Victorians, Fables and Looping Machines – an interview with Jordan Reyne

By Jordan Mooney.

Today’s interview is with another performer we saw at Whitby Goth Weekend.

Despite being the first act of her night, she ended up becoming the performer of the Saturday evening and has completely dominated our aspirations of whom to interview from the line up.

With a seriously intelligent performance – building a complete band from only this one lady and a guitar. This is the first time we’ve ever seen the magic of looping machines on stage, and with it this single performer somehow succeeded in toppling the competition, even, for me, providing a more fascinating spectacle than the ‘big’ group of the evening.

With incredibly well produced lyrics telling stories of people surviving in the smoky backdrop of the Victorian Industrial revolution, it’s no wonder as to why Jordan Reyne has taken our head honcho’s interest so strongly.

This lady is one of the few musicians to write fables, stories and tomes about life in one of the world’s most progressive – yet complicated – eras of history.

And it’s a wonder to behold.

She’s up there with our favourites, after only one relatively short set – and we have every intention of seeing her again.

Complimented immensely by a strong sense of entrepreneurship – her mailing list offers free music, she releases tracks on Soundcloud for free download, performs ‘virtually’, and even builds some seriously hypnotic music videos on budgets as little as…well, nothing – she’s a performer who knows how to construct what can only be dubbed a full-scale media operation – something that we at Cat on the Wall are immensely passionate about. She’s a performer whom knows music is more than just music – and that, in our opinion, makes her futureproof.

With all of this credential, it’s no wonder we’ve been chasing an interview for so long. But Miss Reyne, it turns out, is also happy to sit down and chat to those beguiled by her work. And was all too happy to answer some questions.




Cat on the Wall: Hi there, Miss Reyne! Welcome to Cat on the Wall (at last!) and thank you for taking the time to talk to us. How are you today?

Jordan Reyne: Good – Though feeling a bit fighty, as one of my videos was mysteriously banned from YouTube – after I mentioned in a radio interview that it was about New Zealand’s prime minister, John Key… It’s back up now, and I’m not sure if someone found it offensive, but I’ve never had one banned before. It was a new, and somewhat flummoxing experience for me!


COTW: Before we begin, could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

JR: Well, I won’t spell my name, ‘cos my spelling is that bad I’ll get it wrong! I’m a Celtic rock musician, with a fascination for Grimm’s fairytale-esque lyrics, and ‘found sounds’ – especially transport sounds and sounds from factories. I like to tell stories that sound old, but are actually about present day issues.


COTW: How did you first become the musical purveyor of the elegant and industrial you are today?

JR: My beginnings were hilariously inelegant..! I grew up on a peninsula on the west coast of New Zealand’s south island. It was one of those wild places, where the surf just seems to tear at the roots of mountains, that come straight down to the sea. I was surrounded by that sound, and we didn’t have any musical instruments at home, except for mum’s piano – which I didn’t like the sound of.

I used to sing a lot. Loudly, and rather tunelessly. I woke my mum up with theme tunes from children’s programmes. Eventually, I got into rhythms by hitting bits of old iron. There was a lot of it about, as there were a couple of dilapidated farms up on the hills, where you could find bits of corrugated iron and nails and things.

Obviously, no parent enjoys such sounds! Eventually, they sent me to a guitar teacher, so I could learn something a bit more pleasant to accompany my wailings. I never lost my love for sounds from things around me though. Sea, machinery, or what few vehicles there were.


COTW: We of course first saw you live at Whitby Goth Weekend earlier this year… how did you enjoy it?!

JR: It was such a wonderful experience. What a great crowd! I was really honoured that they came early too, as a lot of the time support bands play to small crowds. The people there were so receptive and responsive. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and it was so well organized. In short, I had a blast!



COTW: Speaking of the goth weekend…you’re practically nomadic thanks to your tour schedule . Where else have you performed? Where does Whitby Goth stand in the ranking…?

JR: Nomadic yes, and also a tad hectic! I’ve toured Poland a few times and played in the Netherlands and a lot in Germany. I toured New Zealand too before I left, and have had shows in California recently. The thing is too, there is almost always something to enjoy about new places. Wave Gothic Treffen in Leipzig was definitely a highlight, but I did enjoy Whitby just as much. I’m always awed when I get to play in amazing buildings though as well – there was a castle in Poznan I played that spans an entire block, and is all lit up at night with stone statues. The Sheppard’s Bush Empire was amazing too though – it has 3 layers to it. It means you walk out on stage to this wall of faces – Fields of the Nephilim fans faces in my case as I was just supporting. It was so intimidating, but they were lovely as well.


