Photograph by Anabel DFlux
INTERVIEW WITH CURSE MACKEY BY ANABEL DFLUX
Curse Mackey is a familiar name in the industrial music world, being a figure in bands such as Pigface and My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult. 2019 saw the album debut, Instant Exorcism, of the musician’s self-named personal project, which led to accruing quite a fan base following his every endeavor. We had the opportunity to pick Curse’s mind, discuss all of the recent happenings in his world, the unique artwork that continued forth, and what’s coming next.
With the current climate revolving around lockdowns and pandemic survival, the end result has barred concerts from taking place in 2020. As such, musicians have had to begin finding new methods of engaging and entertaining their audience. Curse had taken this challenge and built it into something extraordinary for his fans.
“Live streaming is certainly a silver lining in an otherwise very dark cloud that we are in. I noticed there was a heavy shift when things really shut down—that there was deluge of lo-fi, live streaming taking place. I put a lot of effort into my live set when we are in an actual venue, so when it comes to a live stream, I need to translate that same energy to the audience through a remote performance. A single camera kind of thing doesn’t work for me as a viewer or producer. So, Rona Rougeheart of SINE and I invested some of our money and a lot of our brain cells and patience in converting our home studio into more of a performance space, creating a micro sound stage with live streaming capabilities. We’ve built a nice little home TV studio at this point with backdrops, programmed lighting, and projections. We’ve invested in a few cameras and a high quality camera switcher/encoder. We had good success in the first test runs, so now there’s more on the way for the month of August and beyond, and it’s beginning to be a lot of fun to create these virtual events.”
“LIVE STREAMING IS CERTAINLY A SILVER LINING IN AN OTHERWISE VERY DARK CLOUD THAT WE ARE IN.”
Mackey’s initial step into the live streaming universe came from Rona’s Villains Wear Black Party for the release of SINE’s “Desolate District” video single. “We had Chris Connelly from Ministryand Revolting Cockson with us, as he co-wrote ‘Desolate District’ [Mackey co-produced the track]. Rona and I did this one in a talk show format, discussing the making of the song and video and then we premiered the video followed by additional music videos from our various projects.”
Curse Mackey: Live Exorcism was my first solo live stream show and that was great. We had three cameras with live video effects processing, projection, and really tested the boundaries with how much information the internet can swallow at one time. That’s kind of the thing that I’m really trying to tweak, to refine the experience for the viewer and what I can control to make it a better presentation. I am really trying to push towards a high definition audio and video presentation. Sometimes the fast body movements, strobes, and camera movements just choke the live feed causing pixelation and unwanted glitches and audio artifacting. So, these are constant adjustments being made as we refine the art form and the streaming platforms we use to improve their product. On an almost nightly basis now, Rona and I are shooting ambient, experimental videos that we will both be making available on our new Patreon pages, and creating new SINE and Curse Mackey music videos. Our video library and production skills are growing, which has been really fun—making music television at home for our entertainment and the future entertainment of others.”
“IT’S MAGICAL. IT GIVES ARTISTS A PORTAL TO BUILD NEW REVENUE STREAMS AND CREATE AMAZING THINGS WITH THEIR AUDIENCE”
When asked what Curse believes the future holds for live streaming, he responded, “I think it’s magical. It gives artists a portal to build new revenue streams and create amazing things with their audience and those offerings can be very diverse. I liked hosting the Q&A on my live stream and getting to share my paintings and talk about the creative process while I was showing some of my original art. There’s a great opportunity through live streaming for artists within a network to build each other up and for their fans to participate. This has been the upside of this sometimes despairing down time.”
Live streaming certainly existed prior to the pandemic that swept the world, though we may notice it more prominently now. As to whether or not the music industry was steering towards this virtual format prior to being forcefully thrust into it, Curse feels, “Live music was doing quite well. I was busier than ever, and most of my contemporaries were also quite busy. The shutdown was like hitting a brick wall because there was a ton of momentum for so many artists.”
“IT TOOK A WHILE TO JUST WRAP MY HEAD AROUND, LIKE MANY OTHERS, OF HAVING MY WORLD YANKED OUT FROM UNDER ME.”
Once Covid hit and the calendar was wiped clean, one had to quickly adapt. “The tour I was on with Clan of Xymox and The Bellwether Syndicate was canceled in March halfway through. Then my dates supporting Stabbing Westward that were planned for May got nixed and then the obviously large cancellation of a 45 day Pigface tour. Just like that, it was canceled in secession. It was very depressing because of how much momentum I had. This was the peak of 18 months of work that went into making Instant Exorcism, and it was like the same brick wall experience for me—when all that just comes to a screeching halt. It took a while to just wrap my head around, like many others, of having my world yanked out from under me. Ultimately, we have to adapt to a new way of performing and keeping the business part of our projects alive.”
“THE CROWDS WERE JUST SO ENGAGED, FUN, AND ENTHUSIASTIC, AND THE BAND VIBE WAS SO GOOD!”
These virtual performances have certainly filled a void where concerts once were, both for the fans and the performer. But to divert the conversation into live concert memories, Curse has had a slew of tremendous touring experiences prior to today. “My favorite tours evolve over time. I’ve been very fortunate the last couple of years with some fantastic tours that supersede things of the past. Notably, the 2019 Pigface tour was stellar. The band hadn’t toured in some time, and it had been almost three years since the last Pigface show. The crowds were just so engaged, fun, and enthusiastic, and the band vibe was so good! We had the bonus of having Randy Blythe from Lamb of God out with us. Randy was initially only going to do the first three or four shows, but he was having so much fun by the first show that he stayed on for all 20 dates. Then Danny Carey of Tool joined us for a couple of shows. Having both those guys on stage at the same time, in addition to what was normally going on with Pigface was super rad and very gratifying. That’s why I like to spend so much time in the crowd during Pigface shows as it’s total pandemonium on stage!”
