Looking for Clams Casino’s Mysterious Lost Tracks
After his shows in Paris, Warsaw and Amsterdam, Clams Casino continued his European tour in Brussels. We had a talk with him after his show in VK concerts on Sunday 30 October and found out many interesting things… Read about the mysterious unreleased first mixtape he made under the name of Clams Casino; other unreleased beats; his favorite video game and more.
Text by Erkut Gultekin, banner photo by Szymon Nowak
You’ve been quite busy with your European Tour for the last four days. Are you planning to do some sightseeing in Europe after today’s show?
It’s been quite busy indeed. I’ll be flying to London tomorrow but unfortunately I won’t have the time to go wander through the streets of London. I planned to go and do some work in a studio. There’s a project that I’m co-working on.
So we can expect new things in the near future then?
Indeed but I can’t talk about it just yet, it would be too soon. Also it’s not totally under my control so it wouldn’t be fair.
It sounds like you don’t get a lot of rest as a producer. Is it always like that?
I just have to take advantage of the time I have. I think I take enough time to relax. I simply love to keep myself busy. It’s the only way to improve yourself as a producer.
Do you prefer performing at festivals (with various other artists) or in a concert room like the VK?
If I had to choose, I would definitely choose a concert room like this one. I like it better because of the coziness and intimacy. Also, I feel more connected with the crowd. They are on the same level as me. The sound is different as well. I only hear it like this when I’m on shows. It’s different to listen to it at the studio at home. It’s not just exciting and special for the fans but for me as well when I perform. Even the old stuff sounds different and so much better.
How do you feel about your progress today when you look back at what you made?
I love listening to my old stuff but I always feel this need to discover new things to keep me interested, to keep myself involved. I can’t imagine that it would be fun if I were doing the same things over and over again. The reason I keep making music is because I keep discovering new things that make me happy and surprise me.
Do you think there’s been some kind of reincarnation of the old Clams Casino (Your three Instrumental Mixtapes and Rainforest EP) into a new one (32 Levels)?
It's true that more and more people have the tendency to label me as a hip hop producer nowadays. I agree with the fact that my style has evolved but that's not really something I think about consciously. I just try to make whatever I feel like at the moment. When I made the other stuff, it was simply what I felt like doing. I try not to overanalyze stuff. I’m continuously being inspired by the artists I work with. Take Vince Staples for example, I basically take that energy and flip it into whatever I’m feeling like.
You were born in ’87 right? That makes you a 90s kid. Have you ever tried to remix a 90s hip hop song?
Yes, I’m glad you asked that actually. The very first mixtape I did under the name of Clams Casino was in 2006. There were 20 tracks on it. It was a mixtape I put on CDs and stuff and used to pass around. They are all remixes of hip hop and r&b songs that I made new beats to. I even did a remix of one of Biggie’s songs.
Can we find it on the internet?
Here and there a couple tracks maybe. Not the whole thing though. You know what? I’m going to find the CD somewhere and I’ll maybe even post it for you guys! There are a lot of great beats on there. I spent the whole summer of 2006 working on it. I used to be in high school back then. I used to pass it around to the high school kids and my friends.
So you’re from the generation of producers who actually started with handing out mixtapes?
I’m from the time that’s before and after that. Right in the middle of it, the transition. I remember myself going to the stores to buy CD mixtapes. Then suddenly I didn’t have to do that anymore, I just had to use my computer. I’ve seen the whole thing come and go.
How does it feel to be an actual recognized producer?
I’d rather want the people to recognize the sound instead of my name. That’s what matters after all, it’s a beautiful thing to me. I think it’s kind of funny how we producers nowadays have become actual artists though. I never really signed up for that. I just wanted to make music for rappers and other artists. Also to get my name out so I could work with even more people. Everything feeds off of each other. I’m really glad that people recognize me, not just my name but also the sound.
You have produced Havoc’s 'Always Have a Choice', would you ever like to do a collaboration with both of the members of the Mobb Deep duo?
You just described my main goal from when I first started. Mobb Deep has been a great inspiration to me. Both of them. Prodigy’s album 'HNIC' was a huge album for me. Together with The Alchemist’s beats he was one of the reasons I started making music and producing beats.
Would you describe yourself as an active Social Media-user?
I used MySpace a lot to get in touch with other artists back in the old days, that’s how I met A$AP Rocky by the way. Even though I have an account on both Facebook and SoundCloud, I don't really use them since my manager does that for me. I do use Twitter and Instagram though. I think the popularity of Twitter is fading, Instagram seems to be taking over now. I don’t have a Snapchat either.
Photo by Ross Mantle
So how did your musical journey with A$AP Rocky start?
Like I said I used MySpace to reach out to other artists back in the old days. By the time I met him I was looking for local NY artists to work with. When I came across A$AP Rocky, he had one video out called 'Get High'. We started from there. I texted him that I wanted to work with him and sent him some beats. He was like "This is crazy. We were just talking about your mixtape man what are the odds." Apparently he even had been rapping to my beats already. I was living in New Jersey at the time. I asked him where he lived and it appeared that he lived ten minutes away from me. That was another surprise. He recorded in his studio in Brooklyn. We started going back and forth. I’d go to his place and listen to the songs right after he recorded it. Then the videos on YouTube were out and out of the blue we both got big.
How did you guys choose the beats?
I sent Rocky multiple e-mails with 4 beats in each one of them. That’s how our collaboration began. So eventually I hit him with some 16 beats.
That’s a lot of beats though? What happened to the others that he didn’t pick?
They’ll be in my e-mail somewhere. I’d be interested to actually look at the ones he didn’t pick. I haven’t listened to that stuff for five years myself.
You reached out to Rocky, but how does it work nowadays? Do you still reach out to artists?
Nowadays they come to me. For five to six years it was me who was hitting everybody up. There was a crucial moment where it flipped over and I didn’t have to do that anymore. From that time on I could fall back and let it come to me. Now it’s a little bit of both. People reach out to me but I also reach out to them.
Are you familiar with TDE’s Ab-Soul? We think he would do great for a collaboration with you. His voice and flow would match the mysteriousness and unpredictability of your beats.
I can’t agree more with that. I’m also fond of his style. I’ve actually hit him up on Twitter once. I don’t think he has seen it though. It has probably got lost in the messages. But hey, who knows, maybe this interview will reach out to him?
What is your opinion on shout-outs?
I used to tell people on MySpace that I’d appreciate it if they’d do a shout-out to me when they used my beats. Sometimes the rappers mention my name in their lyrics (e.g. Lil B’s 'Witness'), sometimes in the beginning. That’s how you get the name out.
What video game do you think has the best soundtrack?
I’d definitely go with 'Donkey Kong Country'. The ambient music in that video game has actually been very inspirational to me on an unconscious level. It’s really amazing!
Thanks for your time! By the way, have you tried Belgian fries already? Because even though it’s called French fries, we invented them.
(Laughs) No, but I’ll definitely do that. I was feeling kind of hungry after the show.