Clan of Xymox: "Enchant me, mesmerize me..."

Twist of ShadowsIn den 80ern galt Clan Of Xymox als kontinentales Bindeglied zwischen Dead Can Dance und den Cocteau Twins und schaffte es mit der Mischung aus Synths und Gitarren sowohl Waver als auch die EBM-Fraktion zu begeistern. Aber schon früh zeichnete sich ab, dass der Underground-Status für die Band zu eng war und zum Ende der 80er wurden sie heftig von den Major-Labels umworben. Clan Of Xymox unterschrieben schließlich bei Wing/Polygram, verkürzten den Namen zu Xymox und veränderten damit auch ihren Sound in Richtung eines tanzbaren Wave-Pops. Nach 2 Alben (und insgesamt über 400.000 verkauften Exemplaren) war Schluss, die Originalbesetzung der Band, bestehend aus Anke Wolbert und Pieter Nooten zerbrach, das Wing-Label wurde geschlossen und Ronny Moorings machte fortan als Xymox alleine weiter. Mit den Neunziger kam Grunge und Manchester-Rave - Wave und Gothic war "dated". Diese Entwicklungen gingen nicht an Xymox vorüber und Ronny Moorings experimentierte mit Techno-Sounds und -strukturen, allerdings mit unterschiedlichem Erfolg (unterschätzt, weil sehr gut, ist das Headclouds-Album). Außerhalb von England nahm zu dieser Zeit kaum noch einer Notiz von der Band, zu sehr saßen Xymox zwischen allen Stühlen.

Mitte der Neunziger wurde es dann gänzlich still um die Band. 1997 dann die Überraschung: Clan Of Xymox sind zurück, die Experimente unter dem Namen Xymox sind vorbei. Ronny Moorings berief sich wieder auf seine Wave- und Gothic-Wurzeln und dem Sound der 4AD-Phase. Auf den folgenden 4 Alben präsentierten sich COX dunkler als je zuvor. Während viele alte Bands nur noch ihre größten Erfolge aufwärmen, entwickeln COX seither ihren Stil mit neuen Einflüssen aus dem Dark-Bereich fort und geben so der Szene die nötigen Impulse. Nebenbei legt Ronny noch als DJ auf Gothic Parties auf und organisierte im Amsterdamer Paradiso die vielbeachteten GothAM Parties.

20 Jahre nach der Gründung brachten Clan Of Xymox am 13.09 einen Rückblick auf ihr Schaffen in Form einer "Best of" heraus. Auf dieser CD sind die beliebtesten Stücke der Clan Of Xymox-Phase enthalten, welche die Fans im Internet wählen durften. Als Besonderheit wurden die 4AD-Stücke neu eingespielt. Gründe genug um mit Ronny Moorings über die neue CD und 20 Jahre Xymox zu sprechen.

How did you come to the idea to release a "best of" album now? You already released a Live CD as a kind of best of album in 2000?

Anke & Ronny (1989)Ronny Moorings:
Actually it was a spontaneous decision, I was actually working on new material and a DVD when the question came from Steph of Pandaimonium records, reminding me we never had an album out with the highlights of Clan Of Xymox combined all in one album, and with the 20 years of our existence it would be a great offering for all our fans and also a great sampler for people who maybe want to know our music without having to buy each album to get an idea. Of course I hope they will get encouraged by this album to get further into our releases, so this might also be a good incentive. It does not compare with the LIVE album we released in 2002, which is of course a LIVE album and not a Best Of, there is of course a big difference between live recordings and studio recordings so I don't think you can compare the two, also we are a few albums further now....

Your fans had the chance to decide alongside with you about the song selection via internet. How important, do you think, is the interaction with your fans?

Ronny Moorings:
Interaction with the fans is very important, after all they are the ones supporting our band. Indeed we let our fans vote on our website, and judging by their enthusiastic reactions and choices I think the end result will be highly satisfactory for everyone. Of course I have a good idea of what our fans want to hear since we hear during our live songs the reactions on the songs we play and the shouted requests, so we took the majority votes for the songs to be included on the Best Of COX I re-recorded the songs from the 4AD period so it will add an extra dimension to this album, with exclusive recorded songs and some songs I will mixed again as well.

