We sat down with the Styles Upon Styles and The Bunker NYC recording artist to talk community, gear, and labels. Check Clay's exclusive mix here.
Percussion Lab: Do you feel like you're part of a scene or community here in New York (Brooklyn?)? If so, what role does that community play in your creative process, and day to day life? Who do you consider your peers and mentors? Is there a national or global extended family, so to speak? What do you get from identifying with that larger yet more dispersed community?
Clay Wilson: Definitely. I'm at pretty much every Bunker party, and a good portion of my friends are involved with that scene. I've seen so many sets there that have really made an impact on me musically, and been able to connect with and become friends with a lot of musicians who I've been listening to for a long time. Everybody's so supportive, so I guess it makes the creative process easier as I'm not really stressing out too much about showing people my new productions, or having those formative early gigging moments.
Peers and mentors is tough! Within this musical realm I'm carving out I guess I'd say my peers include Nihal Ramchandani, Mike (Leisure Muffin), Nico (White Visitation), Phil and Cam (S.U.S.), Oliver (Certain Creatures), Devon (Stefan Jos), the Archie Pelago guys have been homies since I first planted down in Brooklyn, Gunnar Haslam is another younger guy making sick music, Lesly (blacklauren), Cory James and Celia (Soramimi) have just started up a new label together called Dusk Notes that I dig. As far as mentors - I've learned a ton hanging out with and listening to Bryan, Patrick Russell, Donato & Neel, Marco Shuttle, Servito, Deadbeat, and Ron from Wrecked.
It's definitely an international thing! It's been really incredible meeting guys like Marco, or Donato and Neel, and having them be so supportive of the music from a distance. I'm not so sure what exactly I get from that, but honestly just to have people being so supportive means the world to me.
PL: What are some of your most formative/primal influences? I.e., what other artists or experiences caused you to make this specific type of music?
CW: Voices From The Lake, Demdike Stare, Peter Van Hoesen, the Interdimensional Transmissions crew, Bee Mask, Atom™, Tobias, and Mike Parker. There's also a big, though maybe slightly hidden influence from my free jazz days, stuff like Ornette Coleman, Bill Frisell, late Coltrane, Alice Coltrane, Keith Jarrett's American Quartet, Dewey Redman, Don Cherry, Art Ensemble Of Chicago, Peter Brotzmann, Anthony Braxton, etc.
PL: What is the difference between house and techno? What role, if any, do genres play in contemporary dance music?
CW: I really don't think about it honestly. Every time I try to break it down into such clear distinctions somebody comes along and plays me a track that fucks that all up. It's much more useful for me to think about how music relates to the space and context of the current moment than thinking about what genre term applies. There's this Duke Ellington quote that's always stuck with me "There are only two kinds of music, good music and the other kind."
PL: Is there a way to bridge the gap between commercial EDM and whatever it is that you and I may perceive ourselves to be into? What's the difference between that scene/sound and your own? Is one 'better' than the other?
CW: Again, not something I really think about much. I just try and do my thing, I'm definitely not concerned with trying to "convert" anybody or anything like that. I've been nerding out about music for long enough to know that it's pointless to think of anything as better or worse. If they have a good time going to a big EDM festival with a huge light show, then good. It exists because the demand is there, and that means people are enjoying themselves. It might not be for me, but it's certainly not a bad thing. I think our scene here is concerned with good music and good vibes, we don't need a spectacle or a celebrity status dj. But I'm sure there will be a crossover as both scenes grow. Especially from the kids who are only just discovering electronic music through the EDM stuff, and the door is always open for people who are genuinely interested in the scene.
PL: What's your production setup?
CW: Primarily working in the box, but the Arturia Microbrute has become a crucial part of the setup now. I always seem to have a couple pieces of second hand gear circulating through the studio every few months. I still haven't found a hardware set up that I feel really comfortable with yet, but I'm always testing stuff out and kind of slowly adding stuff to the computer set up as I can afford to do so.
PL: Tell us a bit about Styles Upon Styles, and your experience with them as a label vs. other labels...
CW: I met Cam and Phil really early on after I moved to Brooklyn and we kind of shared tracks and kept in touch since the first couple meetings. Once they started putting together the label they pitched the idea of a release to me and that was that. With both S.U.S. and The Bunker, the relationship came from a friendship first and that's been really important to me. I can't really speak about any other labels since I haven't worked with anybody else besides those two. At this point I really have no need to go elsewhere, the idea of shopping tracks is fucked to me, and I just don't really have any interest in doing business with somebody if we can't sit down and eat dinner together or grab a couple beers and shoot the shit.
PL: What's next for you?
CW: Re-tooling my live set for some upcoming gigs. May 17, we're doing a Styles Upon Styles takeover for Industry Of Machines at Bossa Nova Civic Club here in Brooklyn. On May 26th The Bunker heads to Detroit to wrap up the festival on Monday night. That's myself, Bryan, and Voices From The Lake in the back room and then Servito, Anthony "Shake" Shakir, and Pittsburgh Track Authority in the front.
As far as production, I've just started working on some collaborative tracks with Leisure Muffin who did the first release on The Bunker, and I'm really happy with how those are sounding. On the solo front, it seems like another ep is finally starting to take shape so we'll see how that goes. Ideally I'd like to get follow up EPs written for both The Bunker and Styles Upon Styles by the end of the summer, but I'm not rushing anything...
PL: Thanks Clay!