Derision Cult and the special sauce on Mercenary Notes – Interview

The Derision Cult was the original working name for the solo project of Dave McAnally in 2014, which became pared down to just Derision Cult. Beginning of December 2022 saw the Glitch Mode Recordings release of the EP “Mercenary Notes Pt. 1“, a guitar laden, industrial powered ride with both political conviction and questioning the moral compass of big money corporations. McAnally has friends in many places it seems having some big name talents fleshing his music out with vocals/guitars, mixing, producing and mastering. What does this mean? Great production, thumping beats and a sound that could give Ministry a run for their money. So now you should read ahead and find who these big names are, what are the outside influences and did McAnally really use his wife as a taco consuming lab rat? Mmmmmm tacos…… and don’t worry, Dave ate tacos as well.

Welcome Dave back to Onyx, though now under the guise of your project, Derision Cult. 

Thanks!  Yeah between this and Sys Machine its been a busy couple of years! 

Originally titled The Derision Cult, you started this all around 2014. What originally inspired you on this solo musical career? 

Derision Cult really came a long ways since 2014 to this EP!  But it goes back further than that for me. It all started when I was in bands and working on different projects in the mid-90s. Then I took a bit of a break and ended up in Chicago for a while. I always knew I’d get back into making music, and I had a few false starts between 2004 and 2014. But in 2014, everything just fell into place and I knew it was time to start playing again. I was getting out of the triathlon and ironman scene, spending more time at home with my daughter, and just feeling like I had something to say through my art. Around that time, I was also seeing how corporate social responsibility was being twisted and used as a marketing tool by companies, and I felt like I could use my music to shed some light on that. And as I’ve been working on Derision Cult, I’ve really honed in on my message and vision for the project, especially with the release of Mercenary Notes. It’s all about using my art to make a statement about what I learned in my professional life which I feel follows in the footsteps of my musical heroes.

Previously, in an interview about your newer project, .SYSmachine, you hinted at the fact you were working on music for Derision Cult. Would this be the now released “Mercenary Notes Pt. 1”? 

Yeah, I hinted at it in that interview about .SYSmachine, but now I suppose I can officially confirm that Mercenary Notes Pt. 1 is the result of those early sessions with Sean Payne!  We started working on these tracks back in December and January, and it’s been an awesome experience collaborating with a producer for the first time on Derision Cult. Sean and I are planning to keep working together on all sorts of projects in the future.

The current single is “Deaf Blood”, so why was this chosen and what does it mean for you having the likes of Chris Connelly on vocals and Joy Thieves on remix duty?

“Deaf Blood” was the perfect choice for the current single because it really captures the essence of Derision Cult and what we’re all about. It’s got rock/metal sound with some Killing Joke vibes, and it was an absolute honor to work with Chris Connelly on vocals. I’ve been a fan of Chris’s work for a long time, and I was really blown away by the Joy Thieves’ album American Parasite and where it seemed like his headspace was on that. I thought Chris’s voice and lyrics would be perfect for being part of this particular story, and I was right. It was also a dream come true to have Reeves Gabrels from The Cure and David Bowie’s band playing lead guitar on the track. He’s been a huge influence on my playing since the 90s, and it was amazing to work with him and hear those leads up close like that!

For the remixes, we’ve got both Joy Thieves and Martin Atkins on board, and I’m really happy with how that came out.  Joy Thieves went for a dark and emotional vibe, while Martin Atkins turned it into a crazy rollercoaster ride. Plus, he recorded live drums on his infamous black Pearl kit, which is the same one he used on all those classic Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Pigface, and Killing Joke albums.  It was really cool to have both Chris’s current drummer from Joy Thieves and a drummer from his past with Martin Atkins working on the remixes, and I think it adds an extra layer of depth to the single.

You also sold a cassette version of the “Deaf Blood” single, with the added extra of hot sauce…was it hot enough for the single, who came up with that idea and did you get to have some?

