If you love everything neuro, dark and gritty, then you will have heard of one of France’s finest exponents of the harder pastures of D&B – The Clamps. In the year of his tenth anniversary under this alias, The Clamps, real name Julien Carbou, is releasing a shed load of music that represents everything he loves about immersive and underground electronic music, filled with energetic musical narratives and bass.
Julien’s journey has covered all corners of the musical spectrum, from hardcore to hip-hop. Despite an understandably difficult 2020 without DJing, he found comfort in his own universe of music production and worked tirelessly to produce tunes that would inspire similar positivity and happiness. His latest project Seduction Scale is one that he describes as ‘a journey to rediscover your feelings’ and it certainly evokes a reaction from within.
The French scene is providing some of the freshest and most exciting drum and bass at the moment with the likes of Monty, Caracal Project and Skylark all representing the rapidly growing scene of underground music. Not to mention the currently unstoppable Burr Oak, which Julien is also part of with ex-member of Signs, Nico Levy. More recently, Julien’s passion for alternative art and fusion has also crossed the waters into collaborative projects, such as his Third Colony project with Deerhill and his work with his cousin and experimental jazz artist Thomas Carbou.
The Clamps represents a unique experience into the dark, weird and wonderful worlds of alternative music, and he welcomes us all to join his universe, where neuro is dished out to any and all visitors. UKF caught up with Julien to take a step inside his creative conscience and learn more about The Clamps, the French scene and what his artistic process is like.
Tell us how you have been over the last year?
As many of my mates in the music industry, I lost my job as DJ, but I’m fine. I think it has been my most productive year in terms of making music. I did an album as Third Colony (a downtempo project with my friend Deerhill), worked on lot of new stuff as “Burr Oak” with Niko, and even more as The Clamps. In addition, I did a few other things in other genres like hip-hop, hardcore and more. I love to work on many projects, it frees my mind.
Set the scene for us – the French scene is thriving at the moment with the likes of yourself, Monty, Caracal Project and Skylark – what is the French drum and bass scene like and how does it differ to other scenes?
For many years the French scene has been growing. There are tons of great producers and DJs all around and great parties everywhere (not for 2020 sadly). There is a good audience but still it’s a very alternative scene compared to some other countries and it’s good like that. I never thought the ultra-democratization was a very good thing – staying alternative is healthiest for the music.
To be honest, I don’t think it’s very different here than elsewhere, now D&B is available everywhere with the internet. I come from a part of France where there is not a big musical scene but discovering music via the internet back in the day was great and a real freedom – it pushed me to focus on making music in my studio.
Are there different subgenres that thrive in different areas of France? I’ve been told that Toulouse is the Bristol equivalent over there.
Yeah, some are saying that. Toulouse has always been special for alternative culture – for arts, rock, reggae, hardcore techno, D&B, hip hop. It’s a great talent pool. Signs, Redpill, Cecil Hotel (Opsen & Le Lutin), Monty, SKS, Redeyes, Trail to name a few have shaped the Toulouse D&B sound and continue to do so. We have this special Hall, called “Le Bikini” which is the music temple.
There are so many great parties here like Dirty (managed by SKS, boss of Vandal Records) or Karnage Party for harder stuff (managed by Céline, boss of Kosenprod). The special thing here is, you can play whatever you want and the audience will always be ready to go mad for your music. I love Toulouse.
How did you initially get into the scene and what has it been like building your sound and style over the last ten years?
I had several projects back in the day in hard techno, breakbeat and D&B as well. When I came to Toulouse, I started The Clamps like a new beginning in my musical career. At the same time, Kosenprod label was born so it was natural for me to follow them and work closely with them. They’re my friends and family and they let me do whatever I want in music. I love this freedom of creativity. Then I met Chris (Prolix) of Trendkill Records and a long journey started as well. I also did hardcore techno with Karnage Records (Kosenprod parent label) and with Heresy. Both sides of my project shaped my sound. I did electro, techno and other 4/4 stuff too, so all these things have influenced my music.
What was it that inspired your heavy neuro influence?
