Massive Ego: Out Of Line in Dark Pursuit

Photo by Matt Spike

The band Massive Ego is a recent addition to the German label Out Of Line Music, joining the ranks of such dark royalty as Blutengel, Combichrist, and Die Form.  While Massive Ego is new to the label, they are not a new band having formed nearly 20 years ago in the UK.  In the last two decades, the band has gone through several line-up changes and various musical genres which included new wave, electro-pop, future-pop, and have recently delved into industrial/ebm with Goth influence.  Out Of Line Music has them listed as a dark, electro, pop, industrial hybrid.  The current members are Marc Massive (vocals), Oliver Frost (drums), Lloyd Price (synth), and Scot Collins (synth).  Marc Massive is the only original member since Massive Ego’s beginning nearly 20 years ago.  Oliver (Olly) Frost, Marc’s partner, has been in the band for ten years, while Lloyd Price and Scot Collins are recent additions adding their talent and musical influences to the mix.  The band’s background is so varied that it is difficult to classify them to a specific category.  GT magazine in 2011 decided Massive Ego was so unique that the term avant-garde did not fit them and came up with their own descriptors, “electro-slut clash” and “eyeliner punk”.  I think “new wave noir” and “blacklight glam” could apply, but creative adjectives do little to define Massive Ego nor highlight the dark turn the band has taken recently.  Marc Massive explains more about the band’s history and new direction through an informal interview with me via email.

Photo Courtesy by Marc Massive

Me:  I noticed Massive Ego’s sound was heavily influenced in new wave and many covers of other band's music.  I was trying to categorize your band with some difficulty as there is new wave, electronic, dark wave, Goth aesthetic, and pop influence.  It is apparent in your cover and video of Depeche Mode's "Master and Servant", there has been appreciation for dark aesthetics in the past.  I am curious, with the video for "I Idolize You" and the track itself, is the band moving into and embracing Goth or will Goth aesthetics remain one of many influences the band will draw from?

Marc:  The thing with our back catalogue is that it goes back almost 20 years but can be split into three definite periods.  We started around 1996 as two friends that had grown up in a small North East town in England that made a pact to move to London as teenagers. I’d grown up an 80’s kid and was heavily influenced by the likes of Duran Duran, Depeche Mode and the other colorful New Romantic bands of the time. Growing up with posters of Nick Rhodes (and Victoria Principal from Dallas!) across my bedroom wall was a colorful distraction from the mundane and often challenging aspect of being a kid that didn’t fit into the North East of England way of life, especially going to a comprehensive school full of bullies and name callers.  I’d come home to my posters of Duran Duran and fantasize, locked in a protective bubble…and aspire to have what they had and to look like them.

Nick Rhodes was my generations David Bowie in many respects.  Once I broke away from that, it took a few years of being in London before the band formed.  I lived in a fantastic house in Camden Town full of youthful energy at the time. Brit Pop was the big musical movement at the time…indie guitar bands were everywhere but that didn’t appeal to my pop aesthetic.  A band called Menswear who broke through the Brit Pop scene also lived in the house, and I remember being fairly jealous that they’d charted whilst my band were still stuck in our bedroom. 

Thankfully and huge kudos to three guys, Simon Price (journalist from UK music paper Melody Maker), HiFi, and Kevin, they started a scene called ROMO also in Camden Town. Romo was essentially a 90’s revival of the 80’s New Romantic scene. It sprang up in a club in Camden called Club Skinny and was all about bringing some glamour back to a then very dull, indie-guitar led music scene in London.  The Romo manifesto was about dressing up, men in eye liner, and dancing to the best new romantic 80’s playlist you could imagine.  It wasn’t just about playing old 80’s tracks…it also had its own built in bands who played at the club, and had a sound influenced by their new romantic forefathers. 

Photo by Miam Davidson

This is where Massive Ego had their first gig.  I’d been going to the club for only a few weeks and instantly I was sucked into the scene…it was perfect for me and it gave me the kick up the arse to move forward with the band I’d formed with my old school friend.  I recruited a guitarist by the name of Dan Black, a bass player called Barnaby (Stuart Moffatt), we had a drummer for a few early gigs as well and we did our first gig at Club Skinny.  The band’s early sound was very much 80’s influenced new wave sounding.  We wrote all our own material and off the back of press interest in the Romo scene, nearly signed with Rhythm King Records.  Sadly this didn’t happen and shortly after that we lost our live band as the guys went on to join other bands that were more successful.  

