Torched Exclusive – An Interview With Darkwave Pioneer Ronny Moorings / Clan Of Xymox

Over the years, Clan Of Xymox has always been revered for their signature melancholic sound that in 1985 was aptly dubbed as “Darkwave” by British radio icon John Peel. 2020 witnesses the release of the bands sixteenth studio album “Spider On The Wall” (Metropolis Records) along with an impending EP with the same title that features remixes by William Faith (Faith and the Muse, Christian Death, The Bellwether Syndicate) and Twin Tribes. Both dark and intimate, Xymox leader Ronny Moorings and the band continue to masterfully explore their Electro meets Gothic sound first mined on their debut 1985 self-titled album released by 4AD.

Clan Of Xymox’ eponymous debut was (and still is) highly influential on my musical journey, in fact this particular album would be one of the very first that I purchased with my own money. Prior to this, my brother gifted me a huge stack of 60’s and 70’s vinyl classics such as, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Boston, Kansas, The Beatles.. etc.. So, discovering COX and darkwave/alt music was life changing and helped shape my path of future discovery. Not to knock the classics, but this was the first time that the music truly felt like home.

“Spider On The Wall” proves that the band shows no signs of slowing down and, in my opinion, one of their greatest bodies of work to date. Torched is honored to have the opportunity to ask frontman Ronny Moorings a few questions about COX’s new release, working with John Fryer and 4AD Records, the eponymous album cover art by renowned 4AD artist Vaughan Oliver, plus more!

In a recent interview with DJ Nocturna, you mentioned how 2020 is much like how it felt back in 1981. How so?

In the beginning of the 80’s there was a huge unemployment rate. This year a lot of people lost their jobs and everything will even get worse. Doom and gloom was in peoples heads. Now you can draw a parallel with the 20’s regarding the “Spanish “ flu. We are heading to dire times and might have to live in a dystopian world for more than a decade. So far there seems no end of the tunnel.
This general mood in the eighties and now is that there was no future and all prospects were very bleak. Here were are…

The very last live show that I attended was for Clan Of Xymox in SF last March. Shortly after the rest of your tour was sadly cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides the show cancellations, how has this outbreak affected the band? How has it affected your personal life? Have you found yourself to be more creative during this time?

In March 2020 were indeed in the middle of a sold out USA tour when we had to return home. Trump banned all flights from Europe when we were in Texas and it seemed the best course to fly from Houston back home. It was already eerie on the airport. The whole international airport was dead. No one was working there apart from one small airliner who took luckily care of our re ticketing . The next day we could leave the USA. At home we got a few days later under a lock down. No airplanes were allowed in . We were very lucky under the circumstances. Since there were no more shows to do I concentrated on the new EP “ All I Ever Know “ I made a video for it. Wrote some extra B sides for the EPs. I wrote one instrumental with my 8 year old daughter called“ COVID 19” and another one just after that “Dystopia” for the third single “ All I Ever Know.” All other songs on the album were written in 2019, pre-Corona time. Dystopia is about our daily lives as we lead it during the lock down. The Covid 19 piece has the televangelist Kenneth Copeland and Trump as these insane “leaders” praying and uttering sheer nonsense about this pandemic. It is more of a piss take then anything else. Now I just finished another B side to be included in the release of the 4th EP “ Spider On The Wall.” It was also influenced by these dire times. The title is “How Long?“ Further, I did a remix for Lesson Seven which was released in July. I spent quality time at home. Tried to catch up with a lot of things waiting to be done but never had the time for it. We just have been on holiday, pretending things are “ normal” again until you check in with a facial mask into a hotel. In Europe we try to get back into a normal live but all seems to be hard work with lots of insecurities.

Live image from San Francisco 3/7/2020 (photo Judy Lyon)

Are there plans for more live shows in the near future?

That is the hardest to answer because you can set a date and will get moved a few months later. So far we have done 2 live shows , one in Prague and the other one in Poland. In two days we will have our third show in Germany, Lindau. All shows are restricted under the covid rules , so less people are allowed to attend. However the atmosphere was most excellent and it felt like the normal days again. We are planning tours, also the venues do anything to make it work. If it however lasts even longer then this it will be soon the deathblow for most venues. If they go the bands will have no motivation to go on is my opinion.

