Always surrounded by an aura of mystery, Claptone is elusive and enigmatic. Claptone‘s perspective on the world has been shaped by his years spent traveling through medieval settings. While experiencing both magnificent mystery and subdued melancholy, he dazzled bystanders with esoteric instruments and seductive tunes.
Ever shrouded in mystery, the world eventually became aware of the mysterious yet mesmerizing musical abilities of this alien beast. As a result, he now travels the globe using his shamanistic sonic abilities.
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.
With the aim to understand what’s behind the mask, and the curiosity to dig deep into Claptone’s soul and musical vision, we sat down with this mythical being for an exclusive interview.
Hi Claptone, nice to meet you. We would like to start with the beginning how and when did you start and why specifically electronic music?
The beginning is blurry like when you are born into this world you can’t really remember the first few years, it’s more like visions that you have of them. And you can’t be sure if or to what extent these visions are made up or a reflection of reality. In the end, even every time we truthfully talk about our past we re-construct or rebuild that past in the present, so what I tell you is never 100% exactly how it happened and how it felt. Anyway, as far as I can recall I was always drawn to sound, the singing of birds, the crashing of waves on the shore, and the hissing of the wind. Obviously, music has always been a passion of mine, and when electricity came about and both entered into a flourishing relationship something I have always been missing without knowing it entered this universe: Electronic sounds. A sonic empire that can, but doesn’t need to reference existing natural sounds anymore, lt exceeds authenticity and opens doors into imaginary dimensions. Precise programming allows for neverending 4/4 that puts dancers into a state of transcendence. Electronic music allows people to escape their social structures, free their minds, and experience joy even if just for a limited time.
When did you start to create this aura of mystery with your mask and outfit? And why?
I didn’t create any mystery. I am truthfully answering your questions, I am right here. Of course, I have secrets as everyone does (and maybe some more), but in the end, I am as authentic as Bruce Springsteen.
You’re now one of the most recognized artists in the dance music scene; when did you feel “this is my turning point”?
The beauty of this experience for me is that there were many turning points and they still happen. It’s not over yet and I blame the constant change in music and the music industry for that. From vinyl to download to stream. From deep to tech, to house… there is so much going on in music every day that you just don’t age. Music keeps you young. Of course, there were musical some milestones in my career till today. “No Eyes” was the first one, then my Remix for Gregory Porter’s “Liquid Spirit” which became a classic house record, but it just doesn’t end there. “Drop The Pressure” was the biggest house track in 2020 and last year I remixed Elton John and Dua Lipa and “Cold Heart” which became the Remix of the year. I don’t even wanna start telling you about my Coachella, Tomorrowland, Ultra, or EDC experiences, nor about my very own ‘The Masquerade” residency in Pacha Ibiza and the worldwide “The Masquerade” events I’m doing.
Despite that it has been more than ten years since your first release, even if it has evolved over time, your sounds have always been very unique and recognizable. How was it born and how did you develop it?
It was born in my mind, a simple idea. I am not entirely human and I am aware of that, my aim is to explore my human side in sound, to sound organic, to sound human. I am still on that quest.
You seem an abitué of Different Recordings; most of your releases have been released there. When this sort of collaboration with the label start and why have you chosen to stick with there instead to sign with some major?
Different is part of PIAS, which releases lots of Indie Rock and Alternative music in general. When signing with them I found myself in the rich history of that label and distribution company. they worked and work with bands like electronic body music pioneers Front 242, indie rockers Editors, dance/electronica pioneers Moloko or Mr. Oizo, and unique artists like Agnes Obel as well as amazing labels like Mute or Domino who themselves work with artists like New Order, Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys. I feel Claptone is house music at times with a pop twist, but surely comes from that alternative angle.
According to your release history, you seem more of an album guy with 3 albums in 10 years. What’s your take on it? It’s better to have a series to release and tell a story by releasing some sort of long EP/album?
It’s true I love the ancient format. Strongly related to the prior question I see myself as an alternative act who loves the freedom to produce music that does not necessarily have to obey the law of the 4/4. Additionally, I love the I idea of telling a story with an album song by song but with an overreaching act. I know this is rare in modern-day single-dominated dance music, but then again I am over 3 centuries old, so what do I care? Saying that, some tracks I do are not meant to be on an album, they are true club tracks to the core that would deserve a B-side but that’s not up for debate I guess. That’s the reason why you won’t find ‘The Drums (Din Daa Daa)’ , ‘Drop The Pressure’ or ‘Calabria’ for that matter on one of my artist albums.
What’s Claptone’s creative process? Do you lock yourself in the studio until you have something or you are more the guy who has an idea, writes that down and then eventually completes it?
It’s a bit of everything. Being on tour nearly all the time forces me to write down ideas or safe rough layouts, but I do enjoy a day or two in the studio just jamming. I don’t really have a set-in-stone procedure otherwise it’d get boring. And recently I do love the pressure of a tight deadline, which saves me from producing 55 different versions. That being said. A great idea is the key to a great track. Everything else comes second.
