Klute: The emperor’s new tour
The undisputed grumpy old man of drum & bass, Klute (aka Tom Withers) took some time out of a hectic Asian tour to answer a few questions before hitting our shores to once more pimp some 174bpm love.
You’ve gone through a fair few aliases in your time, can we have a definitive list?
My original moniker was Supertouch, then Tom & Tom, and then Dr Know. It was when Certificate 18 asked me to release for them that I chose the name Klute. Override came about a year later and was used as a name primarily for Octopus Records.
You’ve always been an avid skater, what is it about the act and the scene that attracts you? How did you and El Hornet become skate buddies?
I started skating in 1977 when my dad brought me a board back from a business trip to the States. In 1984 I became interested again since many hardcore punk rock bands from the States were into it, which was unusual at the time. Men attract me. El Hornet and I are skate buddies because we share the same hatred for human beings.
How do you feel when you look back on your days as frontman for skatepunk luminaries The Stupids? Do you think the same motives and passions that drove your creativity back then are still at work today?
Yes and no, that’s a difficult thing to gauge. One does his best to write from the heart at all times.
Was there a particular catalyst for your journey from punk into electronic music in the early 90s, or was it just a natural progression as the latter gained steam?
It was an entirely natural progression. I was getting fed up with punk and hardcore towards the end of the 80s, so I delved into a big journey of discovery which took me through all kinds of different styles and genres of music. From bad heavy metal through to classic rock, into indie music from the UK, which led to things like Happy Mondays and Stone Roses, who were by that time dabbling in rave.
What is it about drum and bass that makes it your primary choice of artistic expression?
It’s very DIY and independent. It runs itself and cannot be governed.
Your last three albums have included a second CD that you label as “non drum and bass”. Do you feel it’s important to not completely pigeonhole yourself as a producer of tunes that fall within the 170-180BPM range?
I just like to make other kinds of electronic music. I like albums to flow, it makes things nicer to listen to and I sometimes feel that the token non drum and bass tune messes with the flow, so I decided to make separate albums to go with my drum and bass ones. It makes it more fun.
What made you start your own label, Commercial Suicide, in 2001? Is there a story behind the name?
In late 2000 I had delivered my second album ‘Fear of People’ for Certificate 18 and was then out of contract. Rather than resign, I thought it’d be better to try something different. No one else seemed appropriate so as an experiment I started my own thing. Commercial Suicide was a name I’d been toying with before, so I thought… perfect.
While it’s hard to classify, I think that there is a definite “Commercial Suicide sound” that seems to incorporate, yet also transcend, many of the sub-genres within drum and bass. Would you agree? Was that a conscious decision you made when you founded the label?
That’s the thing, there is nothing conscious about Commercial Suicide. Other than to release music that I like, by people I like.
You’ve always been in strong opposition to the “it’s all good” mentality that is rife in drum and bass. Why do you think so many people feel the need to sugar-coat their opinions? How damaging to the scene do you think this attitude is?
Even though it is a worldwide scene, drum and bass is still a relatively small community. People become very protective of what is theirs.
Tell us about your latest album, ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’. Personally I think it’s your strongest release yet, do you feel the same way? What tracks are you most proud of?
‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ is my 5th album and represents what I’ve been thinking over the last year as an artist. I think all albums have their merits so I can’t say one is better than another. My faves off this album I think are 174bpm, Property is Theft, Only Memory Is A Good One and We Control The Vertical.
This is your first trip to Australia in a couple of years, what can punters expect from a Klute set in 2007?
Loud and high energised drum and bassical music.
Finally, what does the future hold for Tom Withers and Commercial Suicide?
That’s what I’m trying to figure out at the moment. I’d like to try new and fresh ideas. I’ve been travelling a hell of a lot in 2007 so I haven’t had much time to think. 2008 will be the year.
Klute tours nationally this September, check your city’s Whatson for venue details:
Fri 7th Sep – Adelaide
Sat 8th Sep – Melbourne
Sun 9th Sep – Brisbane
Fri 14th Sep – Sydney
Sat 15th Sep – Perth
Klute’s most recent album, The Emperor’s New Clothes, is out now on Commercial Suicide/Inertia.
Check this YouTube video of Klute playing in Beijing recently with Stamina MC: