Dec 2016 21

One of modern music’s most accomplished producers and prolific musicians, Klayton speaks with ReGen about his activities throughout 2016 with hints of what is yet to come.
 
Klayton

 

An InterView with Klayton of Celldweller, Circle of Dust, and Scandroid

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

Celldweller… Circle of Dust… Scandroid… whatever moniker he adopts, whatever artistic or musical project he undertakes, Klayton is one of modern music’s most accomplished and skilled producers. His music has been for over two decades a mixed bag encompassing elements of alternative rock, heavy metal, varying styles of electronic and EDM, including drum & bass, dubstep, new wave, and trance, all set to a pulsating industrialized beat topped off by a slick production style that has only improved with each new release. He is a self proclaimed jack-of-all/master-of-none… except that he has demonstrated a propensity to master whatever piece of technology, whatever musical facet necessary to realize his vision. Besides his own music, he has produced soundtrack music for video games, movies, TV, and multimedia literature. Having spent the bulk of 2016 revisiting his past with the remastered reissues of the Circle of Dust back catalog, including the first new album – Machines of Our Disgrace – in 18 years, and fast forwarding to the future with the self-titled Scandroid album, and with his eyes focused skyward toward the celestial heavens, Klayton returned to the here and now to speak with ReGen on his most recent activities and offer some insight into his thought process as he hints at what new adventures he will embark on in 2017 and beyond!

 

Regarding the new Circle of Dust album, Machines of Our Disgrace, aside from the technology involved, what would you say was most different about writing and recording the new material compared to how you did things 20 years ago?

Klayton: I’d say the biggest difference is that I know a hell of a lot more than I did back then, and hopefully, I have a much better idea of what I’m doing and how to get the sound that I’m hearing in my head. Back then, there was no YouTube, and there really was no internet, and there was certainly nobody that was going to help a kid who kind of wanted to learn this stuff. I scrounged around for information as much as I could, but I pretty much learned through trial and error, and I feel like a lot of those early albums are my trials and errors put on disc for the rest of the world to have. It was me kind of experimenting and figuring out how to do things. Hopefully, now in 2016, I have a much better sense of how to do things and how to get the sounds that I want; that was really the impetus for me doing Machines of Our Disgrace, a brand new record. It was more like, ‘Wow, I actually know how to get the sounds that I was hearing 25 years ago… maybe I should try doing that.’ That’s kind of how it happened.

As far as drumming, you’d said in some recent interviews that you don’t play live drums as much lately, although that was part of the staple of Celldweller – the merger of live drumming with programming – and you played live drums in the music video for ‘Machines of Our Disgrace.’ Is that something you feel you’re going to bring more into Circle of Dust if and when you perform it live or on future recordings?

Klayton: That’s a really interesting question that nobody has ever asked me and nobody has ever really paid that much attention, which is kind of surprising. You know, I love the sound of the drum machine; I love the sound of a programmed drum. But in the ’90s when I was touring with Circle of Dust, I had a live drummer for every show. I had a live drummer, and there were live guitars, keys, and vocals, so the only things really coming off the backing tape was the programmed stuff. Although the drums were programmed on those early records, a lot of the time, I was taking real samples and programming them like I would if I was playing a drum kit. I know, because I’m a drummer, when you’re playing a drum fill, you wouldn’t play the hi-hat at the same time because that’s not how it would be if you were actually playing. So I went through a lot of painstaking editing on those early albums to make the drums feel live, even though they were only one-shot drums, machine gun style; I kind of like that. I deliberately on Machines of Our Disgrace stayed away from overtly live sounding drums because I felt like it would take it too much in the world of Celldweller. But that being said, I’ve established that now with this album and I feel like on a future album, if I want to start including more live based drums throughout the tracks, which is probably likely, I can do that now because I’ve already distinguished the difference in sound between Celldweller and Circle of Dust.

You’ve said how at the time, you were fascinated with mixing in your metal influences – and you were in a metal band prior to that – with the industrial music you were listening to. Do you still remember what those industrial influences were, who those bands and artists were?

Klayton: Of course! I still listen to it occasionally. It was Front by Front by Front 242. It was Too Dark Park, Rabies, and eventually Last Rites by Skinny Puppy; but even some of the earlier stuff like Bites and Remission, the really synth based stuff that was not pop at all. Actually, seeing Skinny Puppy live twice – once for Too Dark Park and once for Last Rites – revolutionized the way I thought about live performance. I grew up a metal kid and I went to a lot of New York metal shows and a lot of New York hardcore shows, and there were a lot of people coming out of the pit all bloodied and busted up, as you can imagine. I went to Skinny Puppy at… I think both shows were at Webster Hall, and I saw more people coming out of the pit bloodied and beat up than any metal show I’d seen in my life. I thought, ‘Wow! There isn’t a guitar on the stage, but the energy coming off the stage is like nothing I’ve ever experienced!’ Of course, there was MINISTRY and a few other bands that were incorporating guitars. Although I did love The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste, I was more of a Land of Rape and Honey guy; that album had that marriage of electronics and when the guitars started to creep in. Mixing my metal background with the programmed stuff that I really love… I mean, I really love Front 242, and of course, they didn’t have a single guitar anywhere! That’s what I heard in my head that I wanted to do, and what I ended up with really was a big metal track with programmed drums and some samples. But in my mind, I was kind of trying to be Front 242, but I didn’t have any synthesizers, so I couldn’t have done that music if I wanted to.

 

 

Even though Celldweller does now have a different sound than Circle of Dust, I always maintained that Celldweller started off as the next step in the evolution of where Circle of Dust was going. Now that the two have their own sound, in returning to Circle of Dust, did you have to go back to listening to the older influences? Is there any new industrial music that has served as a new influence?

Klayton: Actually, no. I didn’t have to listen to the old industrial stuff. That was the exciting part of getting back into the idea of creating a new Circle of Dust album in 2016. I wanted to listen to it; I hadn’t listened to it in 10 years, or maybe even 15 years. I rarely will go back to those industrial albums and listen to them. But this was my excuse to kind of go back with fresh ears, especially from a production angle, and listen to some stuff that I thought was amazing back then, but then to listen to it and say, ‘Wow, by today’s standards… well, these guys are probably making music that sounds even better than that.’ It was pretty exciting to go back, and I actually have a bunch of Front 242 vinyl, and I would sit in my office at night, put on some of that vinyl, and just listen. I did get to do that, and I was excited by it, but I wasn’t necessarily trying to pull influence from that because I’ve already got my influences and I’m no longer trying to emulate that sound. I already know how to do that; I can do that without any outside influence. It was more about enveloping myself in that whole cyberpunk culture and the mindset, to basically remind myself of where my head was at in the ’90s. I wanted to be in Blade Runner, man; I wanted to be Harrison Ford’s sidekick… or actually, I’d have liked to be Rutger Hauer’s. In the search for ‘modern industrial,’ I didn’t find much of anything that I even really liked. A lot of what I heard was just people trying to sound like Skinny Puppy in 1984. Man, Skinny Puppy in 1984 was already Skinny Puppy in 1984! Do that, take that influence, but do something modern with it! I may be missing some key people doing stuff with that, but I admit that I didn’t really look very hard. I was more interested in just taking the old influences I had and channeling that into new music; remembering where I was at that time, and taking that excitement for that subculture and create again. In general, I really went back to the albums that I loved and drew from that.

Does it ever get confusing for you from a songwriting standpoint? Every project has its own sound, but then you have tracks like ‘Pro-bots and Robophobes,’ which is Scandroid featuring Circle of Dust, or on the new album, ‘Embracing Entropy,’ which is Circle of Dust featuring Celldweller, and Argyle Park was full of that! Does it ever get confusing for you as you merge the styles of one project in with another?

