Clark is difficult to describe, and it's because you feel any quick summarization of his music doesn't do it the justice it deserves. Words fail where the songs simply triumph, and this is absolutely the case with his latest album Death Peak.
He's been releasing on the definitive Warp Records for quite some time now, and each of his nine albums have a distinct identity all in of themselves. Death Peak is an outing with the artist that is as much a journey inwards as a sonic endeavor forward.
You will hear quite clearly high-quality production throughout the album, but also with a refusal to conform to any sort of genre convention. Despite the experimentation, Clark always all remains accessible and engaging throughout. If like me, you are a huge fan of all things Warp Records from Danny Brown to Aphex Twin, then you absolutely will be right at home with Death Peak.
Now, I had quite a great back and forth with Clark on his latest album, and so I am opting for a brief intro. So, put on the album and take a moment to see what's on Clark's mind and how he made this wonderful work that is Death Peak.
Oh, and for all those in Texas, be sure to catch Clark as he finishes his US tour in Dallas, Houstin, and Austin this week. Snag tickets here!
Your album "Death Peak" is true to form in its forward-thinking execution and dreamlike transcendence. Sixteen years on from your debut and you've certainly accomplished a lot with all of your albums, but what do you feel you accomplished with this album?
In hindsight, I think I wanted something to exist that hinted at familiar musical forms but gradually deconstructed itself into something entirely new, with a certain brutal and seductive elegance. But I only realized that after I wrote it.
I would never think “I’m NOW going to write something entirely new, that is also familiar but is also brutal and elegant. And It MUST deconstruct itself”
That would be laughable and pompous and silly!!! It always seems to happen post event. I seem incapable of writing a concept album. So far.
Music always starts with a nonverbal cue for me, a little neuro-chemical loop in my brain, an itch of excitement I can’t scratch or describe until I just hit record and graft it into place. I prefer it this way. I, in fact, RELISH that I can’t quite describe what it is until after it happens. All my albums feel different, in some ways fill in the gaps the other ones leave behind.
You have such a graceful technique of marrying disparate & discordant elements together to make such dynamic music. When you go about making a song, do you set out to clash and mold opposites to create something cohesive?
I’m not sure I consciously do that, I think it’s more intuition, sometimes tiny elements are set off against each other on a very granular level. Sometimes it’s with broader strokes. Usually, it’s the narrative and sense of momentum and development that keeps the music interesting for me. Everything has to be of consequence for it to become coherent. However chaotic that tumbling mass of disparate forces starts, it always becomes coherent in the end. At least it should.
Is there a Clark dialectic of sorts being worked out sonically through your compositions?
Early morning rise….lots of tea….Oh yes this is fucking amazing…fuck I’m so excited about this….fuck…ha…no….nope…it’s not quite as good as I thought…hahaha fuck this is terrible….what was I thinking…..twat…..back to the drawing board……50 hours of work later….fuck….no it is…it IS …..it’s better than I thought…..it’s better than I imagined it could ever be! I’ve done it again…..yippee.”
On Death Peak, I get a sense of a full nights sleep of vivid dreaming, gliding between moments of nirvana and nightmare. Do you intend for your music to have this ethereal dreamlike quality?
No, but I’m glad if that’s the response, that’s ace!
I certainly don’t intend for it to have a banal mundane everyday quality, but I don’t aim against it either. I like to play around free and uncensored-sometimes if really all you have to say is a mundane drone in D minor then that should be allowed. Record it, interrogate it with no self-deceiving bullshit allowed. Learn from it, then delete. Basically, up until a certain point, it’s all boundless "express what ever you want" and then at some (very) crucial point I step in with the brutal self-editing. This, I guess, is the process of composition rather than improvisation.
I want to transcribe extraordinary moments of epiphany through my music, but I’m not quite sure I can describe how that happens. It's this thing of everything normal suddenly feeling fresh and unfamiliar. Smells smell different. It’s this thing of willing yourself into a surprised/excited and unexpected state of mind.
And by result of that your listeners as well. I often think well if this is making me cry or laugh or feel joy or dread whatever it’s virtually impossible it WON’T have a similar effect on at least one other unknown human out there, eh?
While we're on dreams, and maybe I'm really reading into my own personal interpretation of your music, but what sort of dreams do you have? Do they play any part in your art?
I used to have a dream diary, I want to get back into that actually. They play a vivid part of life, no doubt. And are best examined rather than ignored. Clearly! Dream study should be on the curriculum. Saying that I’ve had some really tedious dreams recently. Like walking along massive long rusty iron boats that never end and then you realize you’ve forgotten your socks or a church bell has fallen on your best friends skull. You then have to walk all the way back to fix his skull or find your socks and then fall into the sea and get eaten by a shark. That’s a typical dream you would have on tour.
Last year you worked heavily in scoring. Was this a lifelong ambition?
Composing music in some form has been a lifelong ambition. Film is a great outlet for that. I love a good score. I think I would thrive in this climate of creation too. A Clark amongst the pigeons. I listen to scores like Millers Crossing and I’m in deep admiration and moved but also sort of slightly churlishly thinking it can’t be THAT hard though, can it? I’ve got an ear for a distinct theme and I’m obsessed with narrative development of these themes and love working to picture… So like….seems fairly straight forward that I should get involved. I think of getting to score an amazing film like it being a juicy apple on a tree with my name on it, winking at me to pluck it off and gobble it all up.
I ask about scoring as a lifelong ambition because your albums and music are quintessentially cinematic - intensely emotive and challenging, but alluring, enchanting. There always feels like there is a narrative playing out in your music. Is there?
Yes, but it always gets tricky to pinpoint with words. I write lyrics frequently for tracks but delete them because they seem to impair the visceral quality of the tunes. So far. Never say never!
The narrative would definitely be “fuck, I’m losing my shit, this is trippy……amazing” rather than “dude look at my new tattoo and expensive hat I look sick in da club let me take a selfie”
So Clark the Project. What is it to you? Is it your profession, your life's work, just something you do?
It’s quite an uncomplicated relationship I have with music. OTT statement but it kind of saved my life, I was adrift, a self-destructive escapist with chaotic urges and impulses until I followed my instincts and allowed the discipline of making music to order those impulses and enhance my life. So in that way, it saved me. If music was a person then it would be the person that saved me from falling off a cliff. You tend not to question the righteous intentions of the person that saved you from falling off a cliff.
How do you hope your project, our performances, your music come across to audiences, new and loyal alike?
Well, you can’t control that shit. I aim to entertain, and in turn, I’m entertained by peoples responses, good and bad.
How do you recommend people listen to your music? And to "Death Peak" more specifically?
I mixed it on ATC speakers, really nice in ear headphones and laptop speakers. Quite a perfect little trio of ultra hi-fi and ultra lo-fi listening sources there.
I think people should listen either really loud or really quiet…hehe. I’m not sure. It’s strange. It’s an immutable code now. But everyone hears it differently. That never stops freaking me out. In a good way. Like all music, it’s permanent….but also completely ephemeral and open to interpretation
What is one deep thought you have been having lately?
Maybe this simulation stuff is actually all totally bollocks and the moon really does exist. Also, I wonder why I find it so hard to watch old films these days and what would death peak smell like if it was a perfume? Silicon and bone dust.