Photos: Press (Claro Intelecto)
It’s true: A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. Mark Stewart never officially ended his project Claro Intelecto. And yet, vanishing into thin air became a classic move for the Manchurian, who has always been what people call an antihero: publicity-shy, modest, the exact opposite to the careerist artist. Over the past decade, even without regular or massive output, the techno producer gave the genre that certain quantum soul, which pierce through his excellent arranged deep house, Detroit techno, and dubbed-out tracks as a trademark. A warmth full of melodic clarity and sensitive Rhodes keys that made his very first release “Peace Of Mind” (2003) a timeless classic.
Back then, Stewart was more of a hobby musician, even though his socialization couldn’t have had a bigger impact on him: When he finished school in the late 80s, the new youth culture explodes in Madchester: rave, acid house, the Second Summer of Love, 808 State just released Newbuild, people danced in The Haçienda to the first LFO releases on Warp. Later, when trance was dominating the club sound, Stewart pursued his artistic passion, graduated his study and works, until today, as a graphic designer. Some of his work graces the sleeves of two LPs, including the debut Neurofibro (2004).
Soon afterwards, Stewart joined the Modern Love crew, releasing his second album Metanarrative as well as the series “Warehouse Sessions“, and played a vital part turning the small platform into an international hub for quality music. In 2010, after his last release on the label (fittingly called New Life) Stewart parted from Modern Love as he felt they moved away from the kind of techno which he brought to an aesthetic completion with Reform Club. Claro Intelecto’s third album on his new home Delsin distillates his sound: melancholic but rough, romantic and yet dark, dreamy but always dynamic. The album is such a coherent piece of art that also felt like a statement – at parts as a farewell, indeed. Five years later Stewart is back, once again, with his latest album Exhilarator.
In one of your rare interviews you said that you’ll be a middle-aged man by the time of the next album. So now, more than five years later, how does the Mark Stewart from 2017 responds to Mark in 2012?
Well, I am 44 now, so I suppose my clairvoyant skills were quite accurate back then as I am indeed middle-aged now. Joking aside, compared to the 5 years previous to 2012 you could say I’ve almost taken on a new identity now, from playing gigs in places like Sao Paulo, the US & Moscow & releasing electronic music albums to the normality of doing the school run, everyday dad stuff, looking after myself a lot more – swapping graveyard shift late nights to up at the crack of dawn cycling & gym. And doing a freelance day job where in most cases nobody really knows anything about me or my musical past. It feels like I’m in a witness protection program at times.
When I’m correct your son must be around 8 or 9 years old now. Does he know your music? Or generally, do you engage in his musical socialization, passing on your knowledge and passion?
Yes, Harry is now 8 years old. He knows of my music past but has no recollection of me doing it as my job being only 4 years old back in 2013 when I last played a gig. I have more recently shown him a few magazine features and played some music but that’s as far as it goes. We often play music in the car and I’m looking in my rear-view mirror to gauge his body language particularly when I play a track I like to see if it resonates with him, usually when he goes quiet it’s a tell-tale sign he likes something, we have to be careful with certain genres like hip-hop as it’s like having a bleep machine in the car…’swearword!’ He often shouts at any bad language, we try to avoid anything graphic of course. Taste-wise out of everything we have played he requests De La Soul, Justin Timberlake & Aphex Twin than his dad’s music, but who could argue with that?
As you’re still working as graphic designer, are there any similarities for you between those two worlds?
The work has no relevance to the music or even what I studied on my art degree. I like to keep the two disciplines completely separate. When I studied design this was more like fine art with technology — producing narrative-based projects through design, film, and music. The only real glimpse into my real design mind you may have come across are the Neurofibro and Reform Club sleeve’s. I’ve intentionally kept my music pretty anonymous from work colleagues. In the past I found that knowing about my music career became very distracting when colleagues are googling you, telling you your life’s story, whilst you’re trying to get on with your work. You also don’t want to come across as an old fart clinging onto a by gone memory. There’s a funny character in the League of Gentlemen TV show from the noughties in the UK. He hosts a local radio show and is a bit in denial about life, always talks about his globe-trotting band that never was “crème brûlée”. I figured that to the youngsters, with whom I work on occasion, I’ll probably come across alls “crème brûlée” if I talk about it too much, so I just keep my mouth shut and get on with it.