It's been a while since FEARnet checked in with Klayton, the one-man electro rock powerhouse who goes by the artist name of Celldweller. When we last chatted, he had finished a collection of mostly instrumental tracks, many of which had already made their way into movies, trailers, TV shows and video games – adding more firepower to his rep as one of Hollywood's secret musical weapons, especially when it comes to fantasy, sci-fi, action and superhero-themed material. That "secret" status may not last, because Klayton finally took Celldweller's songs on the road for a series of spectacular multi-media performances to promote his innovative new "multi-chapter" album Once Upon a Blackstar (read more about that project here). He's got a lot more action in the works too, as you will soon discover.
I was excited to finally catch up with Klayton between phases of his tour (and just before the launch of the completed Blackstar CD) and discuss his many upcoming projects, including his first-ever live DVD. Read on to find out what's next on his scope, and check out a promo for the Celldweller live show...
FEARnet: I last interviewed you when the first volume of Soundtrack for the Voices in My Head [SVH 01 for short] came out, and a whole lot's happened since then... first off, how did the Blackstar tour go?
KLAYTON: Technically, the tour is still going, but so far so good, and we've played some cool places so far this year. I'm home to get Blackstar done, and then we head off for more touring in the fall, mostly international so far.
I've seen footage from the show and it looks amazing... can you describe in detail what goes into your presentation?
Days, months and years of work! [laughs] The live show is a culmination of many musical and visual ideas I've been refining & perfecting over the last few years. I'm one of those old-fashioned dudes who believes when people pay money to come see a show, they should see a show, not some band miming their CD for 45 minutes. The show is 65-75 minutes of completely remixed & reworked songs from my entire catalog. I'd been sick of the whole rock band approach to playing out for years, so I wanted to push things in a much more electronic direction. What rounds the whole experience out are the visuals. Custom synchronized video runs throughout the entire show on three discreet screens. Not random eye candy, but 75 minutes of produced video, shot and edited specifically for the songs they were intended for. The show contains only two actual humans on the stage: myself and Bret [Autrey, of electro-rock band Blue Stahli].
How did you divide up the performing between you?
I knew I didn't want a standard live drummer, but I wanted live drums represented. Same with vocal parts and other instrumentation that go beyond what two dudes can actually play at one time live. So anytime there are live drums or extra musical parts, you'll see someone actually playing those parts on some of the screens. In essence there are many times during the show where there are four or five "people" on the stage playing. Beyond that, I'm endorsed by a great company called Light Tape, and the actual live drums – used for performance pieces during the show – and keyboard stands are tricked out with light tape. I had this vision for what I wanted the stage to look like, and I kept searching 'til I found the right company that made the right product.
Back when we last chatted you weren't actually thinking much about playing live. Now you're doing major tours. What ultimately changed your mind?
Probably a few factors: I had been so disenfranchised by my last touring experience that I called it quits on touring. It took years for the itch to return, but I knew I had to do it in a completely different way or I was going to jump off a bridge eventually. [laughs] There is nothing that can replace the live experience, and I did creatively want to present it to the world... it was more about taking the right path to figure out what the right direction would be. It took a few years of trial & error to get where I'm at right now, and there's lots more improvements coming in the future. I still need to get this cloning thing figured out, so I can have more "me's" getting things done!
Do you still handle most of the studio duties, or do you collaborate with other artists?
I handle all the musical duties in the studio. I'm not a patient guy, and when I hear something in my head, I want it out ASAP. I've learned it's best for me to grab instruments and start laying ideas down myself instead of hoping my "bass player" is in a good mood that day, or my "drummer" can get off his mom's couch to come play. I'm way more open to collaborating now than I've ever been, but it's all dependent on the musician and what they bring to the table.
What instruments do you and Bret play during the show?
Onstage I'm handling vocals, drums, guitars and keys, and Bret handles guitars, drums and keys. I love the ability to jump around to various instruments, because it keeps us and the audience from getting bored... I hope.
Did you have any shows filmed for a possible DVD?
Sure do! It's still in the process of being edited. The footage is compiled from shows all over the world. Originally it was going to be just from a single performance, but I felt after seeing the footage that we have too much good stuff from everywhere else in the world and it would be best suited to mix the whole thing up. People will get to see firsthand what the show is, plus beautiful 1080p renders of all the backing footage projected live during the show. There's a 20-minute mini-documentary from our Russian tour last year and some other goodies in the works too. Can't wait to get it done and out there... I've already changed the show since we've filmed!
Now you're up to chapter 4 of Blackstar, what's next?
The next step is the actual full [Blackstar] CD, which is nearing completion... can't be done soon enough, as far as I'm concerned. I'm ready to finally deliver this baby I've been carrying for six years and get knocked up by the next project in the chute. I have so many plans that I don't totally know what's next... Cellout EP 02 is already in the works, the live DVD needs to be finalized and mixed, I already have three songs towards SVH 02-Chapter 02 done, I have some pending remixes and collaborations on the horizon... what was I saying about cloning again?
What's your creative process behind writing and developing a track?
I have no specific system; whatever works, works. Generally though, I'll write something musical, throw down some quick vocals with temporary lyrics, and then conceptualize and write final lyrics when I have a sense of what the song will be musically.
Last time we focused a lot on your music's prominence in film, TV, games, ads, etc. Have you licensed any new tracks lately?
Yes, for movies like Iron Man, Speed Racer, Bridesmaids (believe it or not), and the Dead Rising 2 video game.
With all the superhero adaptations hitting the screen, it seems there would be great opportunities for you to compose a full movie score.
I will at some point head into scoring films; it's been on my agenda for a long time, but I'm not ready to be locked away right now working on a score. I'm more motivated to bring my sound to the world from the stage, then when I'm starting to tire of that, look for the right film to work on.
When that time comes, if you had the freedom to score any film you wanted, what type of film would you choose?
I'm a huge sci-fi, superhero guy with a healthy dose of horror thrown in there. The prospect of space, aliens & monsters also gives me wood, so anything in those genres would probably suit me best. I'm not Danny Elfman, so I wouldn't be the guy to call to do a traditional score. Something "sound-designy," orchestral, electronic and rock, full of vibe and atmosphere, I think I can pull that off. Looking forward to the day I can dig into a film that I would be excited to score.
I look forward to hearing that. Speaking of movies, what's the best horror flick you've seen lately?
I'm a multi-genre type of artist, so I think that's why a movie like Zombieland appealed to me so much: horror, humor and smarts wrapped up in one picture... and there were Twinkies too!