Christopher Willits creates patterns of vibrations with sound and light.
He occupies a unique corner of the electronic-art-music universe—hovering above the intersection of electronic production’s nuts and bolts, new media art, and a wide-open creative mind. “i am a conduit of the process, a kind of gardener,” he says. “I simply imagine, intuit, respond and do the work laid before me.” Willits’ tireless responding and doing and working has produced 20 albums in 10 years—solo and in collaboration with artists including Ryuichi Sakamoto, Matmos, Zach Hill, and Taylor Deupree—and an organic, multi-faceted sound that expands like the vines of an electro-acoustic kudzu plant. Christopher Willits is a teacher, a label owner (the experimental hub Overlap.org), a meditator, a tech geek, a visual/new media artist, and virtuosic musician in one. In other words, there’s no one out there quite like him.
Willits designs much of his own software, and his music is a holistic universe in which all elements are interconnected; he folds his guitar lines into bleary, unrecognizable shapes and polyrhythmic textures, adding strokes of percussion, horns, and his own voice until the whole glows with an earthly inner light. A full list of Christopher Willits’ releases and accomplishments would take up considerable column space, but a beginner’s guide to Willits includes 2002’s Folding, and the Tea (his watery 12k debut), 2006’s landmark Surf Boundaries (his first full-length record on Ghostly International), 2008’s Ocean Fire (Willits’ collaboration with renowned pianist / composer Ryuichi Sakamoto), and 2009’s Live on Earth Vols. 1 & 2 (a pair of self-released live albums dedicated to his fans and supporters).
Willits has been instrumental in redefining the guitar in the digital age. Using custom-built software, Willits morphs melodic guitar loops and photo/video experiments into folded rhythms of harmony, memory, color and texture. Named “the center cell of a complex indie rock-avant-garde-electronic art Venn diagram in the Bay Area” (San Francisco Bay Guardian), and “The Picasso of Sound” (Tokafi Magazine), Willits defies genre distinctions while still defining a sound and style of his own. His guitar lines fold and weave into each other creating complex patterns of interlocking rhythm, melody, and texture.
Every project sees him evolving and expanding his creative vision. In addition to his solo work, Willits has created a vast range of music collaborations, sound installations, and film/video projects. His band project Flossin involves Zach Hill, Kid606, and Matmos, The North Valley Subconscious Orchestra is Willits and Brad Laner, formerly of Medicine. Other frequent collaborators include Scott Pagano, Taylor Deupree, and Ryuichi Sakamoto. Willits' numerous releases and collaborative projects cover a broad spectrum of musical styles, and include one main commonality: Willits' love of pattern his unique approach to the guitar and sound + light.
Willits completed his Master's Degree in Electronic Music at Mills College where he studied with Pauline Oliveros and Fred Frith. At Mills he explored structure-generating processes in music; a focus not unfamiliar to former Mills affiliates John Cage and Steve Reich. Prior to Mills, Willits focused on painting, video art, sound art and music at the Kansas City Art Institute.
In addition to all of this, Willits is a director at Sound Arts in San Francisco and Founder / Director of the experimental media label Overlap.org .