You have a very unique mask you wear when you perform. How did this mask come to be part of your persona?
An old mask manufacturer gave me this mask centuries back in a land which is now part of France. Since then I wear it and never take it off. It has brought me much luck and also some grief over the past decades, but I accepted that mask as part of me. There is no Claptone without the golden Venetian mask.
Your debut album, Charmer, was released in October 2015. You stated that this album has been in the works for a long time. Could you please elaborate more on this?
The idea of making an album came right after the success of [the single] “No eyes”. This song was laid out as a B-Side in 2013 and became bigger and bigger in the clubs, [even] though it had a full vocal on top. This gave me the confidence to think about making an album that works in the club but is a “real album”, not only a compilation of club tracks. It needed to be an album in a “classic” sense: a collection of vocal songs that relate to each other, that make sense in their order and something you can listen to in one go. This takes time, but on top of that, when planning the album I had the idea of working with singers that I personally like a lot. Singers with charisma, vocalists who make a difference and are different to what you would usually hear on the radio. I [also] wanted to hear voices with character [that] you don’t hear on every house music record, like Nathan Nicholson of The Boxer Rebellion, Jimi Tenor, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Jay-Jay Johanson [and] Peter Bjorn and John. I approached them in a very old-fashioned way, I contacted them personally. I wrote them letters and emails, and asked them in person where possible. Their presence and unique character is very important for the overall vibe. I didn’t want any studio singers, I wanted characters. These artists give my music a voice.
The album’s first single, “Puppet theatre”, features Peter Bjorn and John. What was it like to work with this Swedish indie band?
Working with them has been a precious experience to me. We met up in an old cave somewhere in the woods, brought some candles and hummed melodies to one another. Then Peter came up with some deeply critical lyrics analysing the state of turbo capitalism we all live in and suffer from.
What were your expectations for your visit to South Africa?
It [was] more like a demand. I really [wanted to] see the enthusiastic South African crowds again, who I had the chance to play for at Truth nightclub last time around. I love [them].