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I Am Kloot

Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit John Harold, am: 04.05.2004 ]

Mit ihrem ersten Album "Natural History" ernteten die Jungs um Sänger, Gitarrist und Mastermind John Harold fast allerorts begeisterte Kritiken. Und das zu Recht. Mit ihrem neuen Album zeigen sich I Am Kloot nun wesentlich offener und rockiger und lassen sich keinesfalls nur ausschließlich auf die ruhigen Töne beschränken. Die unglaublich dichte Atmosphäre und ein ausgesprochenes Gespür für großes Songwriting ist geblieben. Ich traf auf einen ungemein sympathischen und gesprächigen John, mit dem ich unter anderem über Paris, Idioten im Publikum und die britische Presse plauderte.


Musicscan: Is there a special country that you particularly like to play?

I Am Kloot: Yes, they are all different as far as the size of the audience and venues. The main thing is that it really does vary. The last gig we played was in Peruscha, an old Roman town up in the mountains in a 14th century theatre. And the night before that we were in Bern, Switzerland in a small club. The variety is good. It makes it fresh, it is not like you are going through some deja-vu process.

Musicscan: Is there a difference in audience response?

I Am Kloot: Not necessarily in response, but just in manner. In as much as you walk the street in a different city, in a different country, and you then meet people who are from there. Then you get a feeling of people are more like this or that. But it is difficult, you can't always jump to conclusions about people. You could probably say that this culture or all the people in this culture get this out of our music and people out of that culture don't, they might get something totally different out of us. I mean they get the same thing, but it might be slightly different. I tend not to think about it an awful lot, which makes me an interesting interviewee (laughs). Because most of my answers are probably going to be "don't know, don't think about it".

Musicscan: What changed for you since "Natural History" as a person?

I Am Kloot: I have been a lot busier than I have ever been. I have to organize my life, which I never had to do before, which is strange. You have to organize when to meet friends and family about 2 months ahead. That is a bit different. And living in here most of the time, living in a bus.

Musicscan: Are you happy with your life right now?

I Am Kloot: Yes, I am generally a pretty happy person. There are dark periods in my life, but I think everybody has that. A happy person? Well, you know, to be honest, I don't really think about it that much. I'd rather just do it than think about it. I know if you looked at the songs you probably thought that I was rather contemplative or meditative, but I am not.

Musicscan: So you probably wouldn't agree that the change from "Natural History" to your self-titled second album was a conscious effort. Did it just evolve naturally or was there a conscious effort to push things into a slightly different direction?

I Am Kloot: We recorded the first album in a church, which gives it an incredible ambience and reverb that is on the recording. You can't fiddle it in afterwards, it is on the actual recording. We liked that, it gave it an atmospheric whole. We could have gone back to the same church and recorded these songs there and you would have gotten the same ambience. We recorded both of them live, but this one was in a studio. So technically speaking, I think this one has a better sound quality, more abrupt and in your face. And I also think that the new songs are slightly less romantic than on the first LP. As people you just want to do different things and see. It is in the doing and finding out often. The reason that you do things is just to find out and that is what you have done then. It is a record of that time.

Musicscan: So for you it is nothing more than a capture of the moment?

I Am Kloot: Yes, essentially I suppose that is what a record is. We don't spend an awful lot of time recording. We tend to write and rehearse whenever we think there is a reason to (laughs), which isn't that often. We tend to do it really quickly, we just don't spend a lot of time in the studio. We spend more time than other bands on taking stuff out in order to find more space in the music. When we first have a song, we are all overplaying things and then we are like "let's get rid of that." I suppose that is the only area where we are work a bit different than other people. They work in certain ways and certain areas that we don't even bother with.

Musicscan: So I assume you don't do any fancy pre-production and things like that?

I Am Kloot: No, the pre-production is just us three sitting in a room and finding the natural level of the song, where it lies. We just let it find its natural thing and record that.

Musicscan: Are the songs already finished when you enter the studio or do you also write or complete songs in the studio?

I Am Kloot: There is no defined process of doing anything from A to B. If I knew exactly how to do it, I think I would write a lot more than I do now. I am not highly prolific.

Musicscan: Does that have to do with inspiration? What inspires you and I don't mean other music or art, but on a daily basis?

