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An interview with Klayton of Celldweller

Posted: Sunday, April 09, 2006

By: Ilker Yucel

When Celldweller released a debut album in January of 2003, Klayton was already making waves as one of the few modern artists to embrace and utilize the full capacity of today's technology. Doing away with all of his past productions and monikers, Klayton first released music through, enabling his fans to catch the first glimpses of the new musical world he was fashioning, a world where the barriers between genres are almost nonexistent, and the politics and pressures of record labels are but a thing of the past. Releasing a limited edition EP in 2000 and providing listeners with access to raw tracks for remixes, Klayton's work in Celldweller was already doing away with past conventions when the album debuted. A dynamic video soon followed, as well as a 2-CD collection of remixes, demos, and unreleased versions, all without the supposed benefits of backing from a major record label. Now in the midst of recording for the upcoming second album, Celldweller shows no signs of slowing down. Klayton crosses wires with ReGen on the progress of the new album, providing some insight into just what fans can expect from this musical mastermind, addressing current political and religious issues, what kind of music the man likes to listen to, and just why we'll never see him with pom-poms to support a cause other than good music.

Your latest releases' the Goodbye/Frozen remixes and the Shapeshifter single they were released on iTunes. Why release them through iTunes instead of on CD? How has releasing music through an online medium like iTunes benefited Celldweller financially and in terms of exposure?

Klayton: Well, for me, it's not at all about a financial benefit whatsoever. In fact, most of what I seem to take on ends up becoming a losing proposition for me. But I'm more concerned mainly with being up with the times. And really, what moves my gears is technology, and the whole concept of being able to release a track. I could mix this thing tonight and have this thing uploaded, and somebody could have this in their hands by next week if it's uploaded the right way. So really it's just more about the immediacy, the immediacy of art in the digital form, and the fact that technology's changing, the music industry is changing and the way that music is being distributed is changing. I think in the next five or 10 years, the concept of going to a store and buying a prepackaged CD is going to be I mean, that will never phase out, but it's going to be a very different experience than it has been. It already is a very different experience than it was five years ago.

That's true.

Klayton: So for me to release those tracks, I have two options. I can hold onto them until I release the next Beta Cessions, which could be a year from now; who knows? Or I can give people something to listen to right now by just releasing it in a digital format. So that was really the motivation for distributing it.

On the subject of technology, as you just said, and as you actually said in the last interview, you love technology, but it's always about the song first.

Klayton: Nothing's changed.

With that in mind, and as your music does have a distinct technological edge to it, would you ever consider making music by more traditional means, like without keyboards and sequencers and the like?

Klayton: Well, a lot of my demos… I won't say a lot, but I'll say that a fair share of demos really start with a vocal and a guitar, or a piano and a guitar, or something of a more organic base. As far as my releasing something like that, I would not be opposed to it. The thing is that generally that just bores the hell out of me. For me to just sit down and just have a vocal and an acoustic guitar feels very much to me like something that's been done a million-and-a-half times. So it's just really a question of artistically, would I ever want to do that? The song Under My Feet, which is on the debut Celldweller CD

Great song.

Klayton: Thank you, I appreciate it. I wrote that one night after an experience I had with someone, I came home, I wrote the song and recorded it in a few hours, and it was a minute-and-a-half long. That's all it was. It was me, and an acoustic guitar, and that's it.

That's the version that was on The Beta Cessions, right?

Klayton: Oh, that's right. I forgot that it was even released. So that, what you're listening to on The Beta Cessions is exactly what I recorded that night in a few hours. I mixed it. It was done. I shelved it. I did it for me, and it was never meant to be released, ever. And really, at the prodding of my manager, after a long period of time, I finally sat down and fleshed the song out a little more, and you see what happens, it becomes this whole other animal. So I do write in organic means occasionally, but it's just a matter of whether or not that ever ends up being released that way.

Celldweller has been primarily just you, but you have had collaborations with other musicians.Shapeshifter is no exception as you have the rap group Styles of Beyond. How did you come to work with them on Shapeshifter

Klayton: Well really, the connection originally came from my manager, but the reason we even decided to collaborate on something like that was because of the Need For Speed: Most Wanted game. Really, I got on the song with them, and they kind of said, Hey, we'd love to have something with your sound with maybe like some hip-hop over it. I was talking to my manager about it, and he said, Hey, I know these guys Styles of Beyond. Let's give them a call. That's how that whole thing happened.

