We’ve been pushing Celldweller and the hybrid music style for a while here at Soundsphere HQ, and after last speaking to the project’s mastermind Klayton two-years-ago about his inspirations and aims to begin touring again after a lengthy live absence, we thought (with rumours circulating about a European tour this year) that now would be a great time to catch-up with the man himself to talk about plans for the new decade, playing in the UK, and the joys of being a workaholic…
“It’s a great time for my sound to be hitting the stage”
S] How’s it been going back on the road after five years – well done!
K] “Thanks! I am looking forward to getting over there. We’re lining up a European tour for this summer I hope. We definitely want to hit the UK and make it big over there.”
S] How was doing the very first show?
K] “It has actually been insane because, it seems contradictory that I didn’t tour for over five years and my fanbase has grown by at least ten times since then. So, stepping out on the stage this time around and playing to much bigger crowds was shocking! It’s taken me about two years to decide A, that I was going to tour again, and B, how I was going to actually do it. It took so much time because I have been working on other stuff and also spending a lot of time filling in the gaps and working out what I was going to do. So, to have everything together and step out on stage for the crowd to react so well was awesome. I think that it’s just about timing, really. It’s a great time for my sound to be hitting the stage.”
S] You finally got to go to your dream location in Japan?
K] “That was a big dream for me. Since I was the tiniest kid, I have watched Godzilla. So, I got to go to Japan, though I didn’t get to hang out with Godzilla! But, it was great. The fans were really cool and the show was awesome. I didn’t want to come home to be honest.”
S] How fun was it going out as a two-piece?
K] “Yeah, that was the way it had to be. The reason I stopped touring originally was that I was sick and tired of the stereotypical rock ‘n’ roll band – I had done that my entire career. I was over it. It was too complicated with too many people. That was why, when we did our last interview I was thinking that I just wanted to go out and DJ doing a one-man show. It took almost two years getting to a point where I wasn’t going to be happy just playing other people’s music, I was going to do my own, and play a little bit of guitar while singing, and then it became ‘…oh, I’ll play some keyboards and put drums in there as well!’
I finally got to a point where I thought, ‘why don’t I just add someone else?’ Because, then instead of coming off stage looking like a sort of ‘demented DJ’, it would be more like a rock band – somewhere in-between a full band and a DJ set. That’s when I decided to ask Bret [Autrey] of Blue Stahli to be a part of Celldweller live. I could have a full band right now if I wanted to, but I don’t want that headache! I’m not saying that won’t happen, but right now, I love touring with just the two of us. I have mixed the entire set within the box and I control the sound of the whole show. There’s no more showing up to gigs like I used to and having sound guys that don’t care and don’t get the sound – they end up messing the entire gig up! The sound right now, and the fans reaction to it out live is really light-years beyond what I have done in the past.”
S] The visuals were pretty cool – are you thinking about using the live footage for any music videos – I know you are doing a DVD?
K] “Yes. I spent a good four months straight really not doing anything else other than concentrating on the live show – not just the production of the music, but also shooting about 75-minutes of original content that backs the entire show. It’s not just random visuals and ‘eye-candy’, it’s actual performance-related. I didn’t want to have four or five guys on stage, but I still wanted to be able to represent the drums or virtual vocals [through the visuals]. I have always done that to show that I am aware it’s virtual and I am not trying to hide anything from the audience. We shot a tonne of footage. It won’t only be a live DVD of one show which was the original plan, I think that there will probably be about seven or eight shows, and we’ll cut the footage up – we have stuff from Russia, Japan and a bunch of US dates. We are going to make it the best that it can be. Some of the footage was actually shot on the iPhone – we’re going to keep it in because it’s very cool. We’re also cutting together a music video for ‘Own Little World’ – it’s a new version which will be released later this month or early February on an EP [‘The Cellout EP’] of three live tracks – these are not live performance, but the versions that we are using in the live show.”
S] Any news on some UK dates?
K] “We have picked up a great booking agent here – before we were trying to do everything ourselves and it was more difficult to make things happen. So, the agent is in charge of booking the entire world. We’re looking at Europe for the summer. We don’t have any specific things lined up, and we are talking with one festival in the UK – nothing’s been locked down but we are talking. I have been wanting to come to the UK for a very long time. It’s like Japan to me. I have pulled so much influence musically from there. I know it’s going to happen, it’s just a case of when and where.”
