The DJ/Producer with a penchant for wearing a Venetian carnival mask while on stage (well you never saw Deadmau5 in a gondolier), Claptone has just released an album Charmer that’s seen him collaborate with Jimi Tenor. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and The Boxer Rebellion. Not exactly the names usually spotted in the “featuring” section of pop smashes, so here’s the anonymous musician explaining why unusual and weird partnerships work.
Unexpected musical collaborations can be described as the salt in the soup for music. They either help it transcend that generic taste of standardised soup or they spoil the whole soup. I want to focus on the positive, namely on those collaborations which I think had a huge impact on the evolution of music. Especially with regards to the fusion of club music, indie rock, indie pop and hip-hop music. It’s a list of forgotten gems without which I would not have produced an album like Charmer.
First off we have a classical violinist and conductor of chamber music and opera who has been one of the early adopters and popularisers of the Moog synthesizer in Europe: Eberhard Schoener. His work is filed under Krautrock but surprisingly he made almost two full albums with The Police. Their musical masterpiece in my opinion is the proto-club track Why Don’t You Answer. This synth driven, cold and haunting track was put out on an album by Schoener in 1978. Apart from Sting’s vocals it sounds nothing like the style of rock The Police had that was influenced by punk, reggae and jazz.
Another long forgotten, but for me nonetheless very important meeting of minds in music is the 1987 single The Rhythm Divine. Shirley Bassey, originally finding fame in the mid-1950s and making her mark recording the theme songs to the James Bond films Goldfinger (1964), Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and Moonraker (1979) meets Yello. The Swiss electronic pioneers were on the forefront of electronic New Wave experimenting with tape loops and were one of the first to use a Fairlight synth for playing sound/noise samples in the late 70s early 80s. They are most famous for their 1985 single Oh Yeah, but this collaboration is much more substantial, deep and soulful.
UKs underground club act X-Press 2 made an impact on the club scene with instrumental tracks like Muzik Express and Smoke Machine before in 2002 they teamed up with David Byrne, the voice of the Talking Heads to create one of the ultimate left flied pop gems of that decade. For David Byrne who received Grammy, Oscar, and Golden Globe awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this song is probably not something he’s particularly proud of nor is it one of his most successful songs. But for me Lazy is the blueprint for a clever club song. It’s funny, hedonistic, sarcastic and critical – it’s club, home listening and radio at the same time.
DJ Hell, the label boss of International DeeJay Gigolo Records and one of the first House and Techno DJs In Germany, puts out The DJ a track which features Sean John Combs aka Puff Daddy, Puffy, Diddy, or P Diddy in 2009. When this dropped everyone in dance music world was left with open mouths. The track has Diddy showing respect to the club world. He is not rapping he is talking. It’s ruff, direct and explicit. And he let’s everyone know how important club music is. Even though it turned out Hell did not have permission to use these vocals and lifted them from a session that Diddy did with Felix The Housecat, The DJ qualifies as a groundbreaking collaboration. It’s neither a Hell nor a Puffy track anymore and it tears down musical barriers while creating a unique track that stays a classic.
Modeselektor is a German electronic music duo whose members met in 1992 in Berlin. They developed a unique sound based on IDM, glitch, electro house and hip-hop. Years before working together, Radiohead’s Thom York outed himself as a big fan of the outfit. But his feature on Shipwreck in 2011 came as a complete surprise after all as Modeselektor was a niche band and Radiohead were already untouchable at that stage. Together they created a beautiful ballad with a raw, underlying funky beat that was almost too fast. There’s a feeling of urgency and unrest that culminates in a sudden ending. Not even in his solo works has Yorke’s falsetto ever been put in a more exciting musical surrounding.
This is just a list of my personal favourites. Others can easily be a curse instead of a blessing, but the great thing about any unexpected collaboration is that even if it fails miserably, it’s never boring. When planning my album Charmer I wanted it to be anything but a boring compilation of club tracks. The aim was to create something exciting and to a certain degree different from what you’d expect from Claptone. That is the reason why for the album I decided to work with artists like Peter, Björn And John, Jimi Tenor, Young Galaxy, Jay-Jay Johanson and Nathan Nicholson from The Boxer Rebellion. These are artists whose music I listened to over the last decades and to whom I felt a connection already existed on a sonic and emotional level. I got in touch with many more, but these were the artists who in the end really came back with ideas and lyrics. Everyone on the album put their heart in it, so you could say I’ve been lucky cause all these collaborations worked out. The soup tastes brilliant. But what else would I tell you. I’m the chef.
For more head to Claptone.com.