I Am Kloot: I have always sung since I was really small and my family, my mom and dad and my sister, if you put on a CD everybody would sing along to it. I used to think that is what everyone did, I didn't realize until later that it is not usual. But this is very difficult...I just tend to sing a lot and sometimes what I come up with I think is quite good, the melody and the lyrics. I am into singing as I am walking about. I just enjoy singing and what comes out, just comes out. I think I sing about specific stories about my life and then I dramatize them and then I also make them a bit more cryptic and poetic than "than I did this and than this happened." The lyrics are a bit deliberately cryptic at times. Because I don't think it is entirely normal to get up on stage in front of people and just portray your personal life. A lot of it is from other people's personal experiences and a lot of it is just as if you write a book of fiction. Again, there is no given process, which is ultimately not very prolific. There aren't loads of songs all the time.

Musicscan: I was wondering what importance the lyrics have, since you didn't print them in the booklet this time around?

I Am Kloot: Yes, because you can hear more or less every word on the record. I wanted to print the lyrics, but at the same time if you print a lyric it is almost like saying this is poetry, but it just isn't. It definitely has a poetic quality, but they are not poetry. Since you can hear them anyway, there didn't seem to be a reason to print them. It just could be misconstrued as a statement of "this is poetry" and I didn't not want to convey that.

Musicscan: What has changed for you as a band since the very beginning? Are your goals still the same, if you have any?

I Am Kloot: I don't think we have any. It is in the doing of things that is what we like. If somebody asks if we want to play in Germany than we are like "yes, we'd be delighted to, let's do it." If someone asked me "do you want to be a police man in New York", I would probably say no (laughs). So I don't think we have any goals, we just do what we do and it seems like more and more people get into it.

Musicscan: Did the chemistry change within the band?

I Am Kloot: Only is as much as we now sometimes have to spend a lot more time with each other than we probably normally do. That can be a little bit stressful, but that is about it. We tend to tour a lot now and then we have to spend time apart again. It is just to get some room and do all the things in live like talk to your friends (laughs).

Musicscan: Is it hard to keep up a normal social life when you are on the road that much?

I Am Kloot: Well, we are all friends, of course. Everyone from Alec, the driver, Peter our tour manager, to Richie our soundguy and Justin who does the t-shirts.

Musicscan: I am actually more referring to your social life back home. Does it bother you to be away for long periods of time or do you rather enjoy that? Do you maybe escape something, too?

I Am Kloot: It doesn't bother me. If you are home, you wouldn't mind playing a gig tonight. That is part of human nature, no matter what you do, there is always a part of you thinking "well, I wouldn't mind doing this, though." So of course, sometimes I would rather be at home than on a twenty hour bus ride to wherever. That is how life is, isn't it.

Musicscan: Were there times when I Am Kloot felt like a job?

I Am Kloot: Only on the twenty hour drives (laughs). I think that is the hardest thing, to sit in a confined space for long periods of time.

Musicscan: How is your relationship with Echo, your label?

I Am Kloot: We seem to do fine, even though I might be the wrong person to ask.

Musicscan: Would you say it is a friendship or is it strictly a business relationship?

I Am Kloot: Neither. I think it has to do with music and we want this music to be heard. I think that is what we share, our common goal. Well, then I guess we do have goals. We want people to hear this music. They are enthusiastic about that and so are we. I mean it is not unfriendly and it is not overly friendly.

Musicscan: They never asked you to do things that you didn't want to do?

I Am Kloot: They asked us to do things that we didn't want to do and we said we don't want to do it and the said "fair enough." Likewise we might say "can we do this", but it might cost more money than we have got. But it is not like we are at loggerheads, but that is just how it is. Of course, they sometimes ask us to do things that are really great, that we hadn't thought of that.

Musicscan: Are you planning to do a couple more albums with them?

I Am Kloot: Yes, I see no reason not to. I mean continuity in some ways is very good, because life doing what we do is kind of changeable and unstable, so a certain amount of continuity is not a bad idea. If we do change, which I hope we don't, then that is alright, too. It is a fresh start and that is exciting. We take things as the come as far as the music business goes because we do what we do. The very intense songs are very intense performances and we spend the rest of our time quietly. We take it easy on ourselves because if we didn't I think we would crack up.

Musicscan: Can you picture yourself doing this for another say twenty years?

I Am Kloot: Christ, I have no idea. I would imagine I would be involved with music, but until you get there you don't know, do you.

