Home » Inside The Album » Songs for the misfits: Inside Klute’s ‘Whatever It Takes’ LP

Songs for the misfits: Inside Klute’s ‘Whatever It Takes’ LP

‘Whatever It Takes’ is a phrase I’ve been saying to myself over the last few years, when I despair with manipulative behaviour, in the face of what seems to be happening in the current climate of media/consumer culture; the lengths that people will go to, the things that they will do to get attention or change people’s opinions. Often people will do whatever it takes to get noticed.

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Klute – Whatever It Takes (SUICIDELP20)

I firmly believe that if you want to make a statement in music, you write an album and at the moment those statements are as relevant and interesting as ever. There are still artists that invest time and effort working on well-considered, profound narratives and multi-layered album concepts. Some get it right effortlessly, some lose the plot mid-way and others end up with a collection of selected works. It doesn’t matter anyway; the merit of album writing as an art form is to evoke different emotions and interpretations, unveiling beauty and truth in due course. Despite the convenience and luxury of streaming technology, the beauty of music transcends through time or media formats and listeners that are really into music are still paying attention.

Last year, Klute featured on the blog’s ‘Tracks I Wish I’d Written’ series and revealed that his 9th album was already in the making.  Fast forward eleven months later and his new LP titled ‘Whatever It Takes’ is finally released tomorrow (October, 25th). A certified album artist with a rare consistency that spans more than two decades, Klute has opted for full-lengths as a platform of artistic expression, although he could get away with releasing a string of singles for pretty much any label he deemed fit.  His latest album is a distraction, refuge and personal remedy from the white noise and hysteria of his surroundings and encapsulates the artistic maturity and versatility of an artist that has defied trends, formulas and genre confines. Renowned for his unique talent to instil a multitude of influences in his productions, from his punk/hardcore origins to techno, house and dub, Klute’s broad repertoire abounds with incredibly inspirational music.

Mosaic

Klute albums

I have been following Klute since his first outing on Certificate 18 and I have associated every single one of his albums with various phases of my musical life. Immersing into the underlying atmosphere, I am intrigued by the influences, the samples (especially the sci-fi/horror references), the lyrical motifs, the artwork, the concept, the semantics, the track titles and the messages they convey. Sometimes it’s a straight-forward narrative; sometimes they are riddled with allegories, inviting the listener to conjure his own imagery and visions.

Vanity and other tragedies

The majority of his titles address cultural and political phenomena, like vanity, pretentiousness, pomposity, social hypocrisy, collective denial or hollow flamboyancy. Sight becomes insight, which, in turn, prompts action. Every vice has its price where the aim justifies the means, convenience is more important than privacy, personal choice seems pre-determined, human interaction has been replaced by social media superficiality and the internet has become a battleground for influence and propaganda. Klute explains:

“Most of my titles are political or cultural in one way or another. But it also reflects the nature of what my music is. It’s densely layered and I want you to discover different things on every listen. But yeah, it’s primarily triggered by what’s happening culturally and politically.

I’ve become quite aware of paying attention to random ideas or thoughts that pop into my head when I’m writing or thinking of titles or narratives. Even the most random or inexplicable idea can unveil its meaning to me months or years down the line. So, quite often, titles initially seem random or meaningless to me but I’ll go with it regardless, trusting that there is a reason for it. When the haze burns off after some years and I can begin to see what I was going on about…”

Whatever It Takes (SUICIDELP20, Commercial Suicide, 2019)

‘Whatever It Takes’ is a phrase I’ve been saying to myself over the last few years, when I despair with manipulative behaviour, in the face of what seems to be happening in the current climate of media/consumer culture; the lengths that people will go to, the things that they will do to get attention or change people’s opinions. Often people will do whatever it takes to get noticed.

Klute’s 9th personal album is perhaps the most esoteric to date; a melancholic trip down memory lane, showcasing his most contemplative, almost orphic side, steering away from angular corners;  musical chapters in rhythm and melody for composed and poised listening rather than sweating on a frenzied dancefloor. It is an album that reflects the whole point of making music: to aim (at least) at your own idea of perfection.

