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Interview with Sean Cusick

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from xpander.nl

Oh, Sean Cusick is also a DJ and producer based out of New York. He has a number of releases currently charting from Viscous Disc, including 'C.B. Radio', 'Consider The Ravens' and 'Karate Porn', amongst others. Also, be sure to check out 'Of Course' on Bedrock and the Medway/Sean Cusick collaborations out on Saw Recordings ('Columns of Clouds' and 'Graffiti'). And be on the lookout for his forthcoming tracks co-produced with Phillip Charles, 'Wormwood' and 'Discotica'. Be sure to check out the Balance Promote Group website for current tour dates.

WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?

The reasons change from time to time I guess. But I'm a fan of music mostly. For me I used to simply listen to music and it was a passive experience but becoming a dj/producer you are forced to take a more active role in music, which can be difficult. It is the process of giving up some of your passive pleasure in the music experience. Also, any expressive contribution advances culture in a way and if you have the creative impulse then you also have a responsibility to follow through on those creative impulses because they are there partly because of the cultural influences around you. You have a responsibility to open a dialogue between yourself and the culture we share, if what you offer is open to this type of exchange.

DO YOU CONSIDER DJING TO BE AN ART FORM?

If it is an art form at all then it is a performance art and among the lower examples of that. It is expressive and it's possible to possess a stylistic approach to doing it, which are two of the attributes of art. But there are many things which also possess these two qualities and people don't consider them art. For the most part djs are arrogant panhandlers in the suburbs of beauty. djing only seems very important to people with ordinary minds. To be clear though: music is an art form for sure in many ways. But because the dj plays music that doesn't mean that he's responsible for the art contained within each piece, although he becomes a part of it as he's mixing, but only in a tangential way. Most djs are prisoners to their own imagined grandeur. djs delight in the very short lived joys of vanity, when they are performing they are similar to character actors, mostly bad ones. Listen to the way most of them talk about what they do, it's embarrassing. I'd rather listen to Keanu Reeves !

DO YOU HAVE DIFFICULTY ESTABLISHING YOURSELF AS AN ARTIST GIVEN THE SOMETIMES SORDID HISTORY OF RAVE, CLUB AND ELECTRONIC CULTURE?

FOR EXAMPLE, HAS IT EVER PREVENTED YOU FROM GETTING A BANK LOAN WHEN YOU MAY HAVE TO MARK DOWN "DJ" AS A PROFESSION?

I answer to myself in this regard and not to the culture that surrounds me. If I could be considered an artist at all it is only my responsibility to answer for my art. Hopefully I'll respond and not have to answer for my culture. My own history is more sordid than that of club culture. One time I got drunk at my cousins wedding and tried to get my sister in law to give me a blow job in the car, stuff like that (kidding) Also, I'm not exactly trying to establish myself as an artist. I've never applied for a bank loan. I try to avoid participating in capitalist culture as much as is possible. Mostly I've never been ashamed of what I do, it's not my responsibility to try to convince anyone that what I'm doing needs any justification whatsoever. "If I had to explain then you wouldn't understand" Louis Armstrong , "It is better to be hated for what you are then loved for what you're not" Andre Gide etc., etc.

GIVEN THAT TECHNOLOGIES LIKE MP3, FTP, AUDIOGALAXY AND THE NOW DEFUNCT NAPSTER GIVE THE ABILITY TO DOWNLOAD MUSIC FOR FREE FROM THE INTERNET, MOST CERTAINLY ROBBING THE ARTISTS OF DUE REVENUE, DO YOU THINK THE PERCEPTION AND EXPECTATIONS OF RELEASING A CD HAVE CHANGED?

FOR EXAMPLE, IF YOU RELEASED A COMMERCIAL MIX COMPILATION, WOULD YOU STILL BE COUNTING ON HIGH RETAIL SALES OR WOULD YOU VIEW THE CD AS MORE OF A PROMOTIONAL TOOL TO HELP ATTRACT PEOPLE TO GIGS, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THEY BOUGHT IT OR DOWNLOADED IT FOR FREE? WHAT'S YOUR BREAD AND BUTTER? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON PIRACY?

