|Clan of Xymox|
Following the release of their blinding new album, 'Farewell', Keith Elcombe manages to catch up with Ronny Moorings and find out a bit more about the Clan of Xymox of today. (September 2003) (images by kind permission of Pandaimonium)
|1. Firstly, congratulations on the release of 'Farewell' - it's a great album. Are you happy with the way it's turned out?
So far I have had only great reactions to the album, which is quite flattering. The real personal feedback will come when we start touring again in September, than I can see the reactions on the songs when we play them live.
I know I gave the album 100% dedication so when you see the reactions on the album it is a relief that you notice there are a lot of like minded people out there.
2. What events inspired the material on this album?
A lot of lyrics were inspired by the people around me, when they split up with their loved one or wanted to or friends with self doubt, in short people have in general always problems so it is a vast source of inspiration. Naturally I also look into myself and what's going on in my life but I found that the lyrics I wrote from a personal perspective was about missing someone in a big way.
The emotion with people parting is one of the strongest emotions and one of the most upsetting experiences, especially when one does not want the other one to disappear from their life. Huge dramas are often the result of someone leaving someone else, to me always a huge inspirational recourse, because so many people, so many different ways of handling with a sense of loss.
Of course it happened to me as well in the past so I know the feeling and I know how it can make you feel for a long time.
To me human drama is a vast resource to get inspired by.
If you would read my lyrics sometimes you would think that I am pretty miserable but I try to explain to people that I often get inspiration just by observing their behaviour / life or listening to my friends with their problems.
Often I get to hear all these heartbroken stories, relation problems or study behaviors of people, these are all the ingredients you can use to make a song that much more personal, because it relates to something or someone you have in mind. I rarely tell the person though that it's about him or her but I am sure they would recognize themselves anyway:)
The song " Farewell" I wrote when I was sick of everything, full of self doubt, self loathing, cynical about my future, basically in a self destructive mood wanting to quit everything and stop everything I was doing. This is a sort so self therapy ; I felt much better afterwards when I recorded the song :) The affectionate brothers are all the like-minded people, the people who supported me in my life, the ones I care about.
With the song" Losing My head " or" Cold Damp Day " are to me positive songs, they are songs where I sing about how much I miss someone. I think in a way that is a positive feeling because it just confirms how much you love that person.
With "One More Time" for example is a song I always could write any time, it doesn't matter what year I would live. It's about a friend of mine who sort of lost all perspective of his own life, started to get full of self doubt and got pretty confused about his future, even if he still would want to share his live with his long time girlfriend. For most people he looked always cheerful on the outside but is actually quite a closed person, so I guess a lot of things were eating him on the inside and it was a question of time that things would start to "boil up".
"Into Extremes "is Trying to make the most of your live is not always an easy task. People feel the need to break out of their boundaries, the restrictions they feel are capsulating them in daily life. I am sure everyone feels sometimes like that painting of Munch " Die Schrei", screaming, wanting to leave things behind and do something else, but instead you feel like you are on board of "the Ship Of Fools". Everyone has their own extremes and levels of where their borders are, so it's up to the listener to think about their restrictions and make their own story up.
"Courageous " is about a person trying to make most out of his life by acting on it, which in my eyes is always a brave thing when people try to follow their heart.
"There's no Tomorrow" is pretty dark to me although the rhythm is deceptive. It is about someone ( in the I form, not me ) who feels his relationship has come to an end but still want to try to salvage it but does not get the same response back although the other person feels just as rotten as he does. The song is based on 2 friends who went through this phase.
"It's not Enough" is just about a person I grown tired of and just did not want to hear from again, I am sure we all have those persons in our lives and we just want to get rid of.
I am not going to explain every song completely though because I like people to fill in their own experiences and make their own mental story with the song, all I can say really is that the overall mood is pretty on the dark side, which is my favorite:)
3. The one thing that strikes me about your music is that it has not stayed still over the years - you've constantly evolved it and 'moved with the times'. Is this by accident, or have you recognized the need to continually evolve?
