- to no man's land and back again
A force to be reckoned with, Leæther Strip’s Claus Larsen has always striven to rise above his peers through a unique world-view and an innovative musical approach.
For years his Strip Farm in Denmark has been silent. Then suddenly Claus Larsen returned with a number of releases from Leæther Strip and side-project Klutæ. So it was that Release had a few questions for the man himself. He was more than forthcoming with his answers.
Not one to be confined to any particular approach, however, Larsen released in 1994 what many consider to be his most difficult album, the symphonic "Serenade for the Dead". He is immensely proud of this album and has not attempted to put out anything like it since.
In addition, the Strip Farm (the quaint name of his studio based in Denmark) has also put out numerous singles and EP:s that include the classic "Object V", "Material" and 1999's landmark "Carry Me".
Never one to do things in half-measures, Larsen also has his side-project, the amped-up adrenaline-fuelled Klutæ which has sent out five EP:s, one album and his latest "Hit'n'Run" - a double dose of angst. His deviant view of music even extends via Leæther Strip's EP of covers to those renegades of pop, Soft Cell.
But sometime in 1999, things went a bit awry with Leæther Strip's original label Zoth Ommog slowly falling apart, which of course led to Claus leaving the label. It was a tense time, with a new label called Bloodline being formed to absorb many of the acts that were fleeing the sinking ship. The relationship with this label produced only one further release from Leæther Strip and their parting was, by all accounts, acrimonious.
Thank your elders, please;
the brave new digital
So many have taken from what you have created and not given much of anything back. Any thoughts?
– If I can inspire anyone with what I am doing here, I will be proud of that. I never dreamed that I would one day be doing something that would inspire other musicians. And the people who love this kind of music know when they hear a Strip or Klutæ song, that I did it. So they will also hear it if someone's inspired by my work. That's enough for me really. Though a "thank you" note on the cover never hurt anyone, hehe.
MP3:s are a fact of life in this day and age with labels and artists grappling with what this technology means to their day-to-day existence. A lot of backlash has been generated by the file sharing which has decimated independent labels. Those who maintain these networks have been accused of not exerting much control over their users. Leæther Strip checked out just as the age of file-trading was beginning to enter the mainstream world, now that he's back; he is not shying away from this contentious issue.
– I really thought that the MP3 scene would destroy it totally. It almost did if it weren't for the few people who kept buying the CD:s. Thanks guys for that. Both my new album and EP were on the MP3 scene even before I had my copies from the label. An MP3 rip group called FWYH did both. I don't know if they know what they are doing to this scene. We sell so damn little that every single CD sold means something. They say they love the music, then please, think about what you are doing. I'm not saying that people shouldn't get a chance to listen to an album before buying, but I just want you to think. We are very dedicated people making the music. We can't live from it anyway. We do it out of love. Please think about it, mates.
Five years of silence
Bloodline showed so much promise, is there anything you can say about what led to your departure from that label?
– I never left them. They chose to pull the "Carry Me" EP off the market because Talla 2XLC (Zoth Ommog) told them bad things would happen if they kept selling it. Then I never heard from them again. I really had high hopes for my future then but it was the drop for my mental health. Too much stress from the Zoth crash and then Bloodline just made my head boil over. Then suddenly they released a compilation with "Carry Me" on it some years after and I e-mailed them. No answer. Only a phone call from the guy who signed me to Bloodline. He told me that the label was “no more” and that he didn't work there. So all I can say is that it was one hell of a mess and some from the Bloodline label even spread something about that Bloodline has the rights for one album. That almost scared the German distribution away. So you see, if pigs smell money, they come out of hiding.
– You think that this scene is all about people who love the music. I tell you, and any musician out there, that it's not so. The pigs infest this scene as much as any other scene. I only signed to Alfa Matrix cause I've known the people behind it for a long time and they are for real.
– To never stop making music again. I think that if I hadn't back in 2001, I wouldn't have gone through the hell I have. So never again. I also hope my back gets better, I was born with a bad back and I was run over by a car when I was twelve. I was in pain for years but then it went away and only turned up once in a while. But it returned and hasn't gone yet. That's also one reason that I won't tour at the moment.
He has plans for future releases and writing songs is not a problem, it seems.
– I'm sure I'll stay true to the sound I love but you never know what ideas pop up. I still haven't fulfilled my soundtrack dream. The new album was not planned to be a double. The songs just kept coming so it ended up being a double. I just couldn't split them up.
A proud legacy of artistic
– I don't have any control over the tastes of people and being that far away from the scene as I was and still am, maybe I moved in a different direction than musicians in the eye of the electronic hurricane. Back in the Zoth days the latest album that was released sold more than the previous albums. Some people like the early work best, some don't. I always spread my style a lot, I can be very melodic at times and scream my ass off at other times. That's the good thing about being in full artistic control. There isn't a label boss calling everyday, telling you how to make the songs. I am very proud of all the songs I've done in my time. I wouldn't release anything I wasn't 100% satisfied with.
The wilderness years;
here to stay
You took a long break from being in the public eye. During this time, was anything released under any different names that your fans would not have known about?
– No, I was totally away. Nowhere near the scene. The only person who kept in touch with me was Seba from Alfa Matrix. Everyone else, including people I thought were my friends stayed away. If I didn't have Kurt around, this return wouldn't have happened. This time I hope to be here for a long long time. I don't see any people around who were like like the ones from the old labels. Thanks for giving a shit about my work again - for not forgetting!
Browse On Record to read Leæther Strip reviews.
Old print issues of Release also contain Claus Larsen reviews, short stories and an interview.
In the 90:s, Release brought Leæther Strip over to Gothenburg from nearby Aalborg, Denmark, for his first concert in Sweden.