Truancy Volume 62: Claude Speeed

Claude Speeed

You may not be familiar with CLAUDE SPEEED yet, but we guarantee that by the end of this year, you shall know his velocity. Part of the always-brilliant LuckyMe label/collective/crew (also home to Eclair Fifi, whose own Truancy Volume is one of our finest), he’s so far released an EP with his band American Men, recently gained a wider audience with his towering remix of Martyn’s “We Are You in the Future”, entitled “You Are Us in the Past”, and has loads of exciting projects in the works, many of which will see releases this year. Away from the production side of things, the Goodhood OST mixtape he created with LuckyMe co-founder Dominic Flannigan is a blend of modern classical, drone and ambient music that will take you on a strange, addictive and beautiful journey. When we hit Claude up for a Truancy Volume, we knew he’d give us something special, but even we weren’t expecting a solid hour of exclusive tracks and underplayed gems. We also had a chat with the drone overlord himself about Boards of Canada, creative communities, and YOLO.

Firstly, thanks so much for the mix. I knew it would be great but I wasn’t expecting you to jam-pack it with exclusives. “Thanks. I was really not sure about whether I should put on a load of my stuff or a load of other people’s, but I looked at my last 3 weeks worth of iTunes and it was all mine – so that’s what went on it.”

Glad you did. So as a kind of introduction, could you tell us a bit about the kind of music that’s been formative in shaping your sound? “I started off by playing in rock bands – American indie rock and post-rock influenced things. Then around 1998, around the time “Music Has the Right to Children” by Boards of Canada came out, there was an NME cover compilation. It had some of that and a couple of Warp things on it – Leila Arab and so on, and the songs on that were totally amazing, so I bought “Music Has the Right to Children” off the back of that. Then basically me and my friend Paul just started skiving classes at school so we could go up to the music room, which was the only place with a CD player, and listen to that. So I had this mix, basically, of post-rock and then that kind of Warp and British electronica, and those are pretty much my main influences.”

Good call, “Music Has the Right to Children” was the first electronic album that meant anything to me. It’s one of those perfect records. “A lot of people have said that to me; it was a very popular record. I don’t know how many copies sold, but a lot. Actually, someone said that to me last weekend or the weekend before. I was at a club and someone said, if you could think of three perfect records, what would they be? And that was one of them. They didn’t ask for the other ones actually, but yeah, that was one of them, and I’m someone who likes a lot of music.”

Well, I guess that’s our next question, then. What are the three perfect records? “This is actually a really easy question because I used to think this all the time. The first two were “Music Has the Right to Children” and the first record by a Scottish band called Laeto. I suppose I first thought what these three records were about ten years ago. So it’s those two, and then the third is either “Endtroducing” by DJ Shadow, “Tortoise” by Tortoise and “At Action Park” by Shellac. The first two are are always the same, and then the other one always changes.

I went to Red Bull Music Academy in 2011, and the application form has a mixture of questions about music, like what five tracks would you play if you were headlining a DJ show, what are the best records of all time, and so on. It’s a difficult task, like, draw us a map of your record collection, or a rough picture of where you fit into the musical universe. It’s quite good though, and I think it’s kind of the same every year, which leads me to believe the questions have some sort of purpose and that they understand what the different responses mean.”

RBMA seems like a really inspiring place. What you think is different since you went there? “Everything’s completely different because what they do is, they throw you together with people who are from really different backgrounds and probably make really different music and have really different views on things even, but somehow who you’re going to get on with really easily – which I think this is the point of the ridiculous form: they’re working out how to build a group that’s going to get on. And that’s the first thing, it immediately puts you inside a community, which I think is useful for musicians, especially when there’s much less of a concept of a localized scene these days. There’s something about having some kind of musical family. And then my own context was that I had just quit my job; I’d been working the same office job for five or six years, and I had just quit it to do music, and maybe a few weeks after I’d handed in my notice, I got into RBMA and it was kind of like a sign that maybe this wasn’t a terrible idea. So that’s kind of what changed for me – the people that I met, now I have these musical friends from all around the world, and I kind of feel like it gave me the confidence to pursue music as a career.”