So it's that simple. A lot of your music does blend different styles and genres, and hip-hop does seem pretty prevalent, especially on Shapeshifter. You used it a lot in songs like Switchback and Yurasuka, and it just seems to be all over the place. Do you actually listen to a lot of hip-hop and rap music?

Klayton: I would say that there was a time in my life when I did listen to a fair amount of hip-hop, and even some dancehall reggae stuff, and things like that, along those types of lines. But really, after it started becoming so supersaturated on every radio station and every music television station, that's generally when I phased it out. I can't really tell you what's happening in the world of hip-hop at all right now. It hasn't been my main focus by any means, but when it comes to listening to music, I'm fairly eclectic and I like a lot of different things, and that's what suits my interests.

Yeah, what do you listen to when you're not concentrating on Celldweller?

Klayton: Well the unfortunate part of my job is that because you're so consumed with making music, you don't get much time to listen to any, which really kind of sucks for me. But truthfully, it's working out, because there really hasn't been much I can't remember how long, maybe in the last five or seven years, there hasn't really been much music that's really moved me at all like I remember it moving me when I was creating some of my earlier work. Of late, I've really been listening to a lot of DJ sets. DJ Chloe Harris she has a couple of sets that I really dig. Imogen Heap's record is amazing. If nobody knows who that is, maybe they'll go find out.

I have seen her on your Myspace friends list actually.

Klayton: Yeah, she's a very talented artist. Mostly European-based electronic music is pretty much all I'm into, including drum n bass, trance and straight-up techno.

Awesome. Because your music has all these different styles going on in it, how do you determine what kind of sound to go for in a song? What's the process as far as writing a song and figuring out what kind of sounds to incorporate in it, or is there a set process?

Klayton: There is never a set process, and the only rule that I impose upon myself is that there are no rules. So, I just jump in headfirst, and like I said, it's either an acoustic guitar and a vocal, or some kind of melody. In fact, there are lots of little segments that I have with just a vocal melody that I'll come up with, with no instruments, so I just have a melody to start with. Other times, I'll pull up with a beat, I'll write a beat, or I'll work on a bass line, a live bass line, a synth bass line and I'll have a synth that will maybe strike an idea. There's no format, I just start piecing things together and filling it in from there. As far as deciding what sounds comprise the song or the end result of what the song will be, it's just kind of a process of as you go along. I guess it's very similar to painting. I'm not a very good painter, and I can't illustrate to save my soul, but it's the same process. You just do something, and if you don't like it you erase it or paint over it and keep putting it together until it looks like a finished piece of work.

You have hinted at a possible set of Beta Cessions for the next album, and on the previous Beta Cessions you had a new version of what was the final Circle of Dust song, Goodbye. What can we expect from another Beta Cessions set? Would you consider doing newer versions of other Circle of Dust songs, or is there going to be anything like that?

Klayton: No, Circle of Dust to me is dead. It has been dead. The only reason I ever did Goodbye was because I never really officially released that anywhere. I released it on some small compilation that I think might've sold a hundred copies if I remember correctly, and that's ridiculous. So I've always liked that song enough that I felt like I wanted to do it. Really, I'm calling it a Celldweller track. I'm not even really nodding my head towards Circle of Dust at all. Beta Cessions right now, I have twice as many songs now for The Beta Cessions right now than I do for the actual next Celldweller record.


Klayton: I'm writing a lot of tracks and they're not fitting into the format of what I want this next record to be, so I'm just kind of bumping them over into The Beta Cessions list. And whether or not we're going to get two CDs of completely unreleased tracks for The Beta Cessions is probably not going to happen, but I'm going to end up going through them, and we may get another eight or 10 brand new tracks. This time around for something like The Beta Cessions, I don't plan on releasing just multiple mixes of the same song. I'm trying to keep the next Beta Cessions to be more original material, maybe some remixes, or potentially a separate disc with just remixes and another full disc of unreleased material.

I actually was going to ask if there was ever going to be a straightforward remix CD, since that is kind of a big thing in electronic music.

