Chris Clark - Interview
Right then fellows…It’s that time again where I am graced with the opportunity to not only meet one of the finest electronic artists of our time, but also one of my own personal inspirations. The man in question is Christopher Stephen Clark, or Chris Clark to you and me. His latest album ‘Body Riddle’ was one of the most important albums of 2006, he’s currently touring with a live drummer and has been playing alongside the likes of Battles and Zan Lyons. I have been itching to sit down with this guy since his first album ‘Clarence Park’ accosted my ears so long ago. Although my nerves should be getting the better of me, the irony or interviewing Mr. Clark to the funky house soundtrack playing in the bar is too good to ignore…
How’s it goin’?
Chris Clark: Yeah good.
Hows it being playing alongside battles?
Clark: Well, we’ve only had like a few shows, but its been good, or as good as I hoped for, cause I had to swap drummers really close to the first show, but it went down much better than I expected.
How did you come to work and play with a drummer?
Clark: Just wanting my friend Rob to play more of a role…he’s one of my oldest friends so it’s been great having him on board. He knows my music really thoroughly aswell…It’s sort of been good on the level that what he had planned has worked out as well as it could have done, and then some. I mean, I by no means feels that its been anywhere near as honed as I want it to be…which gets your heart racing when you know you’re touring with Battles, cause they’re awesome. So on that level its been abit of shit…up the anus, but it’s thrown up loads of new ideas.
On ‘Body Riddle’ your sound had progressed a lot, was this a conscious thing, or just how it happened?
Clark: I think you always want to progress in someway. It seems like a really naturally intuitive thing to wanna do. I don’t know, I still really hear it as...very much me. Obviously, there are still elements of it that trace back to my earlier stuff. In terms of it being a step forward in the recorded arena with the development of my music, it was a pretty big leap forward. As time’s gone on since then…it just feels like another chapter. I still don’t feel like ‘Body Riddle’ said everything I want to say. I don’t feel massively proud of it really. I feel like the new stuff is another step on from that, it was the necessary album to make…I’m abit sick of hearing it now to be honest.
Do you have any rituals when you’re producing?
Clark: Just loads of caffeine…really dense, thick coffee…
‘Body Riddle’ was considered a coming of age album, and critically elevated you to alongside the big boys Aphex Twin and Squarepusher. Has this affected you in anyway? Or something you’re interested in?
Clark: I don’t think it interests me, but I can’t not be aware of it. That’s not the kind of thing that really effects me. Y’know, It’s just like a flash in the pan idea based on someone’s feeling at the time. I just find myself doubting all that kinda stuff. I always doubt good reviews as much as I do bad ones. It’s kinda flattering on one level, but it’s probably best not to take too much notice of it I’d say, in order to maintain a healthy ego about it. There’s no point in changing your behaviour just because you’ve got a few good reviews…that just seems ridiculous. You can get over-crazed, you know? It’s funny how it works, cause now your stuff can get over crazed, it’s the natural response of the critics to kinda doubt the next thing you do. I think the mechanics of it are outside the realm of the creative process itself, and on that level it’s good to realise that and best to just ignore it as best as you can.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Clark: I recently discovered Midlake. I just can’t stop going on about them. I just think they’re amazing. I had their most recent album (‘The Trials of Van Occupanther’) on loop for the last three weeks, and I’m still discovering new things that I love about it. I mean it doesn’t really sound like anything I would try and do, but I think that’s kind of why I like it. I tend to search for things that are pretty different to my stuff. I don’t like people that write similar music to me.
How did you get into production?
Clark: Just getting really into electronic stuff and how progressive it was compared to all the relentless band drivel I was subjected to…I remember being really excited by rave music. Which is, I suppose, where everything started for me. I’ve always been into electronics, as opposed to instruments. I always kinda combined the two (electronics and music), making drum patterns when I was a kid, discovering drum machines…
Are you looking forward to playing Glade Festival again?
Clark: I am…I’m more looking forward to actually being there than playing.
What happens to the tunes you make that don’t make it onto any releases?
Clark: I give them to my friends usually…as long as I trust them to not give them to anyone else.
What did you grow up listening to? What did your parents subject you to before you found music?
Clark: The first record I actually properly heard was probably Simple Minds. I soon discovered that it wasn’t that good and ended up listening to Prince and Public Enemy. Then I discovered DJ Hype, Jeff Mills, Black Dog…They’re probably the stepping stones I took…
Where do your track and album names come from?
Clark: I dunno really…I just twin whatever words together that sound good. Theres never much of a hidden meaning…’Vengeance Drools’ sounds quite vengeful, but I wouldn’t say that’s what its about…and I really like the word drools.
How important is the visual side of Clark?
Clark: I don’t really have the stage presence of Bowie and its not really something I aspire to. My performance is more sonically based. I really like the idea of people just losing it regardless of the performance. It’s good having good visuals, but they’ve got to be good…there’s no point in just having them.
How do you decide who to remix for?
Clark: It’s usually a case if budget versus friendship…
Do you have any idols? Or any consistent inspirations?
Clark: Mainly my friends. That seems like a good place to start…I don’t really idolise my friends though. I thinks it’s unhealthy to have idols. There are people that I really respect but you can’t constantly pay attention to them…It’s been great having Rob on board cause we’re just so locked into what each others doing…
Going back to your work with Rob, how does it work. Is it a case of you telling him what you’re after, or does the input come from both sides?
Clark: It’s pretty sequenced based at the moment, and there’s no room really for improvisation. We both just really into blocky compositions…composition rather than improvisation. Improvisation’s for hippies (laughs). I prefer compositionally to have rigidly what it is I want to say…any deviation from that based on intuition has to be really scrutinised. Improvisation during the process of writing, but I have no desire to take that into my performance. So much improvisation seems to only be enjoyable to the people who are making it…I think I’ve just got really high standards…
What does your music mean to you?
Clark: …Everything really…I certainly think I would be a bit wrong if I didn’t have it...
What are your plans for the near future?
Clark: I’ve got loads of rave music that I want to release, and there are so many different ways I could release it…It’s just working out the best way to do that. Then I’ll do a new album, which is pretty much imminent…I played Steve (Beckett – Warp Records Head Honcho.) a lot of new stuff, and he was really into it. I just need abit of time really, time off. I don’t really feel the pressure to continually spew out music…but, yeah, just another album, probably at the end of this year or early next year.
What’s the best thing about what you do?
Clark: (laughs)…That’s a good question. Just being able to get up on a Monday morning and do what I love doing, without anyone telling me what I have to do.
…and the worst thing?
Clark: …The caffeine balance I think…having panic attacks when you hear certain drones…
Odd, not the answer, but the fact that I know exactly what he means.
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