When I was 18, I started a band called ‘Clan of Xymox’, together with Ronny Moorings, in the Netherlands. Initially there were just the two of us. Using a TEAC 144 four-track tape recorder, a Korg MS-10 and MS-20, a BOSS Dr. Rhythm DR-55 and some guitar and effects pedals, we recorded a 5-song EP Subsequent Pleasures which we self-released in 1983, limited to 500 vinyl copies. A bit later, in 1985, we signed a recording deal with indie label 4AD in London, and a bit later still, a worldwide deal with Polygram in NYC. We ended up recording four albums and many singles over a period of 7-8 years.
Our first mini-album Subsequent Pleasures has now been re-released on vinyl, after 30 years, by US label Dark Entries. They asked me if I possibly still had any of the original artwork – as I had designed the cover artwork at the time – and to write a liner note to go with this re-release. I had to dig a little, not just literally in storage rooms, but also into memories of how the recordings and artwork were done at that time.
At the time of recording Subsequent Pleasures, I was a student and also worked as a silkscreen designer at a music venue called Oktopus, in Amsterdam. In this pre-computer era, posters were silkscreen printed and flyposted all over town every month. Poster designs were handmade from scratch: text had to be manually-aligned and transferred from a transparent sheet of lettering styles. Arial, Times and Helvetica were most popular in the 80s – just as they are now – Verdana had not been designed yet. Oktopus had shelves full of groovy and psychedelic 70s fonts too. The venue had started as a hippie venue in the 70s, by the time I joined it had turned punk/new wave. The graphic design of the posters usually involved images, or details of photos, contrast-rich and in a punky fashion. Black and white films were developed in a darkroom stuck on the top floor at the end of a winding staircase and images were blown up using an enlarger to the actual poster size. Once the designs were finished, the different layers of film were projected onto the screens. After that the screens were coated with paint and the actual printing onto paper could begin, using a floodbar to push the ink through the holes in the mesh. Each paper had to dry before the next colour could be printed. We would print 500-1000 posters every month and the space would be hazy with the smell of inks and paint thinner emulsion. Big windows opened out onto the canal but in winter we’d start feeling slightly dizzy and high on all the chemicals. Later I moved on as a silkscreen designer to the Milky Way, a popular music venue in Amsterdam still going today, before my music career took over.
The 500 sleeves of the Subsequent Pleasures EP were silkscreen printed – using 2 colours on the front sleeve, the back sleeve just black – basing the sleeve design on a drawing I had done that summer and using some cutouts and blown-up details of photos. It’s striking how similar different forms of art can be: both in the layering of colours and the layering of sounds. Building a song on a 4-track TEAC tape machine – as we did on Subsequent Pleasures – or seeing a poster take shape by adding layers of ink.
In those days, I was equally divided between music and the arts. Once we got signed to 4AD, music became my main focus and career for the next 15 years. When I changed careers again later and became a web designer/developer in the late 90s, it partly felt like a pleasant return to graphic design. The technical side – web development programming – isn’t so far off music programming either: once the computer took centre stage in music production, from around 1987, our studio was built around it and we worked our way through many development phases in music software.
All songs were remastered for vinyl by George Horn at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley. All jackets have been silk-screened again with the same pink and grey paint, using the original plates I created in 1983. Each copy includes a fold-out pink newsprint poster with previously unseen photos of the band, lyrics and liner notes by me and Ronny. It’s quite amazing smelling them freshly printed again.