Saltus: How Community Shaped the Producer, Manager & Promoter
Being raised in a musical family is a blessing that few understand. Shaped by this paradigm, a person will look at the world in an expressive light that’s a privilege to those living it. One such example is Boston-based electronic creative Will Saltus, who has yielded a fruit of labor and love unlike many others.
Saltus is the man behind the curtain – so to speak. He serves as manager for artists like TRUTH, Honeycomb and Pathwey, and is the owner/founding member of promotion companies Rezinate Presents & MASS EDMC. Under his own producer project, Saltus, he has released with labels like Odyzey Music, Street Ritual, and Sentry Records, while developing an increasing presence at festivals and clubs around the country.
The producer, promoter, and purveyor of community spoke with MP3 MAG to talk about his striking journey, and how this culture has helped him transcend his simple living to living out his dream.
“People don’t realize the subconscious effect music has on you at such a young age.”
Will Saltus grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Music was ever present in his family – whether it was casually being played around the house or his dad scoring bed time with classic Jazz records. His father was a guitar player, and his avid interest would be passed down to his son. At the age of 9, Saltus began taking lessons for guitar in a classical school, which would begin shaping a lifelong career in music.
“It truly is a privilege [that] people don’t realize,” Saltus told MP3 MAG of the blessing of growing up with a musical background. “Without having my family, I would not be half the guitar player or musician I am today.”
While still exploring the endless catalogues of rock, Saltus found interest in electronic music Sophomore year in high school. Planning a friend’s birthday, Saltus bought the Top 50 Techno and Trance compilation on iTunes and DJ’d his first “rave.”
Driving around as an impressionable teen, this new genre of unexplored music “changed his life.” Perhaps due to his background, Saltus realized that his ear was more than adept at being open to these new ideas.
“I had a couple friends who were like, ‘How do you understand this music?’” recalled Saltus. “It was this ‘Aha’ moment where I was like, ‘Damn, I might have a more refined ear than a lot of my peers, maybe I have a knack for this.’”
While he had already been composing his own sheet music since the third grade, this realization reinforced an idea to work in music composition. These powerful inspirations were swirling in his teens as his focal point in guitar began to stagnate. Saltus’ life has revolved around guitar for as long as he remembered, but without a true idea of where to take it, he began to become burnt out.
“This electronic music was percolating in the background, I just wasn’t aware of it,” said Saltus. “Meanwhile, I’m playing in bands thinking I’m going to be a rock guitarist.”
Ultimately, Saltus was kicked out of the band he founded and after seven years of guitar, he was finally presented with some time off. The Summer going into Junior year, he told his mother no more lessons and left to visit family in Italy.
In an Italian record shop, he found a record that would reshape his understanding of music, Iron Maiden’s live DVD, Death on the Road. Iron Maiden combines aesthetics of both metal, rock, and classical undertones, which spoke to his fundamental training. Watching them perform—in particular their track, “Trooper”— revolutionized how he looked at everything.
“Musicians try so hard to be things they’re not,” said Saltus. “I see it as a yin and a yang. The yin is your fundamental training, the yang is your passion. You can’t be a musician without both. That really was the foundation of my life going forward.”
This epiphany reinvigorated him. Upon returning to the States, Saltus regrouped with his father and decided to prioritize this refined outlook into a pursuit of a career in music at large. Saltus began looking at colleges for music business and upon applying, realized that he needed to broaden his scope of experience. He was eventually accepted into an internship at one of the largest Jazz agencies in the country, The Kurland Agency.
A few years later, amidst his sophomore year at UMass Amherst, Saltus met Adam Liderman and Bobby Clifford, who were running an electronic music promotion company called MASS EDMC. The upstart company was one of the only in town producing electronic shows at a local club in Northampton, and Saltus ended up landing a spot on their team after standing out as an on-the-ground promoter.
Growing close with Clifford and Liderman, Saltus worked his way up through the company as it booked headline talent like Avicii and Deadmau5, and its crowds grew into the nearby Mullins Center arena. After Clifford’s untimely passing in 2010, Saltus poured himself into MASS EDMC even more. The company began busing people from across the country to events, and seeing their impact spread. He began traveling and producing shows with the focus being centered around building a sense of community.
