Unlike some of their more insular contemporaries on the electro-industrial scene, Nitzer Ebb were difficult to pigeonhole – even effortlessly incorporating hip-hop elements into their thundering aesthetic. And so it was that their influence has been all the wider and further for it; indeed, current bleeding-edge acts like Light Asylum, Cold Cave, Trust, and even The Knife all owe a significant debt.
These days, Nitzer Ebb comes and goes at seemingly random will – and British-born frontman Douglas McCarthy is actually living in Los Angeles, where he’s the apparent ringleader of a fascinating cadre of musical accomplices. He did detour to the Midwest earlier this year, to contribute to the new ADULT. album Detroit House Guests. But he returned to LA for the task of organizing (along with sonic conspirator Cyrusrex) collaborators for a new project called BLACK LINE – whose unsubtly-titled debut album, Treason, Sedition, and Subversive Activities, was just released last month.
A lineup that includes Depeche Mode’s Christian Eigner, producer Zack Meyers and Hollywood sound designer Anthony Baldino, amongst scores of others, will take the stage at LA’s Teragram Ballroom on July 7, for their debut live performance. In the lead up, we caught up with McCarthy to discuss his detractors, the Occupy movement, and running into people in nightclubs in Berlin.
How did you come together with Cyrusrex for the BLACK LINE project?
About eight years ago a mutual friend introduced us when I was doing a show in Austin with Terence Fixmer. We were actually neighbors in Downtown LA, but it took a little while to actually get together. I had already begun work on my solo album, Kill Your Friends, and we started writing new material together as DJM/REX, which we regularly slotted into our sets. We finished a couple of EPs and did some touring with Skinny Puppy, Cold Cave and Depeche Mode. This eventually led to BLACK LINE.
The electro-industrial scene has always had the quality of a “community,” with everyone collaborating and trading musicians. Does this help sustain and fuel the creative energy?
From the earliest days of Nitzer Ebb we knew and supported an array of artists including Laibach and Hard Corps, and it was reciprocal. As time went on it became like a history of electronic music: Depeche, Miss Kittin, Ritchie Hawtin, Daniel Miller, Wolfgang Flur, Robert Görl, Mark Moore, Andrew Weatherall, Chris and Cosey…the list goes on. Some are dear friends, others mere acquaintances – but throughout, there is an incredible depth of appreciation and respect.
You were involved with a similar type of situation with your guest appearance on the new ADULT. album earlier this year. Were you inspired by that to do something similar?
Detroit House Guests was a very special project done in extraordinary circumstances. My feeling is that it will always be a one off event as curated by Adam and Nicola; whereas although BLACK LINE has a curatorial element, it has been much less scripted. Christian Eigner, Depeche Mode’s drummer, was spending some time in Los Angeles, and he suggested we do a session together. So we took some very rudimentary musical ideas and he and I just sort of jammed. ‘Sedition’ was the first track we did. That got us thinking about the process of allowing external elements to guide or redirect what Cyrus and I were doing. Friends were dropping by the studio fairly often and they started to interact with what we were doing, or were even creating ideas that we were then interacting with. It made it a lot of fun, if at times a little chaotic.