Monday, July 2, 2018

George Clanton Isn't Into Films, He Isn't Into Other Music . He's Too Consumed In Creating His Own Legacy


Paradise Playground, as many of you know, is a blog that celebrates musicians and their craft, and isn't out to make monsters out of artists. That's why, upon meeting George Clanton, I was curious to get to know him better. The enigma and one of the heavy hitters behind his genre of vaporwave, George got intellectualized really early on and quite frankly, misunderstood, thanks to online forums and gossip. What he really wants is to connect with his audience and make memorable experiences for them. He's the type of guy who believes that people at his shows hang out with him and sing with him. That they're all in this together. He's the type that jumps into crowds and you watch as the faces of his fans transform. Their auras and their energies amplify as he hugs and pats them on their backs and ultimately these are experiences that these people will take home forever. 

George shattered a specific print persona that we went into this interview with. To be honest, we were intimidated at the start. From the get-go, he thanks us multiple times for coming to Portland and for the interview itself. He then thanks the security guard for letting us go backstage with him to conduct the interview. He jumps cheerfully and eagerly to get started on the questions. He's earnest, hoping he doesn't sound too boring in the interview, and he means well. We came to get to know George during his US tour in Portland, where he was playing a show at Doug Fir Lounge with his girlfriend and record label co-owner, Lindsey French AKA Negative Gemini.

What we came to find out is that George is about providing experiences for all his fans. He's not an 80s revival artist, he's not a new wave artist, but he is, in fact, his own genre. His music is something so different, that once you hear it live you realize that George Clanton, in himself, is the experience.


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PP: We're huge fans of your music - of course. We were sitting and listening to you one day and trying to see where you appear to draw inspiration from. We threw ideas around, heard bits of New Order, some Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, some cinematic 80s synth stuff. The cool thing is it's all modernized into this really rad synth-pop package. We're wondering how that translated to growing up in Virginia. What's the music scene like there? What got you into late 70s or 80s new wave?


GC: Well, first of all, thank you! But I mean, I don't know. There's not a lot of people where I came from. I can't speak for Virginia as a whole, but when I was growing up, there wasn't a lot of people to bounce ideas off of. Me and my friends we all liked Oasis in high school. That was the coolest band we liked. But then, from downloading a misnamed file on Limewire that said it was Oasis, we ended up downloading something cooler, and that led into the internet and discovering some music. We really didn't know anybody outside of our friend group that was listening to anything we were listening to at that time so, Virginia, I don't know if that's relevant. I just think that you know, we got lucky. 


What was the defining moment when you grasped for these inspirations behind your genre? You were stuck for a bit within the vaporwave
 genre, but now people (I guess us included), see these large influences in 80s new wave. Do you even want to be put in that genre even?


(Sighs). No. I mean, 80s new wave is my least favourite, I'd rather be pigeonholed into vaporwave than be pigeonholed into 80s new wave. Just because vaporwave is happening now and 80s new wave is dead and gone. And, I've been called an 80s revivalist my whole career and I'm kind of sick of it a little bit. Of course, I am influenced by those things, but I feel like the only thing that makes it so obvious is that I'm singing so much and my contemporaries don't sing. Or at least they don't sing like me (coyly smiles). That's not my fault, I'm not trying to do an 80s thing per say, I'm just singing every era up until this point, but synthesizers are back in fashion so, I guess, the only time that singing and synthesizers went together in fashion were the 80s. But I don't know if it sounds like the 80s because I listen to it a lot of the 80s stuff, particularly the new wave channel on Sirius XM, and I think it's shitty. I think that they got really lost pretty quickly and started making formulaic music. (laughs)

In an interview, you say that you don't want to be pigeonholed in a genre. You mention that you wear all black because if you wore 80s neon windbreakers, people would definitely see you as an 80s throwback artist. The thing is what if you just wanted to wear an 80s windbreaker some day? Our question is, do you feel like you have to push away from this 80s aesthetic in every way of your life in fear that it may give people the wrong idea?