Well, it definitely seems to have worked out. You mentioned a localized scene, and obviously that’s central to the LuckyMe crew. How did you get involved with them? I assume you were friends with Dominic.. “Yeah, basically me and Dominic worked together: his first job after school and a university job of mine, we worked in the same shop. He then moved to Glasgow and went to art college, and when he came back to Edinburgh he was the graphic designer for a clothing brand and I would often just go and sit in the shop and hang out with him when I had nothing to do. And one time he asked me if I had any music, so I played him the Myspace tracks from my band American Men, which had been written about a week before or something, and I played about the first four bars of the first song and he was like, “Oh, you know I run a record label, do you want to put something out?” And that was pretty much it.”

I feel like it’s more than just a record label though; there’s a whole concept going on, with the art and the parties and the mixtapes. And of course everything blew up last year with the TNGHT release with Warp, and now LuckyMe seems to be taking over the airwaves too.  “I guess that was it, it was always there from the start. Like, when it first started I was looking at it like, yeah it’s just some mates putting on a club night in Glasgow, but Dom and Martin – the other guy who runs LuckyMe – sort of insisted that it was a more complete concept, and I think time’s definitely proven them right. Because I’m not in the UK I don’t hear the radio, but when I was back over Christmas, I can’t remember where it was – it was like Gap or Topman or something – I heard them playing “Higher Ground” and it was a bit strange.”

You live in Berlin now, don’t you? Was there any particular reason for moving? “Well, as I said I quit my job to focus on music and Edinburgh’s quite expensive, and I kind of felt there wasn’t going to be a great deal going on for me there. I’d already planned on going travelling for a while, and spent the first six or seven months of last year in Asia, and I just needed somewhere cheaper to come back to. I’ve got friends here, too. It’s funny, I read something just recently. It was a kind of article that a lot of people were sharing on Facebook, which was written by an Australian guy, about Berlin killing creativity. And a lot of people that I know that shared that article are people who live here, and they’re just like, bullshit, the reason this guy didn’t meet anybody who was working in Berlin was because if you’re working, you’re not meeting people.

I find this a really easy place to be creative. I was looking at my iTunes – which is how I judge how creative I’ve been – and since I’ve been in Berlin, I’ve written about seventy tracks or something. That’s as many as I’ve probably written in the past few years put together, and that’s not sitting in the house doing nothing else either, as I went out quite a lot during the summer. I kind of feel that it is quite an inspiring, creative place. I sometimes get the impression that what spurs the whole gentrification process – I guess I can say this because I used to be an office worker – is office workers who want to be cool and want to be “creative” identify that an area has a vibe and a creative reputation and then they’re just gonna move there, either because they’re deluded that it’s going to make them into an artist, or they just want to feed off that vibe, just want to go to bars that are full of graphic designers or whatever. There’s definitely an element of that here. I mean, I’m aware that I could be seen as an enormous cliché, you know – quit my job, a British person who doesn’t speak a word of German, moves to Kreuzberg, tells people he’s a musician… the difference is whether you’re actually producing stuff.”

Of course, it’s not your background that matters either as long as you’re creating. Talking of which, what’s going on musically for you these days? “It’s all been a bit hectic actually… the original plan was to do just an EP for LuckyMe, this kind of very particular strain of stuff I’d been doing recently, this droney, orchestral stuff, and then I did a remix for Kuedo, and off the back of that sent out some demos, and then Mike Paradinas from Planet Mu asked me to do an album, and then LuckyMe asked me to extend the EP into an album. So technically I’m doing two albums. It isn’t stressful, but it’s busy.”

You’re also really into pop as well, aren’t you? There’s this great Katy Perry remix on your Soundcloud… “I was talking to my girlfriend about this last night actually. She played me an M83 track because I’d never heard them, and it was like the second or the third track on the album, and it sounded like the Cult, or some sort of ’80s band. I’d never really thought about it in this way, but it occurred to me that there’s something about a lot of super serious music that’s actually quite draining, and it can be – well, I don’t want to say it’s a harrowing experience, but even if they’re not miserable records, listening to a lot of records takes a lot of energy away from you, and there’s something quite recharging about pop music. It doesn’t ask very much from you. I think that done the right way it can be a really good thing. I’m not saying all pop music is good, because it’s obviously just not, in fact most of it I would say is pretty dire, but the good stuff is really worthwhile I think.”