Musicscan: Are there any other passions in your life that you could imagine to pursue?

I Am Kloot: I have always been singing and playing music for as long as I can remember. Nothing has gripped me in the same way, but then something might. You might just want to become a boat builder and life on a boat for the rest of your life. It could definitely happen. People don't want to do the same things their entire life. The world as it is, there are so many people who have to do things that they don't want to do. They spend their lives on a job that they don't really want to do.

Musicscan: So you feel a freedom and maybe even a privilege in what you do?

I Am Kloot: Absolutely. Privilege is maybe a bit too strong because it took us all a really long time before we got the chance to get our music heard. Not as I Am Kloot, but as people. It is certainly a privilege to be asked to come and play somewhere. I mean all we are doing is travelling and playing music, there is nothing wrong with that at all.

Musicscan: What makes for a good show in your opinion?

I Am Kloot: I tend not to think about it or predict. From show to show, gig to gig, they are all slightly different. Some are very different and I support to retain a certain kind of hands-off to the magical quality. Once you define things they suddenly get stuck. You just have to feel each gig and feel your way through a gig and feel its natural ups and downs, sort of orchestrating it.

Musicscan: Do you feel like you can directly influence that?

I Am Kloot: Absolutely, but it has to do with the atmosphere, the audience, you and the music. You can feel it and you go with it as it occurs to you hopefully.

Musicscan: How do you handle bad situations on stage, e.g. technical problem or some idiot in the audience?

I Am Kloot: Luckily it doesn't happen that often. I just like to talk to the audience and just take the piss out of whatever the problem is. I freaked out a couple of times on stage which had to do with somebody...if somebody in the audience is fucking around, we usually just quiet the music down and they will realize it that we don't like it. But people are free to do what they want at gigs, but if someone deliberately places himself in front of where I stand and stares at me and starts shouting things during the songs and the deliberately come right in front of me then I have kicked people in the face, I have hit them with guitars. I mean an audience is free to do whatever it wants and it is our job to grab people and bring them into this world this evening. But if someone is there to deliberately fuck it up for everyone else in the audience and me then I interfere with that. It has happened before and it is usually people who have gotten on the guestlist, people who aren't usually interested in coming in the first place. They are just there trying to fuck it up. So yes I have kicked a guy in the nose and I hit a guy on the side of the head with a guitar. I am not really proud of that, but there is really nothing else that I could think of doing. The only alternative is accepting that he is going to fuck up our evening and the rest of the audience's evening for the sake of his ego. I can't accept that.

Musicscan: Ok, let's leave it at that. Tell me a little bit about your time in Paris?

I Am Kloot: We made that up. It is a lie. Most of what we put in our biography is a lie. The latest one says that my father was a band leader and my mother was a famous medium (laughs).

Musicscan:Yes, I think that is an interesting point that I wanted to get at. Do you read reviews or features about yourself?

I Am Kloot: Not often. I know we have had some very good ones and we have had some really bad ones as well. But sometimes they seem to be talking about another band, even if it is a really good review, but then they are saying all kinds of things about it and I often can't see that in our music. We have also had some bad reviews where we were like "yes, they are right." There is no such thing as the perfect band and you might not fulfil all critical areas. You can't be Leonard Cohen and The Sex Pistols at the same time, although we are trying to make a bloody good job of it (laughs). In many bad reviews I think what they are talking about is wrong. So I don't bother with it because there is just an awful lot that I don't think about.

Musicscan: Do you think that the things you read about yourselves influence the way your perceive yourself and what you do?

I Am Kloot: No, that is exactly why you don't read it. I am happy to meet people after the gig, I am usually at the t-shirt stand. They can say "I didn't like that" or "it was not as good as last time" but I don't want to hear why, because I usually know why and it is my opinion that counts.

Musicscan: So who can criticize you? You don't even care what other people think?

I Am Kloot: I figure I know more about it than anyone else. Also there is a lot of criticism that I am not concerned with so I don't want to talk about it. Otherwise you just spend your life analyzing yourself and I don't think that is the best way to go. You just carry on and do it again and work it our for yourself. Even though we are all human beings and we have got brains and everything, I don't think we have to use them all the time on everything, just analyzing and reconstructing and all this. I think we can do much more than that if we just do things and sometimes we get it really right.

Musicscan: I think that is a perfect final word and I think we should just leave it like that. John, thank you very much, will see you later.

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