A Conversation With: Clams Casino
With the release of his appropriately titled Clams Casino Instrumentals mixtape, New Jersey producer Clams Casino suddenly found his genre-bending atmospheric boom bap (which had, prior to then, served mostly as a sonic playground for the heretical boasts of Lil B) in the (Internet music press) spotlight.
On the strength of Clams Casino Instrumentals, the physical therapy student by day is quickly earning notoriety beyond the adherents of #based music and seeping into the pages of high-traffic, “destination” music websites like The Fader, Prefix, The Village Voice and Pitchfork, in addtion to a flurry of alt-weeklies. (Not to be outdone in feeding the hype machine, the SFWeekly dubbed him, “The Most Important Bay Area Producer Not From The Bay Area.”)
Slotting in somewhere between Brian Eno’s warm ambient soundscapes, Mezzanine-era Massive Attack, and late 90’s NYC street rap, we caught up with Clams to discuss critical reception of his latest release, digital crate digging, and how he managed to send Soulja Boy a track without any drums on it.
Space Age Hustle: So what has the response been like to your instrumental project?
Clams Casino: It’s been pretty crazy, you know, a lot of people hitting me up now, showing a lot of love, so it’s pretty cool.
SAH: I know you mentioned in the Sound Of The City interview that producing is still a hobby for you, but is the goal to eventually make it a career?
CC: You know, I want it to be professional to a level. In the future, I hope to make more money [from producing], but not my primary job, I don’t think I would want to do that honestly. I look at it like a hobby, it’s what I do and what I’ve always done for fun, so I think it’s working like that and it’s getting out there and people are hearing it, so I want to keep it the way it is.
SAH: Was this mixtape about establishing yourself as a solo artist, and not just a producer?
Nah, it actually wasn’t even about that. I just had a lot of people asking me for certain instrumentals and people that always wanted to hear them, so like a week or two before, a lot of people were asking me [for the instrumentals again] and I kinda just threw it all together and put it out there, and didn’t even think that many people would be listening or that it would get that much of a response from people that had never heard of me. A lot of people that never even listened to the original songs got to hear the music, which is cool, I had no idea, I just wanted to put it out for the fans of the original songs who wanted to hear the instrumentals, and it got bigger than I really expected.
SAH: That you sort of crossed over into a more “indie” audience?
CC: I never realized until I put it out and heard what everyone was saying, I just thought it was hip hop beats, but a whole different crowd was getting into them, and I was like, ‘Oh shit, I never even really thought about it like that,’ but it’s cool that it’s grabbing a whole other audience.
SAH: So do you approach your beats as standalone instrumental tracks, or with the intention of people rapping over them?
CC: I have the intention of people rapping to them, because that’s what I mainly do. Well, at least before now, but now I’m thinking about saving some tracks to put out solely as instrumentals, But, before I put this tape out, yeah, I always expect people to rap on them.
SAH: Do you produce tracks with a specific artist in mind?
CC: Nah, when I’m [actually] making them, I don’t really think about who I would give it to, like I won’t really make them for someone to rap on like, ‘Oh this sounds like a Lil B song,’
SAH: Most of the sample sources that find their way into your work are decidedly not hip hop. Is that a conscious decision?
CC: No, I don’t think so, because I don’t really think too much about what I’m going to sample. I have a bunch of files on my computer that I just collected over the years, of just all different kinds of music that I have in folders for sampling, so I’ll just click on something and go through it, mess around with it for a while, browse through stuff and hear something different every time. More just experimenting and browsing through tracks.
SAH: Speaking of experimenting with samples, you have some similarities to, and have worked pretty extensively with, Squadda B of Main Attrakionz. How did that partership come about?
CC: I was doing a lot of songs with Deezy D who I found when I first started working with Lil B, he was hanging out with Deezy D a lot, so I started sending [Deezy] a lot of stuff, and I sent him the beat for “New York Swag” and he sent it back and there were two other people on there and one of the guys was Squadda. I liked it, so I found Squadda on MySpace, sent him a message and started sending him stuff that way.
SAH: You both seem to approach beatmaking from a very non-traditional point of view.
CC: We are always doing so many different kind of things together, and he likes to do a lot of expermienting with sounds, and so I think we are a good match. I’m always sending him different kinds of stuff because he can always come up with something for it, so we work well together and we’re going to [continue working together] for a long time.
SAH: How long does it usually take you to put together a track?
CC: They are all different. Sometimes I’ll work on something for so long, and other times I’ll finish in a day. Sometimes I’ll have everything laid out perfectly, but can’t find the drum sound I’m looking for and I’ll spend days looking for that. That’s what happened with the “The World Needs Change” beat from the mixtape. I had the whole sample laid out and I was trying all these different drums on it for so long and eventually got fed up, and just left them off, but I still liked the sample so I sent it to Soulja Boy like that. I think it works without the drums, but it’s just an example of how stuff happens.
SAH: You’ve had a big influence on the sound of #based music, how do see yourself fitting into that world?
CC: I feel like I’ve definitely influenced some people, because a lot of stuff I hear will be exactly like “I’m God“ or using the same exact sample, that same song, so yeah, I think that after “I’m God” a lot of people were doing stuff that sounded like that, but I can’t take credit for all that, that sound, because Lil B was doing stuff with that same kinda feel before I even started working with him, he was always doing some weird stuff like that, so I definitely feel like I played a part in it, but not all of it.
SAH: On this same idea of influence, who influenced you as an aspring producer, and are there any current producers you are regularly checking for?
CC: Coming up, the producers I listened to the most were Alchemist, RZA, Young L and the Heatmakerz. And right now, Araabmuzik, definitely, I like his stuff a lot.
SAH: So after the success of this instrumental tape, are there plans to release similar projects in the future?
CC: Yeah, I’m working on another tape now, that’s about halfway done, another instrumental tape, that going to be all new stuff. This [first] tape was really for a certain sound and vibe, and I wanted the tracks put together in a single project.
SAH: Definitely looking forward to hearing more, plus you have this current project coming out on vinyl, right?
CC: Yeah, coming out on Type Records. I’m not sure when, but should be pretty soon. So be on the lookout for that.
SAH: Anything we missed?
CC: Just thanks to everyone that listens to and follows the music. I’m glad that I could really connect with a lot of people who listen, and there’s going to be a lot more soon.
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