Releasing the “Deaf Blood” single on cassette was a total spur-of-the-moment decision, inspired by labels like Brutal Resonance who are putting out cassettes exclusively. It’s been a while since I sold a cassette, probably since 1997, so it was a lot of fun to put this one together. I’m really happy with how they turned out. As for the hot sauce, that was just a happy coincidence. When Chris sent over the lyrics with the title “Deaf Blood,” I immediately thought it would be a cool name for a hot sauce. As it turns out, my friend Chris Bengston owns a hot sauce company in Kansas City, so we started working on some recipes together. Chris would send some to me and Sean and then we’d test them out with our wives.  We tested out a bunch of different ones and ended up with a garlic-flavored sauce that has a medium heat level. I didn’t want to make something that was too hot because no one would actually enjoy it, but I liked the fact that we toasted the brown sugar, which gave the sauce a black color. It’s really goth, and it’s great on chicken and jerky-type meats. We sold out of the stock we had on Bandcamp, but it’s still available on Common Descent Provisions’ website. If we go through those and the response is good we’ll do another run. It was really cool to see people buying them as Christmas gifts and everything!

The first single off “Mercenary Notes PT.1”, is titled “Bastards Of The World”, which was written after a work-related promotion encounter. Can you tell us about it? 

“Bastards of the World” is all about how people’s good intentions can be turned against them. I’ve seen this happen in campaigns I’ve been a part of in the past, and it’s a tactic that works all too well. Just look at someone like Andrew Tate, who says outrageous and offensive things that enrage one group of people, but his actions make him extremely popular with another group.  

A few years back, I was approached by a gun manufacturer who wanted me to help them sell a training rifle that looked like an AR-15. But instead of marketing it as a safety gun, they wanted to target ads to gun control advocates and wind them up about the audacity of a company that would make an AR-15 specifically for kids. They had data showing that every time the Daily Show or other left-leaning media outlets talked about guns, there was an uptick in ammo and gun sales. So, it made more sense for them to piss off gun control advocates and bring the gun to market rather than positioning it as a safety tool. I decided not to take the project, and as far as I know, the gun never made it to market. However, it did inspire me to write “Bastards of the World.” There’s a sample in the song that says the key to business is tapping into the irrational organs, and unfortunately, that’s often the case.

It made me feel a little ill to my stomach to think that companies that make vast amounts of money selling items like this, use these horrible actions to increase their sales. How does all this affect you personally, especially as a parent? 

As a father, it’s scary to consider how my kids will grow up in a world that’s so different from the one I knew. They’ll be bombarded with messages, stories, and media that are crafted to manipulate their emotions and get certain reactions. When I was growing up, it was one thing to be told that using a certain brand of deodorant or drinking a certain beer would make you more appealing to the opposite sex. Now, my kids are going to come of age in a society where even the news is meant to make them feel a certain way, and the products they use will try to guilt them into thinking they’re immoral, racist, sexist, or misogynistic if they don’t buy them or trust their narrative. There’s a new level of anxiety and mistrust in society that kids who have grown up with the internet will have to face, and it’s crucial that they be savvy enough to recognize when and how their emotions are being exploited and distinguish between what’s rational and what’s not.

Sean Payne of Cyanotic not only appears on the EP but the label, Glitch Mode Recordings, is owned by Sean. how did you end up signing to Glitch Mode and we are gathering you and Sean are pretty tight friends?

I’ve been a fan of Cyanotic for a while, and when I was looking for production help for the new Derision Cult album, my friend Gabe Wilkinson introduced me to Sean. Since he lives in Chicago, it was easy for us to hang out and take our time working on the tracks. Sean is a great guy and we’ve become good friends. We hang out at the Glitch Mode headquarters and at shows at The Metro in Chicago. I also enjoy working with Brad Huston, the guitar player in Cyanotic, who engineered a lot of the EP. We have a lot of fun geeking out about guitar stuff.  With Sean,  I think our different approaches to writing music – I’m more focused on riffs and hooks and he’s more interested in vibes, feels, and grooves – really come together well on tracks like “Slaves Rebuild” on this EP. Overall, it’s been a great experience working with Sean and the team at Glitch Mode!

Payne and Connelly are not the only big name you have on “Mercenary Notes PT.1”. Can you please tell us about the others and what it has meant to you to both professionally and personally?

