Q&A with Karl Blau about his KLAPS project

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Karl Blau has been crafting uncompromisingly beautiful pop tunes out of Anacortes, WA, for about as far back as I can remember. (Note: my memory only goes back to the mid-90's.) As part of the K Records and Knw-Yr-Own crew, Blau released a steady series of DIY recordings, often just him and his 4-track tape machine. This bountiful stream of music usually comes in the form of what Blau has titled the "Kelp Lunacy Advanced Plagiarism Society," a serialized release series that has found Blau dabbling in everything from world-beat, to hip-hop, to drone, and everything else in between. Karl is now ready putting the finishing touches on the series, offering the final 12 homemade discs to fans through Kickstarter. 

You've released over 30 serialized discs worth of tunes since you first started KLAPS in 2003. What could you possibly have in store for the last 12?

Yeah, so many ideas — we'll see what actually sees the sun. Let me share a few:

I've been gearing up by listening to a lot of Lefty Frizzell, Carl Perkins, Waylon Jennings, Tom T. Hall, etc., and playing drums in a local classic country band with LAKE members. Plus, I had so much fun singing that Tucker Martine produced Tom T. Hall cut "That's How I Got To Memphis." It's time to make a Nashville style country record on my 4-track reel to reel.

I'm collecting songs that fit together in my mind for a cover album paying homage to my favorite women songwriters of the West Coast such as Katy Davidson, Jean Smith (Mecca Normal), Carolyn Riggs (Finches), and Kanako Wynkoop (Broken Water). And I thought I would take it one parameter further and the songs I've been choosing cater to (though some will be a creative stretch) a grunge style. There are two really amazing drummers of this style in Anacortes that I have to take advantage of namely Bradyn Krueger and Matt Hermstead not to mention Phil Elverum who may wish to partake.

I toured Japan twice, once in 2007 with Arrington DeDionyso and Maher Shalal Hash Baz (of which I got to play drums with) and once in 2009 with Calvin Johnson and Tenniscoats. I have incredible audio footage of both of those trips. I think one of the KLAPS to come will just be a straight up Maher record.

More ideas than I know what to do with or have time for certainly.

When you're conceiving projects as part of KLAPS, is it a stream of consciousness affair, or something more planned? For instance, what was the impetus to explore and re-imagine the Nutcracker as a reggae piece?

I don't know exactly what came over me for the Coconutcracker. I was pretty into this Swedish reggae artist Peps Persson at the time and he was doing some really interesting things integrating Swedish traditional folk styles into the reggae and doing it very tastefully. I was just wondering how far I could take this, always wanted to do a reggae album after doing a lot of experimenting with dub and reggae style on various previous albums. So I came up with hybridization of Tchaikovsky and reggae, and it proved an excellent challenge. Here's a track:

Listen: Karl Blau- The Sugar Plumb Fairy

I think that's what propels a lot of the Kelps(this is what I call my KLAPS releases for short) — the challenge. I need to surprise myself with new directions. I like to give myself definite parameters to work inside, and conversely I need KLAPS to also be as free as it needs to be to feel healthy.

You mention that one of the new KLAPS pieces is going to be a movie. Have you ever produced a film before, or a musical? Is it different than writing "pop songs"? Any theme in mind?

I've only made home movies up to this point. I have some film maker friends — Foreign American Pictures' Randy Walker and Jenny Shanin — that I'll probably lean into quite a bit. A lot of raw enthusiasm generates among my peers when the topic of making a movie comes up. No one just makes a movie so it's a real treat. I'm going to get every friend and acquaintance in on this and we'll all just make it a party. The trick is gonna be organizing it in a very methodical way.

The environment of the story takes place in the current year, however, many years ago Americans get addicted to this powdered moon drink that replaces sleep. There is an oyster farmer protagonist who has always snuck sleep and he eventually joins a rebel gang of "sleepers" who attempt to thwart the VitaMoon corporation with the help of an aging professor and a grocery store clerk. It's going to be shot in a series of music videos that are strung together with a little action. I would really like this to be the cherry on the KLAPS series cake, however it may come before the final issue.

One of the rewards listed is a song-poem, where backers can send you lyrics or a poem and you will set it to music. You sent us one! It was beautiful. Have you ever seen the PBS doc about Song Poems, Off The Charts? Did that, by chance, inspire this reward? Do you have any favorite song-poems? Mine is probably Non-Violent TaeKwonDo Troopers, aka Kung-Fu Bicycle.

I am only aware of a few Song Poems, one of which is the Jimmy Carter Says Yes song because a friend put it on a mix tape for me. That song is totally amazing. I've always really enjoyed taking other people's poems or lyrics and making my own melody and music for it. My friend mentioned this concept as a fundraiser, and it rekindled the flame I'd had for this idea from years back.

As someone whose been operating on, more or less, a strictly DIY basis for years, what made you decide to issue the last 12 discs of the KLAPS series through Kickstarter? After your done with putting out the 42nd edition of KLAPS, what's next?

I don't know about what's to come after this "year" of music. I have fantasies of working on records for long periods if I can somehow figure out how to fund it.

Many friends and acquaintances have had success with Kickstarter, so I decided to give it a shot. I have a day job making hydrophones for a little company in Anacortes and to support my family I've been doing tons of odd jobs and teaching music on the side.

I think generally people think that because artists like me are out there getting noticed that we must be "making it" as well. The only ones I know that are have had some sort of commercial or movie success. I should say I don't really make "commercial" music if you don't know this already.

I'm tired of burning the midnight oil to make music happen. I've been at this a long time, something needs to change... Kickstart my heart people... and turn my cement trowel back into a microphone!

    1. Missing avatar

      Michael on

      Listen to his music! You'll be convinced immediately. I've been a big fan for a long time.

    2. Missing avatar

      Namaku Keren on

      This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.

    3. Missing avatar

      Doa Ibu Tersayang on

      This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.