With the music technology going strong the last few years, nearly every week new things are developed, keyboards are transformed into plug ins so you have all your synthesizers in your computer, and it gets really easy to make your sounds like this. This development is important for musicians who don't want to keep on using the same instruments all the time. You can imagine that in every two years there are a lot of plug ins to choose from.
So far I think Clan Of Xymox walked a fine balance between innovation and style, so that our fans won't get alienated. Of course once and a while I think on an album there is room for at least one track to take it a bit further but in general I think change should be a gradual one..
I think there is a consistent development of the sound of Clan Of Xymox, going along with the times, trying to take the best elements and combining new sounds and techniques with the typical Clan Of Xymox sound.
I never really changed my method i.e. I try to write a song as if I never wrote a song ( in my life) before... I do not think in terms of " I need such and such verse and such and such chorus" or " this chord goes well with that chord".To me the approach to see what happens if I do this or combine this sound with that, gives me inspiration every time in a different way.
Of course there are some methods, I do start with looking for sounds which would trigger my imagination and set a certain mood, from thereon it will be open to any approach, even to the extend that is can all end in chaos, then a delete button is a good thing to have.
4. With the advances in musical technology, is it easier to produce an album today than say, 10 years ago? Are the time scales shorter etc.?
Indeed it is way easier simply because you have very powerful computers and they are affordable for most people. I use 2 Mac G4's for making music with the program Logic Platinum which is great for writing, recording and mixing music. Because of these developments you don't have to go to a studio somewhere anymore, recording and mixing an album in a few weeks. The way I work is that I have my own studio named " the torture chamber" and go in there whenever I feel like it, so all the pressure has gone which you used to have say 10 years ago.
5. I've noticed that over time, other bands that may support you on tour wind up with record deals of their own and seem to release their material with the name 'Clan of Xymox' appearing somewhere on the CD inlay or in the press release. Are they just hanging onto your shirt tails (so to speak) and using you as a stepping stone to greater things, or are you happy to launch new bands into the scene, even if they do use any attachment they have to you to promote themselves?
I think it's great if a band ends up with a record deal. Maybe you also saw some releases of my own label which might have confused you a bit in the sense that Xymox is mentioned on it. My label is simply called "Xymox Control " and that also appears on the artwork :)
I also run our bands label and license the records to Pandaimonium ) and preparing the releases of Jesus Complex and Sophya. Jesus Complex is a project of Damon Fries, our sound engineer who wrote the album. I sing on one of the tracks called " Lost In Sleep ". A few weeks ago I was preparing the release of a Greek band called Dark Runner and of course preparing the next GothAM festival ..
6. Given the way that you change your sound, do you see this as a necessary part of staying alive in the alternative scene today?
"Farewell" is an album full of various moods and styles with multi-layered sound, different atmospheres and arrangements. To me it is a continuation of the way I write. I always want my music to sound fresh and new, I do not want to repeat what I already did but I also want the songs to be recognizable that you would instantly hear it's Clan Of Xymox when played in a club. So basically the album is different but part of the natural progression of Clan Of Xymox.
The album " Farewell " in total is to me a perfect blend of different styles ranging from more the dark electro side to the more darker guitar side. People who know the history of our band would be not surprised about this approach that is followed and recognize that it is the concept of Clan Of Xymox, since the very beginning.
With these basic elements for Clan Of Xymox, the way I combine and layer the instruments you could say that it's our own style and most people recognize that as something typically of Clan Of Xymox.
To me this approach is integral to Clan Of Xymox. The songs ( for the newer fans) " A Day", "Stranger", "Backdoor" was at the time they came out at the forefront of electro, and as contemporary they were then I believe the new songs are like that but with the difference that I live in 2003 so the sounds and samples etc. are in the 2003 version.
