Clouds are welcomed regulars to Dublin, playing often for the city’s collective Techno & Cans. The duo, originally from the small Scottish town of Perth, consists of friends Calum MacLeod who now resides in Berlin, and Liam Robertson who remains living in his hometown.
The two have exploded onto the scene since their first release on Blood Music in 2010, with three Boiler Rooms under their belt, as well as releases on Slam’s Soma records, and of course an album on Speedy J’s Electric Deluxe label. Clouds have also started their own label recently titled Headstrong which features the mighty Randomer and perfectly shows their rave and hardcore influence through both music and the design of the artwork for the label.
Clouds are set for their return tonight for the first time in over a year, as they headline another Techno & Cans show in Hangar. We caught up with the lads ahead of the gig.
For more information on tonight’s event click here.
What is it that has generated such a great culture for electronic music in Scotland. There are numerous institutions such as Rub a Dub, Sub Club with labels like Soma and Dixon Avenue Basement Jams along with a litany of well known artists across loads of different genres. Coming from your own perspective, what has led to that growth?
Calum: I’m not sure, I don’t pay too much attention to what others are doing in various scenes, and the same goes for the scenes that we’re immediately surrounded by, in Glasgow for example. That’s not to say we don’t have friends who are doing what we’re doing in the city, I think we just try to keep a certain distance. I honestly couldn’t say for sure why there’s such a great culture for electronic music in Scotland, maybe something like a snowbell effect…
Is it weird in that sense that for artists in other genres like Hip-Hop, etc that their music is somewhat dictated by their personalities, but a lot of the time with Dance and Electronic music, the music and the people behind can be complete opposites?
Liam: I don’t know if its weird. Rappers obviously use words to speak about themselves and their lives where as techno is predominantly instrumental tracks so although you can maybe tell the mood of the producer at the time of making the track from the vibe of the tune I can’t really tell what the person is like. Most artists I’ve met are genuinely happy and cheerful to be making their music and performing around the world despite the music they’re known for being “dark” or “aggressive” sounding. Does Jeff Mills have the same personality as a splashy 909 open hat pattern? Ive never met him.
If you weren’t making music and DJing right now, what do you think you’d be doing?
Calum: Thankfully I’m not doing either right now, I’m in bed.
I find you guys really interesting because you’ve sorted of dipped between a million different genres. It’s hard for artists today to swap sounds without changing aliases etc. even though you’ve toyed with some aliases too. How do you guys approach a new sound with your fan base in mind?
Liam: Rightly or wrongly we are selfish and we make and play things that we want to hear. It doesn’t always go down too well and that can leave us feeling a little deflated but never enough for us to change our approach. The DJs that excite me are the ones that do things that I’m not expecting and are interesting to listen to, not just doing the tried and tested, middle of the road, safe stuff.
With Liam based in Scotland and you (Calum) based in Berlin, is there much inconvenience when it comes to producing and communication with eachother, compared to if you could both sit in a studio together?
Calum: This is how we’ve always worked, sending files back and forward, even when we both lived in Glasgow. Unless we’re working on an album, where we’ll go to a space for a few weeks and do some intense full force writing together.
You’ve played in Ireland plenty of times now, is there anything in particular that brings you here so often and what similarities/differences are there between the Irish and Scottish crowds?
Liam: We love it in Ireland. The atmosphere is very good and very similar, the patter is very good and very similar. We’ve been lucky to become good friends with the promoters and people involved in running the shows we’ve done which is definitely a reason for being over as frequently as we are. Scotland has a similar licensing law where the venues have to close around 3 so the crowds have a short time to release their energy which results in very vocal and intense shows which is sick.
How important is all of the graphic design that you guys use for your releases? Bicep were nominated for an award due to their album art, how important an aspect is that as regards electronic music?
Calum: It’s quite important. We’re lucky enough to work with our good friend David Rudnick on our more serious releases, and he’s an incredible graphic designer. There’s so much “content” being put out today, and it all wants a piece of your attention, which is already spread fairly thin across various different medias… Having good design that’s more than just sick graphics or some clickbait meme-worthy gimmick shit is important. It’s important for people to have something meaningful, to make the work, the whole package the best it can be, I think.
How many different amen break samples do you have in your library?
Liam: Haha. Calum probably has a lot more than me. I’m pretty bad for keeping my sample library organised.
We’ve seen you play old happy hardcore tracks and trance down through the years, and there’s definitely been a rise in DJs playing classic trance tracks as of late. I think for some artists such as yourselves the tracks remind you of your youth, and I for one hate how much of a pretentious view some people have taken towards it, but do you think there are artists simply doing it for an easy reaction?
Liam: Maybe, possibly. I don’t know. Not too arsed if they are or aren’t doing it for the reaction to be honest. Going back to your older question I think people who make trance live the trance life. Colourful and Crusty riding on waves of euphoria. Trance is pretty honest music which I really like. Maybe thats why its met with such distain by “cooler” people as there is no “mystery” as to what its trying to be. Who knows?
Berlin is still pretty much known as the capital of techno and has developed its own sound overtime. While the clubbing scene there still tops a lot of cities, do you ever find it’s harder to get away with a more experimental sound like that of yourselves while playing there or do the crowd there just expect a certain thing from your set?
Calum: Berlin seems kind of hit and miss. I don’t know, I don’t go out clubbing. When we play it doesn’t feel different from any other European city… It can be good it can be bad, obviously there’s a lot of hype around various clubs, it’s just the way it is. It can be difficult to play certain sounds in Berlin sure, but if you play some real good techno you’ll have the time of your life!
Do you think techno will continue to rise in popularity around Europe or do you think the bubble will burst? Should we expect to see our favourite techno artists in the charts in 10 years time?
Liam: I feel there will always be an appetite for techno music, it is so forward thinking and innovative. The Algorave scene is mental and it shows that people will always find new ways to make and keep the music interesting. Chart wise I guess its already happened with the whole EDM thing which is kinda cool as I feel that it works as a sort of entry level for a lot of younger people. Not all but a few troops listening to David Guetta and Calvin Harris will (hopefully) search and expand their musical knowledge and eventually find themselves listening to Underground Resistance and Moving Shadow.