"I think the kindness keeps you optimistic even when times are tough, and stay patient while sticking to your guns"
The DJ and producer Curses has managed, in a stale musical moment, to find enough space, music and people to change the music scene. Projects as attractive as his Ombra International label, is a clear testimony of this. ‘International Waters Vol. 1 is the first compilation of Ombra, where there are artists who have made this magnificent label possible.
All of them are making great contributions to the history of contemporary electronic music. We talked with him about the label, his projects, and above all, music.
First and foremost, and this is a fairly broad question, how are you doing in the lockdown environment at the moment? How have you adapted every day home and work life?
This time has been super reflective for me, and given me the opportunity to focus on many unfinished projects. Although touring is incredibly fun, it can also be exhausting at times. Mentally and physically, and this downtime in lockdown has been a healthy pause. Time with my girl, time at home, keeping in touch with friends and family over video chat from afar that I wasn’t normally in such regular contact with before.
What’s the first thing you are looking forward to doing once lockdown ceases?
Performing to a crowd is something I think all us musicians are excited for. I know once events start happening again, they’ll probably have to be smaller and more intimate, but at the end of the day thats always some of my favorite parties to perform and DJ at… I see a shift happening amongst many events, after the confinement eases up: a rise of the underground and strange.
What are your inspirations?
Musically: artists like Suicide, The Cure, and FRONT 242 are just a few key influences since youth, but then you’ve also got Aphex Twin, Cabaret Voltaire and Tangerine Dream. Besides music, the visual arts have always been a big influence. Video artists like Nauman and Gretchen Bender, and films by David Lynch or Jarmusch all play an integral part in my creative process to this day.
What can you tell us about your Ombra 014? What inspired you to create it? What was your production criteria? What did you want to transmit?
Ombra International is the first label I launched alone, curating and creating all the music and visuals myself. I always wanted to have a label that reflected my taste in music and channeled my core influences as a child raised in 80s NYC: Post-punk, New Wave, early EBM, paired with an aesthetic that captures an alluring yet dangerous and nostalgic feel.
I launched the label as an opportunity to bring together music from all the different artists I discovered and took a liking to while touring, each from different countries coming together in a Various Artist EP platform. Eventually, more artists began to come to me with demos made specifically for Ombra, and the label grew. I didn’t expect it really, but am very happy with the direction its gone. Ombra International isn’t a label focused on trends or making a number one dance record. At the end of the day, Ombra is a label about creating a brutal and honest message within each release, electronic music stemming from a punk attitude.
‘International Waters Vol. 1’ is our first compilation and i’ve been working on putting it together over the last year. We’re very much an international label, working with a lot of fresh young talent from across the globe, and we have 13 amazing tracks on the album from artists who share our ethos and sound.
What can you tell us of all the producers you have chosen?
All of the Artists I release, are people I click with both musically and on a friendship level. It’s super important we get along creatively, and also understand each other’s humor. A common thread is that we all come from band and guitar driven backgrounds musically. I think everyone I release comes from a band background, who then evolved into Djng. If I hear a track that sparks a feeling of “damn, I wish I made this…” then I sign it. It’s all really an intuitive process.
Has the confinement situation affected your style?
Sometimes the back to back traveling while touring can be hectic, and some of the remixes or original music made while on the road can reflect this hyper-active state of mind. The change of pace, and time away from airports and things has influenced me to take a step back and breathe. Ive been able to finish some more song oriented/less club focused music again. I find it therapeutic and nice to be ablate not worry about the dance floor constantly - this way when it’s time to get back to the dance floor, I will appreciate it even more.
What’s your studio comprised of at the minute? And is there a special piece of gear you’d never get rid of?
At the moment, its super stripped down because of confinement, which I like. When I have too much gear, the jam sessions go on forever and ever. Less is more. I wouldn’t be able to live without my Reverend Baritone, and Gretsch Chet Atkins guitars, but also the Dr-660 drum machine. its my pride and joy, and I’ve had it since college… All the text has completely rubbed away from the kick and snare pads.
Would you like to share a set? Can you tell us more about it? When and how was it recorded?
Here is my latest DJ set, from when Skelesys and I did the Ombra INTL takeover at Berlin’s Hör radio. This was my first Dj set since confinement hit, it felt super surreal to play again. Even though there wasn’t a crowd, and it’s a livestream, the adrenalin afterward felt like I had played a gig. Its been so long since I last Dj’d or played live, you begin to have a sort of withdrawal. You can watch it below, me in my quarantine beard and all lol.
What makes a good mix to you?
My favorite mixes are the ones that tell a story. I listened to a lot of Wu-Tang and Tribe Called Quest as a teenager, they always had sketches and millions of random movie samples in-between songs. I think that’s why I find it so important to have an “intro” and movie or TV samples incorporated into a mix nowadays, it creates an atmosphere and narrative to match the song selection.
What have been the most influential factors on your career so far?
Becoming friends with the humble heroes of your musical journey is such an uplifting token in this career. I find that in my particular scene - everyone is relatively super kind and very generous. There to offer career support and help. I think the kindness keeps you optimistic even when times are tough, and stay patient while sticking to your guns.
Where was your favourite place to play, what was your most interesting gig, and for what reason?
I DJ’d at this incredible open air party earlier in Sao Paulo Brazil, called BLUM, right before Corona hit. Wow. The energy and the music and the people was something else. A mixture of all the Queer and all invincible characters of the city dancing into the morning sun in these pink washed warehouse alleyways, and epic lasers. Just scroll through their instagram and you can see how special this party was and is.
What makes you happy?
Good friends, good music, good food, good jokes. As long as I have all of these things, I am happy.
What’s your favourite “save the dance floor” song?
I tend to always dive into the Italo gems when it’s time to save a floor. Lime’s “Angel Eyes” or “Automatic Love” by Dee D Jackson are always winners. Actually, even if a nights been going great, I’ll probably still end with a bunch of Italo. After a night of dark and heavy vibes, it’s nice to end on a fun and kitschy tone.
What tracks would you recommend us to liven up the confinement?
‘Nancy & Lee’ by Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra is an amazing album. Its a psychedelic, and super romantic uplifting album with mysterious and dark undertones. Its crazy it was recorded in the late 60’s, ‘Some Velvet Morning’ especially sounds so ahead of it’s time. the music video as well is so cool.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
Because of confinement Ive been able to focus on finishing the next album, which will be dropping at the end of this year on Jennifer Cardini’s Dischi Autumn imprint. When touring the live show, me and Dame Bonnet (my bass player) began writing a lot of new music together and this resulted in the next album. I am super excited to play these live once the venues begin opening back up. Stay safe and healthy everyone, hopefully we rave soon!