Interview: Dave Clarke
After fourteen years, Dave Clarke is set to release his third full length album, “The Desecration of Desire”.
Available on 27 October, the years-in-the-making project distills Clarke’s life long love of Punk, New Wave, Noise and Industrial into something truly original and wholly spellbinding; 10 tracks that go way beyond the dancefloor. Originally teased via its first single ‘Charcoal Eyes (Glass Tears)’ featuring Mark Lanegan , “The Desecration of Desire” follows 1995’s collection of singles “Archive One” and 2003’s “Devil’s Advocate,” and features collaborations with LOUISAHHH, Mark Lanegan, Mt. Sims, Anika, Gazelle Twin and Keith Tenniswood.
For some three decades, Dave Clarke has turned out essential tracks, hosted his influential White Noise radio show, and has remixed an array of artists including Depeche Mode, Chemical Brothers, A Place To Bury Strangers, Placebo, Underworld and Soft Moon. With “The Desecration of Desire,” Clarke once again showcases his studio skills and musical vision giving us a lot to speak about in this far reaching interview.
“…the only description I would feel comfortable giving this album is Tech-Noir.”
The album is described as being “autobiographical”. In what way?
It is in a way. It describes all the details it needs to describe. To go into details afterwards doesn’t make any sense to me. You can take whatever meaning you want from it. I don’t mean that in a nasty way because it doesn’t belong to me anymore. It’s a piece of art that’s out there now. For me, it’s self explanatory. It was a cathartic enough process to just push it out there and let it be.
Perhaps it is autobiographical more from a musical influence perspective rather than an experiential one…
I think most of my musical influences are so deeply embedded in me that to put one up and say that’s where I want to go doesn’t exist. I think that happens when you’re a teenager or in your twenties, when you’re first making music. If you have been doing music for thirty years, all the influences you have will melt into a mish-mash of constant background noise. I can’t say I want it to be like this or like that. I just put everything in. Most musicians are like sponges and they pull in anything from politics to art to past influences; especially if you are a musician on you’re own. If you’re working in a band, it’s less about pulling from your own influences and more about creating something with everyone else, which becomes something far less traceable.
Being over a decade since the last album, and two years in the making, what ended up being this project’s starting point?
It had been brewing in me for ages. I had all these things in mind, all the time. For example, I wanted to work with Mt. Sims and Anika. A friend of mine told me how I seemed to be cataloguing a lot, whether it be art or fashion or whatever. I was forming things together, which is what happened with the album’s artwork. I had been spending a lot of time in Paris recently and it is as influential to me as Amsterdam is. I sat down with the artist backstage at a Depeche Mode concert and tasked her with this. Not that it wasn’t a great concert, but that it just felt like that was the right time to discuss it as I had been thinking a lot about art and we had similar visual aesthetics.
Finally, I wanted to start an album from scratch. I didn’t want to have a single or two beforehand. Making an album is almost a luxury process these days. A lot of people tour on an EP now. They make a club banger and they tour it. Here, I started from the very beginning The opening synthesisers on the first track made me realize immediately that I was making an album. I thought it was great! It felt like: finally! I have a record company behind me. A supportive manager and everything fell into the right timeline to make it worthwhile.
Once you got into the process, how did you reconcile the time spent on the album with your other responsibilities?
I had already decided to take a tiny bit of time off. About one weekend a month. I wanted to rebalance my life from the circus of touring. All the DJs I know, even the one’s who play music I find abhorrent, I respect their work and travel. It is hard, People do it and they lose sleep and social circumstance. You end up in this entire social circle of music, which is something I never wanted to do.
Then, I had my car accident last year The way I was treated afterwards was not great at all. I don’t want to go into details but it opened up my eyes about how I shouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place and it was a lucky escape. After that, my energy levels changed and I needed time off. The record label never gave me any stress about it at all. The first time they listened to anything off the album was six tracks at last year’s ADE. They heard the rest when it was finished.
Did you ever spend any time working via a mobile studio when you were on the road?
None whatsoever. I can’t do that. When I see EDM DJs next to me with their Bose headphones on banging out a million selling hit, they obviously can work like that. I have even seen people like Joris Voorn work on the plane with sound cancelling headphones. Some people can work like that but I like the pomp and circumstance of going into a real studio. I sometimes have the discipline to leave the phone outside and forget about it. The only diversion I allow in the studio is to watch videos about other people making music or to listen to Radio 6 or Henry Rollins. It’s the only place in the world I allow my OCD to run rampant. It’s my own environment and it’s set to my own perfection. It’s the same with photography, which I have been getting into much more recently. I don’t want to edit photos in my hotel room. If you want to create some kind of art then why are you sitting in some shit hotel seat?
What piqued your interest on photography?
I have a particular type of friends. They’ll hate me for saying this, but a lot of them are slightly autistic, and a lot happen to be photographers…or chefs, or people who have a generally fine tuned eye and ear…
…no stand up comedians?
Just me, haha
Either way, my father gave me a camera when I was 8 and I would take photos on film. You had 24 shots and had to wait for the film to come back to you. I loved the whole process of photography. Then, like many things with digital democratization, I got back into it with the phone. I started an Instagram account a few months ago and decided to go on a photo holiday to Iceland.
