Comic-Con, Festival of Venice, Rio Carnival, Burning Man, Halloween, Mardi Gras – they all offer people the chance to dress up, leave their inhibitions at home, break down barriers and not feel like weirdos doing it. Australian industrial metal band Darkcell have been embracing their freaky fans’ get-ups in the same way since 2012, but now Jesse Dracman (vocals), Postmortem Matt (guitar and synth), Rit Derelict (bass) and Jay Macabre (drums) want you to dial up the Freak-o-Meter to 10 and join them for the return of their brainchild, Psycho Circus.
Overdrive recently asked Dracman what the hell a Psycho Circus involves and why should people care. “Psycho Circus is an idea we’ve had for many years,” he says. “We’ve always wanted to do a crazy festival on our terms. We’ve done our fair share of touring and playing festivals like Soundwave and Civil Unrest in the US, but at the same time … we’ve come to the conclusion that we’re like the black sheep in this country. Where there’s a lot of focus on image friendly bands and flavour of the month type stuff, for us, we stand in a league of our own. Our audience is reflective of that. They’re considered social outcasts and freaks, if you want to call it that, so Psycho Circus gives everybody that chance to let their inner freak out, celebrate life, paint themselves up, wear crazy outfits and not feel like a dickhead about it.”
Dracman says the makeup and theatrics on stage are not just for show, but rather an extension of the band members’ personalities. “We’re horror movie fans, were sci-fi fans, some of us, including myself, are comic book nerds … some bands that we’ve played with put on a bit of makeup, then they can’t get it off quick enough. We are what we say we are – we’re 24/7. We don’t put on some radical persona and pretend to be something we’re not. We never say that we’re reinventing the wheel; we’re just putting our own spin on it. When people say that we sound like Rob Zombie or Wednesday 13 or Marilyn Manson, we embrace that, and we applaud that. We can cite Rob Zombie as a fan. Slipknot – some of the guys in that band are fans. Wednesday 13 is not only a fan, but he’s also been a very close friend of mine for many years. It’s crazy man, to look at our heroes and go ‘holy shit they’re fans of our music too’.”
Psycho Circus’ maiden run last year consisted of a Sydney and Brisbane show, and this year they’ve added a Melbourne show. Darkcell hand picks 10 support acts but ups the circus ante with performers. “We run it like a normal festival. All the bands have a set time … they’re playing and in between the sets we have people performing as well, so there’s something constantly going on,” Dracman says. The band kicked off its freaky festival on August 18 in Sydney at The Bald Faced Stag, and as a bonus, it was the only all-ages show. “Sydney really tore the roof off. We had aerial artists and fire breathers and trapeze artists, and it just looked amazing. People got their bang for their buck and memories for life. The fact that it was all ages too … that was the icing on the cake. The kids have lapped it up. They could not get enough of it. This was followed by Saturday night’s sellout show at The Bendigo in Melbourne, and now they look forward to getting crazy at The Zoo in Brisbane on September 8.
So why are cosplay conventions, masquerade balls, trick-or-treat evenings and gay pride parades socially acceptable now, but dressing up in black paint and playing abrasive, industrial metal music is not? “Mainstream and radio and what have you – a lot of them will frown down upon us and perceive us as a devil-worshipping band with hate-inspired lyrics, but … that’s a bit of a hypocritical statement because I look at you guys and you’re playing hip-hop music where you’ve got 10-year-old kids singing back lyrics about tits and arse …” Asked if they identify with Satan, he says “We’re pretty tight with him man,” with a laugh. “The songs that we put out there are more statements, they’re not just blatant attacks on Christianity. There are meanings within each song, for example, Preacher. I wrote that after watching TV evangelist Benny Hinn. Watching a guy who has devout followers, millions of people all over the world and professing that he talks to angels and all this jazz, meanwhile he … makes millions of dollars off these peoples’ hopes and dreams and he’s … a fraud. To me, there’s a lot of hypocrisy in there that we expose in that song and people connect with that. Our music generates a lot of positive energy, believe it or not. We’ve had people that are on the verge of suicide, people with severe depression and anxiety and they talk to us about how our music helped them get through some really hard times. I know at least five families that have kids with autism that are absolute fans of our music because our music just seems to light their kids up like a Christmas tree. It’s the power of music – it’s a beautiful thing.”
And far from worshipping a Baphomet effigy as a pre-show warm up, Dracman says the band is “pretty chilled backstage before a show.” “We’re kind of responsible as a band – it’s not lines of coke and shots of tequila backstage. It’s all about longevity. We’ve toured with guys and played shows with guys who are all for the party, and that’s good man, but you see them burn out real quick on stage. If I’m going to go see a show, I half expect the artist to give it 100 per cent.”
Tickets to the Brisbane show at The Zoo on September 8 are available here.