What are some of your early recollections of working with 4AD? .. And more specifically, Producer John Fryer?

I knew about 4 AD Records in 1983 because of the type of bands they signed I liked a lot. Before that I only paid attention to bands and not labels. When I met DCD they gave my first own label release “Subsequent Pleasures “ to Ivo and so I followed up with sending a demo with some newer additional tracks in July 1984. The demo I had sent to 4 AD after our ‘UK tour’ with DCD and getting impatient as always I gave Ivo , the label boss a call. I was complaining about how the Dutch music industry sucked and that his label was the only label which appealed to me. A week before that I had a meeting with the Dutch EMI but this meeting reminded me of all the cliches I ever heard about big labels. To my absolute delight and surprise Ivo told me he liked what he had heard from the demo so far and wanted to meet, to see us in person and talk about it.

Soon we signed with 4 AD and recorded the album in 10 days at the Palladium studio located in Scotland. The album mixes were done in London’s Blackwing Studios where the in-house sound engineer John Fryer mixed the album. I was present while he mixed the album and needed often my hands to pull faders since the desk was not automated. It was always a great pleasure to work with John, he is such a relaxed person. I still do meet up with him in Los Angeles backstage when we are there for live shows.

Do you have any hobbies or pastimes outside of music that help rejuvenate your creativity?

I am not sure if my “ hobbies “ have anything to do with me writing songs. Live in general I find a bigger inspiration.

What was the inspiration behind your new album ‘Spider On The Wall’? Can you go into a few details on your creative process?

I started working on this album last year. My starting point was ” Black Mirror ” which was actually written for ” Days of Black ” but wasn’t finished at the time. All the songs came to me very quickly. It was already a few years ago I wrote the last album “ Days Of Black “ in 2017 so I felt very inspired. It was almost if these songs were “boiled up “ inside of me waiting to come out. In a matter of two months the entire album was written. Many different topics are being touched by the individual songs. All in all I am very happy with the result and with the feedback I got so far it seems that our fans like it very much too. Also the artwork is great. Again Mojca did the artwork for the album. The first single “ She “ came out in February 2020 just before the pandemic hit Europe and the USA. The single was an instant success with being on the DAC charts number 1. It came with a video directed by Zoe Kavanagh in Ireland. In retrospect this video perfectly fitted in the later lock down feel all over the world. I asked a lot of current bands from our scene to make me a remix for a particular song and released each single “ She,” “Lovers” and “All I Ever Know “ with remixes and B sides which I wrote in the lock down period.

What was your inspiration behind the single and video for ‘All I Ever Know’? It appears that some of the footage for the video may have been shot over time.. Where were some of the locations that have been featured here?

The lyrics are about the reflection of how you met your partner, in this case Mojca, that’s why she’s featured in the video by me. It is some sort of “ ode “ to her. It just came like that because I already had some pictures in my head when I wrote the song. A love song. I know a lot of people wrote me how they liked the honesty of the video . That is exactly what I wanted to achieve.

What was your inspiration for the iconic single ‘A Day’ off your eponymous album?

The words came about when I walked on an old derelict graveyard in Amsterdam early in the morning. I wanted to shoot some super 8 film for live shows. There I got inspired by how fleeting life is and all the thoughts coming with it.

Vaughan Oliver was the artist/graphic designer behind the album cover art for your eponymous album? What was it like working with Vaughan? Can you recall the inspiration behind the cover art?

He worked together with Nigel Grierson for the first album. Medusa Vaughan made a cast of his own head which I actually got to see when I was in the 4AD office where he worked. Most artwork approval just worked by the classic way of sending it by mail and me calling back that all was ok. I really liked his work and asked him to do our artwork even when we left 4 AD . He did the “ Twist Of Shadows artwork plus singles . Unfortunately he is no longer with us. A great loss !

Best wishes,
Ronny Moorings

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