Stream: Claude Speeed – New Age Dream /// teeeeenage droneee

Oh yeah. Pop music is amazing, just a different kind of amazing from, like, arcane synth jams. “Yeah. I’ve heard Justin Timberlake’s got a new album coming out actually.” I heard the new track, it’s okay. “I listened to the first thirty seconds of it but I wasn’t into it. But I felt the same way about his second record. “Justified” I liked straight away, but the second one took me a while to get in to. I hated the first single, the lyrics are like, “If I wrote you a symphony,” and it’s totally brilliant. If someone played it at a party, I’d say this is one of my favourite tracks, but when it first came out, I thought it was rubbish. I actually do have some hope that the record will be really good.”

Maybe, that whole publicity stunt and the Myspace thing was pretty annoying though. “Oh yeah, he endorses Myspace, doesn’t he.” Dude, he owns it. “Really?” Yeah, he bought it. “No fucking way. I did not know that.” And they relaunched Myspace today, so if you go on it it’s just Justin Timberlake in a suit and tie, looking ridiculous. “Jesus Christ… oh Jesus, come on. That’s all that’s there. I tried to scroll down and there’s nothing. I think we should bring Tom back.” I think Tom’s quite enjoying retirement, having sold Myspace for about half a billion pounds. “Yeah, if he ever existed. Like, was he real? I always had my doubts.”

You know, I don’t know, maybe he actually wasn’t real. I never even thought of that. Going vaguely back on topic, you make synth music, obviously. Could you tell me a little about your current set up? “When the American Men record came out in 2010, people would ask what gear we were using and the honest answer at that point was the same as the honest answer at this point: everything’s made using an 11-inch laptop. It’s all soft synths. I think there’s maybe one of the Planet Mu songs where I used a a Waldorf Blofeld, which is like one of those little synths, but basically I was too lazy to figure out how to use it. I sold my bike and bought that synth, and used it for one show and one track, and then I haven’t used it since.”

On that mix, there’s a track called “Yolo Artdog”. Could you tell me a bit about that? “It was a wee while ago last year when absolutely everything had the hashtag #YOLO on it, hence the stupid name. I was at the kind of art show where they take over a whole village in or a whole town in Germany, an enormous contemporary art fair. They have a big park in the middle and there was this dog running around, like this beautiful short-haired white dog – I don’t know what kind of dog it was actually – but this really regal-looking dog with one leg painted pink. It would run around and climb up on things, and everybody was just watching it as if it was going to say something but of course it just sat there looking at people and looking good, and then got up and ran away again. And that’s the story of the YOLO artdog.”

Great story. Last question: when was the last time you danced?  “On Friday I was at a friend’s housewarming party. It was all people from RBMA – not everyone, but one person’s moved from Helsinki, and the other person’s moved form Istanbul. So they’ve just moved in together and they played “Swimming Pools” by Kendrick Lamar, I reckon… I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say 15 times, and I danced about 5 times. I’m not gonna go into the details but it was not the most inappropriate song to play at that party.”

Any final words of wisdom?  “Shoutout to Martyn for totally getting and supporting my weird reinterpretation of his amazing “We Are You In The Future”, and to three of my RBMA homies here in Germany, Gora Sou, Phoebe Kiddo and Biblo, and also Sevendeaths (aka John Awesome from American Men), all of whom have tracks in this mix.”

Truancy Volume 62: Claude Speeed by TRUANTS

Claude Speeed – Traumwelt Mix for Truants

Claude Speeed – Bantei Srey Intro
Gora Sou – Volleyball Girls
Martyn – We Are You in the Future (Claude Speeed’s “You Are Us in the Past” Remix)
Claude Speeed – Spectrall Trance
Claude Speeed – Live Forever Flamingo Master
Claude Speeed – Fifth Fortress
Claude Speeed – Crushed Rave
Phoebe Kiddo – Psyche
Biblo – Tim
Gora Sou – Babylon Weeping Willow
Suzanne Ciani – Lixiviation
Claude Speeed – MP1
Claude Speeed – R U Sorry?
A Winged Victory For The Sullen – Minuet For Cheap Piano
American Men – Yolo Artdog NYC (Prenzlauerberg Demo)
Sevendeaths – All Night Graves
Claude Speeed – Guitar Music Memo Outro

Maya Kalev