In Conversation: Clams Casino

In Conversation: Clams Casino

Pivotal producer on his new project, and seminal work for A$AP Rocky, Vince Staples, and more...

There aren’t many producers who can claim to have made internet history. Clams Casino can. The pioneering New Jersey producer birthed the cloud rap movement a decade ago through ‘I’m God’ featuring cult rapper Lil B and he has continued to pop up in the background of some of contemporary hip-hop’s most influential tracks, from Vince Staples’ Norf Norf to Lil Peep’s 4 Gold Chains and A$AP Rocky’s 'Live.Love. A$AP' mixtape - the latter a modern classic celebrating its 10th birthday.

You could forgive him then for perhaps wishing to take a well deserved break, but staying true to his constant striving for different listening experience he has just released an ambient, re-contextualised album of the sounds he has become known for over the years. It’s a stripped-back listen, each component lay bare amongst an ethereal soundscape. It’s this constant drive for sonic diversity that has kept Clams Casino at the very top of most critics favourite producers lists - working with the likes of Wicca Phase, Kelela and Mac Miller on culture-defining sequences.

We caught up with Clams to chat all about the release of 'Winter Flower', the decade long legacy of 'Live.Love.A$AP' and making it onto Lil B’s MySpace page.

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Within the contemporary soundscape you are very much an inspiration for producers on the come up, but what was it that inspired you to get into making music initially?

It was just always around. I started when I was really young, the first thing I did was drums. I had a little drum set when I was about six years old. I didn’t start making beats until I was about fourteen. I just felt like trying to do it myself.

Have your influences and inspirations changed over time? You have crossed over into the pop and alternative realms, working with the likes of Kelela, Wicca Phase and Lil Peep - Did you find your creative methods changed when switching it up from hip-hop?

I like anything that stands out, something I feel is unique or I haven’t heard anything like it before. Lil B has been doing his own thing for a long time. Wicca Phase too, I’m a big fan of his music. The tone of his voice and his melodies stand out to me so I listen to a lot of that. His voice, to me, doesn’t sound like anything I’ve heard before, so I gravitate towards it. Things like that inspire me, if I can give something to help out what they do then great.

Looking back at your career, what do you feel are the definitive moments? There have been so many from what I can see - from Lil B ‘I’m God’ to working with ASAP Rocky and that fantastic'Norf Norf' beat for Vince Staples...

The biggest thing for me when I first started… I was working with Lil B a lot, we started in 2008. I was a really big fan of The Pack, the group that he was in, so I was sending him stuff and he was doing freestyles on them. At the time he had, like, one hundred MySpace pages and he was putting up five freestyles on every page. He’d drop a crazy amount of music on MySpace. All my free stuff was going up on there, I’d be checking it all the time.

He had his main page where he would only put one song, so my goal was to try and get something on the main page - the official one. ‘On God’ was the first one that went up on his main page and that was HUGE. That was a big achievement for me. That’s something that people don’t really know, that was super early, around 2009.

There’s something so pure about that when you look at everything you have achieved in music now.

It was a big motivation for me, he’s one of my favourite artists. It was a big moment.

You have described your music as new age rap in the past, becoming known as the creator of cloud rap in the process. Where do you feel rap is headed today? Do you foresee a movement or term such as ‘cloud rap’ happening again any time soon?

Yeah, who knows, it’s possible. It’s going in a lot of different directions and it’s fun to watch, but I’ve no idea what’s coming next. It’s so easy to find what young kids are doing nowadays on the internet, there’s so much happening. I don’t know what the next movement will be, but there’s a lot of interesting stuff.

Hip-hop feels like it’s one of the only genres that can be implemented across anything. There’s emo hip-hop, metal hip-hop, traditional hip-hop, pop hip-hop…

Yeah there’s so many sub-categories, that’s why it keeps growing and getting more and more diverse.

Tell me about the inspiration for 'Winter Flower' - what made you want to make an ambient, textured re-contextualisation of the sounds you have contributed to so many great tracks over the years?

A lot of it came together very quickly, which isn’t very normal for me. I spend a lot of time and it’s usually quite a long process, but someone forwarded me some music and asked if I wanted to sample it. It was a Japanese artist, a group called Jazztronik. I was listening through and it all came together. I started running through the tracks and flipping ideas one by one.  

I did about one or two ideas a day, that’s not normal for me, it was coming so naturally and quickly. I was inspired by that music. The centre of it was based around what I did in quite a short time.

The 10 year anniversary of Long Live A$AP is coming up. How did you meet Rocky? How aware of his music prior to linking up? Did any of you realise how influential that record had the possibility of being? It was something quite different at the time, more inspired by Southern rap than what was going on in NYC.

I had reached out to him when he had a few videos online. He didn’t have much music out at the time. I was looking for artists close to me on the East Coast to work with,I was working with a lot of artists in California and the Bay area. When I found him he had already been making music with some of my beats. I hit him up telling him who I was and he was like, I’ve already been rapping on your instrumental tapes!

We ended up meeting up shortly after that. We were doing songs one by one, I wasn’t aware of any project in the beginning. The first track we did together was ‘Wassup’. I sent him a few beats and he went with that one. We put that out early, Spring that year. I was really excited with what he was able to do with that. I was just excited doing the songs one by one, they were getting better and better. We were locking into something special, then at the end I realised what we had done. In the build up to the release we started to realise that, but at the start I was just excited to be doing something different.

What’s next for Clams Casino?

I never really stop for too long. I take breaks and refresh when I switch working on my stuff to others, so I don’t get burnt out. Now that my stuff is out there I’ll get back into doing some sessions with other people and see where that goes.

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'Winter Flower' is out now.

Words: Andrew Moore

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