Who is Cautious Clay? / by Maxwell Young

Josh Karpeh has been around music his entire life, but over the past year and a half this passion has manifest itself in the musical act Cautious Clay.  Clay's sonic amalgamation of jazzy, trippy, and deep house tropes have been well documented not only by InTheRough, but also by influential DJs, such as Phill Taggart of BBC Radio 1, as well as electronic music website, Blisspop.  Over the course of the last several weeks, though, InTheRough has been able to delve into a number of conversations with the emerging DJ.  Josh Karpeh, a soon-to-be graduate of the George Washington University is at an interesting point in his life and musical development.  Topics ranging from his background, entrepreneurial foray, involvement in the music community at GW, and London experience help provide insight into the enterprising role of an artist balancing the rigors of growing up and honing his craft.  This week, we are pleased to present a spotlight series on the man behind the act Cautious Clay.

*Contributions from Josh Karpeh, Alex Young, and Maxwell Young

MY: Where does the idea for a track come from?

JK: I do tracks in a very linear way.  Everything starts off in one area and just kind of goes.  It doesn’t have to really have a course or pre-course, especially with electronic music.  With this kind of project, Cautious Clay, I’m really thinking about making something completely different and driving on a lot of different influences and kind of putting together something that’s completely inspired by my own feelings and thoughts.  It’s something to prove to myself more so than necessarily other people, even though I really hope other people like it.  I’m always creating all different kind of sh*t, but with this kind of sh*t I think definitely just kind of progression that’s my own thinking.

MY: What kind of music did you listen to as a child?  Especially with “Let it Whip,” that really resonated with me

JK: Well I mean soul, like The Delfonics, and a lot of soul and a lot of jazz.  I just say soul and jazz were my biggest influences growing up because my parents loved great music and they still do.  I was inspired by their listening habits and just took it in my own directions.  I mean I didn’t really start to produce until about a year and a half ago.  Being a producer was always something to me where I had an interest in it but, I always thought it was way too removed for me because I was never good with computers.  And I was always just like, ‘This is intimidating.’  And then one summer going into my junior year, I picked up FL Studios and then I liked that and realized it was hard and picked up Abelton in that same period and kind of just went with it.  And literally hours and hours and hours every single day for a year and a half and now I’m here.

AY: You said that growing up your parents’ listening habits influenced your work.  But who in the past three months would you say you’re listening to who has influenced some of your past projects or things you’re currently working on?

JK: I’m really about this future beats thing, but I’d say I’m not as much inclined with the idea of future beats but more just the concept and the perspective on music, like making music that’s oriented towards the future.  So, kind of making your own sound in a way that’s more respectively you, not just beats.  I’d say Pomo is a big influence, KAYTRYNADA, Sam Gallantry—for sure Sam Gallantry—Lindsay Lowend who’s also really cool, Lido, and Cashmere Cat.  Those guys are pretty good too.  Those are probably the artists who influence me. 

MY: How have you tried to utilize the flute and the saxophone in your music? It’s definitely a clear part of it, especially with your training.

JK: The concept of improvisation for me is so strong in my music.  Not only in just having the flute and saxophone, but just how I construct my songs, you know every piece is integrated and very specific, and I do it for a reason.  So I feel like that’s always going to be a part of my music, but as for the flute and saxophone being there, I feel like it creates a different element in my production that a lot of people don’t use.  Not that there aren’t other producers who use the flute and saxophone, but I want to solo.  I want to have something that hits people in that way.  I’m going to keep doing that in a lot of my music because it’s kind of like my signature.

MY: You’ve been playing the flute for some other artists, right?

JK:  Oh yea, for sure.  Flako just released his EP and I was playing the flute on his song “Golden High,” so that was pretty sick.  And then MNEK’s song “In Your Clouds,” I played flute on that one.  I play with robstokesband, which is fun.  I love collaboration.

MY: What’s the editing process like when you send your pieces to these artists over seas?

JK: Usually it’s through Splice, which is a program you can send files over very easily and seamlessly, especially if you’re using Abelton or FL Studios.  I’m actually doing a mix for the Walking Sticks.  I’m helping them mix their next project, so Splice has really been helpful.  Collaboration is usually me or someone else starting a track off and just sending it back. 

AY: Has that happened with a lot of your tracks?

JK: Yea, I mean everything that I’ve released has been completely me, but I’m working on a lot of collaborations right now that just haven’t been finished, so it’s a matter of me getting back to them or them getting back to me.

AY: Is there anything that you’re working on that’s different than what you’ve already released?  Have you dabbled into something that might be more hip-hop or other genres?

JK: For sure. Yea, I do.  I have stuff that’s a little bit more soul, but I just haven’t released it because I haven’t finished it; there’s so much sh*t that I start and don’t finish.  And I think part of that is because my writing process for Cautious Clay just kind of starts and stops sometimes.  But yea, definitely harmonies and vocals I’m trying to work more of that into my music.  I just think I’m in a very technical mood at this point.

AY: Have you found yourself going from different moods?  What was before your technical mood?

JK: Yea, I think I was really into songwriting before that.  That’s where I started off, wanting to do my own thing.  I was actually just going to do just a band, but I was like ‘F*ck this. This is too hard.’ So then I started making beats and it wasn’t until four or five months ago that I felt I could release something because I wasn’t comfortable with my skill set.  I mean yea, I f*ck with too much jazz and soul to not have that in my music.