I could care less. People have always copied music. There has never been any indication whatsoever that copying music or films hurts the industry, as far as I can tell. In fact there is quite a bit of evidence to show that it helps the industry in every way. We are in an economic slump right now and it is convenient for the labels to blame napster for their losses. If the labels were releasing quality music then we could at least get back to blaming the artists again !!! Also, keep in mind that the record labels act like they are trying to defend their artists. This is a laugh. If they're so interested in protecting artists then why don't they write better contracts for them. On a side note: if you are a recording artist don't ever give a label any of your publishing, this is an artists royalty and it was meant for you to have. Don't listen to what any sleazeball lawyer or label manager tells you or tries to trick you into signing away. This includes your birth right name also, use another name other than your birth name. These people are worthless scum who specialize in exploiting people who simply love what they are doing and are overly eager to share their work with the world at large. Lawyers love what they are doing also, which is tricking people while they are @#%$ them with cheap lotion. They brag about it to each other at lunch, it's sickening. In my minds eye I see most of them getting their eyes gouged out by angry hordes of sweaty foreigners wielding plastic sporks and vials of dirty chicken blood.

IS IT WORTHWHILE FOR YOU TO RELEASE A MIX CD? WHAT SORT OF CONDITIONS WOULD BE IDEAL IN ORDER FOR YOU TO SET ABOUT RELEASING ONE?

I might be working on a double mix cd with dj Three from Hallucination Recordings. We will likely be releasing it as the "Second Hand Satellites". I'll let you know if it was worthwhile when it's done. I have also thought about doing a mix cd of my own production material for the label Viscous out of Manchester. I've done a few releases with them and we are currently considering working towards an albums worth of material.

HAVE MIX CDS HURT CLUB CULTURE?

Yes. when people go out they should experience a departure from their normal lives. The night club should transport you to another place, transcending the everyday aspect of your life. But because people are inundated with dance music mixed mostly by the help of computers it takes some of the magic and excitement out of the clubbing experience. That's why the cd I might do with dj Three will likely be more of a living room listening experience, not solely a club mix cd and it will be mixed live. I try to collect cds that are listenable from beginning to end so that I can put them on when I'm around the house trying to screw my cat or get rid of unwanted back hair....most dance mix cds sound stale and tired before they're even over. This race to get the newest unreleased tunes on a mix cd is giving in to the idea that whatever is new must be better. The cult of the new. It deflates the power those tracks would have had if people experienced them the way they were suppose to be experienced first; in a dark club, on drugs, surrounded by naked midgets marching in unison and bathed in lavender scented baby oil...

DURING THE 1960S, ROCK AND ROLL BECAME A VEHICLE FOR POLITICAL ACTIVISM (BOB DYLAN, THE DOORS, WOODSTOCK, ETC.) ELECTRONIC MUSIC HAS ARGUABLY BECOME THE VOICE FOR A GENERATION, BUT WILL IT EVER BECOME THE VOICE FOR POLITICAL ACTIVISM AND INFLUENCE THAT ROCK AND ROLL BECAME DURING THE 1960s?

ARE CLUBGOERS MORE INTENT ON ESCAPISM OR IS THIS IN ITS OWN WAY SOME SORT OF POLITICAL RESPONSE?

Electronic music has not become the voice of a generation, we have no voice. Art does not have any responsibility to convey political messages or espouse the virtues of conventional morality. Self-righteousness and pedantry are more at home in Hollywood films and TV sitcoms. Music should be a sublimely dangerous and alternately beautiful force. What place does politics have in that ? It amounts to little more than propaganda that tells you it's good to love your fellow man and evil is bad. How many times must we hear this tautological drivel ? War is bad , Peace is good. Love is the all encompassing and only truly necessary social bond... There we've said it now can we move on ? It takes much more than love to run a government much less a society of individuals. This type of idealism is sweet but pathetically incomplete. Dance music has (for the most part) delivered itself from the obnoxious and obvious poetry of the disaffected. If you want to form opinions on politics try reading some of the great political thinkers, don't form political opinions based on Moby's lyrics or liner notes ... Also, Moby: I eat animals because I hate them...

IS MUSIC DANGEROUS?

Bad music is dangerous. Really great music is even more dangerous, it makes me squirt pee-pee in my sleep and have dirty dreams about my sister in law. Without decadence dance culture disappears, music should be a powerful force. So encourage young people to do drugs, they're the only hope we've got... they are our future. At first give them the drugs for free, when they come back for more, charge them to watch you dj...

