Is it a man? Is it a bird? Superman quips aside, nobody’s really sure as to the identity of Berlin’s incognito impresario Claptone, the chap you’ve probably clocked sporting a dazzling golden mask whilst plying his trade from behind the ones and twos. Adopting the guise of a shamanistic crowd-pleaser, the avian-esque DJ-producer has quite literally stormed the deep house circuit over the last few years, establishing himself as one of the most electrifying and enigmatic artists on the international stage in next to no time.
There’s definitely something to be said about the allure of mystery Claptone’s aura pervades. In a world of snapchats and wiki-facts, his clandestine approach to business is immediately intriguing, especially as it leaves plenty to the imagination. Nevertheless, the main driver behind the Berliner’s meteoric rise has everything to do with his musical output. Unashamedly evocative, Claptone’s signature style is imbued with melancholia, euphoria and even tragedy. Simply put, there’s definitely no masquerade when it comes to the gamut of emotionality he injects into his tracks.
Since announcing his arrival back in 2012 with the Wu-Tang inspired banger ‘Cream’, a track Pete Tong championed and which instantly bossed both Beatport and RA rankings, the occult maestro has released a consistent flow of tantalising productions. Smoking cuts such as ‘No Eyes’ and ‘Wrong’ both proved to be instant hits, bossing the 2013 Ibiza party scene and dominating the airwaves curtesy of Radio 1’s Annie Mac. The same year saw our man spread his wings and soar off to circumnavigate the globe, racking up an impressive 200 show schedule that took him to the most far-flung corners of the planet and 130 new cities eager to listen in.
Partial to the occasional remix, Claptone’s back-catalogue includes edits of the Pet Shop Boys’ ‘Love is a Bourgeoise Construct’, Metronomy’s astrological “I’m Aquarius” and house heavyweight George Morel’s classic ‘Let’s Groove’. This spring, Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist Gregory Porter got the rework treatment too. His super slick ‘Liquid Spirit’ was transformed by Claptone into a peak-time roller that got wedged as Beatport’s bestseller for consecutive months, and blew up the Balearics (again).
With trademark tenacity, 2015 has already been a busy affair for Claptone. When he’s not broadcasting his monthly Clapcast show to thousands of loyal followers, he’s either been jetting between shows or working on his highly anticipated debut album, Charmer, which is set to hit the shelves this October via Different Recordings. Although there’s no question that the record is loaded with Claptone’s own brand of peeled-back and woozy beats, it’s definitely got a bit of a potpourri feel to it. Whereas collaborations with Peter, Bjorn and John, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Nathan Nicholson (from The Boxer Rebellion) flirt with a more indie texture, joints like ‘Dear Life’, featuring dOP’s Jaw, ooze an infectious but classy pop aesthetic. Tastefully eclectic and equally danceable, it’s more than likely Claptone’s 13-tracker will explode this autumn with the same energy he’s been putting into keeping his face concealed.
So, with a sense of adventure and not really knowing what to expect, FMS caught up with the beaked talisman to get the low down on masks, tunes and everything in between. Enjoy this one, it’s a cracker.
Claptone and enigma are pretty much synonymous with one and other. Seldom is information about you readily available and your identity is one of the most guarded secrets in the game. What’s the deal with that?
Claptone neutralises the need to deify the person who stands above you when it’s time to groove. Coming together and letting go doesn’t need the approval of a self-imposed demagogue just great music.
For a long time Daft Punk lived inside two well renowned robot helmets, not a face in sight. Do you feel something in common with the French maestros’ desire to run a clandestine operation or is Claptone something else?
I am more than happy to be compared to such talent to whom I doff my beak. Their motives seem a little more avant-garde compared to my pared back simplicity but of course they have earned the right to do whatever they desire and I salute.
Masks have been prominent throughout the past – the Aztecs worshipped them, the Venetians masqueraded in them and even shamans healed from behind them. Do you have a favourite apart from you own?
My mask certainly apes that of a Venetian style for that is an era when rogues and the rich rubbed shoulders to enjoy a certain abandon that came with anonymity packed with flamboyance. But the human face is after all nothing more than a mask and mankind has been harnessing its potential for eons.
Also, what’s it like DJ’ing in a mask? Does it get warm in there?
The warmth I feel when I wear the mask is nothing compared to the warmth I feel when the crowd moves as one.
House is undeniably the fulcrum to your music, however there’s clearly a whole pastiche of sounds infused into your tunes – post-disco, funk, soul, jazz feature prominently, as do pop and indie. Do you chart the influence of these genres on modern house music carefully or do you just make beats with the purpose of blowing crowds away?
My aim is more to bring them together than blow them away! But yes, gathering influences from the ages is my vice and weaving them into strands that move the spirit and the body gives me such pleasure.
With a monthly Clapcast radio show available on iTunes and an app where people can superimpose a gold mask over their selfies, you’re obviously engaged with the web. How important is it for you to have such a solid presence on social media?
Unlike some spirits trapped in a certain age, I have been blessed to move with the times and seep into all areas that give me a platform to perform. While wistful and playful on one hand I am physical and visceral on the other.
Your shows are incredibly engaging, both sonically and visually. On the latter point, what was it like to link up with Oscar-nominated director Peter Martin for Immortal Live? Also, what was the reason to split up the gig’s narrative into past, present and future?
Our esteemed creative director was a spirit like us and we felt a great affinity with his vision for our show. Claptone is ageless and so the narrative arc from past to future came naturally.
Your upcoming debut album is set to drop soon. How’s putting together your first record been and what’s it going to sound like?
I have been blessed to align with some very talented like-minded singer songwriters that the universe has drawn a line between. Together this collection of souls has crafted a body of work that sets out my manifesto. Club music is my DNA but my roots travel further beyond the status quo so I can’t wait to hear what the world thinks.
‘Dear Life’ and ‘Secret Lover’, both featuring doP’s Jaw on vocal duties, are two very differing tracks pulled directly from the album. Can we expect even more variety on the listing?
Each talented collaborator has stamped their imprint on the songs we’ve created and JAW is a mischievous one who delivered two sides to his coin. I’m glad you picked up on it and he’ll be very pleased too.
Remixes are another staple element of your output. Creatively, what are the demands of taking someone else’s track and reworking it into something that’s got your flavour stamped over it?
I only accept remix work from those whose vision is in sync with my own. That authenticity and purity of creation is essential for me to tap my own well of inspiration to help make something new.
Summer’s here and your tour schedule is as rammed as the clubs you’re playing in. It seems that being out on the road is a vital part of your act, how crucial is it for you to connect with your fans globally?
Connecting with the fans is as essential to me as the sun to a flower.
Claptone’s debut album, Charmer, is set for release on 16th October via Different Recordings.
Words: Alex Rennie
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