Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Massive Egomania! Q&A with Massive Ego's Marc Massive
Dj Buddy Beaverhausen: Thank you so much for doing this Q&A as Dj Buddy Beaverhausen's readers love club music and want to know more about your newest song, "Sound of the Download." What brought about your doing a new single? Might there be an album in the works that we should know about?
Marc Massive: Hi, thanks for asking me. "Sound of the Download" was the first song written and recorded from a new batch of tracks I'm writing with the Irish band Empire State Human and [the song] has been ready for a while but we were waiting for the right time to release the project and I'd also got side-tracked with other writing earlier this year as some... collaborations came in that needed prompt attention and had earlier release times.
SOTD is a return to the pure pop sound that I'd been previously known for during my early NRG-infused releases. I'd been pigeon-holed over the years as being in a "covers" band, something I personally don't think Massive Ego ever were totally, but because we were signed to a famous UK covers label, naturally people put us in that bracket. Even though we did write our own material alongside, it was the big old dance floor covers that got the main release. I'm not knocking the old NRG sound we had, that scene has been very good to me over the years, putting us on the map and getting product out there, but after a fall out a few years ago with one of our main NRG producers, and the sorry state of label organisation and accounting, I'd had enough and removed myself from that scene.
I was getting tired of my tracks and mixes appearing on countless dodgy compilations around the world and only finding out about them when I Googled myself. I wanted the singles we released to be written by me, and needed to take the band in a darker direction visually and musically which resulted in a fresh start and self-released track, "I Idolize You" on our own label, Public Disordar Records, in 2011. We did confuse a hell of a lot of our fan base with that track; it was likened to Marilyn Manson meets Amanda Palmer and alienated a good chunk of our followers. Yet commercially I was able to see the sales coming in for the first time rather than relying on non-existent accounting from the previous label and, actually, the song had done quite well which gave me the gusto to carry on writing myself and handling the releases.
Shortly after "I Idolize You," I got offered to work with a cool Belgian label called Black Leather Records who specialized in electro-dance stuff, and they released a collaboration I did with Lia Organa & Electric Prince called "Dead Silence," again a very dark sound and accompanying video, but I guess that's where I was right then. I was going through quite a dark personal period around that time as I'd just seen a very close friend die of cancer, so that was obviously reflected in my writing. With SOTD, I consciously decided to lighten things up a bit, and the song's about illegal downloading and how it effects small artists, although the track is tongue in cheek and is neither pro or against illegal downloading. In fact, it's quite joyous in its approach with lines like "Don't fear the sound of the download leaking'." Album-wise, I'm still writing with the ESH boys, and certainly have an album's worth of tracks with them to write, but I've decided to release a series of EPs with the material as, at the speed I write (slowly), it's better to get them out sooner rather than later so that they still sound fresh, rather than waiting on me writing a full album's worth.
DBB: "Sound of the Download" also includes the Irish electronic band Empire State Human. How did this come to be a collaboration?
MM: Aidan Casserly, the singer with ESH. approached me with a load of tracks that needed words... and to be honest, he got in touch at just the right time as I don't think he realizes how close I was to retiring at that point. How could I resist the quality of tunes he'd presented, I’d have been mad to, it was a no brainer. At first, I was somewhat shy of revealing the lyrics to him as he's a very capable writer in his own right and being quite rusty in the writing department it filled me with fear and self-doubt sending him the demos, but he's been a complete darling and it's made me work harder at the writing which is why it takes me so long to complete a song. ESH made it pressure-free, no deadlines, no constrictions, just do it when I feel like it and that works for me. And, as a band, Empire State Human are the most productive I've ever seen. Just look at iTunes and you'll see the mass of work they've already put out there; they have an amazing work ethic.
MM: Much of it is history now although, until recently, myself and Olly -- my partner in life, love and the band -- were still curating the huge annual ACT ART event here in London [with] 100+ artists of cross-disciplines all performing under one large roof for one night only. It was a hugely successful event but one that took 4-5 months to organize for just a one night event which gradually was taking its toll on us both.
The early modeling years was an eye opener to an industry that directly led to me naming the band Massive Ego; the egos amazed yet alienated me from that world and I felt I didn’t really fit in, to the point where I was plucking my eyebrows and going to castings and the agency eventually said they didn’t know how to sell me anymore and offered me an agency booker's job instead, which I ultimately turned down and formed the band... where I could pluck my brows within an inch of their life, wear a load of slap and a strange wig and not have to worry about not getting the department store model job booking.
DJ’ing came much later, and although I’m pretty much retired from that these days, I did have a successful 3-4 year run of that, even though I was from the fader/crash school of mixing which didn't really matter as I was playing a lot of 80’s pop back then. The job that started this journey off for me was being in Jesus Loves You and dancing for Boy George and originally his label mate, MC Kinky. This was the biggest learning curve of my life being the naive young chicken I was back then. I learnt about showbiz inside out from two of the best pop stars I know. I'm still in touch with both of them and looking forward to possibly recording a song that George has earmarked for me soon.