COTW: As an alternative musician yourself, how do you feel about the alternative scene – what it is, how it stands, and the support it receives, in the United Kingdom? Do you think more should be done? 

JR: It’s pretty much impossible for me to comment on the alternative music scene as a whole due to my seeing only certain parts of it. There are a lot of enclaves to it as well, that are very much underground – or in some cases, in cyberspace. When I’m not on tour, I play in Virtual Realities and cam based online performance platforms. It’s a community that is entirely outside the radar of music conglomerates and cartels. They haven’t gotten their claws into it yet, so people are still able to gravitate to what they like, rather than being shouted at from all directions by advertising that tells them what to like. It’s incredibly refreshing to be part of it.

I do also perform to the part of the alternative scene that are open to dark and bloodthirsty music – metal, Goth, industrial and similar. What I love about that side of the alternative scene is the realisation that the darker sides of the human emotional spectrum are just as valid to write about as the happy, light and distracting ones. I come from a culture that actively discourages any voicing of what they deem to be “negative” emotions. It’s quite stultifying. You get told to chill, or cheer up, or look on the bright side. Sometimes that is a useful tactic, but sometimes it does more harm than good, because people who are going through rough times feel alienated, and like they might be alone in their experience. We all have good and bad times, and music for all colours on the human emotional spectrum is something I believe in strongly. The alternative scene I engage with get that, and it makes me glad to be part of it.


COTW: Your music has a comfortable settling in the industrial revolution. Do you have a particularly strong interest in this stage of history?

JR: I do, yes. There is the political side where the alienation of labour becomes a key issue – one I don’t think is at all resolved. There is also the sonic side to it – people coming to terms with machines and living amongst some of the loudest and most imposing ones there are.

There are some fascinating stories you unearth when you hunt out factories to record.

One I found was that the women in the textile mills often had babies, and were of course too poor to have them looked after by someone. They would swaddle them in cloth and bind them to pallets. The pallets got hung on the walls of the factories, so there must have been rows of babies hanging their as the mothers worked. It’s unthinkable now, but back then, it was just what you did.

Factories are LOUD. You find that out recording them too. They drone in a certain key, and the rhythmic aspect is often on the verge of deafening. When I write stories about the people who lived at the time, I like to put them in those surroundings – as that is what it’d have been like for them.


COTW: The industrial revolution – and much of the Victorian world – has a constant presence in ‘Goth’. What do you think it is about this universe that has built such a gigantic presence in the subculture?

JR: To be honest I don’t think much at all about the more glamorous side, though I know a lot of people enjoy that aspect. I’m more interested in the lives of the quietly brave. Such people are generally overlooked, but for me, it is a far more relatable experience. They are the ones that are like us. History picks people who are imagined to be causal, but they’re often the result of an existing movement, or wave of change. They are too often singled out as being important, or causal because of their high visibility or rank. That visibility or rank often stems from being in a position of privilege. Most of us will die and be forgotten, so I don’t freely relate to the ones labelled grand or infamous. A lot of the love for the Victorian seems to involve the glamour and lifestyle that few of us would have had. I can enjoy it on the level of fantasy and costume, but not so much on the level of story. That said, I do think there is more to costume and fantasy to peoples love for it. Perhaps nostalgia, or forgotten modes of being. But, like I say, any explanation I give of its popularity is likely to be inaccurate ‘cos I lack the love for that aspect of it!


COTW: My personal favourite record from your rather impressive roster is Children of a Factory Nation, which deals with separate people, all of the same bloodline, enduring the harsh, unforgiving uncertainty of this very setting. How did this album’s production come to be?

