Scott Albert — aka Klayton, the Clarkston-based mastermind behind the industrial rock outfit Celldweller — did not intend to make Michigan the home base for his global takeover.
And he still sounds surprised that’s become the case.
“When I came here, I thought it would be transitional. I’d move to Detroit, then maybe two years later move out to Los Angeles,” says Klayton, 40, who moved to the area — first Grand Blanc, then Clarkston — about seven years ago from his native Long Island, just as he started recording under the Celldweller name. Klayton was lured by Grant Mohrman, the Waterford Township studio owner who produced 2003’s “Celldweller” album, and he now feels happily at home in these environs.
“During the process of (making ‘Celldweller’), we became closer friends, and I made some other good friends,” Klayton explains. “Most of my family had moved from New York. It’s affordable here. I could build my record label and put together a whole team of people.
“It’s just the way things worked out. No complaints.”
The interim has, of course, seen Klayton — who started playing drums when he was 13 and picked up other instruments from there — grow Celldweller and its electronic-fueled heavy rock sound into a celebrated worldwide concern. Celldweller has released two proper albums, including last year’s “Wish Upon a Blackstar,” and two volumes of the instrumental “Soundtrack for the Voices in My Head” series. Klayton’s music has also been licensed by MTV sports, films such as “Spider-Man 2” and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” and a variety of video games.
He’s also walked away with trophies from the Just Plain Folks Music Awards and the Radio-Active-Music Awards, and he’s working with other artists via his FiXT Music label.
Celldweller hasn’t toured for the past five years, preferring instead to work on new music. But Klayton’s current spate of world travel has enlightened him to the project’s impact, even in his absence from the road.
“It’s just something that had been growing slowly and steadily,” observes Klayton, who’s filming this weekend’s homecoming concert for a 2011 DVD release. “I didn’t realize the worldwide reach we’ve had. Of course, you can track everything through the Internet now, so I knew there was a following in Russia and the U.K., lots of places in Europe. So when requests (for shows) started coming in, I’m like, ‘Wow, great ... ’
“But now I’m actually out there and seeing the reaction and seeing, ‘Wow, there really is an audience there.’ That’s pretty cool.”
Klayton credits his grandfather, who “had a music room packed with vinyl” with kindling a musical interest he shared with his younger brother and fellow musician Dan, who performs as LVL. “I remember as a kid, one of my greatest escapes would be to go there,” Klayton recalls. “He’d sit us down in a chair, put headphones on our heads and play us classical to disco to Elton John.
“So I was just filled with this sense of music. Growing up, I wanted to create it. I had no idea how, but that’s what I wanted to do.”
Klayton’s mother bought him a drum kit when he was 13 (“I drove her crazy,” he recalls with a laugh) and he picked up other instruments along the way as he became interested in groups such as Skinny Puppy, Depeche Mode and Joy Division and in fusing electronic and hard rock sounds. He formed a thrash outfit called Immortal during the late ’80s, then moved on to Circle of Dust, Brainchild and Argyle Park before hooking up with illusionist Criss Angel in 2005 for the project Angeldust, which resulted in four albums’ worth of material and, in 2006, a remixed theme for Angel’s TV show.
Klayton had already adopted the Celldweller name for his production work, and for an EP he released in 1999, but after he and Angel stopped working together, “I said my next thing was going to be Celldweller. I had done so many other things in the past with aliases and different project names. Celldweller was going to be my thing, just Klayton.
“It’s really a product of trial and error. It allowed me to step away from what I had been doing with Criss and before that, which was much more industrial, harsher. Celldweller is much cleaner and ... accessible kind of music.”
It’s also music Klayton takes his time to create. “I’m not a guy who writes a riff and has a song finished by afternoon,” he acknowledges. “It takes me quite awhile.” “Wish Upon a Blackstar” is a case in point; coming six years after “Celldweller,” it’s still a work in progress, a series of two-song “chapters” Klayton has been releasing since August 2009. The third pair of songs came out in July, and two more chapters are slated for release as soon as possible once he returns to the studio — most likely in January.
“I’ve already recorded probably 95 percent of the vocals,” reports Klayton, who adds demos and other material to the two songs each time he releases a chapter. “In January I’ll start plowing through chapters four and five so I can get it finished and put all 10 songs together and get another record out on the street.”
It’s been an “interesting” way to approach recording, but Klayton says that his next Celldweller album “probably won’t be the same as this.” In fact, he predicts that it will likely be released “a song at a time, like they did in the ’50s when people bought singles. I never like to put filler on a record, so this way my fan base will know they’re not some songs I’m cramming onto a record to fill space. Every single song has to count and be good or they might not decide to download it.
“There’s a lot of work to do,” he adds with a chuckle. “I need a break. I need a vacation. But there’s so much work to do I can’t justify one right now. But that’s not a bad problem to have, is it?”
Celldweller and RYLE Next Level Muzik perform Saturday, Nov. 20, at the Crofoot Ballroom, 1 S. Saginaw St., Pontiac. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 day of show. The concert will be filmed for a DVD release in 2011. Call 248-858-9333 or visit www.thecrofoot.com.
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