Computer Games

Kit Clayton's approach to techno launches him into new experimental realms (provided the software doesn't crash)

Both the academic and the more popular approaches to electronic music run into significant obstacles when artists attempt to perform their work live. Many university performances still consist of playing tape loops, and many dance musicians are criticized for putting on shows that seem fairly canned.

"The reason for that is it's really difficult to make dance music on the fly and have it be really improvisational, because there's a lot of rigid time constraints," says Clayton. "Just to be one person and change 50 things that are happening is very difficult to do live." For his upcoming tour of Germany, he's put a great deal of time into working out flexible systems, using MSP, for making his live show more improvisational. "A lot of people have a problem with non-live musics," he says. "I don't see anything wrong with someone just putting a CD on and playing it. But what I don't like is how people have to pretend they're doing a lot of stuff and generating it on the fly."

But Clayton hasn't worked out all the kinks from his setup, and he's feeling slightly anxious as his first European gigs loom. At a show he did two weeks ago in Chicago, his system crashed and he wasn't able to restore it before he was scheduled to perform. The closing act had to go on instead. Clayton ended up playing afterward, but it was too close a call. He's back to the basement studio to see how he can revise his approach.

Though his method of operating labels, producing records, and tweaking live shows isn't a hugely profitable one, Clayton is content for now with his reclusive lifestyle. "There's something that happens to music when people focus on it as something to do for a living," he says. "It changes in some regard. You feel like you have all this financial pressure on you. Unless you're one of the few artists that gets to make a good amount of money off strange, not very commercially appealing music, you're forced to compromise.

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