You might know Johnny Mackay as the vocalist/guitarist of Melbourne indie-rock band, Children Collide. But in the past few years, he’s been exploring his experimental side through the alter ego, Lord Fascinator; born, he tells us, “On Planet Caterpillar in a parallel universe where all communication is 100 per cent vibratory.” Those vibrations take shape as woozy, wonky, electronic dream-pop.
This week Fascinator’s debut album, Man, is released via Spinning Top (a label shared with Tame Impala). Mackay actually laid down its tracks four years ago before moving to New York and recording two EPs in New York apartments, Birth and Earth. Now the planets have aligned for Man – created in an offbeat style with The Avalanches’ founding member Darren Seltmann in a Blue Mountains ex-miners church.
Broadsheet: You recorded Man in part in the Blue Mountains – what took you there?
Johnny Mackay: Darren and his wife, Sally, had this amazing old miners church up there where we mixed the record. There’s something quite otherworldly about that part of Australia. It definitely suited the idea of Fascinator being helmed by this transcendent space shaman occasionally visiting Earth to bestow new mystical melodies on humanity. A few other old spirits seemed to be hanging about, pulsing themselves into the songs whenever they could.
BS: Can you describe the process of making the album?
JM: A few years back, before Fascinator existed, I sent Darren about 50 random songs. They were all sorts of genres, from acoustic folky tunes, to whatever my crappy version of electronic dance music sounded like at the time. He kindly picked out maybe 18 and told me that was what he thought Fascinator sounded like.
I began visiting Sydney where we’d get together in his little attic studio in Newtown and deconstruct my Ableton recordings. I’d pump out multi-tracks and we’d either re-record parts, or Darren would run things through any one of his magical devices.
The whole record gives me such a feeling of displacement and adventure, due in no small part to the circumstances of its making.
BS: What creative/musical influences and impulses does Fascinator let you explore?
JM: Absolutely anything and everything. Live, it has so far ranged from 14 people on stage in a tiny Manhattan dive bar, to me playing solo to thousands on Santa Monica Pier.
BS: Fantasy support slot – any act, any era, anywhere?
JM: Ideally I’d like to support a big crazy jam band with all my friends in it at a party in some beautiful location like on a snowy mountain in New Zealand, or on a floating pontoon up the East River in NYC in spring or something.
I’d also quite like to play with GOAT from Sweden. I feel like we come from the same weird universe for some reason.
BS: What are you looking forward to next?
JM: Putting out the fourth video from this album. I got together with a choreographer and we wrote a dance for it. It’s kind of Gangnam Style meets The Bus Stop ... but sexier.
Fascinator’s debut album Man was released on Friday 29 January.