Klayton – the creative mind behind Circle of Dust – discusses the project’s revival after 20 years and a dark future that inspired this material.
Circle of Dust appeared on the industrial scene in the ‘90s. After four full-length albums, the project went on a 20-year hiatus. During this time, the artist behind the music went on to form two other solo projects – Celldweller and Scandroid. Additionally, he created his own record label called FIXT.
The creative mind at work in these endeavors is Klayton. A writer, producer, vocalist, bassist, guitarist, drummer, key player and synth expert – he took some time to talk with TheCelebrityCafe.com about the present and long-awaited Circle of Dust revival. Klayton discussed how the reboot came about, his visions of a dark technological future, how they inspired his recent work and what’s next for him.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: To begin, why now? What prompted the Circle of Dust revival?
Klayton: For years I have pretty much been on record not wanting to talk about Circle of Dust at all – Circle of Dust being my first real musical project. Partially because I didn’t own any of the masters, I had no control over what was done with them. I was learning production at the time so I didn’t feel like the albums sounded as good as I wanted them to. And really, what changed all that 20+ years later, was the ability for me to finally buy the masters back ... after having them and realizing I could do whatever I want with them, I started putting the word out publicly. Just kind of feelers letting people know that. And the reaction was kind of a bit overwhelming – people coming out of the woodworks going ‘Wow, these are being re-released!’ So I realized there was still a lot of interest …
I started thinking ‘Wow, I know so much more now about producing. What would it be like if I tried to produce that sound I was going for 20 years ago right now?’ So I actually jumped into a few experiments just to see for myself. And what ended up happening is some tracks came out of it that I was like ‘You know what, this is a lot of fun and I think I want to do a whole album.’
TCC: What do you think, if anything, will be different about Circle of Dust 2.0 than the first iteration?
K: I think there are a lot of things that are different and there are a lot of things that are the same. And that’s all intentional. The difference is I think the mixes are going to sound way better – there’s a lot more clarity…
I went through a lot of pains to make sure that the sound was intact. So I took a lot of modern sample content that I own and I actually ran it through archaic gear that I used back then to get the sound of that gear, so that my samples and the things I was using in the tracks sound legitimate. So I spent more time doing that, which was actually kind of fun – again, it was an experiment for me. So there’s a lot of that that has changed. But I also wanted to keep the semblance of that ‘80s-‘90s industrial kind of vibe. So it’s heavy, it’s dark.
TCC: During this nearly 20-year hiatus, people who became familiar with your work are probably more likely to know Celldweller. Do you think that Circle of Dust will encompass the same fan base? Or do you think it will attract a different audience?
K: I’m hoping for a little of both. I think that there is the old school audience still intact. Because they are clearly out on social media and they are making it known they are excited about this. The bigger challenge is actually making Celldweller fans understand that if you like Celldweller, you’re probably going to like Circle of Dust. I mean, Circle of Dust was the precursor to Celldweller. Circle of Dust was where I practiced how to become Celldweller. So I made all the mistakes on those early albums, learning how to produce … So if you really dig in, you’ll hear differences. But your average music listener is really going to hear a lot of similarities between the two. So I am hoping that there will be more of a crossover.
TCC: Addressing Machines of Our Disgrace now – that title is really evocative. Can you talk a little about what it means to you?
K: There was a poem Richard Brautigan, I believe his name was, wrote in the ‘60s called [All Watched Over By] Machines of Loving Grace. And he envisioned this future where mankind was going to make machines that were going to basically work for us. And they were going to operate in such a way that it was going to eradicate world hunger. It was going to eradicate disease. Humanity was going to be at peace because these machines of loving grace were going to watch over us, take care of us. And the future was going to be this blissful place.
I firmly believe that that future doesn’t exist and will never exist. And if anything, technology has brought out the darker and more sinister side of humanity … So to me, the title Machines of Our Disgrace is kind of a play on the idea that we’re going to have this beautiful future where technology is going to make things easier and life is going to be beautiful – and I feel like it’s kind of quite the opposite.
TCC: It seems like these themes of social commentary – for lack of a better term – weave through all of your projects of late in some way. There are these dystopian and Asimov-like themes going on. What is it that draws you to focus on that and talk about it in your music?
K: I mean, some of it is from a love of Science Fiction … I was a cyber punk. I grew up wanting to live in the Blade Runner future. So again, I’m looking around at the real world and I’m kind of seeing that as technology is advancing and the human race is advancing, we are kind of also taking steps backward. So I am really just writing about real life …
DARPA – who deals with defense in the U.S. – they released a paper blatantly discussing how they are experimenting… with drugs and modifications that will keep a human solider awake for seven days. They won’t need much food or much water. They can self-heal. They can potentially, in the future they are hoping, grow back limbs. You know, this is the future of warfare. And usually technology, the first place it really manifests – well, the first two places – are warfare and then porn. But I didn’t write much about porn on my album, so it’s mostly about warfare and the state of that and technology …
Until it hits headlines and then people are forced to pay attention, then everybody’s going to go ‘Oh, we had no idea this was going on.’ And I’m kind of going ‘Well, this is really going on and you don’t really have to look very hard to see it.’
TCC: It seems like you, as an artist, have this capacity to work on a broad range of things simultaneously. When you write, do you start out thinking ‘I’m going to write something for this project.’ Or do you start writing and then decide what project it's best suited for.
K: It really depends… I had an open window of time where I could do anything. So I really was just creating. And I actually ended up creating some content that I think is going to be a new series for next year, which is more of this emotional – I don’t want to say unplugged – but more acoustic guitars and more organic, kind of melancholy kind of songs … But that was because I could just create anything. But generally if I’m in a Scandroid mode [for example], if I’m writing my ‘80s synthwave kind of project, I try to get into that headspace and then I stay focused on that, at least for a little while.
TCC: Along the same multi-tasking lines – did you bring in other musicians for Machines of Our Disgrace or are you wearing all the hats?
K: Every single hat. On my own head … I actually like going ‘I’m hearing a sound in my head, how can I do that?’ I’d probably get a much quicker and better result if I went to a really great guitar player for a certain style of guitar that I have a problem doing. But there is a challenge in figuring out if I can do that myself. So instead of asking for help, I just dig in and do everything myself. So yeah, Machines of Our Disgrace, End of An Empire, Scandroid – all me.
TCC: Is there anything else that you want Circle of Dust fans to know – or fans of your work in general to know?
K: If you don’t know who I am, I probably make a sound you may like. Because if you listen to one project and think that’s everything I do, you’re completely wrong. If you listen to Scandroid and listen to Circle of Dust, they are sort of polar opposites. Scandroid is very – you could play it for your mom and she won’t run away in terror. But Circle of Dust – she might, she might. So I think if you don’t know what I do or the sounds I have, my range is all over the place…
There is a lot of music coming in 2017. I’ve got a bunch of stuff already done toward some new releases for 2017. So if you like any of my projects, good news, there’s more coming. And if you haven’t heard them, dig in, because there is more coming.