Are you more of a hardware or software guy in the studio?
As I am always on the road I am forced to be working mainly with software. I do love to fool around with hardware aimlessly though, great things can happen when you do. Or it’s just a waste of time. Either way, it’s fun and I enjoy the process above all.
You have your own party too, ‘The Masquerade’. How was the idea of the party born and what’s going on behind the scenes when organizing such events? Have you become a businessman as well or do you leave all the non-creative stuff to other people?
I started the Masquerade in 2016 in Berlin and I still remember back then the Line up which included MK and Perel. I wanted to create an environment where people can be whoever they wanna be for a while and dance with like-minded strangers to the music under a giant Claptone mask. Just celebrate and forget everyday troubles. I wanted to give them the opportunity to mask up so they can come with a clean slate, a new face, that is if they felt like it. I handed out Claptone masks to those who didn’t bring their own outfit, this is something I still do. It’s only fair to give people the opportunity to try out my mask and be mysterious themselves.
I try to curate a party that makes you smile, actually, dance, and have a great time where you can be yourself or someone/something you have always wanted to be. The music is House in all its beautiful colors and the musical programming doesn’t allow for monotonous or boring. While I mainly focus on the creative aspect, I of course have an amazing team working with me behind the scenes, otherwise, it would not be possible to run these events all over the world. At the moment we have The Masquerade residency at Pacha Ibiza every Saturday and more events coming up in Lima, Santiago de Chile, Amsterdam, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, London, Melbourne, and more TBA.
Without your mask, what does a day in your life look like?
If you had to choose a song for your life what would it be?
In the last years, we have seen an increased interest in techno/underground music with certain events gathering tens of thousands of people and tunes being reproduced on “commercial” radio? What do you think about it?
That’s great. The more attention the 4/4 rhythm gets, the better for dance music in general. There will always be an underground no matter what and no matter how commercial dance music gets. Club music alone is such a universe in itself if you think of all the dance genres past and present as planets and moons.
You have been in the industry for a long time now. How has evolved it? And do you prefer now or “back in the days”?
There have been so many changes over the last 10 years alone. There was no Spotify, no streaming, when you go back even longer you had only Vinyl in the clubs, then CDs, then USBs with downloads. The music industry measured success by sales of Vinyl, of CDs, of Downloads, of Streaming and now after Facebook and Instagram, well even after Shazam being oh so important suddenly TikTok is what makes a Hit record. Social media was Myspace 15 years back – imagine that. Now there is no new hype for new young DJs without Instagram and the likes. You can’t just be a great DJ and Producer, you must sell yourself, and create and define your image via socials. In general, with all these changes you don’t have a choice, you have to face the here and now. The constant change in music keeps you on your toes and that itself is not only keeping you young but also has you learning about all these changes every day. The challenge is to adjust, adapt and embrace change without losing the soul of your music and what makes you an artist.
You have recently had your single debuted on Defected with Calabria. Could you tell us how the rework of the classic took shape and how you ended up releasing it on Defected?
My take on Calabria originated as an idea. The idea is to make this theme into the funky percussion-driven version that it’s never been but deserves to be. So I saw this idea through, tested it in the clubs over several months, then tried to clear the sample, and so on … I don’t wanna bore you with all the myriad of details, but Defected loved it and we put it out. By the way, it’s not my first time working with Defected. I released my ‘The Masquerade Mix CD’ with them some years ago. A project I still look back to with pride, remember all the exclusives on there: Roland Clark vs Ultra Naté ‘First Time Free’ or Superlover vs Barbara Tucker’s ‘Timeless People’ as well as my remixes for ‘Planet Rock’ and ‘Who Is He?’ and lot’s of other great mixes you find on it. Always loved the label from their first release on Vinyl until what they put out last Friday!
You recently played at Tomorrowland and you have a lot of shows scheduled for the summer. How it’s to return behind the decks with people dancing on the dancefloor and can we expect some IDs on your upcoming gigs?
You can always expect new IDs because I constantly work on new edits, remixes, and new music. I owe it to myself to keep my sets interesting enough for me to be able to play 4 days a week at times. I breathe through music, sound is my elixir.
What awaits us in the future from Claptone?
I have a new single coming out, it’s in fact the 8th single from my new album ‘Closer’ which dropped end of last year. I am so proud of this album and all the great songs on there! ‘Make Love Not War’ featured one of my favorite vocalists Nathan Nicholson with whom I work with since album one. The message of the song is more important now than ever and I lined up amazing remixes for it. Frech-American shooting star Dombresky delivers a house mix in true French House tradition with his modern twist and Australian hero Torren Foot turns the original into a killer track with an epic breakdown – big hands in the air moment. Additionally, I decided to rework the song into a sunny Balearic barefoot dining on the beach feelgood track reducing the vocals and letting the groove speak. What a single, don’t miss out! It’s on Beatport pre-sale and out September 16th.