Claptone: the 10 tracks that blew my mind
Although nobody knows the identity of Claptone – the man that hides behind a shiny golden-beaked mask, what’s not in doubt is the Berlin-based DJ/producer’s popularity since dominating the Beatport charts in 2012 with the classic Deep House track Cream.
It didn’t take long for Claptone to hit the heady heights - one year to be precise. Following a short run of singles, Cream raced to the top of the German club charts with a little help from a Wu Tang Clan sample. The following year, Claptone was a dominant force on the DJ circuit, globetrotting his way to 200 shows in 130 cities.
Having already premiered the single Puppet Theatre, October saw the release of Claptone’s debut album, Charmer. The man behind the mask may remain a mystery, but there’s nothing mysterious about the choice of killer tracks that have deeply influenced his path to success!
Click through the gallery to read Claptone’s selections and find out why he chose them...
The Beatles - Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
“Lucy in the sky with Diamonds is one of my highlights from the legendary Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Album. The album rose to fame due to the great compositional skills of John Lennon and still transports me to a psychedelic wonderland whenever I’m listening to it.
“It seemed to me that the Beatles wanted to record the pictures in their minds, like an expressionist painter capturing his moments of genius. The exotic instrumentation on the record supports the hallucinogenic ambience they created for the listeners’ experience.”
Kraftwerk - Das Model
“Kraftwerk is probably the most influential band in electronic music history with a career spanning over four decades. The song is now almost 30 years old, but it still sounds as fresh and distinctive to me as the first time I heard it.
“On the Mensch Maschine album, Kraftwerk took their experiments in mechanised sound from everyday life and brought them to a perfect level. The arrangement of Das Model is very minimalistic, and the song is carried throughout by just a handful of heart-warming synthesiser sounds and melodies. But this reduction made the song perfect; a great example of less is more. I believe that this was the first German single to become a No.1 hit in the UK.”
David Bowie - Heroes
The track Heroes is a song from Bowie’s fertile Berlin period and was written in the late ‘70s. It tells the story of a couple in Berlin who are so determined to be together that they meet every day in front of the Berlin wall.
"The quotation marks in the title of the song, a deliberate affectation, were designed to impart an ironic quality on what are otherwise highly romantic, even triumphant, words and music. It was Roxy Music’s Brian Eno that helped Bowie to write and produce the song. During this period, Bowie’s sound became more experimental and less commercial than his previous work.
“I remember what Eno said about the track: ‘It's a beautiful song, but incredibly melancholic at the same time. We can be heroes, but actually we know that something's missing, something's lost.’ There is nothing more to say.”
New Order - Blue Monday
“When I think of Blue Monday, the first thing that comes to mind is the knocking bass drum of the Oberheim DMX drum machine combined with the pulsing synthesizer bass from the Moog Source.
“It wasn’t the first electronic pop record, but two things made this track quite different to ordinary pop songs; the arrangement isn’t a simple pop structure and, at the time, its length of seven and a half minutes was only used for extended club versions of tracks. In fact, I believe it’s one of the longest tracks to chart on the UK singles hit parade.
“The track is widely regarded as a crucial link between disco and the house boom that took off towards the end of the ‘80s. It feels good to see that young people are still dancing to this song and asking themselves 'Who produced this record?'"
Depeche Mode - Enjoy the Silence
“For me, this is one of the best love songs ever written. With the band’s Violator album, Depeche Mode decided to take a new direction compared to the sound of their early albums, which comprised mainly electronic pop tunes. They added bluesy guitars to their electronic synthesizer sound and this brought a new facet to their music.
“If you look beneath the beautiful instrumental version of the track you’ll find some lyrics that are very sensitive. They tell a story of a deep and moving relationship. It could be about a human liaison or an addiction to drugs - nobody really knows, but sometimes it is better to keep some mysteries uncovered.
“To get the most from the song, I just lean back and enjoy the silence: "words are very unnecessary, they can only do harm'."
Massive Attack - Unfinished Sympathy
“The 90’s were characterised by Trip-Hop songs made up of organic beats or loops, vocal cuts and pathetic piano samples. Unfinished Sympathy, from Massive Attack’s debut album Blue Lines, contains all of these elements, but goes beyond them and into another realm.
“It has all the classic elements, including the melancholy chords and warm drums, but there was much more heart and personality in this song. The key elements for me were the deeply moving female vocals of Shara Nelson, which claim they want to be from the best soul song ever, embedded on top of those beautiful strings. This song hasn’t lost its magic and still touches me in a massive way.”
Souls of Mischief - 93 'til Infinity
“In contrast to many hip hop records and groups of this time, Souls of Mischief decided not to play the West Coast gangster game. 93 ‘till Infinity was the group’s debut album, which featured the title track of the same name, and is a prime example of a time where crews like The Pharcyde, Gang Starr or De La Soul proved to us that Hip Hop can be soulful and brainy.
“The rough, organic drum loop mixed with those lovely Rhodes licks and delightful melodies sampled from old jazz and funk records, gave the track a beautiful, warm feel. The lyrics refer to the real life experiences of a new young generation hanging out, smoking weed, listening to music and just having a good time.”
Radiohead - Paranoid Android
“When I heard this song for the very first time it seemed a little weird to me. But after listening to it several times I discovered that there was a great pop song lying behind the experimental structure waiting to be unleashed. It comes from the band’s third studio album OK Computer.
“If you wanted to describe the sound to somebody you could say it is end-of-the-millennium blues guitars crossed with sugary choruses and sweet synthesiser melodies. I read in an article that each band member composed a separate part of the song, and because of that they had three different versions of the track in the end.
“Of course, they finally had to combine all those pieces together, so some people now call it a modern Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Daft Punk - Around the World
“This song stands out for me as a prime example of the whole vibe and feeling that is present on Daft Punk’s seminal album, Homework. It was a turning point in house music, because from this release onwards there was a time that people referred to as “before Daft Punk” and “after Daft Punk”.
“The production is very minimalistic, but that’s its genius because Around the World is a masterclass in simplicity. The track’s composed around five instruments and the vocal line is repeated about 144 times in the long version of the song. Two decades later and you can still hear the influence that this record has in today’s house music.”
Chemical Brothers - Hey Boy Hey Girl
“A wonder hit from the classic album Surrender that epitomises The Chemical Brothers’ big beat sound. This song probably comes out when you mix super danceable house beats, indie electroshocks and some samples from old vinyl dug out of the relic box.
“The powerful rhythm got me right after the first “Here we go“. From then on, you can’t get the repetitive lyrics out of your mind: “Hey Girl, Hey Boy”. The weirdest and most fascinating thing about the track is that no matter how many times that you hear the song, the vocal samples won’t start to annoy you.”
The new Claptone album Charmer is out now on Different Recordings and you can follow him on his Facebook and Twitter pages.