Klayton: Well, there may be I guess if it's eventually warranted. I don't feel like I have enough to do that. We're going to see because I'm going to kind of do what I did originally with Symbiont, however many years ago that was. I'm probably going to release the raw tracks to a song or two off the upcoming Celldweller CD, and just kind of throw it out there and let people do what they want to it, just take it and break it. So we'll see, maybe that will end up producing some things, and we may end up compiling enough that we want to put out a disc of really good remixes, but that really right now remains to be seen.

One of your past collaborators, Dan Levler from the LVL project, he did a Symbiont remix, and you worked with him on AP2, and as I believe you also worked with him on his first album, right?

Klayton: No I didn't actually.

Oh, then I must be thinking of a remix or something. What are the chances of you working with him again? Because you've obviously had a long list of people in the past that you've worked with, and a lot of people are saying, Where's Klank or What's the deal with Criss Angel? Of course, as I asked in the last interview, you're not going to work with Criss Angel. Are there any plans to work with Dan Levler?

Klayton: Well, considering Dan is my brother, there's a good chance that if we wanted to do something together then we probably would. I have no idea at this particular moment if we will. I know he's working on some new material right now, and I'm not totally sure how that's all panning out, but there's always a possibility. I may throw a remix at him, or he may throw one at me, we'll see how that plays out.

I had no idea he was your brother. That's really cool. The live members, Dale van Norman and Kemikal, are they at all involved in the studio process now for the new album?

Klayton: No, at this moment, no. I'm kind of doing what I've always done. It's just a lot easier for me to write the songs, and kind of this is kind of a catharsis for me. I enjoy writing, performing all of the instrumentation, because it's more a challenge for me to see if I can even do it. We'll see, but at this moment, I've had them play a couple of parts on some new things that I've done, and they will probably end up on the disc somewhere for sure.

Lyrically, a lot of your stuff seems to be pretty ambiguous. A lot of people tend to come up with their own interpretations anyway, but at the same time your lyrics have this very personal slant to them. Is it really important for you to address specific subjects in your lyrics, or do you find that it's better to keep things indefinite and let people take from it what they will?

Klayton: What I've learned is because earlier on in my career, I've certainly been on missions to make a certain point about something, and that never worked. And I probably did it more from outside pressure than what I'd ultimately personally like to do. So somewhere along the way, I just said, Fuck this. I'm writing for me, and I'm not worrying about anybody else.That was actually I think when things became more impacting lyrically for people that were listening to the music. Part of it is, again I come back to the whole catharsis of the art that I'm creating, I'm doing it for me because I need to exorcise my own demons. And I guess inadvertently, this is also presented in some kind of way that people feel like they can relate to what I'm saying and apply it to their own lives. If I were to sit there and write a song that was laid out, cut-and-dry as to exactly what it means, it really narrows the scope if who can apply that to themselves and maybe relate to it. I write for me and what makes sense in my own brain, and I'm certain that even the closest people around me don't even know what I'm talking about half the time, and that's fine. I'm not doing it for that reason. Realistically, I don't think that I will ever get up on a pedestal and come out with something, a song about something very specific. I'm certainly not Rage Against the Machine, or anything like that. I don't ever want to be that. Whatever the case may be, for me, I do this to exorcise my own demons, and the cool part of this is that there are people who seem to be able to relate to my own demons, so that's kind of cool.

This question might be a little redundant in light of that answer, but in Circle of Dust, you had a song Telltale Crime that had kind of a political stance to it, even though it seemed pretty broad. Political and current events seem to be a very big deal these days to a lot of younger people, especially in the industrial and electronic scenes, and a lot of bands are making these really firm politically charged declarations. How do these issues come into play in Celldweller's music, if at all?

Klayton: For starters, two things. Circle of Dust, that Brainchild record, I only wrote about three full songs of lyrics.

Oh really?

Klayton: The lyrics were written by someone else on that record. He took care of the lyrics, and I took care of the music and vocals. For that, the whole political aspect, I can't even answer that because I'm really not tied into politics. And the fact that everybody else is kind of jumping on the bandwagon, to me, I'm so tired of it. I'm so sick of everybody getting up and telling me what their opinion is. That's just me on a personal level, and not just in a musical form, but also in any form. I mean it's cool to have a purpose and to get up and fight for your rights, I understand all that. Me, it's just kind of live and let live, and as far as I'm concerned the media is completely biased. The very liberal media, they're absolutely biased, and maybe it's just my rebellious childhood nature coming out, I don't know, but I don't like being told what to do and what to say and who I should vote for and why. I certainly have no intention or desire to ever incorporate this into my lyrics.