This was the first period for the band, what followed was quite a few years of releasing cover versions unfortunately.  I’d lost the live element of the band and just stopped writing and ended up doing a cover version for a small dance covers label called Academy Street Records in Scotland of all places.  I think I was so desperate to get product out in the form of CD’s that I totally lost any musical integrity at that point.  My only defense possibly was that I chose less obvious tracks to cover than usual Hi-Nrg tracks being released by the label.  I went for darker tracks such as Depeche Mode’s Master & Servant, Planet Earth by Duran Duran and Broken Land by The Adventures.  I was working with producers who were driven by the 80’s disco - Hi-Nrg sound but updated for a more commercial club dance audience.  This led to lots of single and album releases, including gigs in the UK and Europe for the band.  I ultimately wasn’t happy with all of the material and had lapsed completely on the song writing front.

The band at that point consisted of myself and Deanalina, ex sometime keyboard player with 80’s pop band Dead Or Alive, and Steady who used to be in Leigh Bowery’s art shock rock band Minty.  The band up until that point had gone through a huge amount of line-up changes, people coming in and out even for just one gig.  With these guys we at least had a ball doing Pride Festivals across the country, very rock ’n’ roll even if we were playing pop dance.  Hotel rooms were trashed regularly, we left a trail of make-up stains, lost wigs and broken heels!  This line-up stayed together for quite a while and I was enjoying the live aspect but as with all good things, it eventually came to an end.  Deanalina went back to his true love of fashion design and sadly Steady passed away. 

Image by Andrew Gardner Williams

This was a defining moment for me as to whether the band would continue.  It felt like the party was over and I didn’t really know where to take the band next.  This is where the “I Idolize You” track changed everything.  I’d written it four years ago with original member Andy JT.  I released the original version through my own label Public Disordar both digitally and on CD.  It was a determined effort to move away from my cover's history.  The track was certainly dark and the video very gothic in black & white.  It was a reflection of how I was feeling then.  I put all that energy into the lyrics.  It was a great song and I hoped re-defining for the band.  I lost a lot of my following because it was to left field to what we’d done previously. 

The release didn’t exactly set the world on fire, mainly because I didn’t have a publicity machine attached to my label.  It was a step in the right direction as I got back into writing and collaborating with different producers and bands then started putting out material I was truly pleased with.  “I Idolize You” is featured on the brand new EP “Noise In The Machine” which is about to be released on the really cool German industrial/ebm label Out Of Line Records which we’ve just signed to.  It’s a previously un-released edit mix of the track that was done by a guy named Lloyd Price who was working with my then friend Martin Degville from Sigue Sigue Sputnik.  Bang up to date and Lloyd has joined the band’s new line-up full time and has produced all the tracks on the new EP.  The direction of the new tracks is very much concentrating on the darker more gothic side of things, and the sound suits the label perfectly. 

I think we’ve finally found our true home though it’s taken nearly 20 years to do.  It’s funny, for the last 18 months I’ve had a documentary film maker following me and the band around just prior to us signing with the label.  I think in my mind the documentary was going to be about a band that’s been around for 20 years possibly coming to an end, a kind of epitaph on film.  The last 6 months have very much seen a new lease of life and creativity and I’m pleased that the documentary has been able to capture that.  It’s now about a band taking 20 years to finally get where they want to be.  We’ve now got the most solid line-up the bands ever had with Lloyd joining full time.  I met another synth guy named Scot Collins through a website for bands looking for musicians.  He’s proved to be perfect in the mix, bringing a much harder industrial sound to the table.  And Oliver Frost, my partner who has been in the band for the last 10 years very much enabled me to keep it going through the leaner years.   We now have a band that is writing and making brilliant music together, an album on the way, a label supporting us and big plans for live dates early next year.  It’s all looking good.