“The [Northeast] electronic music scene was young, and we were kind of the new guard,” said Saltus. “There was this generational feeling of self-discovery and purpose.”
As MASS EDMC expanded, its original feeling and meaning began to lose its luster. In response, Saltus and Liderman started a new, more intimate venture, Rezinate. Rather than booking the biggest names and attempting to bring in masses of people, this new production company fine-tuned its approach to host top curation and intimate experiences. “We wanted to share and push our favorite music.” Their first show would be a booking with New Zealand innovators, TRUTH, in 2014.
Championing this UK dubstep-inspired music, he realized it was resonating with people before they really knew what it was. After spending years to that point refining his production and general understanding of the genre, he began to share his own music with close friends and debuted his first ever EP, Inhalexhale, in 2015.
Around the same time, he began working with Northeast local artist, Honeycomb. When Honeycomb was booked for a nationwide Moon Hooch tour in 2016, Saltus joined as manager to handle every aspect, and further his own understanding of being a career artist.
In 2016, Saltus released his EP, Shades of Truth. Channeling his years of experience and inspirations, he began to debut his own form of “soundsystem music” that centered around gradious atmospheres and tangible instrumentation afforded by his live guitar abilities.
Over the years, from their bookings and the growth of the Rezinate project, Saltus & Liderman became closer with the TRUTH duo, who they began managing in late 2018. This further opened his project up to their international listening base, and engrossed him in an environment of true creatives. In 2018, the producer would make his debut with ‘Conscious Bass Music’ label, Street Ritual, via his track, “Convergence.”
This ability to be headstrong in a musically encompassed life has paid off at nearly every avenue. As he continued to achieve new heights in the professional side of the business, his music likewise began receiving attention for its ingenuity. Showing his passion on a myriad of professional levels helped land him national bookings and widespread recognition of his music.
“For me, I’ve always had my feet in the business and my project came from that balance. I’ve always had moments throughout my life where I’m like, ‘When will I focus full time on my music?’ Will that ever happen?‘”
Before COVID, Saltus was booked for a support slot at Glitch Mob’s Boston show. Following the performance, the team reached out to bring Saltus on a string of dates on their nationwide tour. On the precipice of ‘making it,’ however, the COVID-19 pandemic arose just in time to cancel this career milestone. This further inhibited him as it removed him from his most potent inspiration, dance floors.
Despite this inability to play live and an overall feeling of disconnection, Saltus’ years of experience accredited him confidence to keep pushing forward. Saltus, Liderman, and team hosted, curated, and executed all of Deep Dark & Dangerous’ Quarantine stream sessions throughout 2020, while Saltus still managed to release an EP (Nightsky) and a string of singles (“Futureself,” “Genesis”).
“Everybody has this feeling that they need to make it, I’ve spent every day of my life chasing it. But recently I realized I already have. I have everything I’ve ever wanted. If you worry too much about where you’re going, you’ll never appreciate where you already are.”
This continued output came from a cognizance of knowing that he didn’t need to go on a big tour to provide something special with his music. That isn’t what it is about to Saltus, who prefers to make art and events that mean a lot to him personally and connect with a community as a whole.
In 2021, we find Saltus stretching the legs of his potential and picking up the momentum he had built pre-quarantine. He was booked for a string of national dates, including headlining gigs at acclaimed Denver venue, The Black Box. In September, Saltus was featured on CloZee’s Odyzey Music label’s first-ever compilation, Muzique Vol.1., and wrapped up the month with a prized slot at Infrasound 10-year anniversary festival.
Reflecting on his growth over the years, Saltus credits his own self assurance for leading him through all these endeavors.
“I think it’s the confidence in who I am. I’m so blessed to be able to share music and have these types of opportunities. [Losing out on the Glitch Mob tour] taught me the hardest lesson of them all: this is just music. It comes, it goes. All you can do is be yourself and keep telling your story.”