WHEN PEOPLE GO OUT TO SEE YOU, WHAT DO THEY WANT? WHAT'S YOUR JOB?

I have no idea what anybody wants, myself included. I think that's what most people suffer from the most, they simply don't know what they want so they divert themselves from the question, it's a very difficult one. I guess what I am suppose to do is make their fantasies come to life and ignite their imaginations. They need a place where they can project their dreams into the dark space around them and either escape or entertain their fears. I just try to play cool music in the best way I can and it makes the girls feel sexy and want to @#%$, I hope.

IF IT IS ALL ABOUT AN ESCAPIST RELEASE, DOES THIS FURTHER HURT THE ARTISTS AND DJS TRYING TO ESTABLISH WHAT THEY DO AS AN ART FORM?

Art is a transcendent experience. Is escapism bad ? Listen, working a menial job is evil, doing drugs and dancing is a comparatively healthy activity. Reading great literature is escapist as is writing, did this ever hurt any writers or readers ? Capitalism is a poison and music is the cure. Somewhere years ago I saw a dancing fleeting vision in the flashing lights and I mistook it for a pirouetting escapist prophecy. I realize now that a dance club is not a utopia that can last forever and certainly it is no blueprint for universal happiness and bliss. I just wish I would have taken more drugs when I was younger and my body bounced back easier. It is quite a commitment to try and live like that now, it takes strength and willpower. Long term drug use is no place for the weak and feeble hearted, it is the remaining sole domain of the truly courageous and the brave.

HAVE YOUR OWN MOTIVES CHANGED SINCE YOU FIRST STARTED DJING?

Yes. I want to make a lot more money now, millions and millions. Eleventy-Two Billion, in fact. I want the whole world to worship me as a god and I want a private room in the after-life filled with young virgins who chant my name in different languages and will love me submissively and forever. If all this fails, I hope to pay my rent and be able to eat. I get to travel quite a bit and that is the best part of what I do.

HOW HAS THE INDUSTRY CHANGED SINCE YOU FIRST STARTED DJING?

Well, we use to be able to burn witches in the town square, now they have rights. The industry has not changed at all, it is still filled with tasteless, moronic imbeciles who are somehow able to ruin almost any mediocre product they get their hands on with mismanagement and poor marketing. They rarely ever even bother with good products, there's very little market for that and never enough of it made.

WHAT'S YOUR BIGGEST PET PEEVE ABOUT THE MUSIC INDUSTRY?

Success is too expensive. It is based on you never straying very far from who and what you are the moment you are initially recognized. It is restrictive and encourages banal repetition without much encouragement for growth or development. DJ's tend to become lame and sad imitations of themselves. Of course there are rare exceptions to this rule: John Digweed used to be called "JD" and he was a jungle dj ! Or was it "amphetamine breakbeat" ?

TODAY'S MARKET, HOW MUCH OF A DJ'S SUCCESS RIDES ON ABILITY AND HOW MUCH OF IT RIDES ON CONNECTIONS?

Ability means very little in this industry. The ability of your press agent is paramount however. But if you are ever lucky enough to be given a chance it's your ability that creates your next opportunities.

DOES THE RAT RACE GET TO YOU OR DETRACT FROM YOUR ARTISTIC EXPRESSION?

When you love what you do there is no such thing as competition. I am not a rat and I am not racing. The foolish man runs when no one is chasing him...

TEN YEARS AGO, THE ELECTRONIC MUSIC INDUSTRY STILL POSSESSED A DEGREE OF ANONYMITY. KIDS SEEMED TO GET OFF JUST HEARING GOOD MUSIC, IRRESPECTIVE OF STYLE OR WHO WAS PLAYING IT.

OVER THAT TIME, THE GENRES HAVE BECOME INCREASINGLY SEGREGATED (HOUSE, TECH HOUSE, PROGRESSIVE HOUSE, FUNKY HOUSE, DEEP HOUSE, BOOTY HOUSE, ETC.) AND THE NOTION OF DJ AS SUPERSTAR HAS BECOME INCREASINGLY PREVALENT. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

Anonymity... My name is Sean and I'm an alcoholic. Kids are still able to enjoy music anonymously, it takes courage to dance or walk alone.

DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER FORM OF MUSICAL BACKGROUND? CLASSICAL TRAINING, ETC.?

Years of eating acid and listening to whatever music I could steal from Chamelot music in the mall, interspersed with the occasional glue sniffing session in my closet with black lights and glow in the dark rock and roll posters and dirty magazines filled with images of plump women that I wanted to spank me relentlessly in elaborate masturbatory visions that still come back to haunt me. Seriously, I taught myself to play the guitar and piano but very badly and even my beautiful and loving fiancé Camille can hardly listen to me play for very long. The fact that I do it at mind-numbing volumes unexpectedly in the middle of the night is partially the reason for this though. "Some people never go crazy, what truly horrible lives they must lead" Charles Bukowski

THERE'S CURRENTLY A BOOM OF PC AND MAC-BASED MUSIC CREATION SOFTWARE AND MORE AND MORE BEDROOM PRODUCERS, DO YOU THINK THIS IS A GOOD OR BAD THING? ARGUABLY, ANYONE CAN SIT DOWN WITH REASON AND MAKE MUSIC.

DO YOU THINK FORMAL MUSICAL TRAINING HAS ANY BEARING ON PUSH BUTTON MUSIC MAKING?

If the desire to make music is there then people will make music with anything they can. I prefer gear over software but I use a combination of the two whenever possible. It is difficult for me to use a mouse as a musical instrument. I am a physically violent drunk prone to fits of frustration and melancholy and for me to have a creative surge I have to be on the verge of breaking something expensive before anything of musical usefulness comes out of it. It can be pretty intimidating for some of the people I work with, especially when it's their gear!!!

Medway is the only guy I work with who doesn't make me have blood-red and screaming kamikaze daydreams. We've just done a new e.p. for Saw with a track on it called "Columns of Clouds", I'm very proud of it and nobody got hurt during the making of it, which was strange and disconcerting. By the way, Saw is a great label to deal with and Hector and Satoshi have been a godsend in terms of protecting us as the artists and everything that goes along with it. Keep your eye on these guys, they're really going somewhere, at least in my heart.

DO YOU THINK THE DJ PROCESS IS BECOMING INCREASINGLY MORE DISSOCIATIVE? ARE NEW TECHNOLOGIES LIKE SELF-MIXING MP3 PLAYERS AND THE PIONEER CDJ-1000 CD PLAYERS SEEING CURRENT DJS BECOMING LESS SKILLED? DOES IT MATTER? (END RESULT = BOTTOM LINE)

Programming is still more important than any of that stuff. If you don't have some sense of how to program your set then none of this will matter. The djs who focus on moods, interest and energy level will always prevail even if their mixing is not always the best. I think people want to hear humans playing, That's why mix cds are misleading. People always ask me why Sasha doesn't sound as good live as he does on his Global Underground cds and I tell them, "Because he sucks and those cds are filled with subliminal messages and backward satanic masking, he is under the spell of the prince of darkness". No, but seriously, imperfection here and there is preferable and it introduces the element of chance into an evening, on the fly mixing is also far less contrived than a mix cd and should be valued as such. Some creative imperfection here and there is one of the most effective ways of creating excitement.

Sasha is actually a very fine up and coming English dj and I am looking forward to his new album "Airdrawndagger", a homoerotic love fixation story and object fetishness in three acts. (just kidding, I think it might have four acts...). There will be an accompanying movie starring Ed Norton and Crispin Glover, Unfortunately BT won't be able to do the soundtrack, he's doing some fascinating pubescent choreography for Disney's new Mouseketeer club show. That is, if his hectic schedule with Britney Spears and N'Stync will give him any free time on their race to the moon, or have they all fired him yet ? It's a shame that someone with evident talent lacks integrity. Everyone keeps telling me BT's music is actually better than it sounds... If he had more conviction then we could at least write him off as some cheap and sad modern day Richard Wagner type (minus the genuine critical attention and success), forever searching for applause and adulation rather than making music from an overpouring of the soul. His cult holds him very dearly though regarding as art tracks that only pretend to arouse emotion. He is a pseudo-star making pompous non-events. I can't even laugh at him anymore without feeling sad, what a shame. He used to be good for a laugh from time to time. Well, he has started djing, I'm sure that's got to be good for a few new laughs.

