You’ll find the name ‘Curses’ scrawled across the flyers for some of the most interesting club nights around, including Silencio (Paris), Good Room (Brooklyn), Sexyland (Amsterdam) and Pornceptual (Berlin). Raf Simons gave him the barely-moving-yet-unmistakable-Raf-style nod to create a custom-made cold-wave soundtrack for his first & now-notorious Calvin Klein ad campaign. Several fashion houses, including Gucci, entrusted him with curating the kind of music that sends chills down the most cynical spines. So yeah, credentials. His A-list work roster and penchant for dark soundscapes might give you the idea that the face behind ‘Curses’ belongs to a moody man. But in fact, as he’s happy to tell us, he’s actually “a complete goofball”. What’s more: Luca Venezia a.k.a. ‘Curses’ is also a very generous person. Case in point: he blessed KNOTORYUS with an exclusive mix, inspired by our mutual & undying love for Belgian icons Front 242.
This ‘Welcome to Paradise’ mix is an hour-long romp through coldwave-post-punk-electro-territory, perfectly blending the menace and over-the-top character that makes the Front 242 sound still stand out to this day.
It should also prep you nicely for a memorable trip down the misty darkness of ‘Romantic Fiction’, the Curses debut album which you can stream/buy/download today. To celebrate, we had a music-soaked chat.
KNOTORYUS: Your current sound seems to be heavily influenced by 80’s post-punk & Italo. What do you think it is about the Italo Disco sound that makes it so enduring?
CURSES: It’s partially because of the cheese factor, maybe even most of the appeal is cheese, but there are elements of punk and dark edge to a lot of the more obscure Italo and its driving, dirty arpeggio always drew me in.
KNOTORYUS: You play in clubs all over the world, often parties with titles like ‘Pornceptual’ or ‘Sexyland’. Is there a certain type of party you’re really good at?
CURSES: Since moving to Berlin, I’ve discovered a new dance floor attitude. Parties where there is no judgement or discrimination offers a freedom in the music and vibe. I love playing to all crowds, but some of my favorite connections with the crowd have been at parties like Pornceptual.
KNOTORYUS: You’ve created a Front 242-inspired mini-mix for us, which we’re really stoked about! One of my favourite Front 242 stories is about their seminal track ‘Headhunter’. Although it sounds really sinister, with lyrics about hunting down and selling humans, it was actually based on lead vocalist Jean-Luc De Meyer’s job in Human Resources… for an insurance company, even. Do you know any other great stories from music lore?
CURSES: Yes! And ‘Headhunter’ is one of my all-time faves as well. I love the stories behind a song. Apparently when Iggy Pop and David Bowie were living in Berlin, they were jamming late, inspired by the krautrock scene at the time and came up with ‘Nightclubbing’. The drummer had left the studio so they put in a temporary beat with a drum machine. The two got into a big argument because Bowie wanted to get a real drummer to replace the drum machine but Iggy said it was the future of punk, so they kept it in the end. It’s funny because I think if there were real drums on that track, I wouldn’t be drawn to it as much.
KNOTORYUS: Absolutely. Do you have any stories about the source of your own music?
CURSES: Secret fact about the ‘Levitate’ song on the album: people keep coming up to me and saying: “Ah, I love this sample you used, from that movie… Or whose kid is that speaking on the track?” It’s actually a monologue I wrote into a text-to-speech application for the blind. The ‘kid’ doesn’t exist.
KNOTORYUS: The press release for ‘Romantic Fiction’ says this is “personal” work. Could you elaborate on that?
CURSES: It took years of different paths to finally arrive at a truly honest place creatively. I was always worried about keeping the dance floor moving, this is the first time I made music for me, and if it clicks with other people, awesome.
KNOTORYUS: That’s ace. So what else do you do to make yourself happier?
CURSES: Laser tag.
KNOTORYUS: Tell us your process for discovering music. Do you still talk about it a lot with friends? Do people send you stuff?
