For more than a decade, visual artist and music producer Fred Clarke has been working under the alias Mathroom, exploring various mediums in both sonic and visual spheres, with overlap in the form of video, VR and performance. “The name Mathroom was derived from an interest in maths as a universal language, that in many ways was more discovered than invented. It exists in art, music, nature, and pretty much every facet of our experience on Earth and the Universe. When I create, I like to think of it as a blind exploration of these layered paradigms, finding new forms, compositions, and combinations of elements in an equation of expression and inquisition.”
Musically, Mathroom produces on a variety of analog synthesisers, drum machines, digital VST’s, samples and recorded instruments. His sound ranges in mood, tempo, genre and theme, with emphasis on sonic texture. Inspiration is drawn from West Coast hiphop, experimental breakcore, lo-fi and dusty frequencies, and often a nostalgic revisitation of analog machinery and it’s particular sonic essence. Visually Clarke’s work explores a variety of mediums, predominantly drawing, printmaking, and spray paint, on glass and walls. Thematically the work explores symbol, composition, abstract geometry and coding, intermittently populated with figurative elements. Over the years his work has turned to an almost purely abstract form, utilising numbers, letters, and general mathematical/language componentry to play with and express new forms of combination.
“I’m interested in the way a line, a shape, a colour, and combinations thereof, can really influence and impart emotional and intellectual response and reaction. There are marks of fear, love, danger, celebration – each line, note, and frequency carries the intention it was created with. In this way even completely abstracted marks and sounds, or very simple ones, can communicate on levels that are both intuitively understood and mysterious.” Fred Clarke/Mathroom has worked with several galleries over the years, including Hazard Gallery, Everard Read, Nirox and Priest. He has attended residencies in Argentina and Los Angeles, and released two albums with Subterranean Wavelength, amongst several independent releases through Bandcamp.
The visuals for Lagoon are incredible. How do you go about creating your visuals? Do you have a thought that you explore in isolation or do you bounce around concepts and work with someone to develop your visual ideas that accompany your music?
This project was initially inspired by what would become the album artwork – an earlier and similar version to the final cover, created by Tiffany Schouw. After seeing and asking about it on instagram, I loved the juxtaposed elements of the alligator and baywatch style swimsuit shot, along with the title Angel. There were elements of 90’s thriller and something quite dark and layered to it, inspiring a sense of what it might sound like, so from this collaborative outset the album evolved musically and conceptually. It’s the first time I’ve written music this specifically to an image, and really enjoyed the process. The album and videos were made in isolation, but are very much influenced and inspired by the world at large, and some key individuals who shared valuable insights along the way. Inspiration comes in different forms as the process develops. A lot of exploring and visual research went into the videos of Angel, much of it is a frame by frame stop-animation style approach, collaging YouTube clips and random footage shot over the years. Several themes emerged that thread through the album, only fully revealed towards the end, as it expanded from two video Singles to the full album as a short music-film with a running narrative throughout. The process was a combination of chance findings, running with instinct, then carefully arranging it without losing too much immediacy. Sometimes it feels more like a forensic figuring out of what form the music and concept is wanting to take, rather that it coming from a premeditation.
The process was a combination of chance findings, running with instinct, then carefully arranging it without losing too much immediacy.
Fred Clarke, are you a full-time musician and artist?
My days are spent mostly working in visual and musical mediums on various projects at a time. Sometimes simultaneously, but generally oscillating between art-making and music for a month or more at a time, depending on work requirements. I’m excited to do more videos as it combines both worlds, and am increasingly enjoying music collaborations, as it’s always something hybrid and new for the creators involved. Many of my extended family are artists/creators and am thankful for the understanding and support along the journey.
How does your creative process work? Do you set out goals for yourself and try to tick them off? Or do you wait for something that you are passionate about and want to further explore and develop music and visuals from that?
It’s generally a case of following the most exciting thing at the time. A lot of thought and energy always goes in, but if the chemistry isn’t there it’s difficult, sometimes impossible to create with the same intensity and meaning. Like people, some are more primary and exciting at any given chapter of one’s life. Often it’s a walk through the dark, but that’s most of the thrill, not having a clear map and trusting the process, sometimes blindly. There appears to be a natural timing and order to things, spiritually and scientifically. Laws of attraction and connections that seem to consistently make abstract sense and line up.
What is your biggest vice?
Of the several that come to mind hypocrisy and judgement are up there.