It’s been a real pleasure to work with some of my musical heroes on “Mercenary Notes PT.1.” Having the likes of Chris Connelly, Joy Thieves, Reeves Gabrels, and Martin Atkins contribute to the EP was a dream come true for me, both professionally and personally. It’s been amazing to see how their unique talents have shaped the sound of the record, and it’s been a pleasure getting to know them as people during the process. Working with Sean Payne as a producer has also been a fantastic experience, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with him and his label, Glitch Mode Recordings. And finally, it’s been a joy to work with Jim Marcus on the artwork for the EP. His understanding of my vision for the project and his ability to bring it to life visually has been a real highlight for me. Overall, “Mercenary Notes PT.1” has been an incredible journey, so I’m thrilled to share it with the world!

There is also slated, a second EP, “Mercenary Notes Pt. 2”, to be released this year, so are you able to spill the chilli beans on what and whom we can expect?

“Part 2 of ‘Mercenary Notes’ is on the way and we’re excited to bring some new surprises to the table! Originally, we started with a dozen tracks and decided to split them into EP’s for a more digestible listen. We’ve got a few potential collaborators in mind and we’re heading to Sean’s studio next week to pick up where we left off with them. The tracks on this EP are a continuation of the first, but with a more abstract and universal theme. We’re also incorporating more non-industrial elements, with one track taking on a bluesy feel inspired by musicians like Albert Collins and Buddy Guy. There are also hints of old-school outlaw country on some tracks, and we even broke out the telecasters on one. We’re still deciding on the final tracklist, but there’s one song that has an industrial twist on the style of Johnny Paycheck and Waylon Jennings. We’ll see if we can make it work!”

I often think artists and especially musicians, that are worth their salt, reflect the world as it is, not just the nice bits but the gritty humanitarian side as well. Do you feel this something you agree with that industrial music can be very political?

Definitely!  I think art should reflect the world around you and in many cases, that won’t be all sunshine and rainbows. Industrial music has always been political, and I think that’s because of its punk roots. The industrial scene in the 80s was especially political, and I think that’s a good thing. Politics in music can be controversial, but I think most artists who choose to express their views through their music are willing to accept that their listeners may not always agree with them.

For me, Derision Cult isn’t necessarily political in the traditional sense of being right or left or one political issue or another. It’s about thinking for yourself and being your own filter for what’s objective and what isn’t. Whether you’re a conservative or a liberal, my message remains the same: we all live in a world where our views can be manipulated and shaped by others if we let them.

Overall, the EP is powerful and driving but do you see a silver lining behind this rage?

“Mercenary,” the final track on the EP, serves as the culmination of all the rage and intensity that precedes it. It sort of summarizes the chaotic times we’re living in, where it seems like decades can happen in the span of just a few weeks. But I do see a silver lining behind all this rage. We have the opportunity to witness and be a part of a true renaissance period, one that has the potential to bring about incredible technological and scientific advancements. While it may be scary, it’s also incredibly exciting to think about the possibilities that lie ahead. The people that will  cure diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, and AIDS, and even terraform new planets are already among us. We’re no longer just created in the image of a higher power; we have the power to create our own gods.

Soooo, you have done the hot sauce, what would you really love to be able to offer fans next? Will it be the can of gothic black beans to go with the chilli sauce?

I have no idea how I’d pull it off but I think what I’d really love to offer fans next is something more immersive. Something that goes beyond just buying a CD or a shirt. Maybe something like a virtual reality experience that really puts you in the world of the music. That would be really cool and there’s a lot of directions that could go.  And as far as the can of gothic black beans, hahaha well I’ll have to give that some thought. Maybe we can collaborate with Common Descent  and come up with some sort of gothic chili recipe. That could be a fun project. But honestly, I’m always open to new ideas and exploring new ways to connect with fans and give them something unique and memorable. So who knows what the future holds!

Thank you for your time Dave!

Mercenary Notes Pt 1 | Derision Cult (bandcamp.com)

Derision Cult | Chicago IL | Facebook

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