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CHRIS CLARK


Chris Clark burst on to the electronic music scene with his 2001 album Clarence Park, released while he was still a student at Bristol University. Two years later his second album Empty The Bones Of You seemed to confirm that Clark would carry the flag for the traditional Warp Records sound. His latest material has been a long time coming however. In the interim much has changed at Warp with guitar bands such as !!! and Maximo Park moving to centre stage. As a new mini-album is unveiled, with the promise of another full-length not far behind, so it is revealed that the artist formerly known as Chris Clark has dispensed of his first name. Clark stopped off in a freezing phone box outside his tour bus in Glasgow to talk to Stuart Aitken about pegging it around Birmingham on his bike, why he’ll never be as commercially ubiquitous as Mylo, and why he believes in forcing people to belly flop into his world.

What’s going on with the change of name? Is it anything to do with the fact that you share a name with Motown’s one and only white soul diva?
It actually isn’t although that does seem like a good reason. I reckon all the Chris Clarks should perform together as one magic band, either at a dingy local pub or Wembley Stadium. Mmmm. Actually I don’t really reckon that. Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve done interviews. The name change just means people don't have to waste oxygen on "Chris". "Chris" Clark is also just a bit too much "oh look at me aren't I just everybody’s jovial little mash-head pal".

The mini-album suggests a more immediate sound than we have heard from you before. There is a sense of urgency on Throttle Furniture that wasn’t so apparent on Empty The Bones Of You or Clarence Park. This is suggested even in the title of one of the tracks, Urgent Jell Hack. Should we expect more of this when the full album is released?
Yeah it’s direct and punchy. I love it when you're thrown into a world of sound with no preparation. It's like when you're a kid and someone’s on the second diving board and you stamp on it just as they're about to dive off, although obviously I was never that cruel as a child. I like the idea of people being forced to belly flop into my world.

It’s easy to waste time deliberating on intros etc… I always find myself fast forwarding intros. It seems like an easy thing to do as well, especially with a computer and unlimited hard disk space. I (try and) work with a discipline that doesn’t allow for long tossy samples to cloud the essential “core” of a track. Although a long tossy sample is good once in a while. Time seems to become more precious as you get older and this is hopefully reflected in the music – i.e. 20 seconds in musical time is a lot of time. Thousands of events can take place, the possibilities are endless…

Is the new album finished?
Yeah almost. It’s just textural tweaking. Real anal stuff that would probably bore the pants off you.

When do you expect it to be released?
Hopefully before I die. Hopefully. Maybe even this year.

From a young age you have been considered the great hope carrying on the torch for the traditional Warp sound. In a time when the label is producing more guitar-based music do you feel pressurised by the weight of expectation?
I guess most external pressure kind of bounces off me really. I’m so self-critical and sealed into my own world that the outside world can sometimes seem like a bit of a mirage (like that UR track). All expectation is ultimately just a reflection of that person’s musical prejudices, which of course we all have. I don't feel affronted by expectations nor do I blame people for having them. But when you see expectation like that as a purely subjective thing, it doesn’t really affect you, you just have to plough on with your own vision and ignore all the noise. I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel any record label pressure though, although these moments are fleeting - i.e. once every seven months when I talk to Steve Beckett [Warp label head] hehheh.

The funny side of it is when you go and do a gig with hours and hours worth of new material and people are like “Oh, I thought you had enough, I thought your last LP was your final release”. It kind of motivates you to get off your ass and release some of yer work.

How difficult is it being an artist on Warp Records surrounded by figures such as Autechre, Aphex Twin and Squarepusher? Do you feel under pressure to try to be different?
Yeah kind of but again it’s not like someone says “be different” and you go “OK”. It’s more complex. The idea that you operate in a vacuum, separate from all these looming musical figures is semi-ridiculous but semi-true, especially as your own taste develops, your own particular brand of musical obsession has time to breathe and grow. This is why Warp are still ace, because they allow that space, they have an ability to nurture their artists, yet maintain a certain respectful distance which is necessary. In that sense there has never been any pressure at all. There’s a huge legacy of amazing music on Warp and that is ultimately a great thing, but you become less aware of it as you get on with your own stuff, your own garden if you like.

