Photo credit: Junior Loves
To some, London-based producer Klaus exists on the more enigmatic end of underground music, with his label Tanum putting out music without artwork, extensive press or visual imagery as we’re used to seeing these days. But the value system that propel his output and his traveling Tanum Soundsystem could not be louder or more necessary in our current landscape. Tanum Soundsystem was born out of a frustration to recreate Plastic People’s immaculate symbiosis between space and sound, and more importantly to divorce paralyzing drivers like money and social structures from the club experience. The stripped down format of Tanum’s releases allow us focus on the 45rpm 12″ releases in a way that makes you want to delve deeper into the music, and explore anything that sounds like it, taking us back to music consumption more powered by heart.
We were stoked to ask Klaus to record us our 235th Truancy Volume, and he delivered a profound mix that traverses across different rhythms and patterns but maintains a deep and reflective vibe throughout. It’s just over forty-five minutes that take us back to our roots with its meditative bass lines and an array of tunes that span over the past decade. We spoke to Klaus about his soundsystem, label, the values that shape nightlife in London and more.
Hi Nick! Thank you for taking the time to speak to us and make a stellar mix for Truants. How has your past year been? “Thanks for asking me to do it! I haven’t recorded a mix for a while so it was good to pull lots of records out and focus on putting it together. On a personal level, the last year has been pretty tough. But this has made me more grateful for the times when I have been able to focus on music, in the dance or at home, and more aware of how lucky I am to be able to do that.”
You’ve spoken previously about the deep love and dedication you’ve put into Tanum as a soundsystem (and brought it to different club experiences). How have the 2018 nights been for you? “We used the system more in 2018 than in 2017, I’m glad it’s getting more use. The folks at The Yard have been really supportive, and let us bring the system in for a few nights there, including a couple where we handed over to Sin City – those were great nights, and an important step for us, letting other people do their thing with the sound. We got it out of London for a session with Atom Funk in Northampton – that was wicked, felt good to bring it to a different place and see people’s responses. We also did a couple of outdoor things in the summer, which is kinda as good as it gets, system on the street or in the park, so we feel lucky to have been able to do that. Fingers crossed we’ll manage more of that in 2019 too.”
With the landscape of London nightlife constantly changing does the way you approach bringing the system to places and how you put on nights change for you? “That’s a really good question, and yes definitely it has changed. This last year I’ve kind of accepted that we’ll constantly have to adapt if we want the system to be used. There may come a time when it’s just not feasible to run it, weighing up the costs of storage and other running costs vs. how much it gets used. But there’s still some energy for it at the moment. The difficulty will always be finding spaces that are right for what we want to do – accessible, no noise issues, affordable enough for us to not worry about losing money and raise some funds if possible, run by people who understand where we’re coming from. If anyone reading this has any suggestions… we’re all ears!”
Is there more you can tell us about the conscious decision to bring the Tanum Soundsystem to non-profit parties only? ‘I think that aversion to using the system for profit comes from experience, that sometimes when you rely on something for money, it contaminates and changes your relationship with something you love. Though it’s obviously a complete luxury to have other income and the spare time to choose to run it in that way, I wouldn’t judge anyone for doing otherwise. There are also a lot of projects we want to support and raise funds for, and we thought we could use the system to do that. But it’s also important to us that people get paid for playing, so we need to find a way of balancing that. I rate the way Superstudio break down entry to their parties, so that it’s clear to everyone attending where the money is going, who they’re supporting by being there. It means people think about how things are connected, means they can feel part of something, not just punters. I think maybe we’ll try and implement something like that in the future.
A topic that people do bring up these days even though it’s uncomfortable is how to manoeuvre as an artist in 2018 – where huge brands and corporations are almost unavoidable and have created an unhealthy dependent relationship with the creative industry. At times it is at war with our value systems. As someone who has always made it a point to not divorce our core values from nightlife, putting on fundraisers and beyond, are there any words you have for creatives or peers making their way in this industry? “I definitely shouldn’t be trying to give anyone any useful advice on making a living from music! But I think how much you want to make money doing what you love, versus doing it when you can and not relying on it in that way, is an issue a lot of people have to face at some point, there’s no easy answer, you just have to try and be honest with yourself, think carefully about what you want musically, why you want it, and how that can happen.
I’ve become more aware the last few years of how the internet distorts this; the way people communicate and display their lives through it can be very disorientating, and make it harder to know yourself and not base your decisions in comparison. I found if I could block that noise out, it became easier to focus on what I actually wanted, and move towards that. For me, it became about trying to create a space for music that felt freer, less dependent on these unhealthy structures you mention. This has taken time and energy that could have been used to write more music, which I’ve often felt frustrated about, but when I thought about it carefully, there was a logic there – I felt I needed to try and create the environment I actually wanted to experience music in before I could want to create music again.”
