Possibilities: Clark

Warp producer on the creative process and the art of the remix...
Clark

The dense intricacies of Clark’s music, the endless possibilities they suggest, are a little like a Rorschach diagram: what we see is often only a reflection of ourselves. So what of the producer’s remixes, then? Surely it’s possible to watch Clark as he catches glimpses of his own reflection, blurred against the ruins of the subject matter?

‘Feast / Beast’ seems to pose this question. A lengthy, dense collection of remixes, it gathers minute fragments into a multi-faceted whole. Sometimes gorgeous, at others horrifying, ‘Feast / Beast’ was apparently born from mundane means. “Well I’ve done quite a few this year and I wanted to round them all up into a nice, tidy package” Chris Clark explains. “It was mainly linked to the artwork – the artist had this wild take on origami which led me to think about the way I approach remixes, and the imagery seemed to fit very well. I like the idea of using other people’s textures as origami, so you have this exploding musical Escher pattern that relates back to the other tracks but is also distinctly stamped with my own style”.

“I can’t really define that easily, other than it just spans across genres, I guess” Clark readily admits. Laughing, the producer continues: “There’s a lot more space on ‘Feast’ – there is more textural stuff. It’s easy to assume that my style is quite loud, the albums from the ‘Body Riddle’ to ‘Totem’s Flare’ I refer to as ‘the wodge’. They’re just sort of hyper compressed, but that’s only about half my work. There’s all the stuff I do with Melanie Laine which is much more dynamic. It’s quite irreverently dynamic, there are lots of dips and peaks and the first half of the compilation reflects that a bit more.”

Split into two halves, ‘Feast / Beast’ can give off the impression of being intricately ordered. However it seems that this isn’t the case – the complexity of individual pieces masks an often hodge podge approach to tracklisting. “It’s borderline a mess, really, let’s be honest” he says, laughing, “but I pulled it back from being that – hopefully –by excluding a lot of remixes I’ve done. There’s about six on there which I didn’t include as they just weren’t good enough. It feels quite pruned and that’s very important to me, keeping it snappy and concise yet at the same time when you’re exploring that much space and range you need to kind of allow yourself a double disc format, in a way”.

Often commissioned as ‘add ons’ for a single release, Clark seems to focus on each remix with a fastidious passion which borders on the obsessive. Invited to re-work Massive Attack’s ‘Red Light’ release, the Warp beatsmith responded with months of labour – the majority of which was seemingly spent on a single vocal from Martina Topley-Bird. “I spent about four months on it, which is probably too long. I generally spend between four months and four hours on a remix, and I don’t think you can always tell which ones have had the long work and the short work” he explains. “I spent ages on her voice and it’s only in there for about 30 seconds – so typical of me, to spend ages on an element which only lasts 30 seconds and then being off the cuff with the rest of it. There’s no linear form that music takes, unfortunately. You can’t really predict.. well, you can to point – you can predict how long an album will take, roughly, but you constantly get pleasant surprises and nasty bumps as well”.

Remarkably, Clark also includes a handful of remixes featuring other producers dismantling his own work, including Nathan Fake’s vision of ‘Growl's Garden’. A complex, bewildering beast, the cut left a deep impression on the Warp artist – yet Chris Clark is keen to stress that few other producers impact upon his own work. “I’m sort of fairly self-possessed with how I got about my own material, which is not to say that I’m not influenced by what Nathan does” he insists. “I heard that track about two years ago and I was in the middle of ‘Iradelphic’ and writing quite a lot a more melodic, acoustic stuff. Quite often it’s more hearing something completely polarised from what you’re doing, that you can still appreciate and still enjoy. So in that sense it’s more of an escapist thing rather than taking direct influence from it”.

Currently focussing on new material -  “you need a mellow headspace to write intense music” he warns – the introspective nature of compiling a remix collection seems to have forced Clark to re-assess his own methods. “I think compiling it just drew me into the idea of what is a remix, and what you do to re-work someone else’s sounds and stamp it with your own” he muses. “I think the main thing to realise when I listen to that is that I kind of brutalised what other people were doing. When you’re remixing a band using electronics is a way.. it’s quite a degraded form, really. If you look at the imagery Alan Moore uses: he’s saying quite deep emotional stuff but using this corrupt form – using cheap materials to achieve something that you feel you’ve got a lot of conviction behind.”

For now, though, Clark seems content to operate without any set plan. “I kind of aim to be aimless at the moment. With albums, I think there’s a period which it all feels like freeplay and you’re just exploring. That, usually, is when about 70% of the material is written” he insists. “I’ve got loads on the go. I’m trying to whittle down the numbers of tracks I’m working on to about thirteen at the moment. There’s about 300 in the background which are lurking but thirteen, in my case, is the lucky number. Anything beyond that and it just becomes diluted. I work simultaneously on about fifteen things at once”.

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'Feast / Beast' is set to be released on Monday (September 16th).

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