JR: When my grandma died I was visiting my family. My grancha (they were both welsh) had done some work on our family tree. It was as fascinating for what was there as for what wasn’t. There were branches that vanished into the ether, and ones that didn’t actually join up – as he had been tipped off they were related, when, really, there was no link that was findable. I was fascinated by one of the ones that wasn’t actually related to my own – a family from Cardiff where the father, who was a sailor, had drowned in a few feet of water. It turns out it was fairly common that sailors couldn’t all swim back then, but I had some image in my head of his wanting to return to a life on the sea when the life on the land, and the expectation of those around him, made him feel trapped. Total projection of course, but we had so few facts about them. It’s a contrast to the album about the New Zealand pioneer family where I found a lot of facts and tried to represent them as well as I could in the album. With Children of a Factory Nation, I combined what I knew with what was more like fable. I wanted to do that though – to storify everyday lives in a way that made them stand for something more than they were. Something that makes sense for what people seek or face, regardless of when they were born.



COTW: Live, you’ve gained further reputation for a rather creative method of performing. We briefly touched upon this in our Whitby Goth review, but would you care to explain it in further detail for our readers? Was this method of your own conception, or did you build it from previous performers?

JR: Again, it was that trip to my uncles, after my Grandma died. He is a great guy, but from a very different background to my own (I am the crazy auntie in my family. Everyone has one!). What we had in common was a love of music and in particular, music gadgets. He had a digitech looper. We were messing around with it, and I just fell in love with what it could do. It opened up so many doors to be able to sample your own voice as you perform – it meant I could use vocal harmony as a soloist. I love vocal harmony, so this meant the world to me, and I was determined to figure out an effective way of doing it that offered build and dynamics.


COTW: Finally, what’s in store for you? Do you have any big plans you can tell us about..?

JR: Well, it depends what you call big 😉 For me, taking on a trilogy to release in the course of a year is pretty big. It’s 3 EPs in 12 months, all the lead-in times for promotion, all the associated videos, tour organization, photo shoots, artwork, web work and so on… It’s a massive undertaking for one person. When I’m not touring, I play around 6 shows a week online, and a monthly newsletter that is more like a mini magazine, so there is huge time pressure. Writing 3 lots of 5 songs, then recording and mixing them, is incredibly time consuming, and I do it all myself. I’ve learned a lot about mixing from working with Steve Carey from the Eden House, and I’m blessed to have Simon Rippin on drums, but it’s still a lot of work my side. I know it’s not launching a rocket or anything, but it is the most intense thing I have done so far.


COTW: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us, Miss Reyne. It’s been a pleasure having you, and thank you for your enthusiasm for appearing with us throughout – any last words to our readers?!

JR: Really, just a thank you, ‘cos you are reading this. It is something to treasure that people still do hunt out indie bands, indie magazines and blogs, and are prepared to hunt for new music and ideas – rather than just lying back and letting the ideas and music that come to us through the convenient channels wash over you. I’m stoked that online communities are so strong, and give us all a place to be and to find what we genuinely love.


With those rather touching final words, Miss Reyne leaves us with more than just this interview to display. She’s only just released her latest music video, The Shadow Line, and there’s a two of our favourites we’d like to share too…


The Shadow Line – from the Maiden, Mother, Crone trilogy
Done on zero budget – but not lacking in atmosphere.
Available here!


Servitude – also from the Maiden, Mother, Crone trilogy
Not only a wonderful track, but an incredibly chilling – and massively creative – video. A great lesson for ‘spook’ bands wanting a more minimalistic thrill to their accompaniments.
Available here!


Johnny and the Sea – from Children of a Factory Nation
Simply, a miniature masterpiece. Atmosphere, imagery, and premise – all the ultimatum of what Jordan Reyne stands for.
Available here!


Finally, don’t forget to visit her Website, Facebook page, etc…
Like all of the finest musicians of the 21st Century, Miss Reyne keeps us constantly updated via social networks, and with her hectic tour schedule – both virtual and in the flesh – there’s always something to look out for.



About the author

Compulsive hat wearer, eccentric, fan of all things audio-visual, part time Goth, historian, and railway enthusiast, Jordan is the closest you can get to everybody's weird uncle. Except he's less than 60 years old.

1 Comment

  1. Allen Shechtman

    One of the world’s truly musical and literary Artists- I’ve always found Jordan’s music to be captivating, melodic, hypnotic, intelligent, emotional and driven from something inside of her. She’s not just a performer or a writer of trite lyric and pleasant melodies- she is one of those rare Artists that we are lucky to have. The interview just touches the surface of her art. Thanks for giving her to your audience.

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