You’ve talked about wanting to stretch things in other directions when it comes it creating good legit spaces, exploring other possibilities that may feel like you’re doing them on your own terms. Has this been a bit of hurdle to overcome? “It’s definitely a hurdle, the main one really, and certainly not overcome. I’m sure there are new ways people are finding and using space, but I feel like the dream is an old and simple one. The community centre, the pub back room, an open space people can pass through without pressure, where you don’t feel like you’re being processed through a machine, trapped inside and extorted. Less hassle, less control, just a space with good sound, where people are respectful of each other and can engage with music the way they feel. On paper, it doesn’t seem like such a big ask. But it is in London, because of the costs of keeping spaces open, and the pressures put on them by local government, who are keen to displace anyone who obstructs the movement of wealthy white people, and the ‘culture’ they favour, into an area. Class, race, wealth, housing, it’s all linked, and many of us are complicit in some way. But if we acknowledge that complicity, we can look for ways to resist it, find ways to support those who are struggling, and try and make things better.”
Tell us about your plans for Tanum as a label/imprint – you had your last EP come out about a year ago on it, do you plan to continue to release your own music through it? “Yes, I hope I can get another 12” out in 2019 at the very least, but I’m gonna need to work through some shit and get in the right headspace again.
In terms of your productions I was reading an interview about you playing in a samba band for a few years and that it helped develop the idea of music not being adhered to a usual rhythmic structure. Can you tell us a little bit about playing? “Yeah, I’ve been playing percussion in a couple of different groups over the last few years, I haven’t been able to devote as much time to it as I’d like, and I don’t have the technique to play some instruments yet. But it’s been a great way to learn and develop musically, and think about rhythm, it throws up more questions all the time. Like why does this combination of parts feel so good? How does that change when you add this part? How does that change when you take this part away? Some people grow up in it, and feel this stuff without thinking, I’m never gonna catch up with that but I’m enjoying trying.”
“In terms of how it’s affected the way I approach making music, I guess it’s given me more of foundation to understand why I like what I like. I’ve always found myself drawn to broken rhythms, to the tension in them, the space in them, the movement that tension and space makes me feel in my body. I’m not so into ‘polyrhythmic’ stuff or stuff in unusual time signatures; I’m more fascinated with how expectations can be subverted, tension created and released, within regular time structures; that’s where the real excitement is, for me. I could chat about this for days… but in the UK there’s such a deep history and variety of broken rhythm in electronic music, and I feel like there’s a lot still to be explored. People like Steve Gurley had a really deep understanding of rhythm, knew how to manipulate certain parameters, add certain details, balance the elements in such a way as to intensify the groove. Sometimes I miss that rhythmic nuance in new electronic music, that dedication to really making shit swing, but I’m probably just not looking in the right places!”
What can you tell us about this mix you created for us? What was the inspiration behind it? Do you have any particular tracks on there you want to tell us more about choosing? “I think I’ve usually approached studio mixes in a particular way, or just always failed to record mixes that make anyone want to book me! I guess I see them as an opportunity to try things I wouldn’t dare try in a club. I plan them in quite a lot of detail, try and find the best way I can to put everything together, and end up being too perfectionist about the end result, which means a lot of different takes. I don’t feel like I’m necessarily trying to give an impression of what to expect when I DJ out; when I’m at home, with monitoring I’m used to and less time pressure, it feels like a chance to create something I wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
This one was quite a reflective one – I picked out a lot of tunes that have been important to me over the last 10 years or so, and a few others that I’ve been enjoying from more recently. I remember listening to Southern Comfort a lot when I first came to London; that London seems a distant memory now, but sometimes there are glimpses of it, and that tune feels like a glimpse. The first time I heard ‘Guiding Shield’ was Shaka playing it at the Edge in Bruce Grove, it still takes me back into that room, I loved that place, sadly it’s closed down now. Revs / Cost is one of my favourite tunes ever, the way the elements rise and fall through it, it feels so alive; same with the DKMA tune, I love the way it flows, all shrouded in delays. Pissed Up in SE1 is another one I keep coming back to, I love how the melodies and the bassline entwine and play against each other. Showtime dub is full Hylton Smythe rude dread genius, can almost hear him cackling with delight through the ricocheting FX. And a couple of bits from the last Golden Teacher album, which is wicked – really varied and rhythmically interesting.”
What does 2019 hold for you? “Hoping to use the system as much as or more than last year, particularly outdoors and out of London, hoping to get my shit together in terms of djing, clean my records and keep up with new tunes, hoping to get my head in a space where I can write music again. We shall see!”
Lastly, when was the last time you danced? “Ah this is an easy one! To Josey Rebelle smashing out some jungle on Iration Steppas soundsystem at the end of the Hessle Audio x Subdub dance in Leeds end of November. I don’t dance like that very often.”