In an auditory age when an artist’s popularity is largely predicated on clicks, likes, and oversharing, secrecy is sexy—now more than ever. And who on the house music hierarchy has remained more surreptitious than Claptone?
Little is known about the man behind the beak who averages an improbable upwards of 260 performances per year, often traversing multiple continents for performances across a single weekend. Soaked in soul and powered by four-on-the-floor club grooves that range from pumped-up to plaintive, Claptone’s production has been tapped for official remixes from a litany of likeminded counterparts: from the Pet Shop Boys to—most recently—Mark Ronson (a forthcoming release). Despite the explosive success the plague doctor-themed project has secured since its 2012 inception, the Berlin-based Claptone camp solidified a fiercely coveted milestone, even among bluechip modern electronic acts, in 2019: an extended summertime tenure in the White Isle. Claptone’s first Ibiza residency touched down at one of the island’s quintessential after-dark playgrounds, Pacha. The perpetually poised puppet master attracted an auspicious flock to his Monday Masquerades, which spanned this past May-September and included the likes of Diplo, Duke Dumont, Eli & Fur, Shiba San, and Bob Moses (to name only a few).
While he’s lauded for laying low, Dancing Astronaut caught up with Claptone to get a closer look at the man who’s made his mark with myth.
Along with a stylized playlist to score the summer residency, Claptone shared insights on the bygone summer season, some fond moments at Pacha, and a bit about what’s hiding in his aural incubator. He also reflected on the longwinded lore breathing life into his immaterial persona. Claptone’s face may remain never to be seen, but one facet of the DJ’s smoke and mirrors act is certain—there’s substance behind the subterfuge.
Did Pacha live up to your expectations for your first Ibiza residency? Why or why not?
It was my first season and I didn’t have any clear vision of how it might be really. I only knew it’d be a great party cause I know my fans and the international popularity of Claptone. I knew they’d come and enjoy this experience and they did. To be honest for the first season it surpassed my wildest expectations. So many amazing people that appreciated all the quite various line ups I had been programming. The greatest compliment surely was that so many of these great DJs whom I booked like Todd Terry, Kerri Chandler, MK as well as DJs whom I couldn’t have on the bill like Solardo, CamelPhat, Paul Oakenfold, Roger Sanchez, Erick Morillo, Martin Solveig came in private on some Mondays to just enjoy the party and the great vibe of the night. That for me says it all.
Tell me about the stylistic approach you took to your summer residency in the White Isle…
I made a huge effort in growing the regular stage setup of my The Masquerade parties—the huge golden mask above the booth and the smaller masks with the LED-lit eyes hanging from the ceiling, to match Pacha and come up with interior design ideas to go along with that. Same with the dancer and performer costumes. I had tailors from Pacha as well as tailors from Torture Garden in London work out details on costumes and designs I came up with. That’s why in the end there are about 30 amazing characters from futuristic Venetian carnival to cinematic Eyes Wide Shut from classic Circus to Dia de los Muertos dancing, wandering or even flying through the club.
Can you tell me about a particularly impactful moment or night from this past season’s performances?
It’s hard to pick just one or two moments when you just had 19 weeks of mayhem on a Monday at Pacha Ibiza at your very own night with your very own concept The Masquerade. The pure fact that I was able to program the line up, invite and play with Armand van Helden, Andhim, Audiojack, Basement Jaxx, Bob Moses, Catz ‘n Dogz, Chus & Ceballos, Danny Howard, Danny Tenaglia, David Penn, Dennis Cruz, Dennis Ferrer, Diplo, Duke Dumont, Eli & Fur, Faithless, Felix da Housecat, Hannah Wants, Heidi, Illyus & Barrientos, Jon Hopkins, Kerri Chandler, Lars Moston, Maya Jane Coles, Mat.Joe, MK, Nhan Solo, Nora En Pure, Pirupa, Purple Disco Machine, Riva Starr, Route 94, Shiba San, Shir Khan, Sidney Charles, SG Lewis, Sonny Fodera, Tensnake, Todd Terry, Tube & Berger, and Weiss was such a game changer for me.
It’s tough to put that into words and even harder to pick a favorite moment. But the back to back with Diplo was certainly a highlight for me as this was my very first and to date my last back to back ever, [considering] it was Diplo playing house music in front of a super excited crowd.
Any new music in the works you can speak to?
You know I love secrets, but, well, I’ll make an exception. I just finished some remixes that went to mastering the other day. You are more than welcome to look forward to what I did to Mark Ronson as well as Charlie Puth and Michael Kiwanuka. Fasten your seatbelt.
Describe the significance of the golden-beaked mask and white gloves…
This mask is part of my personality, one of my many faces. Its origins lie in the old Italian city of Venezia and for me hints at the rich history and culture we all share and of course at the masquerade balls [we’ve held for] centuries. A social tradition which allows us to explore our identity and to fathom our freedom as individuals in performative play. One aspect of it is being able to question authorities and hierarchies, structures of self-sustaining power, question the ones we kneel down before.
The beak with its birdlike shape is giving me access to perform beyond human abilities. At the same time it ridicules pop idols, who think they are more than just human and love to run around presenting their tail feathers. The resemblance to a plague doctors mask is not by accident either. You are welcome to perceive me as some kind of sonic plague doctor. The mask was casted out of titan’s gold. Gold for me reflects the treasure that I found in music. It simultaneously ridicules the greed and materialism of your average rock star or Hip-Hop hero. Last but not least, wearing a mask is liberating and it’s shielding your privacy, extending your personal freedom. This, together with reflecting on the mechanisms of media and popular music, empowers me to be in charge of my image and perform my artistic identity much more consciously. The gloves I just wear to not get my hands dirty.
A great deal of secrecy ensconces the Claptone masthead, specifically in reference to your identity(s). Can you speak to this?
Claptone declined to comment.
Photo Credit: Jackmode