Why did you re-record the old 4AD songs? Did you import the songs in an original way or are those versions modified new ones? How did it feel to record the old songs with the new studio technology?

Ronny Moorings:
Actually I did not change the original version. I can't blame you for thinking this because a lot of bands do change a track if they would re-record an old track. On the contrary what most bands would do I made sure I left all the atmosphere, style, beat, keys etc. intact, matter of fact is that I took great care in finding all the samples, old keyboards, my effect pedals for the guitar etc. in order to be as exact as possible if not even spot on. The only thing what I found the most important to improve was the vocals. The instrumentation is exactly the same, I only left out here and there some messy bits which irritated me on the old albums. To me the vocals were a serious point for me, I think I sing them over the years way better then when I started with the band, so in short we all win with these new recordings!

{qtube vid:=OiJ3KU0bme0}
Clan of XYMOX - A Day (Clan of XYMOX/4AD, 1985) 

Whilst re-recording these tracks for the "Best of" album it really brought back a lot of memories for me and the realization that so much has progressed since then. The Palladium studio in Scotland where the original first two albums were recorded was in my eyes something I could not phantom, so much (expensive) equipment I had never seen. I felt like a kid in a toy store. The mixes were done in London's Blackwing studios with John Fryer being a co-producer. These studios had already then a name for having bands like Depeche Mode and Erasure always recording their albums there. Nine Inch Nails even wanted to record with John Fryer after listening to our records! Of course at the time you did not really realize what kind of an impact the albums of Clan Of Xymox would make. Now whilst recording these songs again I realized even more that the technology has progressed so much that it is possible to re-create the same sounds and moods in my much smaller studio (Torture Chamber) with my Mac computers taking a central role, not having to deal with these huge old analogue recorders no artist could ever afford to have. Technology has so much progressed since then, and I only can be very grateful for that because it makes my life in a studio much more simpler, not having to struggle with the technical limitations of those days.

What kind of equipment (synth, keys, software) do you use?

Mojca & Ronny (2001)Ronny Moorings:
The Torture Chamber is in my Amsterdam-based home studio proving that you don't need an outrageous set-up to make things happen in the music business. Today my studio is outfitted with a 2 Mac G4's. It is the central point of everything, which is quite good for running all applications. The program I use for all the writing, recording, and mixing is Emagic's Logic Audio 6.4, which I absolutely love. I use Digidesign for a sound card. The VST instruments of Logic are stunning, further I use a lot of 3rd party plug-ins from Native Instruments, Moog, M tron, Absynth, Kontakt and much more. For the warm keyboard pads I still use the Kurzweil K1000. I simply love the choirs and strings of the Kurzweil. Most of my hardware keyboards I have done away with since I rather have everything compact so I have more space. The plug ins I find much better to handle than the original hardware keyboards. Sometimes I still use a hardware sampler from Akai just for a quick result and if it works I will put the sample in the Mac as an AIFF file. My main mic is a Rode NT-2. I record all my vocals with it. It's a very good quality for a reasonable low price. Everything else I record goes straight into the computer. I don't use amps except for the guitars and bass. BMW are my monitors of choice.

Further I have of course all my guitars and bass guitars hanging on the studio wall to grab whenever I need them.

You are in the underground scene for almost 20 years now. In your opinion, what have been the biggest changes during that time?

Ronny Moorings:
The blue print for Clan Of Xymox is still the same, the combination of guitars and keyboards & synths is all essential to me. From day one to now I held on to this formula. With the times new keyboards, plug-ins, computers basically all essential tools come out of which musicians eagerly will buy because there is always a great hunger for new sounds and technical equipment. These things you need in order to get inspired and have new ideas. So yes, I think here is certainly an evolution in my sound as I keep on updating my studio and enhancing my sound banks I certainly see a slow but sure evolution creeping into my music, to me it is important though to keep the characteristics of the Clan Of Xymox sound but also add new elements to it so it always will sound different than the previous released album. 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.

