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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Proper Vibes' Cautious Clay on the Parallels Between Boxing and Music and How Flutes Are Underrated

Posted By on Thu, Mar 31, 2016 at 11:30 AM

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While some current DJs occupy their hands by making heart symbols and throwing cakes into the audience during their performances, Joshua Karpeh, aka Cautious Clay, instead confines his energies solely to the creation of music, often playing instruments such as the flute and saxophone during his sets. As part of a new generation of producers and artists rising up against the corporate cutout figures of electronic music today, Cautious Clay of the Proper Vibes collective strives to create music that is fresh and unusual. We got a chance to chat with him about his origins, his various musical talents, and the mission of the Proper Vibes collective. He plays a live set during the Proper Vibes showcase this Saturday, [4/2] at 111 Minna Gallery.

Give us a brief history of how you got into production and DJing.
I actually got involved in music production to have more freedom to record myself and produce for myself. I started off making music for a good friend of mine, Haile Supreme at the time, but I went to London and got involved with some song writers over there like MNEK, Flako, and Zak Abel. This experience definitely inspired me to continue further into my craft. 
What made you go with the moniker of Cautious Clay?
Ah, funny enough! I really wish I could box, but similarly to music, there is a strong dedication to the craft in both how music is played and how the sweet science is delivered. "Cautious" Clay is referencing that commitment and perfectionist attitude that I have towards music while the entire title itself represents the fact that he was known as "The Greatest." So, it's kind of stemming from my commitment and passion for the craft of making something that is truly me and what I think is great.

As a multi-instrumentalist, what's an instrument you think is underrated and doesn't get enough shine?
Interesting questions. I would say that the flute is underrated for the tone and quality and flexibility you can have with it. As a flute player and producer I have used the flute as synths on some of my songs, as well as for percussion.

You are co-founder of the Proper Vibes collective. Tell us a little about yourselves.
Our growth has been very, very organic based upon developing good personal relationships with venues, bookers, and blogs. So a lot of what we do have just stemmed from positivism. That's truly why we are doing this. No super huge egos really involved which is nice because when it comes to collectives and brands this definitely has a lasting effect on what we will deliver no matter where we are or what where doing. This had allowed us to have a lot more people reaching out to us rather than the other way around and I'm proud of what we've created. I started off very early in 2014 as a co-founder with Durga and Lean Quatifah and it has truly been a positive experience working with them and Keylow ever since.

Is there a ritual initiation to get in the collective?
(Laughs). Not that I know of but we definitely are all on the same wavelength. It has been easier to work with each other as time has gone on.

While you guys are still a relatively young, what are some of your proudest accomplishments thus far?
I would say that getting our first showcase in New York last year and selling out was incredible feeling so if this happens again that would be incredible.

Shifting back to your musical career, who are some of your musical influences?
My favorite influences growing up would probably have to be Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, Clifford Brown, Fela Kuti and Oscar Peterson from the jazz and West African perspective, and Tame Impala and Toro Y Moi for more alternative stuff.

How can we hear them through your remix/production work?
I would say I draw a lot of my guitar and percussion from M.J.'s “PYT” especially in my Billie Eilish Remix as well as the percussion, which I definitely draw from artists like Fela Kuti and other West African legends.
What's your remixing process like? What do you try to bring to the track?
A lot of my remixes entail starting only with the vocals and then reworking an entirely new idea. I also don't like to listen to the original so that I can make my own perspective.

How is your live setup going to look like for the upcoming Proper Vibes showcase?
I am going to being using an Interface with my APC40 pad to trigger my samples. I unfortunately couldn't bring my drummer to the show but have designed a particularly percussive set to that I can make up for it. I will also be playing flute and saxophone over my set.

What’s in store for the rest of 2016 for you?
I am going to be moving to Crown Heights, Brooklyn in the July after a month trip to London in June to do some songwriting/work. From there I am also working on an EP hopefully for the end of 2016.
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Christina Li


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