Since living in Amsterdam I have become less scared of art and more open toward it. I grew up in the UK very afraid of art, actually. Probably because the pretention that went with it. Pretention is everywhere, particularly in music and particular in Tech House…and Deep House. Sorry! It all put me off. Coming to Amsterdam it felt more democratic.
By pretention in the art world of the UK. Do you describe that from an elitist perspective?
Yes. It’s the same reason I never went skiing. I never went because I couldn’t afford it but I never had a desire to ski because it was always done by a bunch of pretentious tossers. It always put me off. Here, the pretention is less. I feel more relaxed and less impended by people’s perspectives of what I should be looking at.
Speaking about the album, how did you come to choose its handful of collaborators?
Going back to a few questions ago where I was speaking about cataloguing. I had been keeping track of many artists and releases on my ipod and, as time went by, I would just know who I wanted to work with and on which song. Then, I would wait for the right moment. These things tend to come together. You just need to make sure you’re mind is well balanced and fed on Omega 3 fatty acids.
So you would call this a very organic process rather than based on a strict set of criteria? For example, admiring a person musically but refusing to work with them based on personality.
I look to admiration. Even when I do an ADE lineup I look at it from a fanboy perspective. With this album, it’s also from a fanboy perspective. It’s always difficult the first time you speak with someone but once the ice melts you realise you are different people but with similar triggers. I’d go out and say that even though I don’t know it, I’d imagine everyone on the album’s political beliefs and aesthetics are quite aligned with my own.
There are two tracks in particular I wanted to speak about. The first is the collaboration with LOUISAHHH, ‘Is Vic There?’ Why did you decide this track was to be the album’s only cover?
I was in the studio and looked up an old video from Department S. I’m not sure why. I had forgotten about this track and what it meant to me as a kid. It was weird. Then I thought about LOUISAHHH and the time I was spending in Paris. I had already known her a tiny bit but we are very much like tigers, circling around each other wondering how exactly we will work together. We got to know each other by going to some museums together and realised we had a real rapport. I have worked with her on a remix before and I love her voice. She has a sassy voice with so much streetwise character. Much to her chagrin, because she wanted to do an original track, I told her we had to do this. It is only a cover from the lyrics. Otherwise it’s completely different.
The second track I wanted to discuss was the Gazelle Twin collaboration, ‘Cover Up My Eyes’. To me, that is the album’s most cinematic sounding piece with a very pronounced narrative ark. It’s also described a Post Human Techno. What are your thoughts on that description?
Fuck knows what Post Humanism is. There’s been a shitload of use of dystopian going around at the moment. Still, I have no idea about Post Humanism.
It’s a hybridization between organic and inorganic matter…
…a bit beyond Singularity. That’s like the Borg; man/machine hybrids. Post Human doesn’t necessarily have to be machinized.
I don’t feel comfortable with labels like this. That’s what Post Human sounds like…a label
Definitely in Academic circles!
Going back to Gazelle Twin…
Again, we had done a remix. She sent me her STEMS…music stems, not DNA to make babies in this Post Human world.
I admired her work ethic. When you look at someones work ethic you can look at it in a micro and macro way. At a macro level, I listened to the STEMS and it was obvious this person is a genius. There was so much information in the music. We met in Amsterdam and got on quite well. I ended up cancelling an Australian tour so we could meet in the studio and we did it in four takes. I told her I felt the track should be staccato and delivered in a style akin to the way Christine & the Queens dances. Not robotic, but precise. She delivered beautiful lyrics and did the styling just the way it should be. Then I set the lyrics within the track. Usually you layer the lyrics on top of a track, but here I wanted it to be assimilated as one with it.
How did you put that to practice?
I view music as 3D. I tend to see sound as colors and as 3D. I see this as a 3D rendering of a track with her voice weaving in and out of the beats and the beats creating a gravitational pull. That’s what I was doing with the delays, and the delays have their own delays. I was creating this little gravitational filter within the music. Stephen Hawking said that when you are underneath a Pyramid, the weight is so intense that time slows down a little bit. That’s what I’m doing with the delays. Changing the time.
I wanted to get your impressions on your working relationship with Skint. We touched upon it earlier, but how did you see your relationship evolve since your previous album?
At the time of my second album I was going through tough personal time. That relationship was supportive but strained. Making the album wasn’t as enjoyable as it could have been but working with the label was. I have no bad feelings towards them at all during that time. Then, I wanted to take a break but Skint always expressed an interest in doing another album with me. I still wanted to re balance my life a little bit and they were always there.
Do you see self distribution on the horizon?
Jack of all trades, master none comes to mind. I don’t have enough time as it is so why would I set myself up to that unless it’s the only thing available to me. If it becomes that, then I will take it on but I have faith in the record company.
Upon release at the end of the month, how you given some thought to your next major project?
I have a few ideas…
…have you ever given thought to film scoring?
Everyone says this to me! Hans Zimmer said it to me personally. I told him I don’t want to do it. Not that I look down my nose at it. Its because I don’t have the prerequisite skills to be diplomatic enough making music by committee to sell a product. To me, that is what film composition is primarily about. If people want to use my music in a film score I am happy for that.
I hear cinematic elements to this entire album. I feel like it would fit as the soundtrack to the 90s film ‘Pi’…
Ironically, with Blade Runner out, the only description I would feel comfortable giving this album is Tech-Noir.
“The Desecration of Desire” is available 27 October on Skint PRE ORDER
Featured Image: Marilyn Clark