way as everyone says you need to, change has come faster than many could anticipate and it hasn’t stopped. Listen, learn and think. I honestly think this current time is one of the most amazing to be in the music industry, so have fun and good luck everyone.