The back catalogue of David Kempston aka Clatterbox has always covered a lot of ground in its content; as well as laying killer beats in the electro tempo he’s best known for, he’s also accomplished the electronic funk come hip hop vibe and also used his Z Bop imprint to showcase the more glitchy side of operations. This year, for his latest LP ‘outside the box’ Kempston has gone one further creating an array of tracks that touch on the sublime in their synth work bringing an all together different sense to his production, of course he does still bring the bass in a couple of tracks, but overall this release feels like a collection of beats made not for the dancefloor but for the head.
To mark its release a couple of weeks gone and to present the story of Clatterbox (I’ve been an avid appreciator of his for years) I exchanged some questions over email to uncover the story of the LP and what’s been happening in the world of Clatterbox in the story so far. There’s also a mix recorded exclusively for us to share some of the sounds that feature on the album and the artist in question is digging right now.
Hey David firstly thanks for doing this mix I’ve really been a big appreciator of your music for some years now, when you started releasing in the 90’s it was quite a different environment especially for the electro style you’re mainly known for – how did you first get hooked up with producing and putting records out?
It seems such a long time ago now, but as far back as the early eighties I would tape John Peels Radio 1 shows and re-record parts of tracks I liked, to extend them using a rubbish double cassette tape player… this was my first foray into manipulating beats and loops, the results were terrible but I had fun with it. I would hear some great stuff on JP’s show, early acid like Phuture acid trax, early detroit techno such as the Transmat and Metroplex stuff, then into early Warp, etc.
I was already into Kraftwerk, Jean Michelle Jarre, Vangelis et al, so I had a hunger to here more electronic based music. From my ‘research’ of listening to JP’s shows I would start trying to find vinyl of the tracks I heard. And so started a fascination with vinyl. Trying to find the early Trax stuff, the Detroit masters like, Derrick May, Carl Craig, Shake, UR, all the early Warp releases like LFO and Nighmares on Wax, and onto R&S and other stuff coming out of Europe like the Eevolute and Djax stuff… A little later, on UR there were the early Drexciya releases. I’d like to single out Drexciya if I may as I don’t think anyone has really got close to the magic productions of James Stinson and Gerald Donald, and they both had (still have) a major influence on my music and thought processes.
It was around this time (end of the 80’s / start of the 90’s) that I would meet Tom Middleton (of Global Communication, Jedi Knights etc), and also Steven Horne (with whom I would later set up Z-bop). This was at college where we studied Graphic Design. Later Tom would introduce me to Mark Pritchard (Harmonic 313, Reload, Global Communication etc), and the whole ‘Rave’ scene was going on at this time.
So from these influences after leaving college I would get my first bits of kit. My 16 track mixer (which I still have), a roland SH101 (which I still use), a roland MC202, a Casio FZ1 sampler, a Korg DW6000, a couple effects units and a DAT recorder. This was the equipment used to produce the tracks that would form my first release as Clatterbox in 1995 on Clear. But some of the tracks were recorded around 1992/1993. I met Hal and Claire (who were just starting up Clear) at a gig me and Steve Horne did as ‘Jak & Stepper’ which was a little collaboration project we were doing with Tom and Mark for their Evolution Label. Mathew Herbert did a set also, and I remember meeting A Guy Called Gerald, and Mike Paradinas that night as well. So, this probably leads into your next question…
It’s been 20 years you’ve been involved making tracks that’s a long time i’m interested to know what have been the best moments?
Having my first release on Clear (my ‘debut’ double 10 inch) was very special, hearing your tracks on vinyl for the first time is a great moment. This was only topped by John Peel playing my track ‘Xexa’ on his show… he even phoned me a few days before to let me know he was going to play it so I could record the show. He would go on to play many of my releases, including my first Z-bop release the ‘Solar phase ep’. He will be sorely missed and no one will ever be able to replicate what he did for underground music.
Other highlights would include some of the gigs I did as Clatterbox, in particular a mini-tour of Japan which will always stay with me.
Having the support of people like Dave Clarke is fantastic as well, and I can’t thank him enough for the numerous times he has dropped my tunes on his Whitenoise show.
Other best moments include the simple joy I still get from just making the music.
You set up Z Bop then in 2004- can you tell us a bit about that? Really loved the Golaith releases isn’t that your brother?
Z-bop was an experiment really. Me and Steve Horne (Even Steven, The Horn) wanted to set up a label to release our own material, and to make it more fun we included my brother (who records under the name Goliath) and our mutual friends Mike (Nanobot) Halloran, and Ben Clark. From this meeting of minds our first two releases were born; ZEE001: Clatterbox – Solar Phase ep, and ZEE002: Even Steven – Heatseeker ep. The last physical release was ZEE003 which was my brothers debut release, the album; Goliath – Mineral Kingdom.
After that we concentrated on digital only releases as it was to expensive for us to continue with vinly/CD releases. We got up to ZEE009: Goliath – Hidden Agenda ep. We have put Z-bop on hold for various personnel reasons but we might return.
The rawness and forthcoming nature of your beats has been quite a hallmark of your production – this is quite a shift in the feeling for this album, what inspired the change?
For this new album, I wanted to compile the tracks that were special to me and had more emphasis on musicality and feeling. So there is less in the way of club oriented material on here. The tracks I’m including on this LP span many years, so the only decision I made was what tracks to include. I keep the more ‘club friendly’ tracks for vinyl releases that I occasionally do for other labels such as Trust, Touchin’ Bass, and Frustrated Funk. I never set out to do a specific mood or style of track in any given time. So I could be working on a ‘club banger’ one moment and the next track I do might be a more emotive affair.
Why have you chosen to release this album in the way of bandcamp and not on your label Z Bop? Do you think Bandcamp is a good option for people in general?
I decided to release ‘Outside the box’ on my own imprint which is DJK productions. Z-bop was very much about the collective of artists involved. So I decided to keep my own very personnel projects under the DJK productions banner. Bandcamp for me at least is just the natural evolution of how I want to distribute my music to people. I have total control over what I release, when I want to release it and for how much. It’s simple and it works. I would recommend it to any artist who wants to just do everything themselves and not have to rely on anybody else.
Have you stuck with a hardware set up over the years can you run us through what you’re currently producing on? Am interested to know how you made the really warm sounds on this album.
Some of the original hardware I’ve had from the 90’s is still with me, other machines have come and gone. Currently I’m using a mixture of analogue gear and software.
I don’t want to go into specifics as I like to retain a little m
ystery in how I make my tracks.
Can you tell us a bit the mix, how you went about your track selection and putting it together?
Firstly I wanted to include some of the material from my new album, so that was my starting point. Then it just naturally grew from what other tracks of mine fitted in the mix both sonically and tempo wise. I also just had a bit of fun with it hence the intro and the track I mix into ‘Machine Soul’ at the end of the set.
What’s coming up for you?
Well on 14.02.14 I released ‘Outside the box’ which is be my fifth album as Clatterbox, hopefully people will enjoy it.
I’ve just had the track ‘Transformer’ included on a new compilation for Touchin’ Bass called ‘Present Tense’. I have a track on a new compilation project coming on TRUST very soon, which I think is going to be something very special, so keep an eye out for that one. I plan on doing some more Clatterbox releases on DJK productions (via Bandcamp). Probably next I’ll do a release of all the rare releases that people may have missed and put them on one release, call it ‘Golden Rarities’ something like that. That reminds me actually, I also need to add my first two ‘Clatterbeats’ releases to my Bandcamp page.
Clatterbox’s new album is available to buy on Bandcamp now. To listen and purchase head here.