Claptone's Globetrotting and Marathon Sets Test the DJ's Endurance Behind the Decks

Claptone has played some endurance-testing gigs around the world.
Claptone has played some endurance-testing gigs around the world. Photo by Alec Celestin
The golden-masked DJ Claptone will embark on an odyssey of house music this weekend by playing a four-hour set during a marathon 17-hour party at Club Space that also includes Dutch DJ Joris Voorn. The Berlin-based producer and DJ is generally unaccustomed to such long gigs — he usually plays for about two hours — but he does have some experience with endurance-testing sessions behind the decks. Last year, he played for seven hours during the Masquerade, his residency in Ibiza. 

"You just make more of a plan than usual," Claptone says of pushing through multihour sets. "You don't give away certain songs too early, and you really just take the people on a journey — make it interesting over the course of a few hours."

There's also the matter of pure stamina, especially for a globetrotting DJ who plays 200 to 300 shows per year and gets much of his sleep on airplanes. He tries to stay somewhat healthy on the road by abstaining from alcohol during, say, the first gig in a five-night run. "I try not to overdo certain things," he says. "I can't party like an animal every night — that's impossible."

On his off days, he tries to find time to "chill by the pool or by the sea and work on music." He's working on new mixes at the moment, and after his summer tour schedule winds down, he'll retire to his studio in Berlin to create original songs. Whether he ends up producing standalone singles or a full record remains to be seen.

Claptone says he's been inspired to create some of his finest work during his travels. "Who wouldn't, if they saw the world through my eyes? I'm in Georgia, Egypt, Lebanon, Miami — you name it. There aren't that many DJs that travel to so many places," he says. "It's about meeting new people, usually people who are nice and open-minded because they are into music, which is a good criteria for telling good people from bad people. If they like live music, it's easier to communicate with them. The next step is seeing the world through their eyes."

The subject of how people perceive Claptone while he's spinning records comes up often. Of course, the golden birdlike mask he wears onstage adds intrigue. He's famously coy about what he's hiding and whether he's one man or two people adopting the same persona.

In any case, the performer's costume, featuring a gold beaked mask, resembles the attire worn by doctors who once roamed Medieval Europe to offer poor medical advice and tally the millions of people who succumbed to the Black Death. The beaks of the doctors' masks were filled with herbs and spices to ward off the pestilent air thought to be associated with the Plague.

If there's anything to read into there, it could be that "the modern world is the plague I'm shielding myself from when I'm playing, channeling the good energy through music," Claptone says. "That's one interpretation that somebody came up with. And there's much more: gold referencing hip-hop and the idea of showing all your gold and bragging and boasting. There are many ways you can read into the mask, but for me, it's a mask — a plain projection field for people's different ideas.

"I always like when people read something into it," he adds. "There have been so many interesting interpretations of the mask, and I encourage people to keep going."

Claptone. With Joris Voorn. 11 p.m. Saturday, August 31, at Club Space, 34 NE 11th St.; 786-357-6456; Tickets cost $10 to $50 via
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Howard Hardee is a freelance writer based in Madison, Wisconsin. Originally from Fairbanks, Alaska, he has a BA in journalism and writes stories about music, outdoor adventures, politics, and the environment for alt-weeklies across the country. He is an aficionado of fine noises and has a theremin in his living room.