DBB: Massive Ego's sound has been described as electro, as avant garde, as eyeliner-punk disco and so on. How would you describe it?
MM: I like all of that terminology although [we] were not particularly disco. I guess growing up in the 80’s and loving new wave bands like Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Visage and Japan, we obviously reflect that in our sound. Dark Electro Pop best sums us up I guess.
DBB: The band formed in 1996. How has it changed or evolved over time? What was it like when you attained international popularity? And what was the struggle like to arrive at that point?
MM: There’s an in-joke with the band that if we tried to get everyone together that has ever performed in the band’s line-up over the years on stage... we’d need a stadium.... There has been an awful lot of line-up changes in the last 17 years. Andy, who started the band with me, left for a long time preferring to concentrate on his own techno-infused tracks, but he flits back in now and then, more recently in than not. The biggest success story was Dan Black who used to play guitar in the band in the early days; he’s now a huge star I knew he would be as his writing and performing is brilliant; his recent duet with Kelis is amazing. I’m often surprised when I find out that we are known in different territories around the world and I guess that is due in part to the amount of dance compilations we have been featured on over the years and, of course now with the digital age, our name is spreading more easily. I still have a yearning to travel and perform abroad more, as we have no management as such; it’s hard organizing trips to far-off climes, but it is something we’d very much like to do again. We signed to a German label a few years back which turned into a bit of a disaster and what should of resulted in some live dates there resulted in just disappointment.
DBB: Will you be touring in the near future?
MM: We’ve just last week supported the legendary Visage fronted by my mate, Steve Strange, at a gig in London on their Hearts & Knives 2013 tour; I’m hoping we can be their support for a forthcoming tour of Europe as I think the fit between our two bands is a close one.... [W]e even performed our Nite Klub Skewl track which is our homage to Visage and is basically their Anvil track with different words... the guys in Visage loved it. I’m always open to performing where ever I’m asked. I’ve always said, "Have backing track...will travel"!
DBB: Marc, who does your make-up and hair? And do you consider yourself high maintenance?
MM: You’d have to ask Olly, my partner, and bandmates whether I’m high maintenance or not, as I’m sure I do work their nerves from time to time. Generally, I’m easy going and tend to do my make-up and wigs myself.
DBB: I understand from Sobel Nation that there are remixes of "Sound of the Download" in the works. How do you feel, beyond your live performances, knowing that people around the world are watching your videos and dancing to your dance mixes in the clubs?
MM: I’m impressed with the speed that the Sobel Nation guys get things going, it’s been a matter of days we’ve been in contact and already a SOTD remix package is being put into place thanks to the fierce remixers that are offering up their time and skills to re-work it. It’s an exciting step for the band in trying to get our name better known in America. We’ve had a few releases over there in the past but nothing that amounted to anything. One of my ambitions is to perform in New York, having visited several times, met the most amazing people like Jayne County and just had the best times. It’s always a a thrill to see a packed dance floor working and throwing shapes to one of our tracks, it’s rare that it happens but when it does there’s a sense of achievement that you just don’t get from anything else.
DBB: New York would love having you here!
DBB: Russia, Winter Olympics. Elton's performing. Cher refused to perform. Whose side are you on? MM: My partner Olly and I also run a small screen printing company called Frost + Massive and the first shirt we designed was a ‘Vladiqueer’ t-shirt, to question his homophobic values ‘those who protest the loudest’ and all that. A percentage of the shirts sales are going to the Coming Out Organization in Russia who are there to help young Russian LGBTs deal with the sometimes difficult period of being an out teenager, something that Putin's draconian new laws have just made 100 times worse for them. I don't usually take part in political demos; being Vegan and an animal rights supporter, we tend to go on a lot more animal rights demos but the situation in Russia has come from nowhere and rekindled a passion in the scene we haven't had since the Clause 28 campaigns of the '80s and a sad step back in time.
I applaud Cher’s decision to pull out of performing, but do have to question our Elton's decision especially as he's meant to be our gay ambassador around the world, unless of course he’s planning on making some sort of vocal statement as part of his performance; then perhaps that will make a louder statement. If he says or does nothing, then I’m sorry; he’s out of touch with his community and shouldn’t be given the time of day he currently gets in elitist circles. We went on an anti-Putin demo a few months back in London attended by Stephen Fry who has been very vocal in his stand against Putin. Mr Fry would make a great Prime Minister of England in my view.
DBB: Any last words you'd like to say for your fans and, especially, your LGBT fans?
MM: Just a huge thanks for buying our stuff and supporting us over the years, and as brothers and sisters, the Russian situation has shown us the fight for acceptance and equality is still far from over but we will get it eventually.
DBB: Thank you so much for your time. It was such a pleasure to do this interview. We'll be looking forward to "Sound of the Download" remixes as well as the new album. Posting the official "Sound of the Download" mix below.
Enjoy the remix video at the link below, everyone….