That's probably the way to go. Like you say, it is getting tiring. And you're probably really tired of this question too, but there's a lot of religious turmoil going on, like the whole War on Christmas in the recent holidays. Like I said, you're probably tired of addressing the issue, you've said so before, but having once been affiliated with a Christian record label, do you ever find yourself today reflecting on the subject at all? Has your perspective on it changed at all?

Klayton: My perspective on many things changes on a pretty continual basis. That's part of being a human being. The thing that I never understood is why people make a big fucking deal because you're on some label. I probably would've signed to Anton LeVey's Satanic label if he had one. Somebody was offering me a record deal, and I took it. If I had known what was involved with all that, I probably would not have even taken that deal. But back then, I just graduated high school, I had my demos, and this label called me and said, Hey man, you want to put out a record? Okay, I'll do it. So as far as where I stand on the whole thing, it doesn't matter. Again, it's the same as the whole political debate. I'm not getting up there and I'm not going to get up on a pedestal and try to promote a church affiliation or organization. As far as my beliefs in God, absolutely I believe in God and that will never change I'm sure. But as far as my being the cheerleader for somebody, some cause or some organization, I have nothing to do with that. I'm not here with my pom-poms to support somebody's cause.


That would be a sight. The Switchback video was pretty dynamic, and very unlike anything that would be seen on MTV these days. How does the visual concept of the video tie into the lyrics?

Klayton: Well, unfortunately for me, that video was supposed to be something quite different from what it ended up becoming. I had scripted out a whole thing, and because of a series of events, it just did not turn out the way that I wanted to. I spent three months editing that stupid video. I didn't really want to do it, but like most things in my career, if you want something done right, then you kind of have to do it yourself. I just edited the video, and by the time it was done, I just couldn't wait to get it over with because as far as I'm concerned, it just sucks. So I'm glad to have that video over with. There were a lot of people involved that did a great job with what they did. It's just the video itself did not turn out the way I wanted it, and it certainly doesn't tell a story the way I wanted it to. I'm really personally very sick and tired of the whole rock band shaking and playing music, which is really what that video ended up becoming. We did a little bit of live stuff to cut through the concept of the video, to cut throughout the concept, and the concept parts just ended up getting so skewed and didn't end up turning out very well. The only footage we had that was any good was live performance-based stuff. The video in and of itself, as far as I'm concerned, doesn't make any sense, so there you go.

I actually did show it to a friend who asked me,Is this what they're like live? I haven't actually seen you guys live. I was going to, but at one point a hurricane came, and the other time I got held up at gunpoint because I lost my way to the club.

Klayton: Oh, that sucks.

It does, especially for me, because I'm such a fan.

Klayton: The performance elements of what you're seeing in the Switchback video are very much what it's like live. There's the whole multimedia thing with the video screens, and as far as Dale and Kem, and even Cais the drummer, it's a very visually oriented show. But yeah, that does reflect absolutely elements of what the live show is. But the video itself does not represent me. But it is what it is. I have to get past the point where I can I tend to regret almost everything that I do, and I just have to get past that. It's like,Okay. There it is. There's nothing I can do about it. I've certainly done worse things in my life.

Well, do hope to maybe produce another video sometime, maybe do it right?

Klayton: Absolutely. There has to be some vindication somewhere. It all depends, but I think part of my plan is probably to do a video for this next record.

Any ideas which song it will be for? You've only posted five song titles on the Myspace page.

Klayton: I'll probably be announcing a couple more song titles, and I'll probably be posting up a new blog in the next week or two on Myspace. But as far as what song, it's way too early to determine that yet. And when the record's done, and I've had time to sit with it, I'll probably end up talking to my manager, and we'll brainstorm a little bit, make a decision, and that's what it'll be.

Cool! You've released your music independently up to now. Are you hoping to shop the album to record labels, or are you past that?

