DJ, producer and label manager, Joe Claussell considers his art the way others come into religion. Out of his countless hours of meditation comes a music of instinct where the feeling surpasses the method. An introspective music, fundamentally apart, with its Afro-Latin range leading to nothing but the foundations of Dance Music…
Seeing you spinning, which I’ve done quite a few times, listening to your compositions, not to mention referring to the countless conversations we’ve had, talkin’ about this or that, I could be tempted to say you speak (then think) music the way others do in their native languages…
“I’ve have lived in an environment surrounded by music. Music to me is as essential as the food we’re absorbing day after day. It is somehow like a religion, although way stronger, as in the position to bridge all the cultures together. The rhythm of our planet is music itself and all you have to do is listen and feel, which is how I come to create.
I’ve never said to myself I would become one day a DJ or a producer though. Everything happened naturally, just the way I live. I’m Puerto Rican, descending from the Yoruba tribe, itself hailing from Nigeria. Starting from this, percussion are to me the most spiritual instrument ever. They are the foundations of music. It’s something that is deep inside of me…”
“Music could sell really well if the record companies believed in music. Alas, music industry is not about music… It’s only business for them. Vinyl has progressively disappeared, mp3 could well do the same tomorrow, they don’t care… They come along with new things, but it’s not about music, it’s about new technology for them, which is why music doesn’t sell good.”
Just like Ron Trent or Blaze back in the day, you advocate the return to the origins…
“Everything that’s been said here or there about our history leads us back to the times of slavery, and not any further. All has been done by the Power to have us not looking any further since our early age, so that we more or less ignore what’s been our upbringing to the society. This said, I believe it’s the proper of the leaders to do everything they can to hold the control on the minorities and therefore establish their authority.
The big majority of us here in America is still under confusion. What to think in the country where you’re growin’ up, when you, the Black, find yourself surrounded by images of popular heroes which are exclusively the ones of White people? As a kid, I happened to be a fan of Tarzan until the moment I started wondering what this White man could do in ‘our’ jungle! A guy who was talkin’ to animals, meanwhile we, the Blacks, were given the constant image of the ones in need of help. What the hell???
We’ve ended up havin’ a feeling of disgust our own selves. This explaining the obvious exuberance of some of us in return. We buy fast cars, fashionable clothes, jewels, figuring we might be accepted that way…
It’s good to have percussion nowadays. But diggin’ deeper into it, you could count on the fingers on your hand those doin’ music with speakin’ drums. The drums that speak… It’s not only a matter of skin(s), but first and foremost a religious meaning. Each element has its reason being. People like Fela Kuti or King Suni Adé have never searched for popularity. They’ve acted because they felt the need to deliver a message.
I’ve been lucky enough to discover them at an early age, before playing their records. Something that nobody would do back then, as far as I know. Everybody has gone talkin’ about Fela after Timmy Regisford started playin’ these records at the Shelter. Although forgetting that on each of his albums there were musicians at least as talented and influential as him. One would go crazy about Fela back then as about African music. But these accents you find nowadays in the Dance Music, it’s because it’s cool. Not because they’re comin’ from the heart. And that’s how this trend has surfaced so suddenly…”
You’ve gone to Nigeria, Egypt…
“I always wanted to go to Egypt… to see the pyramids, know about the atmosphere around. Feel the wind touching their stones and see how the dust gets out of there. I wanted to immerse myself in these images. They’ve been to me and remain a consistent source of inspiration. I never miss the opportunity to try to fade into the atmospheres and the sounds in relation with each of these highly spiritual places. They do not exist without a reason. We have to make time to visit them, and even more in this period of mass destruction…”
You work instinctively…
“Exactly. Besides, you have a proper illustration of this when havin’ a listen to all these pieces we’ve put out on Spiritual Life. Quite away from matching what used to be done at the time. I’ve been considered as a fool when Jephté (Guillaume) and I have released ‘Lakou-A’. We totally drove the opposite way, but we made it and that’s what counts at the end…”
How would you define your approach? style? touch?
Does the current state of the world affect you while producing/spinning? To which degree?
“I believe that music is the answer to the problems that we are facing. I only get deeper into taping into the positive healing message that music delivers, then I create…”
Lars Bartkuhn of Needs said to me one day that a revolution is inevitable. Would you agree?
Others like Ultra Naté believe in the return of a period when, like the early days of House Music, people are to be slightly more selective. Your thought about this?
“I agree. The market is saturated with under experienced people and this has been the case for a while. The real problem comes from the promoters who see music only as a source of profit. But I guess time for some real cleaning will come one day or another…”
You’ve been among the very first developing special effects while spinning, expanding the emphasis of music and, as a result, makin’ it more atmospheric. What’s the following step?
“Atmospheric breakdowns and soundscapes.”
Is the unceasing arrival of new technology to revolutionnize the art of mixing? And How?
“I don’t think I’m the right person to be asked this. But I will say that although the new technology is very impressive, I’m more into the preservation of the organic method of playing music…”