Klayton: It’s not so much confusing as much as I get excited about an idea, and then I’m like, ‘Oh, but that would be something more suited to Celldweller.’ Usually, it’s somebody like James, who manages me and has been a fan for many years so he knows my catalog intimately… he’ll say, ‘Well, why don’t you do it and say it features this artist?’ It’s to say to my fan base who may be really into Celldweller, who may not know what Circle of Dust is, ‘Look, if you like Celldweller, listen to this because you might like Circle of Dust and maybe Scandroid as well.’ I feel like there are very few moments when those things will overlap, and I’m trying not to be shy about featuring my own project on a track as long as I feel like it’s genuine. There was definitely a harder industrial edge to ‘Pro-bots and Robophobes,’ and that was intentional because I was thinking about bringing Circle of Dust back, so I thought, ‘I want to experiment with something… let me do a collab on a Scandroid track.’ So, it wasn’t so much confusion because in my career and in my life in general, I’ve been able to compartmentalize different things and switch between them relatively quickly. In fact, that’s kind of what keeps me from being bored, and probably why I have three active musical projects because they give me outlets to do things that if I was doing just one thing and it had to be just that one sound, I would start to get really bored, and I think so would my fan base. I don’t want to do the same thing over and over again; I want to constantly keep trying to break new ground.

I’d say it’s working! What about Circle of Dust video material? There is the music video for ‘Telltale Crime.’ I know there was a video for ‘Deviate,’ but the only proof of it is a minute-and-a-half on YouTube, and there are snippets of interviews and live clips. Are there any plans to retrieve and remaster and release any of that material?

Klayton: I kind of toyed with that idea through all of these rereleases, but the music was so much to wrangle in and collect that the video was a question I felt I would deal with later. Some of it would depend on the desire for it; does anybody really even want this stuff? Anything from back then is going to look really bad since it was all shot on a VHS camera – I have a bunch of VHS tapes that I’ve already digitized, but they’re going to be super grainy, in really dark clubs, and the audio is probably going to be distorted. So, there’s really not going to be a lot to see that I feel is really going to be groundbreaking for anybody. But it’s the same question as if I should spend more time resurrecting the old stuff or should I spend time creating new things? So, right now, I don’t have any plans to do that; it doesn’t mean that it’s never going to happen, but right now, I don’t know that there’s even enough to justify doing that much. I did actually shoot enough to create what I was hoping would be a 20-25 minute mini-documentary on Circle of Dust when I was resurrecting all this – I walked through my entire studio showing all the old gear I used, the floppy discs, the computers, the ADAT tapes, everything… a few interviews with friends like Bret from Blue Stahli, and Buka, who I did the Argyle Park album with, and different people who have a different insight on that era of my life. We’ve got all the footage sitting on a hard drive and haven’t edited that; but if I do that, that’s what I’d rather focus my attention on because it’s new material and I think fans would probably want that information, talking about what went on then and what’s going on now. If I did that, it would probably be where I might incorporate that old live footage and videos.

Also this year, you released the Scandroid debut album, and can you give us some insight as far as the story and what its connections are to Celldweller’s End of an Empire?

Klayton: I kind of would leave that up to the listener, and that’s me also assuming that any listener would listen to Scandroid and listen to Celldweller, and actually like them both. As it turns out, thankfully, there is a fair amount of my fan base that does like both albums, and the question has come up. I would say that there may be a connection in the story, but it wasn’t a deliberate connection; I wasn’t trying to continue the story in one or the other… but there are references in Celldweller and Scandroid that relate to each other that are close enough that I think people will think that these worlds are in the same timeline.

On the Scandroid album, you covered Tears for Fears’ ‘Shout,’ and I’d noted in my ReView of the album that the lyrics seemed to apply to the album’s storyline. Would you say that’s a fair statement?

Klayton: Yeah… I mean, I didn’t modify the lyrics, so they kind of were what they were. But if you look at those lyrics, they can apply to the album for sure. It’s just more of a universal thing. You could ask 10 different people what that song means, and you’ll get 10 different responses anyway, so I feel that people will impose onto a song what they want it to mean, which I completely endorse. I think you should own the music and have it be relevant to your own life, the way that it makes sense to you versus what the artist is telling you it should mean to you. But I do feel that in the context of the record, as far as it fitting on the album musically… if it wasn’t a cover and it was just an original song, it would fit with the rest of the album very well, and in that same regard, I think it fits along with the rest of it very well.

 

 

Will the story of Scandroid continue on the next album?

