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Joshua Kit Clayton
by Andrew Duke

Joshua Kit Clayton has always had a credible track record, even from his first releases. Through his involvement with the Cytrax, Delay, The Mimic And The Model, and Orthlorng Musork labels, plus with recordings on a wide range of imprints including Phthalo, Plug Research, Parallel, Dropbeat, and Organised Noise, he’s consistently shown that he has the talent to give ears a pleasant tweak. While many have been following Clayton’s career from its beginnings, others have yet to hear about this San Franciscan phenomenon. This looks set to change with Clayton’s latest releases, the “Nek Purpalet” EP and the Nek Sanalet full length. They’ve been getting much deserved praise from critics and consumers and the attention has thrown Clayton—who’d rather let his music do the talking—to the proverbial media hounds. We’ve been salivating at Cognition HQ since we first heard Clayton’s output, but, with our aim to highlight talent over flash, it was easy to focus on Clayton’s music and not the hype.

Your “Nek Purpalet” and Nek Sanalet are the first two releases on ~Scape, the label operated by Berlin’s Stefan Bekte, better known to most as the recording artist Pole. How did this come about? “I was organizing the Chain Reaction tour when he (Betke) came late last year. We had been talking a lot, and while Stefan was here I gave him a copy of the ‘The Mimic And The Model #1’ and also a CDR of some stuff. He didn’t have a label announced at the time, and I told him, ‘play this for some people you know’ and he said he would. After listening to it, he approached me with the idea of doing an album for him, so it worked out pretty well.”

The titles for your EP and album are borrowed from the language of the Cuna, an indigenous people who live on the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama. And some of the ideas behind the album are inspired by a book from Michael Taussig, Mimesis and Alterity. Tell me how the Cuna and Taussig’s book relate to Nek Sanalet.
“It’s interesting how I was introduced to them (the Cuna). Somebody gave me a book after they heard ‘The Mimic And The Model’ stuff and I told them about my ideas for sound, and mimicry within sound, and between sound and art and other stuff. The book Mimesis And Alterity is about these Indians and their viewpoint that there is a double world; that there is a spirit world that parallels the one in which we live. I find it to be a nice metaphor for dub production where you take an original sound and then you process it in some way and perhaps pair it with the original so both are living in the same space.”

Regardless of the style you’ve been working with, there’s always been a dub-related continuum to your music. What draws you to this sound and way of recording?
“At first it just kind of started as a tendency in my productions to use dub elements. And then I was proposed by Stefan to make a completely dub release because that’s going to be a driving theme for his label. In general, I’m interested in making a lot of music that is non danceable. I don’t think it is exclusively non danceable (the album) in the way that people typically look at releases. That’s probably due to the fact that I’m not going out and dancing as much as I used to when I was younger and that I’m listening to more music just at home. I think that mood leads me toward working more on sound-focused music, but at the same time I’m still very interested in making dance music. I’m trying to come at that with a different approach than I have been. All studio production to me is dub, whether it sounds like reggae or whether it sounds like Stockhausen—it’s dub music from a process standpoint if not by categorization. (Dub) is playing the board as an instrument. The mixing board and post processing and effects are all ways in which you can achieve melody and harmony in a way we don’t think of traditionally.”

Two of the eight tracks on Nek Sanalet use vocals. Is this something you want to explore further?
“Allen (Avanessian) asked me to do something for the Plug Research compilation (‘Voices In My Lunch Box’) and those tracks were two alternate tracks that I had been working on with regards to that and they also fit nicely with the album. The human voice is a good source for rich tones, not even just singing or anything, but just beatboxing and strange things that you can do with it. I’d like to experiment with that more and I’ve actually been listening to a lot of Meredith Monk and the extended vocal techniques she’s been doing for the past couple of decades. I’d like to play with it more, but I’ve not really set out to do that. I still want to explore relationships between sound and its processed copy and there are infinite ways to do that. I also have the idea of working with funeral music and dirges; I’m not sure if it’s actually going to take place, but it’s something I want to work on. I also want to make music that is very danceable, but not boring--something that still pushes, but is more conceptual and has subtle changes.”

Nek Sanalet is out now on ~Scape. Look for new releases in early 2000 from Kit Clayton on his own The Mimic And The Model imprint and the British Vertical Form label.

Joshua Kit Clayton and John Mendez (DJ Jasper) on the
Cytrax, Delay, and The Mimic And The Model labels
(interviewed May 3, 1999)
by Andrew Duke

California's Cytrax label has been winning over both DJs and critics with its brand of quality techno since its inception three years ago. The year was 1996 when the Cytrax seeds were first sown and friend and fellow Orange County resident Marcus Miller was turning Cytrax's John Mendez (aka DJ Jasper) on to techno from the likes of Kenny Larkin and Basic Channel and labels such as Belgium's R & S. Mendez had grown up in Westminster, a suburb of Orange County about 45 minutes outside of Los Angeles, with Miller and Tang Tran. The three were working at the Cosmic Flux label in San Francisco with Ali Goss. Mendez was doing screenprinting and helping out, but was losing interest, along with Tran, as Cosmic Flux shuffled styles from trancey breaks to trip hop to jungle.

