He's such an enigmatic artist that even meeting DJ-producer Claptone in person leaves Andrew Drever wondering if he's been duped.
I don't fully grasp quite how fiercely Claptone hides his identity until we are led into a darkened Melbourne hotel room for our face-to-face interview.
In disorienting darkness, the enigmatic DJ-producer sits on a sofa, clad in standard uniform of black T-shirt, white gloves, top hat and, of course, his infamous golden beaked mask.
This wasn't entirely unexpected. The conditions of the interview were communicated early: no photographs or video would be allowed and Claptone would be wearing the mask. But the reality still surprises..
"For me, this is my face," he says, his impeccable English coloured with a German accent (he freely reveals he lives in Berlin). "It isn't about my personality. I want to touch people with my music, either with my performance on stage when I'm DJing, or with the songs I write. I don't want them to talk gossip about me. I don't want them to intrude into my personal life."
But the anonymity is really only half of the Claptone mystery. Ahead of his second artist album, Fantast, Claptone was in Australia to play the travelling Groovin' the Moo festival as well as his own The Masquerade parties in major Australian cities.
But, on this very same weekend, there are also Claptone gigs taking place on the other side of the world – in Nevada, Santa Barbara and San Diego, USA. The weekend prior to that he played Groovin' the Moo in far-out-of-the-way Wayville, Maitland and Canberra, yet he was also in Mexico and Greece. How is this possible?
The synchronous clashes are freely exhibited on his website, but it's safe to say there are at least two people playing Claptone gigs in different parts of the world. I'm puzzled and curious about the question of "authenticity" and whether I'm talking to the person who actually made Fantast, but the man in the hotel room behind the golden mask seems unfazed.
"I think 'authentic' is a rock myth, and I'm not a fan of rock myth," he says firmly. "I'm a fan of Devo, David Bowie and The Residents.
"Claptone is a mythical being and can time-travel to a certain extent, sometimes with the Learjet and sometimes just by mind. It's up to the imagination of the listener.
"I love secrets and I love to get people under the spell by keeping my secrets and leaving a lot of stuff up to their imagination. Ultimately, as long as the performance they get is great, I don't think it's a wrong thing."
On that score, his euphoric Masquerade gig at Melbourne's Coburg Velodrome is undeniable. Claptone is one of the biggest names in electronic music, and the delirious crowd packed into the tent to hear him deliver his sermon. Confetti bombs exploded in synchronicity with driving basslines and an impeccable sound system showcased his elegant house anthems.
Tracks from the then-unheard Fantast, such as Under the Moon and In the Night, were as eagerly received as the staples, like his storming remix of Gregory Porter's Liquid Spirit and Gorillaz' We Got the Power, but Fantast isn't meant for the dance floor.
"We" – (we? Hmm…) – "wanted to do something that you can listen to at one go and you don't get bored and it's nice to listen to," Claptone says. "(An album) that's experimental to a certain extent, with Claptone references and the main Claptone sound, but also condensed, in that it doesn't have beat intros and beat outros like what you would hear in club tracks."
Guest vocals are provided by Bloc Party's Kele Okereke, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Austra's Katie Stelmanis, Fenech-Soler's Ben Duffy, Zola Blood and Boxer Rebellion's Nathan Nicholson, as well as young talent such as British singer Cherie Jones and New York's Matt Simons.
His DJ sets are uptempo and explosive, and Fantast still has that wonderful Claptone swing, but it's also darker, moodier and more atmospheric.
"I had a concept for the album, around going to and losing yourself in nature, dissolving in a dream that could be a reality…a romantic, escapist, dreamy idea. I wanted to invent a parallel universe that's beautiful, almost like in a utopia, escaping from this world and filling it with fantastic stories. That's where Fantast comes from."
Our time is up, but the thought of Claptone as a global brand that can be anonymously reproduced simultaneously at opposite ends of the planet continues to nag. How do I know you worked on this album, and it wasn't someone else?
Claptone chuckles softly. "You don't know," he says. "But I made the album … but maybe I'm lying. That's the risk you take in life. People are lying to you and there are a lot of secrets.
"Maybe it comes down to how I answer the questions about the album and you can reflect on that. Do I know enough about the album? Do you know if it was the right answers? Was it not? You'll figure it out."
Fantast is out now through Different/PIAS/Inertia.
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