Klayton: I have not gotten that far in my head; I’ve not decided yet. I’ve kind of even backed off of telling more of the story on social media because I think more people are interested in just wanting the music and reliving that ’80s kind of vibe. Again, it’s based on interest, and if there are enough people that are interested and invested in that world, I’ll continue to develop it. A lot of times, I do it just because I want to; that’s really the impetus for most things I do. But there are times when a fan says that he or she really loves or hates something that I do, and that factors into my decision.

You mentioned Blade Runner before, and that is clearly an influence on the world you’ve created with Scandroid, and you’ve used samples from the movie in Circle of Dust. And it is my favorite movie of all time. What are your thoughts on the upcoming Blade Runner sequel?
Editor’s Note: This InterView took place prior to the release of the first Blade Runner 2049 teaser…

Klayton: Well, I have to say that when I first heard about it, I was really skeptical, and I was kind of a little depressed. They’re going to try to resurrect this franchise and they are going to ruin the world that is so important to many of us. That movie is kind of untouchable; please don’t destroy it! But after seeing more movies by the director (Denis Villeneuve), like Sicario and Arrival, and Jóhann Jóhannsson, who has scored most of the director’s work, I have a renewed confidence – especially after seeing Arrival. I know Jóhannsson spoke with Vangelis to talk about the score. I feel like the cast they’re putting together is pretty good. I don’t know how I feel about Harrison Ford resurrecting his role – I feel like he’s kind of being shoehorned in, but maybe it’ll be cool. For me now, it’s more about my confidence in the director and that has me a little less freaked out about it. I’m just hoping that they don’t Hollywood this thing and turn it into some cheesy franchise that they want to milk for the next 30 years and ruin the legacy of the original movie.

 

 

Space travel is clearly something you’re very interested in and has informed much of the world building that you’ve done with albums like the Transmissions albums, and even End of an Empire and Wish Upon a Blackstar. What are your hopes for advances in space exploration within your lifetime? What are you hoping to see happen technologically or scientifically?

Klayton: Well… I mean, there are a lot of things I would love to see, but if we’re talking about within my lifetime, realistically, it’s kind of hard to say. You’ve got guys like Elon Musk right now, who is really trying to spearhead Mars, and the reality of humans not only actually getting to Mars, but starting to actually terraform it and build a stable and sustainable existence on Mars seems crazy, even impossible! But there are people who are actively trying to figure out how we could possibly do that, so I do think that we will probably see that in our lifetime – at least, human contact and actually getting to Mars. I don’t know how fare we’ll get from there. NASA and other space programs keep launching probes deeper and deeper into space; I mean, Pluto! We finally saw Pluto with clarity for the first time ever, and it was like, ‘Oh my God, Pluto has this big heart and we didn’t even know about it!’ So, all the things we think we know about even our own tiny solar system, our extremely infinitesimally small solar system, which is one in hundreds of billions of solar systems… we are still discovering things about it; we’re saying, ‘Oh, we were wrong about that! We were wrong about Pluto! Oh, Enceladus has a body of water beneath the surface; can we drill into it and see is there’s life?’ Who knows? I won’t even say that I’m hopeful about us finding life on another planet. At this point, it’s more about just even seeing them and getting to see other galaxies and worlds and maybe find some Goldilocks planets that could potentially sustain human life. Anything we’re going to find is nowhere near us; we would never at this moment be able to get there unless we figured out how to time travel. We would have to kind of go through a wormhole or something ridiculous. Christopher Nolan figured that out, but it’s still science fiction to us.

I literally just saw Interstellar for the first time recently, and there is that line about the nearest planet being a thousand light years away, and ‘That doesn’t even qualify as futile.’

Klayton: Right, exactly. That was the reference.

You’ve been very open about sharing your musical process with fans and have even started releasing your own plug-in and sample packages. What would you like to see as the next step in musical evolution and music technology?

