Having emerged during the no-wave era, Melbourne-born hyperactive singer, composer, and producer JG Thirlwell recently forged a new moniker – Xordox (his debut “Neospection” appeared on the excellent catalog of Edition Mego this year) – and added it to the impressive list of his multifaceted musical personalities. Some of you might know other ones such as Foetus, Clint Ruin, or Frank Want, with which he contributed to a likewise long list of releases by Nurse With Wound, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Marc Almond, Lydia Lunch, Jim Coleman, Electronicat and many others. Let’s dig into this new identity, as well as the interesting musical outlook of Mr. Thirlwell.
Chain D.L.K.: Hi, James! How are you?
Xordox: I am fine, thanks for asking.
Chain D.L.K.: It’s a big honor to talk to an artist who often gave some hassles to those reviewers in need of labeling music… I support such a style-drifting “policy”, but the release I’m listening to at the moment veers towards synth electronics, doesn’t it?
Xordox: The Xordox album is unapologetically and unrepentantly made with synthesizer and electronics. It is something I hinted at a little in some Venture Bros works, but this is a full on a synthesizer project, for the first time.
courtesy of Tina Schula
Chain D.L.K.: The above-mentioned confusion was also fostered by the impressive number of alter (or I’d rather say altering) egos…well, can you explain some possible “parental” relations of Xordox to previous alter egos?
Xordox: Xordox is a thing unto itself. The letter X is in common with Steroid Maximus and Manorexia; I like to include that letter. I was looking for a number of things when I chose the name Xordox – a name that would be the only thing that came up if you googled it. I was first trying to use a palindrome with the letter “X”, but most of those are being used by gamers or anti-depressants.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you mind if I say I miss some genial lyrical fits of cynicism and nihilism… In your opinion, what were the best ones?
Xordox: I am mostly happy with the lyrics I have written, but I think the ones on Hide, Love and Hole all stand up.
I also very much like the words I wrote for “Mine Is No Disgrace”, a collaboration I did with Melvins. A lot of people told me how much these words have resonated with them.
Chain D.L.K.: Well, let’s go back to the present… Why Xordox?
Xordox: I was invited by John Zorn to perform at his club The Stone in the East Village as part of a celebration of the centenary of William S. Burroughs. At first, I declined, as I didn’t feel I had anything to do, but I had been messing around with a Moog Little Phatty and Micro Korg hooked up to my laptop making arpeggios, and I wondered if I might do something with that, so I created a few pieces. I had been talking with Sarah Lipstate of Noveller for a while about doing a collaboration, and she was coming back to NY from the tour the day before the show. We had one rehearsal where I showed her the parts, and that was it. The show went well, and we performed it a few more times in NYC and once at a festival in Austin.
When I came to make the album, Sarah was on tour with Iggy and subsequently moved to LA. I wrote some new material which didn’t need any other instruments, so I have hijacked the project back for myself.
Chain D.L.K.: You show an impressive control of the synths you played with in “Neospection”… Would you say it’s related to your experience or the features of the devices you handled?
Xordox: I have been doing a residency at EMS in Stockholm over the past few years, mainly working on Buchla and Serge. I am not an expert on those instruments and usually get someone to help me with the initial patching. Some of that work found its way onto the Xordox album. There are synthesizer sounds on the Xordox album that I have just never used before, like synth string patches – I got to understand how that can be used, and their appeal.
Chain D.L.K.: Besides some classics of synth electronica, many moments of Neospection (particularly Destination: Infinity) resembled some stuff by Clock DVA for some strange reason… Any influence or relations to some of that sonic stuff?
Xordox: No, I haven’t heard ClockDVA since maybe 1980, but I noticed that Adi Newton played here recently. I’m not sure what he’s up to; I didn’t know they made synth music.
Chain D.L.K.: How did you make that sort of chorus in “Alto Velocidad”? Is the title a reference to Palo Alto?
Xordox: No, it means “high speed” in Spanish.
Xordox ‘Neospection’ cover artwork
Chain D.L.K.: The kind of musical language you explore in Neospection is normally linked to visions of the future by common listeners… Is your vision optimistic or pessimistic?
Xordox: The view is utopian. Space is the place.
Chain D.L.K.: What’s the track that required more time to forge, and why?
Xordox: They all took about the same time, but some were harder to mix than others. Normally, I work on recording projects, but some of these pieces were specifically written to play live and, as such, I found them harder to mix as they were created relying on volume.
Chain D.L.K.: Just out of curiosity…in your opinion, is it the music that inspires visions or thoughts, or vice versa?
Xordox: I’d say visions partially inspire the music, then later on, the music inspires visions. It’s a feedback loop!
Chain D.L.K.: Imagine you can choose a match of each track to some sci-fi movie, documentary or any other visual media…any tips?
Xordox: I made a video for the track “Diamonds” using footage from NASA, with their permission. Otherwise, I’d rather the track not be tied down to any one interpretation.
Chain D.L.K.: Did you perform Neospection on the live stage? If not, are you going to do that?
Xordox: As I mentioned, I performed a lot of the tracks as a duo with Sarah Lipstate of Noveller. Currently, I don’t have any plans to perform as Xordox.
Chain D.L.K.: Can you tell us something about the cover artwork? It comes from NASA archives, doesn’t it?
Xordox: The front cover features the schematic of the Buchla circuitry. On the back, there is an image of earth shot from the space station. On the inside of the CD, there are two photos juxtaposed – the Buchla control panel and the Space Station cockpit control panel, which was shot by Ben Cooper.
Chain D.L.K.: Any other work in progress?
Xordox: I am currently scoring new seasons of Archer and Venture Bros; that’s taking a lot of my time. In addition, I scored a short film last month, and I am scoring another short film this month. I am preparing an album release of my Cholera Nocebo project and am hoping to get around to some archival Foetus releases next year. I have started a new Foetus album, but it probably won’t see the light of day until 2020. Before that, I am hoping to make two albums of my string quartets, and maybe some more soundtrack albums will appear. There’s also a bunch of other stuff too numerous to mention. You can keep up with what I do on my website www.foetus.org and my Facebook page.
visit JG Thirlwell on the web at: www.foetus.org