From day one when Clan Of Xymox was formed I combined guitars with synths, this was the sort of blueprint to write music. The styles of Clan Of Xymox kept changing during the years with a lot of experiments but always a definable sound you could easily recognize as Clan Of Xymox.
So it is never been that easy to categorize us, I prefer now the term Dark Goth Electro, that sort of covers all the ranges Clan Of Xymox moves in. Many songs have a danceable beat, very club friendly tracks but also very moody atmospheric tracks.
7. Going back a good few years now, to the time you were with 4-AD, what was that era like for you? As 4-AD will go down in history as the home to some of the most alternative and ground breaking acts of all time, what was it like being a part of that?
It was a great honour and experience to be part of a movement and label like this. Of course that was the past as the label slowly withered away since the label boss Ivo Watts sold 4AD to I think a Major label in the early nineties. With him also the vision of the label disappeared. For Clan Of Xymox it was a great launching pad because the label had loyal fans basically interested in everything the label was releasing.
To me there are now new labels which deserve the same respect as we had then for 4 AD so there is no point for me in looking back at this period because to me there are equally interesting bands coming out on the now respected independent labels.
8. How different are things now, compared to back then, and do you miss the way things were with the Xymox of old?
Yes, things are different now, and that is a good thing, I would not have it any other way !! I feel there is this diversity in music which is broader than in those days. Because also the computer being an important asset to most bands it makes creating music a more democratic platform, giving bands more opportunity to be heard.
I miss nothing of that period, because I enjoy things way better than in those days. I know exactly what I want whilst when you start making music you just don't have any experience in order to stand firm on your feet.
9. Who currently, in the scene, stands out as truly ground breaking, or is the alternative (and even the Goth) scene seemingly made up of clones?
The last years saw plenty of great releases so I have full faith in the scene as it's going.
In general I find the scene the only scene where I feel comfortable because for me there are no other alternative scenes left. Everything else is now commercial and I can't relate at all to the fast food culture in the mainstream music which is to me complete moronic.
So the gothic scene, which is to me also the electro / industrial / dark wave and everything else in that area. All these styles most of the parties play so that automatically creates a variety of people dressing differently. I think the scene takes the best out of people because when people go to a party they do their best, dress nice and is a pleasure for the eye. The way people dress and the knowledge it is different from standard makes most people powerful individuals.
It is difficult to say what will happen with the scene as it is, now indeed I see a movement towards Gothic making a come back and people getting a bit tired of too many dance floor oriented bands not to mention all the crap you get on the music channels like MTV with their pushing of R&B which makes me physically sick.
For many people Gothic events are the only alternative and I see it everywhere on the world that it is growing in numbers.
Now with the current world getting in turmoil, diving into recession seem like a good feeding ground for the Gothic culture. Something similar happened in the early 80's and indeed the scene was getting bigger and bigger, so indeed the stretch marks start slowly to fade.
I think there are a lot of exiting bands out there and a lot established their own identity. I even don't want to classify bands too much because in the end you like their music or you don't. To me it is important the music grabs you somewhere deep down.
10. You tour quite extensively - is it something you enjoy, or do you tire of it after a while?
We enjoy touring and that is one of the strengths of Clan Of Xymox.
We played many big festivals like Mera Luna ( 25.000) Germany, Leipzig Gothic Treffen ( 20.000) Germany , Zillo ( 12.000) Germany, Bolkow ( 3000) Poland , Whitby ( 3000) and numerous tours in the States which are of course always unforgettable experiences for any band, let say the highlight of touring not to forget Central & South America with as highlight a stadium concert in Mexico city for 20.000 people.
Since 1997 we haven't stopped touring, so you could basically say we are on tour for the last 6 years. There were only short periods or intervals of not going on the road for recording reasons.
In this period we've been several times all around the world, and the end of the year ( October ) we go to South America where I think we are going to be the only (alternative scene that is ) band who toured there as often as we did ( also in Mexico )
I need these exotic tours to keep our my interest alive and give it the necessary variation you need in a bands existence. Of course all the dates we do are essential, just like festivals, when everything is combined it makes it the perfect mixture for me.
