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Claptone: Through a mask darkly

We took a trip inside the strange, mysterious world of Claptone

  • Words: Paul Sullivan | Photography: Andreas Waldschuetz
  • 29 October 2015

"Dear Mortal," reads the paper scroll. "Welcome to the world of Claptone. Your journey here is to discover more about me. But be prepared, we both might share more than we intend. My friends will take you to me. You should be able to trust them…"

The scroll – wrapped in a bright red ribbon and embedded in the wall of a medieval cloister in Berlin along with a gold, 'plague doctor'-style Venetian mask – is the first stage in an interview process that's about to get even more interesting.

The musical entity known as Claptone is fiercely protective about his identity, keeping his mask on during DJ and live shows, for interviews and – rumour has it – even during sex. In fact, today represents the mystery man's first ever face-to-face chat with the media. Or it would, if we were going to actually see his face – which, from the look of the blindfold swinging from his smiling assistant's hand as we re-enter the black van that brought us here, isn't likely. "It's for the best," she says, covering my eyes.

The irony of the fact that the van is playing his 2013 smash 'No Eyes' is not lost on us as we settle back and reflect on the producer's rapid trajectory from relative obscurity to one of the most visible characters in the global deep house scene. The chugging, woozy sounds spilling from the stereo – the Wu-Tang Clan-sampling 'Cream', the Dre-sampling 'Wrong', 'Ghost' (featuring Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's Alec Ounsworth) – underline Claptone's almost mystical ability to make house that's crisply produced and effortlessly infectious.

It's easy to picture him in the studio, bedecked in a top hat and white gloves and waving a magic wand around like a (sha)manic orchestra conductor, but just as we start to relax the music is turned down, the van stops and the door slides open. We're helped out and steered through several doors, around multiple corners and down steps until we reach what smell like some dank tunnels, then come to an abrupt halt. There's a knock on a door and a deep voice says, "Come in." Inside, we're allowed to remove the blindfold. We're in a tiny, dark, brick cellar lit by a couple of candles. One is on a table next to an empty chair. The other illuminates, very faintly, the seated, gold-masked man on the other side of the table. We're face-to-beak with the man himself. "Well done for making it through the labyrinth," he says, gesturing towards the empty chair with a white-gloved hand. "Please, take a seat."

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