As Mendez puts it, his and Tran's meeting with Joshua Kit Clayton and John Santos egged them on to consider striking out with their own label. "We really didn't know that many likeminded individuals in San Francisco," Mendez remembers, "and a friend of ours introduced us to Joshua [Kit Clayton] one night--Joshua and my friend John Santos. And we just realized that we liked a lot of the same music, we had a lot of the same records like [the Basic Channel classic] 'Phylyps Trak II'. We went out to dinner and ended up talking about music all night because we were really stoked that we had met people that liked the same stuff out here. Joshua had a couple of DATs laying around and he played us some material that he had and it was just exactly what we wanted to do. So after that, we started hanging out, coming out here more often and it turned into more of a friendship between the four of us originally--myself, John Santos, Joshua, and Tang; we'd just hang out, listen to records, and talk about stuff, and that's really how Cytrax got started."

Before severing from its parent, Cytrax initially began as a sublabel of Cosmic Flux. "It was an outlet for us," Mendez says, "as opposed to the other label [Cosmic Flux] not being a good outlet." As Clayton puts it, "He was already involved with doing a label, so it's like 'well, if I'm going to be doing something along these lines and putting a lot of work into it, I want it to be something I enjoy.' He wanted to start a techno label as opposed to just helping out with Cosmic Flux." And the name itself? Basically, Clayton explains, "Cytrax, you know. Side", he emphasizes the word, "tracks."

With six hours travel separating Mendez in Westminster and Clayton in San Francisco, they make an effort to meet up at least once a month. They're calling from Clayton's home in San Francisco where they've just spent a weekend planning future releases and working out ideas. Mendez will be flying back to Westminster right after our conversation. Though Tran was one of the creative minds that decided to start the label, he hasn't had that much time to work in the studio because he was studying at the Southern California Institute Of Architecture. And as Mendez puts it, he's more shy and introspective, preferring to stay behind the scenes when it comes to the label. As DJ Tang, though, he does a lot of DJing, and the label's sounds figure prominently in his sets.

It wasn't that easy in the beginning, Clayton admits. "The first release there were some mastering problems cos as they were just getting started they put too much music on each side of the record; the cut was really so quiet that it was unDJable." Mendez picks up the story. "Where we took the record to be mastered didn't really do dance music; they mostly just did rock and roll and punk music, so they hadn't done any techno music. The mastering guy really didn't know that records for DJs need to be loud and cut a certain way." A few copies were sold, but the majority of them are sitting in Clayton's garage. The first record featured tracks from Tang, Mendez as DJ Jasper, John Tejada, Goss, and Miller. Now that they're working with National Sound, a more reputable and knowledgeable masterer, the first Cytrax record might be rereleased in the future. "Maybe at some point we'll unarchive the stuff and repress it with fewer tracks on it," Clayton says.

As the response grew, Cytrax birthed a sister label in 1998. "With Cytrax, we started going in a certain kind of direction, more techno and minimal house, but we also wanted more harder stuff cos that's kind of how we DJ sometimes," Mendez says, "so Tang and I decided to start Delay. The emphasis is on post processing with someone constructing the music and someone [else] actually deconstructing it, which we have Joshua do along with some other friends who are going to start helping us out."

Also new to the fold is The Mimic And The Model label, a series started by Clayton where releases consist of an electronic music record with an accompanying artpiece included as a poster.

Sutekh's "Of Sarcasm And Exhaust" EP is out in June on Cytrax; a fourth label, Orthlorng Musork, is also in the works.


Cytrax 01: Various (1996)
Cytrax 02: Various-"In Fifth Place" (1996)
Cytrax 03: Various-"Wrap It Up" (1997)
Cytrax 04: Kit Clayton-"Negative Powers" (1997)
Cytrax 05: Various-"Chef By Night" (1998)
Cytrax 06: DJ Jasper-"Automation" (1998)
Cytrax 07: Kit Clayton-"Unreliable Networks" (1998)
Cytrax 08: DJ Jasper and Kit Clayton-"Detention" (1999)
Cytrax 09: Sutekh-"Of Sarcasm And Exhaust" (forthcoming in 1999)
Cytrax 10: DJ Jasper-"The Escape" (forthcoming in 1999)

Delay 01: DJ Jasper and Kit Clayton (1998)
Delay 02: DJ Jasper and Kit Clayton (1999)
Delay 03: DJ Hyperactive and Kit Clayton (forthcoming in 1999)

The Mimic And The Model #1: Kit Clayton and Nathaniel Hamon (1998)
The Mimic And The Model #2: Kit Clayton and Nathaniel Hamon (forthcoming in 1999)