Filed under: Interview
Detroit-native, producer and DJ Claude Young has been an integral part in the development of electronic music. Having begun labels 7th City with Daniel “DBX” Bell and Frictional with Anthony “Shake” Shakir, an increasingly busy schedule prompted many moves throughout Europe. He’s currently based in Glasgow, planning on taking a break from the DJing during 2005 and is in the midst of lining up quite a few new projects. We caught up with him just prior to his gig at Womb in Tokyo to talk about them.
Interview by Laura Brown (ArcTokyo)
HRFQ : How long has it been since you were last here in Japan? You come here quite a bit.
Claude Young : At least once a year because my wife is here and I’m in the UK. Yuki was here earlier this year and is coming to the UK in Dec, and I’ve been here for a month. And next Jan, I’ll probably come and stay for two months. I have a lot of really close friends here mainly in Osaka and Kyoto, so I like spending time here. It’s very calming compared to Europe.
HRFQ : You’ve mentioned on your website that you’ll be taking an extended break from the music scene in 2005. Can you talk at all about why?
Claude : To be honest, I’m kind of jaded at the moment. Before it was different – a bit slower, a bit funkier. Maybe I’m getting older, but I play a lot in Europe and other places and a lot of big parties, which really isn’t my thing. I’ve always thought of myself as more of a club DJ. I’m just not a rave DJ. It’s not my thing and I don’t enjoy them. I like a personal contact with crowds. I like to see people and meet people and you can’t do that with 10,000 people. It’s just impossible. And there is a kind of particular formatted way that you have to do those situations. I think I’m just tired of doing those things. I’m not going to quit, but I’m going to take a break for six or seven months and concentrate on other things. I produce videos and I want to do some ambient projects, totally left-field, vocal things. Stuff that I can’t really do now. You make a name and then you get locked in a box, and I feel like I’m kind of locked in a box right now. I will definitely come back and play here because Japan is a different thing. This is something totally unique and you don’t really have it too often in any other countries, although Singapore is pretty similar. I have places where I can do things the way I like. But I can’t really do that at a rave. It’s not really happening like that. So I need to make a small break. I’ve been going for almost ten years, almost non-stop every week. I still love it. Today I was working on some remix stuff. Stuff that I couldn’t really play anywhere else. I want to be creative again. I’m really feeling kind of caught in this box, so I’m just going to take a break for a while. It’s nice to be here though. It’s always nice and inspiring to be here. You can kind of do what you want, and people enjoy the music for the music. I think in Europe, there’s a funny thing going on. Europeans have been clubbing for years and they’ve kind of got this mentality that they know everything, except for when you get to the new territories in Europe. Like the Chech Republic is really cool — I play there a lot. Or Prague, where they are fresh and haven’t been tainted by a flood of magazines and the whole lifestyle thing hasn’t been pushed onto them. I like doing those things, so being here has been really inspiring. It’s like now, I know exactly what I’m going to do. Play out the rest of the year, come back and spend some time here. I’m even working on a label now that’s going to be CD-only and only sold in this country and just export it. Just to support the country. It’s always given me so much inspiration, so it’d be nice to give something back. And work with some guys here and work with some producers here.
HRFQ : You are one of a very select few who have been able to appeal to the tastes of both major and independent labels in the manner that you have: Sony, Virgin, Tresor, Mo’wax, Soma, Studio K7, etc. Was there any big difference between how the major and independents treated you, aside from budgets?
Claude : Oh yeah. I don’t really mess with the big labels anymore. Early in my career I did a lot of edits on reel-to-reel tape. My dad was in radio in Detroit on JLB and in the 70’s he was one of the guys that started the station. So I grew up around that stuff. I met like Elton John and the Jacksons and all these people. So I grew up around that, it was kind of the reason that my father got out of radio. It was on the cusp of when radio became playlists. My dad was one of the last DJs of that era, where he could pick the records and play them. When I went to HYT to do my mix show, and that was the main reason why I left. One week I could play them the way I wanted to and the next week I had to play this Madonna, etc. When they started to force them on you and less and less independent stuff, it was just really kind of wearing me down. I really love music. It’s not like a job for me. When I start to lose that feeling, it’s like when you have a girlfriend or boyfriend and you don’t feel the same way, something goes on and you don’t really feel the same… It’s kind of like that. But moving back and forth between the majors, I approach every project with the same kind of zest. There’s a Japanese artist, Shina Ringo and I love her records. That is somebody I’d love to do a record with, people like this. These kinds of odd things, so it’s easy to float back and forth. But I’m really into the independent thing right now. For someone who likes technology, this is like the golden age right now. For me, I made three remixes tonight in a couple hours and I can play them tonight. And we couldn’t do that before. We had to go to the dub place and it was like $100 and it only played a couple times. Now I can do it and give it to people and I really love it. You can have an independent voice now, if you have something to say, you can go on a website and just say it. Or if you want to do a home video, you can just do it. You don’t have to go to the bigger labels to put out your demo. I get a buzz off of that — I think it’s great. And even the younger generation is growing up with that. It’s like where I went from reel tape to digital editing, which I love. I wish I had it in there in the early 90’s. All that tape on the floor, all that time wasted. So it’s pretty easy to float back and forth because I try to keep an open mind about stuff.
