Claus Larsen (aka Leaether Strip): ‘I still feel as hungry to write new songs as I did in my teens’.

What can we tell you about Leaether Strip you don’t know already? Let’s see… For those of you who have been away during the last couple of years: the solo-project of Danish electronic industrial artist Claus Larsen is back in full force, and he’s eager to prove it as our headliner at BIMFEST 2009! A preliminary interview…

What’s the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do before you go to sleep, on an ‘average’ day if you know what that is?

Claus Larsen: I usually get up really early so I can have breakfast with my partner Kurt. It’s really important for us that we start the day together. The last thing we do before bed is to walk the dogs.

What are, in your opinion, the main factors for a long and healthy musical career and getting a favourable response from the audiences?

Claus: To have a real passion for what you do. To keep your feet on the ground, and to respect the people who use their hard earned money on your cd's and shows, and hope for their respect in return.

What was your primary goal when starting this project, and did you reach it? Anything you still want to accomplish in the future?

Claus: Since I started to learn to write music my only dream was to one day have my own album in my hands. That was reached in ‘89. I still get that feeling of extreme joy every time I hold a new release of mine in my hands. I think it’s really important to always have goals with whatever you do.
One of my biggest dreams was to write a soundtrack for a movie and that dream / goal has also come true now with the forthcoming "Dark Passages" movie and soundtrack album. Also my dream of getting my ass back up on stage has been realized, so what’s left? I still haven’t made my best album, I am sure of that. I still feel as hungry to write new songs as I did in my teens. Something or someone has to force me to stop. I need it as I need love and food. It keeps me sane... I hope.

If you were to start your musical career all over again, would you do it in another way or not? Knowing what you know now, that is.
Claus: I wouldn’t be such a trusting person if I had known that some of the label people I loved as persons would knife me in the back as they did. But I have used 5 years to get over that and today I am on the best label in the world. I choose to believe in the good in people and when you do that you will find knives in your back, but that way I
am also open to all the good stuff in life. It can get very lonely if you shut people out because you are too scared to get hurt. I learned that the hard way.

Do you (still) get inspiration from listening to other bands? If so, how do you mainly discover new and interesting music these days? Any recommendations for our site visitors?

Claus: Sure I do, I can’t live without my cd collection. Every time I need to rest my ears from my own music, I usually go on a MySpace treasure hunt. My favourite cd's at the moment are the debut album from the Danish act Mommy Hurt My Head, the new Marc Almond "Orpheus in exile" and the new Mesh "A perfect solution". I've also had my old hero Beethoven on quite a lot lately. In between the gigs I have been writing new songs and finishing "Retention no3", which will be a remastered "Solitary Confinement" and a cd with remakes called "Voluntary Confinement" which will be out early 2010.

Since you’re offering a free EP for download (‘It’s who I am’), I was wondering: how do you look at the digital (r)evolution in the music industry? Do you think artists are able to promote their music without the support of a record label or other third parties nowadays?

Claus: Digital only releases are something we have to get used to, but I don’t want to get used to it. I am a collector myself and where is the fun in collecting mp3's? I need artwork + booklet accompanying my cd to keep me happy. But sadly the labels are forced to do it more and more, because "we" stopped buying cd’s. It’s also really scary because our scene is mainly kept alive by loyal supporters and collectors, but they aren’t growing in numbers.

Was it a conscious decision to play so many ‘old’ songs during this tour? Why?

Claus: This first year is my comeback to the stage and I wanted to celebrate this by doing a sort of "Greatest hits" show. I always change the setlist from show to show if there is time. I am up there to entertain and if the old hits aren’t there I am not doing my job. My plan is to bring more and more new songs into the setlist with every show, but there are some songs you have to play and I do that with a smile on my face every time. Seeing the crowd singing along or going nuts to an old song is a fantastic feeling.

Why should our readers definitely come and watch your gig at BIMFEST? Anything special planned for the occasion?

Claus: Well, all I can say is that all the gigs I have played in 2009 have been a lot of fun; with a real "family party" atmosphere, with lots of energy, and watching my fat ass going crazy up there on the stage is a sight in itself. It will be a sweaty hour, I promise you that!

What do you think about the other acts on the bill that day? Something you wanna go and see yourself maybe?

Claus: I wanna see them all. The bands I love never played around where I live, so I am taking in all the shows I can when I have the chance. If I have to mention one, it would have to be Click Click; I have loved them since their first album and finally I get to see them after all these years. Shame that Laibach couldn’t come, but that made room for me, and coming back to Belgium couldn’t go fast enough.
See you all in a few days!

Jan Vael