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.
An InterView with Klayton of Celldweller, Circle of Dust, and Scandroid
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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Circle of Dust
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