Clock DVA Is Finding a Renaissance in the New Industrial Era

With the recent upswing in popularity of industrial and experimental electronic music with new artists emerging from the older goth-industrial scene, it seems as though Clock DVA was ahead of the curve when it reactivated in 2008. Groups like Youth Code, BURNING, Troller, All Your Sisters, Curse and Echo Beds draw some of their musical DNA from Clock DVA and that early industrial scene.

Adi Newton, the project's founder and sole original member, was involved in the early industrial and experimental music scene in Sheffield, England. He, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh formed the short-lived band the Future before splitting in 1977. Ware and Marsh went on to commercial success with the more pop-oriented Human League and Heaven 17, while Newton stuck to his more avant musical instincts with Clock DVA and the Anti-Group.

Along with Sheffield peers like Cabaret Voltaire and Manchester's Throbbing Gristle, Clock DVA helped shape the aesthetic of industrial music by expanding what could be called music and what methods were acceptable for making it. The Velvet Underground had made such a process respectable a decade earlier, and the early industrial bands pushed even the conceptualization of the art further with multi-media shows and challenging music.

Newton specifically found inspiration in new-wave science-fiction writers like J.G. Ballard and Anthony Burgess, experimental filmmakers like Maya Deren and Kenneth Anger, as well as avant-garde electronic musicians such as Theremin, Varèse, Stockhausen, BBC Radiophonic Workshop composer Delia Derbyshire and Morton Subotnick. “We drew inspiration from their sort of thing and to go on to make our own sorts of sounds,” says Newton. “[We saw] a different way of making music in different forms. On the radio, you would hear pop tunes and not John Cage or Morton Subtonick. I got some stuff of theirs on LP. I'd find them in junk shops. People didn't understand them and would give them away.”

Throughout the '80s, Clock DVA innovated methods of using samples, a technique Newton had learned the hard way using tape recorders, putting the music in a similar line of innovation as hip-hop with its longstanding use of samples. In 1989 the band released Buried Dreams, which realized Newton's vision for creating music that felt like a cinematic experience.

In the '90s, Clock DVA hit a number of stumbling blocks in the industry but continued to release albums. Newton also worked on a project with SPK members Graeme Revell and Brian Williams, as well as Paul Haslinger of Tangerine Dream. Since taking back up with Clock DVA, Newton seems more active than ever, and the group's back catalogue is in demand. “Young people have been coming to the shows and dancing, and that's the best,” says Newton. “It's good to be doing this [for the] people who were too young to go to the shows or appreciate the music at that time. There's a new generation of people listening to the music.”

Clock DVA with Cervello Elettronico, Sleep Clinic and Echo Beds, Sunday, September 25, 7 p.m., Syntax Physic Opera, 720-456-7041, $18, 21+
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.

Latest Stories