On their new EP, Mercenary Notes Pt. 1, industrial metal band Derision Cult continues to explore themes relating to the negative effects of media over-stimulation. But this time around, leader Dave McAnally strives to go beyond criticizing the state of the media and to offer solutions and ideas for the future.
McAnally also goes for a more varied sound this time, incorporating elements of punk, country, and ambient electronic music. Mercenary Notes Pt. 1 features a high-profile cast of guests that include Chris Connelly (Ministry, Pigface), Reeves Gabrels (David Bowie, The Cure) and Justin Broadrick (Godflesh).
In an email interview, McAnally discusses Derision Cult and the new EP.
Could you discuss the concepts and themes behind “Mercenary Notes Pt. 1”?
Dave McAnally: The album is all about how the media and narratives of our time are crafted to make us consume more. I spent two decades in the ad biz, working on campaigns that did just that. Most were innocent, but lately, things got political and twisted, using social issues to sell product. Then the pandemic hit and everyone’s anxieties skyrocketed, and it got real toxic, man. I watched it all through the eyes of a marketer, and we turned that perspective into tracks addressing what was going down. Regardless of your political stance, the world wants to make you scared, anxious, and angry, and the more people understand that, the less power those tactics will have. That’s the EP in a nutshell.
Did you have a firm idea of what you wanted to do going into it? How might it have evolved over the process of making the EP, either conceptually or musically?
Dave McAnally: I had a specific objective in mind when making this album. Firstly, I wanted to offer solutions and ideas for the future, unlike my previous album which only criticized the state of media. Secondly, I aimed for diversity in the sound and incorporated various genres such as punk, country, and ambient electronic elements into my industrial metal style. There was a change in plan during the process, and we decided to release the tracks as two EPs, with the second one in the works. Sean Payne played a crucial role in ensuring that despite the diversity, the tracks retain a consistent Chicago Industrial feel.
How did the various guest appearances come about and what were the collaborative processes like?
Dave McAnally: That really goes back to my other project Sys Machine. I made an album with that a couple years ago and it was the first time I collaborated with people and I really enjoyed the process. I knew I wanted to do that with Derision Cult. The first step was finding a producer and Sean Payne was a no-brainer. I’m a big Cyanotic fan and thematically what they sing about isn’t a million miles away from what I was doing. So that made sense and he was into it. So we got to work and I had some confidence in the tracks. I really dug that Joy Thieves album American Parasite and we had a track I thought Chris Connelly would be perfect on. Dan from Joy Thieves had done a remix for me on Sys Machine so he helped make that intro. Then from there, I had a pretty short list and Reeves Gabrels was right at the top and since he had a break on his commitments with The Cure it worked out for him to lay down some killer guitars. Justin Broadrick was a similar case. He had some bandwidth between the festivals and Europe and that came together. I didn’t really give much direction, these guys are all masters of what they do. It was awesome hearing Justin run our track through the Godflesh filter. I loved the punk almost Killing Joke vibe Chris brought to Deaf Blood. Reeves is a guitar hero of mine from way back and just hearing those guitar tones that really inspired me in the 90’s was a big thrill. We did some cool remixes for the first single and the EP itself. Sean ran a track through the Cyanotic Filter and then I mentioned Justin’s. We had The Joy Thieves do a really moody mix of Deaf Blood for the single and I was already sort of connected with Martin Atkins through various things and I thought it would be fun to have two drummers who’d worked with Chris in pretty cool bands to do different takes on the tracks. So Martin made a super drum heavy mix of Deaf Blood I love. Finally, Jim Marcus from Go Fight and Die Warzau did all the art for it and I really dug that because we’re both ex ad guys and he understood exactly where I was coming from. I love his style and he gave everything such an unmistakable identity. We made shirts, patches, stickers and posters out of everything along with the CD’s.
This EP is part 1 of a series of releases, with a Part 2 also planned for release this year. What made you decide to release in this format, as opposed to an album? Do you think your approach or process to the music differed due to releasing it in smaller batches?