“Perhaps it is my most esoteric, yes. A few years ago I made an ambient album for myself, most of which has been reworked and spread across my last 3 albums and I’ve found myself enjoying music more as something to immerse myself into as an atmosphere rather than it being some kind of physical architecture. Naturally, I feel more inclined to make music as such. Ultimately the perfection I’m striving for is to satisfy my own purist tastes and in return please other people with it too”.

Listening to the album in full, you get a feeling of aching nostalgia. The extensive use of synthesizers and mesmerizing melodies echo carefree, simpler times. The translation of subliminal emotions and vague ideas into a coherent story came about naturally during the process of writing rather than a deliberate attempt to capture a specific state of mind.

“Melancholic synthesizers will always evoke feelings of nostalgia I suppose, but aren’t influences a kind of nostalgia? I wasn’t too conscious of being “influenced” so much this time around and just letting my subconscious take over and make what came out rather than contextualizing what it might sound like – it’s more fascinating for me, because I didn’t feel chained down to certain sounds or styles”.

‘Whatever It Takes’ is the first solo instrumental album since ‘Casual Bodies’ in 1998 and it’s been a conscious decision made early on. In his previous albums Klute has collaborated with elite artists across the spectrum: from Heiner Kruse (The Green Man) and Slowdive frontman Neil Halstead to Marcus Intalex, Calibre and Dom & Roland, as well as with a wide array of vocalists: Stef Pleasance, Kiyomi, Moocha, Suont, MC Stamina, Collette Warren, Naomi Pryor, MC Fava, Klose and Robert Manos.

“I’m all up for working with musicians, collaborating and communicating with fellow-artists. I am of course in a band in which I am the lead singer – so perhaps in some way I’m satisfied in that respect, but honestly I’m so tired of this whole ‘featuring’ culture that’s become so common in dance music, as if it’s something incredibly important. I just wanted to make another garage album, straight from the tool shed; pure music and expression.  Also, I think there’s so much showboating going on…. ‘me, me, me!!!’ and I think I’ve reacted against it and the voice as an instrument using my fingers and my mind instead”.

Track by Track – What the sleeve notes never tell you

“There’s something powerful in the mystique and imagination of music, closing your eyes and letting your mind and body loose to create its own visions. The music I love the most, the music that stays with me the longest is always the stuff that enters my subconscious state”.

Instead of a generic track-by-track review, I’ve made an ambitious and theatrical attempt to capture the imagery and purpose of each track with a stream of thought. Sometimes I got close, sometimes nowhere near, but as mentioned above the redemptive power of music is to invoke different emotions and interpretations. Enter stage right, Klute narrates the background story/tagline for every album track.

Part 1

Broadside

Posters announcing the new album pasted on the walls of London

‘Broadside’ is about travelling within London as an organism, through its veins and arteries and being part of its system. My favourite thing in London is to listen to my own soundtrack, while viewing the world from the outside in. This album was very much about making an album I wanted to listen to while travelling and I will continue to perfect this idea on my next and the next….

Centre Of The Crystal

Split into a good mystic part and an evil materialistic part, which are reunited after a long separation

‘Centre of The Crystal’ is self-explanatory as it’s a sample, but most of my albums generally have one or two horror movie type tracks, and this is one of them. I’m big on horror movie music:  Morricone, Carpenter, Hermann and a whole slew of others. But it’s a savage tune.

Flesh Eaters

The irresistible Sirens’ call (and my personal favourite from the album)

‘Flesh Eaters’ again is borrowed from horror, but this time it refers to things of a romantic nature; more of my Riz Ortolani influence coming out.

Feeding The 5000

If you always want what you can’t have, what do you want if you can have everything?

‘Feeding the 5000’ is referring to the pursuit of satisfaction and its endless struggle.

It’s Enough To Make You Lose Your Mind

“Every piece of information in the world has been copied and backed up, except the human mind – the last analogue device in a digital world”

‘It’s Enough to Make You Lose Your Mind’ is about the normalization of perceived depression that has become very topical in popular culture, which for me is largely a result of over-stimulation.

Parasomniac

A sci-fi lullaby quickly escalates to an acid nightmare

‘Parasomniac’  is a pure acid techno workout that was entirely influenced by my missus giving me a Korg SQ1 analog sequencer, which I immediately hooked into the Behringer Neutron synth; so much fun.

Cerulean Blue

Alone in a strangely isolated place

‘Cerulean Blue’ is a distant place I haven’t quite reached yet.

Pop Will Eat You

Echoes of flamboyant outfits, embarrassing haircuts and electric dreams

‘Pop Will Eat You’: Back in the late 80’s when my band The Stupids were riding the crest of a wave the band Pop Will Eat Itself asked us to tour with them, we refused considering them to be quite awful. Their singer Clint Mansell is now one of the biggest film composers in Hollywood.

This is my inner soul channelling the ghost of ‘Human League – Dare’ which was a HUGE HUGE album for me. It just came out this way, I couldn’t possibly TRY to sound like The Human League.

Part 2:

Highly Addictive

Chemical romance

‘Highly Addictive’ is a lot of thinking about dopamine.

Ghost Writer

Read between the lies

‘Ghost Writer’ isn’t about ghost -writing its more about people not writing from their hearts.

Handsome Boy Business School

“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good”

‘Handsome Boy Business School’ refers to the proliferation of image over content.

ORD-BWI

From Chicago warehouses to East Baltimore, Bond St two blocks east. Rules change. The game remains the same. (Most of you don’t know, but my profession is an Air Traffic Controller, so I instantly recognized the airport codes of Chicago and Baltimore. The rest is a reference to the TV series ‘The Wire’).

‘ORD-BWI’: you are right they are airport codes, however it was written on a flight from Chicago to Baltimore. I of course did watch ‘The Wire’ and am now wondering if it’s had more of an influence on me than I realize!

Endless Seduction

” … Eternity is past, wrong is right, it’s the point of greatest intensity, pleasures of the higher sense, feelings of warmth and security, willing and unwilling sensations of the mind, a condition … ” (Chantal – The Realm)

‘Endless Seduction’ is classic Klute techno, very Detroit inspired.

Have A Wonderful Time

The finest album closing vignette I’ve heard since Boards of Canada’s ‘One Very Important Thought’ (Music Has The Right To Children, Warp, 1998).

‘Have A Wonderful Time’ is for my father, a simple thing he said to me one time that had a huge impact on me.

Liner notes and fan facts:

The release date of ‘Whatever It Takes’ is October, 25th from the label’s bandcamp on vinyl, CD and digital formats and soon from all the usual outlets.  The limited dark green vinyl edition contains 8 tracks (Part 1 of the track-by-track review above) and includes an A3 album poster, art sticker and a download card for the full 14-track LP. There are also bandcamp exclusive bundles in competitive prices to celebrate the occasion.

As with every Klute album, the cover artwork adds a literal dimension which complements the exquisite music (one of my all time favourite album covers is the photograph of a Tokyo lady featuring on Klute’s 7th album ‘The Draft’). In this case:

“… the cover was a concept by my great friend Chris at Alona’s Dream in Chicago, who has been designing most of my artwork for the last couple of years. It is a ‘homage’ of the sleeve of ‘Linton Kwesi Johnson ‎- Di Black Petty Booshwah (12″ single)’, which resonated with both of us, especially the relentless repetition of my name. Trivia fact: It is the first Klute album not to feature the Klute logo!”

After ‘Music for Prophet’ Klute dropped the double CD format and has streamlined the track arrangement for the full album combining both sides of his musical output (drum & bass and downtempo) in a single CD.

“ … the two CDs was a lot like that abundance of information we have these days. I thought it was too much to ask people to listen to two whole CDs of my music [I beg to differ!]. It’s been an interesting challenge because it’s an inherent part of what I do. Not just a tokenistic downtempo track here and there, so I played around with lots of arrangements and tracklists. It makes sense to me; I hope it makes sense to listeners as well. I know albums feel like they are a dying breed right now, but it’s important to get the details right”.

