According to many DnB followers, Tom Withers, better known as Klute, one of the most brilliant producers on the UK Dnb scene, is going to make a difference in 2015 by means of his own label Commercial Suicide. The first releases on the label as well as the upcoming ones bolster such a prediction. Let’s check what he has to say…
Chain D.L.K.: It’s a big honor to speak to one of the “beacons” in the d’n’b storm… can you give us a retrospective of your very first steps on this kind of scene?
Klute: In the autumn of 1991 I took a job at Tower Records in Rockville MD, in the USA after moving away from a 3 year stint in Los Angeles. 1991 was a very fruitful year for rave culture and the Washington DC area proved to be quite a hive of activity and made a huge impact on me just based on the people I was working with at the record store.
By this time, most vinyl had been replaced by CD and the only thing keeping it alive was Dance music culture. Therefore, the vinyl section at this Tower was awesome.
I remember the Shamen were on tour to promote Move Any Mountain, with Moby as support, who was promoting Go in the US. One day he came into the store and that night I went to see them both play at the old 9.30 Club in DC. Moby just leaping around on stage with his Roland W30 is still one of the best live acts I’ve ever seen.
So off I went and bought myself an Ensoniq EPS16+ and started trying to write tunes. Sending cassettes to my old friends at Vinyl Solution proved fruitless; they were already bored of dance and had moved on to movies already by that point. So I perceived their disinterest as meaning my music was shit, so I didn’t take it too seriously until I moved back to the UK in 1993 and hooked up with a very active Hardcore / Rave scene in Ipswich, with two prominent record shops. Phunkchunk – where Paul Arnold from Certificate 18 worked and new upstarts Red Eye Records across the street that are still going to this day.
Their interest and enthusiasm was the polar opposite of Vinyl Solution and both Paul Arnold and Tom Ision from Red Eye were enormously encouraging and, soon, by 94, there was talk of releases. Paul was the first to ask for an exclusive name so I picked Klute, from the classic film. In 1995 we released F.P.O.P. & Survival and to my complete shock people took it seriously.
Chain D.L.K.: Would you say that d’n’b has changed, in your opinion? What are the main differences, both in fans and producers?
Klute: D&B grew out of hardcore / Jungle and in my opinion, it felt like a gentrification of what seemed to be a scene of no limitations. I suppose the biggest need for a split was the monster that was Happy Hardcore, which grew out of the rave scene but took all its worst elements and fed it steroids. At the same time, Jungle was becoming some caricature of itself, so “serious jungle” or whatever felt like it needed to distance itself with a new name or sub genre. With that it brought in a new set of rules and the agenda became something else; some of it great, some of it bad. I think, for the most part, we’ve been diluting that slowly but surely ever since.
The biggest change D&B seemed to make was a big move away from “party music” or whatever you want to call it, and its main focus became the so called “science of production” which I’ve always thought was a load of bollocks. Anyways… That’s how I see it. I love gear and studio talk as much as anyone else, but I can’t stand elitism and blind following.
Chain D.L.K.: In my humble opinion, there are three topical moments in your discography…the first one is the collaboration with Dom and Roland…would you say your paths will meet again or not? Any predictions?
Klute: Dom and I are very good friends and we DJ together regularly. We’ve made 2 or 3 tunes together and I’m positive we will make more together, soon.
Chain D.L.K.: The second topical moment is “Fear Of People”, one of the best records of the last 15 years… How do you feel when you listen to it again?
Klute: Most specifically, I remember it being the turn of the millennium and everything being really exciting. I had made Casual Bodies a couple of years earlier which had gone down really well so I was gathering steam and plowing full steam ahead with Paul Arnold / Cert 18’s enthusiasm. That was the greatest thing about Paul, his encouragement and enthusiasm. We were also working very closely with Lawrence & Domino Records. Not many people know that Domino Records was a silent partner in Cert 18.
Anyways, for me there are a handful of inspired tunes on Fear Of People. Mostly Three Of Us which was the last tune written for the LP and the one that got most people excited at the time. I still like the whole thing; it’s good!
Chain D.L.K.: The third one is the monumental “Lie, Cheat & Steal/You Should Be Ashamed”… what are the elements of that great album that you still consider contemporary?
Klute: I guess this was my break out LP, as it was the first album I released after I left Cert 18 and the world of D&B had really opened up to me. Contemporary? I really have no idea what that means, to be honest. Much of what is considered “contemporary” in D&B at the moment isn’t, in my eyes. For me there is good music or boring music. Rarely, there is shit music, but that’s beside the point. “Contemporary” can often mean blind following, especially in dance music. So for me to think of my own music, released over 10 years ago…I have no idea. I like it; I think there’s good music on there.
