Monday, July 7, 2008

Cleptoclectics, Sydney

Current band rollcall?
So far, Cleptoclectics has been a solo project, just me (Tom Smith), some synths, various keyboards, a microphone, two computers, an MPC1000, a saxophone, some home-cooked software, and lots of records.

Cleptoclectics has been around since....
I've been around for about 24 years, but I thought of the name four or five years ago, and it never went away. Even though I still find telling people embarrassing... "Cleptowhat?"

Let's play Six Degrees of Cleptoclectics - are there any note-worthy musicians you've worked with?
I'm fairly solitary as far as musicians go. There was talk of me doing a remix for The Paper Scissors at one point, which seems unlikely.

First song ever written?
I used to churn out beat tapes as a kid, on cassettes I stole from hi fi shops. But it's hard to say at what point the sketches I've been been tinkering with for years turned into songs, I'm still not sure they have.

Music making for you began when...
First song I can remember is Buffalo Soldier, I was wearing a nappy at the time. I grew up thinking music wasn't something people actually 'did'. At the school I went to, you were showered with praise for getting an accounting scholarship, not for making tunes. But I think when I was about 17 or 18 I realised there are paths open to people who want to make music in their own way, even if they're fairly protracted.

Most unusual sound/instrument you've used in your music?
My grandmother recently handed down her koto to me, which I've been playing lots lately, it's that twangy plucked string instrument you hear in Kabuki, and generally associate with Nippon stereotypes. I once made a tune out of black swan calls, if you put them through an amp they distort nicely.

Strangest gig you've ever played?
I played a party once which had a peacock theme and you weren't allowed to wear shoes, everyone was on drugs, not that strange I suppose, but it's one of the most memorable for some reason. The first legitimate 'gig' I ever played, I followed a 12 piece improv band who had stage props and stupid theatrics, I then climbed on stage by myself and bunted away at my sampler, to the bemusement of the 10 punters in attendance, also not that strange really. I've been turfed out of a couple of illegal type gigs before I even got to setup, which is just annoying.

Do you pin up images when recording to help inspire your songs? (Or put up other things in the studio for the same effect?)
I've got a poster of Antonioni's Blow Up, some King Kong posters, a collection of West African and Sepic ceremonial masks, a Bridget Riley print, a replica Sun Ra hat which - when you put it on - gives the effect of a solar system orbiting your head, I wear it whilst channeling the cosmos. I have a thing for kitsch sleeve designs too.

Unlikeliest thing to influence your music?
Sometimes people struggle to believe that I actually like some of the crappy exotica records I buy.

When you're working with electronic music, is it easier or harder to get across a message or mood when you can't use lyrics?
Obviously if I wanted to write a polemical song about an issue, it would be hard to do without words, so it's lucky I'm not really interested in saying things consciously with my music. I find music with too much intention tiresome. As far as mood goes, maybe lyrics can obscure as much as create it, they can lock an experience down by making it 'about' something, obliterating the possibility of people formulating their own response. I'm interested in phenomenology, and by extension, people's unique responses to sound, which can become less important in lyric music because it's spelled out for people.

It's a good question, kind of leads to other questions though; like what is musical communication? Music is sort of impotent in lots of ways, that's probably what leads some people to approach music like an intellectual game, rather than a vehicle for emotions. I'm not quite at that stage, but I'm not really into 'message' music either.

Do you think the country/city/town you live in affects your music in any way?
In all sorts of ways. The relationship between music and geography is really interesting I think. I find Sydney isolates people a little, I've found it easier so far to get gigs in other cities. I've played almost as much in Melbourne, without really trying, even though I hardly knew anyone down there when I started. So my music isn't made with much consideration for my immediate context, which is I think something that a lot of music from Sydney has in common, a kind of spatial dislocation, which paradoxically comes from the city perhaps.

You would love to record with...
Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Favourite person you have performed with/recorded with...
The most challenging performance I've ever done was at TINA last year: a bunch of friends, calling themselves DKDC, loosely connected to this site - - asked me to score their performance live. It was a kind of absurdist theatre performance and I was pretty far out of my comfort zone, which made me feel embarrassed, but then thrilled and satisfied. Flying Lotus and Touch Typist were the two best support slots I've done.

Outside of Cleptoclectics, you spend your time....
Working in a gallery/artist agency, teaching at the College of Fine Arts, taking up space.

Next for you is...
Limited edition 3" release coming out through this label sometime in the not too distant future, just working on music generally.

If record stores had to come up with a new genre name to file your music under, it would be called...

Tonally Considered Rhythm Scapes
Variable Drone Beats
Swinging Interval Meditations
Syncopated Granulation Edits
Brick Wall of Sound Constructions

Five things you currently love

Musically? Alice Coltrane - it's next level amazing shit.
In Print? George E Lewis' various writings, Roland Barthes' A Lovers' Discourse
Locally? Pigeonground - right near my house, perfect thing to do on a lazy Sunday. Consolador de Dos Caras - crazy music, loud, awesome.
Satellite cafe - do yourself a favour and get a veggie breakfast.
Visually? Edward R Tufte's Envisioning Information - sort of information design 101.
Cinematically? Blade Runner - doom, gloom, synths and sax.

Cleptoclectics' electronic tinkering is as wistful, spaced-out and strangely beautiful as a constellation. His latest album is Poignancy Beats. When Jonathon Valenzuela and I used to do semi-neighbouring timeslots on FBI, we would fight over who would get to play Cleptoclectics. You can slink over to his MySpace to hear some tunes and check out Cleptoclectics' verbal stylings on his blog.

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