Klayton: Oh man, that's so old school. The concept of record labels at this point in life is almost ridiculous. They've become promotion machines. Maybe we'll partner with somebody who would want to pick this record up, and maybe distribute it, and promote it, and probably can do it on a much grander scale than I'd be able to right now. But there's no need for me right now. I have over the last few years had offers from labels that I was not interested even remotely in. For what relatively little amount of money they're giving, to take away your ability to make money, it's just not worth the tradeoff for me. As it stands right now, this is going to be another completely independent record, and I'm going to probably dump a lot of money into promotion and marketing, and making a video, and maybe even touring, but that remains to be seen. And, you know, if something comes up and it seems like a good situation, maybe I'll consider it, but at this particular moment, there are no plans to take this record and go visit record labels. I'm well over that.

That's probably the better way to go. Is there a title for the new album yet, or is it still too early?

Klayton: Yeah, it's still too early. I'm not even sure of all the song titles on the record yet.

What kind of time frame do you think? Do you think it'll be this year?

Klayton: Oh, it better be this year. I really quite honestly thought that I was going to be a little further ahead than I am now, but extenuating circumstances have changed that timeline a little bit. If I had to guess, I'd say probably summer, or fall latest. I'm really hoping to actually have this thing on the street and finished.

God knows I'm looking forward to it. A friend of mine introduced me to Circle of Dust through Disengage, and since then I've been a nut and always following whatever project you're working on, so I'm waiting for it.

Klayton: Cool. It will definitely be a different record. I don't know how many people know these facts, but I wrote Symbiont back in January of 99, so we're talking about celebrating its 7th birthday. A lot of songs on that debut record are I mean, that was a different me writing that stuff, so I'm in a different place now, and we'll see what ends up happening.

Cool. That's really all I have, unless there's anything you'd like to add.

Klayton: As things go along here in the studio, I will probably consider releasing a track or two in advance, probably through iTunes, the same type of deal with the digital thing where we'll kind of prerelease a song or two, and let people have a full track before the record's even released. So we'll have updates on all that stuff as time goes on. Another thing I plan on doing, and of course I have lots of plans, and we'll see how they pan out, but I'd like to catalog a little better the experience in the studio via video, maybe even audio; I don't really know. Maybe we'll update the site once a week or however often we can do it with pictures and they can see video of the progress of making the record.






Klayton INTERVIEW 2005:

Jimmy: It's been a while since we've heard from you and I know most of your fans are probably wondering what you're doing now that you're off the road ?

Klayton: Mostly at this point I have been working on new material. Being back in the studio, where I can focus on writing and creating is hands down the place I want to be.

J: What creative influences are you drawing from this time around?

Klayton: I don't compartmentalize my writing styles. What comes out comes out, as schizophrenic as it sometimes ends up. It's not as thought out as specifying what style I';m going to write in. But if you want to know what I've listened to that actually inspires me in general you'd be asking for a list of influences that are a culmination of everything I've listened to, from my earliest childhood memories (Kraftwerk, Hot Butter, Styx) to current day. For quite some time now, my selection of music I listen to is primarily European. American based music hasn't inspired me in a long time , same shit, different decade. At this point it's actually same shit, different century.

J: So more specifically, what are you listening to right now?

K: Again, I've been completely uninspired by what has been presented on American TV and Radio. Most of what moves me is from the European drum 'n bass of someone like Technical Itch, to the Goa/Psy Trance of Astral Projection (Israel), to just straight up great songs from Frou Frou.

J: Do you have any big surprises in the near future?

Klayton: Well, isn't life just one big surprise after another? I have to continually change my underwear because the overwhelming excitement of any given day causes me to soil my pants so frequently. Most sarcasm aside for a moment, there are some good things happening. There are more movie placements, video game opportunities which may include scoring original content if I have time and some collaborations with some artists that I am legitimately excited about.

J: What can fans expect to hear from Celldweller in the coming year?

Klayton: There is already new music written, recorded, mixed and ready to go. Now it's more of a question of how and when I will release it.

J: Are you using any new pieces of gear on the new material?

Klayton: I have to admit I am a technology addict. There is very little more that I enjoy din than digging into a new piece of software or hardware (music related or otherwise) and making it do something for me. Control the machine, don't let it control you although there are always happy accidents when you lose control. So in addition to the current arsenal of software and hardware based synths I have, there is one new custom piece of gear that I am really excited about. My good friend and colleague MOOK13, is building me a custom synth from an old Commodore 64 Computer.

