DJ / Rupture's mixes make a lot of the little divisions and genre distinctions in electronic music seem academic and a bit irrelevant. Whether hailing down dense rhythms on chaotic mix albums like 2002's Minesweeper Suite, spacing out Middle Eastern-inspired melodies over suspenseful beats, or delving into his recent obsession with cumbia music, Jace Clayton just seems to embrace a refreshingly open-ended variety of textures and source material as a matter of course. He lived in Barcelona from 2000 to 2007, has an improvisational collaboration going with guitarist Andy Moor of Dutch band The Ex, and had just returned from a run of shows in Boston, Mexico City, Chile, and Austria when he took a call from The A.V. Club. Clayton, who plays tonight at the Empty Bottle, spoke with us about genre-blending, collaboration, and possibly the weirdest concept-album idea we've ever heard.
Genre-mixing and cumbia
Jace Clayton: The interesting thing about cumbia, mixing it culturally, in places like New York or Latin America, sometimes there'll be people who know some cumbia as a reference point. You're working with people who are familiar with it, and people who are unfamiliar, and sort of mixing around that. Whereas if you go to Belgium and start playing some cumbia, it doesn't really matter. There's that lack of context, and you can be more free over there.... When I played the Pitchfork Festival in Chicago, I played like 10 seconds of Imogen Heap's song "Hide And Seek." I played all this music that nobody's gonna recognize, but if I drop this a capella in, it's gonna throw everything around it in an unfamiliar light.
JC: [In Chicago] I'm actually playing with this guitarist, Andy Moor, which is a huge leap from a dance mix. For me, it's almost like being in a band. Andy is a very fast improviser and a very good guitarist and can do these amazing riffs and melody lines, but he can also get totally abstract and pull all these amazing sounds out of it. That's kind of forcing me to react really fast and using turntablism and scratching and record-player magic to interact with him and respond really quickly. Sometimes I'll play a beat and we'll do a beat-based piece, and sometimes it'll be much more ambient, spacious, abstract stuff.
The A.V. Club: Which is more challenging: Incorporating samples into a mix, or using live instruments for a mix?
JC: It's always gonna be more challenging to work with actual humans. But it's also more rewarding, because it's the creative process and it's not just you. I'm sitting here with this, like, Moroccan violin player, and explaining my ideas to him, and some idea he's come up with, and we need to find a common ground that we're both excited by. It takes a bit more searching, but it basically comes out stronger in the end.
AVC: It's funny, because a lot of people have this beef with electronic music being too sampled or "synthetic," but don't realize how much live instrumentation and actual songwriting goes into it.
JC: Yeah, that's true. I was at this jazz festival and Andy and I did this gig, and I played two beats. They were both kind of dubstep. The director of this big jazz festival comes over and he's like, "Oh, that techno house you were playing was blah blah blah." He wasn't thinking of any of those sorts of subtleties. He heard an electronic kick-drum and electronic snare, and suddenly it was "techno."
The Shining in Dubai
JC: I started a group in Barcelona called Nettle, and it was myself and this Moroccan violinist, and now we're a four-piece. We've added a cellist and a guy playing something called the guembri, this Moroccan bass sound. And I have this crazy concept album idea. The concept is, you know The Shining, the Stanley Kubrick movie or Stephen King book? So imagine a remake of The Shining, but instead of being set in Colorado, it's set in Dubai, in an abandoned luxury hotel there. The idea is that we're making a soundtrack for this remake that doesn't exist yet. I'm referencing the movie, of course, but I've been going back and reading the book, and there's this whole audio world suggested by the book that I'm interested in playing with. It's a crazy idea in Dubai. It's really hot, they've gone through this property recession so there's a lot of abandoned, falling-apart halfway-done, high-end luxury places. And I've played there a lot of times. In Dubai, the only club nights happen in hotels, because the only places that are allowed to serve liquor are hotels, and bars or clubs right next to and owned by hotels for foreign travelers and all this. My first time there, I played on the roof deck of the Dubai Hilton, which was bizarre. I think I'm the only one in the group who's seen the movie and read the book. We'll meet and I'll, go, "OK, there's this crazy scene and there's hornets and he's on the roof," and describe to them this mood, and then we'll riff off that.