(Lindsey laughs in the background). Well, no. And if I do want to, I do. That being said I'm not sure exactly the quote but sometimes I say things, and um, as you'll see, sometimes I just say things and like, "how do you translate this into print" because I'm..I'm kind of lying, you know? 

I was probably just making fun of something I was doing. I make fun of myself a lot and in New York everybody wears black, and as you can see I'm not wearing black at all today. I'm kind of trying to make fun of myself in another way by dressing up in 80s baggy jeans and Sketchers and I've got this fucking wallet chain. I don't necessarily think any of that is cool, but I think it's cool because it's fun. But you know, if all the vaporwave kids start wearing wallet chains and baggy jeans and No Fear shirts then I'll be like, "pfff fuck this, I'm gonna figure out something else."


We wanted to talk about you and Lindsey for a second. You guys are obviously doing a phenomenal job with your record label together and you tour together. You support each other so much and that's brilliant to see. You both have said though, you're not into doing collaborations because you want to keep the work 100% your own. Why is that? The obvious next step seems like doing a song together.

Well maybe because it's the obvious step that we've avoided it for so long. At the same time, we've started having a little bit more fun making the music. I mean I don't want to speak for her but the way I see it is I've been creating music and trying to prove myself, thinking everything I do is a legacy, and I'm worried that if I do something that's a little bit different than this path that I've been on, that I'll muddy it up and it'll be more confusing.

When I talk to people, nobody really understands, nobody really sees my music the way I see it. I think that we've been opening up a little more and we're not afraid of, "what if this doesn't sound like what someone would expect." So, Lindsey already did it and made an album that kind of shattered expectation of what you think that her music is going to sound like and then my new album that's coming out soon is kind of the same thing. At the same time, we were talking up until very recently and we were pretty much saying that we were going to do a collaborative thing. But Lindsey has got some irons in the fire where that doesn't make sense to be the best use of her time because she really should be working on a solo album with some bigger label, and that takes precedent. So either way, it would be a good thing. I'm not against it anymore. Basically, I just changed my mind a lot. You can't expect to read something I said in an interview and think that it is real or that it is set in stone. I say things really matter-of-factly and then I don't even know if I mean them wholeheartedly because I just take it one step at a time. 


Has the music industry ever driven a wedge between you guys or has it brought you closer?

Yeah. Like in really stupid ways. I'm a control freak so then if somebody wants to help Lindsey out and I disagree with it then I'll be really upset, then she'll be really upset that I'm being upset and it's really none of my business. But then ultimately...I wasn't right. To rewind on your question, not really. It's funny like, little tiny things, not really a wedge between us but we're both in the industry and then something annoying happens and it affects us both and then we bicker. She wants to do something and I want to do that...so not a lovers quarrel but like...business partners quarrels.


We know you love reissuing obscure vinyls on your label and you're a fan of collecting them yourself so - we brought a present for you. Japanese synth. From the 70s. What do you think?

(excited) Is this something that you really like? 

Yeah! You'd love it.

I don't know what it is. This is awesome, I'm very excited. Damn, but it's reissued, they got the jump on me. (laughs). Well, maybe I'll listen to it and then we could do it. I've had a hard time getting rights to Japanese music. 

We know.

Yes. But you know, some people seem to pull it off. (gets distracted) Thank you very much! I think it depends on who owns the rights to it. When I reach out to the artist directly but the labels are hesitant, because they have their own business plans and they have a greater understanding of how it works than I do, so maybe I would mess up their royalties. 


You tweeted back in 2017, "Every interview makes me sound bad, that's because I am bad." You've actually brought up in interviews a couple of times that people think you're a dick, or that you're trying to make sure people don't see you as one. You don't seem like one though! Why do you think people would think you're a jerk?

You know...I'm just really sensitive. 100 people may say, "you're so nice" and, "I love you" but then somebody will say something, and again on the internet, you can't tell if you're joking or not, but it really hurts my feelings.  I google myself all the time and somebody said on 4chan, "yeah I met George Clanton, he was a total dick though because not a whole lot of people came to his show and he was pissed off about it." So then I'm like searching my memory, and I can't think of what show that could have been, or when I could have been a dick to someone. 