S] You’re doing more dates in March – are you making any changes to the live show or is it perfect?
K] “No. It’s never perfect. In fact, over the ten-or-twelve shows that I have under my belt since I began to tour again, the set has already changed three times! I’ve pulled songs, added some things in and tweaked the sound – I am sure that when we do the live DVD there will be more ideas from that I’ll want to put in. There’s so many things that I have on my plate – it’s just about finding some time to work on it more. I think the live show will constantly change.”
S] Your working on the next chapter to ‘Wish Upon A Blackstar’ – tell us about the themes and ideas in that?
K] “I am in the process of really trying to wrap up the last four songs before I head out on tour in March. The next two songs are ‘I Can’t Wait‘ and a song called ‘Blackstar‘. The first one is very heavy and incorporates elements of drum ‘n’ bass, guitars and dubstep. ‘Blackstar‘ is more of a rock song but there are so many different elements. I really want to get these tracks out as I am sick of listening to the demos! I want you guys to have them, so I don’t have to ever hear them again unless I am playing them live.”
S] What kind of themes and ideas are inspiring you at the moment?
K] “There are musical things that are inspiring me, and there are visual things that are inspiring me more because of the live show. In addition, I have been producing the new Blue Stahli record and I am really excited about that. I just brought on a full-time A&R [artists and repertoire] guy for FiXT and so, we are actively looking for new artists to write for film, television and video-games. There are some things that I am really looking forward to working on. I think people have this perception that I only put out one song a year but the truth is that I am doing so many things. There are so many things I want to do.”
S] What has changed in your life that is inspiring you most at the moment?
K] “The biggest thing is that I moved into my new studio. I built a three-room facility and for the first time in a while I had every single piece of equipment that I own hooked up and connected. I feel like this next ‘Wish Upon A Blackstar’ is going to sound a lot different to everything else that I have done because I actually have the ability to run things in different ways. I feel like that is going to effect my workload in a positive way. It’s a different room and I have a lot of my toys back in action. I really want to get that record done, because after that there will be no boundaries. Whatever is inspiring me musically, I can work on.”
What about the ‘Soundtrack For The Voices In My Head’ material – are you working towards a Volume 2?
K] “I have got five tracks now, sitting there almost done, ready for the second chapter. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. A few of them I have worked on for a pretty big movie coming up here and I’m not sure if there are going to be used or not, but either way I have content for the next ‘Soundtrack To The Voices…’ Again, it’s a question of time and when I can finish that.”
S] You’re working on a live ‘Cellout EP’ – what prompted that?
K] “That’s ready to go now and should be out within a few weeks. For the live show, almost every single song has been re-worked and remixed for the stage and dancefloor. As a result, they sound totally different. People were coming to the new shows and saying, ‘Oh, we love these tracks but we have never heard them before.’ I spent a lot of time working on them – I felt like people would want these new versions to listen to in their cars or at the gym – I wanted to get them out so that people could come to a show knowing what these new versions sound like, so, I picked three of my favourite tracks from the show to put out.”
S] You work very closely with Blue Stahli – do you see yourself as his mentor?
K] “That role just developed over time. Bret new more about my back-catalogue than I did before he even arrived at FiXT! He was one of these rare case where he was just extremely eager for me to teach him anything. Anything I’ve ever taught him, he has soaked it up and taken it to the next level. It’s rewarding because a lot of the mistakes I made, I am helping him to avoid and he is developing his artistic career more quickly than I developed mine. I look forward to doing that with other artists.”
S] How do you look back on your most successful club tunes like ‘Switchback’ and ‘Own Little World’ now?
K] “I don’t sit around and reflect on what I have done. I am never satisfied and I am always striving to do something better whether that is taking what’s there and re-working it. I am really excited about the new version of ‘Own Little World‘ because it’s completely different from the original, apart from the vocals – it’s a slammin’ dubstep track now, with huge guitars and drums!”
S] FiXT has expanded so much over the last few years and it’s arguably a centre for new electronic music on the web – how proud are you of it?
