Photo by Ashley Bird
You may not recognize the name Mark Clayden, but as the founder of UK industrial metal band Pitchshifter the man has released 11 albums, inked deals with major labels and publishing companies, and toured 25 countries alongside the likes of Iggy Pop, Black Sabbath and Metallica. But the highlights of his career were preceded by years of financial struggle, and now that he’s the College Manager of the new Berlin branch of the British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM) he has the chance to help young musicians avoid the same pitfalls in their careers. In partnership with Noisy Musicworld, BIMM will start offering its three-year BA (Hons) degrees in Creative Musicianship, Songwriting and Music Business out of its new location in Friedrichshain starting in October. They're holding an Open Day on Saturday, July 25 at Privatclub for you to learn about the facilities and meet the tutors.
What brought BIMM to Berlin?
We've got quite a high proportion of international students, especially at the London centre. So the question that started to come up was, is BIMM interested in opening a centre in mainland Europe? We did a lot of research and the resounding choice that came back was Berlin. Berlin’s got an amazing musical heritage, but it's got an incredible amount of artistic creativity going on right now as well. It's packed with venues, record labels, studios, managers, booking agents. You name it, it's here.
There are a lot of music schools already in Berlin. Do you think there's enough demand here for what BIMM offers?
The demand is huge, I think. When we announced in January that we were coming to Berlin we were swamped with an incredible number of CVs for tutors, and we've already had hundreds of inquiries from prospective students. And the first 10 inquiries were from 10 different countries!
How would you describe what BIMM does?
Our main goal is to help artists understand that the music business is two worlds: it's music, but you've got to understand the business as well. Because if you don't, you're going to be very poor, very quickly.
That seems to be one of the main issues with the Berlin scene. Lots and lots of talented artists with not much of an income from it.
Exactly. You know, it's not a crime to want to live from being an artist. BIMM helps an artist to time travel, to skip the difficult parts. I had to learn the hard way. I spent over 20 years in Pitchshifter and I lost a lot of money for certain deals because I didn't understand how it worked. But eventually I managed to train myself and realise what was working and what wasn't.
What has it been like partnering with Noisy Musicworld?
Noisy Musicworld are fantastic partners. They've got 25 professional music rooms with 8,000 musicians a month coming through. So that was a really great connection for us, because we always want our students to meet local artists. They also have a fully equipped recording studio and Mac lab as well, so we'll be sharing all of these resources.
Where did your relationship with BIMM start?
I used to mentor a lot of bands. One of the main UK bands I worked with were called The Ghost of a Thousand, and they ended up signing a great deal with Epitaph records. I was then asked to do a master class for BIMM on creating rhythms within Pitchshifter, and I saw that what they were doing was kind of like what I'd been doing, but on a massive scale. The directors asked if I'd like to work for BIMM, so I worked in Brighton for two years and helped them set the company up. And then I helped open a new centre in Bristol and I was there for seven years. Of course when they told me they were going to open BIMM Berlin I had to come.
What was your first musical break?
It would have been our Infotainment? record. Until then we'd been concentrating on just confusing people. Interviewers used to ask how we would describe our music, and we'd say it's “uneasy listening”. We would regularly show, you know, disturbing videos of animals being killed, etc, on stage on TVs. And then we'd baseball-bat the TVs at the end and give pieces of the television to the crowd. Lots of things like that.
Did you have to scale back the “uneasy listening” once you started attracting a wider audience?
No, not at all. We've kind of always done what we wanted to do, and we've not really played any games. For example, we were confirmed as the main support for Korn at Brixton Academy. The first band was a then not so well-known band called Limp Bizkit. The tour manager for Limp Bizkit came to our dressing room and offered to gave me £1,000 in cash to go on first. I took the money, and I got up the next day and gave it to Greenpeace.
And that was the start of Limp Bizkit's career?
[Laughs] I don't know! I guess what I'm trying to get across is that we believed in what we were doing.
Any inspiring words for potential BIMM goers?
Being a musician is the best job in the world. Meeting new people every day, people that are inspired by what you do. We've met people who've brought babies to the shows and said, “This is Clayden”. First name. Or things like, we played the Milton Keynes Bowl in the UK with Black Sabbath. To walk out to 60,000 people chanting your name, and then the second you start everybody goes crazy. It's really rewarding.