And then another time some other people have said that I was a homophobe because I took their photo and reposted it to my instagram and I didnt know where the photo came from since I posted it two months later. So I didn't credit the person and they saw it and then called me a homophobe and said I was so mean to them at the show. Then I remembered it because I looked at their pictures and knew who they were and it was because I was charging 25 dollars for my record and they only had 20 dollars and I said, "you gotta go get 5 dollars, man," and they said, "come on bro, just let me have this for 20 dollars" and then asked if I would sign it after all that. So I gave it to them for 20 dollars, it was actually supposed to be 30 dollars and I was already charging 25, and then I signed it, and then I thought I was being cute so I wrote, "you owe me 5 bucks - George Clanton" and then they acted like I was being a dick about that. 

Some people can think that's being a dick about that and some people can think that's really charming. You never know who you're running into and people are so strange. I'm learning more as I get older that I'm the strange one too in a lot of instances. So, some people...see now again it seems like I'm a guy who thinks everyone wants to talk to, but I'm just saying that, a lot of people do want to talk to me, and that's fine, I do want to talk to a lot of people, especially those who come to my show, but some people you can never please them. And they'll always be upset. And then when they say something i get upset really easily and I take it to heart. 


Do you ever get anxious? What makes you nervous?

I only get anxious under the context of like...like last night when I get to the show late because of the flight or something and I don't know what I'm getting into or like when the flight gets canceled. I don't get nervous in front of large crowds or small crowds. I'm comfortable with anything so none of that makes me nervous. Sometimes selling the merch makes me nervous if I get one of those people who wants to punish me the whole time and just never gives someone else a turn or ever gives me a break. But I don't get nervous about the music.

You get pretty up close and personal with your fans at your live shows, it's so rad to see the excitement in the room. We're curious what show you yourself have been to that's stood out to you as having that same level of excitement.

(pause) I couldn't tell you. I don't go to a lot of shows and when I do I'm really...hmm. Here's one thing. I don't want anybody touching me when I'm at a concert. Just because I'm not that passionate about a lot of music. If it was someone that I really wanted to see maybe it would blow my mind if they interacted with me and so I think about that. If you want that from me then you're in the front and I'll hang out with you and we'll sing together. But I don't want to bother the people in the back either because as I'm getting older I understand that like, people want to be in a safe space and don't want to be bothered. But you gotta please everybody so I try to balance. To be honest, that doesn't really happen in New York and I've never been to a Mac DeMarco show so like I see him doing stuff like that and I dunno, the shows I end up going to are more like dance parties and the DJs are really like, they could just not be there essentially. Interacting with the crowd is something I learned years ago in Virginia, something in my college town at punk shows and hardcore shows. I didn't even necessarily enjoy the shows as much as I did the environment.


Is there any sort of film you'd want to re-do the soundtrack to? Which one?

(long pause). 

We ask this all the time, we love the responses we get. 

Oh my gosh, I was about to ask for a pass on that. I don't know...because the films that I think of  I like the music to. I just don't think I'm cut out for that type of scoring. I've tried it, and I'm just more of a wham bam thank you ma'am kind of guy, you know what I mean? But I don't know. I'm not really...forgive me...I'm not really into film either. So I'm not into music, I'm not into film. I love making music. And I love some music. but I really can't just listen to anything and like it. I can't make it through an hour and a half of a movie. I'd rather watch 30 minutes of HGTV and point out all of the sloppy decisions they're making with their furniture choices because I've just got really bad ADD. So I just keep talking and I digress a lot. 


Any piece of advice for our readers?

Gosh you know, in hindsight, I think that I really screwed the pooch on this. I answered all the questions truthfully but, if I was reading this, that is one boring dude. And so, I think that, my advice would be, don't be like me, try to live your life to the fullest, don't worry about how much money you're making or anything, just spin the money that you have and try to have fun instead of  trying to do everything just right. 



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1 comment

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