HRFQ : You mentioned doing some video stuff. Do you often work with both?
Claude : Well I’ve always been into it. I went to school in Southfield [Michigan] and we had a TV station at our school and I was the head of the television program. We had a TV class at our school, but the actual transmitter was at Lathrup highschool. And they used to broadcast to the local area and I was in charge of our program, so I used to shoot the basketball, football, wrestling — sports. And I did an entertainment show and some other stuff and I’ve always loved that. And here we are again with the digital stuff and it’s so easy. Now you can shoot footage. I got some really great footage of Japan. I’ve always kept footage over the years and now I can do what I really want with it. I actually have a lot of stuff of me, Daniel Bell and Anthony Shakir in the early days, like going to get records pressed. So I’m going to try to make a documentary about three guys and how things kind of moved on. If I’ve got enough and it can fit together right. And with tracks from us on there. And then maybe do a DVD. A lot of this stuff is going to be Japan-only stuff.
HRFQ : Is your True People night in Glasgow going to continue? You see yourself living there for the foreseeable future?
Claude : No. That’s another thing during my time off that I want to kick-start, or re-kick. I was like in London and I went to Glasgow, came over here for a while and then came back to London, didn’t really like it. And now I’m back in Glasgow, which is really home-y to me. I really love it and the people are nice. That’s one of those places where you can do what you want to do. And True People was a great night. We played Funk records — anything you wanted. It was in a tiny place, a bar that held 150 people and we made it really cheap for people to get in. It was like 3 English Pounds, or something like that. Just me and some friends would play all night. Like Ian O’Brian and a few people would come through and we’d just play records. I think that’s what’s kind of missing. During my time off, we’ve, me and my friend, that we’re going to find another spot and do another True People thing and keep it going. Hopefully do some nights over here, etc.
HRFQ : What made you move to Glasgow? You’ve lived in quite a few places, so how did you end up there?
Claude : Melbourne was the first place that I went outside of the US. And then I stayed there. If I like a place, then I’ll go hang out there for a while. Then I went back home and did lots of stuff in Detroit and Chicago and sometimes in LA and then in ’93 or ’94, I got invited to go to Edinburgh to play and I made a bunch of friends there. I remember I flew there three or four times and I’d stay about a month each time, sleeping on the couch at my friends place. We all got to be close, really close and most of these guys are all producers now. Like Neil Landstrumm and all these guys. They were just bedroom guys when I turned up. It’s kind of cool to see how it’s all come full circle. But I love the Scots. I really do. Deep down I just have a thing for them and they’ve always been really great to me. It’s like my second home. That’s my home. So I had to go back there.
HRFQ : Your sets have been slimmed down quite a bit. What are you using regularly in terms of technology?
Claude : I’m glad you asked that. When Final Scratch came out, I gave that a shot, but that was a lot of hassle. Going somewhere like Spain and then you try to set it up and they have the wrong mixer, or they’ve changed the plugs, etc. Last summer I went there and I didn’t take any records. Just my computer and my Final Scratch and I get to this tiny bar and they’ve taken the RCA plugs and turned them into XLRs to go into the mixer, into the big fat jacks. So I go to plug in the Final Scratch and I have nothing to play. I ended up playing with the other guy’s records. I would like Final Scratch thing – I’ve tried all of those like Traktor. Recently I’ve been doing stuff with Ableton. Ableton is actually really cool. You can tap-mix it right into playing. It will kick right in. I like using Ableton with my records. Tonight I’m using records and CDs but mostly gigs here have been with bits of Ableton. I like this because I can take samples from movies and effect them. Future sets I want to run the mixer into live and use the effects and samples live and stuff like that. I haven’t gotten that far. But the Ableton thing I’m really loving right now. And Traktor, when they don’t have a CD, I’ll just put Traktor on because then I can load up lots of stuff and play loads of stuff. I’ll give anything a shot once.
HRFQ : Currently in Glasgow, what are the most quickly growing art-forms or musical genres? What new genres, styles are outlining the future?
Claude : It’s a really interesting city. A lot of creative people there. Young students, we have a lot of art galleries and they are all free, so you can go and see art. A lot of nice cafes. It’s a beautiful little city. And when the people know that you aren’t from there, they are really friendly. But it’s kind of like Detroit. It’s got a seedy side too. It’s very similar to Detroit, it’s scary. And a lot of guys from back home have a really tight connection with, like there’s a record store called Rub-a-Dub, and they’re like a Detroit away from Detroit. Everybody goes and hangs out at the shop and drinks coffee all night, listening to new stuff.
HRFQ : Any messages to Japanese fans?
Claude : Thank you very much for all of your support over the years. I always look forward to seeing you soon and hopefully soon — permanently. 🙂
End of the interview
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