Past pandemic months were not easy for anyone, no surprise then that the albums released during the time do not actually exude optimism. Limbo, the new newest album by goth, darkwave masters Clan of Xymox is one of the darkest, most pessimistic albums of the formation. It reflects the said mood, you can see no hope in the music or lyrics and the coloring of the sonicscape is definitely on the dark side of the palette. Still, it’s a fantastic piece of work, impressive in its quality and the general ambiance.
We asked Ronny Moorings, the frontman of the band, about how he had been past few months and about his thoughts and emotions that are reflected on Limbo. Since Clan of Xymox have the tour scheduled in the US and Candada for March 2022, we also discussed live shows and approach to music and creative process in general.
interview by : Karo Kratochwil
The new album Limbo proves you are extremely sensitive to what is happening around. Is writing about things a way to understand the world or rather to express your concern regarding where the world is heading?
Ronny Moorings : It would be strange if I wasn’t sensitive to what is and was happening around me. Yes, I wrote this album especially to vent my frustrations and thinking of what lead the world to all these extreme measures. Never we experienced such a long time of lockdowns, extreme binding of civil rights, our society being so divided, and getting more and more extreme by the day. I am certainly worried where this all might go and I am trying to understand every day what logic is behind these many extreme measures. Be sure, I am not a Covid denier. I just doubt a lot of extreme measures being taken and their effect on people’s general wellbeing.
It is good that governments now finally look at the hospital rates instead of incident numbers. Mind you that these governments have been squeezing and privatising these hospitals to almost non-existence. So go figure that all of a sudden there is a worry that there are not enough hospitals for a crisis. That is sick. I could go on and on about this topic but of course this is not a platform for debate. I certainly translated my feelings into the songs and for me it was a way to cope with all this. Writing about all this helped me to stay mentally fit and not too involved with the day to day bad news we got (and still get) bombarded with.
“Brave New World”, the concept I know from Huxley’s book, presents the dystopian idea of the world as deprived of emotions, regulated in every aspect, do you feel we are already living in such a world?
RM : Very much so. It is the only thing which rules our lives for over a year. It is getting more scary by the day. We hide our faces behind masks and expressions are covered like this. We were forbidden to meet with multiple households, friends. Forbidden to see your own parents in their homes. No funerals with family. That is just surreal. Who would think that could have happened in 2019? No one! The pressure on people is immense. In April 2021 the constitution in Germany got changed without any real opposition and is still in effect today. Aldous Huxley or Georg Orwell books are current again! Music is a great healer and keeps me motivated to go on. It almost felt like a period of that any culture whatsoever was forbidden and singing the ultimate evil to spread aerosols. The only way to vent my feelings about all these topics is by writing about it and from what I see people understand completely what I say because it is an experience we all endured and still endure more or less.
The impact of a lockdown has is severe on people’s mental health. People were made scared! We are social beings, we need to be with people. The chopping and changing of rules and coloring countries constantly into red, yellow, or green. The stress levels because of it will cause illness! When I was shooting material for the “lockdown” video in town I got confronted even more with the very fact of how sad and terrifying this all really is. It felt liberating to do something with this topic and put it in an artistic format.
“No Way Out”, “Great Depression”, I believe Limbo is one of the darkest albums in terms of a message sent so far, it seems you lost all hope, is this impression wrong?
RM : Yes, so far I lost all hope for our lives to be ever as we were accustomed to.
The damage done by regulations imposed by governments is way bigger than you and I can imagine. It will certainly come clear when all is studied, analysed, and released. I am sure of it. This will be the biggest black page in history regarding politics and politicians incompetence or maybe even their cunning. Maybe it will be hushed up like so many things. All who would have a different opinion than the government’s party line is vilified with scorn and name calling. Normal people with concerns are stigmatised to marginal groups no one wants to belong to. So people stay quiet only talk to people they trust, like in China or North Korea.
Certainly a lot of things need to be changed. Our behavior, our way of movement, what we eat, the ever growing world population, the climate change. All these important topics beg for change and we need to find real answers soon. We cannot go on like this.
Was it Mojca who was responsible for creating artworks again?
RM : Yes, she creates all our artwork since 1992. She expressed with the sleeve a vision of Limbo very good considering how difficult it is to visualise a theme like this well. It leaves a lot to the viewers imagination.
