By Noah Michelson
What do you do when the last five years of your life have been nothing but rotten, you've written an album full of electronic songs that certainly won't fit in with your current band's sound, and you're looking for a way to express all the twisted, depraved things that race through your mind from time to time?
If you're Will 'wiL' Francis, frontman for the punk band Aiden, you create a devilish omnisexual alter ego named William Control, record an album, Hate Culture, that draws comparisons to Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, and Marilyn Manson, and agree to play Evening Service, the gay holiday sex party thrown by 'the New York king of queer sleaze,' Daniel Nardicio.
Out caught up with wiL to chat about the queer fans who inspire him, William Control's fondness for tying people up, and the craziest five minutes of his life spent -- of course -- in an S&M club in London.
Out: Lots of artists have had alter egos -- David Bowie had Ziggy Stardust, Garth Brooks had Chris Gaines, Beyonc' has Sasha Fierce -- and now there's William Control. Why put out a record as him and not just as Will 'wiL' Francis?
Will 'wiL' Francis: I feel like there are a lot of things that -- that's such a difficult question. There are so many things that are inherently wrong with myself. With my psyche, I guess. There are about 17 different versions of myself running around at any given time. William Control just came out. He just came out like a sixth finger -- he just grew out.
Who was most influential in making this album?
I had all these different songs that I just started writing that just didn't work for Aiden because they were all electronic. I just said, Fuck it. It was made purely out of hatred and disappointment. There's nobody who was influential. It was me going, Fuck everything. Fuck the world. Here we go, let's make this record.
So it was a kind of bloodletting?
Totally. At the time of making this album, it was a pretty dark time in my life. I'd been on tour for five years consistently without a break, I was engaged to be married and then we broke up. We kicked our guitar player out of our band. My life was in turmoil. It's like everything just fell apart and that's what came out.
It sounds like this album was a lifesaver of sorts -- but there's some pretty rough stuff on it. I have to imagine you've met a considerable amount of resistance.
Totally. People email me everyday on MySpace or wherever and say I shouldn't be saying these things, and that I'm fucked up and twisted and that they hate me. Which was really the goal. I didn't write this record and think, All right -- now I'm going to sell a million albums and I'm going to become a rock star! I wrote this album thinking, Fuck everybody! I hope they hate it and I hope that I fucking push buttons, and fuck them -- everybody!
What was the reaction from the record company? 'Fuck everybody!' isn't exactly the easiest theme to market.
The label responded more generously than I thought they would. I thought, They're going to fucking hate this shit! But they were really into it.
What about the die hard Aiden fans?
They've really reacted a lot better than I thought they would. I really thought none of the Aiden fans would like this because of how drastically different it is -- there aren't any crunchy guitars on it, there aren't any breakdown drums, there aren't any sing-along punk parts. It's just an electronic album about hating everything. [Laughs] It's been kind of a strange thing where kids -- especially kids who've been into Aiden for a long time -- are going 'Wow! Your band has influenced me to go and discover older bands that I've heard you talk about in interviews, like New Order and Joy Division and Depeche Mode, and now I'm really into them and I really like this new project.'
William Control is 'omnisexual.' What does that mean? And how do you -- wiL -- define your own sexuality?
He is of the fourth sex.
It doesn't matter who or what it is -- an alien, a woman, a man, a dog -- it really doesn't matter. Personally, I'm straight. But I fully support the gays and I have kind of a really large queer following with my band. Most of the fans that come to the show are like the misfit, outside kids. But as our fan base grows, more of the popular kids at school and the kids that used to be beat me up are coming. And all of a sudden you have the weird, misfit kids mixing with these jock, preppy popular kids. And then you have the queer kids who are a minority inside of a minority. All of a sudden you're playing in a room full of rejects and popular kids, and then you have the queer kids who get beat up by the popular kids at the shows! It takes a lot of strength for these kids to come out and be themselves and be like, 'Fuck you! I'm gay and here I am and I don't care what you think!' It's really quite inspirational.