I never believed in the classic way most bands do things like: recording ( for 3 years non stop) , releasing and than a tour of a couple of weeks and start the cycle again. I think you need a lot of input during your writing process and a good way to get this is going on tour and talk a lot with people.
All aspects of having a band I find equally important. You write to get your feelings out of your system, record them so you won't forget them and tour to see if what you do is enjoyed by your fans. The whole process is very dynamic and can't be put into words like hard or easy.
Once and a while we do take small breaks in between to do something else but in general I enjoy it very much.
11. If you could tour with one band (past or present), who would it be and why?
So far we just go by ourselves unless it's a festival of course. I always toured this way and don't see any desire to change this. If you really want to see a band than the worst moment would be when you have to play yourself, simply you are busy with preparing for the show. I rather see a band when I have time to listen to them with a full attention span.
12. What for you is the best tour you've ever done?
There are just too many to mention, so far I like all my tours or individual dates. Each country has it's charm and each public has their own reactions but of course there are always things which jump out like with our experiences in South and Central America, simply because it feels exclusive, I like the cultures and the rich past over there and of course the fans are absolutely mad...it's really great how they show their enthousiasm. In those regions they just let go and go crazy, even on slower songs. A lot of people in Europe cannot imagine that there is a big interest in bands who make "dark" music, but when you go as a band you are totally stunned, they treat you there like as if you were" the Beatles" on tour.
First you think " how do they know us?" but then you find out they have seen the videos on the national music channel and yes they recognize you from the video.
After a show it seems the whole country knows you. When we played in Mexico we were national news, we were on the news, our faces were printed on every national newspaper and of course the next day when we went to see the Maya temples in some remote area even an old women selling souvenirs to tourist had read about us and asked for an autograph, so that is a very strange experience, but of course a lovely and flattering one!
It is weird to walk in countries like Mexico, Chile, Argentina or Brazil etc. When you walk on your day off in town and people come up to you constantly to ask for autographs and having their picture taken.
13. What will be the next offering from the COX stable after 'Farewell', or is it way too soon to tell?
It's not even out yet and you ask me whats next????
At the end of September we go to Peru for the first time ( where only the Mission, well actually Wayne....in the end... ) played a few years ago), and it's the second time for us that we go to Chile and Argentina again. About these concerts I am very exited because these are the most beautiful countries on Earth. We have four shows and stay again a way for 3 weeks, we will go to Cuzco where we will see Machu Picchu an old Inka settlement which was not discovered by the Spanish for centuries.
We need these strange destination to keep our own interest alive and give it the necessary variation you need in a bands existence.
Of course after this tour we will do many dates in Europe & the USA as well.
Further our GothAM festival is coming up for the 27th of September see: http://www.gotham.nl
Also we are preparing a brand new release of the USA band " Boidoir" on our label Xymox Control.
14. Where do you see yourselves in say, 5 years time?
I would not even dare to think about such an enourmous time ahead, In rather live day by day. If you see what the offerings were from Clan Of Xymox the last 5 year I would never have thought that would have been possible.
15. What are your thoughts on an afterlife? Do you feel that there is such a thing, or this our current life the only shot we get at things?
I am not religious, to me afterlife is all you leave behind, the afterlife I could explain in passing on your genes. We all carry our great, great grandparents genes and characteristics.That is the only afterlife possible for me. Afterlife promised by religions is cheer arrogance of people thinking they would get another shot at life after they die.
16. What one principle that helps guide your life, do you hold dear the most?
Try to live your dream every day instead of dreaming of it.
17. Finally, what is the one thing you would like to do before you get too old to do it?
Age is irrelevant. Most people get old already the moment they leave school and get sucked into the workings of society.
It is just up to the individual to make the most of their live and I don't see an expiry date on that.
Thanks for taking the time to do this.