Chain D.L.K.: “The Draft” was maybe eclipsed by mainstream lines which don’t believe that d’n’b is a fashionable trend anymore, even if it has a real output… do you think that some music journalists are somehow mischievous in their reports about the health of the scene?
Klute: This is an interesting topic for me, the subject of journalism. I’m not a journalist myself, so perhaps it’s unfair of me to pass judgment, but it’s rare to find real journalists in music. People who get off their own backsides and find music themselves and report on it without being prompted by PR or even a new release to promote.
All music is timeless, once it’s written and released, it’s here forever, not just for the month of release. There are certain sites and publications that definitely do try to focus on the basic subject of good music or whatever.
With regard to reporting on the health of the scene: Well, that’s a relative thing, isn’t it? Sure D&B is alive and strong, but at the same time it’s not exactly HUGE, is it?
Chain D.L.K.: You started 2015 releasing a massive single… are you sure that listeners will like it? 🙂 Any words on that?
Klute: Originally, when I had an idea for this track I wanted to export a small clip to play to a couple of friends to see what they thought, so I anticipated both of them wouldn’t like it – and they didn’t, so I was right.
Chain D.L.K.: Is 2015 going to be the year of Klute? Any anticipation of a forthcoming album?
Klute:I will continue to make and release brand new music throughout 2015 and beyond, but I will also be releasing a lot of older Klute stuff that hasn’t been re-issued yet, so in a way YES it will be a year of Klute. There will be a new Klute LP; what form of sound it takes is anyone’s guess at this point.
Chain D.L.K.: Is Commercial Suicide painless? What can we expect from your label?
Klute: There is quite a bit of stuff on the pipeline. We have upcoming singles from Nymfo, Invaderz, Soul Intent etc and we’re close to fruition with the Quadrant & Iris & Kid Hops LP, which I am also very excited about.
Chain D.L.K.: Besides the stuff you produce, is there any underrated producer, label or scene that you want to suggest to our readers?
Klute: No, not really. With the speed of the Internet and it’s abundance of information, everything has been reported and shoved down your throats before it’s really happened. After all, we now live in a “pre-order” culture. In reality though there are LOTS of producers out there that are coming through and are really good.
Chain D.L.K.: I’ve seen a clip of “Be Good To The Ones (You Love)” on Commercial Suicide TV, that features some interesting snapshots…where did you get them?
Klute: They’re all pictures I took. I love to take pictures and have a variety of cameras, some digital and some analog but I often forget to take one and go for months without taking any.
Most commonly, I have my IPhone to take a snap but I don’t like its quality so much.
Chain D.L.K.: Have you ever given names to the three outlined characters in the Commercial Suicide logo?
Klute: Ha! No, but that’s a great idea, maybe someone else can do this.
Chain D.L.K.: Would you recommend a Prophet 6 or 12 for d’n’b? 🙂
Klute: Actually, no. I think both of those particular Dave Smith synths lack any real depth to them, they seem rather soulless – however the Pro 2 is fantastic and I would love one. There’s something different about it. It has a fake poly mode that produces some wonderful results. I have an original SC Prophet 600, which is an altogether much different beast. However it’s sick and needs to see the doctor.
Chain D.L.K.: Any new elements in your sound equipment?
Klute: Yes, quite a few little boxes that I love. Mostly, I love the Teenage Engineering OP-1, which is probably my most used little box. It’s fantastic because it’s quirky and limited to a certain way of construction. I don’t think it’s everyone’s cup of tea but I can get lost in it so easily. It’d be coming with me to a deserted Island.
Next is the Electron Octatrack. A bit of a monster to learn the key command but otherwise it’s fantastic.
Personally, I love hardware. It shows a certain commitment that isn’t the same with software.
Chain D.L.K.: You performed in many different venues. Do you have a favorite one? Why?
Klute: I come across them all the time. Even a couple of weeks ago, in Sheffield… the Hope Works, that was great. There’s the Tunnel in Bratislava that is burrowed into the side of a mountain. The original Fu Bar in Auckland and Sandwiches in Wellington in New Zealand, both amazing for crowds and vibes. I’ve played a few rural locations as well… I’ve also got to mention the Block9 stage at Glastonbury. That was amazing.
Visit Commercial Suicide online at: www.commercialsuicide.org