12 Rounds

Platform Interview with Claude Sarne

We’ve noticed that photographers often make terrific interviewers. Sure, they’re interested in the people who pose for them. But they also sometimes create such a safe place in front of the lense that the people are able to speak as freely as they pose. That’s why we were so happy that Andre Pinces agreed to interview Claude Sarne, too, after he suggested photographing her for Platform. In New York recently for publicity and shopping, Claude is one-half (with Atticus Ross) of the British post-goth/lounge-hop duo 12 Rounds. The duo’s terrific new CD My Big Hero, with remixes by Trent Reznor and others, has just been released by Nothing Records, so you’re probably going to hearing about them soon, if you haven’t already.

ANDRE PINCES: Let me start by asking about your musical influences.

CLAUDE SARNE : The first impact thing, when I was a child, was goth. My best friend’s older brother was a big punk. I turned into a little goth, and my first influences were Speed and The Cure. I was a kid at this point– thirteen, fourteen– and then the whole Street Sounds thing happened, and I got very into that. I suppose that the very dark electronic movement of the early 80′s had a major affect on my growing stage as a musician. And then the hip-hop era has been the cutting force in my life.

ANDRE: When did you discover hip-hop, or how?

CLAUDE: There was a club called the Titanic in London, and that’s where all the first street sounds were. I was really young– like 12 or 13. I was going to these things and smoking pot, that kind of thing. That plus the goth thing were the two things that moved me. They came from a passionate place, both of them.

ANDRE: Those are two quite different genres.

CLAUDE: I don’t think I went from one right to the other overnight. It was sort of a progression from one to the other.

ANDRE: Goth is so classically based, while hip-hop has a brand new sound.

CLAUDE: But maybe that’s why I liked it. It was the complete and total opposite of what I’d learned. I was classically based as a musician, and I think that hip-hop broke the rules I knew about music. That’s kind of why I got into it. It was rebelling against whatever was going on at the time.

ANDRE: What about your classical training? Piano?

CLAUDE: Yeah, pretty much, I got a music scholarship as a kid, and within a year had discovered music and drugs and boys, which were sort of infinitely more interesting than the scholarship. So I sort of followed that path, and ultimately I ended up at the same result, though I was sort of sidetracked for a few years. More than a few years– a lot of years.

ANDRE: How long have you been developing this current sound that you’re working with?

CLAUDE: The 12 Rounds has been around for about four years, and really it’s the product of Atticus and myself. We did have a third member, but we sort of split two years ago. I had worked in for a hardcore and indie label, doing sort of hardcore stuff. Atticus and I got together and it worked really well, but it took a while to find the sound. Once we did, it developed…

ANDRE: Musically and lyrically, who’s who?

CLAUDE: We both do the music. I write the songs a bit more organically on the piano or guitar. I write them and then we get together and do the production ourselves. I suppose I do almost all the work and stuff. He plays base now a bit. and we have other musicians come in. I play some instruments as well, so it’s a kind of mishmosh.

ANDRE: Other instruments?

CLAUDE: I play guitars bases and pianos. Whatever makes some noise, I kind of go with.

ANDRE: You are a duo. I’m wondering how that compares to working within trio or a four-member group.

CLAUDE: I’ve been in a power trio, I’ve been in a four-piece, I’ve been by myself. Being by myself, I have a tendency to meander into 13-minute arrangements about nothing, thinking it sounds fantastic. I like to be in a trio, but that’s sort of a weird dynamic– if you have a girl and two guys, it’s a triangle situation, and triangles don’t work. Actually, it did, work for a while, and then it sort of imploded on itself. It can work, it just depends on the personalities of the person involved.

ANDRE: And with two girls and a guy?

CLAUDE: Let your imagination take you where it will on that one. It kind of can get a bit weird. It just evolved the way it is now– it wasn’t a conscious decision to do a duo– and it will probably evolve again.

ANDRE: Talk about the evolution of your sound. Any influences now?

CLAUDE: Not many.

ANDRE: Not just musical– literary, cinematic?

CLAUDE: I don’t think that we tend to concentrate on cinematic references. The first album we did was pretty much about getting away from everything we’ve learned. Atticus and the others had worked on computers, or the base, so what we did was pretty much a live album. It was very raucous. On this album, we bring in everything that we’ve worked up to, without making any consciuous references to anybody else. You don’t want to jump on anybody else’s train too violently– because we like our own train.

ANDRE: That’s apparent in the music. Now that the disc is out, what do you hope it is saying?

CLAUDE: I don’t think that it’s saying anything. I think that it’s an accomplishment to have made it. I don’t know what it’s saying. I think that I’ll know more further down the road. On the tour, I’ll know. I sort of do things and worry about them later. We’ve kind of done that record and I’ll worry about the consequences and what it means later.

ANDRE: Do you have a specific audience in mind when you make a record? Your own generation?

CLAUDE: Yeah, possibly, but since it will probably be listened to by the younger generation, I’m not going to put a limit on it. By doing that we would negate the nature of what we’ve done. If some of this is borderline good, musically, then people will like the record– but everybody has different opinion of what that means. What can I say?

ANDRE: Tell me about your songwriting. Am I right that because of your classical background there’s some structure that gets a little fucked with?

CLAUDE: It’s not so much about grooves. It’s more about classical structure with progressive technology involved, as a marriage between what goes on on a live level and what goes on on a programmed level. Which I don’t think either of us is going to make happen alone. If Atticus did it alone, it would definitely be more of an electronic album, whereas if I did it it would be more of a an artful album with guitars. Between us, we take it wherever we will, see what happens…

ANDRE: Siblings?

CLAUDE: I have many, yes.

ANDRE: Are they also musicians?

CLAUDE: Actually, Atticus has five brothers and sisters. Two of them are in another band, and they’re doing really well. I have a brother who is a hustler at another club, and three half-sisters who aren’t old enough to know what they’re doing yet.

ANDRE: I know your mom is a fashion designer [Tania Sarne of Ghost]. Were you encouraged to get involved with music and the arts?

CLAUDE: As a kid? Not really. I think my mom comes from the generation where you know you’ve got to have something that you can fall back on. I think she’s still waiting for me to get a proper job, which is fine. Waiting for a mother’s approval…

ANDRE: Any pressure?

CLAUDE: Usually. It depends on how much you put on yourself. I put a lot of pressure on my self: I expected the album to be as successful, as my ego would like it to be. But at the moment I’m overwhelmed by the response we’ve had towards what has been a limited promo release. I’m not feeling any pressure right now, but ask me that tommorrow and I’ll probably give you a different answer.