Albany's Clay People have become familiar faces in Boston, as they have shared the bill with local electronic acts twice in the past year and will be returning again later this month. The group prides themselves at putting on a strong live show without hiding behind the technology. Clay People have an album out on Re-Constriction/ Cargo called "Firetribe" and also have a track on the recently released "Shut Up Kitty" covers compilation.
The core of Clay People is made up of keyboard player Alex Eller and vocalist Dan Neet. When Neet started up the band in 1989, he and the groups original bass player had gone into the project as a way to get their minds off of cocaine addictions. "It was kind of like weeding ourselves off a bad drug habit," says Neet. "It worked"
Since that time, the line-up has changed a great deal. At one time, Clay People had a full live band, with bass, guitar and drums supplementing the electronics. But because that didn't allow the electronic feel that they wanted and the additional musicians weren't willing to be slaves to the machines, Neet and Eller stripped done the live line-up. Right now, it is just them with a guitarist, though Neet says they may start using a bassist again in the future depending.
"Most of it is a matter of money," says Neet. "The musicians that we'll need we're probably not going to find in Albany. Right now, having a drummer would be great, but I'd rather have one that we can hire, and if he worked out, bring him into the band"
Neet cites Meat Beat Manifesto, Die Warzau and Skinny Puppy as prime influences in what Clay People have become. Previous to being in the band, Neet had been in a hardcore group and Eller in a "frightening" college pop/electronic band that covered Depeche Mode and Sisters of Mercy songs.
The first Clay People 7 inch single came out in February 1990, with an EP, "Toy Box," released in the summer of 1991. "Toy Box" was self-released and sold by mail order only. Then, last February, the group got picked up by Re-Constriction/Cargo and ultimately put out the "Firetribe" album.
In creating Clay People's music, Eller tends to start out creating the foundation of a song, then both members take home tapes and come back with other ideas. Usually, a track is reworked five or six times before being completed. For live live shows, all of the sequences a run live off the computer's hard drive, with Eller playing the synth lines along with it using sticks instead of a keyboard.
Neet says that right now the are comfortable with the music scene in Albany. He says the unlike Boston, there are not many electronic bands, though when such acts past though the music is generally well received. But it hasn't always been that way.
"When we first started the band we were pretty much downed by most of the three chord rock and rollers," says Neet. "But saying that, we're one out of three bands out of Albany that has gotten a record deal in the last ten years. The respect level for Clay People is much greater now."
Both Eller and Neet have day jobs working as cooks. They hope to someday concentrate on the band as a full time project but feel that won't happen until they move up the ranks to a larger label. For the time being, Clay People are happy being on a well-respected indie electronic label, but they are keeping their options open..
"Reconstriction is an excellent label, but unfortunately Cargo's distribution is poor and the money that they have to put behind bands is limited," says Neet. "So you can get only so far on the label like that. We've been offered a few new contracts from bigger labels now, which we've been going through. Not that big of a step up, but a small step up. Just climbing that ladder and paying your dues."
For the "Shut Up Kitty" compilation, Clay People contributed a rendition of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid." The group did the song at the request of the label, though Neet acknowledges that doing a cover is helpful when trying to get the audiences attention when playing to new crowds.