Clark: A short interview about improvisation
Earlier this month Clark‘s latest EP Fantasm Planes was released via Warp Records. The six tracks feature dancefloor compatible reworks and variations of his last album Iradelphic. I recently saw Clark performing live at Berlin’s ICAS Suite, where halfway through his set his soundcard broke. However, what so nearly spelt disaster actually presented an opportunity for some creative improvisation, resulting in a unique, analogue set. Interest piqued, we caught up with Clark to pose some questions about the art of improvisation and what else the producer has been up to. Photo: Dian McLeod
Michael Aniser: What happened at the show exactly?
Clark: That was a funny gig because my equipment broke halfway through. My soundcard started glitching out and I had to do some sort of analog improvisation which was kind of fun, but stressful.
MA: When you’re playing live is there usually a lot improvisation?
CL: It plays a big role in my live shows, maybe 1o percent is really improvised and I’m very pleased that the shows developed like that. Electronic music is funny, to me it’s more live than a guitarist playing a song that he already knows. Usually it’s just people DJing, but when you improvise you have to make up your patterns and your beats on the spot, there’s nothing that is planned.
MA: There was all this uproar with Deadmau5, about DJs pressing play onstage and that’s it.
CL: Oh god yeah. To me that would just make me more nervous than playing.
MA: I can’t imagine just standing there, pushing play and then pretending.
CL: You would just be so nervous, some kind of puppet. I much prefer to do something. Maybe he’s into that, who knows what that guy is like. He’s got tattoos on his neck, so …
MA: Are you going to work this new glitch thing into your next sets?
CL: It’s already quite a big part of it. It’s a fine balance because I like playing tracks that people already know, but it definitely adds a fun element to the set with analogue equipment. It just sounds great on the sound system.
MA: What equipment are you using?
CL: It’s just a custom made modular synth, really basic 3 oscillators and a step sequencer and a drum machine and another analogue sequencer. And some effects on a mixing desk.
MA: On your new EP you reapproached some of the tracks from your last album. How come?
CL: I wanted to make the album work in a live context, so i took a few of the tracks from the album and made them heavier and more intense and imagined how they could work on the dance floor. The actual track ‘Phantasm Planes’ is already four or five years old. I just made it again and went over it.
MA: I remember listening to your music ten years ago and I always wondered how it that work live. When did you start to work the live concept into it? For me this was always “headphone music”.
CL: The weird thing is since Iradelphic, which is my most kind of headphone album, my live show has become much more of a confident dancefloor thing. It’s quite ironic, when I released Turning Dragon I was happy with the live show but it was very basic, just MPCs and that was it. Then, I wrote this headphone album with guitars and my live show becomes this beast!
MA: I was very surprised – in a positive way – when I saw you playing live.
CL: Especially nowadays its much harder to make music from sales, it’s really important to have a strong live show.
MA: So it’s an economic reason?
CL: Well, everything is economic. I like eating good food, so …
MA: You’ve been collaborating with the choreographer Melanie Lane, you did Tilted Faun together. Can you tell me about that?
CL: We made that a long time ago, three years ago now. It was her choreography, she decided everything and I just made the music for it which is all made with tape machines. There was a bit of music played from a sound system, but it was mainly ten tape machines with different tracks on them and she moves them around in the space. It’s these kind of dictaphones so you get all this weird effects. I’m really happy with it.
MA: There’s a dynamic between analogue and digital, especially in the dance performance.
CL: I always used a lot of analogue equipment, it just makes working so much quicker. When you’re looking at a laptop screen andc endlessly tweaking sounds your eyes can pay too much attention to what it sounds like, but your eyes can’t really listen.~
Clark’s new EP Fantasm Planes is out now on Warp Records.
Published September 22, 2012.