The label has released the video for the track “I Idolize You” on its Youtube channel on April 17th, 2015 and has 16, 624 views to date (06/11/2015) gaining several hundred each day.  The song is also included on an Out Of Line compilation called Electrostrom Volume 6.  The video is a macabre dream beautifully conjured in dark twisted appeal with irrestible seduction highlighting exaggerated eye-lashes and freakish brilliance that pulls you into their black and white world.  Any video that begins with the image of a black devil playing violin then transitioning to singer  Marc Massive appearing as a vampiric Alex DeLarge (the main character in A Clockwork Orange) in a pinstripe suit will definitely be alluring to friends of the night.  The track itself is a mixture of ebm, darkwave, electronica, and kinky new wave subverted in the shadows with beats beckoning all to the dance floor.

Me:   Who came up for the concept of the video? 

Marc:  The video is a new re-edit of the original “I Idolize You” video released four years ago.  I play quite a few parts in it, obviously all the singing parts both with the hat and with the ‘geisha Mickey wig.  Not many people know that I’m also the one with the spikey antenna and black face mask vogue-ing and playing the violin. The concept was very much a collaboration with myself and Oliver then brought to life by my mate Bambi Fantastic who directed it.  It was shot on a shoestring budget of about £80, which proves you can do a lot with very little expense.  I’m hoping we get to the stage where we can have helicopter swooping camera shots on top of huge buildings like Blutengel have in their videos.  I’d know I’d definitely arrived when that happens.

Me:  And the back story on your geisha Mickey head attire?

Marc:  I’ve done the ‘geisha Mickey’ look for many years now and although I’ve tried different 'out there' looks, I always come back to him.  It’s a character I very much depend on and like to hide behind as I’ve never felt comfortable going out live without a look.  It’s very identifiable and I’d like to add I was doing it before Marilyn Manson did the whole Mickey Mouse ears thing, which I don’t think my look is that similar to really…I’m not trying to be Mickey Mouse.  The true genesis of the look can be credited to my early 90’s modelling mate Keith Martin.  He was the 90’s first ever androgynous super 'male' model who did some of the most interesting and out there editorials back in the day.  He’d done a magazine shoot for a music project and label he ran called Instant Life and had a logo on a badge that I based my look on.  I wore that badge every day for about 5 years.  That original design has since been re-worked into our new band logo.  I’m back in contact with Keith and have plans to release some of his music on my Public Disorder label in the future. 

Photo credit for EP cover design-Mart Garmanou

01  I Idolize You (Modification Edit),
02  Generation V (Frixion Mix),
03  Dead Silence Rising (Frixion Mix),
04  I Idolize You (Leather Strip Remix),
05  I Idolize You (Aesthetic Perfection Mix),
06  I Idolize You (Modification Extended Mix),
07 Generation V (Frixion Extended Mix),
08  Dead Silence Rising (Hellfire Mix),
09  Low Life (Zarkoff Remix)  

Me: Is there a date yet when the "Noise in the Machine" EP will be released?

Marc:  It looks like the EP will be out early July now, as we’ve just had the “I Idolize You” track featured as a taster on Out Of Line’s hugely successful Electrostorm Vol. 6 compilation, which features some of their biggest names including Blutengel, Combichrist, and Formalin, to name a few.  As you can imagine, we are really excited and happy to be featured alongside such luminaries of the industrial/ebm scene.

Me:  I am so appreciative of your time and impressed with the way you connect with those interested in your band.  Thank you so much.

Marc:  The whole point of being in a band is to engage with the people who like your music…band’s that don’t are missing out in my opinion.  Really chuffed you like what we are doing.

The EP “Noise In Machine” is fantastic with the track “I Idolize You” being the biggest stand-out that stays with you.  There are several comments by fans on Massive Ego’s Facebook page referencing this by indicating they can’t stop listening to the track even watching the video several times.  A recent album review by Steven Gullotta of Brutal Resonance stated, “I seriously cannot understate how many times I have played, made others listen to, or played for others “I Idolize You”.  From the gorgeous and heavy synths to Marc Massive’s terrifically strung vocals, whether they are the cleaner, higher pitched style or the digitally altered and deep pitched rendition, every beat and chord is strong.  I would go so far as to even say that this song is by far perfect, and there isn’t one note or string that I would change within it; I really, really have no complaints about it.”  I couldn’t agree more with Steven or the other fan comments and admit to all the above including being responsible for several views of the video myself.  I even managed to distract our beloved Count of The Belfry with the video as he found himself drawn to watch it.