Dave McAnally: Sean had the idea to split the tracks into two EPs, making them easier to listen to and giving each a clear sonic space. The two-part release also helps first-time listeners of Derision Cult understand the project better and leaves room for creative collaboration with guests on the second EP. This new approach has also influenced the planning for the second release. We know there’s some things that need to be echoed from the first one. It won’t be like a rinse-repeat listen though. There’s more non-industrial or metal vibes we’re fusing into it. There’s more of an Albert Collins style blues track on it with a crazy organ solo I’m really excited about. And it’s actually heavier than anything on part 1!
Mercenary Notes Pt. 1 ends with 2 remixes. Were those the obvious songs to include different versions of? Are there any other remixes from the EP that might see a future release?
Dave McAnally: For sure, those two tracks were obvious choices for me. Both touch on key themes and are diverse in style. The Cyanotic Mix of Year Hope Failed came about from our experimentation with a halftime drum loop. With Slaves Rebuild, all thought that track would be the coolest to hear through the Godflesh filter and it was a blast hearing Justin’s take on it. We plan to do more remixes with both new and established artists, which will be released throughout the summer. I love remixes, they offer new perspectives on the songs. It’s also a great way to support the scene and bring artists together.
Is there a forthcoming album? If so, will it include material from the EP(s) or be completely standalone?
Dave McAnally: EPs feel right for Derision Cult at this point. Keep it short, make a statement. But, man, the physical copies are doing pretty well by my standards. We sold a slew of the CD’s so far, which I’m super grateful for. We dropped a cassette of “Deaf Blood,” just for shits and giggles, and even made a limited run of “Deaf Blood” hot sauce, which sold out. This just might be a sign that a full CD or vinyl collection of Mercenary Notes Pt 1 and 2 could be in our future. Still up in the air, but I’m all for it.
You’re involved in a few other musical projects. Do you feel that Derision Cult fulfills specific creative interests or goals for you? Has it led you to grow as an artist in any specific ways?
Dave McAnally: Definitely! Derision Cult is my outlet for thrash metal riffs and big angry beats. I love that stuff but I’m into all kinds of other things from a creative standpoint so I’ve always got irons in the fire. I also enjoy the blues and outlaw country and I’ll do solo acoustic stuff. Sys Machine allows me to delve into ambient electronic music. I have a project called Purgatory Line with my friend Matt Kettman, which leans towards Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and Corrosion of Conformity inspired sounds. As time goes on, I am more focused on Derision Cult, as it requires more attention, but those other things aren’t ever far away in my mind.
In terms of your creative process, do you tend to do initial writing on guitar, or are the electronic elements part of it from the start?
Dave McAnally: For Derision Cult, the tracks typically start with guitar riffs. What’s cool is that Sean has a different approach, as he starts with loops, beats and vibes before adding the foreground elements. Those two ways of working are kind of why the EP sounds the way it does. On tracks like Mercenary or Slaves Rebuild, you can hear the combination of both approaches. As a guitar player, starting with riffs comes naturally to me. However, it was important to me that the EP didn’t sound like a guitarist who got a hold of a sampler one day. Sean was careful in ensuring that the album felt like a proper industrial project, even if my original demos didn’t quite fit that mold. Slaves Rebuild and Life Unlit are some tracks where Sean’s influence is particularly noticeable, and the tracks evolved greatly from their original demos, which is a good thing.
Are you planning on any live shows with Derision Cult?
Dave McAnally: We’re working on making it happen! I haven’t put together a show like this in a while, but if I did, I would want it to be a worthy event to see. We’ve talked about things like bringing Glitch Mode acts together for a showcase. Conn.RAR just dropped an EP, Cyanotic’s got a ton of stuff cooking that’ll blow people’s minds, and Brad Blank’s got some things coming up. If we can make it work, I’d love to hit the stage for a run of shows this fall. It’d be a great motivator for the summer. Gotta get in top physical shape though, gotta bring that high energy if I’m gonna perform live!
Buy Mercenary Notes Pt 1 at derisioncult.bandcamp.com