K] “You are seeing it with different eyes than I do. You might think that it has grown bigger, but in my mind I am still looking at it and saying, ‘man, we’ve got a long way to go.’ We’re getting a lot of independent artists who have been able to develop their career through FiXT Remix and we are giving them some guidance. I am really excited about signing more artists to the label and really pushing this sound that I have spent so many years developing – I’m working with more artists that get the whole ‘hybrid’ idea – it doesn’t have to be just drum ‘n’ bass, dubstep or rock ‘n’ roll – it can be a mixture of everything and it works. I am more proud of where it’s going to go. There are some really good things ahead. One day I will stand by and be proud of FiXT, right now, I think that there is too much work to be done.”
S] So, how are you planning to release music from now on? ‘Wish Upon A Blackstar’ has been released in parts rather than a whole record like your debut?
K] “‘Wish Upon A Blackstar’ will be a collection. At the end of the fifth chapter, a CD will be pressed and I am planning on releasing two additional songs on the finished record instead of just ten. It will be a full Celldweller album. In the future, I think it will be more effective for me to finish a few songs at a time, release them and then eventually collect them in to a body of work with some additional tracks. I think the fans have been more excited about having something to listen to now instead of having to wait three or four years while I was working the way that I used to.”
S] Is there a song that you are most proud of at the moment that you feel accurately reflects where you are at right now?
K] “Lyrically? It’s probably ‘Birthright’ because that track was the next step beyond the debut Celldweller record. That was based around a lot of confusion and bitterness – that was who I was and things have really changed. ‘Birthright‘ was me showing how sick I was because of feeling and acting like that. It moves things forward. The lyrical content [of ‘Birthright’] represents where I am right now personally.”
S] Would you say that ‘Wish Upon A Blackstar’ represents the fact that you are in a more positive place than you have ever been before?
K] “I am in a much more positive place. Touring is a really good example of that. I have already done some dates and I haven’t had the desire to blow my brains out like the old tours. It’s really because I have changed my own attitude and outlook. I am not trying to preach to anybody about ‘being positive’, I am just talking about what’s going on with me. If people relate to that, then it’s cool, and if not, it doesn’t matter.”
S] What things or people are inspiring you most at the moment?
K] “I am a bachelor and all I have is a cat. So, it wouldn’t be a girlfriend! I think there is an excitement to every single day when I get up. I have goals that I need to achieve, and so every day gives me a chance to take another step towards that goal. That continues to inspire me. Over the last few weeks I have ended up watching a few visual art-based documentaries and it inspired me to do something more in that area. I used to do my own artwork, and put it up on my website years ago – I think there is a part of me that wants to get away from everything mentally and to maintain that inspiration by doing more arts stuff. It opens up a different side of my creativity.
That’s where my head is at right now. I created a piece of art that I am going to submit myself for ‘Chapter 4’ [of ‘Wish Upon A Blackstar’] – we have open submission for any artist who wants to submit a piece of art for that album and it gets released on a PDF booklet and set out worldwide with the record. So, there will be a piece of art from me in that.”
S] You are a bit of an entrepreneur having started FiXT from the ground up and you’ve become a successful independent musician – what advice do you have for people that might want to follow in your footsteps? It’s almost like a motivational speech…
K] [laughs] My motivational speech…? I am not one of these guys that graduated high school and then was a millionaire. I have come from nothing and spent a long time building this up. The biggest advice I can offer is that if you really believe in what you do and desire to accomplish more, then you just have to go out and do it. If you sit around on a couch waiting for someone to take your hand and help you, you won’t get anywhere. You have to do things yourself and seek new opportunities. You have to get your face in other people’s by networking. It’s not easy. The path I have taken to get to this point is not easy, and it’s not glamorous – I spend most of my time working and I have very little social life, but that doesn’t matter because I love what I do.
For other people – you have to know your strengths. I am notorious for trying to control everything, and it’s taken a series of years and good people continuously saying to me, ‘Focus on what you are really good at.’ There are a lot of principles that you learn over time and part of it is patient. You can’t expect that your first song will be huge, and if you do then you are part of a huge minority.
S] So. it’s about maintain a strong sense of drive…
K] Try to align yourself with other artists that you admire. Take advice. I was really hungry when I started and I looked for anyone who could give me production tips and advice on how to expand my career. There was no YouTube when I started, and now there are so many resources and ways to network. You have to keep pushing forward.
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