In a now long forgotten world, many generations ago, a bird like shape emerged from wooded darkness, floating and fluttering, drifting and dreaming. Backlit by a bright glow of iridescent light, the undecipherable form wore a dazzling golden mask. Its long beak swooped down like an inverted horn and since then, people have referred to the mythical being simply as Claptone.
Years spent wandering medieval landscapes have informed Claptone’s view of the world, experiencing both magical mystery and muted melancholy he enchanted onlookers with occult instruments and beguiling sounds. Forever surrounded by a sense of intrigue, the world soon cottoned on to the elusive yet enchanting musical powers of this otherworldly beast. The results are that today his shamanistic sonic powers take him all around the world. Intrepid reporter Karen Brown recently spent an afternoon talking to the man behind the mask to find out more…
Hey Claptone! Thank you for chatting to us at Decoded Magzine, It’s an absolute privilege. You’re a pretty cool character can’t wait to get rollin’ and find out more about you. Hows your week been so far?
My week has been very busy. I landed London on Tuesday for the album launch at The Magic Circle after four North America shows over the last weekend. Wednesday I flew onto Amsterdam Dance Event, played a great Exploited Records Party at Marktkantine and then Thursday I had my album launch event at The brand new W Hotel in Amsterdam. Champagne and Oysters were served to celebrate the release date of ‘Charmer‘. Now I’m sitting on a plane to Vienna where I’ll play at Flex tonight and start my never-ending album tour. Tomorrow it’s Showcase, Paris, and Hive, Zürich, and on Tuesday I’ll fly out to North America again to do Toronto, San Fran, New York and many more.
I had the absolute pleasure of being a guest and artist interviewer at the DJ Awards in Ibiza where you well deservedly claimed the award for Best Producer – massive congratulations!! I was hoping to get a sneaky chat to you and meet you face to face (or face to mask, I should say!!) but you’re a busy soul! How does it make you feel knowing the way YOUR music makes people and that you’re cherished worldwide?
It makes me happy that my music reaches so many people, inspires them, touches them and evokes emotions with them.
It was your first time at the DJ Awards, you must have been over the moon to grab an award plus get the chance to perform amongst the other super talented artists! Did you have a good night?
I did indeed. It was a fabulous night. So many great artists and so much good club music.
Ibiza has a special place in my heart and the hearts of many besides, what’s your favourite feature of the island?
There are so many things I love about Ibiza apart from the music. The landscape especially in the north is just great. You can find a lonely spot on a bay and just relax if you find the time. And of course the variety of great food on the island is amazing and I love to eat.
Tell us about your most cherished memory of the island?
Boat cruises are something I enjoy a lot. I played on a fun boat cruise at the very beginning of this season for Cirque de la Nuit.
You swooped into Ibiza for the event just prior to your forthcoming full-length album and world tour – very exciting stuff ahead for you. What’s the story behind your album ‘Charmer’?
When planning the album I had the idea of working with singers that I personally like a lot. Singers with charisma, vocalists who make a difference and are different to what you would usually hear on the radio. Also I wanted to hear voices with character whom you don’t hear on every house music record like Nathan Nicholson of The Boxer Rebellion, Jimi Tenor, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Jay-Jay Johanson, Peter, Bjorn And John. Moreover I did not want to write a bunch of radio songs and call it an album, nor did I want to produce an album that compiles club tracks. It needed to be a classic album. A collection of works that relate to each other, that makes sense in their order and something you can listen to in one go. To different people at different times the music on ‘Charmer‘ has a different but charming effect. I like the connotations of that word, which are positive overall, but there is a slightly darker almost dangerous deeper end to it. For some it’s just a nice soundtrack to whatever they’re doing, for others it feels really good and touches their souls. And there’s those who fall under it’s spell completely they dance to my beats like the snake to the flute of the snake charmer. But fear me not I mean well. Claptone is about bringing people together through music on an emotional level and there’s no harm in that.
How long has it taken you to create and how did you get started on it and decide the time was right for an LP?