Curse is notable for having been in some incredible industrial projects, such as My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult and Pigface, which led to the next inquiry. How did these endeavors shape this current Curse Mackey project? “The projects I’ve been involved in inevitably influence what comes next just because I’m the beacon, the sponge that absorbs these influences and then channels them through my own filters. Same with the books I read or the movies that I watch. A cool thing with music is that you can allow your influences to participate in your music making. Even sampling sound effects or dialog from movies can inspire new sounds and compositions. I embrace my influences as a source of inspiration and something to strive for or take to a new level. That’s how I work.”
“I’M THE BEACON, THE SPONGE THAT ABSORBS THESE INFLUENCES AND THEN CHANNELS THEM THROUGH MY OWN FILTERS.”
On the topic of projects, Curse was a lovely addition to the most recent Beauty in Chaosrelease, lending his artistic talents to the song “A Kind Cruelty” off of the album The Storm Before the Calm, for which a video was released back in February. Beauty in Chaos is a collaborative project masterminded by Michael Ciravolo (Gene Loves Jezebel, Schecter Guitar Research), featuring a wide array of known musical talents (such as Ministry’s Al Jourgensen, Ashton Nyte, Wayne Hussey of The Mission, Ice-T, and many more exquisite musicians). “The two Michael’s [Michael Ciravolo and Michael Rozon] did an incredible job producing the track. It has a powerful, uplifting gothic rock anthem feel. It’s a great song and has been very well received. I am very happy to have been invited to participate!”
Performances aren’t the only staple in the environment that Curse had created for his fans. From the solo project’s inception, visual art has deeply intertwined with the debut album Instant Exorcism and most recently, a new version of the album’s cassette (you read that right, cassette). “What I’m doing now is part of my process of creating one of a kind art pieces that are part of the Instant Exorcism experience, if you will. There’s a body of 11 songs on the album and soon to be released remixes, but there’s also this visual library of paintings, ambient videos, and other sculptures that I’ve made that are part of the artwork that is on the album. If you buy the vinyl, you might get a one of a kind hand painted Curse-a-Fix with that or various packaging that is unique unto itself. For the cassette, I found some old portable cassette players that I collaged and painted up with Instant Exorcism imagery and then that comes with the cassette. So, essentially, the cassette comes with its own one-of-a-kind customized cassette player. There is also a paranormal recorder that both plays and records, so you can remove my cassette, and perhaps make your own weird collage tapes with this recorder—it seems to pick up strange sounds in the cemetery next door to my house (laughs). I’ve been enjoying creating these one of a kind relics that make for cool collectability of the music and art.”
“THIS RECORDER—IT SEEMS TO PICK UP STRANGE SOUNDS IN THE CEMETERY NEXT DOOR TO MY HOUSE”
Creating artwork is an enjoyable activity for Curse, so when asked to dive into the artwork surrounding Instant Exorcism, he says, “I was just doing these collages and mixed media paintings. I kind of live out of a suitcase full of cutout pieces of paper, which is a strange thing to travel with I guess. I had the working title Instant Exorcism in my mind for a long time, so it wasn’t really an instant exorcism at all. Then I just went digging through the imagery and started developing these repeatable themes, shapes, and characters into paintings and collages, making more and more pieces. Rona Rougeheart is a phantasmic photographer and graphic designer, so she did a photo shoot of the paintings and montaged that up further into the actual album art packaging. So, at the Instant Exorcism record release party in Austin, Texas last year, I brought out 15 different paintings that were used for the final album art and are a part of the whole body of work related to the album. All of this artwork further led to being projections for the live performances. It all works as one organism perfectly intertwined.
What’s next for Curse and his fans? Mackey reveals, “On the upside of the tour cancellations, it has allowed me to get further ahead on making new music and art. I have several new songs in the works for my next solo release, which will be a companion piece to Instant Exorcism. Its name derives from part of Instant Exorcism and will expand upon that world. It will feature new songs as well as some pretty intense Instant Exorcism remixes. So, that’s the next Curse Mackey stuff. I’m also working closely with Rona Rougeheart co-producing the next SINE album. ‘Desolate District’ is the video single she most recently put out and the second song we’ve done for the new album. So, that’ll continue. Chase Dobson [Instant Exorcism co-producer] and I just finished a Clan of Xymox remix for the title track of their new album Spider on the Wall. As we speak we are mixing an album for a new band project that Rona, myself, and several other notable artists have in the works, but I’m not really supposed to talk about it too much yet. I promise to let you know as soon as possible. It’s going to be epic!”
Furthermore, fans can expect to engage with Curse on an exclusive platform in the near future. With the chaos of the social media environment, Curse feels, “I’m trying to get away from it. I don’t like the idea of just giving my live stream away free to Facebook or YouTube, even though there’s an audience there. We are working on developing platforms that make the online gathering a little more private, more personal, and more artist-centric. I want to give the people that care about my music and art the most a better environment to experience music. Facebook is disruptive to immersion in an experience because the notifications and the distractions, and the rhetoric that is going on outside of that virtual venue is highly volatile. Just like I would not want to play in a venue that creates an unsafe environment for my fans, I would prefer not to do that in the online setting as well. So, throughout this year into next you’ll see me in some new, unexplored places, and that is an exciting development out of all of the challenges and chaos we’re experiencing.”