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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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"Many artists like to distinguish between different styles and I can see how people need those signposts to help navigate through the world of music. But to me the divisions have always been irrelevant. Whether it's Einstürzende Neubauten or birds in fields, I try to inhale everything and let it inspire me. As for Claptone, it's built on the foundations of house and club music, but adds a certain organic feel. It tries to not be too synthetic. It tries to be human and ultimately touch people. But this is a personal preference at the moment, to be working more with soul, hip hop and funk. It moves my own feelings and I try and translate and even deform that. It seems to do the trick."

While some Claptone tracks have been about the hedonistic side of house, all slick bass grooves, shiny hooks and catchy handclaps, others have shown a deeper, more pensive side– in particular, vocal tracks like 'No Eyes' and 'Ghost'. Both feature on the producer's classy debut album, 'Charmer', alongside many others that marry the melancholy and merriment of great songwriting with the driving euphoria of soulful house. One example is the recently released 'Puppet Theatre', featuring Peter, Bjorn and John, which expands house into the realm of political critique while maintaining a danceable groove.

Other album guests include Boxer Rebellion's Nathan Nicholson, Young Galaxy, Finnish renegade Jimi Tenor, Jay-Jay Johanson and several tracks with JAW. With 11 of the 13 tracks featuring vocals, it clearly aims to transcend any predictable collection of club classics. Claptone nods in agreement, his beak shimmering enigmatically in the candlelight. "For me, it could never be compilation in that sense. Either you do an album, with compositions that relate to each other, that have a certain order, and that are not only made for the club, or you do an EP or a single. I wanted to do something that you can listen to at home as well."

The album is certainly lyrically deep enough for home listening, with lyrics about love, loss, consumerism and the illusory nature of the world. The track that gave him faith to make an album, he says, was 'No Eyes', a b-side and full-on vocal track that blew up way beyond his expectations. "I thought, if that can happen, then it's possible. So I sent about a hundred emails to artists who I personally like and respect, and what I got back is what's on the album. Obviously that's not a huge percentage, probably because my profile was not at the right level, or they were too busy. But what I did get back blew me away. They all felt like perfect choices with lyrics I totally subscribe to."

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