After ‘No Eyes‘ which initially came out as a B-Side blew up I realized that I can produce a whole album. ‘No Eyes’ is a full vocal song and at the same time a club track and the fact people received it that well gave me confidence to work on an album that has 13 songs that you can dance to as well. I worked for about two years on this album in between DJ Gigs and Remixes. Another reason it took me so long is that working with other artists means you have to adapt to their schedule too.
Will you be releasing the album on your label Exploited?
Exploited is not my own label, it’s just the label I have worked with for everything I ever put out until ‘Charmer‘. For this album I still work with Exploited who sell it on Beatport. The vinyl, the streaming and all other download stores so basically the whole release minus Beatport comes via Different/PIAS who have worked with Editors, Tiga, Alt-J, Vitalic, Front 242, Jungle and many other great artists.
It’s a huge tour you have lined up with some amazing places on the bill, but touring has to be pretty stressful for the body and soul right? What will you do to wind down after it?
I love to walk and I visit museums, restaurants and I go vinyl shopping when I have the time to do so.
We understand you’re over 200 years old now right?!! I bet you’ve seen some discos through the ages!! And some crackin’ dance moves! Do you have a favourite?
As much as dancing has evolved over the decades my favorite moves are still the early 80s breakdance moves.
We love the deep and spiritual take on music. Have you always been a spiritual soul or have your years in the universe created what you have now?
When I was younger I haven’t been spiritual at all. My long journey through life has lead me there. Though I am not even sure that it is spirituality. I just try to produce music for me to clean my soul, to translate my inspirations into sound and for the listeners to supply music they can incorporate into their lives, a soundtrack to their very own special moments.
‘Cream’ with its hypnotic sound and captivating video really struck a cord at DM towers. Do you have one that’s closest to you? Or is there a piece of your soul in every track?
You can find a piece of my soul in every track yes. I make music from the heart to the heart. I deal in emotions may it be melancholy and sadness in the darker songs, may bit be funk, fun and happiness in the lighter tracks. And even if it oscillates between those and you can’t put your finger on what it is exactly that makes you recognize this song, I put my heart into it so you recognize it in the first place. As they are based on my feelings I love and hate all of my songs at times.
You have a huge connection with older tracks, vocals and sampling. Is there anything you wouldn’t sample or use?
I can’t tolerate artists or music that is racist, discriminating and intolerant.
We really like that your performances are real sonic journeys specially designed to fit the vibes and venue you’re playing to. What guides the direction of the journey you’re creating when you play?
The destination is unknown when I start communication with the crowd through music. When DJing I try to represent my sound and at the same time play what the audience likes, expects, wants but also what they don’t expect at all.
One of your passions is playing music to make people get lost in, and one of my passions is in fact being lost in music! Can you please give us the top 10 records that get YOU lost in the music?
I can give you 100.000 of those, but a random sample of these records would be those:
Wu-Tang – Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Popol Vuh – Affenstunde
Michael Jackson – Thriller
The Doors – Strange Days
Kraftwerk – Mensch Maschine
Radiohead – OK Computer
Depeche Mode – Violator
Jay-Z – The Black Album
Beatles – St Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band
Portishead – Portishead
So… the mysterious golden mask!! Have you always had the glistening gold one or have you had to work up to it with previous masks before you were gifted with this one?
Claptone wears a golden Venetian mask as long as I can look back.
Do you get a lot of fan mail from fellow mask-wearers? Whats your craziest or most touching one?
I get a lot of messages from people who feel the urge to tell me how much they like my music and this makes me happy. I received so many crazy mask photos; self designed masks, paintings of my mask, comic strips about Claptone and even people getting a mask tattooed.
If you were sent to the moon with a one-way ticket and could only take one album to listen to forever, what would it be (apart from ‘Charmer’ of course!)?
I could not survive on one album, so I’d not take any with me.
Claptone, what an absolute pleasure, there’s so much more I’d like to know, but I’ll leave you to smash the world on tour! Good luck, congratulations, and see you on some dance floors around the world!!
Thank you for asking the right questions and see you as well as all the readers on exactly these floors.