J: Romell from the band Razed in Black was recently quoted in an interview, as having performed a remix for Celldweller. Can you share any of the details surrounding the remix?

Klayton: Romell and I ended up hooking up, as a result of a mutual fan, who ultimately put us in contact with each other. He was available to take on a Celldweller remix and I was excited about having him do one. We now have a finished remix of Frozen and are brainstorming the best avenue to release the mix.

J: Have you been doing any other creative work, other than writing music?

Klayton: I have put some creative energy into a fashion oriented project. I also just got done creating some new Celldweller merchandise as well. Creating digital art has been my preferred non-musical artistic outlet. I've created quite a bit of it that will probably never see the light of day. It's more of a cathartic thing than "please take me seriously as an artist" My art (music in particular) has been cathartic and has been a necessity for me to stay alive and display some modicum of sanity. I have been fortunate for my own selfish reasons that I have taken this path in life.

J: Some of us have noticed over the past few years, the name Byte Me Fashions associated with Celldweller, printed in artwork and online. What is it?

Klayton: Byte Me Fashions is the fashion oriented creative outlet I just mentioned. I have 40 or so designs that I have been creating and archiving until there is enough time to focus on actually releasing some product.

J: How can your fanbase keep up to date or request info on Byte Me Fashions?

K: I have no real way of knowing what the demand or desire for something like this is. If anyone is interested in finding out more information, e-mail and someone in our Merchandise department can answer your questions.

J: How did you end up working with Jarrod Montague, Taproot's drummer?

Klayton: It was a mutual respect for each others music. Some common friends of Jarrod and I had passed a Celldweller disc on to him, and I had heard that he was into it. He came down to the studio while I was making the record while he was home for a short break from working on WELCOME. He is a good guy and I just asked him to play on a track somewhat spontaneously and he was into it.I Believe You was one of the newest songs I had written at that time and I was still debating if I was going to play the drums on the track although I really didn't want to. Jarrod heard the track and new it was right up his alley.

J: Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions..

Keyboard Magazine

February 2006

Celldweller is a man named Klayton, a solitary soul and self-defined “sarcastic prick.” His start in the industrial scene was a springboard for a unique sound, one that fuses hardcore rock with hardcore electronics. It’s part trance, part metal, and all very intense — so far, he’s grabbed the attention of the computer, film, and music industries, as well as a diverse assortment of club kids.

Even if you’ve never heard of Celldweller, there’s a good chance you’ve already heard his music. He licensed every track off of his debut 2003 album for Hollywood blockbusters such as Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Spiderman 2. And by the time you read this, his song “Shapeshifter” will appear in the Electronic Arts game The Need for Speed: Most Wanted.

Klayton cut his teeth in guitar-based thrash metal and his solo industrial-rock project Circle of Dust, but he grew disillusioned with the industrial sound. In fact, he vehemently despises the genre altogether. “It had bastardized itself and it had parodied itself,” he says. It was the sound of Skinny Puppy that attracted Klayton to his current course in electronica. “It was all sequenced and it had drum machines,” he says. “It wasn’t a band scenario. I enveloped myself in that world.”

Despite Klayton’s protests, you can hear those industrial roots in his current trance-based techno, fortified with heavy doses of metal (the band’s eyeliner and dog collars give it away too). The sound is relentless and aggressive, and it draws a diverse crowd to live shows, which are part rave, part performance art, and part chaos. “The most flattering moments are when there’s a group of people slamming into each other over here, and there’s a group of people dancing over there,” says Klayton.

Celldweller’s diversity of sound comes, in part, from his diverse collection of equipment. He rages on more than 15 computers and a variety of hardware including a Minimoog, Roland Juno 106 and Juno 60, two Sequential Circuits Prophet 600s, an Eventide H3000, an Access Virus b, and a Nord Rack 2. How did he learn to use all this? Long hours as a cell dweller, hence the band’s name. “Technology and what I do musically are the only things I live for,” says Klayton. “I was at home reading manuals while the other kids were getting tanked and laid, I guess.” Narasu Rebbapragada