Equipment and technical details

‘Whatever It Takes’ was composed largely on a Mac Pro 5.1 running Cubase 9 – in the box with my usual synth arsenal of the Studio Electronics SE-1X, Waldorf Microwave XT, Novation Supernova, Oberheim Matrix 1000, Teenage Engineering OP-1 & OP-Z, Behringer Neutron, Korg SQ1, X0XB0X, Elektron Octatrack, Emu E-Synth Ultra all hooked up to an RME Fireface 800. For sampling I used a Dual 505 mk4 turntable with an Ortofon SM30 cart. Serato Sample was extensively used as my main sampler, as well as a SubPac S2 rumble pack.

Afterword

I’m just glad the album is out there now and I don’t have to make any more decisions about it. There’s so much pressure now on how things perform, or at least how it’s PERCEIVED to perform and I’m finding I just don’t care about the music business as much as I might have. The business is lazy and wants to see instant results and the reality is it doesn’t work like that. It takes people awhile to absorb music and often music appreciation is entirely silent and not shouted out via social media for the world to see.

What the future holds for Klute and Commercial Suicide

More stuff, more releases, hopefully I’ll get around to some back catalogue too.

Klute artist profile

Klute is the main recording moniker of the musician and producer Tom Withers. Withers’ musical career started in the 80s as the drummer and vocalist in the skate/punk band The Stupids, based in Ipswich, UK. Defiant to the punk etiquette, The Stupids’ lyrics were rather satirical and comical than poignant and political. After two early tape recordings, four albums and three ‘John Peel Sessions’ The Stupids disbanded. Withers, fed up with hardcore and punk by that time, delved into a journey of self-reflection and musical discovery. A return from the US ca ‘92-‘93 to his hometown Ipswich, which had become a creative hub around Redeye Records with main figures Photek, Digital and Spirit, proved life-changing. Inspired by the faceless mystique of the new music, making his own beats was a natural progression for Withers. In fact, Spirit’s first attempt at a track was with Tom in 94 in his parents’ basement.

Withers’ first vinyl outings have been on Ipswich’s Deep Red Records under the monikers Supertouch, Tom & Tom and Dr. Know; however it wasn’t until he signed with Certificate 18 that Klute (an exclusive recording name for the label, inspired by the eponymous flick) was born and his music attracted widespread attention. After a string of 12”s for some of  the genre’s  most prestigious labels and two studio albums [‘Casual Bodies’ (1998) and ‘Fear Of People’ (2000)], his contract with Certificate 18 expired in late 2000.

Rather than resign, Klute decided to establish his own label as an experiment. Pessimistically titled Commercial Suicide, a name he had been toying with before, the ethos and vision of his label has been nothing but conscious yet disarmingly rigid: “Music I like, by people I like and who don’t know any better” he playfully states.

To the time of writing, Commercial Suicide has surpassed the 100th release milestone (excluding compilations, offshoots and 20 artist albums!) and has been a creative habitat for some of the genre’s most exciting and talented artists from around the globe.

Klute has also collaborated with many studio luminaries like Lamb, Mogwai, Bis, Natasha Atlas, Harold Budd, John Tejada and has contributed remixes for the likes of James Hardway, King Kooba, Photek, Tokyo Prose & Phil Tangent, Dj Dara, Lee Burridge, Concord Dawn and many more.

Album discography

  1. Casual Bodies (Certificate 18, 1998)
  2. Fear of People (Certificate 18, 2000)
  3. Lie, Cheat & Steal / You Should Be Ashamed (Commercial Suicide, 2003)
  4. No One’s Listening Any More (Commercial Suicide, 2004)
  5. The Emperor’s New Clothes (Commercial Suicide 2007)
  6. Music for Prophet (Commercial Suicide, 2010)
  7. The Draft (Commercial Suicide 2013)
  8. Read Between The Lines (Commercial Suicide, 2017)
  9. Whatever It Takes (Commercial Suicide, 2019)

 

5 thoughts on “Songs for the misfits: Inside Klute’s ‘Whatever It Takes’ LP

  1. Thank you for this. I’m so glad to hear the story behind tracks, as I’m quite addicted to the album at the moment. 🙂

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