“You feed people shitty ground beef for awhile, they forget the taste of steak. The media in general is such a disappointment that I have removed myself from it as much as humanly possible.”
These are the words of Klayton Scott, mastermind behind Celldweller, an angst- driven industrial rock band that is taking the music scene by storm. The self-entitled CD was released in early 2003 and charted at number seventeen on the Billboard charts an impressive feat for an artist that has literally done this on his own and in a rather unconventional way. With the recent success of shows like American Idol, the record companies are able to mass-produce cookie cutter artists that have a built in market. It is refreshing to find musicians such as Klayton Scott of Celldweller who have rebelled against the establishment of the corporate music industry. Through the use of the Internet, Scott has been able to assemble a grassroots support network to promote his CD and live shows. This support combined with advances in computer technology has enabled him to forgo the traditional route of creating and marketing his work, allowing him to do it on his own terms.
Despite the lack of a big label push, the record continues to do well and the live shows are still attracting large crowds. This partly due to the use of the Internet to rally fans, or “street teams” as Klayton calls them. These “Street Teamers” promote and market the album and the live show in their hometowns. “ There are some key ‘Street Teamers’ that have taken what we’ve provided them and single handedly created an awareness for us in certain regions of the country,” says Klayton. We presently have a ‘Street Team’ of over a thousand strong; they do their part to pass out downloadable, and printable flyers we supply on the official Celldweller Website” This is much different from the way things are traditionally done. Marketing of CDs has historically been handled by record companies who sink big dollars into radio advertisements, billboards and Television spots.
The big record companies have it pretty easy as of late; there have been a whole host of national television programs that are dedicated to finding the next “pop icon” and signing them to million dollar deals. This works out great for the record companies because they have guaranteed sales; they don’t need to take a chance on an unproven artist. This system of creating an “Idol” further perpetuates the sterile cookie cutter artists, mainstream America seems to be obsessed with. Television shows such as American Idol, produce multi-platinum albums from unknown overnight sensations. “The media in general is such a disappointment. I have removed myself from it as much as possible. It truly warms my heart when someone asks me about a certain reality show and I don’t have any idea what they’re talking about,” says Klayton.
Klayton cracks his knuckles, and then sits down at the table again. “I am in a position where I am by no means getting any assistance from anyone in high places from the outside. So having ‘Cellmates’ that are motivated and believe in this project has helped us tremendously. It is very much an us-against-the-world mentality and if Celldweller were to see any huge success, although that term is relative, they will have had something very direct to do with it.”
“I have met many A&R people and there are some that are truly cool people. But these same people have told me that if only I would imitate certain bands on the radio ‘just one song is all we need’, they would give me the deal of my dreams.” Klayton pauses and waves his arms in the air. “Ummm, let me clean an area on my ass for you so you can kindly kiss it.”
Technology has helped tremendously in the production of the CD and the live show. Advances in computers and music recording software have enabled Klayton to produce, record, and market the disc on his own without any middleman or executive producer. No longer are large recording studios and many musicians a necessity, systems like Pro Tools have changed the way a musician can create. This system combines all the tools that a studio would have such as multi-track recording and digital editing, and makes them available to anyone at a fraction of the cost. Not only does this cost a lot less but it also takes up less time, allowing the artist more time to be creative. It also allows the artist to have the final say in the creative process. “Technology, specifically the advent of computers and consequently the software developed for them, has enabled me to create in ways that would have been laborious a short time prior to their creation. It has completely changed the way I can create music and visuals and sometimes can even dictate how I create.
As an “unsigned” artist it (technology) has allowed me to create awareness for Celldweller that I could not have dreamed of had I only been able to rely on word of mouth. Saturating the Web with promotion for the CD, assembling a fairly sizable street team primarily through online communities and the ability to distribute and sell product with the click of a mouse has enabled me to survive and thrive as an artist. A few decades ago this would have only been possible from a big label and a hell of a lot of touring”. The advent of the Internet has also allowed many artists to avoid big record company deals and still get their product to market. This allows the artist to have total control over their music and marketing of their product, thereby eliminating the need for A&R guys and the big conglomerations. “It’s easy for me in my position to call the A&R guys cowards. Sheep, not shepherds.” Klayton paces the room and cracks his knuckles. “How can you blame the poor souls when they fear the loss of their job over signing an artist that “fails”?
Sitting across the table drinking a Diet Coke, Klayton pauses and runs his hands through his bright red hair, exposing his tattoo-covered arms. “These are real,” he says, but the tattoos he is sporting on the front of cover of the CD are not. The body art is a grotesque combination of cuts and scars that are symbolic of the struggles and issues he has dealt with. They also hint at what awaits the listener when they listen to the CD. Songs such as ‘Switchback’ where Klayton growls these haunting lyrics, “ /wait, how can it be too late, cause I don’t want to play/ with such a price to pay/Chained to what I can’t reclaim/I’ll never be the same/ it’s to late to look back/ you don’t care you’ve got no way to switchback.” Or the disturbing lyrics to the song “Fadeaway”, where Klayton invites the listener into his anguish: “With my hands on my mind I hold wounds that won’t mend/ With my eyes open wide I can see it’s the end.” The body art on the CD covers most of his abdomen and all of his arms, and is the result of an intense session with a body artist; it attests to the dedication Klayton has for what he does. That (the body art) was done by a very talented artist. She painted that on my body using airbrushes, and pens, eleven hours worth of makeup. It would make a good tattoo though wouldn’t it? It was a grueling eleven hours but at the end of the day it was worth it, lots of people still talk about that picture. The actual photo shoot was only about forty five minutes long, the preparation was extensive but the end result was well worth it.”
Originally from New York, Klayton was the creative force behind the 90’s band Circle of Dust. He has produced and remixed records for artists such as Prong, Argyle Park, and the Misfits. His work can also be heard on numerous big screen movies such as Halloween IV and Out for a Kill. He has also produced and written music for Sony Playstation and Xbox games. After three studio albums with Circle of Dust and as many years touring the country, he retired the band to concentrate his efforts on a more personal project, Celldweller.
Klayton explains that Celldweller was conceived as an outlet for his frustrations with the bureaucracy of the music business and anger directed at people and events in his past. “I was a loner,” Klayton said, “the kid who got beat up, I used to get my ass kicked in school everyday. I think that is why later on in life I came back and flipped things around. I was captain of a bunch of sports teams. I loved physical sports. But even in that environment I never hung out with anyone. We did our thing on the field and I would go home. At that time I would prefer to stick my head in a manual on a Friday night and play with some gear, make some good noise, while everyone else was getting drunk. I spent most of my adolescence in my basement studio reading manuals, making mistakes and learning from them, hence the name Celldweller.”
A true artist is a person who puts in the time and pays his dues; musicians such as Trent Reznor or Al Jorgenson. People who worked at their craft for years before finally, achieving a minimal amount of success. The true artist does not crave success as a means to an end. It is more important for them to stick to their vision and not sellout, and hopefully enough people will catch the vision and the product will sell. “I would rather starve and create what I want than be told from someone who doesn’t understand me or my art that something isn’t up to their specs. Besides,” Klayton pauses and chuckles. “It gives me a chance to prove them wrong. I always root for the underdog. I wrote this album about a lot of issues in my life,” says Klayton. “I wrote it for me and not really for anyone else. Of course at the end of the day I do hope that people can pull some relevance from the lyrics and apply it to themselves.”
To those musicians who want to get started in the music business Klayton has this advice, “Boys and girls, pull down your pants and make sure you’ve got a healthy set of balls, you’re going to need them.” [ END ]