1. It is impossible to find an EBMesque band that started after 1990 who doesn’t cite Leaether Strip as one of their top influences. How does this sit with you? Are you able to distinguish your legacy in scene today?
Claus: It’s a great honor to be an inspiration to others. Makes me proud and happy that my passion for what I do rubs off on others, fellow musicians or listeners. Something I never dared to dream about in my youth. Yes I know I’ve been around for ages and released a ton of songs, but I am mostly just grateful that I still get to do what I love and that I can share this with others. I’m a fan of this scene just like the rest and I still gotta compose that perfect song before I stop.
2. During the 90s before your break, you had two phases with “Serenade for the Dead” and to some extent, with “Legacy of Hate and Lust” sitting in the middle. Your early work was more focused on your outlook of the world around you, whereas “Rebirth of Agony”/”Self-Inflicted” had a much more self-reflective feel to it that started to emerge on Legacy. Did anything specific trigger that change of focus? Also, what was the meaning of “I’m not done!” on “Rebirth of Agony”?
Claus: Looking back, I think the change in lyrical direction was due to the fact that I bumped into my husband Kurt and the whole “coming out” process, but also a part of growing up, the “angry young man” was in love and started to focus on living a new life. In the early days I was maybe too scared to open too much about my own issues, dreams and fears. I was busy being someone I wasn’t and that’s just too much hard work for any person. The “I’m not done!” comment on “rebirth..” was mainly a “fuck off” to the typical jealous idiots who start to bash on you because you had a lot of success and because I came out of the closet. I mean the labels I was working with at the time got comments from many scene club and radio DJ’s that they didn’t want “faggot music” in their promotion mail. Yes this “oh so tolerant underground scene” is not very tolerant when you scratch the surface. Not then, and still not now. There are still promoters out there who won’t book us because of our sexuality. So the fight is far from over, even in out part of the world. And I’m still not done!
3. Also, “Serenade for the Dead” marked a turning point after which your sound gained even more complexity and texture. Did the work on that album change your perspective, or do you think you would have evolved in that direction regardless?
Claus: I have been a fan of movie soundtracks and classical music since the early 80’s and one of my biggest dreams was to compose for films and theatre. I think it’s also very important for composers to give themselves challenges, so you won’t get stuck making the same song over and over again. So that’s what I did. I didn’t have a movie to compose for, so I used my inner pictures from all the books I read back them from mainly Clive Barker and Stephen King, and composed soundtracks for them. I learned a lot doing this album and couple of years ago I released “Serenade for the dead II”, and I want to do one more soon. I let the music take me where it wants to go, I can’t control it so I just go with the flow and hope for the best. Genre wise I am all over the place on most albums, yes it’s Synth music but I love and I am inspired by any type of genre as long as it’s got heart and passion in it.
4. Going forward, at one point you simply disappeared off the face of the Earth. As it was the pre-Google era, information was scarce in countries where the scene wasn’t big enough to have “media coverage”. You made a lot of people sad. What made you unplug your equipment and what was your life like as a “civilian”?
Claus: Yeah that’s what happens when you find out that most of the people you trusted in the business were 100% fake and only there because what might rub off on them. I just had enough. There wasn’t room for any more knives in my back really. And in the middle of all this my father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and died 3 months after. So I just fell into this deep dark hole. Got a deeply depressed and I wouldn’t touch a keyboard for the next 4 and a half years. Also the fact that none of the people and labels I was working with tried to reach out to me with a simple phone call, didn’t help. Not one of them tried to contact me, and I had the same phone number, same address same email as I always had. If it weren’t for Kurt’s love and protection, I would have ended it all for sure, I have no doubt. But not having the release of composing just brought me deeper and deeper into the darkness, so one day, I just started to write songs again and that was the way out, and I haven’t looked back since.
5. After a long wait, Alfa-Matrix announced you’re signing with them and in 2005 we got “Suicide Bombers” and “After the Devastation”. What made you decide to go back? Also, were you nervous regarding the prospect of your reception and what your hard core fans (we can call them Leaetherettes) would say?
Claus: It was either that, or staying on in that dark place I was in, it wasn’t getting any better over time. I need the music in my life to really live. A little email from Alfa Matrix triggered the return, they asked me if I would be interested in doing just one song for a compilation, I don’t know why, but I said yes, and that was like opening the flood gates. After a few months I had a full album ready, and I had some very good years on Alfa Matrix, and I will be forever in debt to them for helping me come back. I was scared that everyone forgot about my music, but boy was I wrong. It was so heart-warming to feel how much they had missed my fat ass. It’s ten years ago now, and we’re still here, playing shows and writing songs. All because of them.
6. My reason for previous question is that although “After the Devastation” is a pure Leaether Strip album, it has slight “foot on a brake” feel to it, which was clearly gone on “The Giant Minutes to the Dawn” and subsequent releases. Did the reception of your comeback assure you that you made the right decision and to go all-in?
Claus: I never put a “foot on the brake” with my music. I go where ever it wants to take me. I was coming out from a very, very dark place into the light, so maybe that’s why it sounds like it does. I got no idea. I don’t think it “oh what will the listeners like / want”, I can’t work like that, and I never did. All my songs are steps on a ladder to where ever the fuck I’m going. I got no idea and most of us haven’t got a clue. I just got a lot on my mind that needs to come out, cause I sure don’t want to go back to the hell I came from. I’d rather take a bullet before I would let that happen.
7. Has anything changed in the way you approach the creative process on post-return releases? They do have a new sense of clarity, both in a musical and lyrical sense. Or is this just a result of wisdom with age?
