Call Super: Restless Hours
Artist interviews more or less always unfold as organic conversations. Even so those discussions tend to hinge on questions about standout moments in the musician’s trajectory; the sudden turns or rapid growth spurts that have marked their evolution. But Joseph Seaton’s ascent over the last handful of years – through a smattering of aliases but most visibly as Call Super – is notably different for its seamless upward arc. “I’m sure there’s more hate out there than you give me credit for,” he says with a laugh, graciously downplaying my clunky compliment when we meet for lunch at a buzzy cafe in Neukölln, Berlin.
Seaton’s first productions from the beginning of the decade demonstrated his versatility of style and form via the labels Throne of Blood, Five Easy Pieces, Nocturnes and Relish Recordings. Although the London native has lived in Berlin for nearing a decade, it’s his close association with Houndstooth, the artist-led imprint of the UK capital’s iconic nightclub, fabric, that has proved to be particularly defining. Seaton characterises his relationship with Houndstooth as “absolute freedom,” as evidenced in his highly-regarded signature quirks, where fluid, off-beat techno sequences meet elegant IDM flutters.
With this month’s release of Arpo, his second album for Houndstooth, Seaton is rounding off a banner year which has seen him collaborate with Shanti Celeste for a Dekmantel release, team up with fellow Londoner Beatrice Dillon for a brilliant two-track EP on Hessle Audio and contribute to the fabric mix series. As one online forum poster predicted under a Call Super review a few years back, “Boy can do no wrong.” It seems admiration for Call Super is pretty much unanimous.
“I don’t know about that,” says Seaton, still chuckling. “No one’s heard of me in the mainstream. Within our little clique I’ve done OK.” As frequently as modesty marks Seaton’s manner, so does a vein of cautious idealism. Even when it means turning a critical eye on his own clique and the demographic skew of the fans who have been instrumental to his popularity.
Seaton laments his formative years spent at early-00s drum ’n’ bass nights at fabric and other London clubs like The End. “Those nights [had] some of the most diverse crowds,” he recalls, “and I never realised that at the time. What’s happened to the scene [is] there’s been a real divergence between a broadly white, European, educated muso audience, and the raw shuffling scene in London – the kind of scene where diversity still exists because it’s more working class.” At the same time Seaton is aware of increased homogeneity of certain communities, where he is deep in their inner circles. “This selectors scene is a split off from that,” he admits, “and the irony is that we have discussions around diversity.”
These sensitivities were brought into focus recently. Seaton was invited to programme a weekend at renowned Amsterdam club De School this December, and he’s giddy at the prospect of building a fantasy league line-up. So far Karen Gwyer has been earmarked for a peak time live set, Josey Rebelle will close one of the rooms and Ben UFO will limber up with an eight-hour ambient session. Seaton and close friend and frequent collaborator TJ Hertz, better known as Objekt, recently discussed the jungle DJ set that Hertz will play as part of the weekender, but that conversation strayed into tricky territory. “We were thinking it would be good to get an MC as well,” recounts Seaton, “but I immediately thought, ‘Actually… stop.’ The thought of reaching out, like, ‘Hi, Skibadee. Would you like to come over for a one hour set [playing] to a majority white audience on a night where that’s the only jungle set?’ That is the most embarrassing proposition you could ever put to someone. It just feels so tokenistic.”
The least troubling location for Seaton to engage with these critical ideas seems to be his studio, a space that offers the opportunity to explore the wider issues that need acknowledging, but also the universality of pure music enjoyment. The forthcoming album Arpo was recorded in an apartment that he shares with another close friend – his studio during office hours, her living quarters by night. The album’s central concept speaks to a common experience: the specific moment, when you leave the club after hours of dancing, and walk home in the soft light of the morning. “When you’re actually feeling very uplifted,” says Seaton. A limited edition 7” album single will be released, with each of those 300 record covers featuring unique artwork illustrated by Seaton himself. “The drawings move between the characters and the people that kind of linger in the memory,” he says, “certain things that might get said, abstract stuff, a few animals. Just the visions that we have when we’re in that kind of state.”
Musically, Arpo is a tale of two halves, and each side begins with a variation of the album title track, a jazz-enriched arrangement which features the recurring Call Super motif of reedy oboe and clarinet tones, played by his musician father. “I wanted to start all over again from the same spot,” says Seaton about the mirrored opening tracks. “The emotion kind of stabilises from that point onward.” Arpo’s A-side is a collection of brief, glimmering impressionistic pieces. While B-side track titles like No Wonder We Go Under and I Look Like I Look In A Tinfoil Mirror seem to hint at some kind of eventual deterioration, these longer tracks also possess a markedly sunny outlook.
“I wanted the work that I made this year to be optimistic in a way that I think three or four years ago I felt much more ambivalent about,” says Seaton. “I guess three or four years ago the issues that we worried about seem to pale [in comparison to] the issues we worry about today.” By the time our lunch plates have been cleared away, our conversation has steered through some of these issues – the rising threats of global conflict, greed, intolerance and disconnectedness – and although his perspective remains sober, I’m pleasantly surprised as my tendencies towards disquieted despondence are met by his upbeat brand of pragmatism.
Before we part ways, I half-jokingly suggest that should his career ascent ever hit a snag, Seaton should consider a sideline as a life coach. He laughs, again, but remains sincere. “I think that there is an importance to not letting optimism and positivity be taken away from you. Now is time to try and be engaged with something that makes you feel OK.”
Photography: Kasia Zacharko
Arpo is released 10 November via Houndstooth.
Call Super appears at Epizode Festival, Phú Quốc, 31 December – 10 January.