Fascinator Interview: “This weekend I’m performing in a tent and toilet.”

fascinator interview

Debut Album Man  Out Now Via Spinning Top Records.

It’s a pretty ballsy maneuver to name your musical project Fascinator. You wouldn’t want to turn out to be boring, would you? Fortunately, that is not an issue for the New York-based Australia bred Fascinator (aka Johnny Mackay). The tracks from his upcoming albums Man have been at times brooding, at times euphoric and always, yes, fascinating.

He took a little time out to talk to Overblown about the project, including his relocation to New York, recording with Darren Seltman of the Avalanches, and playing in toilets.

O: Thanks for taking the time to talk to Overblown. Australia seems to be produced a fair amount of psychedelic, trippy music at the moment. Why do you think this is?

F: When you grow up feeling so far away from the action you need to develop a good imagination. Perhaps we’re a nation of isolated only-children who got quite good at talking to the friends in our head. Or perhaps it’s just a coincidence.

O: Why did you relocate to New York? What are the advantages and disadvantages of being based there?

F: I knew as soon as I set foot in the place that I needed to live there for some part of my life. It’s not for everyone that’s for sure. Sometimes it feels like you’re getting punched in the face every day. In a good way if that makes sense. There’s this weird creative level playing field that happens when so many are thrown in together the way you are in New York. I always say I could walk around dressed in garbage bags and no one would give a shit because on the next corner is someone in transparent garbage bags.

O: In much of your promo pictures, your face, and other peoples’ faces, are covered with an odd drawing of what looks like a sad clown. What is the purpose of this ‘disguise’?

F: Fascinator has this other-worldly side. Not of Earth. Lord Fascinator is a space shaman spirit type character bringing universal knowledge down to Earth through music. The mask illustrates the innocent but pervasive and indiscriminate nature of his instruction.

O: You recorded the album with Darren Seltman, co-founder of the Avalanches. What did he bring to the process?

F: Taste, enthusiasm, inspiration, vision.

O: Apparently you are one of Spinning Top Records’ ‘house eccentrics’. How accurate is that?

I’ve heard other non-Spinning Top friends described similarly. I’m not sure how to answer. I’m currently technically homeless so a house would be nice.

O: On your album artwork, the model in the photograph has ‘Fascinator’ written on her forehead and is looking off camera into the distance. What is she looking at?

If I remember correctly she is looking at me directing her in the second ever Fascinator video, Mr Caterpillar. She’s probably also looking at her ex-boyfriend Greg who was shooting it or the other girl who was involved. We shot it in their apartment over a bottle of vodka I think.

O: What are your upcoming touring plans?

I’m actually currently on a sold out tour of very small spaces called “Fascinator Lounge”. I hope to bring it to the UK one day. Generally only about 3-5 people can fit at each show and so far I’ve played a boat and a small chapel thing at the MONA art gallery in Tasmania. This weekend I’m performing in a tent and toilet.

O: What is your favourite song right this second?

F: ‘Lambaya Puf De’ by Barış Manço or ‘Ghanaafreekaboom Dub’ by Ccolo.

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