When former Empirion member Oz (Austin Morsley) first started up Kloq in 2008, it was essentially a solo electronic project that featured various guest vocalists. But over the years, Kloq has evolved into a true four-piece band and successfully transitioned to more of a hybrid rock/electronic sound. Their second album, “Begin Again,” was released in October 2013. Kloq is rounded out by Dean Goodwin (vocals), Tim Jackson (bass) and Alex Baker (drums). The following is an interview with Oz and Tim.
The new album “Begin Again” is quite a bit different from your first album. What do you attribute the change to?
OZ: “It’s mainly because Kloq has completely turned into a four piece band now. I think that on the first album, it was kind of a spillover from the old Empirion days. I think I was quite happy to do that, keeping the electronic sound but using guest vocalists. Now, being involved with the rest of the guys in the band, we’re traveling down a different pathway and we all wanted it to be a lot more instrument and song-based. Since I was 19 years old, I’d been making purely electronic music. One of the driving forces behind Kloq is still keeping the electronic roots but doing something completely different. We’re all very much into wanting to push ourselves and not hang around or go backwards.”
Since it is quite a departure from the first album, was there ever a question as to whether to continue as Kloq or come up with a new name…perhaps returning to Kloq in the future for a more purely electronic album?
OZ: “I think that there was always a question as to whether this should continue as Kloq. I think we all made the decision to do so because it shows a bit of a metamorphosis. We didn’t think we should be too worried or concerned about it. If you keep some of the old fanbase, that’s fine, but you’re going to lose some fanbase. We liked the style of it, it was still electronic and we liked the way it was going. There was a point where we thought that we could change the name, but just thought no, fuck it, let’s just keep going.”
How did the name Kloq come about, and the unique spelling?
OZ: “I just made it up, years ago. It’s when I was doing quite a lot of work in Germany and the rest of Europe. It looked a bit techno. Actually, Douglas McCarthy from Nitzer Ebb came up with the lettering, he designed the original logo. It just stuck as a different way of spelling it. There was no great background to it, no great story, it just looked good.”
Do you have a general creative process within the band?
TIM: “Oz may have a few ideas electronically and then he’ll call me up. I’ll come over with my bass and we’d run through ideas. A few of the songs came about that way. There are also a few songs Oz had almost since the Emperion days that we’ve gone back over to give more of a band sound; adding drums, live bass and more vocal melody. But generally, these tracks stem from something Oz has come up with, and then I’d put basslines to it or we’d add more melodies to flesh it out. Then we put the vocals on, and after that Oz goes back and kind of paints over the top of that with sort of Empirion-style electronics, once the live instrumentation has been put on. That’s kind of how this new album evolved, pretty naturally. We never really thought about having more or less electronics on it, it’s just how it evolved having a bass player writing with Oz, and having a vocalist writing as well. Whereas before it was just Oz, now it’s a group of musicians and it has more of a band feel. We just see it as an evolution of what Kloq used to be and what Empirion was before that .”
When writing and recording, and you thinking about how the music will be performed and presented live?
OZ: “I think that on this album, we’ve written the songs so they sound as they would do on a live stage. That was on purpose. Quite a lot of bands nowadays, what they do is record programmed drums and then add live drums when they perform live–which is fine, I really like that with some bands. But we didn’t want to be like that. We wanted to have an album where you hear it, and then when you go see the band live, that’s what you’re going to get.”
TIM: “We’re all very influenced by the Nine Inch Nails kind of idea. I think that when we first took Kloq out on tour, Oz’s vision was to have something a bit more visually exciting on stage, rather than just a DJ and a singer. Live, we use a guitarist who isn’t actually a writing member of the band. There is a lot of guitar on the new album, and we wanted to have that live as something to see and watch. When you come and see us live, what you hear is an extension of what was on the CD–whereas the first album was purely electronic, so when you came to see us live it was very different because there was a bass player and a drummer on stage. We just wanted to bring those two worlds closer together. Again, that’s why we’ve evolved to what we have now.”
What was the timeframe for making “Begin Again”?
OZ: “The timeframe was years, I think mainly because we had issues with keeping a vocalist. We had an original guy, Greg, who came out when we toured for the first album [the album itself featured various guest vocalists]. He left, he came back, he left, we got a new singer, we got rid of him, we searched for the best part of another year to find a singer. And thankfully we found Dean, who is one of the best things that has happened to the band. It’s really made the sound what it is now. But the process took years, and for that reason there were songs, and then loads more songs, sitting on the shelf that were written and then got scrapped, and then more were written, and they got scrapped. But then once we decided this is it, we’re going to go for it with Dean on board, it took maybe six months to write some new songs and record and then master them. The process wasn’t too long once we had the final band member in place.
“The difficulty was that I wrote a bunch of songs with the old singer, and then he left. I wrote a bunch of songs with the new guy, and then he left. Most of those songs were tailored to their voices and characters, and then when Dean came along we had to completely rethink the material, or in some cases get rid of the songs and write new ones. So what would usually be a fairly quick and easy process became years, really.
“But I think we’ve got a good writing team now; we’re able to write good catchy songs. And let’s be honest, we’re not pitching the songs on this album to the dance scene or the dark electro scene. We’re pitching it to the commercial, mainstream scene like other bands we aspire to, like Soulwax, Nine Inch Nails, Prodigy, and Pendulum, those electronic crossover bands. We’re not pitching it to the electronic dance scene anymore. I was never really a massive fan of the scene anyway, even with Empirion, we just got lumped into it.
“So I think that the next batch of songs will be pretty quick, I don’t think it will take as long as this album as taken.”
Are you performing any older material live? If so, are there particular differences in how the material is presented with Dean on vocals?
OZ: ”Dean’s been trying some out in rehearsals, but we haven’t had real cause to play them live, as we haven’t been back to Germany for a while. All of the shows we’ve been doing have been London and south of the UK. So we haven’t really had any kind of cause to break out the old songs. But if we go back to Germany in the new year, I should think that yes, we’ll have to perform some of those songs. Dean has been singing three or four of the them in rehearsal, but we need to work out exactly which ones should really be performed. Because at the end of the day, we’re not ashamed of our past and certainly not ashamed of the first album, but every album you have to treat separately. I think that what we’re trying to do now is literally concentrate on what we can do to get this new album out there to the general public. But again, if we end up playing Germany we’re going to have to play some of the old stuff. So we have to work it out one way or another, whether we do old songs in their original states, or mash it up. “