The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

A Quietus Interview

Mystics Of The Near Future: Klaxons Interviewed
Luke Turner , August 19th, 2010 14:00

As Klaxons prepare for Surfing The Void, Luke Turner speaks to Jamie Reynolds about the joys of enlightenment in a cynical age, and why the band feel they've "a job on"

Jamie Reynolds is hungover. An all-night recording session with Spank Rock and Rose Elinor Dougall at the behest of Mark Ronson has led to a temporary falling off the wagon, and a disruption to a new-found healthy lifestyle, in part inspired by his work with a mysterious shaman figure. Yes, a shaman. This interview with one quarter of Britain's finest young prog/electro/rock combo is sure to raise some hackles in a climate where it seems frowned upon for musicians to engage with any form of spiritualism. Some will no doubt dismiss Reynolds' talk of personal enlightenment as the ramblings of a man seeking respite from the burnout of being in a mega-hyped band who accidentally coined new rave, one of the most woeful microgenres of recent years. Reynolds, though, is far from a whacked out spaced out New Age waffle gobbler – or, as he will put it, "a woo woo". He's too smart for that, too fired up on optimism about life and Klaxons' new LP Surfing The Void - and, ultimately, too self-deprecating and English. You only have to listen the LP to realise that. It's a record of dense euphoria and unabashed delight in making something immense, colourful, explosive, pompous in the best possible way. In our track-by-track review I suggested that "It must be decades since a record so sounded like it was recorded with one eye to the receiving end of the Jodrell Bank telescope, and a nostril fixed to the end of a rolled up 20." I was perhaps wrong in implying such a narcotic ambience: Surfing The Void is a record of liberation – neither hokey, nor indeed, cokey.

How does it feel to have Surfing The Void finally seeing the light of day?

JA: A combination of not really understanding that that's what's going on, and being really excited that people will get to hear it. I adore the record so much that I'm thankful that people are going to get to hear what we've done. It's brilliant that it's happened, and it's function is for other people to hear it. Now it is time.

It's out of your control now?

JR: It always felt out of our control. That was one of the really interesting things about making this record, and one of the lessons from working with Ross Robinson, is that you don't have any control over the music, the music does its own thing. That's very much a Ross way of looking at things. You only get in the way of it, once you step back it does its own thing. It's an exercise of turning your brain off...

Removing ego?

JR: Removing absolutely everything, and being a vessel for the music to come through you. It's just to let it have its own way.

It's been interesting seeing Klaxons' journey from early ramshackle gigs via the new rave nonsense to now. You've always been a very open group in interviews, but do you feel that it was good to get away from that baggage, or remove any bad habits?

JR: I don't think so. I think we've always just been genuinely wowed by what's gone on. We learn what we're doing as we go, we're stumbling through it. We didn't come into this whole thing with any training, we've just been wowed by whatever's come along, and that's the very honest answer.

At your early gigs it felt like there were great pop songs going on but it felt as if you were learning to play them more than giving a proper execution. I like how you've kept that spirit of muddling through, avoided getting too polished

JR: That's exactly it, and the spirit is the fundamental force you can't do anything about. It's stupid, I've now become a musician - I'm not a musician! But here I am and it's what I do and I'm getting good at it. We've learnt in public, and that's great. I think that keeps us locked in the moment in some way.

To me the record is grandiose, has a massive sound and is pompous - and I say that as a compliment. The odd thing is it kept bringing to mind Muse, but the problem I have with them is that they're so technical, all the life has been taken out of their music, it becomes empty and ostentatious...

JR: We avoided that simply by the fact that we're not musicians. And working with Ross had made us players. He made everybody feel comfortable with their instruments. Stefan on the drums excelled, Simon's guitar playing is through the roof, and James and I are on fire and feeding off each other. But we can't mess it up by being muso because we don't know what we're doing. I go 'well that sounds good', that sounds good, and now I've got to do that'.

Was that something that Robinson helped with?

JR: I think for all of us in different levels. it made Stefan and Simon much better musicians, and gave me the confidence as a songwriter, and James and all-round super-confidence. That didn't exist for us before - we were just these bratty kids that were going 'blaaaaaaaaah' like a bunch of idiots.

Flashover by klaxons

Was that what he was doing with you personally, alongside the music?

JR: Absolutely. He'd go really hard on a personal level.

Was it difficult?