Is Limbo in any way a continuation of Spider on the Wall? The circumstances it was created in are similar.
RM : No, Spider On the Wall was for me a normal continuation after the album Days of Black written in “normal times’. It was mainly introspective delving whilst Limbo is completely inspired on the current going ons. All influences came from outside me. Just with me interpreting what I feel because of it. Limbo is then also my first unintentional concept album ever.
I had a chance to see you at Castle Party in July, and I must say I’m always impressed with how you create a fantastic atmosphere and mesmerize your audience every time. What does it take to play a good concert in your view?
RM : A lot of practice first of all. Playing shows on a constant basis also helps. Secondly you must believe in what you are doing and not being bored with your songs. You have to stay fresh and take each and every show as serious as it is your most important show ever. People do race on what they see and hear and when you get the feedback of the audience you get even more a buzz and visa versa.
Clan of Xymox poetics is very characteristic, do you feel art serves a purpose of conveying certain emotions, can it still offer some sort of catharsis both for the audience and the artist himself? What is your approach to your music?
RM : In the end I believe that the listener must be able to identify him/herself with the words and music as a whole. I always start with the music first so the mood being set is triggering my thoughts and emotions in order to write the fitting words. In the end both must be one.
Is the music of other artists inspire you? Do you have any specific favorite bands that inspire you now?
RM : There is a whole bunch of new bands which got inspired by the 80s and inspire me again with their interpretation of the music and making it their own. All the bands who worked on remixes for the last two albums certainly inspire me and I know I did inspire them . This is the ideal symbiosis between bands.
Could you tell me more about what the work on the new album looked like? Was the process different given the pandemic conditions? Was it similar to when you were recording Spider on the Wall in 2020?
RM : Absolutely a day and night difference. Whilst I recorded Spider On The Wall in freedom and I could do whatever I wanted (within reason) the album Limbo was written in the most dire conditions. Culture felt banned and is still sporadic even now. It is nearly gone. I had ample time to write songs because we were not allowed to play live shows. As a musician it is most frightening that nothing is allowed anymore. You are treated as a non essential, a second rate person no one needs. That is scary. I tried to bend this feeling into something positive for myself and write about it and make videos accordingly. Here and there we get an outlet to play in the summer, in open air, but I fear for the autumn when it is too cold to do things outside and shows are still not allowed inside a venue. It will be the death of a lot of clubs and bands.
You have quite an extensive tour scheduled, including Canada and the US, in March 2022. How do you feel about playing live shows again?
RM : Mind you, we are still keep on shifting shows. Once a while we can play here and there but on average we as artist are still in a cultural lock down. We have to travel, play for crowds and governments are still scared concerts are super spreading events although it has been proven all over Europe with clinical experiments that this is not the case. These crowd experiments were conducted with thousands of people. We are completely dependent on the whims of governments who do not have any real strategy but the last centuries answer on the Spanish Flu when they had the same measures in place. Findings of today’s scientists are not listened to.
So far the USA has banned Europeans going to the USA and now Europe has done the same for the USA, they can’t go to Europe anymore. Australia and New Zealand are in complete isolation and so on. The world gets very small for artist to play. The UK and Netherlands, some areas in Germany and Belgium have started with concerts again. So hopefully this will be the start of a new worldwide acceptance of live music again.
There are voices now that we need to treat all this as an endemic, that all will get covid eventually and need to carry on with life. With vaccinations given to most people the severity will be way less than without them is the main reason that things can relax more they say. This is what they are doing in the UK now and so far the hospital admissions did not go up.
What is your impression regarding playing in the US? Does it differ in any way from your European experience?
RM : In the USA we tour three weeks non-stop. That used to be three or four months back in the days but to that kind of touring I never want to go back again. In Europe we just do shows here and there but never non-stop. I prefer to see a town and stay there a few days for a concert. That way you get to enjoy a tour.
What may the audience in the US expect of the tour? How do you prepare for it?
RM : I think a person just goes to a show in one town. We choose our set and play always classics as well as new songs and everything in-between. So far it worked really well and most shows in the past were always sold out.
Apart from the extensive tour, what can we expect from Clan of Xymox in the following months?
RM : Trying to cross some borders and stay healthy. [winks]
Thank you very much!