Name: Rupert Clervaux
Occupation: Musician, Writer, Mix and mastering engineer
Current Release: Zibaldone IV of CVX out on Laura Lies In
Recommendation: On the Abolition of All Political Parties by Simone Weil. This book, written in 1943, remains and will remain entirely relevant wherever these affiliated organs of political power exist––but currently, given the political climates of the UK and USA alone, her incisive evaluation cuts far deeper even than when that record was released. / Wannabe Hoochie Mama Gallery of Realities’ Red Dress Code by Thylias Moss. To first read Thylias Moss’s poetry was to experience a rich combination of joy, education, amazement, insight, empathy, sorrow, self-evaluation and more, and more. / David Graeber’s posthumous book, written in collaboration with David Wengrow, ‘The Dawn of Everything’.
If you enjoyed this interview with Rupert Clervaux visit www.rupertclervaux.com to find out more.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I was ‘percussively active’, shall we say, as far back as I can remember… progressing from pureed food and banging anything loud and close at hand, to a more complex, solid diet and constructing makeshift drum kits from household objects. My first real experience of fanhood came with an obsession with Prince––perhaps at slightly too tender an age for some of his lyrical subject matter! Generally though, I don’t really think about things in terms of over-arching passions and influences––I’m more into the messy, impressionistic blur of a lifetime of listening, reading and other activities. Luckily for me, I seemed to have an early inclination to also understand the technical side of music production, and so saved up to buy a Fostex 4-track cassette recorder at about 13 or 14… that seed of self-sufficiency has maybe had the most profound effect on kind of creative life I’m able to lead today.
Some people experience intense emotion when listening to music, others see colours or shapes. What is your own listening experience like and how does it influence your approach to music?
Personally, I don’t have any kinds of synaesthetic experiences when listening or playing… the musical response is always somehow physical, even when the emotion is also very intense––it’s felt in the muscles, in the ’tingle factor’ that runs up your spine, in your stomach as your body is enveloped in volume. If I see shapes and colours it’s still ‘felt’, like the combination of lights outside your head, and blood behind your eyes interacting during a live performance. If this influences my approach to music in some way, it simply defines the kinds musical experiences I like to have––and also, it leaves a space for me to combine the physical aspect of music with the intellectual aspect of my literary interests.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
My development as an artist seemed to accelerate as I got into my mid-thirties. And, perhaps strangely, that was time when I began working on a number of collaborative projects with other artists… through these projects, which all had the sense of being one-off, or at least temporary, from the outset, I discovered the impetus and motivation to make ‘After Masterpieces’, my first solo-LP proper. And that process included the very real search for a personal voice, as I found the will and method to record true recitals of my own poetry. The collaborations continue now, alongside and also within my solo work––and are a crucial aspect of keeping whatever creative soil I have as fertile as it can be.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
If by ‘sense’ you mean those aspects of acquired identity that develop as you follow your interests and obsessions––as an artist or anything else––then two things spring to mind. I would consider myself to be a non-conformist and an auto-didact. Both of these are of course interrelated… but the non-conformity has certainly cleared my path as a listener and reader, leading me to find the wealth of extraordinary work that has inspired me over many years, and has lead to certain themes, such as improvisation in music, or anarchism and animal rights in politics and literature, that will always find a place in what I do. And self-teaching has been there as far back as I can remember––and gives me so much freedom, not only to explore my own intentions, but to acquire the skills necessary to professionally help others bring their work to light. The combination of the two has also helped me discover both musicians and writers who, by sharing their experiences, have helped me to understand the implications of those aspects of my identity over which I have less control.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
For me, technical self-sufficiency is a foundational part of how I work. This allows me to then indulge what is probably the key component in my creative process: intuition. I try to avoid defining a methodology for myself, or adhering to a prevalent manifesto. Themes and techniques recur though, of course, and it seems that my aim, loosely, is to combine my equal passions for music and literature in ways that help me to express the ideas, feelings, thoughts, histories, theories (or whatever) that engage and excite me.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
Here I would refer firstly to Donna Haraway––specifically her efforts to dismantle many of the dichotomies that seem to populate discourses of all kinds. So, I don’t think it’s an either/or question and I’m interested in the potential of both. I would refer then to T.S. Eliot’s essay, ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’, which suggests that the only way to understand originality is by reference to the tradition which it would definite itself against––or as a development of. On the subject of originality, my tendency is to think of the quest for it as a bit of a smokescreen. I’m happier to wear my influences as badges of reference, hopefully suitably respectfully, and to take part in a conversation––which can at turns be laudatory or confrontational. My Zibaldone project was conceived very openly in this way––using as its source material the work of other writers, musicians and taking as one of its credos a quote from yet another well-known essayist: “originality is simply judicious plagiarism.”
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
It’s hard for me to separate the tools and instruments I use to work, and to give one or two more importance than any others. By way of an answer, I would say that my most important creative tools have been my books, which I refer to all the time––hunting out underlined sections, and re-reading relevant passages as I develop my ideas for new work. The inspiration and motivation that reading has given me throughout my life is impossible to quantify, and my process would suffer dramatically, and perhaps even grind to a halt, without it! On a more technical note, I would like to give a nod to Reaper, my DAW of choice: it has the adaptability and capacity to be the extremely powerful tool that allows me to feel confident in my self-sufficiency, both as an artist and as a professional mix and mastering engineer. For me, the strategies vary greatly from one project or piece to the next––so the adaptability of the tool is a crucial aspect of its usefulness.