JR: No because I was so open to that idea, I was so excited by that idea, because I knew it was the only way to completely express ourselves and get on the similar level of thought. I was already having similar thoughts to Ross' way of working, but I was really thankful that this guy was going to make anything in anybody's head that they had any doubts about disappear. I knew that he was going to do that for all of us, and I knew that was what was going to happen. I knew that was what we needed.

How did it happen?

JR: He just came to the pub and we had a couple of pints. We didn't talk about music as such, we talked about our personal lives and he really dug into trying to understand out characters. He very much believes that your character will come out through your instrument and into the song. He supports the individual, and then it starts working.

Is that what he does with everyone?

JR: I think so. Korn and Slipknot want to go back and work with him, and I think he works people through the mill so hard at letting go of everything and being clean that when you go off and have new experiences you go, what do we do next? Ah, we need to go through the mill again, we need that power cleanse.

The enema...

JA: It really is. He's drinking his power shakes, it's very much a cleansing experience, that's what he does.

It sounds very LA, very Californian.

JA: Yeah it is. His mum is a lady called Byron Katie, and she is one of America's top self help figures, Oprah Winfrey's best mate. I follow her on Twitter and her statements are the most beautiful things, she understands life, she's got it. She's just helping people.

Sometimes that culture can be seen outdated, a relic of the 90s. But do we need that in what's a pretty bleak period in modern history?

JR: I think it's a really important time for self-awakening. I don't want to go off on one - Ross would call it... he's aware of the dangerous aspects of self help, he calls them 'woo woos', people become fundamentalists and take these ideas and go too far. But he's very straight with it, you just live life to the utmost.

Those things can become dogmatic.

JR: The people have nothing but good intentions. They're healers and helpers. I'm going through/have gone through that process, and it's brilliant.

The time we live in is very cynical and dark, old religions hve been eroded and it seems that the certainties people are falling back on are those offered by the market and capitalism.

JR: Absolutely, how horrible is that? I've been getting into Situationist literature and religious texts. With all this that's going on in the world, the first thing that you have to look at is yourself. How brilliant and simple is that idea? I'm a believer that that works, or could work on a grand scale.

And then of course you're British, and we're particularly good at cynicism.

JR: I can see that enlightenment is 'wow!' But my British sense of humour will not let that happen.

Well you've not made a wishy washy New Age record...

JR: It's not, there are a lot of New Age ideas floating around in that material, and I have got some shirts from New Age shops [laughs] what the hell am I doing, but it doesn't have that oddness that New Age suggests, woo woo or whatever. A lot of New Age ideas have been taken seriously.

Another thing you talk about is this idea of synchronicity. From a somewhat cynical perspective, how do you separate synchronicity from coincidence?

JR: Well the definition of synchronicity is a meaningful coincidence. It's just the regularity of these occurrences once you start getting into it is really interesting and exciting. The connections, just moments in time that turn around to you and say... it's like a deja vu experience, there's a way of thinking about that that says everything's working, you're on the right path. Maybe it's just an idea of being happy, but it's about noticing things are working.

In a recent interview you said the record is about seizing the moment, and also about avoiding the void. Where would you say that void lies?

JR: I look at it as the part in people that is always wanting something, that is saying 'give me fulfillment' and is always on the search for whatever fulfillment however that comes, whether that's trashy fulfillment or works on a big scale. It's the part that wants. The idea of surfing the void is ignoring that, and making the best of something, turning your back on these desires.

I suppose those are the things that are fed by the media and so forth, and in terms of music the internet, the demand for now now now

JR: Nobody is satisfied, because it's all too much. There's a huge void there, saying 'you can have whatever you want, it's all there for you', but then that transfers into you - it's all in me but I don't know how to get it.

Musically people are all about nostalgia and escapism...

JR: I feel that there's a bit of a job on with music. For ages I was wondering what our role was, what were we supposed to do. But we've stepped up and tried to seize it. It's all about making the best of yourself, taking control of what's to hand.

How do you see these ideas continuing? Are you sticking with them?

JR: I can't really do anything about it. I'm attracted to the idea of continuing to a further level, but I know I can't go too far because of my British sense of humour, like I said.

Perhaps that's a good thing, it'll stop you being a woo woo.

JR: Yeah thank fuck that I was brought up in England and I was brought up on Basil Fawlty and The Young Ones because otherwise I could lose it at this point in time. Ross would always understand that I want to take these ideas as far as I could because I was drawn to that world, but he'd tap me on the shoulder and say 'you've still got one foot on the pirate ship'. I accept that, and I need that. I don't want to come across as having some sort of complex - I'm still a dickhead.

Surfing The Void is released via Polydor on August 23rd

Share

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.