In my opinion "Farewell" slowly evolves from "Notes From The Underground" As the album "Creatures" was the most homogeneous album for Clan Of Xymox, the previous album "Notes From the Underground" included various styles, so it was more a typical up to date Clan Of Xymox album. I think the more Dark XYMOX (1985)Electro songs on "Farewell" like "There's No Tomorrow", "Farewell" & "Cold Damp Day" are the songs which lie in the natural progression of the very first album tracks of Clan Of Xymox like "A Day", "Stranger" & "Back Door". The album has also more timeless songs, songs I could have written in whatever period such as "Into Extremes", "Skindeep", "Losing My Head", "Dark Mood" & "One More Time", (of course the songs have elements in them which only could be possible nowadays), basically the balance between tracks like this works for me.

Concerning Clan Of Xymox I think most of the time we got pretty lucky with how things went for the band. Our first signing was already with a prestigious label (4AD) which did not sign any bands for two years since Dead can Dance till we came around, which was the most flattering thing ever to experience. Even being signed away from them by a Major label was an experience I would not want to have missed. Ok, if it was all good in retrospect is debatable, but it was a good learning school, essential for the future development of COX. Indeed I would not sign to a Major again since this is not the path I want to walk. I do not have bad memories concerning the band, all what happened with the band was necessary in order to get musically where we are now. Without any of the paths being taken things might have been different so of course that is certainly not what I want.

The positive points are for one that we made the decision to leave London where we lived and move back to Amsterdam in the Nineties. There nothing was happening in a musical sense, so I could finally shake off the influences from the UK on our music at that time. Soon I rediscovered an underground scene having the dark parties which I was used to when I lived in Amsterdam before I left to London. There I realized that my heart never left this underground feeling and came slowly to terms with myself and my musical taste. From that point I felt making music again close to that of when I started with Clan Of Xymox. In Amsterdam I found the right people to join the live band so from 1997 on Clan Of Xymox was back on the right track, since then I never ever looked back anymore.

In the late 80s and early 90s it was pretty normal to listen to some live versions in Xymox concerts which were very different from the studio versions (e.g. Louise, Michelle, Stranger). Why haven't you done that since your comeback in 1997? Is it enough for you to meet the expectations of the fans, who often just stick to the well known?

Ronny Moorings:
In that period I wanted to update songs but actually in retrospect I feel quite embarrassed about that when I listen back to these versions. I stick to the original version also because when I listen to a band playing live I would like to hear it in the format I know best from their records. So I would agree with the fans about that.

Are there any other music styles - besides Wave and Gothic - that have an influence on your music? What do you think about the whole Retro-Electro music scene like Miss Kittin, Hell, Felix Da Housecat, Ladytron...?

PragaRonny Moorings:
Actually I really like the new album of Ascii.disko , it sounds pretty retro, or Sara Noxx which go back to the early 80's minimal synth sounds like the early DAF. As a DJ I also get a lot of different music sent from labels, to me the most important thing in music is that it just have to strike the right emotions in me, on basis of that I decide if I like a track or not. For me music has to have a good tune and I do not care which style it is so much, as long it appeals to me is the keyword.

Are you working on new songs for Xymox at the moment and will you be in Germany on tour with your new album?

Ronny Moorings:
Yes, I already finished 2 songs and we also scheduled 2 dates so far for Germany this year. I most likely we will add a few more, The period of September to December are quite busy for us so we can only do a limited amount of shows since I also have quite a bit of DJ dates (& finally my holiday) set abroad.

A last question about the older days: In old concerts (1985/86) you played a song that has never been released (with a long and noisy intro). What is the title of the song and what can you tell us about it?

Ronny Moorings:
I have no idea, possibly you mean " Move the Glass" which supposed to be a new song in 85 but it just did not work in the studio to make it a proper song, I guess I just forgot about it and never tried to work it out again.

Rest der "Xymox-Triologie":
Interview mit Anka Wolbert
Interview mit Pieter Nooten

(Clan of) XYMOX Biographie:
Teil 1: Subsequent Pleasures (1983 - 1985)
Teil 2: Medusa (1986 - 1987)
Teil 3: Imagination (1988 - 1991)
Teil 4: Metamorphosis (1992 - 2001)
Teil 5: Vaselyn, Hypercycle, Born for Bliss (Post-XYMOX)

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Fotos: Pressefreigaben/Mic