"It's Been A Long Journey" Clash Meets Casper Clausen

"It's Been A Long Journey" Clash Meets Casper Clausen

Discussing travelling, creativity, and solo work with the Efterklang frontman...

Shimmering with optimism and inventiveness, Casper Clausen’s debut album ‘Better Way’ was made in Portugal, where he lives. Recorded with Sonic Boom and Spacemen 3’s Peter Kember, the striking solo project represents a vital release of creativity from the Efterklang frontman.

Touching on Krautrock, pop and progressive rock, it explores a sense of freedom, and the eight songs feature Clausen’s signature vocals, supported by explorative compositions.

Captured in precious moments between tours, the songs came together in downtime, reflecting the atmosphere of the local environment and the singer’s daily commutes across River Tejo to his studio in Almada.

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You have lived in several different countries, where would you prefer to live?

That’s a good question. I enjoyed spending time in Brussels. It reminds me of Berlin, there’s a lot of performance art and fine art. It’s a different way of life, even if coronavirus has made a lot of places seem similar with everything being shut, it then becomes more about the people you know.

‘Better Way’ is an enormous achievement. What are your thoughts on it now?

I’m really happy with it, there was a lot involved. I’ve released several records over the years, but it’s always with bands. This one has been developing gradually, I’ve been writing solo material for some time, while some of it ended up in the bands, I kept some to myself.

Being in Lisbon, having my own studio, I decided time was right for a solo project. It’s been a long journey to work things out, and it’s ongoing. It was about exploring what I wanted to do and how to do it. I’ve never been the sort of artist who sits down with a specific idea, it’s always led by intuition, where that takes me.

It’s been three years where I have been tying to capture moments in this space, looking at the river and at Lisbon. While I’ve been trying to let go of my thoughts, forget any conceptual ideas about what it is that I do, it was about balancing a flow of creativity with something that resembles therapy, where you’re forced to confront your interests.

I’m so proud of the record. What started off as a load of song sketches gradually turned into something bigger, something complete.

How did you decide on the next steps? I took the songs to Peter Kember of Sonic Boom, he added a different dimension to them, gave them a new feel, it was like a new look. It’s always good to show your work to others. Right now I’m considering how I can play and perform the songs live in the future. It’s like I’ve launched a new channel; Casper’s channel.

Did you know Peter Kember prior to this collaboration?

We had said hello at a concert in Lisbon. I knew we have mutual friends. I didn’t know him, but I decided to send him an email, sharing my music. I asked if he fancied collaborating, luckily he liked the songs.

What is it you like about his work?

Peter’s work on sound and effects are second to none, he has an incredible ear for what’s interesting, not just what’s correct. He’s been making music since around 1982 when Spacemen 3 started out, I was born at around the same time.

He has been around for a while, he has produced for others and made his own music. He created a sound and made a name for himself. I listened to Spacemen 3’s ‘Big City’, I was really into that song. ‘Used To Think’ on ‘Better Way’ is a tribute to it, it’s inspired by it, it plays on a similar theme.

I chose Peter because of the range of what he brings, I wanted to embrace that. I wanted to make a multifaceted record.

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That comes across. Describe the collaboration, how did you work together?

It was simple. I went to see him in Sintra, where he lives with his partner. I’d get on the train from Lisbon, which takes about forty minutes.

He’s into plants in a big way; plants and music. He would water them while explaining all sorts of details about them. It’s almost like he’s more into plants than music. He’s a special person.

We would sit in his studio next to each other with a computer and look at the mountains while listening to the songs. I went many times that year, it was unique, you don’t often get to work in such incredible surroundings.

That does sound like a dream setup.

It was ideal. I learnt so much from Peter by seeing how he works, the way he listens, how he uses plugins; his music brain! Working with one person is new to me, I’m used to working with others in a band, but this collaboration gave me so much. I guess there’s the admiration, when you look up to someone, he’s made some music that I completely approve of, so it was brilliant to get the chance to work with him.

What else did you gain from the collaboration?

It’s important to seek out challenges, force yourself to think differently, teach yourself new ways of doing things, not just repeat what you normally do. It’s not just about feeling comfortable with the people around you. Something really amazing can derive from situations where you perhaps felt a bit out of your comfort zone, sometimes the most beautiful things come out of those situations.

I think that the need to challenge myself has become stronger, and it’s something I look for. It’s a recurring thread across the projects that I’m involved with, the idea of looking for challenges, a friction of some kind. I don’t have some big story that I can keep regurgitating, or a source that I can continue to draw on, I just want to create a multifaceted world and bring myself into it.

It’s interesting how the record doesn’t just point to one genre but several...

Yes, that’s it. Similarly, it has always been very hard for me to explain what we do in Efterklang. It has been difficult to narrow it down, and describe it properly. We’ve never felt comfortable about being referred to as ‘indie’. I don’t feel it’s the way to reference it, but I understand why that happens. There is a need to label music, I do that too. Once you know how something sounds, it’s more important whether you like it or not.

’Better Way’ is hard to label. Yes, it flirts with pop music, but it’s a different type of pop. It’s not avantgarde, it’s a bit spaced out at times. It delves into things.

I wanted to structure it in such a way that the dream-like flow remains consistent throughout, even if there’s an abrupt surprise element as well. With a song like ‘8 Bit Human’, that song is almost like a bang. I spent a lot of time on the tracklist, it’s not random, a lot of thought went into it.

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What has it been like to work on new Efterklang material?

It’s been cool. We’ve written so much music. We started a Dropbox folder and just kept adding files. I think we had 70 to 80 sketches by June when we met in Denmark. Normally, we just write two or three more songs than what ends up on the record, but this time we have so much material.

We are adapting to a new reality. It’s important to connect on a personal level, not just musically, it’s about how we spend time together. We have been apart for a long time, with me living in Portugal and in Berlin before that. We have been distant for the past four years, so it has been great to reconnect. Our music feels fresh again. It’s exciting.

How does the title ‘Better Way’ reflect the theme?

It’s about big city life, the urban lifestyle, and the intensity that goes along with that, and finding the balance between full pace and reflective space. When you move at a fast pace you’re distant to others.

It’s a celebration of being alive and making better decisions. It’s also me asking myself what a better way is. Some things are becoming increasingly important to me, how we live and the state of the world. Rather than focusing on our differences, we ought to build on what we have in common.

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'Better Way' is out now.

Words: Susan Hansen
Photography: Hannah Sturm

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