CURSES: I get sent so much music, whether it’s a demo for Ombra INTL or promos for my monthly radio show. It can be overwhelming, but really exciting when you hear something original. To name a few really into bands like Kælan Mikla, the new Lizard Pool, Joel Eel, Perel, and what Pinup Club are doing right now.
KNOTORYUS: It doesn’t take much googling to see you’re a man of taste with a deep interest in not just music, but also fashion, literature, food and art. Could you recommend us one young artist and one Berlin restaurant we need to check out?
CURSES: Eva LeWitt is doing some amazing installation works at the moment, and for food Mrs Robinson’s is one of my all time favorite spots in Berlin. Never disappoints.
KNOTORYUS: You have previously collaborated with fashion icons like Raf Simons and Gucci. Could you tell us a bit more?
CURSES: When Raf Simons went to Calvin Klein, one of the art directors showed him my music, given Simons is a known fan of cold wave and post-punk. I approached composing the music like a film score, to try and create a mood that enhances the visuals.
KNOTORYUS: Your most recent music as ‘Curses’ is very distinct, with a melancholy, dark quality to it. Do you find that when people invite you to DJ or do a project together, they expect you to be or act a certain way, based on your music?
CURSES: It’s funny because my personality is actually the opposite of what someone would probably expect from hearing my music. I have dark influences, but I’m not a dark or moody person, people say I’m a complete goofball. (laughs)
KNOTORYUS: You mention your influences being dark, when in life were you closest to death?
CURSES: When I was born, I had difficulty breathing and turned blue, and almost died. I was born allergic to almost everything, and with terrible asthma. Luckily, I outgrew all the allergies. I think this early brush with death is why I have a fascination with darkness as a positive energy rather than negative.
KNOTORYUS: I read somewhere that you were ‘raised by artist parents’. What kind of work did they do and what did they feel was important to teach you?
CURSES: My parents were a huge inspiration in staying true to your craft, and still are. My mother is a photographer and my father an abstract painter. They always pushed and taught me to embrace the intuitive process when creating and not letting the popular environment skew your path.
KNOTORYUS: Those are solid lessons. In life, what’s changed for you personally that also changed your music?
CURSES: I was too comfortable in NYC and wanted a change, a challenge. Moving to Berlin helped inspire me creatively and make something new.
KNOTORYUS: What are you most worried about these days?
CURSES: Politics going too far right, the world being scorched or engulfed by melted glaciers, did I leave the stove on?
KNOTORYUS: Relatable. And what are you most excited about right now?
CURSES: Touring the ROMANTIC FICTION live show!
KNOTORYUS: What was the last thing you bought that actually made you a happier person?
CURSES: The Akai MPC Live. We decided we didn’t want any laptops to be part of the live show, so I re-built all of the album’s songs into loops and kits, it seriously changed everything for me performance-wise.
KNOTORYUS: Nice! Please tell us about a tattoo artist we need to follow on Instagram and why.
CURSES: Thomas Burkhardt pushes traditional into trippy territories, really love his work and have a few from him already.
KNOTORYUS: Finally, tell us about a YouTube video you love.
CURSES: I love finding old public access television shows. I don’t have a favourite but there’s a lot of amazing weirdo ones, like this Sandy Kane classic.
KNOTORYUS: Thank you!
1. Front 242 - Welcome To Paradise (Pitched)
2. Noise Unit - Ritualistic
3. Death In June - Born Again
4. The Weathermen - Poison
5. Front 242 - Kommando (remix)
6. Lokier and The Machine - Red Floor
7. Curses - Fortify
8. Fringe Society - Moltisanti
9. Boy Harsher - Motion
10. D.A.F. - Kebabträume
11. SA-FIRE - Let Me Be The One (Bonus Beats)
12. X-Marks the Pedwalk - Solitude
13. Front 242 - Masterhit (part 1 & 2)
14. Curses - Surrender
15. Fabrizio Mammarella - Diavoli
16. Djedjotronic - Take Me Down feat. Douglas McCarthy
17. Severed Heads - Dead Eyes Opened
Portraits: (c) Chris Mauberqué