A conversation with William Akins

 

    We spoke with William Akins (Big’n) about his first experience in a recording studio, the primeval experience of forging knives, the necessity of chaos and order and why pigs and humans are more similar than different.

     

    Arcane and archaic, I dreamt about using fire and hammer to shape something to my will.


    The following is a list of alphabetical words. We asked William what comes to mind for him while thinking of each one.


    Animal

    Elk

    Biology

    Life

    Copyright

    Claimed

    Detective

    Sleuth


    Evidence

    Maybe

    Fight

    Defend

    Genetic

    Ancestors

    Homework

    Study


    Instinct

    Killer

    Jaw

    s

    Knife

    Obsession

    Language

    Body


    Magic

    Drugs

    Nausea

    Daily

    Obsessive

    Knife

    Position

    Upright


    Quotidian

    Work

    Regret

    Daily

    Survival

    Fight

    Tomorrow

    Horizon


    Ubiquity

    Not me

    Volume

    Pump it up

    Weapon

    Yes please

    X-ray

    Secret


    Yesterday

    Gone

    Zoo

    People


    1

    Julien Fernandez

    Do you remember the first day you ever spent in a recording studio? If so, please describe this memory.

    William Akins

    My first experience in a recording studio was in Cedar Crest Studios in Mountain Home, Arkansas. I was sixteen years old. I played bass and Todd Johnson played guitar. Our sound was a cross somewhere between The Cult and Echo and the Bunnymen. The producer and studio owner was Bob Ketchum. At the time I don’t think he had heard anything like us. Nonetheless, he was very enthusiastic and helpful. I think he was just excited to see four kids who actually had the initiative and balls to write their own songs and think they were actually good enough to record. It ended up being a four-song EP. We had 100 cassettes made (it was 1987). We promptly sold them to our schoolmates, teachers and parents. That feeling of creating something was very addictive, and it became a large part of my life. Todd and I have been creating and performing music together for the better part of thirty years.

     

    2

    You’ve been a major participant in the brilliant and super-prolific Chicago noise rock scene. Did you live there at the time? Who was in your social circle, and what was it like to be in the middle of this?

    Being in Chicago during the 90’s was a great time. Seeing and playing with so many great bands are things I will never forget, like being on stage at the legendary Lounge Ax to witnessing the Jesus Lizard at The Metro. As for my circle, it mostly consisted of my band mates. Unlike when I was on stage, I was mostly quiet and shy. Some might even go as far to say I was socially inept.

    3

    I understand you’ve got something of an obsession with knives, and that you spend a lot of time building them. When did you start your company Akins Knife Werks? What is the intent behind it?

    I had been wanting to make knives for quite some time. I’m not sure from where the desire really came. I had no wood working experience, no knowledge of the skill or science involved in forging high carbon steel, and I wasn’t particularly good at sharpening knives. I wasn’t even sure how one went about gaining such knowledge. Nonetheless, the desire was there. Arcane and archaic, I dreamt about using fire and hammer to shape something to my will.

    Finally, about two years ago, with what little info I could glean from YouTube, I built a coal forge and my knife-making journey began. Since then, I’ve upgraded to a propane forge. Every knife is still a trial, still a learning experience. I have a long way to go, but my intent is the same as it was with music. To create something. To leave a name and a legacy for myself.

    We look like pigs. We smell like pigs. We act like pigs, and with the right seasoning we taste like pigs.

    4

    The philosopher Johann Kaspar Lavater worked in the field of morphological transfer. He theorized the correspondence and transformation between the heads of humans and frogs. Which animal do you believe we are most similar to?

    Pigs and humans have very similar skin and eyes. Pigs have the same muscles and internal organs as we do. Pig skin and heart valves are used in medicine due to their compatibility with the human body. Human hearts have even been grown inside of pigs to be used for transplant. Humans are not related to pigs evolutionarily nor do we share any common ancestors, but we do share many evolutionary traits and genetic similarities.

    Throughout history, Polynesian cannibals referred to the human flesh they consumed as “long pig.” Reformed cannibals have said human flesh most closely resembles pork…most notably Spam. We look like pigs. We smell like pigs. We act like pigs, and with the right seasoning we taste like pigs.

     

    This life, this world and its inhabitants are a complete enigma to me. I try not to let it consume me.

    5

    Do you think there is an element of magic in the world? If so, how do you process that in your day-to-day life?

    I believe the world is a mix of magic and science, chaos and order. I think magic can mean many different things to different people. Every day I try to weave and navigate through life, trying not to get caught up in the past or the future. To be honest, this life, this world and its inhabitants are a complete enigma to me. I try not to let it consume me. I try to focus on the small things like when I hear my children laugh or cry, or just how they react to the world. To me, that’s magic.

    6

    Can you please provide a picture of yourself as a kid? What would you tell that child, now that you’re an adult?

    I would tell myself that youth is wasted on the young, so don’t waste time dreaming. Make shit happen! Stay focused. Stay true to yourself. Start a savings account. Invest in land. Work hard, stay humble. Never trust anyone. Sometimes your own teeth try to bite off your tongue. Stay in school. Don’t do drugs.

    FIVE BOOKS


    We asked William to suggest a list of five books for us along with a brief personal synopsis of each.

    by Joseph Conrad


    There is evil in the world. It’s inside the hearts of men. Know it’s there, but don’t chase it. Sometimes when you hunt a monster you become a monster.

    by William Golding


    We walk a fine line between civilized man and a beast of the most basic desires. Somewhere in between is where you avoid becoming predator or prey.

    by Charles Bukowski


    For the most part, everyday life is a grind. When desires and needs seem out of reach, it’s easier to lower yourself. I am reminded of the quote by Samuel L. Johnson, “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being man.”

    by Ernest Hemingway


    Never stop fighting. Never give up. No matter the consequences. No matter the inevitable outcome. Even when the odds are against you. Go down swinging!

    by Cormac McCarthy


    There are men in this world that have let go. They have let go and slipped into the dark. They are out there and capable of anything. Real monsters that walk among us.

    Thank you.

    Data


    Conversation: 55
    Curated by: Julien Fernandez
    Conducted by: Email
    Published: October 30, 2017
    Total questions: 7 + 26
    Word count: 1116
    Reading time: Four minutes
    Hyperlinks: 14
    Imagery: 1
    Literature count: 5
    Pigs: Close to home
    Monsters: Yes
    Debasement: Existent

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