WHEN YOU PRODUCE OR DJ, IS THE END RESULT THE BOTTOM LINE OR IS THE PROCESS JUST AS IMPORTANT?

IF A TRACK SOUNDS GOOD, DOES IT MATTER WHETHER IT WAS CREATED WITH EXPENSIVE EQUIPMENT OR A BOOTLEG COMPUTER PROGRAM? CAN YOU TELL? DO YOU CARE?

The music speaks for itself. I produce in a variety of ways and however I can depending on where I am. There is usually a reason some gear is expensive. I would take my Lexicon pcm80 over a plug-in effects unit almost any day of the week. Although I just did a track with a great producer Phillip Charles from Philadelphia and we did it entirely within the computer, it's called "Wormwood" and I'm very happy with it. It's part of an Absinth trilogy we're working on. We used all cracked software. We hope that ethic shines through in what we do.

YOU LIVE IN NEW YORK NOW. HOW IS THE SCENE THERE DIFFERENT FROM ORLANDO?

WHY WAS FLORIDA IN PARTICULAR SUCH A HOTBED OF ELECTRONIC TALENT DURING THE 1990s?

Orlando was big because there is little or no youth culture there. Thousands of kids with nothing to do and in dead end service industry jobs, which gives them expendable cash all the time (waiters, dancers, etc.). So when something came along that elevated them from the suburban nothingness they had experienced up to that point it caught on fire. But that fire has gone out and there is very little evidence left in Orlando that anything ever even happened there. Medway is still holding down the fort down there, with Tim Skinner, Barry Robb and Justin Scott Dixon and a few others.

Beyond that Kimball Collins doesn't even resemble the person he once was, musically anyways, he's still bald and goofy looking, that much hasn't changed. The music he plays sounds like two drunk monkeys @#%$ in a trash can, it's truly awful. It's hard to believe he was such a major force in what inspired and encouraged so many of us there. But credit where credit is due: He gave us all weeks of planned exuberance and artificial joys ...not to mention some of the healthiest doses of self-righteousness and preaching I've ever seen anybody do on a microphone at a club. The legendary Beacham Theater, services held weekly by the esteemed Reverend Kimball Collins... this weeks message: "Moderation". I'm just kidding he was trying to be a good guy and keep people from ruining themselves, I just wish some of that sincerity had remained in the music he played rather than the insipid message he was trying to force down our drug-addled and joyous throats. Icey preached funky beats, Kimball preached avoiding extremes. But neither of them bothered preaching the virtues of extreme funkiness or avoiding beats...much less musical conviction. Orlando is barely worth remembering any more.

New York club culture sucks for the most part and I would rather go to a bar and play songs off a jukebox than go to most clubs here. There are these boat parties put on by www.matter-form.com that are very cool and there is the occasional small club night that is cool, but the bigger clubs in New York are like most of the clubs in Miami, all the pretense and none of the importance. But if you happen to be out and looking for a greasy young guy in a white wife-beater t-shirt and gold chains from just outside Manhattan with a bitching 84' Camaro then these are the places for you. "Yo, you don't even know"

IN THE LAST FEW YEARS, MANY STATES HAVE ENACTED A VARIETY OF "RAVE" BYLAWS. FLORIDA, FOR EXAMPLE, HAS SOME FAIRLY DRACONIAN LAWS PREVENTING PARTIES AND RESTRICTING TIMES CLUBS CAN STAY OPEN.

ARE THESE RESPONSES FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD OR A FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN?

They are concerned that kids are destroying themselves. They feel they are doing the right thing. Their intentions are admirable but the methods they employ are suspect and go beyond what I feel is acceptable and representative of a culture that claims to value "the pursuit of happiness". I think they should focus on taxing churches and punishing Christians rather than enacting laws which discourage or kill the only original youth culture they have of any interest. Offer young people an alternative at least. If you offer nothing to them they will react the way they have, creating something on their own, usually decadent. But you can't blame politicians for wanting to make their communities a nicer, safer place to live. Remember they can be voted out of office, if anyone is compelled to participate in the democratic process....they are elected representatives, not that different from djs.

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