Klayton: You know, that’s hard to say. The problem that I’ve found is that you can get so sidetracked by new technology, that you spend more of your time trying to get that technology and learn how to use it that you end up not making music. I’m probably the king of that – if you look around my studio, I have so many machines. But I’ve learned how to use the machines, and when I’m on an album cycle, I generally kind of stop buying stuff and trying to figure things out. I do think that what’s coming is more touch based things; you know, you see people are making more music on iPads and touch devices. I think it’s going to go beyond that into… I don’t want to say necessarily holographic territory, but probably something like holograms; things that are somewhat projections that are kind of front of us… all the things we love about science fiction movies where people are just reaching up into the air and tapping imaginary screens and things are moving around. It looks so cool to us! Obviously, if we could figure out that tech and actually implement that into musical creation… you know, like in Minority Report when Tom Cruise is whipping stuff around on those big translucent screens; it’s gorgeous! I would love to be able to do that, but the reality is am I going to stand on my feet for 16 hours a day waving my arms moving stuff around? Probably not. There’s a cool aspect, but then there has to be an ergonomic aspect and a practicality. But I do think that technology is always advancing and there are things like that that are coming – less clicking mice and more actual tactile, tangible devices that we can actually use to create music.

I remember seeing a video some time ago of something… a table that produced an electrical field, and then you manipulated sound through these glass plates…

Klayton: Oh, that’s Reactable! They’ve actually just released an iPad app and you can buy these little nodes like the big one you saw in the video, and you can actually stick them on your iPad, move them around, and make music that way.

 

 

Regarding Argyle Park, which was among the Circle of Dust remasters, there were a couple of new tracks on that, one of which was a collaboration with Bret from Blue Stahli, who you’ve worked with quite extensively, and Mark Salomon, called ‘Fanny Pack.’ Is there any possibility of a collaboration in that vein happening again?

Klayton: I think if I do something in the vein of Argyle Park, it will still be Circle of Dust or Celldweller; whichever one it fits. Argyle Park was really just a one-off for me to just kind of clear my brain from Circle of Dust and hang out with my friend for a little bit, but realistically, continuing to build that as an entity is probably not worth my time. I feel like there’s more equity in Circle of Dust. I may still do things musically along that line, but they’ll fit somehow into my other projects, whether Circle of Dust, Celldweller, or Scandroid.

So what’s next on your agenda?

Klayton: There are quite a few things. I actually was looking into 2017 having a pretty wide open schedule, but that has changed. I’m going to be starting work here really soon on the fifth Transformers movie, Transformers: The Last Knight; I’m working on the score aspects. Steve Jablonsky is writing the score, and I’m doing all of the electronic programming for it. And then, I’ve already got a number of songs done for Celldweller, Circle of Dust, and Scandroid already in the can for next year. None of them are full albums yet, but I have material already complete and in the can, so my plan is to move forward and create. In a perfect world for me, if I could write a Celldweller album, and then move onto a Circle of Dust album, and then do a Scandroid album and keep that cycle just revolving all the time, that would probably be my dream life because that’s really all I want to do. I scored a movie called The Dunes last year; it’s still being picked up for distribution, but the soundtrack to that should be out in 2017, so that’s a whole other hour of music that you get to hear.

And you worked with Tom Salta of Atlas Plug for the third season of Killer Instinct.

Klayton: That’s right. I’m wrapping up the last character with Tom right now, so that’s coming to a close. By the end of this year, that will be all wrapped up.

Is there anything you’d like to add before we close out?

Klayton: If anybody wants more information, the best place to get any info on any of my projects, just go to my website at klayton.info. We keep that updated pretty consistently; it has all of my film and TV credits, and there’s video content there, so you can pretty much find anything you want there. And then there is the FiXT Store, where you can get the reissued Circle of Dust albums, and a ton of merchandise for Celldweller, Circle of Dust, Scandroid, Blue Stahli, and all the other great stuff on the FiXT label.

You’re standing on a precipice about to experience the end of everything, the sun having grown to the size of a red giant… what are your final thoughts?

Klayton: Uh… I’d probably just say, ‘Oh shit!’ That seems to be the number one phrase that comes out of most people’s mouths before they die. But that’s boring, so I’d probably think that I wish I had another 50 years because there’s so much more to do.

 

Klayton/Celldweller
Website, Facebook, Twitter, ReverbNation, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, YouTube
Circle of Dust
Website, Facebook, Bandcamp
Scandroid
Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, YouTube
FiXT
Website, Webstore, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, YouTube

 

Leave a Comment

*

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!