Claus: Yeah it’s all about growth and getting a bit more selective on what you want to spend your time getting pissed off about. I have never been more satisfied as a person as I am now. Yes there is a truck load of shit in my life and my love is very sick, but hey, I’m here, and Kurt’s right here with me. We travel the world playing shows and we’re making people happy. So I just put all the shit into my songs and send it away.
8. What is your take on the influence of affordable technology (such as software synths) on music creation? From the outside it appears that whilst it gives everybody the ability to easily create, the end result is mostly focused on throwing layers upon layers to make something. In the “old days”, a lot of creativity was needed to go into squeezing the most out of what you have. Has this simplifying of the process taken a bit of soul out of end result?
Claus: Writing songs is a craft, and no amount of expensive gear will write these songs for any composer. It’s all about talent and not gear. The fact that more people got access to recording tools is just great, and might spark an interest in someone who might not have had the chance to explore this craft. I can’t stand gear snobs; they piss me off big time. They act a bit like men in mid-life crises. If the effin’ hardware synth or software synth makes the sound I want it to make, it’s a good synth. Sure knobs and lights are pretty, but I’m only interested in the sound it makes and if it fits the song I am writing, software or not. One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that these “gear snobs” aren’t very productive as songwriters. I don’t care what you use if the song you wrote moves me.
9. It looks like you are currently very focused on doing cover versions of your youth heroes with an AE stamp on it. Some of the songs that came out were extremely surprising, as on paper they didn’t look particularly coverable by you. Have you at any point so far approached a song and after a while said “This won’t work?” Do you have future plans regarding this?
Claus: Once in a while I do cover versions. It’s a hobby of mine, and I learn a lot doing them, it’s a good challenge to venture into. Especially because I only cover songs that I love and that can be a bit scary. Yes I released a cover album titles “Æppreciation” but I also composed songs for my next Leæther Strip album and wrote and recorded a Sequential Access album with my mate Marco Defcode from Decoded Feedback and started a new synth pop band called Am Tierpark with my mate John R. Mirland. Plus I’ve remixed and produced a lot for others too and played many shows. So yes it might seem like I’m in a cover version zone, but I’m not really. I just wanted to release the ones I already did, and there will be more out on my Bandcamp site Nov 13th and Dec 24th.
10. We should not forget Leaether Strips little angry brother Klutae. What is its current status? There was great show at WGT this year, but in regards to tour dates, there are mostly Leaether Strip shows in the future. How do you decide what material goes to Leaether Strip and what goes to Klutae? In the past there was a feel of excessive angst and harsh beats on Klutae (then Klute) releases, whilst the newer material has a cleaner feel to it, and could be suggested to be much closer to the Leaether Strip material.
Claus: Klutæ is never sleeping 🙂 I compose new songs here and there for Klutæ and when I got enough for a full album it will be released. We also love playing live as Klutæ, and yes the WGT show last year was very special. It’s always so much fun, it really brings my teen punk out again every time and it seems to do the same to the audiences we play for. I wish we could do more Klutæ shows though. We did a few double Leæther Srip / Klutæ concerts and those were amazing. It is very hard for us to perform for 2-3 hours but worth every drop of sweat. I always know beforehand when I sit down in the studio if I want to start on a Strip or a Klutæ song. Klutæ is my playground. It’s a state of mind for me. Hard to explain the difference, But I just know what goes where and Yes sometimes it’s close to Strip and sometimes it’s not. Anyway it all comes out of my head so there is bound to be similarities. I love them both.
And a set of quick questions.
What is being your own boss like? Your Bandcamp page is very active and it looks like you are always up to something. Is it possible to live on music alone or is it as difficult as before?
Claus: At the moment it’s what I need. I worked a lot with Emmo.biz records on a friendship based “contract” and released some really cool stuff like vinyl and boxes. I will work with Rustblade records next year for a special release, and who knows where that will take me. I got a lot in the pipeline.
You finally toured the USA. Did it live up to your expectations?
Claus: We now have done two US tours, and we just love playing overseas, and we’re going back next year for more. This time hopefully for a month if they promoters are interested.
You are very active on social media and extremely approachable. Is this hard work or is it an enjoyable experience?
Claus: Yes it’s hard work, but I love being in direct contact with the people who support what we are up to. We got so many dear friends from all over the world and it’s the best way for us to stay on touch and to see what they are up to and they wanna know what Uncles Claus and Kurt are planning.
What we can expect from Claus Larsen in the future?
Claus: We just released a new album worldwide (Nov 6th) with my John Mirland’s and my synthpop band Am Tierpark, on Distortion Productions. Also did a new video for a song from that album titled “A Step too far” for YouTube. We are already working on the next Am Tierpark album planned for next year. Next year will also be “Leæther Strip” year. An EP and a new album titled “Spæctator” are ready and lots of shows all over the world.
Leæther Strip / Klutæ:
Booked Leæther Strip + Klutæ shows so far:
06 November Oslo @ ElektroStat festival (NO)
26 December Waregem (BE) @ Dark X-mas Expo Waregem
27 December Oberhausen (DE) Kulttempel
31 December Dresden (DE) Reithalle (New years show)
26 February Helsinki (FIN) SYNAPSI 10
14 May Leipzig Wave Gotik Treffen (Agra halle)
30 July Bolkow (PL) Castle Party Festival
No gigs booked at the moment, we hope for more 🙂
BOOKING CONTACT: email@example.com
North/South America: firstname.lastname@example.org
Enjoy AM TIERPARK “A step too far” Official video!