It’s been a while since Empty The Bones Of You. What have you been listening to in the period between albums?
Moondog, Converge, Cecil Leuter, A-Ha, Parmegiani (still), Cale, Dream Syndicate, Thomas Koner, Shellac, Tobias Schmidt, Big Jus, Bibio, Basil Kirchin, Awesome Wells, Smog, Zoviet France, Slint, Cristian Vogel, Silver Apples, Arthur Russell… kind of in that order.

You once referred to Autechre’s Vletrmx as “the eighth wonder of the world”. Has the ninth been created yet?
Jeez did I say that?? Not that I didn’t mean it at the time but (blush) my propensity for bombast must be kept in check. I’m not going to answer the second part of that question (see former statement).

Many journalists have struggled to adequately describe your music over the years. It seems something that you are reticent to do as well. If you were forced to describe it what would you say?
Heheh , Forced how? Like now in an email or something a bit more sinister? I think it’s a good thing that people struggle to find descriptive terms and lingo. With the new LP I suspect this may be even more apparent. Hopefully the time I have spent honing the new material has paid off and will demonstrate this with total precision (that last sentence sounds quite amusing if you read it to yourself in a German accent). It doesn’t sit easily as a genre piece of any kind. That’s why I will never be as commercially ubiquitous as say Mylo (is that a good example? I dunno) but also hopefully shows why my conviction in music is deep-rooted, and is, clearly to anyone who knows me good and proper, a life long pursuit. Even a lifetime is nothing, a blip in terms of the musical landscape you can explore. I’m sorry to make life awkward with my reticence. I guess a central thing in a lot of the new tracks on the LP is that feeling of “what is it? I don’t know what this is?” It definitely isn’t techno, hip-hop, IDM, drum and bass, classical, death metal, electro, acoustic. But elements of all of these “fashions” must somehow permeate my work. I feel it is just not up to me to tell you how and in which way they do, and in which way the listener should interpret any hidden meanings that may be buried beneath the surface fabric of the music. In a sense this relative absence of my “writer’s intention” is totally undeliberate… It’s not like I even know myself what my music says and this is how I want it.

Rather than explore one sentiment go between the spaces; consider the contradictions. For instance on completion of one track for the LP I was so chuffed I pegged around Birmingham on my bike for ages... partly shit scared that I would die before handing my LP in, whilst also laughing my head off, grinning maniacally and simultaneously weeping for joy. It must have looked a right sight. Quite what this is supposed to say about the human soul I really don't know.

In terms of defining what I do though I suppose all you are going to get is a more and more convoluted form of evasive rhetoric. I spend nearly every waking hour operating the music making machinery with a kind of closely scrutinised schizophrenia, my desire to explore new worlds of sound is in constant flux, and full of aesthetic contradictions. Whilst this might frustrate some it is kind of at the centre of what I do. Why this need to be on one definite, clearly defined side of the fence? To draw conclusions? I guess that’s why the ethos of musician and the journalist are at constant loggerheads hehheh….

The strictly limited 3" CD, Throttle Furniture is available to buy exclusively through Warpmart. Clark is currently touring the UK with 65daysofstatic. For details visit the Warp Records website.

Stuart Aitken

Email interview February 2006
Thank you to Chris. Photo: Greg Eden.

Discuss this in the forum

Reviews
08'03
Empty The Bones Of You
05'01
Clarence Park

Interviews + Features
06'03
THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR CRUSHING Interview with Chris Clark
06'03 STILL SOUNDS Chris Clark / Mira Calix live at 93 Feet East, London

THE SURFER'S GUIDE TO CHRIS CLARK
Warp Records

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