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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
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As the door behind us closes and water pipes gurgle gently above our heads, we feel compelled to ask about the obsession with his identity. Is it a game? Is it serious? "Both," he says, a trace of German audible in his otherwise impeccable English. "I put out the first EP anonymously because I was making other music at the time and wanted to do something different without being labelled or having to represent it individually. It was about having some fun, but also about having the freedom to do what I wanted. By the time I released 'Cream' I was getting requests for DJ sets, which meant stepping out of the darkness. That's when I became Claptone and began using the mask."

Concealing one's identity is of course nothing new. From Burial and Moodymann to Daft Punk and Red Shape, many have opted (or at least tried) to keep their real-life mugs under wraps. Yet Claptone doesn't associate himself with that lineage. "I don't really see any divide between, say, Red Shape and someone like Michael Jackson, who had plastic surgery in order to create his own kind of mask. Everyone wears a mask, and as people get more famous they tend to want to do so even more. If I am part of a tradition in dance music it might be one that's more theatrical, for example an act like Devo, which always dressed up and generated their own imagery."

Given the mask, it's impossible to tell how old Claptone might be, though the lack of white hairs in his black beard suggests the "around 100 years old" claimed in previous interviews may be an exaggeration. It's obvious that he's experienced behind the decks and has diverse musical influences. Maybe asking about his musical past will yield some clues...

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