The mysterious masked magician gave us the low-down on his new album, Banksy, baking and more...
RR: Claptone - great to chat. We’re looking forward to The Masquerade here in Australia, it looks quite the sensory experience. Can you describe what you have in store for us?
Claptone: A spell-binding supersonic land of desire and wonder.
RR: Now, your eagerly-awaited second album - ‘Fantast’, will be coming out this June. Can you tell us how you chose the name (which we understand means ‘a visionary or dreamer’) and the concept behind the album?
Claptone: When it comes to writing music, I tend to let myself be guided by the winds of creativity. This time I was dragged out of closed environments into the great outdoors. Not sure if it was the moon pulling a trick on me or what exactly happened. On the quest to find myself through music I was guided deeper into nature in my dreams and in reality. I now have a much clearer vision of what I might be. Do I know who I am now? Rather not. But what I did find out is that I’m a Fantast.
RR: How is it different to your first offering - Charmer? And what, if anything, have you learnt about yourself through making this album?
Claptone: Charmer and Fantast pair quite well together, both providing brief moments to gaze beyond my golden mask. While working on 'Fantast' I have been so in tune with the elements and this made me feel my animalistic side even more. So the album is more vulnerable and wild - at the same time I felt more freedom to follow my instincts and dream up visions and versions of reality.
RR: We’re digging the most recent release off it - Under The Moon, which has a soulful, melancholy flavour to it. Can you tell us what inspired the track and the creative process you went through making it?
Claptone: Under the Moon is one of my favourites on the album, how I love Nathan Nicholson’s tender voice and honest lyrics. While out and about in Versailles, I stumbled into a wonderful museum, filled with interesting sights, the most marvellous of which was a piano once owned by Napoleon. When no one was looking, I crept over the red velvet ropes and in one swift move, broke out my portable recorder and played a few notes. After I was escorted out by the polite, yet somewhat stern French security, I headed back to my hotel room and transferred over the files from the museum. What you hear on Under The Moon are the first few seconds of that wild moment. Sometimes, you just gotta go for it!
RR: Nice! Now the masks you wear must bring you a sense of freedom as they conceal your identity… but they have now pretty much become your identity. So do you ever feel trapped by them, since you can’t really perform without them?
Claptone: The mask has been with me for centuries, any recollections of life before it have seemingly faded away into obscurity. Seeing fans and friends donning their own golden masks at my concerts around the globe is quite awesome. Some things in life are timeless - orange sunsets, a great cup of coffee, long walks on the beach... I personally will never grow tired of the endless, golden ocean of masks out on the dance floor.
RR: There are obvious parallels between you and the artist Banksy - as well as the anonymity, he is taking a more underground art form to the masses. Firstly are you a fan of his work, and secondly - do you feel it is important to balance credibility with popularity?
Claptone: Banksy is obviously a great artist and someone that will be remembered for many years to come. I am a fan of most of his work, his Balloon Girl piece is a timeless beauty. Journalists, like yourself, love to speak about a dichotomy between “credibility” and popularity, like it is some over-arching, inner-struggle that every artist must break through and conquer. When in reality, it is quite simple - most artists just want to make the art that they enjoy themselves... and if others enjoy it as well, that is a massive bonus.
RR: The dance music world has been shaken by the death of Avicii, and many say relentless touring schedules and certain aspects of the DJ lifestyle (such as alcohol) contributed to his death. As someone who faces similar pressures, how do you look after your own wellbeing?
Claptone: Tragic moments like these should make you realise and appreciate the simple and beautiful things in DJ life that often get overlooked and buried under a massive touring and PR schedule. In the end there is pressure comparable to that of upper management when you are part of the machine and at a certain level in your career. It’s all about balance... take time off, create a good work environment and work with a reliable and well structured team.
RR: Ok, if we asked you to pick one set you’ve played that really stands out in your memory, which would you choose?
Claptone: After-parties deep in the Amazonia, curating my own stage at Tomorrowland, a twelve-hour marathon on Christmas Island, an all night long 8 hour set at London’s Fabric, a close call somewhere on the border of North Korea, my very first 'The Masquerade' in Ibiza at Amnesia's main room... I have had many incredible moments DJing - some real, some made up... it would be too hard to choose only one.
RR: And if you hadn’t been a DJ and producer, what would you have done with your life?
Claptone: I have many passions besides music, the most recent of which is making pastries and baking. Sicilian cannolis, classic New York cheesecakes, kouign-amann, kabocha squash pie, tart au citron, the list goes on! I suppose that at some point I will set up shop high in the alps, serving up my favourites to kind townspeople with a sweet-tooth. Visiting the sauna is one of my other passions, see you there...
RR: Finally, what do you hope to achieve most in your career?
Claptone: I humbly hope to continue working with inspiring artists, like those featured on Fantast and sharing my songs with you.
RR: Sounds good! Thanks for the chat.
Catch Claptone touring The Masquerade worldwide - details here.