Interview: 5 Minutes with Curses

Image by Fede Reyes

If there’s one thing absolutely clear about Curses, it’s that he is an artist who honours the past in everything that he does. The DJ and producer’s early days in the New York punk rock scene eventually led him to the rave, and upon relocating to Berlin he honed in on the nostalgia of his experiences and developed the dark New Wave/EBM leaning sound that defines his work. There is an obsessive quality to the way he recounts his influences, and his knowledge of his scene is expansive. It’s no surprise then that his latest project, the Next Wave Acid Punx compilation released via Eskimo Recordings, spans 38 tracks, three chapters and four decades worth of darkwave and synth music. Featuring the early electronic music styles which have directly influenced Curses and his peers such as New Wave, Italo and EBM, the compilation is the product of Curse’s fixation on understanding the roots of his sound. Finding the intersection between punk rock and electronic music, the compilation features artists such as Suicide and Yello as well as contemporary music inspired by these pioneers from the likes of Moscoman, Zombies in Miami, and himself. Enamoured by the magnitude of this passion project, we caught up with Curses to find out more about his influences and how these have informed his curatorship of Next Wave Acid Punx

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

There’s a beauty in creating new memories and emotions for people. My parents taught me that art is like a vessel of expression, a universal language to be shared with the world, to create a totem in the world forever. Ideally this totem conjures new art and happiness for others

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

Usually the idea comes first. I have a mess of voice notes in my phone; me singing weird synth melodies or lyrics walking down the street and in club toilets. 

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

Less is always more. I used to have many synths and analog gear back in NYC. When I moved to Berlin I sold a lot of it, and found myself to be more productive working closely and mastering the small amount of gear instead. Find a sound that feels honest and true to your own, but also always evolve to avoid monotony. My current obsession is sampling church bells to be played as synths. You’ll notice it in the remixes I recently did for Jorkes and Rees.

What’s on your current playlist?

I love the Simple Symmetry album, Sorry! We Did Something Wrong. It’s a proper psychedelic escapade and a breath of fresh air when you’ve been listening to so much heavy club music. The new album from Micky Van Seenus, specifically the song Under My Skin is brilliant as well. 

In creating Next Wave Acid Punx, you’ve very much taken on the role of a curator. Can you tell us about the work you do in your scene outside of DJing and producing? 

Well I think running Ombra International has helped me with refining the process of curating. Creating a story on every V/A, each artist coming from a different country was the focus of launching the label. I think that opened my ears and mind to genres and styles and how tracks interact with one another on a tracklist rather than a set. I also host a monthly radio show on RINSE FRANCE called Together Alone (surprisingly, named before this pandemic haha). I really enjoy inviting an array of different artists to play whatever they like. Having a monthly show keeps you in check with finding new and interesting music and digging up old hidden gems. 

Next Wave Acid Punx is incredible in it’s scope. Can you talk us through each chapter and how you decided to structure the compilation?

Thank you! Chapter 1 is a (very chopped down) dive into the artists that got me into electronic music and DJing, pioneers of the underground that all share a common sound when it comes to the synths and drums; probably because the 80’s is when a lot of these machines made their debut. Chapter 2 is an array of music that had a role in my awakening after leaving NYC in 2015. At the time, I felt as though I had to compromise the music I made and played in the USA, and once I moved to Berlin I found like-minded artists with similar backgrounds. Those artists helped me realise I don’t need to sacrifice my music selection, there is a whole scene of this attitude and sound. Chapter 3 is all exclusive music from some of my favorite artists and friends right now, influenced by the dark 80’s club and beyond. Everyone has their own different twist, but similar background which I love.

Do you have any favourite tracks on the compilation, and what memories are tied to these?

I was a punk rock kid but also going to raves. I felt like I was living a double life. It wasnt until I heard Suicide that I realised you can mix guitars and electronics. It isn’t some forbidden thing to do. They opened up the gates for me. Wild In Blue has such a strong place in my heart. It is a song I will never get tired of Djng.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”? 

Funny enough, this goes all the way back to seeing Back to the Future when I was 7 years old. There’s a scene where Michael J Fox is in the 1950’s and hops on stage at a high school prom, grabs a guitar and starts rocking Johnny B. Goode. This film and La Bamba about Richie Valens both grabbed me. Around the same time I got obsessed with Slash and got my first guitar.

The collection connects the dots between punk rock and electronic music. How has your experience of the scene informed this understanding? 

I come from a band background, and feel that the majority of the artists on NWAP and the scene I’m associated with do as well. A lot of the music follows a more progressive structure rather than “loop” based music. You’ll have tracks like Mufti’s Restrained where there’s a verse-chorus-verse like punk or rock music, but it still has this dark dance floor energy. 

With the future beyond lockdown on the horizon, what do you hope to see evolve in your scene and underground culture? 

I love how collaborative and supportive we all are. There are so many different little crews worldwide, all doing something different but with the same enthusiasm and passion. I hope we have more collaborative events once events are back in full effect. 

Any emerging artists on your radar?

Just off the top of my head: Глава II, Nasdrowie, H.L.M, Günce Aci. The new Skelesys stuff is sick.

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year? 

I see Next Wave Acid Punx stretching far and wide! Coincidentally, it dropped at the end of our lockdown so now that things are slowly opening back up, people are playing the tracks in clubs. I’m excited to see how it spreads and to meet artists who respond to it. The next Curses album is finally dropping Nov 26 on Dischi Autunno. We’re already confirming dates for the live show.

Famous last words?

Hope to see you soon amidst the fog and strobes!

Listen to Discipline by Curses from Next Wave Acid Punx below, and download the compilation here

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