“The NO NOW is my bubble of clarity. The ongoing wow hovering in stasis, with the blinds down and the world a forgotten dream. This album happened in that non-moment. Your past is what you make of it, and your future’s quite literally set in stone – and are you tired of chasing the present?” states UK artist Clarence Clarity on his new album.
UK newcomer Clarence Clarity recently released an epic mish-mashed 20-track album, via UK indie label Bella Union. We caught up with Clarence so he could shed some light on being constantly confused but finding clarity within the making of his music.
Your new album ‘NO NOW’ sounds quite complex and mish-mashed, what’s your live set up like?
Yeah, people seem to hear it as complex, but it all makes perfect sense to me. When you break it down it’s not as dense as you might think. So translating it for live has actually been quite straightforward – most of the energy in the tracks comes from the drums and bass so I just to had to get the right kind of rhythm section for live, which I’ve been very fortunate in finding. Then I just cut up the more abstract elements into samples to trigger, re-imagine some of the keyboard parts, and play some really dumb guitar chords over the top. Easy.
Your most recent release Bloodbarf’s video clip features Justin Timberlake’s and NSYNC’s eye’s scratched out in magazine covers, what’s the story behind this?
Well musically speaking the idea for the song was to sound a bit like a boy band melting, so I just took this a bit more literally for the video. ’N Sync are probably my favourite at the minute. The scratched out eyes are just to add a subtle bit of narrative if you want it… Perhaps a disillusioned teen fan destroying the posters stuck on their bedroom wall or something, plotting a murder – “If I can’t have you no one will” kinda vibes. None of this is particularly important to me though, I prefer art to wash over me with little fragments scratching here and there, I’m not too bothered about a linear plot.
I read a quote you facilitate contact with extraterrestrial life, is this true?
Nah, someone asked me what my ambitions were and I think I just pulled a quote from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. This has since been requoted a bunch of times out of context. But in all seriousness, when I watched this as a boy, the idea that Wyld Stallyns somehow bring about world peace was quite inspiring and I saw no reason why I couldn’t do this some day. Any day now I reckon…
You also say this is an album you’ve had to make, and now you can bow out? Would you mind elaborating on this?
Certainly, I just always wanted to make an epic album, completely by myself, with no compromise. Kinda just for my future self to look back and go, “Well at least I achieved something…”. So having done this is a massive weight off my shoulders – I’m at peace with my creativity. Its the first musical body of work I’m proud of, and actually still like listening to. So making another album now doesn’t matter so much, but I have every intention of doing so, and I think I’ll feel a lot freer in the future when I’m not trying to make the most astronomic thing I can possibly imagine.
It seems your influences come from contradicting places of darkness or a more heavenly and divine inspirations, do you agree?
Absolutely, I just wanted to reflect the constant battle of good and evil we all fight on a daily basis, in ourselves and the outside world. If you put them side by side and let them dance together you start to get them confused, the lines blur and you realise it’s always been one beautiful mess of ugliness. That’s what I’m going for musically. I feel constantly confused – but I tell myself accepting the confusion is clarity. I’d like people to listen to my difficult album and try not to dissect it but take it on as one objective truth.
What artists did you listen to growing up?
Too much to list really. Obsessions I’ve had a range from Radiohead to Wu-Tang. Always loved MJ… Um… Had a big New York punk phase, from the Velvet Underground through to Television and such. I’ve always had an electronic side to my taste as well though – I was into ‘Rhythm and Stealth’ by Leftfield in a big way, ‘Dig Your Own Hole’ – Chemical Brothers as well, that probably led into listening to some Warp stuff – Aphex and Autechre mainly.
What sorts of experiences influence your music?
Well with this album I’ve really tried not to let specific experiences guide the music. I’ve been trying to approach it as more of grand overview of my whole life – as painfully honest watery drips that splash into some sort of murky puddle of lies before you can blink. So its really broad – love, death and a lost individual trying to find their place in the middle of it, perhaps.
20 songs is a lot for your first LP, how long did it take to complete?
A couple of years. From the moment I started this project, I was working towards an album, the EPs before this were really just insights for people – bitesize ‘clarity’ leading to something bigger and more definitive. Its not actually a long album, quite a few of the tracks were designed as part of the album narrative and won’t be seen as ‘songs’ – but they’re more than just interludes to me, and just as important. You’re not gonna have to digest 20 individual songs – listeners are just gonna have to let it wash over them for an hour and not question the specifics of what they’re listening to.
It also surprises me that people are so surprised by twenty tracks – this is the digital download age, not the 60’s – there’s no physical limits or rules of presentation anymore. I always vowed to myself that this album would be as short or as long as it needed to be. The track playlist kinda chose itself – it couldn’t be any other way.
Tell me how you and label Bella Union joined forces?
It has actually been a very organic relationship with the label, no industry schmoozing or internet hype was required, thankfully. A friend of mine played some tracks to someone at the label in a social setting. They played the boss the tracks the next day, he liked them and got in touch, and it just developed from there.
How’s being on the road with Jungle? Got any dirt to dish?
We’re having a most excellent time thank you. At the time of writing this I’m only a few shows in, so there’s not that much to report. I don’t really wanna give behind the scenes info on the Jungle guys, cos its pretty apparent they don’t like to give much away publicly, which I totally relate to and respect.
Have you got any plans to come to Australia?
I reckon someone in an office somewhere has thought about it on my behalf, but I have nothing to confirm right now. It would be a dream come true though, so buy my album please! Thank you kindly.
No Now is out now through Bella Union.