Back in the days of the 2000s, I was more into the hard side of techno, so I was already more interested by energetic stuff. When I heard Stakka & Skynet, Konflict, then Noisia, I discovered why I loved D&B. My hardcore stuff influences my D&B tracks and vice versa. It’s a win win for me to be in both scenes. We all have so much to learn from different musical scenes.
Tell us about your latest EP project, Seduction Scale – how does this EP compare to your previous releases and what makes it special?
I don’t know if it’s really different from my previous work, but I definitely updated my music this last two years. I spiced my DnB tracks with what I learned with Third Colony, I inserted more ambient and weird stuff in my music but still kept the energy I love and need in D&B. I wanted to combine angry beats, gritty bass, melancholy and storytelling with some mechanical and industrial movements. A journey to rediscover your feelings and let yourself be seduced by your own reactions.
A beautiful thing is that I did my first collab with my cousin Thomas Carbou on Family Chest. He‘s a great experimental jazz guitarist, living in Montreal, and I have had so much respect for all his work for so many years. When we planned the track I was so happy and it came so easy. We did a kind of breakbeat/dubstep/glitch hop track with experimental atmosphere and weird blips. We both love the result, and we decided to do a full EP together coming this year on his representative label, but even more experimental.
What was the inspiration behind this collaborative track?
Thomas contacted me during 2020 asking me if I would be interested in making something with him. He’s in a period where he’s releasing a series of experimental EPs each month called “Processed Strings”. He’s very focused on texture and strange atmosphere done with his guitar and all his effect pedals. He sent me some recordings and I started to work in the direction he brought me. Everything came very naturally, like we always worked together. I love this sensation.
Speaking of collaborations, your partnership with Opsen on the collaborative Burr Oak project is equally exciting – how has it been working as a duo during the pandemic?
Nicolas (Opsen) is like me, I mean he’s a hard-worker in the studio. During the first lockdown we called each other each day. When we’re together, there is a perfect osmosis. Everything goes so well. We speak a lot together, we laugh a lot, and we’re happy to share all this time together. He influences a lot my music, and I think it’s quite the same for him. He’s my musical brother and a great friend. I love him!
What makes you want to form a partnership with another artist?
When I find someone, who shares the same vision of life, I definitely want to create a new world with them; Burr Oak with Niko, Third Colony with Yan. We’re all creating our own universe, and we’re inviting everyone who wants to share these beautiful moments. It’s like pushing each other to their best.
Seduction Scale is big, bold and dramatic, how did you manage to create such an atmosphere in your music whilst in lockdown?
Lockdown was not so hard for me as I spend most of my time (probably too much for my friends and family) in my studio. So, I decided to transform the 2020 negative energy into something positive in music. I consider myself as a lucky one, working in my biggest passion, Music, so I couldn’t give up for the audience who have supported me for years. Even though it was quite hard financially, I focused my brain in the music to find the freedom we all need.
Do you think it’s harder to make such high-energy club tracks like these when stuck in isolation – surely the club experience is a big inspiration for this music?
I enjoy myself alone in the studio, so even when I don’t go to parties or festivals, I still listen to high energy music. I spent years listening to music to help me to sleep – dnb and hardcore as well. I don’t need to share this experience with anyone now, I create my own world. I’m saddened for people who need to live these experiences, to feel the music, people dancing all around, the rave party energy. I’ll do everything for people to feel the same emotions I had 20 years ago in my first rave parties. That space of freedom.
What would you say is the key to creating that big, dramatic neuro sound?
I think it depends of what you lived in your life and how you felt it but listen to End Game by Noisia and you’ll find that is a great example of a neurofunk musical piece.
To finish, what are your plans as The Clamps and for your other projects over the next year – what can we expect from you?
As The Clamps, I have a new EP coming for the end of this year for my 10 year anniversary again, with probably some parties to celebrate (fingers crossed). I have a new hardcore vinyl with very extreme music for Karnage records. And I have some remixes coming and some collabs too. As Burr Oak, we’ve got a lot of new things coming too, but I can’t speak about it yet. Just expect a great journey in our musical world!